1920 Fun Facts, Trivia and History

1920 Fun Facts, Trivia and History

Quick Facts from 1920

  • World Changing Event: The US Senate rejected the Versailles Treaty, nullifying the League of Nations.
  • World Changing Event: The Treaty of Sèvres officially dissolved the Ottoman Empire.
  • Pancho Villa surrendered, and the Mexican Revolution ended.
  • The Summer Olympics were held in Antwerp, Belgium.
  • The Birth of Mass Media: On November 2, 1920, the first commercially licensed radio station began broadcasting live results of the presidential election.
  • The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was enabled in 1920, outlawing the production and consumption of alcohol (more commonly known as Prohibition).
  • The Nineteenth Amendment To The Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was established.
  • On September 16, 1920, a bomb exploded on Wall Street outside the NYSE building, killing 33 people and injuring more than 400. The perpetrators were never found.
  • Influential Songs include: I’ll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time by Charles Harrison and others. Also, Swanee was written by George Gershwin and recorded by Al Jolson.
  • The Movies to Watch include The Mark of Zorro, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
  • The Most Famous Person in America was probably Al Jolson
  • Price of Wrigley’s Doublemint gum in 1920: 5 cents/pack
  • Price of Silver: $1.37 an ounce
  • The Funny Fat Guy was Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle
  • The Other Funny Guy was: Harold Lloyd
  • The Magazine Cover: National Geographic magazine was the first US publisher to establish a color photo lab in 1920, the first to publish underwater color photographs in 1927, the first to print an all-color issue in 1962, and the first to print a hologram in 1984.
  • Take our 1920 Quiz!

Top Ten Baby Names of 1920

Mary, Dorothy, Helen, Margaret, Ruth, Mildred, Virginia, Elizabeth, Frances, Anna
John, William, Robert, James, Charles, George, Joseph, Edward, Frank, Richard

United States 1920 Stats

US Life Expectancy: (1920) Males: 53.6 years, Females: 54.6 years
Federal spending: $6.36 billion
Consumer Price Index: $20
Unemployment: 5.2%
Cost of a first-class stamp: $0.02

The Stars

Douglas Fairbanks, Theda Bara, Pola Negri, Mary Pickford, Olive Thomas

Firsts, Inventions, and Wonders

Magnus Hirschfeld coined the term transsexualism.

The Holland Tunnel was started, allowing motor vehicle traffic between New Jersey and New York City.

Raggedy Andy was introduced. His sister, Raggedy Ann, was created in 1915 (US Patent #D47789).

On August 20, 1920,  The first US commercial radio station, 8MK (WWJ), Detroit began daily broadcasting.

On September 29, The first domestic radio sets came to stores in the United States; a Westinghouse radio costs $10.

The American Professional Football Association was formed in 1920 with Jim Thorpe as its president and fourteen teams. It later changed its name to the National Football League in 1922.

Jesse Langsdorf patented the all-weather and wrinkle-free necktie.

Carrie Chapman Catt founded the League of Women Voters during the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) convention in Chicago, Illinois.

“googol” and “googolplex” were coined by the 9-year-old nephew of mathematician Edward Kasner in 1920. He defined a googol as 10^100 and a googolplex as “one, followed by writing zeroes until you get tired.” Kasner decided to standardize it and set a googolplex equal to 10^googol instead.

The Ford Motor Company produced so much factory wood waste that they manufactured it into charcoal and sold it under the name Ford Charcoal. The company was later renamed Kingsford Charcoal.

Snap-on Tools, with interchangeable sockets, began being sold in Chicago.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Force was established.

On May 2, the first game of Negro National League baseball was played, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Nikolai Tesla patented a one-way valve with no moving parts (#1,329,559).

On January 16, 1920, the League of Nations held its first Executive Council meeting of the significant member powers.

Pop Culture Facts & History

May 1, 1920: The longest MLB game (by innings) Brooklyn Robins 1, Boston Braves 1 at 26 innings. The game was called due to darkness.

Hollywood’s first ‘super couple’ was Douglas Fairbanks and Mary ‘America’s Sweetheart’ Pickford, who married in 1920 and divorced in 1936. Both were huge stars in the silent film industry but were also significant players behind the scenes. In 1919, along with Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith, founded United Artists, one of the first movie distribution companies. They appeared in one film together – 1929’s Taming of the Shrew. The couple was also the first to officially handprint by Grauman’s Chinese Theater (1927), the first on Hollywood’s ‘Walk of Fame.’

George Polley (The’ Human Fly’) was arrested on the 30th Floor while trying to climb up the outside of the Woolworth Building in New York.

Shipping children through parcel post service was initially legal in the United States. The US Post Office banned the practice in 1920.

The New York Times ridiculed American rocket scientist Robert H. Goddard, stating rockets could never fly. They rescinded the comment after the launch of Apollo 11 in 1969.

The first US postage stamps printed without the words “United States” or US.

Johnson & Johnson employee Earle Dickson used tape and cotton gauze to make a bandage for his wife. He told his bosses about it, they made him a VP, and they named it the ‘Band-Aid.’ It worked out well for all concerned.

Pope Benedict XV canonized Joan of Arc.

There are more trees in America today than in 1920, mainly due to the reversion of farmland back to natural land cover.

By early 1920, every state west of the Mississippi River allowed women to vote. On August 18, 1920, the Tennessee House of Representatives voted to ratify the 19th Amendment by a vote of 50-49.

During the campaign of 1920, President Warren G. Harding was accused of making up a word: normalcy. When asked if he instead meant “normality,” Harding responded, “I have looked for ‘normality’ in my dictionary, and I do not find it there. ‘Normalcy’, however, I did find, and it is a good word.” #normalcy was used in the 1850s, however.

Tuition at Stanford University was free up until 1920.

American socialist candidate Eugene V. Debs ran his campaign from the inside of a jail cell with the slogan “Vote for President Convict #9653,” and he garnered almost a million write-in votes in 1920

Drano became available to start unclogging household drains and toilets.

When the spitball was banned from baseball in 1920, 17 pitchers were grandfathered in, and the last legal spitball was thrown in 1933.

February 14th – The League of Women Voters was founded in Chicago. Also that year, the Republican convention in Chicago endorsed women’s suffrage.

The word ‘robot’ was introduced to the public by Czech writer Karel Capek in his play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots); he credited his brother, Josef Capek, with the word later.

The first early models of the TV were invented.

A pro wrestling match between Joe Stecher and Earl Caddock was filmed for later viewing by cinema audiences. The film of Stecher’s win over Caddock is the oldest existing professional wrestling movie.

A Secret Court, headed by University President Abbott Lawrence Lowell and the acting Dean, was convened at Harvard University to rid the school of homosexuals, resulting in nine expulsions

Eddie Eagan is the only athlete to have won gold for different events at the Summer and Winter Olympics, winning his first while boxing in 1920, and his second while on the 4-man bobsled in 1932.

America’s oldest Thanksgiving Day Parade, 6abc Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade (AKA 6abc IKEA Thanksgiving Day Parade, 6abc Boscov’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Channel 6 Mellon PSFS Thanksgiving Day Parade, Channel 6 MasterCard Thanksgiving Day Parade) and initially the Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade was first held.

The Number One Hits of 1920

December 5, 1919 – January 16, 1920
Henry Burr – Oh! What A Pal Was Mary

January 17, 1920 – January 30, 1920
Al Jolson – I’ve Got My Captain Working For Me Now

January 31April 30, 1920
Ben Selvin’s Novelty Orchestra – Dardanella

May 1, 1920 – May 7, 1920
Edith Day – Alice Blue Gown

May 8, 1920 -July 2, 1920
Al Jolson – Swanee

July 3, 1920 – August 6, 1920
Ted Lewis and His Band – When My Baby Smiles At Me

August 7, 1920 – September 17, 1920
Art Hickman – Hold Me

September 18, 1920 – September 24, 1920
John Steel – The Love Nest

September 25, 1920 – October 15, 1920
Marion Harris – St. Louis Blues

October 16, 1920 – October 29, 1920
Art Hickman – The Love Nest

October 30, 1920 – December 10, 1920
Paul Whiteman – Whispering

December 11, 1920 – January 28, 1921
Paul Whiteman – The Japanese Sandman

Medical News

HIV probably originated in Léopoldville, modern-day Kinshasa, the capital of the Belgian Congo.

During prohibition, an exemption was made for whiskey prescribed by a doctor and sold through a pharmacy. The Walgreens pharmacy chain grew from 20 retail stores to almost 400 during this period, from 1920 to 1933.

The Tragedies

French passenger ship Afrique sank near La Rochelle, killing 533 people.

On December 16, 1920, an 8.5 earthquake rocked the Gansu province in China, killing an estimated 200,000 people.

November 21, 1920, Bloody Sunday: The Irish Republican Army, on the instructions of Michael Collins, kill fourteen British undercover agents in Dublin, most in their homes

The Palm Sunday tornado outbreak of 1920 included at least 37 tornadoes across the Midwest and Deep South states on March 28, 1920. The tornadoes left more than 380 people dead and at least 1,215 injured.


On September 16, 1920, a horse-drawn wagon filled with explosives was blown up on Wall Street in NYC, killing 38 people and injuring hundreds. The perpetrators were never caught.


Jimmy, a canary, had a funeral procession led by a 15-piece band, a white hearse to carry the body, and two coaches for 2 miles that 10,000 people along the funeral route viewed.


Thomas Edison pranked The American Magazine (and its readers) by claiming that he had invented a phone that could contact the spirit world.

Nobel Prize Winners

Physics – Charles Édouard Guillaume
Chemistry – Walther Nernst
Medicine – Schack August Steenberg Krogh
Literature – Knut Hamsun
Peace – Léon Victor Auguste Bourgeois

1st Appearances & 1920’s Most Popular Christmas Gifts

Raggedy Andy, wooden Pogo Sticks, and Lionel Trains became the rage

Popular and Best-selling Books From 1920

A Man for the Ages by Irving Bacheller
The Great Impersonation by E. Phillips Oppenheim
Kindred of the Dust by Peter B. Kyne
The Man of the Forest by Zane Grey
Mary-Marie by Eleanor H. Porter
Harriet and the Piper by Kathleen Norris
The Lamp in the Desert by Ethel M. Dell
The Portygee by Joseph C. Lincoln
The Re-Creation of Brian Kent by Harold Bell Wright
The River’s End by James Oliver Curwood

1920 United States Census

Total US Population: 106,021,537
1. New York, New York – 5,620,048
2. Chicago, Illinois – 2,701,705
3. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – 1,823,779
4. Detroit, Michigan – 993,069
5. Cleveland, Ohio – 796,841
6. St. Louis, Missouri – 772,897
7. Boston, Massachusetts – 748,060
8. Baltimore, Maryland – 733,826
9. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – 588,343
10. Los Angeles, California – 576,673


World Series Champions: Cleveland Indians
Stanley Cup Champs: Ottawa Senators (NHL)
U.S. Open Golf: Edward (Ted) Ray
U.S. Tennis (Men/Ladies): William (Bill) T. Tilden/Molla B. Mallory
Wimbledon (Men/Women): Bill Tilden/Suzanne Lenglen
NCAA Football Champions: California
Kentucky Derby Winner: Paul Jones
Boston Marathon Winner: Peter Trivoulides 2:29:31

More 1920 Facts & History Resources:

Most Popular Baby Names (BabyCenter.com)
Popular and Notable Books (popculture.us) 
Broadway Shows that Opened in 1920
1920 Calendar, courtesy of Time and Date.com 

1920 US Census Fast Facts
Fact Monster
1920 in Movies (according to IMDB) 
Wikipedia 1920