The USA, 1918-41

  • Created by: winnie.d_
  • Created on: 29-12-22 15:45

The economic benefits of WW1

  • selling food and weapons to allied countries
  • huge increase in production and exports which helped drive the economic boom
  • Increased demand - merchandise production process - goods made quickly and cheaply
  • US business gained control over international trade while rivals fought - replacing Germany as world leader is chemical and plastic industries
  • US banks lent billions of dollars to Britain, France and Russia - paid back with interest
  • Europe food shortages - American farmers selling crops for high prices on international market
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Reasons for economic boom

Henry Ford

  • pioneered new methods of production - conveyor belt and the assembly line
  • Time for Model T - 13 hours to 1hr 33 mins
  • Mass production - cost fell - 1914 (850) 1926 (295)
  • The model T was the world's first mass produced car using standardised parts and one colour - black
  • 1925, half world's cars were Model T
  • Other firms copied Ford's mass production
  • stimulated growth of other industries - steel, wood, rubber, petrol
  • stimulated road construction, gas stations and motels and restaurants
  • development of suburbs
  • benefited rural areas - farmers less insolated and more mobile
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Reasons for the economic boom

Hire purchase, advertising, consumerism

  • More money to spend on consumer items
  • Wages up by 25% in the 1920s
  • Craze for household gadgets - consumerism
  • Hire purchase allowed people to buy goods with monthly installments - payment method from car industry - 6/10 cars bought this way
  • Advertising encouraged consumers to spend more money
  • Coca cola upped sales by advertising nationally
  • KDKA - radio used adverts
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Reasons for the economic boom

Popularity of the stock market

  • Investors bought shares in companies and got dividends in return
  • Companies could expand - make more goods
  • people bought shares - industries made more money - shares worth more - make profit in the future
  • Speculating
  • Buying in the margin - borrowing money to buy shares, selling them for profit, repaying loan and keeping rest of money
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Problems in farming

  • govt encouraged farmers to mechanise and modernise - machines, better seeds
  • Result - over production
  • Growing more than can be sold
  • economic decline in Europe after war led to falling sales
  • prohibition - no market for wheat and barley
  • high tariffts on imports to the USA forced other countries to impose - lower demand
  • farming was hit by diseases - boll-weevil on crops
  • Farm income fell 1919 (32b) 1928 (13b)
  • Forced to borrow money - could not keep up with mortagage payments
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The decline of older industries

  • Coal industry - competition from oil, gas and electricity, falling demand from railroad industry, international comp from cheap imports, mechanisation = loss of jobs, mines forced to close
  • The railroad industry - comp from national road network, car ownership, preferred cars, hard to generate profit
  • The textile industry - comp from man-made fibres (rayon), change in women's fashion, shorter dresses, less cloth, no need for wool, cheap imports from abroad, mills forced to shut
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The Leisure Industry

  • 'Nickelodeons' - cheap cinemas where peopkle could watch early films
  • More money to spend on leisure activities


  • Black and white to talkies to two colour films and animations from Walt disney
  • More popular - wider range of films on offer
  • Maintain interest - publicity of film stars and new technology
  • Cinemas - 1910 (8 000) 1930 (303 000)
  • Hollywood - atttractive climate, variety of locations - desert, mountain, river
  • New film companies - MGM, Paramount, Warner Bros
  • 1927 - synchronised sound - 'The Jazz Singer', Al Johnson. Revolutionised film making and silent films were altered with added soundtracks - 'talkies'.
  • Clara Bow - It 1927, It girl because of sex appeal and flapper lifestyle
  • Rudolph Valentino - first male sold as a sex symbol
  • Charlie Chaplin - trademark bowler hat and cane
  • Movies accused of lowering moral standard, sex symbols. 
  • Star lifestyle - wild, affairs, parties
  • 'Hays Code of Practice' - improve image. Oscars 1928.
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The leisure industry


  • From Southern states
  • traditional forms pof black music - blue and ragtime
  • More popular in 1920s - nightclubs and speakeasies
  • Flapper lifestyle and Charleston.
  • Bessie Smith - greatest blues singers of 1920s
  • Older more religious objected to jazz - association with black americans and organised crime - lots played in illegal bars owned by prohibition era gangsters
  • 'Devil's music'
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The leisure industry


  • Slow formal pre WW1 replaced with faster beat jives and rhythmic dances with jazz music.
  • Dance halls became popular - some with live bands
  • Shocked older generation
  • Religious groups banded jazz for lowering moral standard
  • Dances too sexual and nightlife was scandalous.
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The leisure industry


  • Popularity of spectator sports grew - baseball and boxing
  • Tennis and golf professional
  • NFL established
  • Matches broadacast on radio
  • Follow sports teams easier
  • Attendances grew
  • Top playes became stars
  • Babe Ruth - baeball player, powerful hitter and held records for most runs and home runs for many years
  • Gertrude Ederle - first woman to swim the English Channel in 1926
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The leisure industry


  • Over 40 per cent of US homes had a radio
  • most popular forms of entertainment by 1929
  • electrification of America - not just the towns and cities but out into the countryside as well
  • mass production that made radio sets available at reasonable prices - the accessibility of higher purchase meant people could borrow money to buy them
  • The radio enabled people to keep up to date with current affairs and came to replace the newspaper as people's main source of news
  • It allowed people to listen live to sporting fixtures and to hear the new jazz music coming from the clubs of Chicago and New York. By 1930, there were over 600 radio stations across America, the largest being the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) established in 1926
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The leisure industry


  • With radios in so many American homes, advertisers were now able to reach a wider audience.
  • They persuaded:
  • women to spend more money on Max Factor make-up to look more like their favourite film stars
  • people to spend more of their spare time on new hobbies such as photography - Kodak
  • people to buy products they did not really need - Listerine which made people worry about their bad breath!
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The leisure industry


  • By 1929, 23 million Americans owned a motor car.
  • motels, roadside 'fast-food' diners and drive-in cinemas were built
  • people moved to the suburbs as they could drive into town centres to work and shop
  • people could travel to visit friends, or go to the cinema, theatre or sports stadium, even if they lived in isolated rural communities.
  • Driving changed from being an occasional necessity to being a leisure activity.
  • Motor racing became a popular sport.
  • Cars stimulated tourism as people were able to go on day trips and could travel further afield if they wanted to - Florida became a popular tourist destination in this period.
  • Some people blamed the car for making crime easier, and for giving young people too much sexual freedom.
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  • Before the First World War, middle-class and upper-class women led secluded lives:
  • single women had to be accompanied by a chaperone
  • it was considered 'unladylike' to smoke or drink in public.
  • The First World War began to change this for some women
  • 90,000 women enlisted in the US military, serving in supporting roles as office clerks, radio operators, telegraphers, electricians, chemists, accountants, police officers, mail deliverers and nurses.
  • However, when the war ended, women were expected to give up these new jobs and return to their former lives.
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Changing attitudes after WW1

  • showed that they were capable of a much wider range of work.
  • By 1930, 2 million more women were employed than had been in 1920, but many of these jobs were low paid.
  • Women had gradually been gaining the vote on a state by state basis
  • The Nineteenth Amendment, giving all women the vote, was finally passed by Congress in 1919, and came into effect in 1920.
  • The 1920 presidential election was the first election that women across America were all allowed to vote in.
  • In 1925, Miriam Ferguson in Texas and Nellie Taylor Ross in Wyoming became the first elected female state governors.
  • However, by 1930 only thirteen women had been elected to Congress
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  • During the 1920s, younger middle-class and upper-class women began to challenge traditional attitudes towards women
  • They wanted a more independent social life and a more liberal lifestyle for women
  • Women who adopted this new approach were called flappers
  • The influence of jazz culture encouraged chis independent flapper lifestyle, as did flapper role models - movie stars such as Clara Bow and Zelda Fitzgerald
  • A typical flapper:
  • Went out without a chaperone
  • wore make-up and perfume
  • wore short skirts and bright colours
  • cut their hair short - the 'bob' haircut became fashionable
  • smoked and drank in public
  • enjoyed dancing to the new jazz music
  • went to the new jazz clubs and speakeasies
  • They were able to escape traditional roles at home
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Attitudes and policies towards immiration

  • The vast majority of Americans were immigrants
  • Europe, Asia and Mexico
  • Resulting in melting pot of races, languages and cultures
  • 1919 - 40m immigrants
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The 'open door' policy

  • To help colonise the country, the US government had traditionally followed an 'open door' policy
  • made entry into America as easy as possible - key attraction
  • Immigrants entering the country were processed at Ellis Island

Why did people want to come to America

  • To join friends or family who had already emigrated America
  • To join the land of opportunity
  • For a better quality of life
  • To escape the devastation of war-torn europe
  • To avoid a life of poverty
  • To escape religious or political persecution
  • To own land and property
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Demands for the restriction of immigration

  • Many Americans were starting to question the 'open door' policy towards immigration:
  • There was a large increase in the number of poorer immigrants arriving from Eastern Europe (13 million between 1900 and 1914).
  • WW1 -  sharp rise in the number of immigrants escaping poverty and persecution.
  • Felt 'swamped' by the rising number of immigrants.
  • The growth of xenophobia and the perception of an ideal citizen being a WASP led Americans - looked down on
  • Immigrants were seen as poor, illiterate and unable to speak English.
  • The rise of Bolshevism (communism) in Russia following the Revolution of 1917 led to a fear of immigrants bringing communist ideas with them into America
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Government legislation on immigration

  • Increasing pressure was placed upon the US Congress to pass measures to restrict entry into America. Four important measures were introduced, each on stricter than the previous one.

1. 1917 - Literacy Test - Had to pass a literacy test in English. People from Asia banned except Japan.

2. 1921 - Emergency Quota Act - 3% quota based on total population of each ethnic group in 1910.

3. 1924 - National Origins Act - Cut quota to 2% based on 1890 census. More from northern Europe.

4. 1929 - Immigration Act - All immigration restricted to 150 000. No Asian. Northern and western Europe got 85% of places.

  • Immigrants lived in overcrowded slums with orhers from their own country (Little Italy in New York) Low paid jobs w/ long hours. Poverty - became ill and gambling.
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The Palmer Raids

The Palmer Raids and the 'Red Scare'

  • Americans alarmed by Bolshevik Revolution in 1917
  • Feared immigrants would spread communits and anarchist ideas
  • Sedition Act 1918 - illegal to criticise or abuse the US govt
  • April 1919 - bomb planted by anarchists in house of Attorny General, Mitchell Palmer.
  • Such action gave rise to the 'Red scare' - fear that anarchists and communits threatened the USA.
  • The Palmer Raids were organised by Palmer, head if US Department of Justice. 
  • Arrest of over 6000 suspected communists in 36 cities in USA
  • Trade unionists, Jewish and Catholic and black people were targeted.
  • Held for several weeks with no charge and deported.
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The Sacco and Vanzetti case

  • clear instance of racial injustice
  • highlighted unfairness of US justice system
  • 5th May 1920 - two Italien imigrants were arrested and charged with carrying out an armed robbery at a shoe factory in Massachusetts in which two people died.
  • Trial opened in May 1921 - 61 eyewitnesses identified them but defence had 107 who said they were elsewhere at the time
  • Judge Webster Thayer - wanted to find them guilty
  • Both self-confessed anarchists
  • Prosecution focused on their radical beliefs and immigrant status
  • Found guilty
  • Aug 1927 - electric chair
  • Their treatment demonstrates the hysteria of the 'Red Scare'
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Attitudes towards black Americans

1920s saw a growth in radical intolerance against black Americans.

The Jim Crowe Laws

  • 1910, 12m black people lived in America
  • 75% in southern states
  • Slavery abolished in 1860s - white-controlled state govts soon introduced laws to control their freedom
  • JCLaws introduced segregation - schools, parks, hospitals
  • Life for then in south was hard - no vote, no right to devent education, no good jobs and could not marry white Americans
  • Sharecroppers - White landowners paid black workers a share of the profit when crops were sold.
  • 281 were lynched in 1920s.
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Attitudes towards black Americans

The Great Migration

  • Segregation not in northern states
  • many black Americans decided to migrate to industrial cities in the North for a better standard of living and new job.
  • 1916-20 - 1m made trek to northern cities e.g. Chicago, New York, Philadelphia
  • Deamnd for workers while industry boomed - worked in dangerous industries such as steel and car-making. 
  • Women were maids
  • Treated as 2nd class citizens
  • Last to be hired
  • Received low pay
  • Lived in poor neighbourhoods called ghettos - Harlem, NYC
  • More workers - wages fell, made white Americans angry
  • Growing racial tensions resulted in outbreaks of riots in 20 cities in 1919, worst in Chicago and Washington D.C.
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The Ku Klux Klan

Founded after the Civil War, the KK was a racist organisation which aimed to terrorise black Americans in southern states who had just been freed from enslavement.

  • Movement received in 1915 after - Birth of a Nation
  • Membership to WASPs - saw themselves as superior to other races
  • anti-black, Jewish, Catholic, Communist
  • concerns over immigration + Red Scare - membership sharply increased rising in 5m members in 1925.
  • White robes and white hoods - colour symbolising supremacy
  • Klan members carried out lynching, floggings, brandings and kidnapping
  • They terrorised and evoked fear among non-WASPs
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Morals and values - 'Monkey Trial'

1920s saw a growing divide between conservative-minded rural areas and modern urban areas of USA. Rural were more religious - in Bible Belts states, Alabama, Tennessee. Many were Christian fundamentalists - take bible literally.

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