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The 1920's

Welcome to the 1920's! This time period was very important and helpful to the United States. Film and radio has changed many lives of people. Without it we wouldn't have a lot of the entertainment we have today. Technology has changed a lot and that is what helps to make what film and radio what it is now. Film and radio had a huge impact on the United States in the 1920's, and still does now. Radio and film were two of the #1 pastimes in the 1920's. Families were always going to the movies
and listening to the radio at home. Film and radio have helped shape America's culture.

How Radio was Invented

The radio was one of the main sources of entertainment in the 1920's because there was no television or internet. People had to rely on it to get all of their information. Most people had a radio and would use it to listen to sports, news, or to find out about current events.

There were many people who helped invent the radio. The biggest contributor was Guglielmo Marconi, who was an Italian scientist and inventor who showed the practicability of the radio. In 1895 he sent and received his first radio signal. Because of these things, in 1899 the first radio signal was sent across the English Channel, and in 1902 the letter "s" was sent from England to Newfoundland. These were the first of many radio broadcasts. In 1892 Nikola Tesla designed the basic design for a radio, and in 1898 a radio controlled boat was made because of his ideas. Alexander Popov made a radio containing a "coheror" in 1894, because of this in 1900 (with Popov's guidance) a radio station was built on Hogland Island to transmit communications with a Russian naval base and a Russian battleship.
In this picture is Guglielmo Marconi next to a radio that he invented.

Sir Oliver Lodge perfected the "coheror" and was the first person to transmit a sustained radio signal. Reginald Fessenden made the first audio transmission in 1900, which was the first two way transatlantic broadcasts in 1906. The first radio broadcast of music and entertainment in 1906. He stated he could make a better radio system. Heinrich Hertz became the first person in 1888 to prove that electromagnetic waves existed by making a system that detected UHF waves. Amos Dolbear created and received a patent for a wireless telegraph in 1882. In 1868 Mahlon Loomis demonstrated wireless communication between two places that were 18 miles apart. This was the one of the earliest accomplishments of radio. Nathan Stubblefield was believed to have had accomplishments in radio transmissions before Marconi and Tesla. James Clerk Maxwell predicted the existence of radio waves; which helped Einsteins' theory of relativity. All of these people's accomplishments contributed to the development of the radio. (Burande, Buzzle.com)

How Film was Invented

Film in the roaring 20's was not as it is today. There was no sound and it was black and white but everyone loved being able to go out to the theater and watch a movie. The theater was everyone's favorite form of entertainment at the time. Families would often go out to see a movie every weekend.

The first successful moving film was made by Eadweard Muybridge on June 11, 1878, he photographed a horse by setting up 24 cameras on a track parallel to the horse and used trip wires to activate the cameras so when the horse walked in front of it, it would take a picture. The cameras were 21 inches apart and the track was 20 feet long. In 1893 Muybridge gave a presentation using moving pictures, making the building he presented in the first movie theater.

In 1893 Thomas Edison showed the public two inventions, the kinetograph which was the first practical moving picture camera, and the kinetoscope which helped when they took the celluloid film strip made by Dickens, put a light behind it and projected it through a magnifying glass. The person who was watching had to look through the kinetoscope to see the picture. The kinetescope spread through Europe because Edison never had it patented and many imitations of it. In 1895 Robert W. Paul created the first movie projector so groups of people could see the picture. Edison created his vitoscope less than 6 months after this (Wikipedia).

Differences of the Radio

Radio was a big part of the 1920's. Radio was used every day by most American families in the 20's. The popularity of the radio was starting to grow only in the 1920's and became incredibly popular about 3 years after the first broadcast from KDKA. Radio stayed popular for a long time and still is popular today. After the radio became popular more stations came on air, different types of radios were being sold, and more people were listening everyday!

KDKA's radio station logo
KDKA's radio station logo

In 1902 radio was invented by an Italian inventor named Guglielmo Marconi. The invention of radio was based after the telegraph and the telephone. At first, the radio was called a "wireless telegraphy". It wasn't until the 1920's where radio got its popularity and was being used for jazz, news, comedy shows, drama, opera, and other live events. In the 1920's the radio was being used much like how we use the TV today only without the picture. The first radio station to open in Chicago was called KYW that opened in Chicago in 1921 soon became one of the favorite things to do while visiting or living in Chicago. The very first radio station was KDKA that first broadcasted in 1920. In 1922 the number in radio stations sprung up to 600 radio stations. Many programs frequently overlapped with other programs. This sometimes made it hard to hear your program. Advertising on radios didn't happen until later in the 1920's. So some programs rarely had commercials. Over 60% of American families later purchased radios from 1923 to 1930.

Guglielmo Marconi
Guglielmo Marconi

Today, radio is used for mainly listening to music, but you can still listen to the news, sports, weather, and other live events. Now TV's are used how people in the 1920's used radios. There are currently over 13,800 radio stations being broadcasted. The radio today has been lowering the number of listeners because of mp3 players, iPods, and CD players. Like a radio, you listen to music on iPods, mp3 players, and CD players only you pick which music you want and you decide when you want to hear that music. Unlike a radio where you have to wait now after the commercials to see what song is coming on next.

There are many differences between the radios from back then to now. Today there are 13,200 more radio stations then there were in the 1920's. In the 1920's there were many more things to listen to on the radio. Back in the 20's many programs overlapped frequently, but now programs only sometimes overlap. If you get out of their broadcasting range and enter into another broadcasting range then the other radio station signal will overlap with the station you were listening to. The one thing that didn't change from then to now is picture. Radios have never had picture yet, especially after the invention of television, but there are music videos that can be shown on an iPod or an mp3 player.

Harold Sidney Bride (assistant radio operator)
Harold Sidney Bride (assistant radio operator)

John George Phillips (first radio operator)
John George Phillips (first radio operator)

Radio was and still is today important. When the Titanic took its maiden voyage on April 10, 1912, two men boarded that ship. These two men were very important to the survivors. Two men that were from the Marconi International Marine Communication Company were the ships radio operators. Four days later, when the Titanic hit an ice berg on April 14, 1912, the survivors were saved by the two radio operators. One of the radio operators survived and one died of hypothermia.
Both of those men signaled the Carpathia (another cruise ship) to come and save the survivors. Though people didn't talk on the radios back then they used the Morse Code. The Morse Code is an international type of character encoding that transmits telegraph information using rhythm. Even though you can talk on radios today, in the military and other ships they still use the Morse Code. Britain's postmaster-general said, "Those who have been saved have been saved through one man, Mr. Marconi, and his marvelous invention." Radio doesn't just entertain people, but it can save people too. (Wikipedia)

A family listening to a radio


In the 1920s radio was a huge hit!! It like today’s “Wii”, flew off the shelves and the lines for them were out the door! Radio was the first way of delivering massive amounts of information to a significant amount of people all at once. The radio developed a lot over the 20th century. It was an amazing invention because it was the first time in history that you could listen to something live.

By the 1930s, 60% of families in the United States of America had one. Crystal radios encouraged people to get a radio because it was inexpensive to make at home. The supplies to make one only cost $6!! “The radio became one of America's favorite sources of entertainment.” This was their only source of live entertainment!! On the radio you could listen to things like, news, concert, and sports games. The radio suited everyone’s interests. As more people started to listen to the radio, the radio stations had more competition.
Many programs overlapped. Listeners of one program were frequently interrupted by overlapping programs. ” (Robertson, Anna, Garfinkel, Steve, and Eckstein, Elizabeth) The government finally had to lay down the law! (Wikipedia) KDKA was a radio station from the 1920s in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania . It is said to be the oldest commercial radio station. KDKA started broadcasting November 2, 1920. This was the first station to broadcast on an everyday schedule. Below is what a typical radio schedule would of looked like in the 1920s.

“3:00 Violet Pearch, pianist
3:20 Elsa Rieffin, soprano

3:30 Things to tell the Housewife about cooking meat
3:45 Elsa Rieffin, soprano
4:00 Home—Its Equipment, by Ada Swan
4:15 Rinaldo Sidoli, violinist
4:30 Ballad of Reading Gaol, part 1, by Mrs. Marion Leland
4:45 Rinaldo Sidoli, violinist
5:00 Ballad of Reading Gaol, part 2, by Mrs. Marion Leland
5:15 Rinaldo Sidoli, violinist
5:30 Rea Stelle, contralto
6:00 Peter’s Adventures, by Florence Vincent
7:30 Frederick Taggart, baritone

8:15 Lecture by W. F. Hickernell
8:30 Viola K. Miller, soprano
8:45 Salvation Army band concert
9:15 Viola K. Miller, soprano
9:30 Salvation Army Band, Male Chorus

10:00 Concert” (Lewis,Tom)

Radio became a substitution for magazines and newspapers. Rather than reading about President Coolidge after his flight to Paris, People would rather listen to it live while it is actually happening. It’s kind of like how today some people would rather wait until the movie is out than read a book. Radio has intersected with social history too. On November 2, 1920, on the KDKA station, the presidential election was broadcasted for the first time. The influence went so fast it seemed like it happened over night!!! When Charles A. Lindbergh returned to America from the very first flight across the ocean, people broadcasted it from 12:30PM-12:00AM. Approximately 30 million people listened!!

There were many different types of radios from the 1920s. The Radiola Grand was made by RCA-Westing House. Its Gold plate hard were made it one of the more expensive models. Raiola Senior came out in late 1921. This radio required a “1.5vdc dry cell and a 22.5vdc B+ battery, a set of earphones."(Boulevard, Radio) In 1922-1923 so many people wanted a radio; GE didn't have enough radios to satisfy everyone. To meet the demand, GE took one of their old radios, AR1300/AA1400 and fixed it up to become Radiola V. Crosley-Model XJ. It was invented by Powel Crosley Jr. His son really wanted a radio, but Powel thought they were too much money. He got a 5 cent instruction book and made a radio himself. He then realized how simple it was to make a radio and started to sell them.

The Differences of Film

Film in the 1920's was very important. Pretty much everyone who had money went to see movies. There are so many great difference between movies now and in the 20's. Technology has improved so much and everything is so much better now. Though the movies may have been good, they have been upgraded to a new version like new software on an old computer.

In the 1920's there were tons of movies that were one of the main entertainments. There are many differences between films now and in the 1920's. Some of the movies of that time are: Way Down East(1920) , The Kid(1921) , Safety Last(1923) , The Phantom of the Opera(1925) , Napoleon(1927) , and The Wind(1928) ."Most people are unaware that the greatest output of feature films in the US occurred in the 1920s and 1930s (averaging about 800 film releases in a year) - nowadays, it is remarkable when production exceeds 500 films in a year"(Dirks 2). Another popular era was the "Silent Era" because the movies were liked by the audience and often accompanied with a little bit of music. Movies after the silent era started to become a little more profane with language. Now pretty much every movie, that are not kid friendly, have curse words in it. Movies without sound would be horrible because all of the films now need talking to make sense and they would just be boring. Sound gives the movies excitement.

Al Jolson

Al Jolson was an actor in the 1920's and was in the movie The Jazz Singer in 1927. This movie is like a musical because it is about a boy who wants to be a Broadway singer. But now there aren't many new movies that are like Broadway shows. The only place they have musicals now are in plays and on Broadway. This is why it is not like the movies now.

Walt Disney also contributed to the movie business their first film was a cartoon called " Four Musicians of Bremen". Without Walt Disney's films there would be none of some of the greatest kids films. Hollywood was then known as the center of film making in the U.S., with 85% movie production. Now, most of the United States movies are produced in Hollywood and only back then did they make some of them in Long Island at Paramount pictures. Movies back then were different then they are now, they were black and white and only shown in movie theaters. Now you can buy movies at stores or rent them to watch at home on your TV. Another difference is the themes of the movies most of the movies now are drama, love, comedy, horror, or adventure. Back then they were very different. There were lots of different themes for each producing corporations. For example one company, Warner Brothers Pictures was famous for their "gangster films".

This is a video of a silent film from the 1920's called, The Thieving Hand. Which is about a one-armed beggar receives a new limb from a strange store that specializes in human appendages. The new arm has a mind of its own, though, and brings the man nothing but trouble. Produced by the Vitagraph Company, this rare short boasts astounding trick photography and FX for its age.


Film was an important factor in the twenties. It really blossomed and grew on the foundation of film from earlier years(Dirks, 1). It started out small in the beginning of the decade, but during the middle it became a great business to be in. It was yet another source of entertainment for the average person. Film in the 1920s has a very big effect on us today too. A lot of classic stories came from them. Stories like, Snow White, Mickey Mouse, the Wizard of Oz, Phantom of the Opera, and so much more. A lot of production companies have made their mark too. Most of them are still in business! Films of the 1920s are really just the start of all that was yet to come.

Most films made at the beginning of the 20s were produced at Hollywood or on the West Coast. (Dirks, 1). The 5 big production companies included, Warner Bros. Pictures (1923), Famous Players-Lasky (Paramount) (1912), RKO (Radio-Keith-Orpheum) Pictures (1928), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1916), and, Fox Film Corporation (1912). Fox Film Corporation later became known as 20th-Century Fox. (Dirks, 1). The production company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced films such as " The Big Parade (1925) , Broadway Melody (1929), Grand Hotel (1932) , Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) , A Night at the Opera (1935) , The Good Earth (1937), Gone With the Wind (1939) , The Wizard of Oz (1939) , as well as Tarzan films, and, Tom and Jerry cartoons" (Dirks,1). The 3 "Little Studios" were Universal Pictures, (or Universal Film Manufacturing Co)(1912) , United Artists (1919), and Columbia Pictures (1920).

The first movie theater built in Los Angeles was built by Impresario Sid Grauman, as well as many others in that time period. The theater was called The Million Dollar Theater and was located in downtown L.A. It opened February 1918, with the premiere of William S. Hart's western film, The Silent Man (1917). The theater held 2,345 people. The Egyptian Theater was the first major theater outside of downtown LA, seating 1,760. Its opening film was Robin Hood (1922).The now famous Chinese Theater (holding 2,258 seats) opened with the King of Kings (1927) on Hollywood Boulevard. Impresario Sid Grauman also had the tradition of imprints of stars in the cement outside of the theater. He started this because it would provide tourist attraction. "Legend has it that during the theater's construction, silent screen actress Norma Talmadge accidentally stepped into wet cement and sparked the tradition" (Dirks, 1). He imprinted himself as well as other stars with either their handprint, footprint, or signature. (Dirks, 1)

This is an old silent film with Mickey Rooney and in this film he is Mickey McGuire.

This is a list of 10 stars of the roaring 20s that are imprinted at The Chinese Theater:

  1. "Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Apr. 30, 1927
  2. Norma Talmadge, May 18, 1927
  3. Norma Shearer, Aug. 1, 1927
  4. Harold Lloyd, Nov. 21, 1927
  5. William S. Hart, Nov. 28, 1927
  6. Tom Mix and Tony (his horse), Dec. 12, 1927
  7. Colleen Moore, Dec 19, 1927
  8. Gloria Swanson, 1927 (specific date unknown)
  9. Constance Talmadge, 1927 (specific date unknown)
  10. Charlie Chaplin, Jan, 1928"
(Dirks, 2)

Of the 1920s, two of the biggest silent movie stars were Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.
"America's Sweetheart", Mary Pickford was a child star and had been nicknamed "Our Mary" Mary Pickford, or the Queen of Hollywood. She was a very influential figure at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood. She was married to Douglas Fairbanks and their couple nickname was "Pickfair" (the first syllables of each of their last names). (Dirks, 2)

A little cartoon called a Fable Cartoon from 1924. A dog is fishing but the fish end up to be smarter than the dog.

Film and radio had a big effect on the people of the 1920s. It created another source of entertainment that the people of that time valued. There are so many differences between then and now because technology is so much more advanced. Families found entertainment in listening to the radio at home, kind of like the way we watch TV now. People always loved to see a good silent movie every weekend at their local theater too. Film and radio have really become a part of America's pastime.

Film theater in Houston, Texas
Betty Boop

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