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United States of America > United States History > 20th Century 1901-2000

The 1900’s brought a rapid change in the country’s makeup. Immigrants from all over the world went through the doors at Ellis Island. Highways and expressways were constructed. Modes of transportation were improved causing the populous to move about the country more easily. Mass production made technology affordable to the middle class. Trade Unions and labor laws affected the work place. The twenties roared in with economic prosperity then the Wall Street Crash brought on the Great Depression. The “okies” endured and then exited the terrible dust storms that drove them from their farms in the Dust Bowl west to California. It has been a country on the move, going from farms to cities to find work. The many wars of this century all have had an impact on your ancestors. Two very different territories, Hawaii and Alaska, each uniquely beautiful, became the last two to join the Union. The Nation's population is at nearly 76 million according to the Census.


  • 1901: William McKinley is sworn in as President with Theodore Roosevelt as Vice President. President McKinley is assassinated. Theodore Roosevelt is the President of the United States.
  • 1905: Theodore Roosevelt is sworn in as President for a 2nd term with Charles Fairbanks as Vice President.
  • 1906: Bureau of Immigration is established, predecessor to the FBI. San Francisco earthquake destroys approximately 4 square miles of the city, leaving 500 dead or missing. [2]
  • 1907: Oklahoma is the 46th state admitted to the Union and was formed from Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory. The "Gentleman's Agreement" restricts Japanese immigration to the United States. 1,004,756 immigrants were received at Ellis Island this year alone making it the most ever received in one year.
  • 1908: Henry Ford introduces the Model T.
  • 1909: William Taft is sworn in as the President of the United States with James Sherman as Vice President.
  • 1912: New Mexico is the 47th state and Arizona is the 48th. Arizona had been called by Arizona before 1863, although it was still in the Territory of New Mexico. The RMS Titanic sinks.
  • 1913: Woodrow Wilson is sworn in as the President of the United States with Thomas Marshall as Vice President. Henry Ford adopts the conveyor belt system used in the meat-packing industry and applied it to the manufacture of cars. Within ten years this process cut the price of a car by approximately seventy five percent. The Panama Canal is open for shipping.
  • 1914: American forces occupy Vera Cruz, Mexico. The United States Army Air Corps is established. The Panama Canal is now opened for travel.
  • 1916: U.S. agrees to purchase Danish West Indies (Virgin Islands) for $25 million.
  • 1917-18:World War I. The United States entered World War I in April 1917. More than 26 million men from the United States ages 18 through 45 registered with the Selective Service. Over 4.7 million men and women served in the regular U.S. forces, national guard units, and draft units. There were 53,402 killed in action, 63,114 deaths from disease and other causes, and about 205,000 wounded. New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio furnished the most soldiers. For information concerning records about this war see the World War I United States Military Records page.
  • 1917: The Jones Act makes Puerto Rico part of United States territory, making its inhabitants U.S. citizens. The Selective Service Act authorizing registration and draft of all men between 21 and 30 military service is passed by Congress.
  • 1918: There was a sharp decline do to the war in immigration as the numbers of immigrants passing through Ellis Island decreased from 178,416 in 1915, to just 28,867 in 1918.
  • 1920: This year was a historical tipping-point. For the first time in our nation's history, more people were living in cities than on farms. [3]
  • 1921: 560,971 immigrants passed through Ellis Island this year alone.
  • 1924: The Immigration Act of 1924 greatly restricted immigration.
  • 1929: Charles Lindbergh makes the first solo nonstop transatlantic flight in his plane The Spirit of St. Louis. American Samoa officially becomes a U.S. territory.
  • 1930's: The Great Depression closed many factories and mills. Many small farms were abandoned, and families moved to cities to find jobs.
  • 1930-1936: The Dust Bowl had wind storms that turned drought stricken farms into unworkable land. This effected the farms centered in the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, and adjacent parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas. This exodus was the largest migration in American history within a short period of time. By 1940, 2.5 million people had moved out of the Plains states; of those, 200,000 moved to California.[4]
  • 1933: Ocean City Inlet created by a major storm.
  • 1940–1945: World War II. Over 50.6 million men ages 18 to 65 registered with the Selective Service. Over 16.3 million American men and women served in the armed forces during World War II of whom 291,557 died in battle, 113,842 died from other causes, and 670,846 were wounded. For information concerning records about this war see the World War II Military Records page.
  • 1941: Japanese planes attack Pearl Harbor; United States entered World War II.
  • 1944: D-Day; invasion of Normandy, France by Allied Forces.
  • 1945: Germany surrendered, ending World War II in Europe. United States dropped atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; Japan surrendered, ending World War II in the Pacific.
  • 1950's–1960's The building of interstate highways made it easier for people to move long distances.
  • 1952 First span of Chesapeake Bay Bridge opened.
  • 1953: The Refugee Act of 1953 makes an additional allocation of places for the victims of the war disaster.
  • 1959: Alaska becomes the 49th state and Hawaii becomes the 50th.
  • 1964:Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel opened; it was coined as one of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World.
  • 1964–1972: Over 8.7 million American men and women served in the Vietnam War, about 58 thousand these Americans who served in Vietnam died. For information concerning records about this war see the Vietnam War page.



  1. Cunliffe, John William and Lomer, Gerhard Richard; Writing of Today: Models of Journalistic Prose Edition: 4. Published by The Century Co., 1915. Original from the University of Michigan. Digitized Feb 24, 2006. 390 pages. Page 52. Worldcat, Full Text is available at Google Books
  2. The California earthquake of April 18, 1906: Report of the State Earthquake Investigation Commission ... By California. State Earthquake Investigation Commission, Andrew Cowper Lawson, Harry Fielding Reid. Published by Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1910. Item notes: v. 2. WorldcatFull Text is available at [http://books.google.com/books?id=w7oQAAAAIAAJ Google Books.
  3. Farm Population New York Times.
  4. Worster, Donald; Dust Bowl: the southern plains in the 1930s Edition: 25, illustrated, annotated. Published by Oxford University Press US, 2004. ISBN 0195174887, 9780195174885. 290 pages. Worldcat


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