We are closing on the centennial of the beginning of decades having identities in the USA, the “Roaring 20s” of the 20th century. It may be that this centennial will clearly mark the end of this odd phenomenon that we had been used to, but which was always a bit odd. Why did this start and why might ibe ending? I have a few thoughts on this.
My theory oon why it started in the 1920s is that this was the first appearance of national news media in the form of radio, which was the first time we could really have aunified discusson and consciousness in a way not possible previously. Certainly there were decades earlier that had the potential for having identities. The 1860s had arguably the most dramatic event of US history, the Civil War, but nobody has ever talked about “the 60s” meaning the 1860s rather than the 1960s. Likewise, there serious economic downturns through most of both the 1870s and 1890s, but nobody has ever talked about the 70s or 90s referring to those decades.
Indeed this continued into the beginning of the 20th century, with many dramatic events in the first decade and, of course, WW I in the second, although the US was in that war for less than two years. But it was the 1920s that got an identity for the first time in US history. Maybe it is not the spread of radio, maybe it is the spread of automobiles, which became the dominant form of personal transport in that decade, which helped increase social mobility and communication. So add the auto to radio, and maybe some other things, jazz, although we also got the spread of records and movies also. So, there we had that roaring decade.