Publishers’ Bindings through the Decades:


Lyrics from Cotton Land
(Stone, 1922)

The decade of 1920-1930 marks the end of the publishers' binding era. With the widespread use of dust jackets in the 1930s, book production changed dramatically. Hard cover books in the 1930s looked very much the same as books published in America today.

Two important Constitutional amendments went into effect in 1920. The 19th amendment represented the culmination of decades of lobbying by the nation's women for the right to vote. The 18th amendment prohibited liquor, touching off a decade known for its speakeasies, flappers, gangsters, and jazz music. Americans danced the Charleston in all-night marathons, called men "cats" and women "dolls," and became caught up in crazy fads such as flagpole-sitting.

A number of firsts occurred in this decade. Albert Einstein first lectured in America on the theory of relativity (formulated in 1905). The Scopes "monkey trial" (1925) sparked nationwide debate over the theory of evolution. KDKA in Pittsburgh initiated the first regular radio broadcasts. Admiral Richard Byrd made the first flight over the North Pole and conducted expeditions in Antarctica. Charles Lindbergh became the first man to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. Sixteen-year-old Margaret Gorman was crowned the first Miss America. The nation met its first sports celebrity, Babe Ruth. The Jazz Singer, starring Broadway great Al Jolson, kicked off the age of "talkies"– and spelled the beginning of the end for silent movies. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized the importance of film in American life when it gave its first awards–later to be known as the "Oscars."


His Soul Goes Marching On
(C. Scribner's Sons, 1927)

Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald captured the spirit of the "Roaring Twenties" through books such as This Side of Paradise, The Great Gatsby, Flappers and Philosophers, and The Beautiful and the Damned. Other important books of the decade included T. S. Elliot's Waste Land, Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, and William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury. e. e. cummings began publishing poetry. The first major movement of black artists, known as the Harlem Renaissance, produced notable writers such as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Several important magazines–including Time, The New Yorker, and American Mercury–started during the 1920s as well.

Perhaps the most important event of the decade occurred near its end. The stock market crash on October 29, 1929 (Black Tuesday) marked the beginning of the Great Depression.


View all books from 1920-1930 in PBO database

Decades Gallery Home | 1815-29 | 1830-39 | 1840-49 | 1850-59
1860-69 | 1870-79 | 1880-89 | 1890-99 | 1900-09 | 1910-19 |1920-30



Allen, Sue. Decorated Cloth in America: Publisher’s Bindings, 1840-1910. Los Angeles: UCLA, Center for 17th- and 18th-Century Studies, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, 1994.

American Cultural History, Kingwood College,

American Studies: Literature On-line Textbook,

Diehl, Edith. Bookbinding: Its Background and Technique. New York: Dover, 1980.

Lehmann-Haupt, Hellmut, ed. Bookbinding in America. Portland, ME: Southworth-Anthoensen, 1941.

May, Ernst R., and the editors of Life. War, Boom, and Bust : 1917-1932 , vol. 10 in The Life History of the United States. New York: Time Inc., 1963.

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