Aim: what were the main
features of the USA in 1917 ?
Why was the USA so dominant ?
The USA is roughly the same size as Australia but with ten
times the population.
Safe from invasion !
The USA had become the leading industrial
economy by 1917. This was due to:
3. Vast natural resources – virtually self-sufficient.
4. Vast numbers of immigrants – some
13,000,000 between 1900-1913.
5. Technological innovation – pioneering mass
Naples and Ireland.
Ellis Island, then and now.
Henry Ford’s assembly line technique for
Rural poverty. Poor white and
black sharecroppers were
amongst the poorest in the
USA and World War One
The USA entered the war reluctantly in
April 1917 following numerous German
submarine attacks on US shipping and the
interception of the Zimmerman telegram.
• The USA after World War One was
isolationist – they wanted to have little
contact or alliances with other countries.
Why was the USA isolationist ?
• Dislike of the ‘old
• Dangerous ideas…
• US soldiers in the
First World War……
• Isolationism had
always been part
the rest of the
world. The USA
had only joined
the war when
Dislike of the old world
Europe was full
of ideas that
feared such as
They wanted to
be cut off from
USA lost 112,432 men in WW1
They wanted to avoid any future wars !
• Fearing communists, anarchist, and socialists,
America turned against these common
• Raids were executed by the Attorney General
A. Mitchell Palmer who hunted down the
radicals and “reds” in response to fears of a
growing socialist populace in the US.
• On April 15, 1920, two men robbed and
murdered a paymaster and his guard as they
transferred $15,776 from the Slater and
Morrill Shoe factory.
• Three weeks later, Nicola Sacco and
Bartolomeo Vanzetti were accused and
arrested for this crime, despite the little
evidence against them.
• They were convicted, but their appeals
lasted 6 years afterward.
• Both men were executed for their quot;crimes.quot;
• Warren G. Harding was elected to the Presidency
in the 1920s in which he urged a quot;return to
normalcy.quot; (Policies of the “Guilded Age”)
• Generally conservative, especially regarding taxes,
tariffs, immigration restriction, labor rights, and
business regulation. (laissez-faire)
• Harding's administration was marked by corruption
and scandal. (Teapot Dome Scandal)
• Died of a stroke in office in August 1923.
Fordney-McCumbe r Tariff
Unde rwo o d Tariff o f 1913
Republicans wanted to keep a prosperous home
market for American business, so the tariff was raised
When European nations retaliated and raised the
tariffs, all trade was hurt.
• After W.W.I, farmers’ prosperity made a
downfall in selling large amount of
agricultural goods overseas because
Europe was now at peace and they
could grow their own.
• They began to overproduce causing
prices to fall
• The tractor helped to produce even
more agricultural goods and put farmers
• After his death, Calvin Coolidge soon took the
place of Harding, but did little as vice president.
• When he assumed the presidency after Harding's
death, he acted quickly to repair the damage of the
Harding administrations scandals and to secure
the 1924 presidential nomination.
• He was easily elected over Democrat John W.
Davis and Progressive Robert M. La Follette.
• Near the end of his second term, Coolidge decided
not to run for president again and retired from
• His policies included federal tax cuts and high
tariffs, but he lost favor during the Great
• Effect of WWI on technology.
• Scientific management: quot;Taylorismquot;
• Rapid increase in worker productivity
• Psychology of consumption
• Relations between the federal
government and big business
• The 1920s saw the growth of the
culture of consumerism--many
Americans began to work fewer hours,
earn higher salaries, invest in the stock
market, and buy everything from
washing machines to Model T Fords.
• Annual automobile
production rose from 2
million during the 1920s
to 5.5 million in 1929.
• By the late 1920s, there
was one automobile for
every five Americans.
• Mass Production &
Assembly Lines were
improved and became
• Cost-- The price of automobiles
declined steadily until the mid-
1920s so that many well-paid
working families could now afford
to purchase a car.
• Credit-- In 1925, Americans made
75% of all automobile purchases
on the installment plan.
“Possess today and pay
• Motion picture production became one of the ten largest
industries in the United States during the 1920s.
• In 1922, theaters sold 40 million tickets a week.
• By 1929, that number had grown to 100 million a week.
• The first commercial
radio station went on
the air in the 1920s in
• By 1922, 3 million
Yo ung ladie s
Time s S ure cut the ir hair
Do Chang e and be cam e
The y dance d
the Charle sto n
w ith bo bbe d
hair and sho rt
skirts. The y
e ve n w e nt to
“Spe ake asie s
ille gal alco ho l.
• These writers, looking for freedom of thought and
action, changed the face of modern writing. Realistic
and rebellious, they wrote what they wanted and fought
censorship for profanity and sexuality. They
incorporated Freudian ideas into their characters and
• Some Include:
– F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
– Ernest Hemingway - The Sun Also Rises &
A Farewell to Arms
– Sinclair Lewis – Main Street
– William Faulkner - The Sound and the Fury
• Jazz originated in New Orleans and
was brought to northern cities with
migrating Black-Americans who
moved north to get jobs during
• Gave birth to Jazz:
– Handy Morton
– Joseph King Oliver
• Was later picked up by Louis
Armstrong & then by white
• The largest black community in the
world that was inspired in literature,
painting, and music took place in
Harlem of New York City.
• This showed the pride in black
culture and also showed whites that
“New Negro” or Black American
was a full citizen and a social equal
Leaders of Harlem
– Langston Hughes or
“The Poet Laureate of
– Claude Mc Cay
• Musicians & Singers:
– Bessie Smith or
“Empress of the Blues”
– Louis Armstrong
• The 18th Amendment was
implemented by the
Volstead Act in 1919.
• Popular in the Midwest &
• Unpopular in Eastern Cities
• Cause an increase in crime
(fought over Bootleg Trade)
• In 1924, Congress shut down the long
period of unrestricted immigration to
America. (Immigration Act of 1924)
• National-origins quotas set at 2%
• It froze American’s existing racial
• Revival of KKK which was anti-Catholic, anti-Black,
anti-Jewish, anti-pacifist, anti-communist, anti-
• Conservative Reaction against the forces of diversity
and modernism that were changing American culture.
• Manifestation of the intolerance and prejudice plaguing
some Americans of the 1920s
• “Old-time religion” –
literary reading of the
Bible as scripture
• Teaching of Darwinism
evolution prohibited in
• “Monkey Trial” – John
T. Scopes, a biology teacher, was convicted
and fined for $100.00 of teaching evolution to
his students. The fine was later threw out
because of a technicality.
• Having served as secretary of commerce
under both Harding and Coolidge, Hoover was
elected to the presidency in 1928, helped by
the prevailing prosperity in the country.
• Hoover had been in office just a few months
when the Great Depression began.
• In 1932, he lost the presidential election to
Franklin D. Roosevelt.
• When the “Bull” market began to rise, many people
started to buy stock on margin.
• Black Thursday, October 24th, 1929, 13,000,000
shares were sold.
• There was not enough collateral to back up stock
• The next day, October 25th, J.P. Morgan and many
bankers bought huge blocks of shares to stabilize
The Be g inning o f
What was Tho ug ht to be
• On October 29, 1929, 16,400,000 shares
took a downturn for the worse.
• The stock market began to collapse
• Over the next two months, 40 billion
dollars worth of stock disappeared into thin
• The Great Depression soon followed as
thousands of banks closed their doors.