History GCSE AQA Unit 3 - The Roaring 20s

Covers -

How and why did the USA achieve prosperity in the 1920s?

Next two sets of revision cards will cover -

How far was the USA a divided society in the 1920s?

Why did the US Stock Exchange collapse in 1929?



  • USA = 'melting pot' of immigrants, mostly from Europe
  • American's loyalties were divided
  • Woodrow Wilson (democratic president) hated the idea of war
  • 1914 - start of WW1, America = neutral
  • HOWEVER, in 1917 USA enter war in defense of its own shipping
  • Took a long time training troops - so only joined the Western Front in summer 1918
  • Over 100,000 Americans were killed
  • Media glamorised the troops time at war and praised them greatly
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American Refusal to joining the League of Nations

  • Wilson commited to USA playing a leading role in Europe and the League
  • USA mood changing - want to end entanglements in Europe
  • Republic party strongly against Wilson's idea
  • Wilson then went on a speaking tour to promote the League - then suffers from a stroke, making him semi-invalid
  • Rebulicans now winning
  • March 1920 - not enough votes for the senate to formally ratify the League
  • USA did not join the League
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  • 1920 - President elections
  • Warren Harding won with 61 per cent of votes (largest majority at the time)
  • He promotes regaining 'normalacy' in USA
  • Therefore USA resumed isolation
  • UNTIL August 1921 - USA officially declares war on Germany
  • In 1920s America's relationship with Europe = bad!
  • Victorious countries resented how late America helped
  • USA then sold armaments and food to Britain and France
  • By the end of the war the USA had captured many European markets
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Tariff Policy - Fordney-McCumber Tariff 1922

  • Wilson's policy of encouraging free trade ended - 1922
  • When Fordney-McCumber placed high tariffs on foreign-made goods
  • Therefore USA goods = cheaper
  • This helped American Industry
  • President had the power to change these tariffs if he felt it necessary as he had the support of the people
  • BUT European countries retaliated and placed high tariffs on American made goods
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Mass Production

  • Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Car company in 1903
  • 1909 - made Model T car
  • 1914 - moving assembly line = quicker production and in 1920s - 100,000 model Ts made
  • Prices = down, wages = up
  • Motor industry provided 4 million jobs
  • Industrial production, telephone and canned fruit and veg doubled
  • By 1930 10 large groups controlled 72 per cent of the country's electric power
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Consumer Industries and Advertising

  • Used mass production to provide vacuum cleaners, washing machines, cookers, typewriters and so on
  • Advertising boom = billboards and radio
  • Chain stores such as Woolworths made
  • End of 1920s, 200 corporations owned 20 per cent of the nation's wealth
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Hire Purchase

  • People paid  deposit and paid rest in instalments
  • Easy to borrow money from banks with low interest rates
  • Led to boom in sales
  • Led to demand in Factories
  • = More jobs + higher wages
  • With higher wages people could afford to pay back what they owned
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Share Purchase; the Stock Market boom - Part 1

  • Companies could sell shares on the Stock Exchange to raise money for investment
  • Wanted to sell them at higher price to gain money
  • In 1920s share prices went up by around 300 per cent
  • Normal Americans saw this as an easy way to make money
    • Some borrowed money to buy the shares as they were that confident
  • Banks loaned money using the borrower's house as guarantee
  • Banks loaned more than what they had
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Share Purchase; the Stock Market boom - Part 2

  • Government encouraged this with low taxes and little interference
  • Believed in laissez-faire (business leaders get on with making money) and rugged individualism (individuals responsible for themselves)
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Development in the entertainment industries

  • 1920s - Whites were better off
  • Roaring 20s stimulated by entertainment
  • Jazz was popular - originated frmo black south
  • Allowed black musicians to get respect and admiration
  • Jazz clubs developed
  • 1929, 10 million homes had a radio 
  • Radio stations increased popularity in sport
  • New dances became fashionable - CharlestonTango, Black Bottom; all of these were frowned upon by the older generation
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The Cinema

  • Most glamorous thing at the time was the cinema
  • 1929, 110 million went to the cinema each week
  • Before late 20s films were silent
  • Piano players were used in the cinema to provide the music
  • The first 'talkie' was released in 1927, it was "The Jazz Singer"
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great resource

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