The end of World War 1 welcomed a new era in New York – one in which jazz, illegal booze, gangs, commerce and culture flourished. By the 1920s, New York boasted nearly 6 million residents and served as a booming center for immigrants and migrants entering the city through road, rail and boats.
Courtesy of Wall Street, the decade started with a bang and ended very much the same. In September 1920, radical protestors bombed the financial center and the event was considered the most deadly politically motivated terrorist activity on American soil at the time. Nine years later, at the close of the century, Wall Street would crash, leading to a huge economic downturn and the onset of the Great Depression whose wake was felt around the world. But in the intermittent period, the New York 1920s truly roared.
Flapper dresses and the Lindy Hop dance were in vogue, complimenting the jazz culture of the era. What’s known as the “Great Migration,” the mass movement of African Americans from the south to northern cities, saw 200,000 African Americans claiming New York–specifically Harlem–as their new place of residence. As a result, Harlem became a cultural hub for dynamic jazz and blues as well as a platform for rising jazz artists like Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Coleman Hawkins and “King” Oliver. The musical genre became one of the most basic and potent expressions of New York’s cultural life promoted through recordings, broadcasts and live performances.