The Jazz Age

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 12664

What would you do if suddenly you were making more money than you imagined? Travel back to a time of prosperity and freedom, of new technology, and dance to the music that changed generations to come!


United States

learning style
Auditory, Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • What do people typically do when they start making more money?
  • How does that affect society?

The Jazz Age was a time period defined by dramatic changes in American culture.

Political and economic changes led to Americans living as they never had before! Follow along to learn more about this important time period in American history.

When was the Jazz Age?

The Jazz Age was a time period that began after World War I, around 1918. It ended with the start of the Great Depression, which began in 1929. The Jazz Age is also referred to as the Roaring Twenties because it took place during the 1920s.

What caused the Jazz Age?

The Jazz Age was mostly influenced by money. During this time period, more people lived and worked in big cities than on farms. As American businesses grew, the United States’ wealth grew, too. Between 1920 and 1929, the wealth of the United States more than doubled. This meant Americans had more money than they ever had before. Since they were making more money, they began spending more money. Americans were able to purchase more clothes and new convenience technologies for the home, such as refrigerators and washing machines.

Broadway theatres 1920

Image from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division

The Jazz Age was also influenced by a boom in technology and exciting new means of communication. New devices, such as the electric telegraph and the telephone, allowed people to communicate over long distances; for the first time, people could share information with friends and family in distant places in an instant. This enabled individuals to talk about things they were interested in, such as clothing, music, and movies. For the first time in American history, the same trends were seen across the country instead of just parts of the country.

What changes did women experience during the Jazz Age?

Women experienced significant changes in the 1920s. In 1920, the 19th Amendment was added to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote in political elections. This major political change encouraged women to be more daring in other areas as well. It became more common for women to have jobs outside the home as secretaries and stenographers, people who write the words someone else says during meetings and interviews. Women also began cutting their hair short and wearing shorter dresses. Before the Jazz Age, it was unacceptable for women to wear pants or be seen in a dress that came above their ankles.

The following image shows a flapper. Flappers were women with short hair and dresses who listened to jazz music and smoked. Even though women gained more rights in the 1920s, the flapper look was still considered controversial by many:

Alice Joyce

Image from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division

What changes did African-Americans experience during the Jazz Age?

During the Jazz Age, more African-Americans began moving from the South to major cities in the Northeast. African-Americans even invented a new type of music that came to define the era. Jazz incorporated a variety of instruments and was upbeat. African-Americans also invented a dance known as the Charleston to go with the new jazz music. People of all backgrounds, not just African-Americans, fell in love with jazz and the Charleston during the 1920s.

jazzing orchestra

Image from Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

African-Americans were not just known for the music they produced during the 1920s. African-Americans also became known for writing stories, plays, and poems that were enjoyed by people from all different backgrounds. This emergence of new African-American art became known as the Harlem Renaissance.

What other cultural changes occurred in the 1920s?

Since Americans had more money to spend, they began buying and doing things that changed the way they lived. One of the new inventions people began buying were radios. A radio was like an early television. Families would sit around the radio and listen to the news, music, and stories that were told. The first U.S. radio station opened in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1920. By 1923, there were more than 500 radio stations in the United States.

Brox sisters radio teddy bear

Image from the George Grantham Bain collection at the Library of Congress

In addition to the radio, other new inventions were added to homes to simplify life. More homes had electricity and plumbing. People had refrigerators, washing machines, and lawnmowers to make chores around the home much easier. Some people even had telephones in their homes so they could communicate with family and friends.

The most significant product purchased by some in the 1920s were automobiles. Families no longer had to rely on public transportation and were able to travel long distances on their own. By 1929, it is estimated that one in five adult Americans owned an automobile.

What caused the Jazz Age to end?

The Jazz Age ended abruptly on Tuesday, October 29, 1929, with the start of the Great Depression. The Great Depression was a time period that lasted from 1929 to 1939. During this time, changes in the American economy led many Americans to lose the money they had earned and become homeless.

The Jazz Age was a time of significant change and excitement in the United States.

  • Which part of the Jazz Age do you find most interesting?
  • How does the Jazz Age compare to the way Americans live today?

Discuss your responses with your teacher or parent.

Then, move on to the Got It? section to listen to the music that defined the era.

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