Author Archives: Jon Wilson

Radio in the Roaring 1920’s


Silent Movies didn’t start talking until 1927 when Warner Bros. released “The Jazz Singer.”  The film ran 89 minutes and grossed almost four million in the U.S. and another three million worldwide.



Radio, on the other hand, had been going strong for years.  By 1923, some three million Americans owned radios, although most of them were crystal sets with earphones.  Programming was mostly: baseball, news, music, and advertising.

Crystal Setscrysradio3



Pretty Girl

Sugar Foot

Five Foot Two

Henpecked Blues

[If you don’t have time to listen now, Bookmark this page on your Browser, and revisit sometime when you have fifteen minutes and a cup of coffee.]


Tube Radio Radio


In 1922, President Harding became the first President to be heard on radio.  It was not a political message but a dedication to the composer of the “Star Spangled Banner” Francis Scot Key.  The first political message came three years later from President Coolidge.


In 1927 radios started appearing in cars



The Marconi Transmitting Station, Marin County California

Marconi Bolinas Transmit Site 1913

In 1914, the stations in Bolinas (transmitting) and Marshall (receiving) could receive messages from New Jersey and retransmit them to Hawaii.


And last but not least, 



Al Capone’s 1928 Cadillac was equipped with a police band receiver.


Al Capones car


Model “A” & Model “T” Fords


You start with a Model “T” …


Model T


Strip it down and have some fun with it…




However, you’re getting older, and it’s time for a change.  Your Model “T” has barely 20 horsepower, a top speed of 45 mph, but it cost only $260.  You want a car with 40 horsepower, a top speed of 65 mph, and so what if it costs $385 this is 1928 and the economy is booming.  


The Model “A” Ford is right for you.



Here’s the chassis coming down the line…

images (1)


Then they put in the engine…



Add a steering wheel and instruments 

Model A Ford


Almost done…

Model A


And there you (and two million other people) have it.  A new 1928 Model “A” Ford automobile.   (And you don’t have to crank it.)


John Dillinger also had a Model “A” Ford


In 2010, Dillinger’s 1930 Model “A” sold for $165,000


John Dillinger never really owned the Model “A” pictured above.  It was stolen (borrowed, he asked if he could use it) to make his escape from the Little Bohemia shootout on April 23, 1934.  


Earl Butler and Baby Face Nelson were also at Little Bohemia, but made other travel arrangements.


1933 Buick

Following the Brainerd Bank robbery Oct. 23, 1933, John Paul Chase, Baby Face Nelson and others (Dillinger not present) used a 1933 Buick 8 cylinder 7-passenger sedan (like the one above) to make their escape. 

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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 | Subscribe
September 2017

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.”

Daredevils on a skyscraper

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.

Predictably, these stylish tomboys were a grave source of worry to parents, educators, physicians and clergymen, who feared that sports and higher education would be ruinous. “Without womanly ­ideals the female character is threatened with disintegration,” warned G. Stanley Hall, a leading psychologist and educator who toured the country lecturing on the subject.

Read more.

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Barney Oldfield

Berna Eli “Barney” Oldfield (January 29, 1878 – October 4, 1946) was an American pioneer automobile racer; his “name was synonymous with speed in the first two decades of the 20th century”. After success in bicycle racing, he began auto racing in 1902 and continued until his retirement in 1918. He was the first man to drive a car at 60 miles per hour on a circular track.

At age 16, Oldfield began serious bicycle racing in 1894 after officials from the “Dauntless” bicycle factory asked him to ride for the Ohio state championship. Although he came in second, the race was a turning point. Oldfield was lent a gasoline-powered bicycle to race at Salt Lake City. Through fellow racer Tom Cooper, he met Henry Ford, who was at the beginning of his career as an auto manufacturer.

Ford had readied two automobiles for racing, and he asked Oldfield if he would like to test one in Michigan. Oldfield agreed and traveled to Michigan for the trial, but neither car started. Although Oldfield had never driven an automobile, he and Cooper bought both test vehicles when Ford offered to sell them for $800. One was “No. 999”, which was debuted in October 1902 at the Manufacturer’s Challenge Cup. Today it is displayed at the Henry Ford Museum in Greenfield Village.

1902 Oldfield and Henry Ford

Oldfield agreed to drive against the current champion, Alexander Winton. Oldfield was rumored to have learned how to operate the controls of the “999” only the morning of the event. Oldfield won by a half mile in the five-mile (8 km) race. He slid through the corners like a motorcycle racer rather than braking. It was a great victory for Ford and resulted in both Oldfield and Ford becoming nationally known.

On June 20, 1903, at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, Oldfield became the first driver to run a mile track in one minute flat, or 60 miles per hour.


Oldfield, his manager and agent traveled throughout the United States in a series of timed runs and match races, and he earned a reputation as a showman. Oldfield was the first American to become a celebrity solely for his ability to drive a car with great skill, speed, and daring. He liked to increase the drama in best of three matches: he would win the first part by a nose, lose the second, and win the third.

Oldfield 1907

Oldfield won first place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on August 21, 1909 in a Mercedes Benz. He bought a Benz, and raised his speed in 1910 to 70.159 mph. At Daytona Beach, Florida, on March 16, 1910, he set the world speed record, driving 131.724 mph.

Oldfield in the Benz



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Miss America

The first “Miss America” (1920) was a wooden boat built by Garfield Wood.  It was powered by two aircraft engines and set a world record of 74.8 mph.  Wood built nine more “Miss America” boats and raised the record to 124.8 mph.

The “Miss Americas” we are most familiar with are the winners of the Miss America pageant first held in September 1921.  The pageant began as a marketing plan by the Businessmen’s League of Atlantic City to keep tourists on the boardwalk after Labor Day. There were five days of festivities including tennis tournaments, parades, concerts, a fancy dress ball and seven different bathing divisions (children, men, and comic costumes). Everyone in town was dressed in bathing suits including firemen and policemen.

Garfield Wood’s first “Miss America” 1920.

Miss America 1 boat 2

 boat 3

The first “Miss America Pageant” winner Margaret Gorman.

girl 1

girl 2

Garfield Wood invented the hydraulic lift for unloading coal from railcars and was the founder of Garwood Industries. His first high-speed boat was purchased from another Detroit native named Chris Smith.  Garfield built boats using the name GarWood.  Wood and Smith worked together for awhile but later separated.  Chris Smith went on to found the ChrisCraft Company which also produced inboard recreational boats.  Both companies, (ChrisCraft and GarWood) created some of the most sought after classic boats in the world.

Margaret Gorman was sixteen when she won the Miss America title.  She still holds the record for being the youngest winner and for being the smallest 5’1” 108 pounds.  She had a long happy marriage.  Margaret Gorman-Cahill died in 1995 at age ninety.

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