19. A Decade of Change

The decade of the Roaring Twenties was the beginning of modern America. The 1920 census was the first to report a majority of Americans living in urban areas. Daylight Savings Time was a spinoff of the Great War, as were Wall Street speculation and women’s suffrage.  

From the non-representational art of Picasso to the seductive rhythms of jazz, Americans in the 1920s were submerged in wave after wave of cultural change. An explosion of new inventions and technological breakthroughs transformed daily lives. Work weeks decreased and wages increased. Radio tied the nation together, and Hollywood created a common culture by cranking out 2,000 films a year. Charlie Chaplin and Babe Ruth became as famous as Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh.

Even the universe itself was being redefined, thanks to the pioneering work of scientists like Albert Einstein. As Secretary of Commerce during the 1920s, Herbert Hoover rejoiced in the scientific and technological ingenuity of the age.  

Portrait of Lou Henry Hoover, New York City. 1920