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Cultural Divisions and the Contradictory Decade. Warren G. Harding. A Response to the 1919 Steel Strike. Mary “Mother” Jones urging on strikers during the 1919 steel strike. Election results 1920: A landslide for the Republicans Harding included talented men in his cabinet

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Election results 1920: A landslide for the


Harding included talented men in his cabinet

Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover

Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes

Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon


Harry M. Daugherty

The Ohio Gang

Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall

Teapot Dome, Wyoming


Although a man of few words, Calvin Coolidge recognized the importance of modern political campaigning.


Revenue Act of 1926

Federal Trade Commission

William Howard Taft – Appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1921

Muller v. Oregon overturned in 1923


Business was the real engine of American internationalism

Businesses took advantage of cheap labor, low tariffs, and easy access to raw materials and markets


Direct U. S. investment abroad doubled during the 1920s – by 1930, the U.S. also led the world in exports

American companies received generous assistance from the federal government

• U. S. government was willing to send in the marines to support U. S. industry

“Coolidge Prosperity”

The businessman had replaced the “statesman, the priest, the philosopher, as the creator of standards of ethics and behavior.” – Stuart Chase


In the 1920s, consumption was now the key to the economy

Between 1920 and 1929 output per person-hour increased by 63 percent

New industries produced labor-saving home appliances such as vacuum cleaners, electric irons, refrigerators, and washing machines

No product was more representative of the mass consumption culture of the 1920s than the automobile

Between 1919 and 1929 the number of cars in the United States went from fewer than 7 million to more than 23 million


Few American farmers experienced the Coolidge Prosperity

Nation’s farm families (22% of the American people in 1920) received 15% of the national income in 1920

1928: Farm families accounted for only 9% of national income

At first glance industrial workers seem to have shared in the decade’s new material abundance

American economy of the 1920s was seriously out of balance


The conditions under which many Americans labored in the 1920s were often obscured by the surface image of general prosperity

1929 – American wage earner had a longer workweek than did his counterpart in other industrialized nations

Had almost no protection against unemployment

Unions suffered in the 1920s

• Once militant labor movement that had led the 1919 strikes had virtually disappeared

• Red Scare had crushed the IWW


Employers used the economic downturn of 1920 and 1921 as an opportunity to reverse labor’s wartime gains

Portrayed union shop contracts as an unpatriotic infringement on American liberties

Launched “open shop” drive

“American Plan”

1920: 5 million union members

1923: 3.6 million union members

Unions failed to regain members when prosperity returned


In industries dominated by a few large companies, employers promoted stable labor relations with relatively high wages, benefits, or employee welfare programs

• Ford’s Five-Dollar Day

• wanted to reduce labor turnover

Company Unions

Prosperity was based principally upon increased productivity resulting from automated, assembly-line manufacturing

The number of person hours worked fell by 7 percent between 1920 and 1929


In 1923 Ford introduced the first moving assembly line, on a conveyor belt, at his automobile plant in Dearborn, Michigan.


Despite prosperity, unemployment continued to be a problem

American Federation of Labor (AFL) leaders grew increasingly cautious

“Yellow-Dog” contracts upheld by Supreme Court

William Green

The disparities of the 1920s made it clear in hindsight that for many the prosperous decade was not so prosperous.