To what extent did all Americans benefit from the economic improvements which took place between 1919 and 1930
In America in the 1920’s, there was a massive economic boom. Some of the reasons for this boom were electricity, the assembly line, new inventions and motor cars. However, some industries went into decline. Some of these were the coal and steel industries, the textiles industry and farming. The economic boom was mainly in the big cities of the north rather than the farmlands in the south. This also meant that more white than black people benefited from the boom.
In this essay, I am going to go into detail about the reasons for the boom, who benefited, how benefited and why they did, who didn’t benefit, how not and why not, did more people benefit than not? The assembly line was introduced around 1910 by a young man called Henry Ford when he realized that instead of building cars while they were still, requiring much skill and time, it was quicker, easier and cheaper to apply the parts to the cars while they were moving. As a direct result of the invention of the assembly line, the speed at which cars could be manufactured increased massively and the price of a car dropped dramatically.
In 1910 there were 468,000 cars on the road. This increased to 26,750,000 by 1930. In 1909 a ford model-t cost 950 dollars, by 1928 this had dropped to just 290 dollars due to Henry Fords brilliants ideas. Now almost every body could buy a car and anybody who worked for Henry ford could buy a car with hire purchase. As a result to the boom in car manufacture, other industries also benefited. A large quantity of gas was need to fuel cars. 65% of US leather was used in the manufacture of car seats and interior. 80% of US rubber was used in the manufacture of car seats and interior.
75% of US glass was used in the manufacture of car windows. Hotels and Motels we’re opened, this meant that even more products could be sold. Consumers could go further distances for their products and whole industries boomed just from the increased rate of car manufacture. New jobs were created all over America in road building, parking space building, manufacturing road signs and traffic lights. Cars needed to be repaired and serviced. Millions of families could now travel long distances and takes holidays. Although the motor car brought all of these benefits, it also brought negative effects.
The car was a hazard to the environment because it caused traffic and air pollution. Car assembly line jobs were tedious and boring with little job satisfaction. Gangsters could now use cars for they’re criminal activities. The car also caused road casualties and deaths. Another result of mass production and the assembly line was the mass production of consumer goods which also contributed to the massive economic boom between 1919 and 1930. The radio being one of the most important. When the mass production of the radio began, radio sales boomed from less than 2 million dollars a year in 1921 to 600 million dollars a year in 1929.
With the radio, a new advertising medium was created, it made people jealous if they didn’t have a certain product or the latest models of consumer goods. It caused other industries to boom. Dance and jazz music became more popular and widespread. The radio was used by political figures to get their ideas across, President Roosevelt being the first with his fireside chats to the American people. Household consumer goods increased the amount of leisure time that women had and made cleaning and household chores a lot easier. From 1921 the number of fridges soared from 5,000 to 900,000 and radios from 50,000 to a massive 10 million.
Advertising in the 1920’s was another one of the main reasons for the economic boom. Advertising techniques became more sophisticated to encourage people to part with yet more of their money, with the introduction of hire purchase(pay for products other a certain amount of time. Some people bought so many things on hire purchase that they could not keep up with the payments and became homeless), this could cause people to get into debt very quickly and easily. Some products were falsely advertised like lucky strike cigarettes, for example claimed that their cigarettes protected the voice and stopped coughing.
With all the new consumer goods making housework easier and freeing up time for leisure there were new trends, habits and lifestyles starting to appear. Most of the older generation were opposed to these changes like the older generation were in favor of prohibition and were strongly opposed to the new social changes like clubs and music, the new dances, this caused a lot of tension between generations. Music was played in the Mississippi steamboats and speakeasies where flappers and their slick haired partners danced to the new styles of music.
New kinds of dances soon came into fashion like the Charleston and the black bottom, older generations were shocked by what they thought as loose morals of the young and disapproved of the explicit songs and dances which the younger generation loved. New York and Detroit banned the performance of jazz which increased its appeal to youngsters. Short lived fads started to appear like board games and many wealthy businessmen invested in unusual schemes like stunt flying competitions, fashion shows. A man called shipwreck Kelly sat on top of a flagpole for 23 days and 7 hours, many tried to beat him but could not.
Sporting and the film industry became very popular due to the fact that people had more spare time to be interested in them. The new commercial radio stations brought sports news into every home and helped to create a new generation of heroes. The filming industry flourished, by 1929 110 million people were going to the cinema each week and the star system was born. When Rudolph Valentino died in 1926 aged only 31, people qued for hours to see his embalmed body. Many people aspired to the high class habits of the film stars as they set the way for many of their viewers who dreamed to be like the stars.
The film industry was revolutionized in 1927 when the first ever talkie was produced. Electricity fueled the economic boom in the 20’s. It allowed factories to work faster, the use of home appliances like the fridge and the radio and allowed factories to use electrically powered machines massively increasing their efficiency. In 1920, 33% of homes were supplied with electricity, by 1929 this figure had risen to 70% and consumer goods were being mass produced to be used in homes. Although many industries flourished during the 1920’s, many others went into decline.
Farmers in particular did not benefit during the boom. As Europe recovered from world war one, there was little demand for American meat and grain. President Coolidge vetoed bills that were aimed at guaranteeing farm prices in America and many smaller farmers went bankrupt. New synthetic materials like rayon were replacing cotton which was mass produced on American farms. High tariffs discouraged other countries from buying farm produce from America. In 1918 and 1920 there were big strikes against low pay and poor working conditions in the coal and steel industries. These strikes were crushed by government forces.
An inquiries findings largely supported the miners but the government did nothing about it. The textiles industry was also depressed. In Asia, new factories were making goods a lot more cheaply than in America. Textiles workers risked everything if they went on strike because companies usually owned their homes. In almost all big strikes in the 1920’s, the government backed the companies. Force was used at strikes in Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. In the car industry and other assembly line manufacturing businesses, wages were low and conditions were poor, jobs were boring and tedious.
This caused stress and could result in people being aggressive towards others. There was little or no trade union support for most workers in the 1920’s. The united textile workers union went on strike in Elizabeth town and the strike was crushed by police and state troopers. As a result of trade unions having no effect, the number of trade union members fell from 5. 1 million in 1920 to 3. 6 million in 1929. The booms main impact was in the northern states of America. In 1929 the average wage in the north-east was 881 dollars per year but in the south-east it was just 365 dollars a year.
The Brookings survey in 1929 showed that 18 million people lived in poverty in America and that 78% of profits from industry went to 0. 3% of the American population. Women were treated like second class citizens in the 1900’s. They were not allowed to vote and hardly took part in politics. Their clothes and their social life were restricted. Divorce was very rare, only 81/1000 marriages ended in divorce and sex before marriage was not approved. Most women did not go out to work and if they did, the men had the best jobs. A women’s place was at home looking after the children and taking care of the house.
Due to the introduction of home appliances and more electrical goods, women had a lot more spare leisure time. It was how they spent this time that affected the American economy. In the 1920’s, a lot of women rebelled against some of these restrictions. They were known as flappers. They cut their hair short and wore different clothes to their parents. Flappers began smoking and drinking alcohol in public. They went to speakeasies and bars on their own without chaperones. This opened up a whole new market to the American economy and brought in massive profits.
New advertisements convinced more women that this was the thing to do. Older generations disapproved of this outrageous behaviour and most of them condemned it. This caused tension in the homes and between generations. After a long campaign women gained the vote in 1920 and a women called Margaret Sanger opened up birth control clinics across America mostly as a result of the rebellious flappers. During the first world war, many women got jobs, they proved that they could do these jobs just as well as men but when the war ended, many women lost their jobs to men returning from the war.
Two million more women were employed from 1920 to 1930, an increase of only 1%. Women earned almost a third of all degrees in America but only 4% of professors were women. Men were still the managers and got the best paying, more skilled jobs rather than women who were given ‘women’s jobs’ like teachers, nurses and librarians. Women were told by magazines, newspapers and older generations that they should get married and have children. Many women carried on working because they simply couldn’t afford to live if they didn’t work. Black wives in particular carried on working and were paid badly.
Thirty one percent of black women in New York worked in 1930 and only 4% of white women worked in New York in 1930. There weren’t many women professional jobs and 88% of women who had professional jobs were single. American women in the 1920’s were living longer due to better healthcare and having fewer children. In 1900 American women had on average 3. 6 children, this number fell to 2. 5 by 1930 but this didn’t mean that more women were working. America was made up of many races and religions, white American being the most dominant, owning more land, earning more money and being more powerful than any other race or religion.
They saw other religions and races as a serious threat to their supremacy, especially blacks. Black Americans did not share in the prosperity of the boom in the 1920’s. In 1920, about 10 percent of Americans were black and most of them lived in the southern states that had been slave-owning confederacy in the civil war. Despite the end of slavery, black Americans were still racially abused. Segregation was enforced in most southern states. Blacks had the lowest paying jobs, worst schools and could not eat in the same cafi?? ‘s as white people or use the same public transport as white Americans.
Black Americans could not expect justice in a courtroom which was rules by a white American judge. Blacks could not vote and even the American armed forces were segregated. Jim Crow laws ensured that black Americans had no prospects and that white Americans would rule over them. Black Americans were paid much less than white Americans. The median income of a black American and a white American in Atlanta between 1935 and 1936 was 632 dollars per black family and more than double of 1,876 dollars per white family. During the great depression, black Americans suffered the brunt of the hardships.
Most of them lived in the farmlands of the south which suffered the most economic depression during the 1920’s. Even throughout other parts of the country, black Americans were far worse off than white Americans. They were denied the opportunities of education and the skills needed fro self improvements. Between 1920 and 1930, over 824,000 black Americans migrated to the north in the hope that during the economic boom they might be able to find work in the factories. Although segregation was not legal in the north it was clearly shown in the form of racism or blacks being fired first or the last person to get a job.
Marcus Garvey and the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) raised a consciousness of the black people in the 1920’s. The Ku Klux Klan(KKK) was an organization which many people had secretly joined believing that they were standing up for the traditional American values but instead it was all about racial hatred and religious hatred. The KKK formed as a friendly club in 1866, its members realized that their white robes terrified black in the south and this appealed to racist people.
The klan became a focus for violence and its leader disbanded because the violence had grown extreme and out of control. In 1915 the klan was reformed again and by 1925 it was thought that the klan had 5. 1 million members, mostly in the southern states of America where racial prejudice was most common. The KKK began to control state organizations like the police force and local governments. The klan went into decline when its main leader was jailed to life but this did not mean that racism no longer existed.
Lynch mobs took justice into their own hands mostly against black Americans and it was difficult to convict people of lynching people it was large mobs which committed this outrageous crime. Lynching was family event and adults would let they’re children witness it. A black reporter called Michael Mitchell remembers seeing a women bring her 7 year old girl to see the lynching. In the 1920’s protestants in America split into two groups, one who supported the Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and others who believed that god created the world in six days and everything on the world.
Eventually, six states passed a law that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was not to be taught in schools. In the state of Tennessee two men put this law to the test and in one of the most famous trials ever, a man taught the Charles Darwin theory to his class, the trial was all over the newspapers and the radio and they taught the Charles Darwin theory and the theory that god created everything in 6 days to the whole American nation, the man prosecuted was fined 100 dollars.
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