The 1920s

The following notes will help you prepare for questions about the 1920s on the AP U.S. History Exam.

  • "The Roaring Twenties" was a time when many Americans shed old Victorian values. This was especially true of the flappers, who redefined the lifestyle of young American women. Americans became more focused on consumerism as mass-produced goods and credit made spending easier. This gave the impression that times were more prosperous than they really were. While it is true that the overall wealth of the nation doubled in the 1920s, there was great income disparity and the majority of money was in the hands of a very few people.

  • Ironically, alcohol was banned during the 1920s. However, Prohibition was one of the greatest legal failures in American history. There were more bars and clubs that sold alcohol than ever before and few Americans had difficulty getting a drink if they wanted one. Prohibition was nearly impossible to enforce and created an opportunity for organized crime to fill American desire for alcohol.

Anti-Saloon League : lobbying organization that helped get the 18th Amendment passed

buying on margin : buying stock on credit; caused problems for many when the stock market crashed in 1929

flapper : young women who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, and danced in clubs, rejecting old traditions and expectations about appropriate behavior in women

Model T : first affordable, mass-produced automobile

Prohibition : the era in which the sale, manufacture, and consumption of alcohol was illegal in the U.S. due to the 18th Amendment; the 18th Amendment was repealed by the 21st Amendment

Red Scare : fear of socialism, anarchy, and communism across the U.S. following the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917

Scopes Monkey Trial : high school science teacher in Tennessee charged with teaching evolution; Scopes was found guilty and it would be the 1960s before evolution was included in textbooks

speakeasy : secret club or bar that sold alcohol during Prohibition


Al Capone : gangster who controlled much of Chicago in the 1920s; convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to federal prison at Alcatraz

Amelia Earhart : first female pilot to make a successful solo flight across the Atlantic; disappeared over the Pacific in 1937

F. Scott Fitzgerald : author of novels that defined the so-called Jazz Age; most famous work is "The Great Gatsby"

Henry Ford : perfected the assembly line, allowing his automobile workers to produce cars more efficiently

Sacco and Vanzetti : Italian anarchists convicted of killing a guard and a paymaster in Massachusetts; sentenced to death; it is now believed that they may have been innocent but were convicted due to jury's prejudice

Related Links:
Growth of the Cities Quiz
AP US History Quizzes
AP US History Notes
1920s Timeline
Notable individuals of the 1920's Quiz
Social Studies Quizzes
Basketball Facts
Al Capone Facts
The Constitution
The New South