Special Report

What Life Was Like in the Roaring Twenties

Source: Library of Congress / Corbis Historical via Getty Images

Long hair for women went out of fashion

Many women kept their hair long in the 1920s, but the hairstyle most emblematic of the era, indelibly identified with Flappers, was the bob — a short cut, typically extending to the chin line and often involving bangs. Getting the haircut made a statement. The soprano Mary Garden announced in 1927 that she considered “getting rid of our long hair one of the many little shackles that women have cast aside in their passage to freedom.”

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Girl Scout cookies were invented and sold door-to-door

Though Girl Scouts started selling cookies to raise money as early as 1917, it was in 1922 that the organization’s magazine, The American Girl, published a sugar cookie recipe and officially recommended sales of the confections as a fund-raising device. The magazine estimated that six or seven dozen cookies could be made with 26 to 36 cents worth of ingredients, and then sold for 25 to 30 cents a dozen. Using both the magazine’s recipe and family recipes of their own, troops across the country started baking, then knocking on doors to hawk the results.

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People started buying new products like Wheaties, Wonder Bread, and Kool-Aid

As food production techniques and distribution methods improved in the 1920s, new processed foods, many bearing now-famous brand names, were introduced. These include Wheaties, Wonder Bread, Kool-Aid, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Velveeta, Popsicles, Hostess cupcakes, and Baby Ruth candy bars.

Source: Library of Congress / Corbis Historical via Getty Images

The working class could afford to buy cars for the first time

In the early years of the American automobile industry, only the wealthy had cars. The original Model T Ford, introduced in 1908, cost a then-healthy $850, but Henry Ford saw a vast potential market among ordinary folk, and successively decreased the price until it reached its lowest point — $260 — in 1925. This put it within reach of many workers, at least on credit, which is how most people bought cars even then. (Between 1919 and 1925, General Motors alone extended $810 million in credit — over $12 billion today’s dollars — to U.S. consumers.)

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Most drugstores had soda fountains

Soda fountains, a few of which still exist in some parts of the country, originally served just carbonated drinks and ice cream (including sundaes), but by the 1920s had evolved into lunch counters also offering sandwiches and other light fare. Commonly found in drugstores and some other retail outlets (like dime stores), they became popular places to socialize after Prohibition shut down bars.

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