All That Jazz: America in the 1920s

January 31 - June 13, 2004
[This exhibit can no longer be seen at the Ford Museum]

As World War I ended in 1918, the traditional powers of Europe and the Western World were shaken to their very foundations. In every land, people were left stunned by this first global, mechanized war with its millions dead and maimed. Adding to their astonishment, national leaders had toppled and other leaders redrew maps, separating millions more from their countries of birth and imposing on them new national identities.

entry into "All That JAzz: America in the 1920s" exhibit
From this rubble the United States emerged as one of the world's acknowledged super powers. Repulsed by the chaos and wary of world leadership, however, Americans vowed not to be drawn into another European conflict. Its attention and energies turned inward, America embarked on an age of success, excess, heroes and villains.

Few decades have been filled with so much yet ended so quickly as the 1920s. Businesses boomed, the stock market soared, heroes abounded and Americans reveled as part of the "happy-go-lucky generation." Before the 1920s ended in the worse stock market crash in history, America underwent a transformation from 19th century Victorian life and business to a 20th century dynamo, setting the standards for a transformed society and industrial giant. 

It was an age of some of America's greatest writers, sports heroes, and business leaders, an age of scientific advances and technological wonders, an age when electricity, automobiles and the telephone passed from luxury to necessity. It was also an age of villains, scandals, and racism. But it was an age that gave us lasting impressions, added new words to our everyday vocabulary and forever changed how we live.

The names from that time are legendary: Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jack Dempsey, Rudolph Valentino, Al Capone, and Louis Armstrong. The decade gave us the Florida land scams, the speakeasy, rum-runners, the flapper, the radio, Mah-Jongg, and the "It" girl. It liberated women socially and politically but not necessarily economically. It celebrated being American yet vilified foreigners. Business became a religion while celebrities reached god-like status.

All That Jazz traces the panorama of the "roaring" decade that was America in the 1920s. Drawn from the collections of individuals and institutions from across the country, the artifacts, documents, photographs and music provide a sweeping look of the time with a focus on the defining events, trends and innovations that made the 1920s such and unprecedented and pivotal decade.


Gerald R. Ford Museum

303 Pearl Street 
Grand Rapids MI 49504
(616) 254-0400
[This exhibit can no longer be seen at the Ford Museum]