What summer was like the year you were born
For those of us living through it, there seems little doubt that the summer of 2020 will go down in the history books as one to remember. As of mid-July, the United States has seen more than 3.5 million COVID-19 cases, with millions more still waiting to be tested. Upwards of 140,000 people have died of the disease caused by the coronavirus, which has been circulating globally since 2019. Millions have spent—or will spend—at least a portion of the summer in lockdown because of the pandemic. Additionally, Black Lives Matter protests that began after several police killings have continued daily since May, and are now considered one of the largest movements in American history, topping even the Civil Rights movement of the ‘50s and ‘60s.
On top of those major events, there have also been killer wasps, a plague of locusts, and a canceled Olympics. Stefina Rugal—an 103-year-old woman in Illinois who lived through two World Wars, the Great Depression, and another global pandemic—even told her local news station that 2020 has been the wackiest year she’s ever experienced.
In light of this year’s extraordinary happenings, Stacker is taking a look back through the past 100 summers. Using information from news and government reports, we have highlighted some of the biggest events to take place in the summer months. From the pre-summer weeks of late May to the balmy days of early September, we’re looking at some of the most significant historical, scientific, technological, cultural, and nostalgic moments of the last century.
Scroll through our list to find out which major events took place the summer you were born. Did you live through V-J Day? Perhaps you watched the first man land on the moon? Or maybe you’re younger than the iPhone? Regardless of what year you were born, or how many crazy summers you’ve lived through, you’re sure to be reminded of some interesting events as you click through the following slides.
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1920: Women gain the right to vote
In the summer of 1920, the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, was ratified. The amendment was ratified by Congress on June 4, 1919, but wasn’t agreed upon by the necessary three-fourths of the states until Aug. 18, 1920, when Tennessee agreed to adopt the addition. By Aug. 26, 1920, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the ratification, and women were allowed at the polls three months later in November.
[Pictured: Three women suffragists cast votes.]
1921: The Tulsa race massacre
In the opening days of the summer of 1921, the Black neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma was decimated by armed white mobs, following an incident between a young Black man named Dick Rowland and a white woman named Sarah Page. The destruction of the affluent community, nicknamed “Black Wall Street,” which took place over the course of two days (May 31 and June 1, 1921), remains one of the worst incidents of racial violence in U.S. history. As many as 300 Black Americans were killed, thousands were left homeless, and some 6,000 were falsely imprisoned simply because of the color of their skin.
[Pictured: An aerial view of destruction from the 1921 Tulsa massacre, dated June 1, 1921.]
1922: The great railroad strike
On July 1, 1922, railroad workers made headlines when seven of the 16 unions joined forces and walked off job sites around the country. The group was protesting a 12% wage cut for maintenance workers. While the strike didn’t have much of an effect on the railroads’ ability to run (those who ran the trains continued to show up to work each day), the strike was another movement in a wave of strikes across various industries following the close of WWI.
[Pictured: Illinois State troopers maintain order at railroad tracks during a railroad strike in August of 1922.]
1923: Calvin Coolidge becomes president
In the early hours of the morning of Aug. 23, 1923, Calvin Coolidge received a telegram alerting him that President Warren G. Harding was dead, and, as vice president, he was now in charge of leading the country. At the time, Coolidge was visiting his father in the mountains of Vermont, and it was the elder Coolidge, a notary public, who swore him in as president at 2:47 am. Several months later, Coolidge also became the first president to address the American people over the radio.
[Pictured: President and Mrs. Coolidge descend the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building after President Harding's state funeral on August 1, 1923.]
1924: Russell L. Maughan aviation record
Russell L. Maughan, a former U.S. Army Air Service pilot, set an aviation record on June 23, 1924. Maughan flew across the country, from Mitchel Field, New York to Crissy Field, California, within the daylight hours of a single day, becoming the first pilot to ever do so. After his impressive feat, Maughan told reporters: “The real reason for my flight across the United States in the sunlight hours of one day was that the chief of the Air Service wanted to show Congress just how unprotected are the people of the Pacific Coast.”
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1925: The Scopes 'Monkey' Trial
Looking back, it’s hard to believe that the Scopes “Monkey” Trial lasted only a little over a week, from July 10-21, 1925. The trial, which argued the legality of teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in public school classrooms, dominated headlines, and changed the course of education in America. In the end, John Scopes, a teacher who volunteered himself as a defendant, was found guilty and charged a $100 fine. It wasn’t until 42 years later, in 1967, that Scopes’s native state of Tennessee overturned the Butler Act which had made his scientific teaching illegal.
1926: Rudolph Valentino dies
Rudolph Valentino, nicknamed “the Latin Lover,” was one of the biggest film stars of the 1920s, landing leading roles in films such as “The Sheik,” “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse,” “The Eagle,” and “The Son of Sheik.” On Aug. 23, 1926, days after undergoing emergency surgery to remove an inflamed appendix and treat gastric ulcers, Valentino died suddenly of complications. His death provoked an extreme reaction among his fans, 100,000 of whom flocked to the streets of New York City to get a glimpse of his body on its way to Saint Malachy’s Roman Catholic Church, quickly becoming one of the biggest events of the summer.
1927: One eventful summer
The summer of 1927 was so eventful that Bill Bryson wrote an entire book about it, entitled “One Summer: America 1927.” For those who aren’t willing to commit the time to read all 627 pages, here’s the short of it: Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs; Charles Lindbergh flew from Paris to New York City; work began on Mount Rushmore; anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed; and a huge portion of the country was flooded thanks to a number of tropical storms.
1928: The first trans-Pacific flight
Aside from the 1928 Olympics, which were held in Amsterdam, the biggest event of the summer was the first trans-Pacific flight, which was completed on June 9. Charles Edward Kingston Smith and his crew successfully made the journey from the mainland U.S. to Brisbane, Australia over the course of nine days, making stops in Hawaii and Fiji along the way. Upon arriving in Australia, some 25,000 people were on hand to greet them.
1929: Firsts in Hollywood
The summer of 1929 was major one for Hollywood: On July 13, Warner Bros. studios released the first all-color, all-talkie film “On with the Show!” Just a few weeks later, Aug. 20 MGM released “Hallelujah,” one of the first films to feature an all-Black cast. These films were released just months after the first Academy Awards were held May 16 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles.
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