Sherlock Jr starring Buster Keaton
“You are all a lost generation”
Gertrude Stein, quoted in preface to Hemingway’s Sun Also Rises (1926)

Pity poor Herman Melville. He wrote tons of stuff, was underappreciated in his time and worked on Billy Budd, the novella widely considered to be his masterpiece between 1888 and 1891. It went unpublished until scholars found the work among Melville’s papers in the 1920’s (and critics during the time praised it highly). Nonetheless the edition published by Raymond Weaver in 1924 was later acknowledged as defective. Four years later he revised the 1924 version, but it wasn’t until 1962 that Hayford and Sealts produce a version that seem more in keeping with the author’s intentions.

Because the work was originally published in 1924, this version was supposed to enter the public domain in the year 2000. Actually though, because of the Freeze-the-public-domain legislation passed by Congress , these works will enter the U.S. public domain only in 2019. And the improved Hayford and Sealts edition was published in 1962; that will enter the public domain in 2058, a full 177 years after Melville finished working on it). This is a perfect example of the paradox of scholars working on classic texts. Each generation of scholars “improves on” the prior edition, delaying the date at which the “latest/greatest” edition enters the public domain. No matter how much time goes by, a later edition (complete with annotations and critical introductions) will be repackaged and resold as a new edition–always under copyright. (David Padilla has edited an amazing hyperlinked version of Billy Budd).

In film, the big event was the making of Erich von Stroheim’s Greed (based upon the novel McTeague by novelist Frank Norris (now in the public domain). Von Stroheim insisted on filming on location in San Francisco, Sierra Nevada and Death Valley. The budget ran over $500,000 (this was 1924!). MGM/Goldwyn forced Stroheim to reduce the length of the film from 10 hours to 4 hours; that was not enough; the studios wanted 2 1/2 hours. The released film was a flop, and much of the cut footage was never recovered. In 1999 Turner Entertainment (who owns the rights) started work on a 4 1/2 hour reconstruction following the original outline as closely as possible (the DVD is to be released in 2006-7).

Literature Polish novelist Ladislas Reymont won the Nobel Prize. E.M. Forster published his philosophical masterpiece Passage to India. Ford Maddox Ford printed volume one (Some Do not) of his Parade’s End trilogy. Thomas Mann published Magic Mountain (in German), Mark Twain‘s Autobiography is published, satisfying the public’s curiosity about the now deceased legend. Farmer/novelist from the Midwest USA Louis Bromfield writes first novel to great acclaim (he will win the Pulitzer a few years later).

Film: In 1924 Thief of Baghdad charmed everybody, and so did Sherlock Jr. (Buston Keaton‘s masterpiece). W.C. Fields appears alongside Marion Davies in an American Revolution costume drama. Overseas, there are several great examples of German expressionism, an outlandish Soviet surreal sci fi adventure, a Leger/Man Ray/Antheil dadaistic collaboration, and Carl Dreyer (director of Passion of Joan of Arc) directs an early gay masterpiece. Actress Clara Bow has one of her first roles in the racy sci fi film adaptation of Atherton’s 1923 Black Oxen novel.

I have only scratched the surface. Obviously there are many more books, plays and movies and paintings I haven’t had time to describe here. Now, thanks to 1998 legislation passed by your congressmen, these and other works will have to wait an extra 20 years for Americans to have easy access to them. You have 13 years of waiting to go.

Caveat: This is a work in progress. It may not be accurate. However, it will be updated over time (and hopefully made more accurate). Some of the works listed below might be very well be in the public domain or special arrangements might have been made to make them available in digitalized form. Always google to be sure. If you have edits/additions, send them to me here: idiotprogrammer at Please be sure to check how I compiled this list on January 2. That link also provides links for texts residing at literary archives in countries with different copyright laws.

See also: Welcome to 1922! (Introduction), Ghosts of 1923.

Literary Works of 1924–Fiction

  • Michael Arlen – The Green Hat. Armenian-born living in England writes psychological thriller.
  • Louis Bromfield – The Green Bay Tree. Farmer/conservationist writes first novel to great acclaim. Wins Pulitzer a few years later.
  • John Buchan – The Three Hostages; Canadian politician writes post-WW1 thriller.
  • Edna Ferber – So Big (Pulitzer winner about a young woman who decides to be a school teacher in farming country).
  • Ford Madox Ford – Some Do Not
  • E. M. Forster – A Passage to India
  • Charles Boardman Hawes – The Dark Frigate, 17th century London tale about pirates for children. Newberry award winner.
  • Joshua Henry Jones, Jr. – By Sanction Of Law
  • Margaret Kennedy – The Constant Nymph, story of a teenaged girl who falls in love with a family friend who eventually marries her cousin. Adapted into a 1928 film.
  • Thomas Mann – The Magic Mountain (German)
  • Herman Melville – Billy Budd, Foretopman
  • P. C. Wren – Beau Geste, British adventure fiction about the foreign legion.
  • Walter F. White – The Fire In The Flint; young black doctor who, after receiving his medical degree, returns to his Southern home to face segregation and racism
  • Edith Wharton – The Old Maid
  • Eden Phillpotts’ Treasure of Typhon
  • Arthur Reeve: Atavar
  • E.F. Benson was a prolific English horror/ghost writer who wrote over 100 books. In 1924 he wrote three: David of King’s (1924), Alan (1924), Expiation (1924)
  • H. Rider Haggard, Heu-Heu (1924)
  • Ruth Plumly Thompson, Grampa in Oz, (based on Baum’s Oz series). Rare.
  • J.M. Barrie, Mary Rose; author of Peter Pan writes a ghost story as a play
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan and the Ant Men
  • George Moore‘s Pastoral Loves of Daphnis and Chloe.

Literary Works of 1924–Poetry/Drama

  • Edwin James Brady – The Land of the Sun
  • A. A. Milne – When We Were Very Young
  • Maxwell Anderson – What Price Glory? war drama later made into a film. Wrote film adaptation of Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front in 1930
  • Noel Coward – The Vortex
  • Sean O’Casey – Juno and the Paycock. Irish socialist writes novel that is adapted by Hitchcock into a 1930 film.
  • Hilda Conkling, Silverhorn
  • Hilda Doolittle (H.D.), Heliodora and Other Poems
  • John Masefield, Sard Harker & other poems
  • Marianne Moore, Observations
  • Edgar A. Robinson, Man Who Died Twice. Pulitzer prize for poetry, second for Robinson.
  • Sidney Howard, They Knew What They Wanted (Pulitzer play, made into a film and inspired Frank Loesser’s musical Most Happy Fella). middle-aged Italian vineyard owner who woos a young woman by mail with a false snapshot of himself, married her, and then forgives her when she becomes pregnant by one of his farm hands.

Literary Works of 1924–History/Essays/Nonfiction

  • Sarah Bernhardt – The Art of the Theatre
  • Emma Goldman – My Further Disillusionment in Russia
  • Mark Twain, Autobiography

Films of 1924 (all 2160 of them!)

  • Aelita: Queen of Mars, directed by Yakov Protazanov. Silent movie directed by Soviet filmmaker Yakov Protazanov.
  • America & Isn’t Life Wonderful, directed by D.W. Griffith.
  • Ballet Mécanique, directed by Dudley Murphy and Fernand Léger with cinematography by Man Ray. Famous dadaistic classic of ballet and music by American composer George Antheil.
  • Black Oxen (racy sci fi film adapted by 1923 Gertrude Atherton novel)
  • Forbidden Paradise, starring Pola Negri; directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Lubitch also directed The Marriage Circle this year.
  • Girl Shy, starring Harold Lloyd
  • Greed, starring Zasu Pitts and Gibson Gowland; directed by Erich von Stroheim
  • He Who Gets Slapped, starring Lon Chaney. Highly profitable film about a scientist after suffering humiliation and betrayal by his benefactor, makes a career of it by becoming a professional clown who gets slapped by other clowns.
  • The Iron Horse, starring George O’Brien
  • Janice Meredith, starring Marion Davies, W.C. Fields Holbrook Blinn, and Tyrone Power, Sr. American costume drama about the American Revolution.
  • Michael, directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer. Early gay masterpiece of silent film.
  • Monsieur Beaucaire, starring Rudolph Valentino, directed by Sidney Olcott
  • Peter Pan, starring Betty Bronson
  • The Sea Hawk, starring Milton Sills
  • Sherlock, Jr, Buster Keaton comedy which tells the story of a movie projectionist who is accused of stealing his girlfriend’s father’s watch. He falls asleep on the job and dreams that he is Sherlock Holmes solving the case. In addition to being voted in the top 100 films of the century by Time magazine (and listed in the top 250 by IMDB), Woody Allen described it as the inspiration for Purple Rose of Cairo.
  • The Thief of Bagdad, directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Douglas Fairbanks; famous swashbuckler adventure film. Selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry.
  • Three Weeks, starring Conrad Nagel and Aileen Pringle
  • Her Night of Romance, dir. Sidney Franklin, An impoverished British lord (Paul Menford) impersonates a doctor in order to woo an ailing American heiress (Dorothy Adams)
  • Sylvester (New Year’s Eve), dir by Lupu Pick; written by Carl Meyer (or Dr. Caligari fame). Example of a German Kammerspiele, films are set in closed spaces, Teutonic tales of ordinary lives but with strong Expressionist influences.
  • The Last Laugh, directed by Murnau, but also written by Carl Meyer (see Roger Ebert’s review)

Detective Fiction of 1924 (courtesy of Golden Age of Detection Wikipedia)

  • A Murder for a Million (1924) by Roy Vickers
  • ASF (1924) by John Rhode
  • Atavar (1924) by Arthur Reeve
  • Captain Crash (1924) by George Goodchild
  • Clubfoot the Avenger (1924) by Valentine Williams
  • Coffins for Two (1924) by Vincent Starrett
  • Confusion (1924) by James Gould Cozzens
  • Deep Currents (1924) by A Fielding
  • Double Dan (1924) by Edgar Wallace
  • Educated Evans (1924) by Edgar Wallace
  • False Scent (1924) by JS Fletcher
  • From the House of Bondage (1924) by Ralph Rodd
  • Giglamps (1924) by Will Scott
  • Golden Eyes (1924) by Selwyn Jepson
  • Imperturbe (1924) by Elliot Paul
  • Inspector French’s Greatest Case (1924) by Freeman Wills Crofts
  • Ishmael’s Wife (1924) by Roy Vickers
  • Jake Canuke (1924) (writing as Jesse Templeton) by George Goodchild
  • Lady Noggs Assists (1924) by Edgar Jepson
  • Murder and its Motives (1924) by F Tennyson
  • Jesse Officer! (1924) by Hulbert Footner
  • Poirot Investigates {eleven short stories} (1924) by Agatha Christie
  • Prilligirl (1924) Quinney’s Adventures (1924) by Horace Annesley Vachell
  • Reverie (1924) by Percival Wilde
  • Room 13 (1924) by Edgar Wallace
  • Some Notes on Sir Walter Scott (1924) by John Buchan
  • Tall Timber (1924) by George Goodchild
  • Temperamental People {short stories} (1924) by Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • (more to come soon!)

Other Questions/FAQ

compiled by Robert Nagle (aka idiotprogrammer).

Coming Next: Ghosts of 1925


  1. So anyone in Canada? I have seen stuff on Project Gutenberg lists talking about a Project in Canada, but they seem to want the complete same setup, software, DP all that sort of thing, which seems silly, given you might just have a few books if you are not duplicating things from elsewhere.

    So anyone in Canada (or elsewhere like that) want to start putting up a few books from 1955 and 1956 crop of dead authors?

  2. hi Robert, i dont know how i ended here on your website. I read your article and have a question, does this mean that those movies you have listed are not in public domain yet? Im planning to use a bit of Sherlock Jr. for a project i have, but i thought it was already public domain. I guess if this is for America it applies to the rest of the world, right? Do you know why is this movie available at the then?

    i would appreciate it if you could help me with this question. thanks !!

  3. Great news that Sherlock Jr. is on does a good job of clearing works, so I would feel pretty good about using it. My compiled list is just a chronological listing. I do superficial research about whether something is in the public domain. It requires massive resources and time (which I don’t have). Fortunately, has these kinds of resources.

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