The Age of Entertainment: 1920s

I’m going to (try to) keep this short, since I already spent an entire week talking about the 1920s this time last year, and then waxed poetic about Miss Fisher (seriously, though, if you haven’t read/watched it yet, you should).

The 1920s was the age of the feisty female, when women finally started to come into their own. We got the vote, and with our new found power we proceeded to create the greatest social experiment in American history–prohibition. In the process, we inadvertently paved the way for the greatest wave of crime and corruption that North America has ever seen.

And that has been excellent fodder for books and movies ever since.

One I saw fairly recently and loved was Leatherheads. I’m not usually a sports-movie fan, but I was in the mood for something from this decade and thought I’d give it a go. I’m really glad I did. Full of witty humor and that unquenchable drive for success that characterizes all sports movies, Leatherheads stars Renee Zellweger as a spunky reporter assigned to write about a war hero turned football player. Meanwhile, George Clooney (as Dodge Connelly) struggles not only to save his failing career as a football player, but also to legitimize the sport and take it from a bunch of guys playing on weekends and struggling to pay for the train fare from city to city to an American pastime. In this way, he takes full advantage of Lexie’s articles, though the end result isn’t quite what he expects. Especially when his star player decides to swap teams mid season.

Another swell movie with a feisty female report in the lead is His Girl Friday, in which Hildy Johnson does her best to leave her married-to-the-job newspaper editor husband for her new beau, only to be dragged back into the newspaper business when the story of the decade unfolds right outside their office. In 1974, a remade was done in which Hildy became a man, desperate to leave his high-stress newspaper job in order to marry his girl. I’m not really sure why they felt it was necessary to change the gender of the main character when the fact that Hildy was a female reporter, and her boss was her ex-husband, was a driving force in the original movie.

My last movie pick is a classic that I just saw for the first time around Christmas, and I fully understand now why it’s a classic–Singin’ In the Rain. Great music, story, and costumes, with humor and drama. I keep finding myself humming “Good Morning” when I first wake up.

The 1920s was the decade when media as we know it really started to take off–radios began to invade every home, films became the go-to entertainment for outings. Similarly, knitting continued to enjoy the increased popularity that started with the war. Commercial knitting expanded from just undergarments and socks to sportswear, becoming increasingly popular for tennis, football, and other athletic pursuits as leisure time increased for the general population.

Click for image source and more on the sweater.

You can’t talk about knitting in the 1920s without talking about Fair Isle.  A portrait of the Prince of Wales became the painting that launched a thousand sweaters. Suddenly colorwork sweaters were all over the place, for men, women, and children. Factories couldn’t produce it fast enough, and handknitters were cranking out Fair Isle jumpers almost as fast as they’d been turning out socks during the war.

Almost an exact replica, isn’t it? (Come on, you knew I was going to throw in something from Miss Fisher, didn’t you? This is from episode 2.11, “Dead Air.”)

The new, more casual look fit nicely with the relaxed vibe of the era. Comfort became key as corsets were tossed aside and long, heavy dresses were shunned. Women no longer wanted to be restricted, whether that was by law, husband, or undergarment. More of them were taking jobs outside the home, and that brings us to–you guessed it–the typewriters.

By the 1920s, most of the kinks in the mechanics of the typewriter had been worked out, and we were left with a lot of very similar machines. The keyboard had mostly been standardized, with only a few specialty keys varying from manufacturer to manufacturer. They were all front strike, and a portable could be had for $60–a far cry from the $100 price tag at the beginning of the century (in 1902 that would have been about 1/4 of the average white male’s yearly wage; in 1925 it was only about 5%).

So how was a company to set itself apart in a market flooded with low-cost machines?

With color, of course (click the images for sources):

Google says this image is from Machines of Loving Grace, but it comes up page not found when I try to go back to the original page.

Well, this went on much longer than I expected it to. Next time: 1930-WWII.

1 thought on “The Age of Entertainment: 1920s”

  1. The 20s brought us KDKA and the world of radio. I like many of the fashions that started back then.
    Thanks for the reports on the movies.
    Those are some nice looking typewriters too. I’d love to add a Barr like that to the collection.


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