How Well Do You Know the Roaring Twenties?

John MIller

Image: Thomas Bolles

About This Quiz

Each decade of the 20th century is marked by a mood and a series of history-changing events. The 1920s were no different – it was a period that found a marked turn in the Western world, witnessing delirious changes in culture, politics and economics. Do you think you can dance your way through our Roaring Twenties quiz?

Following the Great War, much of Europe lay in ruins, but Westerners took hope in the fact that the immense bloodshed of the conflict was finally over. They began rebuilding in earnest, creatively and adventurously reinventing their lives in many ways. Do you know anything about the arts movements of the ‘20s?

After centuries of conservatism, women finally began to shed their Victorian ideals. With their new sense of identity came new ideas, fashions and attitudes, to a degree that many older generations were taken aback. Can you name any of the ways women became more progressive during this decade?

Economies all over the Western world boomed in the wake of the war. Unemployment plummeted. Unions found themselves scrambling. And wages rose for men and women alike. It was, for many people, an amazing time to be alive.

From Coolidge to Hoover, from Prohibition to major excess, the ’20 were a vibrant era, and in our quiz, we’ll see if you understand this strange and wonderful time. How much do you really know about the Roaring Twenties?

The Roaring Twenties refer to what, exactly?

During the 1920s, the Western world was caught up in wild times, when massive cultural changes swept the region. It was the Roaring Twenties, an amazing inter-war era.

The Roaring Twenties were preceded by which hard time?

From 1914 to 1919, World War I killed millions of Western people and leveled much of Europe. The Roaring Twenties saw the West roaring back to life.

True or false, during the '20s, did more Americans live in cities than on farms?

Before WWI, America's population was mostly rural. In the '20s, though, everything changed. The bulk of Americans lived in cities, and that shift altered culture and politics in countless ways.

Which cultural craze really blossomed during the Roaring Twenties?

The West was caught up in dance crazes of all kinds during the '20s. From the tango to the foxtrot to the waltz, dancing became a true phenomenon and hobby for many people.

What was a "flapper"?

During the '20s many Western women embraced a freer lifestyle, dancing, partying, smoking and dressing the part. They were the flappers, the progressive women who cast off the more conservative ideals of the past.

What was the American economy like during the Roaring Twenties?

The '20s were a time of incredible prosperity, particularly in America, which saw its economy double in size. Of course, the good times couldn't last … the Great Depression was looming on the horizon.

What was the most significant consumer product to hit mass production during the 1920s?

In America, automobiles were the item that everyone wanted to have. By the end of the decade, Ford pushed the price of its Model T so low that just about any family could afford one.

In the 1920s, Congress ratified the 19th Amendment, which did what?

In 1920, Congress ratified the 19th Amendment, which finally gave women the right to vote. Some embraced their new right … many did not, saying that voting was a man's job.

Among young people, which style of music proliferated during the 1920s?

From the slums of New Orleans came jazz, the brass-heavy music that took the world by storm. Their elders decried the music, but young people everywhere embraced jazz as a breakthrough music style.

Which ethnic group was most affected by the Great Migration?

In America, the Great Migration saw more than 1 million African-Americans leaving their traditional homes in the South for the North and West. It is still one of the biggest human migrations ever, and it wasn't caused by war or lack of food.

Flappers were known for their bold fashion sense. They wore dresses that exposed their ______.

By today's standards, the flappers were exceedingly conservative. But back then, their arm-baring dresses were a wild development that had the older generations in a tizzy.

The 18th Amendment outlawed the production and sale of alcohol. Did this amendment end the partying of the '20s?

No way. During Prohibition, many people cut back on their drinking, but many others did not. Bars and saloons found creative ways to serve booze, which helped fuel the partying of the '20s.

The Volstead Act made it illegal for American business to sell a concoctions with an alcohol level exceeding _______.

During Prohibition, the Volstead Act sent out droves of law enforcement personnel to prevent the sale of alcoholic beverages. No concoctions stronger than 0.05% alcohol were allowed

What was a "speakeasy"?

As Prohibtion clamped down on alcohol, speakeasies -- illegal bars -- sprang up all over America. Many of these bars found loopholes they used to serve liquor, or the owners simply paid off local authorities.

During the '20s, Americans bought loads of which revolutionary product?

The '20s witnessed the proliferation of radio. Pittsburgh saw the first commercial radio station in 1920 -- just three years later, there were 500 such stations all over the country.

Why did so many black Americans move from the South to the North during the Roaring Twenties?

Sure, the Emancipation Proclamation abolished slavery in the 1860s, but segregation and racism were still very much a part of Southern culture in the '20s. Black Americans left the South and its conflicted culture for better lives elsewhere as part of the Great Migration.

What was one nickname that conservatives used for automobiles?

Cars completely altered the social lives of young people, giving them new freedom to travel and adventure … and some conservative types abhorred the trend, calling automobiles "bedrooms on wheels."

How did organized crime gain traction in America during the Roaring Twenties?

Alcohol restrictions didn't limit drinking much, but they definitely benefited criminals. Prohibition drove alcohol into the black market, where organized gangs made a killing.

Thanks to Probibition, Chicago gangster Al Capone made tens of millions of dollars each year on booze. At one point, he employed how many gunmen?

Capone was the most notorious mob boss of the '20s, viciously seizing control of vice markets throughout the Midwest and beyond. He had as many as 1,000 henchmen working for him.

Which product became much more popular for women during the '20s?

Before the '20s, in many Western countries cosmetics were linked to prostitution. With the coming of the flappers, though, many women began to embrace makeup.

The "Red Scare" was a cultural backlash against what?

The Red Scare of 1919 and 1920 was a widespread paranoia against Communism. Politicians fanned the flames, and Americans took an aggressive stance against immigration.

True or false, was America the only country to restrict alcohol sales in the 1920s?

In Western Europe, there was a backlash to progressive social norms, just as in America. Many communities in Europe initiated greater government control of alcohol and its retail sales.

Who was Jack Dempsey?

During the '20s, Jack Dempsey fought his way out of low-level matches and elevated himself to heavyweight boxing champion of the world. In doing so, he became an icon of the decade.

"All Quiet on the Western Front" was a popular novel of the '20s. What subject did the book address?

World War I devastated Europe in tragic ways, altering evey aspect of society. "All Quiet on the Western Front" was a grim novel that summed up many of the dire experiences of the war.

How did labor unions fare during the Roaring Twenties?

During WWI, unions were the place to be. Once the conflict was over, though, union membership tanked, in large part because the economy was booming across the land.

The economy exploded during the '20s. Each YEAR the stock market grew by about _____.

The American economy was unbelieveably strong in the '20s. Each year of the decade, the stock market grew about 20% ... but of course, the good times never last.

Which man was NOT president during the '20s?

Ford wouldn't be president until much later. Coolidge held down the fort in the middle of the decade, and then passed the reins to Hoover, who later probably wished that he'd never become president.

Which American sports star became one of the biggest celebrities in the country during the '20s?

In the '20s, Yankees star Babe Ruth came to embody many traits of the era. He made his sport look easy while partying, feasting and womanizing to excess.

True or false, were refrigerators common household items in the '20s?

At long last, refrigeration became a common convenience during the '20s. Families all over America rejoiced at the fact that they could keep their food from spoiling.

The Roaring Twenties came to a sudden halt. Why?

In October 1929, Black Tuesday struck -- and the stock market crashed. Suddenly, America was plunged into the Great Depression, and it would be years before the country saw the light of day.

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