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more 1920s

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1920s Town & Country


In the City

The rumble of the
elevated railway overhead

The lack of traffic signals and lane
markings created a traffic nightmare

Paperboys yelling "Extra! Extra!"

common sights
electric streetcars
lunch rooms
the corner newsstand
open-air markets
department stores
shoe-shine stands
street vendors with push-carts

The rich people drove around in their sleek, sophisticated autos and shopped at fashionable department stores.

Traffic congestion in Chicago, 1929


There were three types of suburbs in the 1920s....railroad suburbs, streetcar suburbs and early automobile suburbs.

railroad & streetcar suburbs
These communities were formed along the rail and trolley lines that radiated out from the city in the 1800s. Rail travel began to decline after 1920, and consequently the railroad and streetcar suburbs reached the peak of their popularity in the 1920s as well.

early automobile suburbs
These suburbs were born in the 1900s and were located miles away from the rail lines. They were settled by auto owners who didn't depend on trains and trolleys for transportation. In the 1920s, their heyday was just beginning. These communities were accessible by auto only, and featured paved streets, landscaping and sunny California bungalows.

Hollywood was a rural village located in the hills above Los Angeles. It was given its name in 1888 and was annexed to the city in 1910.

In 1923, the California land boom was in full swing, and Hollywood became the site of a new upscale housing development called Hollywoodland.

A huge sign was constructed in 1923 to promote the sale of lots. Each large white letter of the HOLLYWOODLAND sign was 50 feet high, and the entire sign was lit by 4,000 lightbulbs. It was an advertising gimmick that was meant to stay up for only 18 months, but it remained much longer, and it soon became a symbol of the glamorous motion picture industry.
----- The Suburbs

suburban explosion
The suburbs experienced phenomenal growth during the 1920s. In Illinois and Michigan, 71 new towns were formed, and of these, 66 percent were on the outskirts of Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit.

During the 1920s, the total population of the suburbs grew twice as fast as the cities. Some towns increased far beyond that level. Shaker Heights (Cleveland) grew by 1,000 percent, Grosse Pointe (Detroit) and Elmwood Park (Chicago) grew by 700 percent, and Beverly Hills (Los Angeles) grew by an astonishing 2,500 percent.

Kimberly Heights, an affluent residential
neighborhood in Asheville, North Carolina

Hollywoodland History
The Hollywood Sign


Businesses &
Places To Go

In the old days, the livery stable boarded horses and rented out carriages. In the 1920s, horses were out and automobiles were in. The livery now operated a taxi service and performed auto repairs.

What's playing?

movie houses
In 1927, there were 17,000 movie theaters in the United States. For the average movie-goer, there were small movie houses in working-class neighborhoods. The upper classes patronized the luxurious movie palaces in the city. In small towns, the movie house was usually the most impressive building in town.

There were two types of decor that could be found in a movie house in the 1920s. Hard top theaters were traditional, and resembled opera houses and music halls. Atmospheric theaters used murals, palm trees, projected clouds and ceilings lit by sparkling electric stars to create a fantasy land.


home delivery
70 percent of all milk sold in the United States was delivered door-to-door by the milkman. The local baker, grocer and dry-goods merchant also made home deliveries. If you needed a particular delivery man to stop at your home, you placed the appropriate window card in the window.

In the 1920s, many delivery men still used a horse-drawn wagon. By the end of the decade, the use of delivery trucks was beginning to increase.

Coal and ice were also delivered directly to the house. When you needed ice for the icebox, the window card indicated how much the iceman should bring in when he came around. This man is carrying a block of ice weighing 400 pounds.

Coal was dumped into the cellar using a coal chute placed in the cellar window. In some cities, coal might be dumped into the cellar through a coal hole in the front yard.


"Motorists are expected to pay attention to the new signal light in town. Green--go and Red--stop!"
--newspaper article, 1924

More and more towns were paving their downtown streets, building curbs and converting their wooden sidewalks to concrete. Some towns even had an intersection that was so busy it needed a traffic light!

-----Small Towns

common sights
horse-drawn delivery wagons
the corner drugstore
the milkman
gasoline filling stations
dry-goods stores
shady tree-lined streets

When a town paved its streets, many of the hitching posts were removed. People who still traveled by horse used hitching rings. The metal rings were imbedded in concrete blocks or in the sidewalk.

In the 1920s, most small towns were caught between two worlds. Many people still used a horse and buggy, especially farmers coming into town to conduct their business. For them, horse troughs, hitching posts and metal hitching rings were still a neccessity. And yet, more and more people were speeding around town in their automobiles, raising dust and scaring the horses.

other pages in this section:

Shopping & Dining
Travel & Nightlife

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