Mass production and mass consumption

Prosperity was the thing that made the Roaring '20s roar. Mass production made new inventions and former luxuries available to almost everybody, especially with the financially dangerous new invention of time payments. Henry Ford lowered the price of his Model T to a few hundred dollars, cheap enough that most working people could get a loan to buy their car on time. By the end of the decade, the U.S. had one car for every five Americans, far more than all the automobiles in the rest of the world.

The growing advertising industry convinced people they needed more and more. Advertising got good at making people want things they didn't need through the mass media of radio, billboards, and popular magazines. Frederick Taylor (1922), the father of scientific management he called Taylorism, broke work assignments down into tasks and figured out the most efficient way to get jobs done. Unions lost membership as employers used government support and fear of radicals to break up strikes.


Question: What happened to the Progressive political movement in the 1920s?

Answer: Progressive reforms all but disappeared as conservative Republican government slowed immigration, relaxed the regulations on business, and weakened unions.

Advances in transportation

Motor vehicles were good for more than just joy rides. Trucks moved goods to market more cheaply and quickly than trains; produce farmers made more money, and city people got better fruit and vegetables. People didn't have to live right next to where they worked anymore; the first suburbs appeared. Buses allowed schools to consolidate and reach more students.

Women took to driving right from the start; it gave them independence from men. Cars were so handy that people didn't even begin to notice the cost in dollars, accidents, and pollution until years later.

Automobiles were fast, but planes were faster. The Wright brothers flew the first plane in 1903. After that, it took 20 years and countless crashes for aviation to become practical. The first transcontinental airmail route began from San Francisco to New York in 1920. Few passengers flew in the 1920s; most airliners concentrated on carrying the mail.

After Charles Lindbergh became a hero by single-handedly flying his Spirit of St. Louis (1927) from New York to Paris, aviation was on everybody's mind. The first flight attendant stepped on board a regularly scheduled commercial flight in 1930.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >