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Unit 7

7.7 1920s: Innovations

2 min readjune 1, 2020

Caleb Lagerwey


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.
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Growth of the Consumer Society

New technology and production techniques during the 1920s grew the economy and helped produce more and more consumer goods, or everyday products that normal Americans could and would afford to buy. For example, Henry Ford’s moving assembly line produced the Model T, a car that working class families could afford. 
Other new goods that were increasingly popular and widespread during the 1920s included radios, vacuum cleaners, and refrigerators. Advertisers increasingly began to use modern marketing and psychology to sell items, convincing Americans that they needed a particular item, sometimes by creating new problems their products could solve (e.g., Listerine for the newly invented problem of halitosis, or bad breath 😷). 
If consumers couldn’t afford some of the new goods but still wanted them either for their own sake or to keep up with their neighbors, they could rely on credit (taking out loans), which consumers increasingly used in the 1920s to live beyond their means. This works well as long as the economy keeps chugging along...

Growth of National & Regional Culture

One of the effects of this national consumer culture and inventions like radio and movies was that the US was more united in its culture than ever before. People from coast to coast listened to the same radio shows, wore the same fashions, read the same stories, followed the same celebrities like Charles Lindbergh (airplane flyer) and Babe Ruth (baseball player).
There was also a dark side to spreading culture: Southern racism was exported through racist films like Birth of a Nation (1915). This was a racist film that argued the KKK were the heroes of Reconstruction, saving white women from predatory Blacks. It had a huge effect on American culture and left false and dangerous histories in its wakes. 
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