"Charlie" Chaplin, was an English comic actor and film director of the silent film era. He became one of the best-known
film stars in the world before the end of the First World War. Chaplin used mime, slapstick and other visual comedy
routines, and continued well into the era of the talkies, though his films decreased in frequency from the end of the
1920s. His most famous role was that of The Tramp. Chaplin was one of the most creative and influential personalities
of the silent-film era. During the era of McCarthyism, Chaplin was accused of "un-American activities" as a suspected
communist and J. Edgar Hoover, who had instructed the FBI to keep extensive secret files on him, tried to end his United
States residency. In 1952, Chaplin left the US for what was intended as a brief trip home. Hoover learned of the trip
and negotiated with the Immigration and Naturalization Service to revoke Chaplin's re-entry permit, exiling Chaplin so
he could not return for his alleged political leanings.
John Dillinger was an American gangster and bank robber in the Depression-era United States. He was charged with the
murder of an East Chicago police officer, but never convicted. During his bank heists, a dozen victims—prison officers,
police, federal agents, gangsters and civilians—were killed. His gang robbed two dozen banks and four police stations.
Dillinger escaped from jail twice. In 1933-34, among criminals like Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Bonnie and
Clyde, Dillinger was the most notorious of all. Media reports were spiced with exaggerated accounts of his bravado and
daring. The public demanded federal action and J. Edgar Hoover developed a more sophisticated Federal Bureau of
Investigation as a weapon against organized crime. On July 22, the police and Division of Investigation closed in on the
Biograph Theater. Federal agents, led by Melvin Purvis, moved to arrest him as he left the theater. He pulled a weapon
and attempted to flee but was shot three times and killed.
Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone was an Italian-American gangster who led a Prohibition-era crime syndicate.
Known as the "Capones", the group was dedicated to smuggling and bootlegging liquor, and other illegal
activities such as prostitution, in Chicago from the early 1920s to 1931. In his early twenties, he moved to
Chicago to take advantage of a new opportunity to make money smuggling illegal alcoholic beverages into the
city during Prohibition. He also engaged in various other criminal activities, including bribery of government
figures and prostitution. Despite his illegitimate occupation, Capone became a highly visible public figure. He
made various charitable endeavors using the money he made from his activities, and was viewed by many to
be a "modern-day Robin Hood." However, Capone gained infamy when the public discovered his involvement
in the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, which resulted in the death of seven of Capone's rival gang members.
Capone's reign ended when he was found guilty of tax evasion, and sent to federal prison. His incarceration
included a stay at Alcatraz federal prison. In the final years of Capone's life, his mental and physical health
deteriorated rapidly due to neurosyphilis, a disease which he had contracted several years before. On January
25, 1947, he died from cardiac arrest after suffering a stroke.
Charles Lindbergh (nicknamed "Slim," "Lucky Lindy" and "The Lone Eagle") was an American aviator, author,
inventor, explorer, and social activist. Lindbergh, a 25-year old U.S. Air Mail pilot, emerged from virtual
obscurity to almost instantaneous world fame as the result of his solo non-stop flight on May 20–21, 1927,
from New York's Long Island to Paris, France, a distance of nearly 3,600 statute miles, in the single-seat, single-
engine monoplane Spirit of St. Louis. He became the first to fly non-stop solo across the Atlantic Ocean. In
March 1932, however, his infant son, Charles, Jr., was kidnapped and murdered in what was soon dubbed the
"Crime of the Century" which eventually led to the Lindbergh family fleeing the United States.
Amelia Mary Earhart missing July 2, 1937; declared legally dead January 5, 1939, was a noted American
aviation pioneer and author. Earhart was the first woman to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross, awarded
for becoming the first aviatrix to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. During an attempt to make a
circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937, Earhart disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near
Howland Island. Fascination with her life, career and disappearance continues to this day.
Al Jolson was an American singer, comedian and actor. In his heyday, he was dubbed "The World's Greatest
Entertainer". Between 1911 and 1928, Jolson had nine sell-out Winter Garden shows in a row, more than 80
hit records, and 16 national and international tours. Yet he's best remembered today for his leading role in the
first (full length) talking movie ever made, The Jazz Singer, released in 1927. He enjoyed performing in
blackface makeup – a theatrical convention since the mid-19th century. With his unique and dynamic style of
singing black music, like jazz and blues, he was later credited with single-handedly introducing African-
American music to white audiences.
Louis Armstrong nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans,
Louisiana. Coming to prominence in the 1920s as an "inventive" cornet and trumpet player, Armstrong was a
foundational influence on jazz. With his distinctive gravelly voice, Armstrong was also an influential singer,
and was greatly skilled at scat singing, or vocalizing using nonsense syllables instead of actual lyrics.
Renowned for his charismatic stage presence and deep, instantly recognizable voice almost as much as for his
trumpet-playing, Armstrong's influence extends well beyond jazz music, and by the end of his career in the
1960s, he was widely regarded as a profound influence on popular music in general.
George Herman Ruth, Jr. best known as "Babe" Ruth and nicknamed "the Bambino" and "the Sultan of Swat",
was an American Major League baseball player from 1914–1935. Ruth originally broke into the major leagues
with the Boston Red Sox as a starting pitcher, but after he was sold to the New York Yankees in 1919, he
converted to a full-time right fielder and subsequently became one of the league's most prolific hitters. Ruth
was a mainstay in the Yankees' lineup that won seven pennants and four World Series titles during his tenure
with the team. After a short stint with the Boston Braves in 1935, Ruth retired. In 1936, Ruth became one of
the first five players elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Ruth has since become regarded as one of the
greatest sports heroes in American culture. He has been named the greatest baseball player in history in
various surveys and rankings, and his home run hitting prowess and charismatic personality made him a larger
than life figure in the "Roaring Twenties.”
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were well known outlaws, robbers and criminals who, with their gang,
traveled the Central United States during the Great Depression. Their exploits captured the attention of the
American public during what is sometimes referred to as the "public enemy era" between 1931 and 1934.
Though known today for his dozen-or-so bank robberies, Barrow in fact preferred to rob small stores or rural
gas stations. The gang is believed to have killed at least nine police officers and committed several civilian
murders. The couple themselves were eventually ambushed and killed in Louisiana by law officers. Clyde
Barrow and Bonnie Parker were young and unmarried. They undoubtedly slept together—after all, the girl
smoked cigars.... Without Bonnie, the media outside Texas might have dismissed Clyde as a gun-toting punk, if
it ever considered him at all. With her sassy photographs, Bonnie supplied the sex-appeal, the oomph, that
allowed the two of them to transcend the small-scale thefts and needless killings that actually comprised their
Warren Gamaliel Harding was the 29th President of the United States, serving from 1921 until his death from
a heart attack in 1923. During his presidential campaign in the aftermath of World War I, he promised a
return to "normalcy." President Harding rewarded friends and political contributors with powerful monetary
positions. Scandals and corruption eventually pervaded his administration. Harding's cabinet and appointees
who warranted federal corruption investigations, charges, and convictions were known as the "Ohio Gang."
John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. was the 30th President of the United States. Coolidge restored public confidence in
the White House after the scandals of his predecessor's administration, and left office with considerable
popularity. As a Coolidge biographer put it, "He embodied the spirit and hopes of the middle class, could
interpret their longings and express their opinions. That he did represent the genius of the average is the most
convincing proof of his strength." Many later criticized Coolidge as part of a general criticism of laissez-faire
government. The ultimate assessment of his presidency is still divided between those who approve of his
reduction of the size of government programs and those who believe the federal government should be more
involved in regulating and controlling the economy.
John Thomas Scopes was a teacher in Dayton, Tennessee, who was charged on May 5, 1925 with violating
Tennessee's Butler Act, which prohibited the teaching of evolution in Tennessee schools. He was tried in a
case known as the Scopes Monkey Trial. Scopes' involvement in the so-called Monkey Trial came about after
the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced that it would finance a test case challenging the
constitutionality of the Butler Act if they could find a Tennessee teacher willing to act as a defendant. The
case ended on July 21, 1925, with a guilty verdict, and Scopes was fined $100. The case was appealed to the
Tennessee Supreme Court. In a 3-1 decision written by Chief Justice Grafton Green the Butler Act was held to
be constitutional, but overturned Scopes' conviction on a technicality: the judge had set the fine instead of the
Mary Pickford was a Canadian-born American motion picture actress, co-founder of the film studio United
Artists and one of the original 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Known as
"America's Sweetheart," "Little Mary" and "The girl with the curls," she was one of the Canadian pioneers in
early Hollywood and a significant figure in the development of film acting. Throughout her career, Pickford
starred in 52 features. The arrival of sound was her undoing. She appears to have underestimated the value of
adding sound to movies. She said, "Adding sound to movies would be like putting lipstick on the Venus de
Tyrus Raymond "Ty" Cobb, nicknamed "The Georgia Peach," was widely regarded as one of the best players
of all time. Cobb is widely credited with setting 90 Major League Baseball records during his career. He still
holds several records as of 2010, including the highest career batting average (.366 or .367, depending on
source) and most career batting titles with 11. He committed 271 errors in his career, the most by any
American League outfielder. Cobb's legacy as an athlete has sometimes been overshadowed by his surly
temperament and aggressive playing style, which was described by the Detroit Free Press as "daring to the
point of dementia."
William Harrison "Jack" Dempsey ("The Manassa Mauler") was an American boxer who held the world
heavyweight title from 1919 to 1926. Dempsey's aggressive style and exceptional punching power made him
one of the most popular boxers in history. Many of his fights set financial and attendance records, including
the first million dollar gate.
Edna St. Vincent Millay was an American lyrical poet, playwright and feminist. She was the third woman to
receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and was known for her activism and her many love affairs. She used the
pseudonym Nancy Boyd for her prose work. Poet Richard Wilbur asserts: "She wrote some of the best sonnets
of the century." First Fig" from A Few Figs from Thistles (1920)
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was an American author of novels and short stories, whose works are the
paradigm writings of the Jazz Age, a term he coined himself. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest
American writers of the 20th century. Fitzgerald is considered a member of the "Lost Generation," a group of
expatriate writers and artists who lived in Paris after WWI, feeling disgruntled at the United States
government. Fitzgerald also wrote many short stories that treat themes of youth and promise along with
despair and age.
Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, was an American novelist and the wife of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. She was an icon of
the 1920s—dubbed by her husband "the first American Flapper". After the success of his first novel, This Side
of Paradise (1920), the Fitzgeralds became celebrities. The newspapers of New York saw them as
embodiments of the Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties: young, seemingly wealthy, beautiful, and energetic.
Scott used their relationship as material in his novels, even lifting snippets from Zelda's diary and assigning
them to his fictional heroines.
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His distinctive writing style, characterized by
economy and understatement, influenced 20th-century fiction, as did his life of adventure and public image.
He produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s. He won the Nobel Prize in
Literature in 1954. Hemingway's fiction was successful because the characters he presented exhibited
authenticity that resonated with his audience. Many of his works, such as For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old
Man and the Sea, and A Farewell to Arms, are classics of American literature. In 1952 Hemingway went on
safari to Africa, where he was almost killed in a plane crash that left him in pain or ill-health for much of the
rest of his life. Hemingway had permanent residences in Key West, Florida, and Cuba during the 1930s and
'40s, but in 1959 he moved from Cuba to Ketchum, Idaho, where he committed suicide in the summer of 1961.
"Duke" Ellington was a composer, pianist, and big band leader. Ellington wrote over 1,000 compositions. A
prominent figure in the history of jazz, Ellington's music stretched into various other genres, including blues,
gospel, film scores, popular, and classical. His career spanned more than 50 years and included leading his
orchestra, composing an inexhaustible songbook, scoring for movies, composing stage musicals, and world
tours. Several of his instrumental works were adapted into songs that became standards. Due to his inventive
use of the orchestra, or big band, and thanks to his eloquence and extraordinary charisma, he is generally
considered to have elevated the perception of jazz to an art form on a par with other traditional genres of
George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. Gershwin's compositions spanned both popular and
classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known. He wrote most of his vocal and theatrical
works, including more than a dozen Broadway shows, in collaboration with his elder brother, lyricist Ira
Gershwin. George Gershwin composed music for both Broadway and the classical concert hall, as well as
popular songs such as Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris, that brought his work to an even wider
public. His compositions have been used in numerous films and on television, and many became jazz
standards recorded in numerous variations. Countless singers and musicians have recorded Gershwin songs.
John Edgar Hoover was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States.
Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation—predecessor to the FBI—in 1924, he was instrumental in
founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972. Hoover is credited with building
the FBI into a large and efficient crime-fighting agency, and with instituting a number of modern innovations
to police technology, such as a centralized fingerprint file and forensic laboratories. Late in life, and after his
death, Hoover became an increasingly controversial figure. His critics have accused him of exceeding the
jurisdiction of the FBI. He used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on
political leaders, and to collect evidence using illegal methods. It is because of Hoover's long and controversial
tenure that FBI directors are now limited to 10-year terms.
Eliot Ness was an American Prohibition agent, famous for his efforts to enforce Prohibition in Chicago, Illinois,
and the leader of a legendary team of law enforcement agents nicknamed The Untouchables. Following the
election of President Herbert Hoover, U.S. Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon was specifically charged with
bringing down gangster Al Capone. The federal government approached the problem from two directions:
income tax evasion and Prohibition. Ness was chosen to head the operations under Prohibition, targeting the
illegal breweries and supply routes of Capone. With Chicago's law-enforcement agents corrupted, Ness went
through the records of all Prohibition agents to create a reliable team, initially of 50, later reduced to 15 and
finally to just eleven men called, "The Untouchables". Raids against illegal stills and breweries began
immediately; within six months Ness claimed to have seized breweries worth over one million dollars. The
main source of information for the raids was an extensive wire-tapping operation. An attempt by Capone to
bribe Ness's agents was seized on by Ness for publicity, leading to the media nickname, "The Untouchables."
Margaret Sanger was an American birth control activist and the founder of the American Birth Control League.
She criticized the censorship of her message about sexuality and contraceptives by the civil and religious
authorities as an effort by men to keep women in submission. Sanger was particularly critical of the lack of
awareness of the dangers of and the scarcity of treatment opportunities for venereal disease among women.
She claimed that these social ills were the result of the male establishment intentionally keeping women in
ignorance. In What Every Girl Should Know, she wrote: "Every normal man and woman has the power to
control and direct his sexual impulse. Men and woman who have it in control and constantly use their brain
cells thinking deeply, are never sensual." Sexuality, for her, was a kind of weakness, and surmounting it
indicated strength. Birth control, it would appear, was for her more a means to limit the undesirable side
effects of sex than a way of liberating men and women to enjoy it.
"Walt" Disney was an American film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor, animator, entrepreneur,
entertainer, international icon, and philanthropist. Disney is famous for his influence in the field of
entertainment during the 20th century. As the co-founder (with his brother Roy O. Disney) of Walt Disney
Productions, Disney became one of the best-known motion picture producers in the world. Disney is
particularly noted for being a film producer and a popular showman, as well as an innovator in animation and
theme park design. He and his staff created some of the world's most famous fictional characters including
Mickey Mouse, a character for which Disney himself was the original voice.
Bessie Smith was an American blues singer. Sometimes referred to as The Empress of the Blues, Smith was
the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s. She is often regarded as one of the greatest
singers of her era and, along with Louis Armstrong, a major influence on subsequent jazz vocalists. Smith
became the highest-paid black entertainer of her day. Smith's career was cut short by a combination of the
Great Depression (which all but put the recording industry out of business) and the advent of "talkies.”
Billie Holiday was an American jazz singer and songwriter. Nicknamed "Lady Day" by her friend and musical
partner Lester Young, Holiday was a seminal influence on jazz and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly
inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. Critic John Bush
wrote that she "changed the art of American pop vocals forever." “God Bless the Child" became Holiday's
most popular and covered record.
Langston Hughes was an American novelist, playwright, short story writer, and columnist. He was one of the
earliest innovators of the new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best-known for his work during the
Harlem Renaissance. He famously wrote about the Harlem Renaissance, saying that "Harlem was in vogue".
Hughes was unashamedly black at a time when blackness was démodé, and he didn’t go much beyond the
themes of black is beautiful as he explored the black human condition in a variety of depths. His main concern
was the uplift of his people, whose strengths, resiliency, courage, and humor he wanted to record as part of
the general American experience. Thus, his poetry and fiction centered generally on insightful views of the
working class lives of blacks in America, lives he portrayed as full of struggle, joy, laughter, and music.
Georgia O'Keeffe was an American artist. O'Keeffe was a major figure in American art from the 1920s. She
received widespread recognition for her technical contributions, as well as for challenging the boundaries of
modern American artistic style. She is chiefly known for paintings of flowers, rocks, shells, animal bones, and
landscapes in which she synthesized abstraction and representation. She often transformed her subject
matter into powerful abstract images. O'Keeffe played a central role in bringing an American art style to
Europe at a time when the majority of influence flowed in the opposite direction.
WEB Du Bois was an intellectual leader of the black community in America. "In the course of his long,
turbulent career, W. E. B. Du Bois attempted virtually every possible solution to the problem of twentieth-
century racism—scholarship, propaganda, integration, national self-determination, human rights, cultural and
economic separatism, politics, international communism, expatriation, third world solidarity." Du Bois rose to
national attention in his opposition of Booker T. Washington's ideas of accommodation with Jim Crow
separation between whites and blacks and disenfranchisement of blacks, campaigning instead for increased
political representation for blacks in order to guarantee civil rights, and the formation of a Black elite that
would work for the progress of the African American race.
Rudolph Valentino was an Italian actor, sex symbol, and early pop icon. Known as the "Latin Lover", he was
one of the most popular international stars of the 1920s, and one of the most recognized stars of the silent
film era. He is best known for his work in The Sheik and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. His death at age
31 caused mass hysteria among his female fans, propelling him into icon status.
Gertrude Caroline Ederle was an American competitive swimmer. In 1926, she became the first woman to
swim across the English Channel, a distance of about 21 miles. Her successful cross-channel swim began at
Cap Gris-Nez in France at 07:05 on the morning of August 6, 1926. 14 hours and 30 minutes later, she came
ashore at Kingsdown, Kent, England. Her record stood until Florence Chadwick swam the channel in 1950 in 13
hours and 20 minutes.
Helen Wills was an American tennis player. She has been described as "the first American born woman to
achieve international celebrity as an athlete." Wills won 31 Grand Slam titles (singles, women's doubles, and
mixed doubles) during her career, including seven singles titles at the U.S. Championships, eight singles titles
at Wimbledon, and four singles titles at the French Championships. Excluding her defaults at the French
Championships and Wimbledon in 1926, she reached at least the final of each Grand Slam singles event she
played during her career. Wills also won two Olympic gold medals in Paris in 1924 (singles and doubles), the
last year that tennis was an Olympic sport until 1988.
Knute Rockne was an American football player and is regarded as one of the greatest coaches in college
football history. Rockne introduced the "shift", with the backfield lining up in a T formation and then quickly
shifting into a box to the left or right just as the ball was snapped. Rockne was also shrewd enough to
recognize that intercollegiate sports had a show-business aspect. Thus he worked hard promoting Notre Dame
football so as to make it financially successful.
Alvin Shipwreck Kelley was a famous pole-sitter. Pole-sitting is the practice of sitting on a pole for extended
lengths of time, generally used as a test of endurance. A small platform may be placed at the top of the pole.
Flagpole-sitting was a fad from 1924 to 1929. The fad began when a friend dared stunt actor Alvin "Shipwreck"
Kelly to sit on a flagpole. Shipwreck's initial 1924 sit lasted 13 hours and 13 minutes. It soon became a fad with
other contestants setting records of 12, 17 and 21 days. In 1929, Shipwreck decided to reclaim the title. He sat
on a flagpole for 49 days in Atlantic City, New Jersey, setting the enduring record.
Clara Bow was an American actress who rose to stardom in the silent film era of the 1920s. Her acting artistry
and high spirits made her the premier flapper and the film It (1927) made her world famous as the "It girl".
Bow came to personify the "roaring twenties" and is described as its leading sex symbol. In Glyn's story, It, a
character explains what "It" really is: "It...that strange magnetism which attracts both sexes... [e]ntirely unself-
conscious...full of self-confidence... [i]ndifferent to the effect... [s]he is producing and uninfluenced by others."
Many Hollywood insiders considered her socially undesirable. Bow was not liked by other women in
Hollywood, and her presence at social functions was taboo, including her own premieres. Bow's bohemian
lifestyle, thick Brooklyn accent and "dreadful" manners were considered reminders of the Hollywood Elite's
uneasy position in high society, and they shunned her for it.
Paul Leroy Robeson was an American bass-baritone concert singer, recording artist, athlete, scholar and actor
who became noted for his political radicalism and pioneering activism in both the human rights and civil rights
movements. The son of an escaped slave, Robeson was the first major concert star to popularize the
performance of Negro spirituals and was the first black actor of the 20th century to portray Shakespeare's
Othello on Broadway. At the height of his career, Paul Robeson chose to become a political artist. Under heavy
and daily surveillance by both the FBI and the CIA and publicly condemned for his beliefs by both the United
States Congress and mainstream black organizations including the National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People (NAACP), Robeson was denied the opportunity to work as an entertainer in both the US and