At the same time, new architectural techniques allowed builders to construct taller buildings. The first skyscrapers began dotting city skylines in the 1920s, and by 1930, several hundred buildings over twenty stories tall existed in U.S. cities.

The Airplane

Aviation developed quickly after the Wright brothers’ first sustained powered flight in 1903, and by the 1920s, airplanes were becoming a significant part of American life. Several passenger airline companies, subsidized by U.S. Mail contracts, sprang to life, allowing wealthier citizens to travel across the country in a matter of hours rather than days or weeks. In 1927, stunt flyer Charles Lindbergh soared to international fame when he made the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean (from New York to Paris) in his single-engine plane, the Spirit of St. Louis. His achievement gave an enormous boost to the growing aviation industry.

Radio and the Jazz Age

Another influential innovation of the time was the radio, which entertained and brought Americans together like nothing else had before. Electricity became more readily available throughout the decade, and by 1930, most American households had radio receivers. The advertising industry blossomed as companies began to deliver their sales pitches via the airwaves to thousands of American families who gathered together nightly to listen to popular comedy programs, news, speeches, sporting events, and music.

In particular, jazz music became incredibly popular. Originating in black communities in New Orleans around the turn of the century, jazz slowly moved its way north and became a national phenomenon thanks to the radio. Along with new music came “scandalous” new dances such as the Charleston and the jitterbug.

Hollywood and “Talkies”

The Hollywood motion picture industry also emerged during the 1920s. Although movies were nothing new to Americans, as silent films had enjoyed widespread popularity during the previous decade, the first “talkies” brought actors’ voices into theaters and kicked the moviemaking business into high gear. Glamorous actors and actresses soon enjoyed the status of royalty and came to dominate American pop culture.

Lost Generation Literature

While pop culture burgeoned, a new generation of postwar American authors penned a flurry of new poems, plays, and novels. In 1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald gained almost instant fame when he glamorized the new youth culture in This Side of Paradise. Five years later, he followed up his first success with the critically acclaimed novel The Great Gatsby. William Faulkner became the new voice of the South with novels such as The Sound and the Fury (1929). World War I veteran Ernest Hemingway published the antiwar novels The Sun Also Rises (1926) and A Farewell to Arms (1929).

Popular pages: The Great Depression (1920–1940)