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  • Created on: 02-03-13 13:38

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After the First World War, America experienced a massive economic boom, with an
increased demand for American goods and rapid industrial growth.
Brief economic recession at the start of the 1920s
As the decade moved on, the economy boomed and America began the age of consumerism
-Many Americans bought cars, radios, fridges etc.
- Major cities such as New York and Chicago grew rapidly and the building of skyscrapers
like the Empire State Building; seemed to show the self-confidence of American society.
Many Americans wanted to have fun by listening to the new jazz music, or doing the new
dances such as the charleston and the black bottom.
Film stars like Charlie Chaplin and baseball stars like Babe Ruth became very popular.
The emphasis on having fun and spending money has led to the 1920s being called the
Roaring Twenties.
However, for many Americans, the 1920s was a decade of poverty.
- Generally, groups such as African-Americans, women and farmers did not enjoy the
prosperity of the Roaring Twenties.
- More than 60 per cent of Americans lived just below the poverty line.
- Life was particularly hard for African-Americans in the Deep South states where the
majority of black people endured a combination of poverty and racism.
Although some women were able to enjoy more independence and wear the latest fashions,
the reality was that most women were poorly paid and were employed in roles such as
cleaners or waitresses.
Changing role of American women in 1920s ­ time of liberation
1. A result of the work they did during the war.
2. The number of working women increased by 25 per cent.
3. In 1920, all women were given the right to vote.
4. 'Flappers' smoked in public, danced the new dances, and were sexually liberated.
5. Women wore clothing more convenient for activity and stopped wearing long skirts and
6. Divorce was made easier and the number of divorces doubled - women were not content
just to stay at home and put up with bad husbands.
7. But most women were still housewives and were not as free as their men.
America was fortunate as the war did not directly damaged American society and it had led
to increased demand for American goods.
- This resulted in the rapid growth of industry and farming. The economy grew even faster
when the war ended.
The keys to America's economic boom
technological progress
increased consumer demand.
Businesses made huge profits and industrial production virtually doubled in the 1920s.
Between 1919 and 1920:
America's gross national product (GNP) grew from $78 billion to $103 billion.
Many households owned radios

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The number of people filing income tax returns for earnings of more than $1 million a year
rose from 65 to 513.
People began to travel more by aeroplane
Effect on society (Link between prosperity and social change)
Jobs were easy to find
Jobs were better paid than before
Women's behaviour became more free
Motor industries grew rapidly due to Henry Ford
Mass production of cars meant that more raw material industries grew rapidly
- leather for seats, glass for windscreen, and rubber for tyres.…read more

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Social problems
People who were wealthy in America were extremely rich, but few people shared in this
prosperity. Only 5 per cent of the American population owned a third of the wealth, while
42 per cent of the population were living below the poverty line.
Before the First World War, many Americans saw their country as a melting pot in which
people of different nationalities, races and religions could live in harmony.…read more

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Gang leaders such as Al Capone and Bugs Moran battled for control of Chicago's illegal
drinking dens known as speakeasies.
Capone claimed that he was only a businessman, but between 1927 and 1930 more than
500 gangland murders took place.
St Valentine's Day massacre in 1929 when Capone's men killed seven members of his rival
Moran's gang while Capone lay innocently on a beach in Florida.…read more

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Effects of the Depression
Unemployment - 13 million people were out of work.
Industrial production dropped by 45 per cent between 1929-1932.
The entire American banking system reached the brink of collapse.
1929-1932, 5,000 banks went out of business.
Starvation probably caused deaths through illnesses due to lack of nutrition
The Presidential election campaign of November 1932 took place during the most
severe economic depression in American history.…read more

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Some historians have said that failing to deal with unemployment was the biggest
weakness of the New Deal. Criticism of Roosevelt emerged from several directions.
With the 1936 presidential election on the horizon, the New Deal began to change
direction.…read more

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The New Deal was the most expensive government programme in American History ­
some of its projects could be accused of wasting money…read more


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