1920 Flappers Took the Country by Storm – But Did They Ever Truly Go Away

Women of the Roaring Twenties had a lot in common with today’s millennials

By Linda Simon Smithsonian Magazine September 2017

Flappers Atop Chicago Hotel

She was the sexy ingénue, spending evenings in jazz clubs hazy with her cigarette smoke. She cavorted, wild and willful, in the stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, who summed her up as “pretty, impudent, superbly assured, as worldly-wise, briefly-clad and ‘hard-berled’ as possible.”

The glamorous, shimmering flapper in her slinky dress and stylish bob seemed to emerge into American life out of nowhere after the First World War, but the term was already familiar by then. In 1890s Britain, in fact, “flapper” described a very young prostitute, and after the turn of the century, it was used on both sides of the Atlantic for cheeky, prepubescent girls whose long braids, the New York Times reported, “flapped in the wind.” Soon, a flapper was any girl or woman who defied convention—girls who balked at being chaperoned, suffragists, women aspiring to a career, and those, as the Boston Globe put it, “expert in the arts of allurement.”

Unlike their mothers and grandmothers, flappers tended to go to high school and even college, and they devoured new books featuring confident, fun-loving adolescent heroines who hiked and camped and solved mysteries. Flappers biked, played golf and tennis, and strove to emulate the flat-chested and hipless physiques of the adolescent boys whose freedom and lack of domestic responsibilities they envied.

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Five Things You Didn’t Know About 1920s Gangsters in Chicago

A new book offers some surprising glimpses into the city’s early 20th century underworld.

BY HANNAH NYHART  This article appears in the June 2017 issue of Chicago magazine.


ONE: Cicero, not Chicago, was dubbed the “wettest spot in the United States.” Agents discovered 20 separate large-scale stills in a single series of raids, reports John J. Binder in Al Capone’s Beer Wars: A Complete History of Organized Crime in Chicago During Prohibition (June 6, Prometheus Books). Crackdowns had forced the alcohol underworld into the western suburb, where the Torrio-Capone gang roughed up voters to sway the 1924 election and keep certain friendly politicians in office, thus securing itself free run of the town.

TWO: A sign of how cozy gangsters were with elected officials: After Capone’s mentor, James “Big Jim” Colosimo, was killed in 1920, his pallbearers included eight aldermen, three judges, and a U.S. congressman (shown above).

THREE: Gangsters weren’t all to blame for the murderous era. Of the 729 homicides in Cook County between 1919 and 1933 classified as “gang-style” killings by the Chicago Crime Commission, Binder found that 43 percent were actually not related to organized crime but to personal feuds and other private matters. A 1932 newspaper ad for a local textile shop read: “Bullet Holes Rewoven Perfectly in Damaged Clothes—Low Price.”

FOUR: Chicago’s 6,000 illicit slot machines temporarily disappeared in the late 1920s after a vigorous state’s attorney was elected, but gambling as a whole never really died down. By 1930, there were roughly 10,000 illegal locations, from barbershops to newsstands, to wager on horses or place other bets. You could find a spot to lose money about as often as you can find a bus stop today.

FIVE: Capone’s gang was pulling in “tribute” payments—a cut of profits for protection—from two-thirds of the city’s labor unions, but the milk wagon drivers refused to be controlled, even after Capone affiliates kidnapped their union’s president for a $50,000 ransom. Instead, they bombproofed the union office and bought a bulletproof car. Plan B: Capone opened a rival dairy, staffed trucks with his own men, and sold milk two cents cheaper. Read more

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A Baby Face Nelson sighting in Nevada – 1934

The Nevada Appeal August 22, 2016

“If all reports are true, Baby Face Nelson, with several pals, paid Gardnerville a visit several weeks ago. From here, the gang went to Hawthorne, living in the outskirts of that town for several days and then vanished. Federal officers, it is reported, were several days behind the fugitives but hope to apprehend them before many weeks go by.” — The Record-Courier, Nov. 16, 1934

Baby Face Nelson

After mention of Nelson in the Locals column of The Record-Courier, 11 days would pass before authorities killed Nelson in a gunfight in Wilmett, Ill. on Nov. 27, 1934, just two days before Thanksgiving and less than two weeks before his 26th birthday. And that signaled the end of Baby Face Nelson, or Lester Gillis, the only Most Wanted Criminal ever to live in Douglas County as a most wanted criminal.

 Dead Nelson

Read more from Nevada Appeal Article.

Nelson did die in Wilmett, but he received the mortal wounds in the “Battle of Barrington” where he killed two federal officers (Inspector Cowley and Agent Hollis). Also at the gun battle were Baby Face’s wife Helen and longtime friend John Paul Chase (aka Earl Butler).

Battle of Barrington

The car driven by Nelson and disabled by agents’ bullets is shown in the picture above. The events leading up to the car chase, the shootout, and what followed are described in my novel manuscript Midnight Run 1932.

Chase, an unknown, could walk into a grocery store for supplies or a sporting goods store for ammunition without causing suspicion. Initially, it was not know that he was at Barrington with Nelson; however, Helen was captured in Chicago and after being tortured revealed Chase’s identity.

HelenClips (1)

The hunt for Chase began in Illinois and ended up at Mount Shasta in California.

My 87,000-word manuscript is a fact-based novel chronicling the life of a naïve northern California dairy worker (Chase) eager to experience the women, booze, and fast cars of the roaring 1920’s.

[If you are an AAR literary agent and interested in reading more, please contact me at: bootlegger1932@gmail.com)

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Your Ticket To The Movies – 1923

East Side – West Side

Preview: At the center of the film East Side-West Side is Lory James (Eileen Percy), her poor east side roommates Kit (Maxine Elliott Hicks), Eunice (Lucille Hutton), and her wealthy west side boss Duncan Van Norman (Kenneth Harlan). Money is the central divide.

Principal Pictures released this six reel melodrama, which was adapted from a Broadway play, in 1923. The film was later released on the 16mm home market in a five reel Kodascope version and that’s what we present here with a terrific score by none other than Jon Mirsalis.

[Silent films had music but synchronized dialogue, aka  “talking pictures” or “talkies” were not available in feature length films until 1927.]

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Political conventions of the 1920s helped sell radios


Published: Monday, July 18, 2016

By Brian Rogers
Guest columnist

The author's RCA Radiola Model 18 was built in 1928. Note the speaker on the shelf below the set. With earlier sets, the shelf had held batteries. Photo courtesy of Brian Rogers

The author’s RCA Radiola Model 18 was built in 1928. Note the speaker on the shelf below the set. With earlier sets, the shelf had held batteries. Photo courtesy of Brian Rogers

When I (Brian Rogers) thought about the Democratic and Republican national conventions taking place this summer, my inner radio history buff sprang to life, demanding to know when the electronic medium had first covered a political convention.

Here’s what I learned: The first radio broadcast from a political convention was June 10, 1924, at the Republican Convention in Cleveland. The two-day convention in Ohio saw Calvin Coolidge nominated as the Republican candidate.

New York’s WEAF and WJZ were flagship stations for two separate competitive networks providing radio coverage. One was operated by AT&T (American Telephone and Telegraph) and the other was by RCA (Radio Corporation of America). AT&T had about 18 stations on its lines and RCA somewhat fewer. RCA wouldn’t become RCA Victor until 1929 when it acquired the Victor Talking Machine Co.

The AT&T announcer was Graham McNamee, one of early radio’s busiest personalities and well known yet to radio historians. Like many in that day, he didn’t confine himself to reporting just politics or just sports.

McNamee’s path on a national scale was similar to that trod by Ty Tyson in Detroit at about the same time. Tyson came to WWJ to announce University of Michigan football, but also reported such events as society garden parties and the dedication of the Ambassador Bridge.

RCA sold lots of radios in 1924 with advertising copy such as “Cheer with the galleries when the delegates march in! No ‘influence’ needed this year for a gallery seat at the big political conventions! Get it all with a Radiola Super-Heterodyne. When the delegates march in — their banners screaming; when the bands play and the galleries cheer — be there with a ‘Super-Het.’”

Between 1924 and 1928, great strides were made in radio technology and RCA introduced its new Model 18 Radiola just in time for the 1928 conventions.

The set was unique for its day, because heavy cumbersome batteries no longer were necessary. The radio plugged into a wall socket.

“Simplified operation from your electric light current,” read an RCA magazine advertisement. “Just ‘plug’ it in, connect it with ground and aerial, and a twist of the electrically lighted dial instantly picks out your favorite station.”

Earlier radios required batteries similar to those used in cars and were known to leak and burn holes in carpeting. They also needed frequent recharging and were famous for having no current left when an important baseball game hit the airwaves or the philharmonic was about to play. Read More


Immersive Theater Concept ‘The Speakeasy’ Returns With New Home This Summer

SPEAKEASY by Geri Koeppel

The Speakeasy, an immersive theater experience in which audience members are engaged in the show, will reopen this summer in its permanent home, bringing flappers, mobsters and more to a secret location near the Chinatown-North Beach border every weekend.

The show started as a production of Boxcar Theatre, founded in 2005 by Nick A. Olivero, and had an initial sold-out run of 75 shows in 2014 at a “secret” location in the Tenderloin. It was done up to look like a Prohibition-era nightclub complete with a dance hall room and “gambling” den. The audience is required to dress in cocktail attire, and they’re encouraged to wear period clothing.


Presale tickets will go online at 10am June 9th to members of Club 1923 and affiliated groups. Tickets for the general public will go on sale June 13th. For information, online sales and to register as a Club 1923 member, which will have an annual fee, visit thespeakeasysf.com. Tickets for previews will be $85 and the regular run will be around $100; the cost of Club 1923 hasn’t been determined. READ MORE



Roaring ’20s workshop offered May 12 in Pequot Lakes

By Pineandlakes Echo Journal

Alan Bohme, historian and master storyteller, will present The Roaring ’20s workshop from 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 12, at Pequot Lakes High School.

This presentation is set to authentic music from the 1920s taped from old shellac 78 rpm records. There are photographs of many celebrities, including athletes, movie stars, gangsters, politicians, and others. Pre-registration is required. Class fee is $5. READ MORE