Today marks 100 years since the 1920’s – the decade that began with a roar and ended in a crash with the Great Depression. How has the world and New Zealand changed since then? Decide for yourself with these facts from both New Zealand and the world.
Let’s start with life expectancy – in the 1920’s it was the mid 50’s today it’s the early 80’s – that is 30 more years to enjoy time with family, friends and yourself.
The jazz age was beginning, and radios became common place bringing the world closer. The increase of cinemas with Dunedin’s Empire De Luxe and Auckland’s Civic were popular cinemas and social change was beginning.
New Zealand’s population increased by around 80,000 in the decade rounding out the decade with a total population of 1.48million. Many returned from the war, many didn’t, and many were affected, 18,000 soldiers were lost in this decade. The 1920’s also saw ANZAC day become a public holiday.
Exporting meat, dairy and wool to Britain was big bucks and farm production was booming with new tractors, electrified milking sheds and artificial fertilise. Hydroelectric projects were completed which saw an increase of over 20% in power consumption.
How ownership was around 60%, one of the highest in the world and in the 5 years following 1925 private motor-vehicle ownership also more than doubled to 155,000. New rail lines were also completed. At its peak, there were 28 million journeys within a 3-year period of the 1920s.
Sports and social events in the 1920’s including tramping, lake and beach holidays becoming popular. New Zealand sent its first team to the Summer Olympics and the All Blacks were touring. Although New Zealand had previously entered under an Australasian flag, the New Zealand 1920 Olympic team travelled by boat for 9 weeks to get to Belgium. This was well worth it with rowing winning a gold, and NZ’s first female Olympian Violet Walrond coming 5th in the 100m freestyle.
Jazz was in full swing with the Charleston and Hollywood glamour including the flapper look, low waists, sleeveless dresses, headbands and hats being paraded around the party circuit. Men were cleanly shaven; women wore short bobs.
Here are some other facts and first from the 1920s in New Zealand.
- The Radio Broadcasting company began operating and New Zealand’s first radio stations were on air
- The Alexander Turnbull Library in Bowen St, Wellington was opened
- The Railways opened their own advertising studios beginning popular NZ poster art which can still be seen in many homes today
- Captain Euan Dickson few from Christchurch to Trentham, the first pilot to make the Cook Strait crossing
- The Dental Nurse service was established – bringing horror to many children
- First regular airmail services began
- Venereal disease became a wide issue and was blamed on ‘moral laxity’ among young people
- The 1920’s were the first elections to include Chatham Islands
- The Correspondence School was opened
- Writer Katherine Mansfield passed away in France
- Various Rail systems opened including Christchurch to Greymouth
- Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova visited Australasia for a 5-month tour and wowed NZ
- New Zealand had their first female Justice of the Peace, horse trainer and Miss NZ Crowned
- Daylight Saving began in New Zealand
- The royal commission on Maori land confiscations began
- Various Royal tours including the Duke and Duchess of York (future Queen Mother and King George) visit NZ
- NZ Cricket teams first tour of England
- Charles Kingsford Smith completed the first successful trans-Tasman plane crossing
- Postal voting was used for the first time
- Chateau Hotel opens in National park
But perhaps one of the most obscure facts began from the other side of the world. Famous stunt man Bobby Leach originally from Britain was most well-known for being the second person to successfully go over the Niagara Falls in a barrel. Five years later in 1926 Leach was on a publicity tour here in New Zealand and he slipped on an orange peel. The injury on his leg eventually became infected and he died of gangrene related complications 2 months later.
While today we are on day one of 2020 and we don’t know what is ahead, we will you a happy new year and new decade.