America as a Land of Prosperity in the 1920’s is the story of Americans who searched for equality. Yes, for some individuals America was a land of prosperity in the 1920’s. The First World War sparked Americas rise in prosperity. As no fighting took place on American soil there were virtually no reparations to be paid, also America had entered the war late and therefore, had not spent nearly as much money as the big European countries such as France, Britain, and Germany. This left America in a very prosperous position.
Another key reason to Americas rise in prosperity was a man named Henry Ford. Henry Ford was a car producer who thought of the “mass production” method. This method used assembly line techniques, whereby each stage of the car production was carried out by a different team of workers who specialized souly in their specific area. This had a huge impact! The method was introduced in 1913 and by 1929; 26 million cars were registered in the U. S. A compared to only 9 million in 1920. That is an increase of nearly 300% in just 9 years!
However, the benefits of the ford company stretched beyond just the automobile industry during the 1920’s, people also started moving into the cities from the rural areas. In 1920 more than 50% of people lived in the cities which were an increase of more than 50%. Another reason for the rise in prosperity was the introduction of hire-purchase, whereby you put a deposit down on an item that you wanted, and paid installments on that item with interest, so you would pay back more than the price for the item.
High purchases were easy to get and people got into debt without any real planning for the future. In the 1920’s it just seemed to be the case, that if you wanted something, then you got it, this had a major economic impact; somebody had to make what was bought. This was the era before robot technology and work done by laborers. The person who made that product would get paid and he would not save all of the money. He, too, would spend some of it, and someone else; would have to make more items, so he would get paid and so the cycle continued. By the mid-1920’s America was booming.
Sales of items, which were once, were considered a luxury such as radios, cars, and other new-on-the market items had rocketed, as had both the average and the minimum wage. The average annual wage for that decade was $1236. 00, a huge increase. Perhaps the fact that highlights most America’s rise in prosperity is between 1919 and 1929 Americas GNP rose from 72. 4 billion (1919) to 104 billion (1929) which is around a 75% increase. The boom also led to record low unemployment levels. This was due to the growth of many other businesses and the demand for more workers.
The 1920’s also saw the construction of towering skyscraper such as the Chrysler building for the first time. However, not all businesses and cultures shared in this “prosperity”. The farming industry was hit hard, particularly in the south, as some northern farmers found prosperity due to the increase in the demand for fresh fruit as more people could afford, no thanks to the rise in wages. The farmers earned very little money as a result, lived a very poor lifestyle with poor housing; no fresh water and some even faced eviction from their homes.
The farmers did not share in the prosperity mainly because of the loss of the foreign markets. (The Fordney-Mcumber tariff act, put tariffs on imported goods at an all time high causing foreign countries to apply the same tariffs to America) Many blacks did not share in the prosperity either. They were discriminated by the White Americans who claimed they were “polluting their country”. As a result of this, many black people living in slums or “ghettos” as they were named. In 1926 a survey found that there were over 200,000 unemployed black people in the south alone.
America even had its own low-grade facilities for black people and white people to use. For example, white and colored drinking taps with the white drinking tap being of the higher standard. These laws were referred to as Jim Crow laws. But through all the intolerance some black people did do well and did prosper. Black musicians, poets, and politicians emerged. One of the most famous politicians of his time was Marcus Garvey. Garvey was the founder member of the UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association), which encouraged black people. Garvey eventually got deported back to Jamaica for Tax fraud.
Other Immigrants such as Mexicans and Italians also suffered similarly hard times. Millions of immigrants were allowed into America in the 1900’s, where free land and job opportunity became available, but towards the end of the 1920’s this was not so much the case. America was letting more and more immigrants in and it had to stop. They devised a literacy test to bring the numbers down. But problems existed with the immigrants that were already in the country. The number of job opportunities had fallen and the majority of migrants were competing for the lowest paid jobs. This often led to racial tension within the ethnic groups.
So to sum things up, in general America was a land of prosperity, but weather you shared in this prosperity or not depended largely on your ethnic background and location in the country you lived. We’re still faced with a matter of equality today; People with diverse ethnic backgrounds still are not privilege to being treating equal. They continue to find a way to prevail in America regardless of the laws that government themselves make available only for those who seek a higher power or level of authority. Therefore, the question still remain, is America as a Land of Prosperity?
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