1920-1929: THE ROARING 20s


The United States entered a modern age of spectacular growth and sweeping change in the decade after World War I.

The Ford Model T, which cost less than $300, brought people to the cities on newly paved roads in the 1920s. Jazz music was in the air. Couples danced the Charleston. Charles A. Lindbergh made the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, and Babe Ruth swung a heavy bat. Talking pictures, the telephone and radio further exposed people of America to new ideas during the Roaring '20s.

Illegal liquor was poured, as the citizenry widely ignored the national Prohibition on the sale or consumption of alcohol. Something like a half-million people were arrested from 1920 to 1930 for breaking liquor laws. In Fort Wayne, two federal agents were killed and a third was seriously wounded when they tried to arrest a bootlegger.

Women got to vote for the first time in 1920. Many started seeing themselves in careers and roles other than mothers and housewives. Some young women -- known as flappers -- wore scandalously short skirts, cut their hair short into "bobs" and rolled silk stockings down to their knees.

Most Americans saw big business as the foundation of society. "The business of America is business," President Calvin Coolidge declared, and most of America agreed.

There was wild speculation in the stock market. The average price of stocks on the New York Stock Exchange nearly tripled between 1925 and 1929, as individuals invested their savings into stocks -- often buying shares on credit.

As the 1920s neared an end, many were convinced that the good times would last forever. That illusion burst when the stock market crashed on Oct. 29, 1929, known thereafter as Black Tuesday.

The panic-selling cost stock investors more than $40 billion. President Herbert Hoover tried to reassure the country, saying "The fundamental business of the country . . . is on a sound and prosperous basis."

But the crash meant financial disaster for thousands. The Great Depression of the 1930s had begun.


* The Volstead Act, the national alcohol prohibition act, goes into effect. But Indiana's General Assembly had passed a law declaring the state "dry" eight months earlier.

* Fort Wayne's two breweries -- Centlivre Brewing and Berghoff Brewing -- try to stay afloat by making low-alcohol "near beer."

* First New York-to-California mail plane takes four days to arrive.

* Fort Wayne's Bill Wambsganss completes unassisted triple play in World Series for Cleveland Indians.

* Warren G. Harding elected U.S. president.


* After boom times for American workers a few years earlier because of World War I, the economy enters a recession.

Carole Lombard
Carole Lombard
This very young picture of Fort Wayne's Carole Lombard was shot sometime in the 1920s. Lombard, the queen of screwball comedy, made her debut as a tomboy in 1921 in "A Perfect Crime." Photo courtesy of Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society.
* Business for liquor bootleggers, meanwhile, is very good.

* Fort Wayne's Carole Lombard, the queen of screwball comedy, makes her film debut as a tomboy in "A Perfect Crime."

* William Hosey is elected to his third term as Fort Wayne mayor.


* Louis Armstrong joins King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. Jazz hits a peak of popularity. The period becomes known as the Jazz Age.

* South Side High School is built.

* Knee-length skirts for women are the new fashion.

* Construction starts in Fort Wayne for a truck factory for the International Harvester Company. Truck production begins the next year.

* The national economy begins to boom.


* President Harding dies of natural causes. Calvin Coolidge is sworn in as president.

* A dance called the Charleston sweeps the nation.


* The price of a Ford Model T drops to $290. Ford sells its 10 millionth car.

* George Gershwin premieres "Rhapsody in Blue."

* Bob Juday of Fort Wayne competes in Paris Olympics as a high jumper.

* WHBJ -- which later became WGL -- is the first radio station in Fort Wayne.


* F. Scott Fitzgerald publishes "The Great Gatsby," a portrait of the Jazz Age in all its excess and decadence.

* Paul Baer Field (today's Smith Field), named after the World War I ace, opens.

* John Scopes is fined $100 for teaching the theory of evolution.

* WOWO begins radio broadcasts in Fort Wayne.

* William Geake is elected mayor of Fort Wayne.


* Popular songs include "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "I Found a Million-Dollar Baby in a Five and Ten Cent Store."

* Fort Wayne residents are told to boil tap water because of the threat of typhoid fever.

* Fort Wayne aviation pioneer Art Smith is killed in a plane crash while delivering airmail.


* Charles A. Lindbergh flies the first nonstop solo flight from New York to Paris in "The Spirit of St. Louis". Three months later, he buzzes the Allen County Courthouse in the plane.

* North Side High School is built.

* Babe Ruth hits a home run when the New York Yankees play an exhibition game in Fort Wayne.

* "The Jazz Singer" is the first full-length talking motion picture to achieve success.

* The 40-hour work week is introduced in Henry Ford's factories.

* The Auburn Automobile Company starts making the Cord in Auburn.


Lincoln Tower
Lincoln Tower
Ground was broken in 1929 for the 22-story Lincoln Bank Tower, which would be Indiana's tallest building for many years.
* Walt Disney introduces Mickey Mouse.

* George Gershwin composes "An American in Paris."

* Homer Capehart starts the Capehart Company in Fort Wayne to build phonographs.

* Fort Wayne's first luxury apartment building, Fairfield Manor, is constructed.

* Herbert Hoover is elected president.


* Seven members of George "Bugs" Moran's gang are mowed down in Chicago in what becomes known as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

* Margaret Sanger's birth-control clinic in New York is raided by police.

* "Wings" wins for best picture in the first-ever Academy Awards.

* Ground is broken for the 22-story Lincoln Bank Tower, which would be Indiana's tallest building for many years.

* Signs of a great drought begin appearing in the Southwest and Great Plains. Within a few years, dust storms will darken the sky.

* Stock prices reach their highest levels ever in September. On Oct. 29, known as Black Tuesday, the stock market plunges. The Great Depression of the 1930s begins.

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