World Events

World Events

  • Prohibition began in Nebraska in 1917 and nationally in 1920: Law prohibiting the making, selling, possession, and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Al Capone controlled the mob in Chicago. In big cities, the Roaring Twenties was an era of homemade whiskey, speakeasies, flappers, gangsters, and crime.
  • In 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was adopted, and women voted for the first time in a national election.
  • Nebraska started building a new state capitol building in 1920. The Lincoln Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. in 1922. Construction began on the Empire State Building in New York City in 1929.
  • Racial tensions ran high. The Ku Klux Klan was active in the South and Midwest. Their membership peaked in 1924. There are Klan activities in York and racial strife in Omaha.
  • John Scopes was arrested for teaching evolution. Clarence Darrow defended Scopes in a trial in 1925. Nebraskan William Jennings Bryan was the prosecuting lawyer.

Family Life on the Farm

  • Radio (crystal sets with earphones) was the first mass media in the 1920s. Families received news bulletins, advertising, and music. The first baseball game with play-by-play aired in KDKA Pittsburgh (1921).
  • During the 1920s, the popularity of automobiles, radios, and movies exploded. Sound was added to motion pictures in 1928.
  • Popular musicians/composers of the time included: Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbeck, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Charlie Patton, Bessie Smith, “Fats” Waller, and later Count Basie, and Benny Goodman.
  • Popular poets, writers, playwrights of the time included: Willa Cather (Nebraska) , E.E. Cummings, Theodore Dreiser, T.S. Eliot, F, Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway, Herman Hesse, Aldous Huxley, Sinclair Lewis, James Joyce, Evelyn Waugh, and Virginia Woolf.
  • Popular actors/dancers of the time included: Charlie Chaplin, John Barrymore, the Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton, Clara Bow, Harold Lloyd (who was from Nebraska), Isadora Duncan, Rudolph Valentino, and Mae West.
  • General Electric began the first regularly scheduled television broadcasts, three days a week for two hours each at station WGY in Schenectady, New York. Television sets went on sale for the first time in 1928, but it was not until after WWII that TV took off.
  • 4H programs began in the 1890s and early 1900s and grew to culturally diverse international organization. E.C. Bishop who taught school in Seward and York counties in the late 1800s was an early driving force in the movement. The first national 4-H club camp was held in Washington, D.C., in 1927. The 4-H pledge and 4-H motto were officially adopted at this camp.

Farm Machinery

  • Labor union strife spread in the 1920s. In coal mining country, disputes between mine workers and mine operators turned deadly.
  • U.S. steel companies instituted an eight-hour work day in 1923.
  • Synthetic rubber was first produced in 1927.
  • The first gasoline powered tractor was produced in1892 but not sold commercially until 1905. Sales of steam-powered tractors peaked in 1913. Mechanization of agriculture increased.
  • A small prairie-type combine (for harvesting wheat and oats) was introduced in 1918.


  • In the wake of the worst Mississippi River flooding, which covered 4.4 million acres, the U.S. government adopted the Flood Control Act in 1928, a 10-year, $325 million program to control floods with dams built by army engineers. Irrigation canals were built as part of the project.

Seeds and Crops

  • In 1921, U.S. biologist Thomas Hunt Morgan put forth the theory that chromosomes carry hereditary information.
  • A mass famine in Russia began, and in 1922 the U.S. government approved $20 million in aid for starvation relief.
  • The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) aired the first daily weather forecast on radio in 1923.
  • George Washington Carver, director of agricultural research at Tuskegee Institute, pioneered new uses for peanuts, sweet potatoes, and soybeans, helping to diversify agriculture in southern U.S. states.

Managing Pests and Weeds

  • Alexander Fleming discovered the antibiotic properties of penicillin in England in 1928. The first compound fertilizers with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (the three primary nutrients of fertilizer) were manufactured in Britain in 1926.

Marketing and Transportation

  • Charles Lindbergh made the first one-person, nonstop, trans-Atlantic airplane flight from New York to Paris in 1927. Amelia Earhart became the first woman to make a transatlantic airplane flight in 1928.
  • Nebraska instituted a gasoline tax to finance construction of new roads in 1925.
  • Construction began on a coast-to-coast “Lincoln Highway” system from New York to San Francisco.
  • The Stock Market crashed on October 24, 1929. The crash, combined with a prolonged drought in the central U.S. and the troubled economies of other countries around the world brought an end to the Roaring Twenties and began an era known as the Great Depression.

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