Ch. 23

Ch. 23: The 1920s
Booming Business, Ailing
Recession hits when wartime defense
contracts end
But by 1922 business bounces back
Age of electricity brings new consumer
goods- by 1925 60% of households have
Automobile was the major industry- by
1930 60% of families have a car
Ford led in the beginning, then GM, back to
Automobile industry accounts for 9% of all
wages in manufacturing and stimulates many
other industries
Rising stocks reflect the speculative
nature of Wall Street
 Business boom stimulates capitalist
expansion overseas
◦ corporations built facilities abroad
◦ U.S. investors loaned European nations
money to repay WWI debt
◦ Private investment abroad increases five-fold
Economic nationalism prevails- high
protective tariffs
◦ Fordney-McCumber Tariff (1922) and
Smoot-Hawley Tariff (1930)
◦ As a percent of GDP U.S. exports fell
◦ However, manufactured goods rose to 61%
of exports by 1920s
Even though wages did rise in the decade,
workers benefitted unequally
◦ North faired better than the South
◦ Women, blacks, Mexicans, and recent
immigrants faired the worst
For farmers, grain prices plummet
◦ Government purchases end, European
agriculture is revived, farm exports slow
◦ Farm income falls by 60%
New Modes of Producing,
Managing, and Selling
The assembly line boosts output by 40%
 Managers discourage individuality, etc. –
“Fordization of the face”
 The assembly line doesn’t foster pride in
skill or provide opportunity for
 However, this created American industrial
 Business consolidation continues after the
Giant corporations begin setting up divisions
within the company, making day-to-day
oversight highly complex
The gradual increase in wages came because
leaders recognized that higher wages would
improve production and consumer buying
◦ Ford paid his workers $5 a day
New systems of delivering goods developed
◦ Dealer networks in the automobile industry; Chain
stores and department stores (air conditioning
helps popularize these stores)
Advertising takes off
Buying on credit soars
◦ Installment plans with fixed payment
◦ Was mostly confined to big ticket items
◦ Accounts for 75% of automobile sales by
Women in the New Economic Era
Cigarettes for women as “torches of
Cosmetics were “hope in a jar”
Male workers dominated the manufactoring
The number of working women increased to
2 million, but their number as a percent of
the total female population hovered at 24%
Women went to work in corporate offices
Medical schools even capped female
Struggling Labor Unions in a
Business Age
Union membership fell from 5 – 3.4
million during the 20s
 Why?
◦ Overall wage rates climbed
◦ Older craft-based unions were ill suited for the
new mass-produced factories
◦ Management hostility
◦ Anti-union campaign (employee associations)
◦ Welfare capitalism
Stand Pat Politics
Republican dominance of the 1920s
◦ Northern farmers, corporate leaders,
businesspeople, native-born white-collar
workers and some blue-collared workers
Warren G. Harding
◦ Bland with a soothing appeal
◦ Known for his womanizing and his poor
cabinet appointments
◦ Charles Forbes (head of the Veteran’s
Bureau) – a draft dodger who stole funds
fled the country
◦ Harry Daugherty (Attorney General) –
influence peddling; escaped two criminal
◦ Albert Fall (Sec. of Interior) – leased
government oil reserves for a $400,000
bribe. The Teapot Dome Scandal; went to
Republican Policymaking in a
Probusiness Era
Congress lowers taxes and inheritance taxes for
the wealthy (supported by Sec. of Treasury
Andrew Mellon)
 Supreme Court overturns business regulatory
 Coolidge opposes government assistance to
other groups – 1927 Mississippi flood victims or
a price-support plan for farmers (McNaryHaugen bill)
◦ This does move some farmers to the Democratic
Independent Internationalism
U.S. refuses to join the League or its
International Court of Justice
Washington Naval Arms Conference
◦ Specific ratio of ships amongst the world powers
(reduced tonnage: U.S., GB, Japan, Italy, France)
Kellogg-Briand Pact- 60 nations and purely
Women and Politics in the
1920s: A Dream Deferred
Polling places shift from saloons to schools and churches
Women’s Join Congressional committee lobbies for childlabor laws, protection of women workers, and federal
support for education
Sheppard-Towner Act (1921) – funded rural prenatal and
baby care centers staffed by public health nurses
However, the 19th Amendment had little political effect
Reformers could not go so far as to get an ERA- felt it
would undermine gender-based law protecting women
Those who continued to “push buttons” were labeled
Women expressed their liberation through consumption
Immigration Restriction
National Origins Act of 1924- 2% of each
nation’s 1890 representation in America
 “America must be kept American”
 The law excluded Asians and South Asians
as person ineligible for citizenship but place
no restrictions on immigrants from the
Western Hemisphere
◦ Need for large scale, low-paid migratory
workers in growing agribusiness sector
◦ Mexican American found little support from the
Catholic Church
Nativism, Anti-Radicalism, and The
Sacco-Vanzetti Case
Red Scare and A. Mitchell Palmer
 “Those anarchist bastards”
Fundamentalism and the
Scopes Trial
John T. Scopes
 Dayton, TN
 William Jennings Bryan
 Clarence Darrow
 H.L. Menken of the American Mercury
KKK and the Garvey Movement
1915 revival and Birth of a Nation
◦ Membership drive- expansion to 5 million
◦ Dismal end
Garvey and the UNIA
◦ Unpopular with mainstream black
◦ He eventually served prison time and was
Rural vs. urban values; anti-immigrant;
impact of women’s movement;
continuance of WWI conservation and
anti-German sentiment
 18th Amendment
 Volstead Act
 By 1929 alcohol consumption was at
about 70% of prewar era
Election of 1928
Al Smith (D) – Catholic and a wet from
NY vs. Herbert Hoover (R) – brilliant,
professional with wartime service
 Business and conservatism wins
 There is a fear of the pope
 Election began a new political realignment
◦ Some in the Midwest abandon Republicans
due to Coolidge’s insensitivity; Democrats
begin to carry the biggest cities
Herbert Hoover’s Social Thought
Hoover did not believe in cutthroat
capitalism; he sought a more rational
approach, welcoming welfare capitalism
 He encouraged corporate consolidation
and cooperation- some 250 conferences
◦ Supported the 8-hr workday and higher wages
to increases purchasing power
◦ However, his belief was that capitalists would
embrace such policies because of ethics
Cities, Cars, and Consumer Goods
By 1930, 40% of African Americans lived
in cities
 Electricity meant women spent less
time on household chores
 Food prep declined and fresh food was
available all year
 Automobile and all its impact for both
city and farm life; pricing
 Advertising
 Chain and department stores
Soaring Energy Consumption
Electrification and autos impact the nation’s natural
 Electrical use triples; by 1929 20 million cars on the
 Need for oil
◦ U.S. access to Mexican oil
◦ Plays a role in Teapot Dome
◦ Triggered wildcats
Did it help or hurt the conservation movement?
◦ Sierra Club and Audubon Society kick in
◦ Hoover actually create a National Conference on
Outdoor Recreation to set national recreation policies
Mass-produced entertainment
Light reading for diversion
◦ Saturday Evening Post and Reader’s Digest
◦ Book of the Month Clubs and Literary Guilds
◦ NBC formed in 1926, followed by CBS a year laterthis is standardization of radio
◦ Amos ‘n’ Andy
◦ Chaplin, Pickford,Valentino, Jolson, Steamboat Willy
◦ MGM, Warner Brothers, and Columbia
Celebrity Culture
The Jazz Age and Postwar
Crisis of Values