1920s: Print Culture
1920s: Print Culture
Communication in America was forever changed in the 1920s. With the beginning of radio broadcasting, printed newspapers and magazines were no longer the only sources of common information about happenings in the country or the world. Even though about fifty million Americans listened to the radio by the middle of the decade, newspapers and magazines remained the dominant sources of information during the decade.
Radio news bulletins captured people's interest, but printed sources told the "whole story." Newspapers not only provided serious reporting on news events, they also entertained people with gossip columns, comic strips, or the syndicated Ripley's Believe It or Not! cartoons. Pulp magazines, such as Amazing Stories and the Black Mask, published imaginative tales to entertain readers everywhere. People could buy newspapers and magazines almost anywhere, from boys on the street, at newsstands, and at railroad stations.
Although the advent of radio did cause some newspapers and magazines to merge or cease publication, some new types of magazines started during the decade. Some of the most influential new magazines started in the 1920s were Time and Reader's Digest. Recognizing that readers were spending less time on long, detailed articles, Time and Reader's Digest provided condensed summaries of events and topics to provide readers with a lot of information in a small amount of space. The format was a hit and both magazines continue to be two of the most read magazines into the new millenium.
Books remained popular entertainment in the 1920s. During the 1920s, some of the most influential American writers, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940), got their start. Children's books also became popular, with the beginning of the Little Blue Books, Winnie-the-Pooh, Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys series. First-run novels cost as much as $1.75, but reprinted hardcover books sold for fifty cents apiece. Drug or other retail stores often had libraries from which people could rent books for a nickel a day.