1926 was a year of political unrest for many nations across the globe, with protests, invasions and coups aplenty. In Britain, the General Strike dominated the headlines for months, while over in Europe, Poland, Portugal and Lithuania all saw their governments overthrown. Benito Mussolini increased his power in Italy, at the expense of numerous assassination attempts. 1926 also saw the births of several of the most influential and important people of the 20th century, such as Queen Elizabeth II, Fidel Castro and Marilyn Monroe.
This timeline looks back at what happened in 1926, and if you wish to delve deeper, why not treat yourself to one of our exquisite, original 1926 newspapers?
Turn the page to:
- The General Strike
- Who Were the Biggest Celebrities in 1926?
January 1: 50,000 people are forced to evacuate their homes after the River Rhine floods in Cologne, Germany.
January 6: The Deutsche Luft Hansa is founded in Berlin. It would go on to form strong ties with the Nazi Party.
January 8: Emperor Bao Dai becomes the final monarch of the Nguyen dynasty, the last ruling family in Vietnam.
January 9: The Guadalajara-Mexico City train is hijacked, looted and burned by a group of twenty armed bandits. Estimates place the death toll at between twenty and fifty and the stolen cash haul at around 300,000 pesos ($150,000). The following day, federal troops would engage and kill all of the bandits and retrieve all of the money.
January 26: Scottish inventor John Logie Baird gives the first ever demonstration of a television at his laboratory in London for members of the Royal Institution and a reporter for The Times.
January 27: An effigy of the former Kaiser, Wilhelm II, paraded in Berlin on his birthday sparks a street fight that leaves 30 communists and 12 monarchists wounded.
February: Three years before the infamous Wall Street Crash in New York City, land on Wall Street, as well as on Broadway, sells for a then-record $7 per square inch.
February 3: Francisco Franco, who would eventually rule over Spain from 1939 to 1975, is promoted to Brigadier General in the Spanish Army, making him the youngest of his rank in the country at 33 years old.
February 6: The skull of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa is stolen from his grave in Chihuahua. Its whereabouts are unknown to this day.
February 7: Historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announce “Negro History Week” for the second week of February. The event would prove a precursor for Black History Month, implemented in 1970.
February 8: Torrent, the first Hollywood picture to star “The Divine” Greta Garbo, premieres at the Capitol Theatre in New York.
February 15: The historic Orpheum Theatre opens in Downtown Los Angeles.
The Orpheum Theatre, opened in 1926 (Image Credit: Wikimedia)
March 4: Hungarian newspaper Az Est runs a story about a waiter in Budapest who committed suicide and left behind a note containing a crossword puzzle. The puzzle is yet to be solved.
March 6: The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon is destroyed by fire. A new theatre would be erected next to it six years later.
March 7: The first transatlantic phone call, from London to New York, is completed.
March 14: The El Virilla train accident, in which an overcrowded train derailed over a bridge, occurs in Costa Rica, killing 248 and injuring a further 93.
March 16: The first successful liquid fuel rocket is launched in Auburn, Massachusetts by Robert H. Goddard. The rocket, around ten feet tall, travelled to a height of 41 feet during its 2.5 second flight.
March 17: University of Reading is chartered by King George V, allowing it to grant its own degrees, the only institution to receive such a power in the interwar period.
Robert H. Goddard’s liquid fuel rocket (Image credit: SNL.no)
April 4: Three months after declaring himself dictator of Greece, Theodoros Pangalos wins the presidential election with 93% of the vote.
April 6: United Airlines founded as Varney Air Lines, the first scheduled commercial airline in the country.
April 12: Huddersfield Town become Football League First Division champions for the third season in a row.
April 21: Future Queen of England, Elizabeth II, born in Mayfair, London, the first child of the Duke (later King George VI) and Duchess of York.
April 24: Germany and the Soviet Union sign the Treaty of Berlin, agreeing to remain neutral with one another in the event of a third-party attack for at least the next five years.
April 25: Reza Khan is crowned Shah of Iran, a position he would hold for fifteen years until his forced abdication amidst the 1941 Anglo-Soviet Invasion of Iran.
May 1: Ford Motor Company, led by Henry Ford, becomes one of the first companies to implement the 40-hour week for its factory workers.
May 3: In the UK, the General Strike begins in support of 800,000 locked-out coal mine workers.
May 8: Broadcaster and world-renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough is born in Middlesex, England.
May 9: Martial law is declared in Britain due to the ongoing miners’ strike. The law would last until December.
May 9: Explorer Richard E. Byrd and his Navy Chief Aviation Pilot Floyd Bennett claim to be the first people to fly over the North Pole, in their plane named “Josephine Ford”. Though initially lauded as American national heroes, experts disputed the validity of their claim, and in 1996 the release of Byrd’s diary seemed to suggest that the pair had only made it 80% of the way to the pole before turning back due to an oil leak.
May 12: Three days after Byrd and Bennett, Roald Amundsen and his fifteen-strong crew fly over the North Pole in their “Norge” airship, becoming the first verified explorers to accomplish the feat.
May 12: The UK General Strike ends, nine days after it began, after workers fail to negotiate terms with mine owners.
May 14: After three days, the May Coup, orchestrated by Jozef Pilsudski, ends in Poland, and a new Sanation government is installed.
May 15: The National Hockey League approves a franchise team in Detroit, which would become the 11-time Stanley Cup champion Red Wings.
May 26: Legendary jazz musician Miles Davis born in Alton, Illinois.
May 28: The 1926 coup d’état, commanded by General Manuel Gomes da Costa, brings an end to the First Portuguese Republic and ushers in 48 years of authoritarian rule.
Byrd’s “Josephine Ford” plane (Image Credit: Wikimedia)
June 1: Norma Jeane Mortenson, better known as Marilyn Monroe, born in Los Angeles, California.
June 4: Following the successful May Coup, Ignacy Moscicki becomes President of Poland. Moscicki would remain in power until the invasion by Germany in 1939, the catalyst for World War II.
June 10: Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, best known for his neo-gothic buildings in Barcelona, dies aged 73.
June 19: Harmonica wizard DeFord Bailey becomes the first African-American to appear on The Grand Ole Opry, in Nashville, Tennessee.
June 23: The first Scholastic Aptitude Test (now commonly referred to as SAT) is administered to 8,000 high school students.
June 25: Bobby Jones becomes the first American amateur to win the British Open golf major.
July 4: The United States Sesquicentennial celebrates the 150th anniversary of the American Revolution.
July 11: 20,000 French WWI veterans march through Paris to protest the Mellon-Berenger Agreement, which laid out the loan repayments from France to the United States.
July 13: Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi breaks his own 3000m world record less than two months after setting it with a time of 8:20.4, the day after setting the 4x1500m walking world record. His 3000m record would stand unbroken for six years.
July 15: The first motorised bus service begins in India, running between Afghan Church and Crawford Market in Bombay. By the end of the year, 600,000 passengers had been transported.
July 24: The first greyhound track in Britain opens in Manchester.
July 28: The United States and Panama sign the Panama Canal Treaty, obligating Panama to follow the US into any subsequent war.
August 3: 400 armed Catholics barricade themselves into the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Guadalajara, Mexico, engaging in gunfire with federal troops. 18 people are killed and 40 wounded. A week later, a further 20 would be executed.
August 3: Britain’s first traffic lights come into use at Piccadilly Circus, London.
August 6: American Olympic gold medallist Gertrude Ederle becomes the first woman to swim across the English Channel, from France to England.
August 13: Fidel Castro, the political leader of Cuba from 1959 to 2008, born in the village of Birán to a sugar cane farmer and his maid.
August 18: A weather map is televised for the first time, sent from the NAA radio facility in Arlington, Virginia to the Weather Bureau office in Washington, DC.
August 23: “The Latin Lover” Rudolph Valentino, Hollywood silent movie star, dies suddenly of perforated ulcers, aged 31. His condition is named after him as “Valentino’s syndrome”. The following day, 60,000 mourners cause a riot in New York trying to reach Valentino’s body.
August 31: The Soviet steamer “Burevestnik” sinks in Leningrad, killing around 300 passengers.
Gertrude Ederle (Image Credit: SNL.no)
September 13: The Murulla rail accident, involving runaway goods wagons, kills 26 people in New South Wales, Australia.
September 18: Seven days after its formation, the Category 4 Great Miami Hurricane devastates Miami, leaving hundreds dead and causing $100m worth of damage. It has been estimated that a hurricane of the same magnitude would today cause upwards of $200 billion worth of damage in the same area. The cyclone also caused extensive damage in the Bahamas and the rest of the US Gulf Coast.
September 20: The North Side Gang attempts to assassinate powerful mob boss and rival Al Capone at the Hawthorne Hotel in Cicero, Illinois. Despite over a thousand rounds of submachine gun ammunition being fired, Capone escapes unharmed.
September 21: French Entente fighter ace Rene Fonck makes the first serious attempt to capture the Orteig Prize, awarded for a non-stop flight across the Atlantic. Fonck’s plane bursts into flames at take-off in New York, killing two crew members. The Orteig Prize would be won eight months later by Charles Lindbergh in the “Spirit of St. Louis”.
September 22: Thomas Edison, inventor of the record player, declares the radio a commercial failure.
September 23: In the so-called “Upset of the Decade”, Gene Tunney defeats Jack Dempsey in Philadelphia to become Heavyweight Champion of the World.
September 24: The Pabst Mine disaster occurs in Ironwood, Michigan as a mine shaft collapses, killing three workers. The remaining 43 trapped miners would be successfully rescued five days later.
September 25: The 1926 Slavery Convention is signed by the League of Nations in Geneva to abolish slavery and the slave trade in all its forms.
October 6: Against the St. Louis Cardinals, The Yankees’ Babe Ruth hits three home runs in a World Series game, the first player ever to do so.
October 6: Pittsburgh enforces state blue laws from 1974, banning all sports from the city on Sundays. The ban would last for eight years.
October 9: Prime Minister Benito Mussolini promotes himself to head of the Italian militia, granting him full control of all the armed forces in the country.
October 14: A.A. Milne’s children’s book Winnie-the-Pooh published by Methuen & Co. in London.
October 16: An explosion on the Chinese troopship “Kuang Yuang” kills 1,200 people.
October 20: The Havana-Bermuda hurricane kills over 650 people.
October 22: Ernest Hemingway’s debut novel The Sun Also Rises is published.
October 31: Escapologist and illusionist Harry Houdini dies from sepsis after suffering a ruptured appendix, reportedly the result of being punched in the abdomen.
October 31: After several other assassination attempts in the twelve months previous, including one by the daughter of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, a shot fired at Benito Mussolini during an open car ride through Bologna leads to the public lynching of 15-year-old Anteo Zamboni. Commentators would later speculate that Zamboni was likely innocent and the victim of a plot between Fascists.
November 3: Sharpshooter Annie Oakley, star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show and later the subject of the musical Annie Get Your Gun, dies in Greenville, Ohio aged 66.
November 11: The United States Numbered Highway System is introduced, replacing the informal system of colour-coded auto trails.
November 13: P. L. Travers’ short story Mary Poppins and the Match Man appears in The Christchurch Sun in New Zealand, marking the first published appearance of the eponymous character.
November 15: NBC, then radio-only, launches with 24 stations across the United States.
November 17: Mario de Bernardi sets a new seaplane speed record, reaching 258.874 mph in his Macchi M.39.
November 22: The month-long Imperial Conference comes to an end. The Conference is notable for producing the Balfour Declaration, which established that all dominions of the British Empire (from this point onward collectively known as “The Commonwealth”) were equal in status, and not subordinate to the United Kingdom.
November 25: In response to the numerous attempts on his life, Mussolini reintroduces the death penalty in Italy, specifically as punishment for the attempted murder of King, Queen or Prime Minister. A symbol of Fascism, it would remain until 1947.
December 3: Mystery and thriller writer Agatha Christie disappears from her home in Surrey, England. She would be found 11 days later at a spa in Harrogate, purportedly suffering from amnesia.
December 5: In Farwell, Texas, George Hassell murders his wife and eight children. He is executed by electric chair just over a year later.
December 5: Soviet silent film Battleship Potemkin is released in America, being shown in New York.
December 5: French Impressionist painter Claude Monet dies in Giverny, aged 86.
December 11: In hindsight perhaps one of the most important events in 1926, Adolf Hitler, Fuhrer of the Nazi Party, publishes Volume 2 of his manifesto Mein Kampf.
December 26: Following the death of the Emperor Taisho the day before, his son Hirohito becomes Emperor of Japan, ushering in the Showa period. Hirohito would reign over Japan until 1989, overseeing their involvement in World War II in the process.
December 31: Buster Keaton’s film The General premieres in Tokyo, Japan.
The biggest event in Britain in 1926 was undoubtedly the General Strike, which saw the Trades Union Congress attempt to prevent mine owners from reducing their workers’ pay. Interestingly, a large-scale strike had been spiritually preempted by a BBC radio play in January of the same year, which had caused mass panic as many listeners failed to realise that the broadcast, which depicted a workers’ revolution in London, was simply satire.
On March 10, the Samuel Commission published a report recommending the nationalisation of the mining industry and a 13.5% decrease in workers’ wages. The British government announced that they would accept said terms. Mine owners also declared their intention of lengthening working hours.
After failing to reach an agreement in negotiations, the TUC announced a strike beginning at a minute to midnight on May 3. The following day, 1.7 million workers from every corner of the country went on strike in support of coal miners. Public transport came to a halt and newspapers ceased printing, amongst other disruptions. On May 9, the government enforced martial law.
After failing to have their demands met, the TUC officially called off the strike on May 12, rendering it unsuccessful. Many continued striking for months afterwards, but by November, most miners were back at work, for more hours, and less money.
Celebrities in 1926, regardless of their industry, are forever entwined with the culture of the roaring twenties, and all the cars, jazz, flappers, dancing and art deco that came with it.
The twenties are one of the most distinguishable decades for fashion, so it comes as no surprise that one of the most famous women of the time was Coco Chanel. In 1926, Vogue published an iconic image of Chanel, then in her mid-forties, sporting what would become known as the “garçonne” look. By 1926, America was deep into the prohibition era, which ironically saw a boom for many a notorious nightspot, many of which were overseen by Chicago mob boss Al Capone. Some other famous faces in pop culture at the time include author F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda (dubbed the first American flapper), Cotton Club bandleader Duke Ellington, and French-American entertainer Josephine Baker.
Duke Ellington and his orchestra (Image Credit: Wikimedia)
1926 was the last year Hollywood was still dominated by silent film stars, as the first “talkie”, The Jazz Singer, was released the following year and brought about the end of the silent era. Amongst the biggest film stars in 1926 were Douglas Fairbanks (known to audiences as both Zorro and Robin Hood), Gloria Swanson, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, “Queen of the Movies” Mary Pickford, Joan Crawford and brothers John and Lionel Barrymore. 1926 also saw the American debut of Swedish starlet Greta Garbo, and the untimely death of Italian heartthrob Rudolph Valentino.
North American sports pages in 1926 were often dominated by baseball players such as Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. Heavyweight Champion Jack Dempsey was also a huge star, at least before his shock defeat to Gene Tunney in 1926. Across the Atlantic, manager Herbert Chapman was the biggest name in association football after turning Huddersfield and then Arsenal into the best team in the country. American Bobby Jones helped to popularise the sport of golf in his home country after victories in both the British Open and the US Open in 1926.