Old Chicago in YEG

On November 23, the Parlour in downtown Edmonton will play host to “Old Chicago in YEG” and transport guests back to the iconic Roaring 20s, an era now immortalized for its glamour and sophistication. Often remembered as the time of Prohibition or the setting of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel, The Great Gatsby, the 1920s were a time of burgeoning modernity, illicit nightlife and unforgettable sartorial charm. In the first of a two-part series, you’ll learn more about what society was like during the 1920s.

Background

The 1920s, also affectionately known as The Jazz Age or Roaring 20s, were a time of sweeping social change and political evolution. Urban populations grew exponentially, with more Americans living in cities than ever before, and the economy experienced a period of fiscal prosperity. As opposed to the Great Depression of the 1930s that followed, the ‘20s were an affluent time that pushed the proverbial envelope, causing both controversy and celebration.

Consumer Culture

The ‘20s introduced mass culture to consumers, which meant purchasing consumer products such as ready-to-wear clothing, home appliances and radios—the catalyst for an influx of radio programming across the United States. But the arguably most important consumer product of the era was the automobile—particularly the Model T Ford, which in 1924 could be purchased for a mere $260.

Gender Roles and Fashion

A ubiquitous symbol of the ‘20s is, of course, the flapper. The iconic female figure is characterized by a short bob haircut and glittering fringed dresses. At the time, a flapper was a controversial young woman who indulged in allegedly “unladylike” behaviour such as smoking and drinking. While not all women prescribed to this lifestyle, they did
experience newfound freedom during the ‘20s. Women could vote for the first time, and many went to work at white-collar jobs, which allowed them to participate in the burgeoning consumer-driven society.

The Jazz Age and Prohibition

The accessibility of automobiles during the ‘20s gave young people the freedom to access entertainment unavailable to them in previous times. Jazz bands provided the nightly soundtrack at dance halls, and the genre’s rising popularity wasn’t stifled by older generations objecting to its supposed “vulgarity.”

Of course, one of the most notable aspects of the Roaring 20s was Prohibition. It may have been a time of modern innovation, but alcohol sale and consumption were strictly stifled. On January 16, 1920, the infamous Volstead Act shut down every liquor-driven establishment in the United States, and the liquor trade was driven underground—quite
literally—which was the beginning of illegal speakeasies and bootlegging. Those who supported Prohibition believed that eliminating alcohol would reinstate some of the values of earlier times, but it was abolished in 1933.

Now that you’ve got a primer on the Roaring 20s, stay tuned for the next instalment, which will provide some history about the Parlour, which was built 111 years ago.