Consumer Culture of the Roaring '20s Mao Matsuo

"Mass advertising, first developed in the late nineteenth century, grew into a huge enterprise essential to the success of the mass-production/mass-consumption economy. Popular new weekday radio programs, for example, were often sponsored by national companies trying to sell laundry detergent and hand soap—hence the term “soap operas.”" - Shi and Tindall

In this era, many ads were targeted towards women, as women in the 1920s purchased 2/3 of consumer goods.

The video above explains how consumerism, which had been a growing concept since the late 19th century, assumed a prominent role in American society in the 1920s in correlation to the changes in perception and identity of the American people.

Above are advertisements from mid to late 1920's. It can be observed that in comparison to advertisements from earlier eras, there is a vibrant array of colors and an increased attention to detail. Advertisements are one of the biggest aspects to consumer culture, as it is a direct connection between the consumer and the industry.

The rise of consumer culture can be attributed to many of the economic and social changes occurring in this period of time. At this point in time, the economy of the United States had started to become heavily reliant on carefree shoppers to keep factory production up and running. The consumption of these produced goods became what could be called a national obsession. This sudden spike in consumer culture was also led by the massive economic changes America had gone through during the World War. American historian Joshua Zeitz explains, "Between 1921 and 1924 the country’s gross national product jumped from $69 billion to $93 billion while aggregate wages rose from roughly $36.4 billion to $51.5 billion. The United States had entered World War I a debtor nation and emerged as Europe’s largest creditor, to the tune of $12.5 billion. From a relative standpoint, America was rich, and it showed." Social changes and the race for wealth also became a strong influence in the consumer culture of the 1920s. Joshua Zeitz states again, "Americans were also able to buy vast quantities of mass-produced glassware, jewelry, clothing, household items, and durable goods, which blurred the distinctions between rich and poor."

"Whereas only 16 percent of American households were electrified in 1912, by the mid-twenties almost two-thirds had electricity. This meant that the average family could replace hours of manual toil and primitive housekeeping with the satisfying hum of the electric vacuum cleaner, the electric refrigerator and freezer, and the automatic washing machine, all of which came into wide use during the twenties. By the end of the 1920s over 12 million American households acquired radio sets. All the while, the number of telephone lines almost doubled, from to 10.5 million in 1915 to 20 million by 1930." -Joshua Zeitz

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