Modern American Mass Culture

By: Margaret Norman and Patrick Gilligan

The 1920's saw the birth of radio, movies, and spectator sports as well as many new artists, musicians and writers.

Radio and Phonograph

The invention of the radio was a new way to bring people all across the nation together. By 1929, $426 million dollars worth of radios had been sold. It brought news, entertainment and advertising to more than 10 million households across the country.  The regional differences that previously separated the people of America were now non-existent. Radio broadcasted Charles Lindbergh's first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928.

The phonograph was also an important invention of the time. These records brought about the popularity of jazz, blues, and hillbilly music. The record player brought a "blues craze" which included Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Mamie Smith and Louis Armstrong.


The most significant instrument of mass entertainment in America was movies. 90 million people weekly attended movies in 1929. By 1926, Hollywood had become the hub of movie making. Like radio, movies created a popular common culture with common speech, dress, behavior and heroes.  Movies featured glamour, sophistication and sex appeal to gain popularity.

Spectator Sports

Spectator sports attracted vast audiences from all over the country. This new form of entertainment produced heroes and individual superstars. Baseball and football were the main spectator sports of the time. Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb took the nation by storm. Spectator sports brought America together by providing common interests and common heroes.

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