Historical Timeline of the 20th Century

The 1900s

Picture courtesy of The Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
This decade opened the century with some amazing feats like the first flight by the Wright brothers, Henry Ford’s first Model-T, and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. It also had hardships like the Boxer Rebellion and the San Francisco Earthquake. The 1900s also saw the introduction of the first silent movie and teddy bear. Plus, don’t miss out in discovering more about the mysterious explosion in Siberia. Learn more about the this “humdinger” decade through the 1900-1909 timeline.

The 1910s

Picture courtesy the Photos of the Great War Archive.
This decade was unfortunately dominated by the first “total war” — World War I. It also saw other huge changes during the Russian Revolution and the beginning of Prohibition. Tragedy struck when a fire rampaged through Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, the “unsinkable” Titanic hit an iceberg. and the Spanish flu killed millions around the world. On a more positive note, people in the 1910s got their first taste of an Oreo cookie and could fill out their first crossword. Take a “gander” at this decade through the 1910-1919 timeline.

The 1920s

Picture courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZ62-30776 DLC]
The Roaring ’20s were a time of speakeasies, short skirts, the Charleston dance, and jazz music. The 1920s also showed great strides in Women’s Suffrage and archaeology hit the mainstream with the discovery of King Tut’s Tomb. There were an amazing number of cultural firsts in the 1920s, including the first talking film, Babe Ruth hitting his home-run record, and the first Mickey Mouse cartoon. Learn more about this “nifty” decade through the 1920-1929 timeline.

The 1930s

Picture part of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library Collection, courtesy of the National Archives.
The Great Depression hit the world hard in the 1930s. The Nazis took advantage of this situation and were able to come to power in Germany, establish their first concentration camp, and begin a systematic persecution of Jews in Europe. Other news in the 1930s included the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, a wild and murderous crime spree by Bonnie and Clyde, and the imprisonment of Al Capone for income tax evasion. Learn more about this “snazzy” decade through the 1930-1939 timeline.

The 1940s

Picture part of the Estelle Bechoefer Collection, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives.
World War II was already underway by the time the 1940s began and it was definitely the big event of the first half of the decade. Plus, the Nazis established death camps in their effort to murder millions of Jews during the Holocaust. When World War II ended, the Cold War began. The 1940s also witnessed the assassination of Gandhi and the beginning of Apartheid. So you should, “you know,” learn more about this decade through the 1940-1949 timeline.

The 1950s

Picture courtesy of the National Archives.
The 1950s are sometimes referred to as the Golden Age. Color TV was invented; the polio vaccine was discovered; Disneyland opened; and Elvis gyrated his hips on The Ed Sullivan Show. The Cold War continued as the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union began. The 1950s also saw segregation ruled illegal in the U.S. and the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. Learn more about this “cool” decade through the1950-1959 timeline.

The 1960s

Picture courtesy of the National Archives.
To many, the 1960s can be summed up as the Vietnam War, hippies, drugs, protests, and rock and roll. (A common joke goes “If you remember the sixties, you weren’t there.”) Although those were important aspects of this decade, other events occurred as well. For instance, the Berlin Wall was built, the Soviets launched the first man into space, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, the Beatles become popular, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his “I Have a Dream” speech, and so much more! Learn more about this “groovy” decade through the 1960-1969 timeline.

The 1970s

Picture courtesy of the National Archives.
The Vietnam War was still a major event in the beginning of the 1970s. There were other tragic events this decade as well, including the deadliest earthquake of the century, the Jonestown massacre, the Munich Olympics massacre, and the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island. Culturally, disco became extremely popular and Star Wars hit theaters. Learn more about this “far out” decade through the 1970-1979 timeline.

The 1980s

Picture part of the Ronald Reagan Library Collection, courtesy of the National Archives.
Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost and perestroika began the end of the Cold War. This was soon followed by the surprising fall of the Berlin Wall. There were also some disasters this decade, including the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, the oil spill of the Exxon Valdez, the Ethiopian Famine, a huge poison gas leak in Bhopal, and the discovery of AIDS. Culturally, the 1980s saw the introduction of the mesmerizing Rubik’s Cube toy, Pac-Man video game, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. Learn more about this “sweet” decade through this 1980-1989 timeline.

The 1990s

Picture taken by your About.com Guide, Jennifer Rosenberg.
The Cold War ends, Nelson Mandela is released from prison, the Internet becomes popular – in many ways the 1990s seemed a decade of both hope and relief. Unfortunately, the decade also saw its fair share of tragedy, including the Oklahoma City bombing, Columbine High School massacre, and the Rwandan genocide. Learn more about this “phat” decade through this 1990-2000 timeline.

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