...changed in the 1920’s, although not
everyone approved. Young people adopted
new styles of dress, listened to new kinds of
music, and had more independence of than
African American artists and entertainers of the
Harlem Renaissance reached a wide
audience, helping overcome racial barriers in
Economic Policies of the 1920s
• Coolidge Policy
• Coolidge retained the most
members, Secretary of the
Treasury Andrew Mellon
and Secretary of Commerce
Economic Policies of the 1920s
• Business Principles
• Andrew Mellon applied
business principles to
correct the nation’s budget
deficit, reduce government
debt, and cut taxes. He
established the Bureau of
the Budget and the General
Accounting Office to track
• Mellon argued that if taxes were lower, businesses and
some consumers would spend and invest their extra
money. This would cause the economy to grow, and
Americans would earn more money. The government
would then collect more in taxes. This idea is known today
as supply side economics, or the “trickle-down” theory.
Economic Policies of the 1920s
• At Mellon’s urging, Congress
dramatically reduced tax rates.
• By 1928, Congress had reduced
the income tax rate most
Americans paid to 0.5%, down
• They cut the rate for the
wealthiest Americans to 25%,
down from 73%.
• The federal budget fell from $6.4
billion to less than $3 billion in
Economic Policies of the 1920s
• Hoover’s Beliefs
• Secretary of Commerce
Herbert Hoover wanted
businesses to form
associations to share
information with the federal
government, what he
• He believed this system
would reduce costs and
Trade and Arms Control
• U.S. Policies
• Although it did not join the League of
Nations, the United States became
heavily involved economically with other
nations. Under the Dawes
Plan, American banks loaned money to
German banks so the Germans could
make reparations payments to
European countries instead of defaulting
on the money due. At U.S.
urging, European countries agreed to
accept lower payments from Germany.
This allowed Britain and France to
repay war debts and European
countries to buy American exports.
Peace was maintained through trade.
League of Nations
• After World War I, President
Woodrow Wilson proposed The
League of Nations, an international
organization dedicated to world
peace. The Senate rejected the
treaty that included this proposal.
Isolationists did not believe the
United States should become
involved in the affairs of European
countries. Republican senators
refused to financially support an
international organization. The
League, represented by 42 nations,
had some limited success, but the
absence of the United States was
crucial, as was the founding
principle that it could not use
Trade and Arms Control
• Arms Control
• Despite poor economies, European nations expanded their
navies, which hurt their ability to pay their debts. This led to
• The Washington Conference At this 1921 conference in
Washington, D.C., Secretary of State Charles Hughes proposed
that each nation destroy some warships and halt the building of
new ones for 10 years.
• The Kellogg-Briand Pact This agreement was signed by 15
nations in 1928 to settle disputes by peaceful means instead of
war. It had no binding force but was hailed as a victory for peace.
• The London Naval Treaties In 1930 five naval powers met in
London to reach agreement on the number of warships in their
navies. This created a temporary halt in the arms race until the
Rise of New Industries
• By the 1920’s, the automobile had become part of
American life. A 1925 survey conducted in Muncie,
Indiana, found that 21 out of 26 families who owned cars
did not have bathtubs with running water. As one farm wife
explained, “You can’t ride to town in a bathtub.”
• Increased automobile ownership was just one example of
American’s rising standard of living. Real per capita
earning soared between 1923 and 1929 even as work
hours decreased. In 1923 U.S. Steel cut its daily work shift
from 12 hours to 8 hours. In 1926 Henry Ford cut the
workweek for his employees for six days to five, and farm
machinery company International Harvester instituted an
annual two-week paid vacation for employees.
Mass Production• Large-scale
made more and
the good they
• Ford produced large
numbers of cars with an
assembly line that broke
down building a car into
simple tasks repeated by
workers. Before the
assembly line, building a
car took 12 hours. By 1925
a new car came off the
assembly line every 93
• The moving assembly line divided operations into simple
tasks and cut unnecessary motion to a minimum.
• In 1913 automaker Henry Ford installed the first moving
assembly line at a plant in Highland Park, Michigan.
• The price for a Model T dropped from $490 in 1914 to $295 in 1924. Lower prices
meant higher sales. Workers’ average yearly earnings grew 22 percent during the
1920s. Companies cut shifts to 8 hours. Workers had more money to spend and
more time to spend it. Cars enabled people to live farther from work. Auto
commuters could drive to work from the suburbs.
• You may think that Henry Ford invented the automobile and the assembly line. In
fact, the automobile had actually been invented some 25 years earlier, and the
assembly line had been used during the rise of industry in the late 1800s. Ford
revolutionized the industry by integrating the moving assembly line into the
automobile production process.
• As new industries such as the car industry developed,
other industries rose to supply it. Among these were oil,
rubber, and parts manufacturers.
• Home convenience appliances such as this wringer washing
machine significantly changed the lives of millions of American
• Traditional and time-consuming methods included steps to
wash, rinse, and wring clothes. Each step was done entirely by
hand, and was often physically taxing. “Wash Day”
was, indeed, an all-day affair.
• Machines such as this might run on electricity or a small gas
engine. The machine would automatically agitate the clothes.
• At the end of the wash time, the wet clothes were fed through two
tight rollers operated by a hand crank. This avoided the tiring
process of manually twisting the clothes to wring out the water.
• A chore that took a full day now might take just half a day. The
operator still had to attach and detach hoses, add soap at
appropriate times, as well as add and dump out water.
The Consumer Society
Easy Consumer Credit
• One notable aspect of the economic boom was the growth
of individual borrowing. CREDIT! Credit had been
available before the 1920’s, but most Americans had
considered debt shameful.
• Now attitudes toward debt started changing, as people
began believing in their ability to pay their debts over time.
• Many listened to the sales pitch, “Buy now and pay in easy
installments,” and began to accumulate debt.
• Americans bought 75% of their radios and 60% of their
automobiles on the installment plan. Some started buying
on a credit rate that exceeded their income.
• African Americans and Native Americans were excluded
from the economic boom. Nativism created strong anti-
immigrant feelings among many Americans. Workers in
these groups were offered the lowest-paying, most
dangerous jobs—if they were offered jobs at all. They were
rarely able to take advantage of welfare capitalism or union
• For most farmers, especially those in
the Deep South, the 1920s were
• Increased production of crops
• Tariffs placed on imports created a
backlash against American
agricultural products in foreign
• President Coolidge did not support
farmers. When Congress passed the
McNary-Haugen Bill that allowed
government to purchase surpluses to
support farmers, Coolidge vetoed it.
Unlike the airline industry, farmers
received no government help.
• While the economy prospered in the 1920s, racial
fears and ethnic intolerance grew. The aftermath of
World War I saw prejudice toward Germans and
Communists. Crime and other social problems were
often blamed on immigrants. This led many
Americans to support nativism—the belief that
immigrants threatened the American way of life and
that the United States must take steps to keep its
culture, society, and people safe from outsiders.
Sacco & Vanzetti
• The murder trial of Italian immigrants Nicola Sacco
and Bartolomeo Vanzetti increased anti-immigrant
sentiment. The men, who were anarchists (a person
who believes that there should be no government),
were found guilty and executed despite flimsy
• The Ku Klux Klan, which had sought to terrorize African
Americans in the South after the Civil War, expanded in the
1920s to target Catholics, Jews, immigrants, and other “un-
American” groups. Its goal was to preserve the United
States as a nation they believed belonged to white
• William J. Simmons founded the new Ku Klux Klan in
1915, with a pledge to preserve America’s whites.
• By 1924, membership was close to 4 million as it spread
beyond the south into the North and West.
• Klan membership began to decline in the late
1920’s, mainly due to scandals and power struggles among
• Suffrage Passage of the Nineteenth Amendment led women
to push for social change in other aspects of American life.
For example, changing attitudes toward marriage
emphasized the romance, pleasure, and friendship between
• Social Mores The automobile allowed young people to
socialize in public rather than at home. Shorter “bobbed” hair
and movie-star glamour changed fashion. Women known as
flappers smoked cigarettes, drank liquor, and wore more
• Educated Professionals Increasing numbers of working-class
married women worked to support their families. Single
women entered the workforce to establish financial
independence. Women’s earnings allowed them to become
greater consumers. Women’s colleges encouraged their
students to pursue careers and to challenge traditional ideas
about women’s roles in society.
• While many Americans embraced the new morality, others
did not welcome these changes and feared that the
country was losing its traditional values.
• Many joined a religious movement known as
• Fundamentalists believed the Bible was literally true and
without error. They rejected Charles Darwin’s theory of
evolution (which said that all life forms had developed
from lower forms).
• They embraced creationism (the belief that God created
the world as described in the Bible).
• Temperance Some Americans supported a ban on the sale and
consumption of alcohol. Formed in the 1830s, the American
Temperance Society spearheaded the Temperance Movement—
as it was known—for religious and social reasons.
• Enforcement Failures Passed in 1920, the Eighteenth
Amendment, or Volstead Act, proved very difficult to enforce.
Under the Volstead Act, U.S. Treasury personnel had authority to
enforce the new law, but many Americans ignored it. In cities they
bought alcohol in "speakeasies"; in rural areas, they bought it from
• Organized Crime flourished by smuggling and distributing liquor.
Gangsters such as Al Capone paid off politicians and law
enforcement officials to turn a blind eye to the illegal activity. The
struggle by federal agents to enforce the law was a bloody
one, claiming the lives of more than 70 agents. In 1933 the
Twenty-first Amendment ended Prohibition.
• Listen to this music of the 1920’s
• What strikes you about the music of the era?
• In what ways does jazz music “match up” with or
reflect the more individual, unconventional attitude of
• One of the most influential early modern artists, he was
best known for abstract landscapes and watercolors
depicting cities as living landscapes.
• An artist who was among the first to incorporate
photography into his work, Sheeler emphasized linear
precision in his work.
• A realist painter, Hopper’s work emphasized isolation
across both rural and urban America.
• Mainly known for her naturalistic imagery, O’Keefe
was chiefly responsible for legitimizing American art
across the globe.
• Literature of the 1920s
• Diverse writing styles
• Carl Sandburg – Used poetry to glorify everyday
life and common places
• F. Scott Fitzgerald – Fostered a criticism of upper
• Eugene O’Neill – Wrote to express realism and
• Ernest Hemingway – Developed a literature of the
postwar “Lost Generation”
• Popularity of Movies, Radio, and Sports
• Silent films and “talkies” took the nation by
storm, creating a new breed of celebrity and
• Movie theaters became especially popular in
Southern states like Florida because they
• Popularity of radio broadcasts increased as
several powerful radio broadcasters developed.
• Thanks to the new media technologies, sports
such as baseball became more popular than ever.