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History

Industry and social change

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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. Why was there a boom and how did it affect society?

Economic boom

America was in a fortunate position as the First World War ended. The war had 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 were technological progress and increased consumer demand. Businesses began to make huge profits.

Industrial production virtually doubled in the 1920s.

Between 1919 and 1920:

  • America's gross national product (GNP) grew from $78 billion to $103 billion.
  • The number of households with a radio rose from 60,000 to 10 million.
  • The number of people filing income tax returns for earnings of more than $1 million a year rose from 65 to 513.
  • The number of airline passengers grew from less than 6000 in 1926, to approximately 173,000 in 1929.

The economic boom affected society. Jobs were easy to find and were better paid than before. There was a clear link between prosperity and social change. For example, as middle-class women became better off they enjoyed greater social freedom - they wore make-up, shorter skirts and smoked in public.

Above all, the motor industry (automobiles) grew rapidly. As the cars poured off the production lines there was a need for more rubber to make tyres, glass for windscreens and leather for seats. The man behind the rise of the motor industry was Henry Ford.

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