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Roaring 20s in Oshawa

Traffic Signals at the Four Corners, 1920.

In case you missed it! “Oshawa in the Roaring Twenties”, a virtual talk with Nicole Adams, Local History and Genealogy Librarian at the Oshawa Public Libraries.

Curated by Sonya Jones

When one thinks of the roaring twenties it’s easy to conjure up an image of a lively Great Gatsby-like scene full of flappers, speakeasies and decadent parties. In reality, the decade reflected how the horrors and losses experienced during the First World War and the 1918 Pandemic transformed society. For some, the 1920s was a period of prosperity, political and social change, and economic growth, but it was also an age of high unemployment and racial injustice, when women had to fight for the right to be considered “persons” under the law. This exhibition brings together images from the collections of the Oshawa Museum, Oshawa Public Library and Thomas Bouckley Collection to explore what the roaring twenties meant to Oshawa.  

Industry boomed in Oshawa, particularly the auto industry, which encouraged a growth in population and infrastructure. In the 1920s, the population grew from 4,000 to 16,000, allowing for the incorporation of Oshawa as a city on March 8, 1924. Lakeview Park opened in 1920 as a public park for residents to enjoy and Memorial Park saw the dedication of the Cenotaph in 1924, remembering those lost in WWI. Meanwhile, Oshawa’s Sons of Temperance continued to advocate passionately for prohibition, but despite being popular during the war, prohibition was seen less favourably in the 1920s and ended in Ontario in 1927.  

While this exhibition depicts the past, it also reflects on today, 100 years removed from the people and moments depicted. Will this next decade similarly be “roaring” as the world responds to the isolation, losses and economic hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing social and political upheavals? Oshawa is already experiencing a rise in population through real estate development; is an industrial and economic boom to follow? Either way, it is clear that the 1920s was a period of growth and change in Oshawa, which contributed to shaping the city we know today. 




This exhibition is part of a Cultural Tourism Initiative presented in partnership with the Pickering Museum Village, the Canadian Automotive Museum, Parkwood Estates, and Central Counties Tourism. To see more War on Whiskey programming visit the Temperance and Temptation website!