Mass Media and the Jazz Age

In the 1920s, the mass media provided information and
entertainment as never before.
Beginnings of Hollywood in the 1920s
The Mass Media
What’s that?
Mass Media is print, film, and broadcast methods of
communicating information to large numbers of people
Before the 1920s, the U.S. had been largely a
collection of regional cultures.
Most Americans simply did not know much about the rest of
the country, talk with people in other regions, or even read
the same news as other Americans!
Films, nationwide news gathering, and the new industry
of radio broadcasting produced the beginnings of a
national culture
Americans began to share the same information, read about
the same events, and encounter the same ideas and fashions
 Few American women dressed in the flapper style or
smoked and drank in public until the growth of mass media
In the 1920s, the word
"flapper" described a young
woman who rebelled against
convention. Like jazz music,
the gangster, and the
speakeasy, the rebellious and
fun-loving flapper was a
product of 1920s urban
America. Most American
women were not flappers, but
the flapper's shocking
behavior set a tone that
helped many women explore
Jazz Age freedoms without
fear." ~ Chicago Historical
Motion pictures introduced in the 1890s
By 1929, movie making became the 4th largest
business in the country
 Theaters
sold roughly 80 million tickets each week when
the total population was roughly 125 million- roughly
2/3 of the population attended the theater each week!
First sound film, The Jazz Singer, was released in
1927- included speech, singing, music, and sound
 Referred
to as “talkies”
Silent Film Star
Silent Film and Talkie Star
During the 1920s, newspapers increased both in
size and in circulation.
Profits, not quality, drove most of the new
newspaper chains that emerged and many,
especially in the cities, published tabloids.
 Tabloid-
a compact newspaper that relies on large
headlines, few words, and many pictures to tell a story.
 The tabloids of the 1920s replaced serious news with
entertainment that focused on fashion, sports, and
sensational stories about crimes and scandals
Also rose in sales during the 1920s
Provided a variety of information in a form that
most people could easily digest.
Advertisers often ran full page ads to promote their
Favorites included:
 Saturday
Evening Post
 Reader’s Digest
 Ladies’ Home Journal
 Time
Barely existed before the 1920s
1920- Frank Conrad, an engineer with the
Westinghouse Electric Company, set up a radio
transmitter in his garage in Pittsburgh
Began sending recorded music and baseball scores
over the radio
Became the first commercial radio station- KDKA
By 1922, more than 500 stations were on the air
To reach more people, networks such as the National
Broadcasting Company (NBC) linked many individual
stations together and each network played the same
The Explosion of African American Culture
Jazz Arrives
Grew out of the African American music of the
South, especially ragtime and blues
Jazz features
improvisation, a process by which musicians
make up music as they are playing it rather than
relying completely on printed scores
 Syncopation- a type of off-beat rhythm
Some Americans horrified by jazz- too suggestive
of the free manners and morals of the age
Eventually embraced by people of all walks of life
Jazz Clubs and Dance Halls
One of the most popular places was Harlem, a
district on the northern end of the island of
Nearly all the great jazz musicians played in the
Harlem clubs at one time or another
National fad- the Charleston
 Embodied
the Jazz Age- wild and reckless, full of kicks
and twists and pivots
 Could be danced with a partner, in a group, or alone
Jazz Musicians
Benny Goodman
“King of Swing”
His “big band” helped make jazz popular with
white audiences
His 1936 quartet, which included African American
musicians Lionel Hampton and Teddy Wilson, was
the first popular racially mixed jazz group.
Big Band
Louis Armstrong
Wowed audiences with his brilliantly improvised
trumpet solos
Nicknamed “Satchmo” for Satchelmouth
Because of Armstrong, long solos became key
elements of jazz ensemble performances
Also improvised with his voice, replacing words with
nonsense syllables in a style known as “scat” singing
Louis Armstrong- Jeepers Creepers
Hot Five Ensemble
Edward Kennedy Ellington“Duke” Ellington
Arranger, composer, and bandleader whose works
are played widely to this day
In 1923, Ellington and several other musicians
moved to NYC and formed a band. This band,
under various names and in one form or another,
continued to play with Ellington until his death at
age 75
Wrote at least a thousand pieces in his long career
“Duke”- Mood Indigo
George Gershwin
Mixed jazz elements into more familiar sounding
Most famous for Rhapsody in Blue
Gershwin- Rhapsody in Blue
Basic form of this
rhapsody came to
Gershwin in a sudden
rush of insight while
riding a train
“I heard it as a sort of
musical kaleidoscope of
America– of our vast
melting pot, of our
unduplicated national
pep, of our blues, our
metropolitan madness”
Painting and Literature
Artists like Edward Hopper and Rockwell Kint
Showed the nation's rougher side, from cities to coal
mines, from the streets to the barrooms
Georgia O’Keeffe painted natural objects such as
flowers, animal bones, and landscapes
Rockwell Kent
Workers of the World
Unite, 1937
Wood engraving
While most famously a
landscape painter and
printmaker, Kent was also
a political activist. Kent
created prints for
politically charged
magazines and
contributed illustrations for
American literary classics
including Moby Dick.
Edward Hopper
Chop Suey,
Oil on canvas
Georgia O’Keeffe
Ram's Head White
Hollyhock and Little
Hills, 1935
Sinclair Lewis- attacked American society with
savage irony and became the first American to
receive the Nobel prize for literature
Eugene O’Neill- playwright who wove dark, poetic
tragedies out of the material of everyday American
Literature- The Lost Generation
American society in the 1920s troubled one group of
important writers who rejected the quest for material
possessions that seemed to occupy so many Americans.
They scorned American popular culture as artless and
They were so repelled by postwar society that they left
the U.S. for Europe and found it more intellectually
Included writers such as Sherwood Anderson, E.E.
Cummings, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and
Gertrude Stein.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Some people believe he helped create the flapper
culture with his novel This Side of Paradise
The Great Gatsby focused on the wealthy,
sophisticated Americans of the Jazz Age whom he
found to be self-centered and shallow.
African American Literary Awakening
James Weldon Johnson
Executive secretary of the NAACP
Leading writer of the Harlem group
 His
most famous work, God’s Trombones, is a collection
of sermons in rhythmic verse modeled after the style of
traditional black preaching
Dorothy West
Tackled the dual themes of being black and being
a woman
Langston Hughes
Poet, short story writer, journalist, and playwright
whose career stretched into the 1960s
Spoke about the joys and difficulties of being
human, being American, and being black
“I, Too” – Langston Hughes
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"
They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--
I, too, am America.
William Randolph Hearst
Louis Armstrong
Mass media
How related?
1. Hollywood
Newspapers were one type of mass media, and
William Randolph Hearst was a publisher
Duke Ellington
How Related?
Duke Ellington was one of the many fine jazz
musicians to play the clubs of Harlem in the 1920s
Rhapsody in Blue
Sinclair Lewis
Main Street
Nobel Prize for Literature
How Related?
Rhapsody in Blue
Sinclair Lewis, author of the novel Main Street, won
the Nobel Prize for literature in 1930
Lost Generation
Gertrude Stein
Ernest Hemingway
George Gershwin
How Related?
George Gershwin
Ernest Hemingway was one of the group of
expatriate writers known as the Lost Generation, a
term coined by Gertrude Stein
Georgia O’Keeffe
Harlem Renaissance
James Weldon Johnson
How Related?
Georgia O’Keeffe
James Weldon Johnson, a leading writer during the
Harlem Renaissance, was also executive secretary
of the NAACP

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