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The 1920s Timeline

How It All Went Down

Nov 11, 1918

Germany Allies End World War I

Germany and the Allies sign an armistice to end the fighting in World War I.

Jan 29, 1919

Eighteenth Amendment

Congress ratifies the Eighteenth Amendment, prohibiting the sale of alcohol anywhere in the United States.

Dec 6, 1919

Seattle Strike

In Seattle, local trade unionists affiliated with both the mainstream American Federation of Labor and the radical Industrial Workers of the World organize a general strike, halting economic activity in the city for five days. The strike ultimately fails when workers, threatened with state violence and undermined by their own cautious labor leaders, return to their jobs. Still, by raising the specter of class-based revolution, the Seattle General Strike terrifies many Americans, leading to new anti-labor sentiment and the postwar Red Scare.

Jun 28, 1919

Treaty Creates Conflict

In Paris, diplomats representing the combatant nations of World War I sign the Treaty of Versailles, which promises to sustain peace through the creation of the League of Nations but also plants the seed of future conflict by imposing mercilessly stiff reparations upon Germany.

Oct 2, 1919

Woodrow Wilson Suffers a Stroke

Under heavy strain while on a speaking tour promoting the League of Nations, President Woodrow Wilson suffers a stroke, leaving him largely incapacitated for the final 18 months of his term. He dies on February 3, 1924.


More Urban Than Rural

The United States Census reports, for first time, that more Americans live in urban areas than in rural areas. However, "urban" is defined as any town with more than 2,500 people.

Jan 2, 1920

Palmer Raids

The Palmer Raids begin, launching a period of intense government persecution of radical political dissidents in response to the postwar Red Scare sweeping the nation.

Jan 8, 1920

Steel Strike Ends

The Great Steel Strike of 1919 ends with capitulation by the steelworkers.

Mar 19, 1920

Senate Rejects League

The Senate refuses to ratify the Versailles Treaty or authorize United States participation in the League of Nations.

Apr 1920

Too Much Cotton

Cotton prices at New Orleans peak at 42 cents a pound, prompting Southern farmers to plant the largest crop in history. The resulting overproduction causes a collapse in prices, with cotton falling to less than 10 cents a pound by early 1921. Cotton farmers will toil in near-depression conditions throughout most of the 1920s and 30s.

Aug 1, 1920

Garvey Conference

Charismatic black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican immigrant, convenes the first International Convention of the Negro Peoples of the World in New York's Madison Square Garden.

Aug 18, 1920

Nineteenth Amendment

The Nineteenth Amendment is ratified, granting women the right to vote.

Nov 2, 1920

Harding Landslide

Republican Warren G. Harding is elected to the presidency by a landslide. Harding wins 60% of the popular vote and 75% of the electoral vote; Democrat James Cox wins only a handful of states in the South. Socialist Eugene Debs garners more than 900,000 votes despite campaigning from prison, where he is incarcerated for violating the wartime Espionage Act by giving an antiwar speech in 1918.

May 19, 1921

Immigration Quota

Congress passes immigration restrictions, for the first time creating a quota for European immigration to the United States. Targeted at "undesirable" immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, the act sharply curtails the quota for those areas while retaining a generous allowance for migrants from Northern and Western Europe.

May 31, 1921

Sacco-Vanzetti Trial

The Sacco-Vanzetti trial begins; immigrant Italian radicals Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti will eventually be convicted of murder and executed.

Oct 1921

World Series

Baseball's World Series is broadcast on radio for the first time; the New York Giants defeat the New York Yankees, five games to three.

Sep 21, 1922

Tariffs Up

Congress passes the Fordney-McCumber Tariff, sharply raising tariff duties to protect the American market for American manufactures. The tariff boosts the domestic economy of the Roaring Twenties, but it also worsens the crisis for struggling European economies like Germany's, helping to enable Adolf Hitler's rise to power there on a platform of economic grievance.


German Reparations

Germany, burdened by reparations payments imposed by Treaty of Versailles, suffers hyperinflation. One American dollar is now worth 7,000 German marks.


Yankee Stadium

Yankee Stadium, "The House that Ruth Built," is constructed in the Bronx, New York.

Aug 2, 1923

Harding Dies

President Warren G. Harding dies of stroke in a San Francisco hotel room. Vice President Calvin Coolidge ascends to presidency.

Jan 9, 1924

Ford Motor Company

The market capitalization of Ford Motor Company exceeds $1 billion.

Apr 1925

Fitzgerald Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald publishes The Great Gatsby.

May 5, 1925

Scopes Violates Ban

Tennessee schoolteacher John Scopes is arrested for teaching evolution, in violation of new state law banning the teaching of Darwin. The ensuing "Scopes Monkey Trial," pitting defense attorney Clarence Darrow against three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan in a proxy debate of modernity versus fundamentalism, captivates the nation. Scopes is eventually found guilty.

Aug 8, 1925

Klansmen March

Forty thousand Ku Klux Klansmen march on Washington, their white-hooded procession filling Pennsylvania Avenue.

Aug 16, 1925

Charlie Chaplin in Gold Rush

Charlie Chaplin's popular silent comedy The Gold Rush premieres before enthusiastic audiences.

Oct 1926

The Sun Also Rises

Ernest Hemingway publishes The Sun Also Rises.

Feb 5, 1927

The General

Buster Keaton's comedy classic The General, considered by many to be the greatest silent film ever made, premieres.

Apr 9, 1927

Mae West Obscene

Risqué entertainer Mae West is found guilty of obscenity by a New York court and sentenced to ten days in jail.

May 21, 1927

Spirit of St. Louis

Aviator Charles Lindbergh completes the first solo transatlantic flight, landing his "Spirit of Saint Louis" in Paris 33 hours after departing from New York. Lindbergh becomes a national hero.

Aug 23, 1927

Immigrant Radicals

With all possible avenues of appeal now exhausted, Italian immigrant radicals Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are executed by electric chair.

Sep 30, 1927

Babe Ruth 60

New York Yankees star Babe Ruth hits his 60th home run of the season, breaking his own record of 59. Ruth's record will stand for more than thirty years.

Oct 6, 1927

The Jazz Singer

Al Jolson's The Jazz Singer, the first "talking" motion picture, premieres, marking the beginning of the end of the silent film era.

Aug 27, 1928

Kellogg-Briand Pact

Fifteen nations, including the United States, sign the Kellogg-Briand pact "outlawing" war. The unenforceable pact will be made a mockery through the rise of European fascist states in the 1930s.

Nov 6, 1928

Hoover President

Herbert Hoover, running on a slogan of "A chicken in every pot, a car in every garage," is elected to the presidency, crushing Catholic Democrat Al Smith to maintain Republican dominance of the Oval Office.

Nov 18, 1928

Mickey Mouse

Walt Disney's Steamboat Willie premieres, introducing the world to a new animated character—Mickey Mouse.

Dec 14, 1929

Chicago Mob

In the "Saint Valentine's Day Massacre," the single bloodiest incident in a decade-long turf war between rival Chicago mobsters fighting to control the lucrative bootlegging trade, members of Al Capone's gang murder six followers of rival Bugs Moran.

Oct 1929

Stock Market Collapse

The American stock market collapses, signaling the onset of the Great Depression. The Dow Jones Industrial Average peaks in September 1929 at 381.17—a level that it will not reach again until 1954. The Dow will bottom out at a Depression-era low of just 41.22 in 1932.

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