7.7 1920s: Innovations

5 min readdecember 29, 2022

Caleb Lagerwey

Caleb Lagerwey

AP US History 🇺🇸

454 resources
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The 1920s were a time of great economic prosperity for some Americans, thus why it is sometimes called the Roaring 20s. Before WWI, the US was a debtor nation, owing banks and countries in Europe large sums of money. After WWI, thanks to the US providing the Allies with so many loans to keep their war efforts afloat, the US was a creditor nation, with huge stockpiles of gold and a powerful economy.
🎥 Watch: AP US History - the Roaring 20s

Growth of the Consumer Society

During the 1920s, advances in technology and production techniques contributed to the growth of the consumer society in America. Henry Ford's moving assembly line, for example, made it possible to mass produce the Model T car at a price that working class families could afford. The distribution system also improved, making it easier for a variety of consumer goods to reach a wider market. Credit also became more widely available, allowing people to purchase goods even if they didn't have the money upfront. These factors, combined with the rise of advertising and the creation of a culture of consumerism, contributed to the growth of the consumer society in the 1920s.

The Assembly Line and Scientific Management

The Assembly Line and Scientific Management were two revolutionary methods of production and management that were introduced in the early 20th century and had a significant impact on American society, particularly in the 1920s.
The Assembly Line, invented by Henry Ford, involved breaking down the production process into smaller, specialized tasks that were performed by individual workers. This allowed for the mass production of goods at a faster rate and at a lower cost, making it possible for Ford to sell his Model T automobiles at an affordable price. The Assembly Line became the dominant method of production in many industries and led to the creation of many new jobs in the manufacturing sector.
Scientific Management, developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor, focused on increasing efficiency and productivity through the use of scientific methods and the standardization of work. Taylor believed that the most efficient way to perform a task could be determined through scientific study and that workers should be trained to perform their tasks in this most efficient way. Scientific Management was widely adopted in the 1920s and led to significant increases in productivity and profits.
However, the introduction of these methods also had negative consequences for workers. The Assembly Line required workers to perform repetitive tasks for long periods of time, leading to physical and mental strain. Additionally, the emphasis on efficiency and productivity often led to the exploitation of workers, as employers sought to maximize profits by minimizing wages and working conditions. The paternalistic attitudes of many industrialists, including Henry Ford, also led to the establishment of company towns and other forms of control over the lives of workers. Overall, the Assembly Line and Scientific Management had a profound impact on American society in the 1920s and continue to shape the way we work and produce goods to this day.

Consumer Goods in the Home

In the 1920s, the range of consumer goods available for purchase in the home expanded significantly. In addition to the Model T car, other popular and widely available consumer goods included radios, vacuum cleaners, and refrigerators. These new products were often advertised using modern marketing techniques that employed psychology to convince Americans that they needed a particular item, sometimes by creating a perceived need for a product to solve a problem. One example of this was the marketing of Listerine, which was advertised as a solution to the newly invented problem of halitosis, or bad breath.

"They talk about you behind your back...an

Advertisers in the 1920s also used techniques such as celebrity endorsements and slogans to persuade people to buy their products. Radio and print advertising became more common, and companies began to use more visual and emotional appeals in their advertisements to make them more effective. The growing consumer culture of the 1920s also saw the emergence of new forms of leisure and entertainment, such as movie theaters and amusement parks, which were also heavily advertised.
The rise of consumerism in the 1920s had a significant impact on the economy and society. The increased production and consumption of consumer goods led to economic growth and the creation of new jobs in the manufacturing and service sectors. However, it also contributed to the increasing materialism and focus on material possessions in American society, as people were encouraged to buy more and more goods to improve their standard of living.

Paying For New Goods

In the 1920s, many Americans who wanted to purchase new consumer goods but couldn't afford to pay for them upfront relied on credit to make the purchases. This trend of using credit to live beyond one's means grew significantly in the 1920s as more and more people sought to improve their standard of living and keep up with their neighbors by purchasing new goods. While this system worked well as long as the economy was strong and people were able to make their loan payments, it became a problem when the economy slowed down or experienced a downturn. If people were unable to make their loan payments, they could end up in debt and potentially face financial difficulties. This was especially true if they had taken out multiple loans and had a high level of outstanding debt. Luckily the economy is strong and stable...for now.

Growth of National & Regional Culture

The growth of the national consumer culture in the 1920s had a number of effects on American society, including the growth of a more unified national culture. With the proliferation of new forms of media such as radio and movies, people across the country were exposed to the same cultural influences and shared common experiences. This included listening to the same radio shows, wearing the same fashions, reading the same stories, and following the same celebrities, such as Charles Lindbergh and Babe Ruth.
However, the spread of culture also had a dark side, as it often served to reinforce and spread harmful attitudes and beliefs. For example, racist films like Birth of a Nation (1915) and The Jazz Singer (1927) portrayed racist attitudes and stereotypes and had a significant impact on American culture. Birth of a Nation, in particular, was a deeply racist film that argued the Ku Klux Klan were the heroes of Reconstruction and depicted Black people as predatory and dangerous. This film had a huge influence on American culture and left a false and harmful history in its wake.
Overall, the growth of the national consumer culture in the 1920s had both positive and negative effects on American society. While it contributed to a greater sense of unity and shared cultural experiences, it also reinforced harmful attitudes and beliefs that had a lasting impact on the country.
🎥 Watch: AP US History - Post-War Era 1920s and 30s
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