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The New Mass Culture. Objectives… Explain how movies & other vehicles of mass culture created a new national community. Describe how the new media of communication reshaped American culture in the 1920s. Intro. “Roaring Twenties” captured the explosion of sound and images in the era.

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The New Mass Culture

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the new mass culture
The New Mass Culture


Explain how movies & other vehicles of mass culture created a new national community.

Describe how the new media of communication reshaped American culture in the 1920s.

  • “Roaring Twenties” captured the explosion of sound and images in the era.
  • Connects Americans to the new culture of consumption.
  • Celebrity emerges and redefines “normal” and the ideal of “the good life” for all of America.
social norms
Social norms…

A belief or value that is common to members of a particular culture. Social norms are often referred to as “the way we do things around here” and are the standards for appropriate social behaviors. The established norms within a society maybe reflected in dress, language and social habits culture.

movie made america
Movie-Made America
  • Nickelodeons
  • Industry moves to Hollywood
    • Big studios produce longer, more expensive feature films
    • Founded and controlled by European immigrants
  • The studio system based on the industrial principles
    • Combined production, distribution, and exhibition
movie made america1
Movie-Made America
  • New themes
    • Musicals
    • Gangster films
    • Comedies
  • Wall Street Investment
movie made america2
Movie-Made America
  • The cult of celebrity
    • Studio publicity, fan magazines, & gossip columns
    • Mansions, cars, parties, and escapades
    • “liberated” social themes celebrating youth, athleticism, and consumption
    • Influenced dress, hairstyle, speech, and romance
rural america
Rural America
  • Threat to traditional sexual morality
  • Attacked Hollywood’s permissiveness
  • Censorship boards grow
  • Hollywood counters
will hays
Will Hays

President of the Motion Picture Producers & Distributors of America

Midwestern Republican with Protestant respectability

What did Will Hays say about movies and the consumer culture?


Hollywood’s Effect

  • Hays understood the relationship between Hollywood and the growth of consumerism.
  • “Hollywood is the stimulant to trade”
  • November 1920 Presidential election returns
  • KDKA begins nightly broadcasts
  • Sale of cheap WWI radios
  • By 1923, 600 stations and 600,000 radios sold
  • Live music, college lectures, church services, and news and weather reports
  • Links rural America with the larger national community of consumption.
who paid for radio programs
Who paid for radio programs?
  • Radio equipment manufacturers
  • Newspapers
  • Department stores
  • State universities
  • Cities
  • Ethnic societies
  • Labor unions
  • Churches
how did it change
How did it change?
  • By the end of the 20s, commercial, or toll, broadcasting emerges
    • GE
    • Westinghouse
    • RCA (Radio Corporation of America)
    • AT&T (American Telephone & Telegraph)
  • Advertisers pay, consumers listen
  • AT&T leases its lines to create radio networks
    • 1926 NBC (National Broadcasting Co.)
    • 1928 CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System)
radio broadcasting
Radio Broadcasting
  • What was America listening to on the radio?
    • Variety shows hosted by vaudeville comedians
    • “Blackface” minstrel entertainment of The Amos ‘n’ Andy Show (1928)
    • American music
      • C&W, blues, & jazz
    • Baseball & college football
    • 1930 = 600 stations = 12 m homes (40%)
new forms of journalism
New Forms of Journalism
  • Tabloid
    • NY Daily News
    • Convenient to read
    • Photos & illustrations
    • Terse, lively style emphasizing sex, scandal & sports
new forms of journalism1
New Forms of Journalism
  • Spread across US to Chicago, Denver, & LA
  • Audience of millions
    • Poorly educated
    • Working-class, city dwellers
    • 1st or 2nd generation immigrants
  • Gossip column
    • Walter Winchell
    • Secret lives of famous people
new forms of journalism2
New Forms of Journalism
  • Chains
    • Hearst, Gannett, & Scripps-Howard
    • 1930, Hearst controls 14%
    • 1 in 4 Sunday papers is owned by Hearst
    • Standardization contributes to the growth of the national consumer community
advertising modernity
Advertising Modernity
  • Reflects and encourages growing importance of consumerism
  • Follows the success of the CPI
  • Total ad volume jumps $1.4 billion in 1919 to $3 billion in 1929
  • Scientific approach using market research and language of psychology
  • Focus becomes the needs, desires and anxieties of consumer vs. quality of the product
advertising modernity1
Advertising Modernity
  • Advertising celebrated consumption as a positive good!
  • Therapeutic
    • Physical
    • Psychic
    • Emotional well-being
  • Other popular strategies
    • Appeals to nature, medical authority or personal freedom
the phonograph recording industry
The Phonograph & Recording Industry
  • Convenient, permanently grooved disc recordings transformed the popular music business and became a major source of music in the home.
  • Dance crazes like the Charleston
  • 1921 = 200 companies = 2 million records produced = annual sales over $100 million
  • Radio competes for listeners
  • Radio discovers regional and ethnic markets
the phonograph recording industry1
The Phonograph & Recording Industry
  • Americans begin to hear musical styles and performers who were previously isolated from the national limelight.
  • The combo of records and radio started an extraordinary cross-fertilization of American musical styles that continues today.
sports celebrity
Sports & Celebrity
  • Athletes join movie stars in defining the new culture of celebrity.
    • Rich, famous, glamorous, and sometimes rebellious
  • Sports enter a new corporate phase
  • Biggest was baseball
    • “Black Sox” scandal
    • Hero of baseball is Babe Ruth
      • 1920 Boston Red Sox trade him to NY Yankees
      • “The Sultan of Swat”
babe ruth
Babe Ruth

Bigger than life on and off the field

Product endorsement

1927 = 60 HRs

1930 = $80,000.00 salary

baseball monopoly
Baseball monopoly
  • 1922 Supreme Court rules in favor of owners in anti-trust lawsuit giving them absolute control over their players.
  • 1890s’ “gentleman’s agreement” among owners excludes African Americans from the major leagues.
charles lindbergh
Charles Lindbergh
  • 1920 - First to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean
  • NY to Paris in 33 ½ hours
  • A magnetic compass & air speed indicator to guide
  • 100,000 greet him in Paris
amelila earhart
Amelila Earhart
  • 1932 solo flight across Atlantic
  • 1937 disappears trying to fly around world
bobby jones
Bobby Jones

Considered the greatest amateur golfer of modern times.

red grange the galloping ghost
Red Grange - “The Galloping Ghost”
  • 1924 – Ill v. Mich: First 5 carries/ 5 TDs
  • First sport figure with manager
johnny weissmuller greatest aquatic star ever produced in america
Johnny Weissmuller"Greatest Aquatic Star ever produced in America"
  • 1924-28 Olympic Swimmer & Water Polo Player
  • 5 gold medals
  • 1 bronze (Polo)
johnny weissmuller
Johnny Weissmuller
  • Between 1932-1938 he stars in 12 Tarzan films
a new morality
A New Morality?
  • Enduring image of the flapper
    • Young, sexual, bobbed hair, heavy make-up, and short skirt
    • Loved dancing to jazz, smoking cigarettes, and drinking bootleg liquor
nothing new
Nothing new!
  • The flapper was neither as new nor as popular as the image suggests
    • Existed in subcultures on the fringe of society
      • Bohemian – person with artistic or literary interests who disregards conventional standards of behavior.
    • 1920s activities become “norm” for growing middle-class, whites
    • College campuses spread the behaviors quickly
a new morality1
A New Morality?
  • WWI soldiers exposed to sex education
  • New psychological and social theories stress the positive, central role of sex in human experience, i.e., Sigmund Freud
  • Margaret Sanger educates women about birth control
  • Advertisers use sex appeal to sell products
sociological surveys
Sociological surveys
  • Middle-class women using contraception and describing intimate relations in positive terms.
  • Women born after 1900, twice as likely to have premarital sex as those born before 1900.
  • By 1920s, male and female “morals” were becoming more alike.