As we step into the new “Roaring ‘20s,” I wonder how far we’ve come in the past 100 years? What was life like — in America and the world — in 1920? Let’s take a walk back in time and take a look. I love to study history, and some of the things I learned about 1920 surprised me. You may be astounded too — and see a few similarities between THEN and NOW.
First, some basics: In 1920, only 2% of homes in rural areas had electricity; 35% of homes had this convenience in larger cities. The average income for Americans in 1920 was $750 a year. That amount dropped to about $200 a year for farmers.
Life expectancy for men in 1920 was 53 years old. I guess if this were 100 years ago, I’d be “pushing up daisies” by now. Average life expectancy for women back then was 54.
A first-class postage stamp was two cents. A pack of Wrigley’s gum was five cents. A loaf of bread was nine cents. A gallon of milk: 28 cents. Silver was $1.37 an ounce, and a brand-new car (complete with that “new car smell”) was less than $300.
Popular toys included the Raggedy Ann doll, Lionel trains and wooden Pogo sticks. There was no such thing as commercial air travel. Charles Lindbergh didn’t make his famous non-stop flight across the Atlantic until 1927.
In January of 1920, the League of Nations held its first Executive Council meeting, after President Woodrow Wilson traveled to Paris to negotiate the Treaty of Versailles, following the end of World War 1 in 1918. In November, the League of Nations held its first General Assembly in Geneva. At its peak, the League of Nations included 58 member states, though the US never joined. The League of Nations eventually became the United Nations following World War II. Our country was one of the original UN organizers.
It was on February 24th, 1920, that Adolph Hitler began to emerge as an up-and-coming leader in Germany, when he presented his National Socialist Program in Munich to the German Workers’ Party, later renamed the Nazi Party.
While the radical Left had not yet figured out a way to manipulate the masses with a thing called “Climate Change,” there was still severe weather back then. Note the Palm Sunday tornado outbreak of 1920, when 37 tornadoes swept across the Midwest and southern states. More than 380 people were killed and at least 1,200 injured.
The 18th amendment was passed in 1920: Prohibition of alcohol. But Prohibition did not achieve its goals, as “drunk and disorderly” arrests increased by 41 percent; drunk driving increased by 81 percent; and the federal prison population increased by 366 percent. The 21st amendment, passed on December 5, 1933, repealed the 18th, thereby ending the era of Prohibition. Today, the alcohol industry in the US rakes in $90 billion dollars a year, and $10 billion in tax revenue for the government.
Interestingly, an exemption was made during Prohibition for whiskey to be sold by pharmacies for medical purposes. Partly because of this, Walgreens drug stores grew from a chain of 20 stores to almost 400 during Prohibition.
It was August of 1920 when the 19th Amendment was ratified, allowing women to vote in American elections for the first time.
And on September 16, 1920, America saw the worst terrorist attack in its history when a horse-drawn cart carrying a massive amount of explosives was detonated on the busiest corner of Wall Street. Thirty-eight people were killed in the bombing and hundreds were injured. No one was ever apprehended for this crime. America would not see such a devastating attack on its soil again until the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
The Ku Klux Klan was revitalized in 1920 under new leadership. The Klan brought unprecedented social division and civil unrest, focusing their hatred on Catholics, Jews, Asians, African-Americans and even Europeans who were not from the northern Nordic countries.
In November 1920, the first commercially licensed radio station began broadcasting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The first broadcast brought live results of the presidential election. Americans loved this new “talking box” invention, and within two years had purchased 100,000 radios. By 1923, a half-million Americans had radios; and by mid-decade, over 700 commercial radio stations were broadcasting across the country. A Westinghouse radio cost $10.
The 1920s also saw a sharp decline in Christian morals with an increase in alcohol use and public drunkenness (despite Prohibition), “Speakeasies,” Jazz and dance clubs, and women embracing more revealing fashion wear, including the “flapper girl” outfits.
Then there were the Hollywood movies becoming more popular, as well as a huge increase in the acceptance of sexual lewdness. And believe it or not, homosexuality began to become acceptable in the 1920s, with large communities of homosexuals developing in bigger cities like London, Paris, Berlin, New York and Rome. Some Hollywood stars were already “out of the closet,” living as open homosexuals, even as they became heroes of the American cinema. Mae West starred in a provocative play titled “The Drag.” And I’m pretty sure you did not realize that in 1920 the term “trans-sexualism” was first introduced by a man named Magnus Hirschfeld. It was also in the 1920s that evolution began to be taught in public schools.
Preachers at the time were unafraid to speak out on the cultural, social and moral issues of the day and often led their congregations OUT of the church buildings to confront evil. Tent Revivals were commonplace, often held every night for a week or more. Street preachers were also courageously and boldly speaking the truth of God’s Word from soap boxes on street corners. As a result, many who had drifted away from their Christian upbringing and reveled in the decadence and perceived moral “freedoms” of the period repented and turned back to God. Others who had not known God before were introduced to Him. Mass baptisms were held in local rivers.
And it was in 1920 that the term “Fundamentalism” was coined… used to describe strict adherence to Christian doctrines and a literal interpretation of the Bible. A “Fundamentalist” was one (quote) “doing battle royal for the Fundamentals,” which meant defending biblical inspiration and the inerrant authority of God’s Word.
But not everyone was repenting and coming to Christ. The “Roaring ‘20s” continued to roar, and liberal licentiousness continued as the Leftist agenda in America progressed.
When I speak of the Leftist agenda, did you know the American Civil Liberties Union (the ACLU) was established in 1920? Yes, on January 19th. The ACLU has continued to be a champion of all things secular-humanist, unbiblical and ungodly, pushing its “progressive” mandates on all of society and using legal force to achieve its goals.
It was also in the 1920s that Americans began their obsession with professional sports as an entertaining pastime, distracting the hearts and minds of the masses from the most important matters at hand. The most famous athlete of the time was Babe Ruth. And The American Professional Football Association was formed in September of 1920. It was renamed the National Football League two years later.
Just a few more interesting points regarding our world of 100 years ago: The Johnson & Johnson Company patented the first “Band-aid” in 1920. And the Ford Motor Company was now producing so much wood waste in their factories that they began making it into charcoal. This new product was sold under the name “Ford Charcoal,” later renamed “Kingsford Charcoal.”
And finally, it was in 1920 that the US Postal Service ended the previously accepted practice of shipping CHILDREN through the US Mail.
What can we learn from all this? As God’s Word reminds us, “there is nothing new under the sun.” And as the saying goes, “those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it.”
By the end of that decade, the party was over. The Great Depression hit in 1929, with a total collapse of our financial system. Those who had relied on God’s grace and mercy all their lives and were already living off the land on farms were used to low wages, and they were grateful for all God provided. They worked hard, prayed hard and were thankful for all the Lord’s bounty. THEY were barely impacted by the Great Depression at all. But for those affluent partiers in the big cities — those who depended on their “great” human wisdom and innovation as leaders of industry and finance — it was a different story. Many, having lost everything, committed suicide.
In fact, the suicide rate, even during the prosperous times of the 1920s PRIOR to the stock market crash, was on a steady increase. Apparently, the “good life” of the “Roaring ‘20s” was not all that good. By 1932, the suicide rate in America was at an all-time high.
In an especially poignant example of one living such an indulgent vain existence, a young man named Lytle shot and killed himself in a hotel in Milwaukee, leaving behind four cents — and a suicide note directing that “my body should go to science, my soul to Andrew W. Mellon, and sympathy to my creditors.” The note also asked that his body not be removed from the room until the rent was up.
Fast forward 100 years in the future: TODAY. We are at a crossroads in the world now. On one hand, it seems, we have the WHOLE WORLD now embracing all things Godless and unholy. We live in a time when a MAJORITY (yes, I said a MAJORITY) of regular church attenders now approve of the idea of sodomite so-called “marriage.” “Transgenderism” is being taught in our public schools and libraries as completely normal. Those who disagree are labeled as “haters.” “Hate speech” laws silence freedom of speech… and “Conversion therapy bans” are being set in place in nearly every American city to keep misguided, indoctrinated young people confused and lost following their “recruitment” by the LGBTQP+ militants.
Sexual immorality is rampant. We not only accept such behavior — we celebrate it — with PRIDE. In fact, it’s MANDATED by rule of law that we celebrate it, with even rainbow “pride” flags flown over our state houses and other government buildings. Meanwhile, sexually transmitted diseases are epidemic — to the point where now pharmaceutical companies are even advertising on national television for medications to “control” these lifetime illnesses, which people inflict upon themselves in their unbridled lust.
If that were not bad enough, we’ve been killing our own children through the horrors of abortion for nearly a half-century now. Those so-called “Progressives” on the Left are having a field day, and the scant few willing to push back against such tyranny are persecuted and prosecuted. Unlike the 1920s, the street preachers of today are ridiculed, physically attacked and often jailed. Pastors refuse to even speak on any of these evils, and to most it is absolutely UNTHINKABLE that they would lead their flocks out to the town square to proclaim the truth of God’s Word. The days of the Tent Revivals and mass baptisms appear to be over — along with the days of repentance, it seems. Truth has fallen in our streets.
But perhaps there will come a day, in the not-too-distant future, when calamity strikes once again, and these poor lost souls will be just desperate enough to seek God. It’s not only VERY LIKELY, but I believe it’s IMMINENT. God is patient and longsuffering, not willing that any should perish. But there ARE limits to His patience, and I believe we have been pushing those limits for far too long now. God’s Word tells us that those who earnestly seek Him will find Him. He doesn’t hide Himself from us; but neither does He force Himself upon us. It’s up to each individual soul to repent and turn to Christ as Lord and Savior, …or not. True Christ-followers MUST continue to preach in the streets.
God’s Word MUST be boldly proclaimed — NOW more than ever before, because I believe our time is short. A day of reckoning is coming, soon. Perhaps, instead of the self-indulgence and debauchery people reveled in 100 years ago, the “Roaring ‘20s” of OUR day will be the ROAR of Christ’s wrath as He returns on the clouds of heaven to make war with those who hate Him and His saints. But I know THIS: NOW is the time for HIS people to rise up, awaken and prepare — and be ready to always give a reason for the hope that we have in Christ Jesus. Our loved ones, friends and neighbors will need the real TRUTH very soon — and we will be the only ones able to provide it. So let us work while the sun still shines, being about our Father’s business as He has commanded.
Audio versions and transcripts of this message are available when you call me at Wisconsin Christian News, (715) 486-8066. Or email Rob@WisconsinChristianNews.com. Ask for message number 262.