The 1920s

Page 1 – Introduction

Chateau Tongariro poster
Chateau Tongariro poster (detail)

When we think of key decades in New Zealand history, the 1920s doesn’t immediately spring to mind. Sandwiched between the devastation of the 1914–18 Great War and the gloom of the 1930s Great Depression, the twenties has often been overlooked or dismissed as a dull interlude between more dramatic eras. The war certainly cast a dark shadow, and New Zealand′s political scene and economy were unsettled. But this was also the Roaring Twenties – the Jazz Age – an era of speed, power and glamour.

New (or recent) technological innovations like radio, cinema, gramophones and motor cars accelerated social and cultural change. Electricity and fuel oils rivalled coal as the driving force of the economy, while mechanisation and science boosted farm productivity. The educational and professional sectors expanded, and women seized new opportunities in employment, sport and recreation. Royal visitors, beauty queens and pioneer aviators gripped the public’s imagination. Family bungalows mushroomed in expanding city suburbs, giving New Zealand probably the highest home-ownership rate in the world. In many ways this was the decade ‘modern’ New Zealand came of age.

In this feature we provide an overview of the decade and a year-by-year breakdown of some of the key events.

How to cite this page

'The 1920s', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 30-Apr-2018