America in the 1920’s became known as the “Roaring Twenties”. It was one of the most famous and glamorous periods throughout history. America was also doing very well financially and was building its wealth. From 1920 to 1930, this period was also called the boom period. During the boom, many items were brought which helped to build America’s wealth. The people of America had a lot of confidence and spent a lot of money, which provided more demand for products and also boosted the American economy.
The people of America were confident economically and also socially. They enjoyed themselves and also worked hard. Industry was booming, there were many different types of fashion and people were consuming a lot. There were also many different types of entertainment available which many people were attracted to. Cinemas and Hollywood were an example of this. Adverts were placed everywhere to attract the public and business was doing very well.
The Republican government, which ran the country at that time, believed in the term, “Lassiez faire” meaning leave alone. This attitude of the government allowed the business of America to be run by the experts in business. The Republican government tried not to interfere in the lives of the citizens as little as possible and believed that it was up to the people of America to make it succeed
They believed in the term “Rugged individualism”, meaning the American dream, which was for the people to work hard, do well and make money. They believed that wherever you where from, all you had to do were work hard and then someday you would become a millionaire. They also believed that if taxes were kept low then this would increase business. The lower the taxes were the more they believed the people would buy and earn in America.
Advertising influenced the citizens of America to buy non-essential items. Adverts were broadcasted on the radios, in magazines, billboards and newspapers so that a larger number of audiences were aware. This created more customers who brought and consumed item which were even non – essential. Hollywood also influenced people to buy more than what they needed. Since it was very cheap to go to a cinema most of the citizens of America went the cinema on a regular weakly basis. When there would be an intermission during the film or soap opera, adverts of hovers, washing machines, cars and fashion would come on. The citizens were tempted into buying the goods that were advertised which created consumerism. Films and programmes that were watched at the cinemas were sponsored by goods manufacturers, which also allowed them to increase their business profits.
People became increasingly confident and soon began to buy expensive items. This increased demands, which provided more employment for the public. Now that credit was introduced, (also known as hire purchase) people could “buy now and pay later” in instalments. The people with good jobs, who also earned good wages, were offered credit, which allowed them to spend more money. Also, there were many travelling salesman who were convenient and persuaded people to buy non-essential items.
With Hollywood, the advertising and publicity everywhere in America, more money was being spent. America seemed to be consuming so much more than before. People believed that spending money was good whereas before people said to save up for the “rainy days”. The president at the time was Herbert Hoover who said, “The poor man in America is vanishing”
Since many people had a stable job and good financial status, more money was spent credit also allowed many people to spend people became too confident and non-essential items were brought. Gradually there was more demand for items like cars and radios. More employment was needed to meet this demand. Before women were seen as only housewives but now this demand in industry allowed women to gain employment as well as men and also be independent. Now women were employed which meant they earned there own income. Soon young women started wearing the latest fashion such as short skirts as well as having short hair and loads of make-up on their face. They did not care about what the old generation thought of them. Some women even started to smoke and drank alcohol in public even those women who came from very respectable homes. Women who did this were called “flappers”.
Attitudes towards women also soon changed and women had much more freedom than before and were allowed to work and spend. Since more people were working and demand of items was high, this allowed cheaper goods to be made as well as higher wages. In 1920, there were 500 different types of women’s face packs as well as 2,500 different women’s perfumes. Since women were more independent, and were employed, they brought more for themselves.
Soon business began to expand with new products that were made such as radios and cars. Ideas and fashion also began to change. One of the most successful car manufacturer’s was Henry Ford with his “Model T” car. He had a system of the “assembly line”, which was, instead of having expert crafts men, who would spend a long time making one car; a belt was set up so that little bits of the car could be attached by anyone.
This produced more cars, which were cheap and affordable for the public. In addition, more people were employed which increased employment and increased wages than before. The demand for cars also increased the demand for steel and oil therefore the steel industry that was run by Carneqie and the oil industry that was run by Rockerfella, also increased their profits.
The First World War had helped America to develop it’s industry and had turned America into an industrial superpower. After the First World War, America’s profits went up. This was because America had not joined the First World War in 1917, which allowed it to trade, give loans, sell weapons and ammunitions with the other countries which made America and very successful.
America also was not attacked during the First World War (because it had joined later than everyone else) therefore it did not have to rebuild itself as the European countries had to. During the First World War, Germany’s business declined and therefore America “filled the gap”, which meant that America started to trade and increased its profits. Since America was a capitalist country, the citizens kept the money that was made by them and the country was very successful.
There were many different types of entertainment, which attracted much of the American public. These years were also known as the “The Jazz Age” of which many people were made famous through their singing and acting. The public seemed to like blues singers such as Louis Armstrong. A famous dance that was also introduced was “The Charleston” dance. Radios were also popular and going to the cinemas was also a common thing. Actors such as Rudolf Valantino and Charlie Chaplin, also where very popular.
The American society was more relaxed and modern than before. Women were allowed to work and dress up however they wanted to, everyone were encouraged to buy more goods, people socialised more and went to the cinema and the USA ‘s economy seemed to be expanding. Before Americans were told to save up for, the “rainy days” but now they were encouraged to buy more to make more money for themselves. It was a period where there was “mass production”; people consumed more and brought non-essential items. People worked hard, socialised more, enjoyed themselves and had more confidence to consume. Between 1919 and 1929, the output per worker had increased by 43%. This increase enabled America to make cheaper goods than other European countries so Americans only brought “American goods”.
However not all the American society benefited from these new ideas and attitudes in 1920. An example of this is the Black immigrants who allowed the population of America to increase rapidly. Within a short period, America’s population grew from 106 million to 123 million people. Over 16 million black immigrants were believed to have arrived in America. They came to America, which to them seemed like the “Land of opportunities for anyone”. They came to America hoping that they to would be able to work hard, enjoy themselves and be wealthy, but this did not happen. The black immigrants were the poorest in the whole country.
They were illiterate and therefore they provided very cheap labour for the American businesses which resulted to them having terrible working and living conditions. The “Jim Crow” laws in the South of America forced the Blacks to use separate facilities, which were the worst. Many blacks worked on the cotton farms in the South because they did not have any skills, which could allow them to get urban jobs. They suffered great hardships, which made them look bad in the American society and since there were very weak trade unions the blacks had the worst conditions in the country.
Some Blacks from the South decided to go up North along the East coast of America to New York. Since the business in New York was booming more blacks from the South were immigrating there. They wanted to get urban jobs to make more money like the rest of the country, but the only problem was that they did not have the basic skills needed for a job and were illiterate which prevented them to get jobs. They ended up living in “ghettos” in the North of America where they had poor housing, the worst jobs and low wages. Non - American ideas such as Socialism caused many strikes between them. Immigrants were seen as criminals and communist agents who were sent to destroy America by the American society.
The black immigrants of America were also discriminated and intimidated. The Ku Klux Klan (also known as the KKK) was an aggressive organisation that stirred up racial and religious hatred. By the early 1920’s, the organisation increased quickly and had around 5 million members supporting it. The members would hide beneath their hoods and cloaks and threatened, intimidated and even believed to murder the society who was not thought to be true Americans. They opposed anyone who was not a WASP, a White Anglo Saxon Protestant. The people who seemed to be treated unfairly and were their victims were Jews, Catholics and blacks.