Displaying perfect baton passing, Tianna Madison, Felix, Bianca Knight and Jeter turned in a time of 40.82 seconds, breaking a world mark that had stood for 27 years.
An East German team ran 41.37 in 1985 and the Americans showed in the semifinals they were ready to make a run at the record when they turned in a time of 41.64.
Felix was coming off the 200-meter gold earlier this week and Jeter had a second-place finish in the 100 and won the bronze medal behind Felix in the 200.
The United States finished 0.59 of a second in front Jamaica, a huge margin in the one-lap sprint relay. Ukraine finished third.
The American men, meanwhile, suffered disappointment in the 4X400-meter relay when Angelo Taylor was passed coming down the stretch by Ramon Miller of the Bahamas.
That brought the Bahamas a gold medal after turning in a second-place finish behind the Americans in the 2008 Games.
The United States settled for a silver medal, ending a lackluster performance for the American quarter-mile runners. The men's 400-meter final at these Games went off without an American entrant for only the second time in the history of the Olympics, the other time coming when the United States boycotted in 1980.
South Africa's Oscar Pistorius, who runs on carbon fiber legs, got to make another appearance at the Olympics. He ran the anchor leg for his team but received the baton in last place and was unable to make up any ground.
Both the women's individual races Friday turned out to be tactical contests with sprints over the final 200 meters deciding the events.
Meseret Defar of Ethiopia, gold medalist in Athens and the bronze medal winner in Beijing, again won the 5,000-meter run. Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya was second and defending champion Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia was third.
Dibaba had a tremendous closing run earlier in these Olympics while winning the 10,000-meter run, but when it came time to step up the pace Friday she had nothing left.
Turkey won its first Olympic track and field medal in history Friday and, what's more, won the silver as well in the women's 1,500-meter run. Asli Cakir Alptekin and Gamze Bulut finished 1-2 for Turkey, followed by Maryam Yusuf Jamal of Bahrain.
In the field events, France's Renaud Lavillenie was the gold medal winner in the pole vault while Tatyana Lysenko of Russia captured the women's hammer throw.
American runners comfortably moved into Saturday's finals in the women's 4X400-meter relay and men's 4X100-meter relay.
The Americans turned in a time of 37.38 in the men's relay, 0.01 of a second faster than the highly favored Jamaicans.
Jamaica's Usain Bolt did not run on his country's team in the semifinals, but he will be present Saturday for the big race in which he will try to win the sixth Olympic gold medal of his career.