Life in the Roaring Twenties

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What Was The Impact Of New Technologies In The 1920s

How did technology in the 1920s influence the American lifestyle?

 

Technology in the 1920s influenced the American lifestyle by allowing more time for women in particular to engage in social concerns. With the invention of technologies such as the freezer, vacuum, and washing machine, many women had to spend much less time on domestic tasks. The invention of penicillin also drastically reduced the death rate of infection, giving people a growing sense of confidence in their world.

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In the aftermath of World War I, the United States turned its attention to mass producing goods and greatly expanding its consumer society. New technologies that had been limited before the war began to spread widely afterwards. A chief example is the automobile. Still an elite item before World War I, in the 1920s, Ford's mass production of the affordable Model T brought automobiles into the mainstream. Cars gave people much more power over where they lived and where they went than mass transit had.

Food processing technologies were developed and improved upon during World War I, and these innovations impacted US society in the 1920s with the introduction of foods such as canned pork and beans, kool-Aid, and mass produced jellies and peanut butter. These convenience foods meant that women had to spend less time in the kitchen. The invention of the electric refrigerator in the 1920s also eased the burden on the American housewife.

Radio, developed during World War I, also spread widely as a consumer item during the 1920s. This helped unify a mass consumer culture as people across the country listened to the same songs, news broadcasts, and entertainment shows. Radio is, for example, credited with helping to spread a standard US dialect as people imitated broadcasters' accents.

With cars, telephones, refrigeration, processed food, electricity, and mass communication through radios becoming common, the 1920s for the first time created a consumer culture recognizably like the one we live in today.

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New technologies greatly impacted the culture of the United States in the 1920s. Affordable massed-produced automobiles and light-rail systems allowed Americans to live further away from the urban centers where they worked. This allowed for the creation and proliferation of the suburbs, which would define much of American culture and society for a century.

New technologies also allowed for more mass-produced consumer goods to reach markets in the United States. With this, more Americans could purchase goods and products that would previously have been unaffordable to them. This led to a growth in consumerism and helped to create a more robust middle class. Many of these new technologies were designed to facilitate life inside the home. Better refrigeration, electric cooking devices, improved plumbing technologies, washing machines, and more meant that each suburban household could be relatively self-sufficient.

Technology also helped create a national culture during this time period. Household radios, record players, and cinemas meant that all Americans had access to the same forms and sources of entertainment. This led to the development of new forms of popular culture as different regions of the country began influencing each other's developments. For instance, jazz, which was largely developed into a recognizable genre of music in the 1920s, incorporated musical stylings from several different parts of the United States.

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New technology was quickly shaping American life during the 1920s. There were all kinds of inventions which made domestic chores more convenient for women. The refrigerator with a combination freezer made its way into many American homes, allowing for families to store cold goods for consumption. Pre-packaged frozen food was then marketed as a new way for families to have vegetables on hand for meals. The electric toaster, vacuum cleaner, and washing machine, invented just prior to the 1920s, became more mainstream and were more commonly found in homes. All of these conveniences gave women in particular more time to do things besides prepare for meals and clean up after their families. And women were ready. The 1920s was a period when women became increasingly vocal about the need to improve the social injustices they had faced since the country's origins.

The automobile had been around about a decade, but the 1920s made this invention more readily available to Americans. In fact, Americans purchased 26 million cars and 3 million trucks in the 1920s. This was a great help to rural America, making the world seem a bit smaller and connecting them to other towns and cities with increasing speed. In fact, farmers in particular saw the great benefit of having an automobile available. Famers' lives were again transformed in 1923 with the invention of the bulldozer, giving them the capability to move large spaces of earth with much less effort.

Perhaps the most significant yet under-appreciated development of the 1920s was the invention of penicillin. Although the technology behind the production of this drug would continue to evolve for decades, penicillin greatly reduced the death rate and transformed the outlook for many common illnesses around the world. The effect of this now-common drug is clear in the world wars which preceded its development and which followed it. In World War I, the death rate of bacterial pneumonia was 18 percent. In World War II, this rate dropped to less than 1 percent. This is reflective of the impact of penicillin on general society as well.

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Technology affected American lifestyles in two main ways.

First, it gave Americans more leisure time.  By the 1920s, there were many more labor saving devices, particularly ones that reduced the difficulty of housework.  These gave Americans more time to do things other than simply working.

Second, technology gave Americans more things to do with that newly-found spare time.  The invention of radio and the boom in movies, combined with the growing availability of cars, allowed Americans to pursue a lifestyle that was much more centered around fun than it ever had been before.

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