Teachers' Resources for To Dance at the Palais Royale
Some resources for To Dance at the Palais Royale

Community Resources

Unfortunately, there aren't many people left now who still remember the 1920s first hand, but there is still a great deal of interest in this decade.  If anyone in your community does ballroom dancing, you might ask if they can perform or give your students some lessons. The charleston, the tango, the samba, the foxtrot and the waltz were all popular in the 1920s. If you have students who are interested in dance, the dances of the 1920s makes a great research topic. They can start by putting the names of individual dances into a search engine with "Roaring Twenties" or 1920s.

If you're really ambitious, you can learn how to do the Charleston yourself and teach the students. To find the PDF file,  How to Dance the Charleston, click on this link, the go to the bottom of the page to "1920s Activities" and you'll find the PDF. This two-page instruction sheet is made available by 
The Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum in California.The instructions are very clear.  If, like me, you're not very good at dancing, you could ask the gym teacher to do it.

Primary Resources

Some excellent resources for this period are not on the internet. If you live close to a university or research library, you will find microfilms of old magazines and newspapers which are a wonderful way to find out about the past. Local newspapers are a great way to bring the time period closer to home. They make the economic boom of the 20s and the idea of rapid social change seem very immediate. Chatelaine began publishing in 1928. The issues from the 1920s are full of information and it's available on microfiche.

Family Resources

Many of the photographs on these pages were my own old family photos. Your students may have similar photos from the 1920s. Once students have looked at some period pictures, photos from the 1920s can be readily identified by the fashions. Students can ask family members about the stories that go with the pictures. The information they learn can help them understand this time period.

If there's a good enough collection, students can research the clothing in the photos. The page on this website, Fashion in the 1920s, is a starting point with links to some pages. Information about 1920s fashion on the internet is almost overwhelming.  If family photographs aren't available, you can download and print out enough of old photos from the internet to allow this assignment to be undertaken. You'll find links on my page above to sites with suitable photographs. One very good assignment would be to compare fashions of the 1910s to those of the 1920s. Just about every aspect of women's fashion changed over this time period, from clothing and shoes to hair and make-up styles, and rarely in history has the change been more dramatic.
Both periods are well documented on the internet. This might be a good project for students who are not academically inclined, but have an interest in fashion.

Immigration is such a dramatic event, it almost always provokes vivid memories. When I was an undergraduate student, I interviewed my mother's three oldest sisters who came to Canada as domestic servants in the 1920s. What I learned was so interesting, I later decided to base a novel on their experiences. Thousands of people immigrated to Canada in the 1920s. If you have students in your class whose family came to Canada during this time, see what they can find out.  At this point, the stories may be second hand, but they might still survive.

Internet Resources

The Internet is filled with pages about the 1920s. I've tried to steer away from the overtly commercial ones, and, wherever possible, to focus on Canadian resources. The best resources are starred (***).


The University of Calgary has an excellent page overview of Canada during this time period, with links to charts and graphs on their Canada in 1921 page.

The Historica website has an excellent page about Canada,  The 1920s, Snapshot of a Decade from an Economic Point of View.

For everything about 1920s culture, Pittsburg State University's JazzAge Culture page has dozens of links to pages on many topics. This is a good starting point for research projects.   

***The McCord Museum of Montreal's interactive game, The Roaring Twenties,*** is goofy in a Monty Python sort of way but also does teach quite a lot about life in the 1920s. Students can chose to be a man or woman, then go on one of four different adventures: shopping (for the woman) office (for the man), vacation, university and nightlife. Players make choices about clothing and social behavior. Right answers will advance them in the game, wrong answers won't, and the reasons why answers are right and wrong are explained, giving insight into life in the time period. Wrong answers also produce hilarious results. In places, it seems as if the game is about to veer into risque territory, but it never really does.

This is a fabulous resource. If all four segments are played in a single session, the final score will determine the outcome of the player's life in the 1920s.

If you have enough students with access to high speed internet, you can use this game as an assignment, played either alone or in pairs. Here are some possible questions to ask:

What did you learn about the 1920s that you hadn't known before you played The Roaring Twenties?
At university, while shopping, on vacation and at the nightclub.

Do you think people's behavior was more controlled or restricted than it is today? What happened to give you that impression?

Did anything surprise you?

How did your life turn out? Do you think you'd be happy with that life?

Is the 1920s a decade you would have liked to live in? Why or why not?

Alternately, after enough students have played the game, they can hold a group discussion about what they learned.

Carlton Higginbothum's pages, The Flapper have great information about Decor (room by room with lots of photos), and*** Music***. The music page lets you download real period recordings.

***Complete Eaton's Spring and Summer Catalogue, 1926***

The Library and Archives of Canada has put some complete Canadian catalogues on line. You can find out more at the main page, Before E-Commerce: A History of Canadian Mail Order Catlalogues. There is also a For Teachers page designed to help you use this resource in the classroom with activities by subject and classroom-ready activities.  These pages are worth exploring. Some of the activities can be adapted for use when teaching To Dance at the Palais Royale.

To find the 1926 Eaton's Catalogue, go to Catalogues 1880 to 1975 Browse by Date Page
and click on the "Eaton's Spring and Summer 1926" link for the 1920s.

The catalogue can be searched by key word, but this is a bit clunky. The first time I tried to look for dresses, I got yard goods.  At the back, there are some pages of sporting goods and car parts that should be of interest to boys.  The stove pages are extensive. There is just one page devoted to children's toys, which is an interesting contrast to the importance given to the marketing of toys today. People bought almost everything from these catalogues.  The page on mops and brooms, page 364, gives some insight into housework at this time.

To print pages, follow the advice on the Introduction Page linked above. Printing is not perfect and it may take some work to get pictures of specific objects within pages, but this is a really valuable resource.


Many of the young, single women who immigrated to Canada during the early decades of the 20th century were domestic servants. For a good educational overview with photos and short text, visit the Immigrant Voices website's Perspective: Single Women pages. 

In To Dance at the Palais Royale, Aggie lands at Pier 21 in Halifax when she arrives in Canada, as did millions of immigrants in the 20th century.
Virtualmuseum.ca has an interactive educational game that allows students to experience this immigration process. You can find the introductory page on this Pier 21 Canadian Immigration Process link. The game itself requires Macromedia Flash Player, which you can download for free from this link. It's not terribly exciting.

Domestic Service
The National Park Service of the United States has a study unit focusing on domestic servants in the early 20th century. These are specific to a historical site in Cedar Rapids Iowa, but many of the suggested activities can be adapted for use when teaching To Dance at the Palais Royale.  For a page of activities designed to encourage the study of domestic service, visit this Putting It All Together page.

There are links on my page about Toronto to good pages about the Toronto St. Pats professional hockey team, forerunner of  the Leafs, and the minor league baseball team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. These are both good research topics for boys who like sports.

To Dance at the Palais Royale is essentially a girls' book, but the 1920s was a time of amazing technological innovation, and there's lots of material on the Internet of interest to boys about this era.

The Hammond Museum of Radio, located in Guelph, Ontario, has great information about early radio broadcasting in Canada. In addition to this homepage link, students may also want to look at The 1920s Page and the page on Early Broadcasting. This is all Canadian content.

In the 1920s, Canada had more than 30 manufacturers of cars, but it's extremely difficult to find information about them on the Internet. One good page that gives an overview about early driving in Canada is this History of Automobiles, Early Days in Nova Scotia page, which tells a little bit of everything about.

The 1920s saw real advances in aviation. The Canadian Aviation Museum has a Resources page which includes useful links.

For an overview of advances in the use of electricity during this time, visit The 1920s page in the EC&M website, a magazine devoted to the power industry. This is a great article for someone obsessed with technology. The 1920s was an important decade for the expanding use of electricity in the home.

The skyscraper came of age in the 1920s. Here's a link on the Emporis Building site for the firm of Chapman and Oxley, with links to a number of skyscrapers they built in Toronto during the 20s, a page about the Canada Permanent Trust skyscraper on Bay Street and the Bank of Commerce Building, which is one of the finest skyscrapers in the city. Each of these pages has a link to more photos on the left hand side. For information about construction, PBS has a good Skyscraper Basics page. This Skyscraper page from the How Products Are Made website is so detailed, you might be tempted to try to build one.

Visual Art
The Art Deco style emerged in the 1920s. This is still a very appealing style. The Art Deco Society of Washington's Art Deco meta page inks to dozens of sites. This  bilingual website, Art Deco Montreal, will tell you about Art Deco style in what was then Canada's largest city.  There was also a Toronto Art Deco Society website, but it has disappeared. I'll look for it from time to time. 

The Artcyclopedia website has a good Art Deco page that talks about the Art Deco movement with lots of examples of art.

return to To Dance at the Palais Royale main page

return to Home Page