The flapper bursts onto the American scene in the early 1920s and becomes America’s post-Great War aesthetic ideal. She’s daring, with a sassy and independent spirit and exists at a time when the entire world’s a stage—and she’s the “It” girl. This new modern girl might drive cars, smoke cigarettes, vote, drink hooch, and kick up her heels when she dances the Charleston to jazz music.
Where did the flapper come from? The term likely came from across the pond in England and many say it was the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald who first introduced flappers to us in his, “This Side of Paradise” or, “A Story of Flappers for Philosophers.” Read a review in The Evening World’s (New York, NY) May 20, 1920 issue.
What did a flapper look like? Refer to the August 2, 1922, issue of the Weekly-Journal Miner where you’ll find a picture of the flapper, 100% percent, from head to foot– complete with a bobbed haircut, a hat of felt, and an above-the-knee fringed skirt.
The Yorkville Enquirer (Yorkville, SC) for July 18, 1922 provides another way to describe a flapper, in the form of a poem. If you’re so inclined, you can look to the silver screen as many film stars of the era emulated the look. See the 1920 film The Flapper starring Olive Thomas or the 1923 film Black Oxen starring Clara Bow.
The flappers even had their own lingo. You’ve probably heard of popular phrases like “the bee’s knees” or, “the cat’s pajamas” but how about this line: “I must blouse now to meet some tomato and lap some noodle juice and then for an egg harbor?” It’s a good thing the Morning Tulsa Daily World (Tulsa, OK) printed pages of the flapper’s dictionary for reference in its May 7, 1922 issue.
Though it seemed like the flappers were having a lot of fun, sadly the flapper lifestyle was not immune to criticism and flapper-like behaviors, hemlines, and hairstyles were banned across the country (see: Boise, Idaho). The Ogden Standard-Examiner for October 1, 1922 reported that even Turkey’s Sultan declared that the flapper must go!
For more, check out our guide to finding related articles in the Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers digital collection here. If you find any other “fluky” (flapper-speak for ‘new’ or ‘different’) stories in the collection, let us know in the comments!