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Happy Birthday! Things Turning 100 in 2020

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The Durant News (Durant, MS), July 2, 1958.

One hundred years ago, the world was a very different place.  But many things from 1920 changed the course of history and, in a lot of ways, helped to shape the world we live in today. 

19th Amendment
Ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants American women the right to vote, ending almost a century of protest.

New York Tribune (New York, NY), August 19, 1920.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Agatha Christie’s first published novel featuring her famous character Hercule Poirot, is released to rave reviews in the U.S. 

Evening Star (Washington, DC), February 2, 1936.

The American Professional Football Association plays its first game of what would become the National Football League.  The matchup between the Dayton Triangles and the Columbus Panhandles kicks off at Dayton’s Triangle Park Oct. 3, 1920.

“Association Aims to Establish Universal Regard for Football,” The Rock Island Argus and Daily Union (Rock Island, IL), September 29, 1921.

Raggedy Andy
Andy’s more famous sister, Raggedy Ann, was born a doll—with her trademark red yarn hair and button eyes—in 1915 and a book in 1918.  Two years later, Raggedy Andy is introduced to the public. Created by illustrator Johnny Gruelle, the adorable duo are featured in over 40 books. 

“The Raggedies,” The Indianapolis Times (Indianapolis, IN), August 11, 1922.

Holland Tunnel
The New Jersey Interstate Bridge and Tunnel Commission and the New York State Bridge and Tunnel Commission appropriate funds to begin construction on the Holland Tunnel.  It will be seven years until cars can drive beneath the Hudson River.

“Holland Tunnel Plan is Approved,” The Sun and the New York Herald (New York, NY), March 2, 1920.

Idea for Insulin
The idea for insulin first comes to Dr. Frederick Banting in the fall of 1920.  As he prepares for a lecture about the function of the pancreas, he reads an article called “The Relation of the Islets of Langerhans to Diabetes, with Special Reference to Cases of Pancreatic Lithiasis.”  Banting jots down an idea for a preliminary experiment to further investigate the relationship between pancreatic secretions and diabetes.

“Dr. Frederick Grant Banting,” The Indianapolis Times (Indianapolis, IN), July 12, 1933.

Main Street
Perhaps Sinclair Lewis‘ most famous book, leading, in part, to his eventual 1930 Nobel Prize for Literature.  The satirical take on the American small town receives high critical praise.

“Sinclair Lewis,” The New York Herald (New York, NY), September 17, 1922.

Palmer Raids
In 1919-1920, the U.S. Department of Justice conducts raids in an attempt to arrest foreign anarchists, communists, and radical leftists.  Led by Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, the raids come at the climax of that era’s Red Scare.

“3,000 Arrested in Nation-Wide Round-Up of ‘Reds’…,” New York Tribune (New York, NY), January 3, 1920.

Doctor Dolittle
A series of children’s books by Hugh Lofting starting with the 1920 The Story of Doctor Dolittle.  The character is a physician who shuns human patients in favor of animals, with whom he can speak in their own languages. 

New York Tribune (New York, NY), December 3, 1922.

Negro National League
Rube Foster founds the Negro National League giving more prominence to African American baseball.

“Base Ball,” The Kansas City Sun (Kansas City, MO), May 29, 1920.

League of Women Voters
The League of Women Voters is founded the same year women gain the right to vote.  The league is created as an organization to advocate for all women to participate in political discussion and use their newly attained voting rights.

“Leading Figures Among Women of Nation-Wide Prominence Will Visit Great Falls During the Coming National Meeting,” Great Falls Daily Tribune (Great Falls, MT), June 6, 1920.

This Side of Paradise
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s debut novel examines the lives and morality of post-WWI youth.  Met with critical acclaim, the book’s success launches Fitzgerald’s literary career and helps him win Zelda Sayre’s hand in marriage.

“F. Scott Fitzgerald,” The New York Herald (New York, NY), March 5, 1922.

Wall Street Terrorist Attack
On September 16, 1920, a bomb in a horse drawn wagon detonates on Wall Street in the heart of New York City’s financial district.  The blast kills 38 people and seriously injures 143.  The FBI believe Italian anarchists are to blame, but the crime remains a mystery. 

“The Republican is the First Western Paper to Publish Photos of the Wall Street Explosion,” Arizona Republican (Phoenix, AZ), September 22, 1920.

Traffic Lights
The first three-color light system is introduced in Detroit in 1920. William Potts, a police officer from Detroit, invented the traffic lights using wire and red, green, and amber lights. 

“Portable Traffic Lights and Night Danger Signals to Minimize Accidents,” Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, CO), May 15, 1921.

Ratified in early 1919, the constitutional prohibition of alcohol began on January 17, 1920, creating an era of speakeasies, organized crime, and corruption. 

“Prohibition Can and Will Be Enforced, Officials Say,” New York Tribune (New York, NY), January 18, 1920.

Ponzi Scheme
Charles Ponzi discovers a loophole in an “international reply coupon” designed to make it easier to send mail in 1920.  He gets rich from it, but wants more so he enlists investors, promising huge returns in a short time period.  Unfortunately, he pays those investors with money from later investors instead of any actual profits.  His name is forever associated with this scam.

“Charles Ponzi,” Dearborn Independent (Dearborn, MI), August 21, 1920.

Alexandre-Ferdinand Godefroy invented the hairdryer in France in 1890.  Thirty years later, the first handheld electric hairdryer goes on sale.

“Electric Hair Dryer,” The Evening World (New York, NY), October 8, 1920.

Bloody Sunday
A day of violence in Dublin on November 21, 1920 during the Irish War of Independence.  Thirty-two people are killed or fatally wounded, including British soldiers and police, Irish civilians and republican prisoners.

“Dublin Has A Bloody Sunday,” The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer (Bridgeport, CT), November 22, 1920.

Famous Blues Recording
Vaudeville singer Mamie Smith’s Crazy Blues is the first recording of vocal blues by an African American artist.  The record sells more than a million copies in less than a year.

“Mamie Smith Specials,” The Richmond Palladium and Sun-Telegram (Richmond, IN), April 21, 1921.

Olympic Rings
The Olympic flag and the symbol of five interlocking rings was designed to represent unity after World War I.  The flag made its debut at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Belgium. 

Olympic Games Are Opened At Antwerp,” The Alaska Daily Empire (Juneau, AK), August 16, 1920.

End of the Great Steel Strike
Starting in 1919, steel workers attempt to organize and demand higher wages.  The strike ultimately collapses on January 8, 1920 after company owners successfully paint the workers as greedy, radical immigrants and communists. 

“Steel Strike Ended by Committee,” The Alaska Daily Empire (Juneau, AK), January 9, 1920.

You can share other things turning 100 in 2020 in the comments and find newspaper coverage of them in Chronicling America!*

* The Chronicling America historic newspapers online collection is a product of the National Digital Newspaper Program and jointly sponsored by the Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


  1. The League of Nations was established and held its first meeting in January 1920.

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