1920s_Sports_Day.jpg Sports Entertainment and Increased Leisure Time in the 1920s:

The rise of sports and spectator activities was a unifying element during the 1920's. Men, women and people of various social classes created a sports culture, with the rise of new sports such as baseball, boxing, golf, and other popular activities. Although it didn't unify all races as one, sports brought the racial communities together to become stronger societies.

Baseball exploded during the 1920s. As the size of stadiums grew, and the speed of the game increased, the ballpark become a more enjoyable place for spectators. After the First World War, the baseball stadium became a meeting place for Americans of all classes. The American populace's interest in baseball grew soon after Babe Ruth and "the live ball" were introduced into the ballpark. The "lively-ball", the baseball of today, was a break through in the game. It stayed white for a longer period of time, and had less tendency to breaking. This allowed turned the game into a speed-dominated, high-scoring game. Babe Ruth further increased the popularity in this sport. His legendary statistics rank him as one of the top five greatest athletes of all time.

Boxing became extremely popular during the roaring twenties. Before World War I, boxing was seen as disreputable and for rowdy men in saloons. However, after the war, many of the laws that had banned boxing were repealed, and it became monitored in order to reduce the crime and gambling usually associated with it. Public fights brought thousands of spectators, both men and women, to arenas in America. After the anti-boxing laws were repealed, the sport became one f the most popular spectator activities for both the upper-class and the common man. In 1921 the National Boxing Association was created.


A popular and talented boxer during the 1920's was Jack "Manassa Mauler" Dempsey. He held the Heavyweight Title from 1919-1926. Dempsey attracted large crowds of spectators because of his strength and aggressive style. When he was younger, Dempsey would sometimes go into saloons and challenge other customers to fights. His attribution to the culture around boxing is especially remembered by his thrilling fights and his particularly intense match with Georges Carpintier in 1921. (91,000 spectators watched the fight!!)


Like virtually every other sport in America during the 1920s, golf experienced an extraordinary increase in popularity. The number of weekend golfers doubled between 1916 and 1920 to a high of one-half million. The sheer volume of players meant that new golf courses, private and public, had to be constructed. In the past golf often had been viewed as an exclusive game for the upper classes, but during the 1920s the game increasingly appealed, as a participant and a spectator sport, to the middle class, who enjoyed more leisure time and relative prosperity than ever before.

Endurance competitions were also very popular during the twenties. People enjoyed showing off/proving how endured and tough they were. Many participated in flagpole sitting, where they would sit on flagpoles for multiple days/weeks. 6-Day bicycle races were also very popular.

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Also known as Walkathons, dance marathons were a phenomenon of the 1920s. These contests took place between different couples who danced non-stop for days or weeks at a time. The contest was one of endurance, and the couple that could dance the longest usually won prize money. In these dance endurance contests, a mix of local and professional marathoners danced, walked, shuffled, and sprinted to various music, such as jazz. These dances were very popular to watch and compete in. However, many people got so fatigued they would dance themselves to injury or pass out from moving for so long.


Although the African Americans and Whites were not coming together as a singular group in the 1920s, the blacks were pulling together as a small society because of sports during this era. An especially popular sport was track and field for the African Americans. Along with track and field, basketball became a popular sport among African Americans. The Harlem Renaissance Big Five were a professional basketball team that helped popularize the sport. However, there were also quieter games that emerged for African Americans during the 1920s. For example, both tennis and golf were widely played.

Sports have played a large role in American culture throughout the 1900’s. Even now in the twenty first century, many of the sports traditions started in the 1920s are still being practiced today. National organized leagues that formed in the 1920s, such as the American Tennis Association, and the first National Football League. Although endurance competitions and dance marathons failed to continue past the 1930s, sports and the idea of leisure time definitely remained. Nowadays, sports are a great part of American culture. Current rivalries can be traced back to the new sports era in the twenties. (We all know the story with Babe Ruth- causing the Red Sox and Yankees rivalry ever since!) Sports have continued to unify people of different social classes as well. Baseball stadiums, for example, are always filled by people of different social strata. In conclusion, sports have played a unifying factor in American culture, in both the 1920s and up until previously.

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