The 1920s, sometimes referred to as the Roaring Twenties, were characterized by economic prosperity and tremendous social, artistic, and cultural dynamism. The Twenties witnessed the large scale use of automobiles, telephones, motion pictures, and electricity, accelerated consumer demand and aspirations, and brought about significant changes in lifestyle and culture. Social and cultural innovations began in leading metropolitan centers such as Chicago, New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, then spread more widely. Popular culture in the 1920s was characterized by innovation in film, visual art and architecture, radio, music, dance, fashion, literature, and intellectual movements. Jazz music experienced a dramatic surge in popularity, and notions of modern womanhood were redefined by the flapper.
The movie industry skyrocketed in the 1920s and Hollywood boomed, providing a new and accessible form of entertainment that proved to be the death of vaudeville. Ever-growing crowds surged into new movie theaters, and filmmaking was revolutionized in the second half of the decade as sound synchronized motion pictures, or "talkies," replaced silent films between 1927 and 1929. The first feature-length motion picture with a soundtrack, Don Juan, was released in 1926. The first talking film, The Jazz Singer, was released in 1927, followed by the first all-color all-talking feature, On with the Show, in 1929 .
During the "Jazz Age," jazz and jazz-influenced dance music became widely popular. George Gershwin wrote Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris. Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti were the first musicians to incorporate the guitar and violin into jazz. Dance clubs became enormously popular, and classical music, operettas, and folk music were all transformed into popular dance memories to satisfy the public craze for dancing. Clubs across America sponsored dancing contests; the most popular forms included the foxtrot, the waltz, and the American tango. A variety of novelty dances were also developed during this period, the most famous of which were the Breakaway, the Charleston, and the Lindy Hop, which would eventually evolve into Swing.
The first commercial radio stations in the U.S. went on the air in Detroit and Pittsburgh on August 27, 1920. In early November, both stations broadcast the election results between Harding and Cox. While there were only a few radio stations in 1920–21, by 1922 the radio craze soon swept the country . In 1922, the BBC began radio broadcasting in the United Kingdom.
In visual art and architecture, the 1920s saw the beginning of the surrealist, expressionist, and Art Deco movements. Characterized by pure and geometric forms, Art Deco originated in Europe and spread to North America in the mid-1920s, manifesting itself famously in the construction of the Chrysler Building, the tallest building in the world at its time. The Museum of Modern Art opened in Manhattan on November 7, 1929, nine days after the Wall Street Crash.
Some of the chief literary figures of the 1920s emerged from World War I, dillusioned and cynical about the world, and writing novels and short stories criticizing the materialism and individualism of the age. F. Scott Fitzgerald published some of the most enduring novels of the Jazz Age, including This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, and The Great Gatsby. Erich Maria Remarque's novel All Quiet on the Western Front, was published in 1929. Ernest Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis and T.S. Eliot are other major literary figures of this era.
This was also the era of the Harlem Renaissance, the period of African-American literary and artistic cultural growth from about 1917 to 1930. Originating in the African-American neighborhood of Harlem in New York, the Harlem Renaissance was fueled by the idea that intellect and the production of literature, art, and music could challenge pervading racial stereotypes and promote racial and social integration. Some of the greatest literary figures of the movement included Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston.
The 1920s were a period of significant change for woman. The 19th amendment was passed in 1920, giving women the right to vote, and women pursued not only family life but careers of their own as well. Young women began to attend large state colleges and universities, and also to stake claim to their own bodies, taking part in a sexual liberation movement of their generation. This was the age of the flapper: a new breed of young women in the 1920s who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for socially acceptable behavior by wearing makeup, smoking, driving automobiles, and flouting sexual norms. Flapper fashion was both a trend and a social statement, a deliberate parting of ways with rigid Victorian gender roles, which emphasized plain living, hard work, and religion, to embrace consumerism and personal choice.