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Celebrate the Century:
Search the Web for U.S. History of the 1920s

Search the Web to learn more about the stories behind the stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service, commemorating the people, places, events, and trends of the third decade of this century. Explore Web sites related to the talent of Babe Ruth and the growing popularity of radio, Lindbergh's flight and the stock market crash. Included: An Internet scavenger hunt for students!

Celebrate the Century Graphic Flappers, jazz music, and vintage cars highlighted the ceremonial unveiling by the U.S. Postal Service of 15 postage stamps saluting the "Roaring Twenties" on May 28, 1998. The stamps are part of the Postal Service's landmark Celebrate the Century stamp and education program.

"The '20s was an age of historic changes," said Postal Service governor Einar Dyhrkopp. "Through the use of very evocative illustrations and photography, these stamps portray the Roaring Twenties in dramatic fashion.


The following text is from the 1920s Celebrate the Century stamp sheet.

"Two Constitutional amendments went into effect in 1920, turning the nation upside down. The 18th Amendment prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, and the 19th gave women the right to vote. A federal highway system was organized, and the number of automobiles nearly tripled. Spreading electrification spawned the golden age of radio.

"The Roaring Twenties, as the decade came to be known, was an age of thrill seekers and heroes. In 1926, Gertrude Ederle swam the English Channel faster than any man had. The following year, Charles Lindbergh flew nonstop across the Atlantic alone and Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs.

"The first feature-length film with talking parts, The Jazz Singer, appeared in 1927, and the first Academy Awards were presented in 1929. The prosperous times ended with the stock market crash of Thursday, October 24, 1929. Many new words -- such as motel, robot, fan mail, and teenage -- became part of the American lexicon."


So sets the stage for the fifteen stamps commemorating the 1920s.

The activities that follow will engage students in exploring Web sites as they search for information related to ten of the 1920s stamps. For each stamp, a question is posed and a Web site URL is presented. Challenge students to use the listed Web sites to answer all ten questions. Click here for the answers to the questions.

Stamp Graphic


By the end of the 1920s, radio had become a national obsession. Families crowded around their sets to listen to newscasts, comedy and children's shows, variety hours, and presidential speeches. The stamp art is based on a photograph of a 1923 Atwater Kent radio.

Question 1:
In the 1920s, Atwater Kent manufactured radios in many styles, including "breadboard" radios. What was a breadboard radio?

The Web site:
You can find the answer to that question on the Radio History Society Web site. Check out the Atwater Kent exhibit.

Stamp Graphic


Created in the United States, jazz was spread by radio and recordings in the 1920s. Among the leading performers were Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Joe "King" Oliver, Fletcher Henderson, and Bix Beiderbecke.

Question 2:
When Louis Armstrong was 11 years old, he was sent to live in a waif's home, a sort of juvenile hall. Why was that experience a turning point in young Louis's life?

The Web site:,,398440,00.html?src=sear...
You can find the answer to that question on a Louis Armstrong Web page. (Click Artist Biography near the top of the page to find the biography.)

Stamp Graphic


The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified August 26, 1920. The fight for women's suffrage was over, ending a struggle that had begun in the mid-19th century.

Question 3: The 19th Amendment passed in 1920, but it had been introduced many years earlier. In what year was the amendment introduced in Congress?

The Web site:
You will find that answer on the The 19th Amendment Web page, which is part of the National Archives and Records Administration's Web site.

Stamp Graphic


Babe Ruth hit 54 home runs in 1920. He went on to hit 59 home runs in 1921 and 60 in 1927. Twice he hit three home runs in a single game of the World Series. One of his nicknames was the "Sultan of Swat."

Question 4:
How did George Herman Ruth get the nickname "Babe"?

The Web site:
The answer to that question can be found in the Babe Ruth Biography.

Stamp Graphic


The Art Deco style in architecture and the decorative arts combines sleek elegance, geometric shapes, and varied materials. One of the finest examples of the style, the Chrysler Building, in New York City, reflects America's exuberance in the 1920s.

Question 5:
Which three buildings does the Art Deco Web site offer as prime examples of the style?

The Web site:

You can find the names of those three building by clicking on the photos you'll find at Architecture on Art Deco.

Stamp Graphic


On May 20 and 21, 1927, Charles Lindbergh made the first nonstop, solo, trans-Atlantic flight aboard the Spirit of St. Louis. He left from Long Island and flew 3,600 miles to Paris in 33hours.

Question 6:
Before gaining fame, Lindbergh worked as an airmail pilot. Which route did he fly in that job?

The Web site:

You can find the answer to that question in an illustrated coloring book, The Charles Lindbergh Story, which appears on the NASA Web site.

Stamp Graphic


Caricaturist John Held Jr. portrayed the fun-loving, escapist lifestyle of the Roaring Twenties. His drawings of young women called "flappers" symbolized the decade.

Question 7:
The flapper was a "modern" girl in the 1920s. Many older people were shocked by the way flappers looked, dressed, and acted. What two characteristics of a flapper might have upset her parents?

The Web site:
Find the answer to that question on the Flapper Culture and Style: Louise Brooks and the Jazz Age, the Louise Brooks Society Web site.

Stamp Graphic


Anthropologist Margaret Mead explored the effect of culture on the behavior and personalities of children and adults as well as the differences between men and women.

Question 8:
In her lifetime, Margaret Mead wrote 26 books. What is the title of her best-known book?

The Web site:

To find the answer to that question, take a look at the background information about Margaret Mead on the Margaret Mead.

Stamp Graphic


Stock market prices plummeted on Black Thursday, October 24, 1929, and collapsed on October 29. Banks and businesses closed and the Great Depression soon followed.

Question 9:
What was the headline in The New York Times on the morning after Black Thursday?

The Web site:
To find the answer to that question, go to the Black Thursday: Introduction Web page.

Stamp Graphic


Painter Edward Hopper (1882-1967) is possibly the most important American realist of the period. The detail from the Automat (1927), at the Des Moines Art Center, typifies his attention to the human feelings of alienation and introspection.

Question 10:
Take a look at some of Edward Hopper's famous street-scene paintings. What is the title of the street scene he painted in 1927?

The Web site:
To find the name of the painting, click Street scenes on WebMuseum: Edward Hopper.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 2005 Education World

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Originally published 07/19/1999
Links last updated 09/27/2005