GCSE COURSEWORK: AMERICA IN THE 1920’S
The 1920’s was a period of great change in America. It was a decade which saw the development of mass production, cinema, jazz and the introduction of prohibition. Indeed, the 1920’s have often been described as ‘’the roaring 20’s’’ a time when life was good for all Americans.
Qu. To what extent did America ‘’roar’’ for all Americans in the 1920’s?
America enjoyed a period of great prosperity in the 1920's, people often called it ‘the roaring 20’s’ as things like mass production, cinema, jazz and prohibition were introduced, these things had a huge impact in America and many people benefited from the developments but many did not.
One of the major developments that were brought to America during the 1920’s was mass production, it was first brought to America by a man called Henry Ford from the car industry, Ford had revolutionized American manufacturing by introducing the automated assembly line. and he made cars so cheaply that thousands of ordinary Americans could afford them. Mass production of the car industry stimulated the growth of industries that produced parts of cars like tyres, glass, metal etc then cars led to building of more roads and service stations and there was an increased consumption of petrol. Also most people’s lives were improved because they had more freedom to travel to more places than they could have before.
Other consumers such as telephone and electricity industries boomed by 1930, two-thirds of all American households had electricity and half had telephones. As more and more of America's homes received electricity, new appliances followed like refrigerators, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and toasters. The development of the electricity companies stimulated the growth of new industries making electrical products. Then they had to build lots of shops and offices for all of this which help the construction industry which meant more people were being employed and earning a decent wage which meant there would be an increasing demand for goods.
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This seemed like a very good life for most Americans although various sources state that standards of cleanliness kept rising and housewives had to work more and more Sheets had to be changed weekly and the house had to be vacuumed daily. With all this new technology which was supposed to make your life easier was making more work for woman although not all woman benefited from this.
During the 1920s more people were living in towns and cities. The cities were growing fast, skyscrapers were being built all over and soon small towns wanted them, but a growing city was a threat to some and there was some tension between rural and urbanised areas, people thought that cities were unsafe and full of drunks and criminals.
Another major development which went on in America during the 1920’s was the cinema. The movie industry took off and, of course, you could now travel to the cinema in the family car. It was a big hit in the 1920’s and was steadily growing; by 1930 a hundred million Americans were going to the cinema every week to watch films. Until 1927 performers were never named but in 1929 a film called ‘The Jazz Singer’ was released and was the first talking movie, fans worshipped the stars and even went to see a film even if it was dull, after ‘The Jazz Singer’ was released all films became ‘Talkies’ and many silent screen stars lost their jobs because they had strange accents or funny voices. The films were very cheap to go watch and also educated people. All the films were made in Hollywood where there was all year round sunshine. It was estimated that 100 million cinema tickets were being sold each week. Young people went out to the cinemas to enjoy themselves This was very true for young women who were usually named ‘flappers’ did not stick to the strict rules their mothers had to abide by, instead they wore the latest fashions, short skirts, short hair and make up. The Flappers also went out without a man to look after them, went to all-night parties, drove motor cars, smoked in public and held men’s hands without wearing gloves, even if they came from respectable homes!
The poor did also join the ‘movie craze’ and it only cost them 10-20 cents to go compared to the dollar rich Americans would pay but they were separated from the rich they would go to a small cinema in the town although there was not a cinema in every town rather than the city because they couldn’t afford the more luxurious cinema in the city.
The 1920’s also was called the jazz age in America, it became very popular during the 1920’s, blacks from the south of America moved to places like Los Angeles. Jazz music became very popular with black and white audiences and musicians were very much admired. However, this did not remove prejudice and racism for the majority of black people in America. Along with new music came new dances like the Charleston, the one step, the black bottom and the tango, the more confident woman named ‘the flapper’ who were usually around 19 and very rich. The combination of the new music, new dances and new fashions outraged many. However during this time many women who weren’t flappers still respected ‘the traditional woman’ and stayed home and looked after their children, cleaned and cooked these women dressed sensibly and respected themselves although most of these women would have been poor.
And the last major developments in the 1920’s was the introduction of prohibition which is a law forbidding the sale of alcoholic beverages. In 1920 the American government bought this law into their country, all importing, exporting, transporting, selling, and manufacturing of alcohol was stopped. Prohibition was meant to reduce the consumption of alcohol, and thereby reduce crime, poverty, death rates, and improve the economy and the quality of life. But unfortunately prohibition failed there were many reasons as to why for instance lack of public support- people refused to obey prohibition and brewed their own alcohol, problems of enforcement- deaths related to alcohol increased, there was lots of organized crime- bootleggers brought illegal liquor supplies into American cities, gangsters made over 2 billion dollars a year from illegal alcohol and corruption- bribes were taken and officials were in the pocket of gangsters for good. There were lots of positives and negative views about probation for example some of the positives were alcohol consumption decreased and fewer wages spent on alcohol. And some negative points were deaths from alcohol poisoning increased, grain farmers could not sell their crops, crime rose, alcohol became fashionable, Americans refused to obey prohibition and government corruption. As a result in this many gangsters were making loads of profit from people buying illegal alcohol off them, this would be bringing more crime onto America.
In conclusion many Americans benefited from mass production, cinema, jazz and the introduction of prohibition and some did not. America did roar as such during the 1920s to some extent although America was more the high life for the rich people more than the poor as they had more money to go to out places and have fun where as the rural and urban poor as they had to work really hard to a tiny amount of money they would earn which would normally go towards food and shelter they didn’t really have the extra cash to go out especially if they were a big family they would have to pay for transport and for each person and if they had a small child or baby they would not be able to take with them they would have to pay for child care so most poor people just stayed home with their families. Mass production did roar for pretty much all Americans as all new technology was sold cheaply so poor people were able to afford things to make their life that extra bit easier.