American Life in the ‘20s

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American Life in the ‘20s

The economy was booming in the 1920s. Both Harding and Coolidge kept government regulation to a minimum, and business flourished. Part of the “roar” in the Roaring Twenties was the growth in the nation’s wealth. The average annual income per person rose more than 35 percent during the period – form $522 to $716. This increase in income gave Americans more money to buy goods and to spend time on leisure activities.

Automobiles had the greatest impact on American life in the 1920s. Henry Ford, who built his first successful automobile in 1896, was determined to make a car that most people could afford. At the Ford Motor Company in Detroit, his dream came true with a car called the Model T. In 1920, Ford produced more than a million automobiles. Each car cost the consumer $335.

To speed up the production and lower the costs and prices, Ford used an assembly line. In an assembly line, the product moves along a conveyor belt across the factory. Workers at various stations add parts as the belt moves past them. Other advances in technology improved life. Once-costly items were now available to many consumers. Some consumers used credit and paid for their purchases through installment-buying. This allowed repaying the amount borrowed in small monthly payments. National advertising also got its start at this time, as a way of helping to promote products.

Many Americans did not share in the prosperity in the 1920s. Railroad workers lost jobs as more people used cars and the power of labor unions decreased from the cuts in regulations by the Coolidge administration. Farmers also suffered terribly. Coolidge believed that it was not the government’s job to help people with social and economic problems. Coolidge refused to help farmers. Because new machinery had been introduced, farmers were producing more food than the nation needed. So food prices were dropping.

  1. Why did the standard of living rise in the 1920s?

  2. How did the use of the assembly line affect factory work?

  3. How does installment buying help the consumer?

  4. Why did railroad workers and farmers suffer in the 1920s?

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