A Public Peek into 1923

Commercial radio broadcasting began in the 1920s, bringing entertainment, news and music into people’s homes. Now, instead of needing to play a 78rpm disc on your phonograph, you could just tune in to listen to popular songs.

And in 1923 that means you would have been listening to one of the many versions of “Yes! We Have No Bananas” written by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn.  

You could listen to the Billy Jones version (play below), the Billy Murray version, a Yiddish version, or an Italian version, among others.

Yes! We Have No Bananas by Billy Jones from the 78rpm collection

Then you could have moved on to dancing the Charleston, popularized by the song of the same name from the 1923 musical “Runnin’ Wild.”   And with the explosion of recordings by African American musicians, you could also enjoy “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home” by Bessie Smith and “Dipper Mouth Blues” by Louis Armstrong.

Autogyro (1934)

In the news of the day you saw the first flight of an autogyro (the precursor to the helicopter).

Jack Dempsey defended his World Heavyweight Championship title against Tommy Gibbons and Luis Firpo.

And Howard Carter’s team finally entered the burial chamber of King Tutankhamen, as covered in books, sheet music and song

But why are we focusing on 1923? Because for the first time in 20 years, new works are entering the public domain in the United States (read more: 1, 2, 3). And those works were all published in, you guessed it, 1923.

Settle in with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, a Butterfinger, or a refreshing Popsicle (all invented in 1923!) while you watch Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten CommandmentsThe White Sister starring Lillian Gish, or The Hunchback of Notre Dame starring Lon Chaney. Or any one of 50 other films available on archive.org from that year.

After your movie marathon, you can turn to your “new” reading materials to learn about sewing the latest women’s fashions, try an old recipe from a cook book (we recommend the Marshmallow Loaf), learn about theatrical lighting, construct yourself a bungalow (um, check the lastest building codes first), grab some sheet music, read up on Benito Mussolini, and learn “How You Can Keep Fit” from Rudolph Valentino (!).

Finally, settle in to read some Robert Frost, Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, or Kahlil Gibran. And while you’re here, take a look at the 20,000 other texts we have available from 1923. 

We look forward to introducing you to 1924 NEXT January!

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