.. ed to a national degree. The radios in thousands of homes linked people in simultaneous enjoyment and excitement (Stevenson 150). According to Stevenson: “.. The mechanical inventions of the day were keeping up with the events. Radio not only reported the events but shaped them.
Radio strengthened a tendency already working to make the people of the United States feel united and whole; for the first time, it seemed as if they could have thoughts and feelings simultaneously. For certain individuals this was comforting and strengthening. It had the effect of making people wish to have simultaneous sensations. ..” (114) “.. There was a tendency upon the part of a whole population to become amused spectators at events.
The hobby of radio listening encouraged the tendency, but the set of mind was a new thing, a feeling that one’s country and one’s self were exempt from unpleasant consequences. What happened happened to other peoples and other individuals, mostly other kinds of countries and individuals. One lived, one lived indeed well, and had a predictable kind of success, and the tragedies and comedies of life were performed as in a show. ..” (154) With the benefits of the radio also came many negative side effects. For example, those who spent a lot of time listening to the radio became very idealistic, and some even experienced difficulties discerning reality from “radio reality”.
As Stevenson quoted, “The hobby of radio listening encouraged a tendency, .., a feeling that one’s country and one’s self were exempt from unpleasant consequences.”, which demonstrated that people of the 1920s only saw the “good” in life and were ignorant of the “bad”. Radio advertisements quickly followed the outburst of radio popularity. And according to Stevenson, radio advertising did not help the American public to become more open-minded. Take the following passage from Stevenson’s The American 1920s: “.. Advertising was false in promising more than the seller delivered to the buyer, but it was false in seeming to be a world to which real life must bring itself to relation. It was false to particular American life and it was false to particular human nature in its blindness, narrowness, its smoothing away of individual corners and all inconvenient or tragic exultations or despairs.
It was so persuasive a surface, so willingly adjusted to by many people that it was like a lowered, limited horizon. Strong emotions and fierce beliefs were stoppered down so that when they burst forth they rushed out with violence and exaggeration. ..” (151) The false advertising of radio advertisements helped to create a sense of ignorance among most Americans towards anything unpleasant. Even though radio had brought the nation together as a whole, it also had the unfortunate side effect of making people of the 1920s more close-minded, ignorant, and disillusioned. Perhaps it was the sense of denial and false-hope created by radio that made America so mentally unprepared for the Great Stock Market Crash and the Great Depression.
The car and the radio were not the only inventions to penetrate into the consumer market. Ford’s methods of mass production and efficiency enabled factories to produce a plethora of diverse consumer appliances ranging from dish-washers to electric toasters. As a result of World War I, production in American factories had been overhauled to accommodate for wartime needs. And after the armistice, these factories had to either mass produce other goods besides munitions or fire workers, so they turned to the world-wide market of consumer goods. American demands for consumer goods sky-rocketed during the 1920s, not only because of post-war demands but of American indulgence in luxury and convenience. The primary reason why Americans bought so many household appliances was to simplify everyday tasks such as dish-washing or cutting grass, so that they could spend more time with their families or on entertainment.
Like the domino effect that took place with the boom of the automobile industry, demand for consumer goods spurred the growth of various other industries and increased demand for labor, which consequently increased worker wages. In fact, wages increased were up 33 percent from prewar periods even after being adjusted for inflation (Gordon and Gordon 86). In order to accommodate for the labor shortages, factories began to mechanize small tasks to cut back on labor requirements. Simple tasks such as packaging and cleaning of parts and tools which were once handled by people were handed over to faster and more efficient machines. The standardization of the assembly line process further increased factory efficiency. Instead of having workers move around to select tools, tools were brought the workers by means of conveyor belts or movable storage units.
The massive resource requirements of factories and household appliances stimulated the growth of utilities industries like never before. Electricity and plumbing became a standard in American homes. As a result of the massive growth of the consumer goods market, the national economy was greatly strengthened, but a harmful side-effect also resulted. The specialization of labor tasks in factories decreased the need for skilled workers, since workers were only required to do a few tasks many times instead of doing many tasks a few times. Scientific advancements during the 1920s was not confined to only industrial technologies, health and medicine advanced greatly during the same time period.
Surprisingly, a post-war interest developed in nutrition, caloric consumption, and physical vitality (Gordon and Gordon 14). This crusade for health was lead primarily by the “Flappers”, liberal and out-going women, of the 1920s. A Flapper was often described as a women who “bobbed her hair, concealed her forehead, flattened her chest, hid her waist, dieted away her hips and kept her legs in plain sight (Noggle 161).” The Flapper’s focus on “dieting away her hips” lead her to increase consumption of vegetables and fruits while decreasing consumption of meats and fats. With the rise in popularity of the Flapper, came a significant change in the dietary habits of Americans as a whole. Coincidentally, the discovery of vitamins and their effects also happened around the same time.
Herbert McLean Evans discovered Vitamin E, and its anti-sterility properties in 1920. Elmer V. McCollum discovered Vitamin D, its presence in cod liver, and its ability to prevent rickets, a skeletal disorder, in 1920. Vitamins A, B, C, K, and various subtypes of each were also discovered during the 1920s. Through radio broadcasts, the public learned of the benefits of consuming foods with high nutritional values, and thus a generation of health fanatics was started. However, this was very ironic because cigarette consumption rose to roughly 43 billion annually (Gordon and Gordon 23) and bootleg liquor became a $3.5 billion a year business during the same time period (Gordon and Gordon 68).
While pursuing a pure goal of excellent health, the American people failed to realize the harm that cigarettes and liquor had wrought upon them. The prosperity that America experienced during the 1920s seemed like it would last forever. There were virtually no signs of economic depression; wages were at an all time high, the Dow Jones Industrial Stock Index never stopped increasing, everyone indulged in luxuries and entertainment, and there was always a general atmosphere of hope and promise for the future. Life was easy and convenient thanks to the many technological advances that took place during the 1920s. Who would have thought that it would all come to an end on October 24, 1929 and that a decade of despair and depression would follow such an age of happiness and prosperity. Bibliography Belmont California: Star Publishing Company, 1981. Bunch, Bryan and Alexander Helkmans The Time Tables of Technology.
New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1993. Gordon, Lois, and Alan Gordon American Chronicle. Tennessee: Kingsport Press, Inc., 1987. Noggle, Burl Into the Twenties. Urbana Chicago Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1974. Sloat, Warren 1929 America Before the Crash. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1979. Stevenson, Elizabeth The American 1920s.
New York: The Macmillan Company, 1962.