10 Reasons I Love the Early 20th Century

My current series happens in the 1920’s.  I’ve always been fascinated with the turn of the 20th century (1880-1930). Why? Because it was a period of time when every part of the social fabric was changed.

large_69957446721. People weren’t afraid to try new things.  The Wright brothers flew, the Titanic was built, the lightbulb was invented, Ford produced the first assembly line car…the list goes on.

2. Women organized grassroots organizations to fight for social causes. They led the way for change in issues like child labor, unionization for worker’s rights, healthcare for rural communities, access to education.

e875d053cb8fa3d27843b9fb9bc1e9083. There was a shift, for better or worse, in how we communicated.  In this time period, news went from print, to telegraph, to radio,and then to big screen.  Telephones made communication between people far apart much quicker.

4. By this point in history, America had an identity as a melting pot.  There was a little bit of every old world culture mixed into something uniquely ours under the protection of a democratic republic.  Holidays began to become uniquely celebrated by communities. Unique new cultures were built by blending the old with the new.  Irish-American, German-American, even Native American were terms used to describe these new blended identities united in their American patriotism.

38185617150b38cf5571709d9f4cfacc5. Books became cheaper to produce.  What writer couldn’t love the fact that books became affordable.  This led to things like Carnegie’s support of the public library, books for schools and book mobiles to take out into the rural areas like the Appalachians and farmlands of the U.S.

6. Christianity underwent an exploratory phase and almost every denomination created a uniquely American version of their heritage.  It is hard to imagine now but before this time period there were only a handful of large denominations.  Most people identified as Catholic, Anglican, or Protestant with a few subdivisions like Methodists, Presbyterians, Antibaptists, Baptists, and Lutherans.  But during the late 1800’s groups like the Adventists and Pentecostal created new experiential theologies.  Likewise the larger denominations began to subdivide as they moved around the country and adapted to the unique blending of cultures.

de6a2378732a93dece8e8a540aa134d57. Music, fashion and art of this period were expressions of individuality.  Everything was open to change.  Even hairstyles and dishware were considered unique expressions of an individual.

8. British Imperialism has domesticated the world and traveling abroad is in vogue.  This is when we see the well off travel the world going on African safaris, exploring the Egyptian pyramids, and going to China and India.  All this travel was chronicled in print, photography and film, making dreams of traveling the world seem almost tangible to the masses.

8e0a998874c5c4c6513119bad654b3c89. It was the period in which horses, trollies, and cars shared the road.  For that matter, roads began to be paved.  I would love to go back and watch liveries be turned into garages as repair of wagons gave way to repairing automobiles.

10. Sanitation improved.  Let’s be honest. Up until this period most sanitation was just dumped in the alley.  But as cities figured out how to raise the town and let the sewage run down hill, then plumbing created the need for drains and sewage pipes, the world got much cleaner.  As sanitation methods improved, so did health and access to clean water.

What’s your favorite time period?

4 thoughts on “10 Reasons I Love the Early 20th Century”

  1. This time period up through the 50s is definitely high on my list. What I would give to hear Louis Armstrong or Billie Holiday or later the Rat Pack. My absolute fave time period I’d have to say is the Victorian Era; it was a monumental time for literature, especially novels. I’m such a huge Jane Austen fan. I think we’d get along. hehe My second fave is Greek times. While I don’t think I’d love to live during that time period, it absolutely fascinates me. They were so advanced for their time, having things like credit cards that wouldn’t be reimagined for centuries. Great post, Jessica! So fascinating.


    1. Thanks. I would have loved to seen the musicians that came up through the early 20th century in person, too. I’m not sure I could live through the 40’s and 50’s just because of the holocaust and fear of nuclear bombs. I’m too empathetic, I probably would have felt quite helpless as an American watching the rest of the world suffer and standing by friends being widowed by war. I wouldn’t have made a good Rosie back then, I feel my place is at home and my victory garden would have suffered under my brown thumb. Not sure what my next favorite period of history would have been. Maybe the Renaissance? It would have been neat to see the great inventors, architects and painters of the period, although I’d probably have become a nun growing up in Italy.


  2. I love this Top 10 ‘history’ list Jessica. It was fascinating! I’m kicking myself that I didn’t tear up my grandma’s home looking for more photos from that era when she died. I grabbed what I could. She lived through these years as I only read about them in books. While I admire all the great happenings in the turn of the century, I’m glad I didn’t live in this time period as it was still hard being a person of color inspite of the abolitionist movement. But learning from the past helps us move forward and not repeat mistakes. Thanks for your history lessons! I look forward to reading your series.


    1. Natacha, love your comment about people of color in this period had a dichotomy in their lives. On one hand, there was an attraction to the exotic that came out in the popularity of jazz music and an attraction to far off places like India and Africa. But for people living here in the United States to be anything other than Protestant and white skinned was either pitied or discriminated against. I delve slightly into the issue of race in Surviving the Stillness with Matthew acknowledging being half-Sioux is hard. I think it will come out more in Book 3 when Abigail goes home among the social elite and Matthew goes with her for support. Also I bring back her mother’s assistant Sophie who is black. While Abigail feels like she’s a sister, the way she is treated by everyone else is just one of the servants, not to be seen or heard. Sophie was one of my first characters as was her brother Clarence who we will hear about but won’t get to meet. I hope one day to write from their POV’s a short story about what it was like to begin their lives as coal mining children and then be brought into the Morgan family and household by Abigail’s mother Clara.


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