Another decade has come and gone. So that history doesn’t repeat itself, let’s remember the 164 major events that happened exactly a century ago in 1920. It was a year of major healthcare milestones like the creation of hydrocodone. 1920 also saw several U.S. political events (women’s suffrage) that changed the history of the country forever. While 1920 was full of health and political advancements, deadly disasters also wreaked havoc throughout the year. These natural and man-made disasters included the Haiyuan earthquake, which caused a landslide that killed 180,000 people in China as well as 39 wars, revolutions, and uprisings, like Ireland’s Bloody Sunday.
View 1920 Events in a full screen map
Use the map above to browse 1920’s events as sorted into categories such as Wars, Revolutions, and Uprisings (find the data here). Then, learn more about each category of events, like how the very first event to kick off 1920 was related to war.
In 1920 there were wars, revolutions, and uprisings aplenty. These included the Polish-Soviet and the Polish-Lithuanian Wars along with the Irish War of Independence and many others as displayed on the map.
The Polish and the Soviets had been fighting a war since February 1919 — of which the Russian Revolution was a cause; read more about it here — but 1920 was the year the war ended. However, several important events occurred prior to the war’s conclusion, including the very first event to kick off 1920: when the Russian Red Army increased its troops along the Polish border from four divisions to 20 in January. After this, the next major event of the Polish-Soviet War occurred on April 24th when Polish and anti-Soviet Ukrainian troops attacked Russia’s Red Army in Soviet Ukraine. Throughout the summer months of 1920, Polish and Russian troops went back and forth in Kiev. On May 7th, Polish troops occupied Kiev, but later in the summer, the Russian Red Army took it back. On July 22nd, Poland sued for peace, but Russia rebuked them. Then came the Battle of Warsaw: on August 13th, Poland defeated the Russian Red Army. Russia sued for peace with Poland later in the fall, but the war didn’t end until October 16th when the Polish army captured Tarnopol, Dubno, Minsk, and Dryssa.
Yet, Soviet Russia wasn’t the only country Poland was at war with during 1920. Poland was also engaged in a war with Lithuania. However, just one major event took place in 1920, when, on October 9th, Polish troops took Vilnius. This was just days before they took the four cities from Soviet Russia. Clearly, Europe was quite busy in 1920. In fact, more major events occurred throughout the continent than anywhere else that year. Most of Europe’s 1920 events were wars, revolutions, and uprisings, to which Ireland contributed as they fought the Irish War of Independence.
The Irish War of Independence lasted from 1919 to 1921, and 1920 was full of monumental events. In late March, British recruits to the Royal Irish Constabulary arrived in Ireland. The Belfast riots on August 3rd were a response to British presence. Ten days after the riots, the U.K.’s Parliament passed the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act, which would try members and supporters of the Irish Republican Army by court-martial instead of by jury in criminal court.
Things cooled off until November 21st, deemed “Bloody Sunday,” when the Irish Republican Army shot and killed 14 British undercover agents in their homes in Dublin. Later the same day, the Royal Irish Constabulary opened fire on a crowd at a football match, killing 13 spectators and one player, and also wounding 60. Later that same night, three men were shot in Dublin Castle.
Two more events of the Irish War of Independence happened post-Bloody Sunday: the Kilmichael Ambush and declaration of martial law. But Europe wasn’t the only continent in the midst of conflict throughout the year. Other notable wars, revolutions, and uprisings of 1920 include the Mexican Revolution, Russian Civil War, Estonian War of Independence, 1920 Palestine riots, Greek Summer Offensive, Battle of Maysalun, Second Silesian Uprising, Bukhara operation, and the Carinthian Plebiscite.
Did you know that the NFL was established in 1920? Yes indeed, on September 17th, 1920, America’s favorite Sunday pastime was created. For more fun football facts, see maps on where college football players come from, NCAA football champions mapped, and American football hall of famers not all born in Texas. For more major sports-related events of 1920, including pro-wrestling, the Olympics, baseball, and horse and dog racing, keep reading.
1920 saw a lot of firsts in sports: the oldest existing movie of pro-wrestling was filmed (Joe Stetcher vs. Earl Caddock), the first dog racing track to employ an imitation rabbit opened, the first Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe horse race occurred in Paris, and the Olympic symbol (five interlocking rings) and flag were displayed for the very first time at the Summer Olympics in Belgium. The first game of the Negro National baseball League was also played in Indiana.
Health-wise, noteworthy events of 1920 include a woman who attempted suicide in Berlin and later claimed she was Anastasia, the Grand Duchess of Russia. This was not the first nor the last time someone impersonated the Grand Duchess, and it later inspired the 1997 children’s movie, Anastasia. Plus, France outlawed birth control in 1920 and pain-relieving opioid hydrocodone was synthesized in Germany for the first time that same year. The HIV pandemic also likely originated in Léopoldville (modern-day Kinshasa), the capital of the Belgian Congo at this time.
As for disasters, 1920 was hit with two major earthquakes: the Gori and the Haiyuan. The Gori earthquake hit Gori (Democratic Republic of Georgia), killing 114 and the Haiyuan earthquake caused a landslide in Gansu Province, China, killing 180,000. Other natural disasters included the Louth, Lincolnshire, England floods which killed 23 people.
Then there were the U.S.-specific disasters: the 1920 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak, which hit the U.S.’s Great Lakes and Deep South and the Wall Street bombing. The Wall Street bombing saw a bomb placed in a horse wagon that exploded in front of the J. P. Morgan building in New York City. The bomb killed 38 and injured 400. There were many other major 1920 events in the U.S., most related to culture and politics.
In America, 1920 was the year that two Amendments to the Constitution passed: the Eighteenth Amendment (Prohibition) and the Nineteenth Amendment (women’s suffrage). Additionally, the 1920 presidential election where Warren G. Harding (R) defeated James M. Cox (D) was the first national election where women could vote.
Other than when the U.S. Post Office ruled children may not be sent via parcel post (because apparently, 1920’s Americans were doing that), the rest of the notable cultural and political events involved radios. In August, Detroit began the first commercial radio station and in September, the first domestic radio sets became available in stores for $10 (about $180 adjusted for inflation).
The 1920’s map above also contains information about international politics, post-World War I events, world cultural events, and even the Nobel Prize winners of the year, which is history you can delve deeper into with our Nobel Prize map. And since we tend to think of history as black and white, the ability to customize our map to fit the story was essential. Plot some history of your own with a custom map today.