Brief Timeline of American Literature, Music, and Movies

Pre-1650 1650 1700 1750 1800 1810 1820 1830 1840
  1850 1860 1870 1880 1890 1900 1910 1920
Literature, Music, and Movies
1890s 1900s 1910s 1920s
Music Movies Literature
What Have they Got on You, Mr. Congressman? (1920)
  • "Swanee" (Al Jolson) (RealAudio from )
  • "A Good Man is Hard to Find"(RealAudio clip from Vintage Recordings ) 
  • "Lovin' Sam (The Sheik of Alabam')" (RealAudio clip from Vintage Recordings) 
  • "You're the Cream in my Coffee"(RealAudio clip from Vintage Recordings ) 
  • "When the Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves for Alabam'"(RealAudio clip from Vintage Recordings ) 
  • "Whispering" (1920) (Paul Whiteman) (RealAudio file from
  • "Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me" (Raderman's Jazz Orchestra at
  • "Myona-Hawaiian Waltz" (Library of Congress)
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (starring John Barrymore)
  • The Mark of Zorro (starring Douglas Fairbanks)
  • Way Down East (D. W. Griffith)
  • Pollyanna (Mary Pickford)
  • Get Out and Get Under (Harold Lloyd) 
  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
  • One Week (Buster Keaton; 22 minutes)
  • The Last of the Mohicans
  • Sinclair Lewis, Main Street
  • Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence and In Morocco
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald,This Side of Paradise
  • Anzia Yezierska, Hungry Hearts 
  • Ezra Pound, Hugh Selwyn Mauberly. For informaton on Pound and other modernist poets, visit the "Petals on a Wet, Black Bough" exhibit at the Beinecke Museum. 
  • Eugene O'Neill, The Emperor Jones
  • Robert Frost, Mountain Interval
  • Death of William Dean Howells (b. 1837) 

    "Kitten on the Keys" (RealAudio from the Library of Congress)
    "Ain't We Got Fun?" (Benson Orchestra of Chicago)(Note F. Scott Fitzgerald's use of this song in The Great Gatsby)
    "Crazy Blues" (performed by Noble Sissle) (RealAudio from the Library of Congress)

  • Sherlock Holmes (starring John Barrymore)
  • The Kid (Charlie Chaplin)
  • Orphans of the Storm  (D. W. Griffith)
  • The Lotos-Eater (John Barrymore and Colleen Moore)
    Little Lord Fauntleroy (Mary Pickford)
  • Never Weaken (Harold Lloyd)
  • Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and The Sheik (Rudolph Valentino)
    The Playhouse (Buster Keaton) 
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, Flappers and Philosophers (stories)
  • John Dos Passos, Three Soldiers
  • Sherwood Anderson, The Triumph of the Egg (stories); "The Egg"
  • Edith Wharton wins the Pulitzer Prize for literature for The Age of Innocence. Although some of the judges wished to award the prize to Sinclair Lewis's Main Street, others believe Lewis's book to be too negative in its representation of small-town America.  Lewis sends Wharton a gracious note of congratulationsafter his loss, and she responds by praising Main Street
  • James Joyce's Ulysses is published in Paris; 500 copies imported to America are seized by the U. S. Post Office as obscene material and burned.
  • 1922
    Stumbling by Zez Confrey
  • "If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight" (Ruth Etting; date unknown) (RealAudio clip from Vintage Recordings ) 
  • "Stumbling" (Paul Whiteman and Orchestra)  
  • "Positively, Mr. Gallagher" "Absolutely, Mr. Shean" (Gallagher and Shean; 1922) (
  • "In the Little Red Schoolhouse" (RealAudio from the Library of Congress)
  • Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood
  • Moran of the Lady Letty (from the novel by Frank Norris) and Blood and Sand  (Rudolph Valentino)
    Cops (Buster Keaton)
  • Nosferatu (dir. F. W. Murnau)
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald,The Beautiful and Damned
  • T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land (1921-1922)
  • Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt 
  • Anzia Yezierska, Salome of the Tenements
  • Eugene O'Neill, The Hairy Ape
  • Willa Cather, One of Ours 
  • Edith Wharton, The Glimpses of the Moon
  • Katherine Anne Porter, "Maria Conception" (Century
  • T. S. Eliot founds Criterion magazine (1922-1939)
  • Booth Tarkington wins the Pulitzer Prize for Alice Adams

  • Old King Tut by William Jerome and Harry Von Tilzer "Lady-Luck Blues" (Bessie Smith) (RealAudio file from )
  • "Canal Street Blues" (King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band) (RealAudio file from )
  • Old King Tut
  • "Snake Hips" (Memphis Five) (RealAudio file from Dismuke's Site.)
  • Laughing Record (Henry's Music Lesson), performed by Miss Sally Stembler & Edward Meeker (comedy routine) (RealAudio from the American Memory Home Page at the Library of Congress)
  • Our Hospitality (Buster Keaton)
  • The Glimpses of the Moon (from the Edith Wharton novel; dir. Allan Dwan)
    Prodigal Daughters (Gloria Swanson)
  • Safety Last (Harold Lloyd) 
  • Willa Cather, A Lost Lady 
  • Wallace Stevens, Harmonium
  • William Carlos Williams, Spring and All
  • Jean Toomer, Cane 
  • 1924
  • I'll See You In My Dreams (1924) "I Want to Be Happy" from No, No, Nanette (RealAudio file from Dismuke's Site.)
  • "California, Here I Come!" (Al Jolson)(RealAudio from )
  • "All Alone" (sung by Al Jolson)(RealAudio from )
  • "Everybody Loves My Baby" (RealAudio file from Dismuke's Site.)
  • "Linger Awhile" (Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra)(RealAudio file from Dismuke's Site.)
  • "What'll I Do" (Southampton Serenaders) (RealAudio file from Dismuke's Site.)
  • "Rhapsody in Blue" (Written by George Gershwin and commissioned by Paul Whiteman, who introduced the piece) (1924) (RealAudio file from )
  • It Had to be You"(RealAudio from Robert's Old Schmaltz Archives )
  • The Thief of Baghdad (Douglas Fairbanks)
  • Sherlock, Jr. (Buster Keaton)
  • The Perfect Flapper  (Colleen Moore)
  • So Big (Colleen Moore)
  • The Age of Innocence (from the Edith Wharton novel; dir. Wesley Ruggles)
  • Girl Shy (Harold Lloyd) 
  • Edith Wharton, Old New York (novellas)
  • Eugene O'Neill, Desire under the Elms 
  • H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan found The American Mercury, which ceases publication in 1951.
  • 1925
  • "Milenberg Joys"    (The Cotton Pickers) (RealAudio file from Dismuke's Site.) 
  • "When My Sugar Walks Down the Street" (RealAudio file from ) 

  • " Dinah " (sung by Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards)(RealAudio file from )
  • "Yes, Sir! That's My Baby!" (Carlton Coon and Joe Sanders(RealAudio file from ) 
  • Collegiate(Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians)(RealAudio from 
  • "Charleston"(Golden Gage Orchestra from
  • "Paddlin' Madeline Home" (Whitey Kaufman at
  • The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin)
  • Don Q, Son of Zorro (Douglas Fairbanks)
  • Romola (Lillian Gish)
  • Greed (version of Frank Norris's
  • McTeague, dir. Erich von Stroheim)
  • Seven Chances (Buster Keaton)
  • The Freshman (Harold Lloyd)
  • The Dark Angel (Ronald Colman)
  • The Phantom of the Opera  (Lon Chaney)
  • The Merry Widow (Erich von Stroheim) 
  • The Unholy Three (dir. Tod Browning; starring Lon Chaney)
  • The Phantom of the Opera (with Lon Chaney)
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
  • Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time 
  • Willa Cather, The Professor's House
  • Theodore Dreiser, An American Tragedy
  • Gertrude Stein, The Making of Americans
  • Alain Locke, The New Negro
  • Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers
  • John Dos Passos, Manhattan Transfer
  • Edna Ferber's So Big wins the Pulitzer Prize.
  • The New Yorker is founded by Harold Ross. Its unofficial motto: "Not edited for the old lady in Dubuque" (James Thurber, The Years with Ross, 75). 
  • 1926
  • "Sunday" (RealAudio file from Dismuke's Site.)
  • Poor Papa by Billy Rose and Harry Woods"Original Jelly-Roll Blues" (Jelly Roll Morton)(RealAudio file from )
  • "My Baby Knows How" (California Ramblers) (1926) (RealAudio file from Dismuke's Site.)
  • "I Love the College Girls" (Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians)(RealAudio file from )(New URL)
  • "Black Bottom" (Sung by Annette Hanshaw) (RealAudio at )
  • "Poor Papa"(RealAudio clip from
  • "Baby Face" (at
  • The Sea Beast (version of Moby-Dick starring John Barrymore; Barrymore made a "talking picture" version in 1930 called Moby-Dick)
  • The Scarlet Letter (Lillian Gish as Hester Prynne)
  • Sparrows (Mary Pickford)
  • Son of the Sheik (Rudolph Valentino) 
  • The Show Off (with Louise Brooks)
  • William Faulkner, Soldier's Pay
  • Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
  • Hart Crane, The Bridge
  • Langston Hughes, The Weary Blues
  • 1927
  • "On the Sunny Side of the Street"(RealAudio clip from
  • " Hotter than That" (Louis Armstrong and the Hot Five) (RealAudio file from )
  • "Button Up Your Overcoat" (Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians) (RealAudio file from )
  • "Any Time" (Clarence Williams) (RealAudio file from )
  • "Beale Street Blues" ( Jelly Roll Morton)(RealAudio file from )
  • Lindbergh (The Eagle of the U.S.A.)(RealAudio file from Dismuke's Site.)
  • "In a Mist (Bixology) "   (Bix Beiderbecke) (RealAudio file from )
  • "Showboat Shuffle" (King Oliver's Dixie Syncopators) (RealAudio file from )
  • " 'Deed I Do" (Al Lentz's Dance Orchestra)(RealAudio file from Dismuke's Site.)
  • "Stardust" (Hoagy Carmichael and his Pals) (RealAudio file from )
  • "Varsity Drag"
    (Cass Hagen and His Park Central Hotel Orchestra at

    "Side by Side" (
  • The General (Buster Keaton) 
  • The Love of Sunya (Gloria Swanson)
  • Sunrise (dir. F. W. Murnau) 
  • Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop 
  • Countee Cullen, Caroling Dusk (anthology) and Copper Sun 
  • 1928
  • " I Want to Be Loved by You" (Helen Kane) (RealAudio clip from
  • "St. James Infirmary" (Louis Armstrong and his Savoy Ballroom Five) (RealAudio file from )
  • "My Suppressed Desire" (Paul Whiteman Orchestra, featuring the Rhythm Boys [including Bing Crosby ]) (RealAudio file from Dismuke's Site.)
  • "Speak Easy Blues" (King Oliver) (RealAudio from )
  • "Sonny Boy"(RealAudio clip from
  • "After You've Gone" (Ruth Etting)(RealAudio clip from
  • "Body and Soul" (Ruth Etting)(RealAudio clip from
  • "Let's Misbehave" (Song by Cole Porter; performed by Irving Aaronson and his Commanders) (RealAudio from )
  • "Mammy" (Al Jolson) (RealAudio from )
  • "Dinah" (Joe Venuti's Blue Four) (RealAudio file from Dismuke's Site.)
  • "My Blue Heaven" (Vaughn Deleath at; another version, with less whistling, is Paul Whiteman's.
  • "Henry's Made a Lady out of Lizzie" (about the introduction of the Model A Ford)
  • The Circus (Charlie Chaplin)
  • The Wind (Lillian Gish)
  • Steamboat Bill, Jr. (Buster Keaton)
  • Sadie Thompson (from W. Somerset Maugham's story "Rain"; Gloria Swanson)
  • Speedy (Harold Lloyd) 
  • Eugene O'Neill, Strange Interlude
    Nella Larsen, Quicksand
  • " A Good Man is Hard to Find" (Marion Harris)(RealAudio clip from Vintage Recordings ) 
  • "After You've Gone" (Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra) (RealAudio file from )
  • "If I Had a Talking Picture of You"(RealAudio file from Dismuke's Site.)
  • "I'll Get By (As Long As I Have You)" (Ipana Troubadors; Bing Crosby, vocal) (RealAudio file from Dismuke's Site.)
  • "Happy Days are Here Again" (Leo Reisman and His Orchestra) (RealAudio file from Dismuke's Site.)
  • "Singin' in the Rain" ( Gus Arnheim and His Orchestra) (RealAudio file from Dismuke's Site.)
  • "St. Louis Blues" (Written in 1914 by W. C. Handy; here as recorded in 1929 by Louis Armstrong's Orchestra with vocals by Bessie Smith)(RealAudio file from )
  • "Broadway Melody" (Ben Selvin and His Orchestra) (1929)(RealAudio file from Dismuke's Site.)
  • "It Makes My Love Come Down" (Bessie Smith) (1929)(RealAudio file from Dismuke's Site. )
  • "Little White Lies" (1930) (Sung by Annette Hanshaw) (RealAudio from )
  • Pandora's Box (dir. Ernst Pabst, starring Louise Brooks)
  • The Taming of the Shrew (sound picture starring Douglas Fairbanks & Mary Pickford)
  • The Letter (Jeanne Eagels; from the play by W. Somerset Maugham)
    Our Modern Maidens (Joan Crawford; image courtesy of Bruce Calvert's Internet Silent Film Still Archive ) 
  • William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury and Sartoris
  • Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms 
  • Katherine Anne Porter, "Flowering Judas"
  • Countee Cullen, Black Christ and Other Poems
  • Nella Larsen, Passing 
  • This page provides a limited sample of the music and films available during the period 1920-1929.  The music links here appear courtesy of the sites listed at the bottom of the page; please visit them for more information about the music of this era. Films are listed with their principal star or director.  Music files on this page are in RealAudio unless otherwise noted.

    Because they reflect the attitudes, beliefs, and prejudices of their times, some materials of this era may be offensive to listeners.  The perspectives expressed in these films or recordings do not represent the attitudes of  the site author.
    To see pictures of wax cylinder phonographs and other early recording equipment, go to

    Historic American Sheet Music at Duke University
    African American Sheet Music at the Library of Congress
    Online Resources for Music Scholars (Harvard University)
    Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection at Johns Hopkins
    Cylinder Digitization Project
    Dismuke's Virtual Talking Machine Site.
    The American Variety Stage page at the Library of Congress
    iPod users might be interested in the Radio Memories and Edison's Attic podcasts available (free) through iTunes.

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