Ms. Chengery English 3 psp

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Joe Smith

Ms. Chengery

English 3 PSP

11 December 2008

American Entertainment in the 1920s

I. Introduction

A. Establishment of time period

1. Birth of consumer culture

2. After WW1 ended (1919)

3. Social changes

4. Advancing technology

B. Reactions to changes in time period

1. People searching for an outlet

2. Why entertainment was important

C. Thesis statement

II. Radio

  1. How it was invented

1. First station/broadcast and how it revolutionized technology

  1. Different types of programs

1. Who the programs appealed to

C. Why it was entertaining

1. How it made music more known

III. Music

A. Jazz

1. Why the twenties was known as the “Jazz Age”

2. Impact on society

B. Change in music

1. How jazz transformed and influenced new styles of music

IV. Theater

A. Broadway

1. New musicals created

2. How they were influenced from social and political changes

3. Why the theater became popular

B. Repertory Theater

1. What repertory theater was

V. Conclusion

Joe Smith

Ms. Chengery

English 3 PSP

12 January 2009

American Entertainment in the 1920s

The time period of the twenties was a decade of change. World War I came to an end in 1919, and the economy was at its best. Society was changing as an outcome of war, and people were searching for ways to be entertained. The clothes people wore and the music they listened to changed after the war as well. At this time, technology was also advancing and transforming rapidly as consumer culture had been hatched. Throughout this decade, many new inventions and ideas were blooming, and Americans were enjoying cultural growth and change. Unfortunately, at the height of this great, growing era, the stock market crashed in 1929 and put the entertaining twenties to an end. Despite the unfavorable outcome, American entertainment of the “roaring twenties” reached its height thanks to music and radio programs, jazz music, and musical productions.

The first radio broadcast in 1920 made the world smaller and was the beginning of entertainment technology. On November 2, 1920 history was made. The radio station KDKA, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was the first station to air and Americans went wild. Initially, not many American families owned radios because they cost about sixty dollars, which is equivalent to six hundred dollars today (Silverstein). However, between the years of 1923-1930, over sixty percent of families purchased radios. Millions tuned into the radio stations because of the variety of programs and music played. There was something for everyone playing on the radio. Some stations had comedy programs; others had dramatic or mystery programs (“Timeline”). The radio was a way to escape from daily life and “stimulated the imagination” (Silverstein). The invention of the radio brought music and other forms of entertainment to Americans in a new way.

The twenties were also known as the “jazz age” for the blooming tunes of jazz. Throughout this decade, jazz was the most popular concert music and was played on the radio and on phonographic records. Over the years, jazz transformed from bands with multiple people to focusing on individual artists. Americans loved listening to jazz because of the unique sounds of the instrumentals. The souls of the trumpets and trombones that created jazz touched Americans and left them wanting more. Jazz was the style of music that based new coming styles of this time period. In the twenties, blues and ragtime began to evolve with strong influence from jazz. Without jazz, and the impact it had on America, many styles of music today would not have been created.

After World War I in 1919, Americans searched for an escape from life and turned to the theaters for entertainment. At three dollars and fifty cents a seat, Americans could be entertained by Broadway’s successful musicals, and the twenties were known as “Broadway’s most production-packed decade” (Kenrick). Throughout the decade, as many as fifty new musicals were created, and the theater industry boomed (“Timeline”). In fact, according to historian Sara Billeaux, “Broadway took cues from everything from WWI to prohibition,” and both comedies and dramas were influenced by the social and political changes of the age. Aside from musicals on Broadway, another type of theater was born. The 1920s introduced non-profit theater known as Repertory Theater. This type of theater provided training for new actors. Repertory was cheap for the public and was just as successful as Broadway in the twenties (Kenrick). With professional Broadway shows and growing Repertory Theater, opportunity and entertainment were two important outcomes of the rise of musical theater in the 1920s.

The end of World War I and prohibition laws could not keep Americans of the twenties from being entertained. In fact, most entertainment was inspired by the social changes occurring in the time period. Americans were constantly searching for a release from their daily life and found what they were looking for in theaters and on the radio. Some of the greatest jazz music and musicals came from the decade of the twenties. The twenties offered a strong base of consumer culture and was the beginning of up-coming technology that provided Americans with the entertainment they needed to escape.

Works Cited

Becker, Paula. “Dance Marathons of the 1920s and 1930s.”Historylink. 25August 2003. 5

December 2008. Web.

Billeaux, Sara. “Theater in the 1920’s.” Helium. 2008. HeliumInc. 8 December 2008.


Kenrick, John. “History of the Musical Stage.” Musicals101. 2003. 8 December 2008.


Silverstein, Barretta. “Radio Begins.” North Carolina Museum of History. 2005.

NCDepartment of Cultural Resources. 8 December 2008. Web.

“Timeline of the twentieth century: 1920-1929.” 2008. The New York Times

Company. 4 December 2008. Web.

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