What were California's three largest businesses during the 1920s?

Three of California's largest businesses in the 1920s were the film, agricultural, and oil industries. Los Angeles became a hub for film makers during this time as many studios migrated West and took to the areas temperate climate. This temperate climate also allowed agriculture to flourish, bumping California up as one of the largest producers of crops and dairy. Furthermore, the oil field discoveries throughout California boosted the state's production and sale of oil globally.

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Three of the largest businesses in California during the 1920s were the film, agricultural, and oil industries. The film industry was fast becoming a major sector. Hollywood in Los Angeles, California, became the capital of the industry for a number of reasons. First, the weather was mild year-round, which enabled...

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Three of the largest businesses in California during the 1920s were the film, agricultural, and oil industries. The film industry was fast becoming a major sector. Hollywood in Los Angeles, California, became the capital of the industry for a number of reasons. First, the weather was mild year-round, which enabled studios to produce films on an annual schedule without fear that extreme weather would cause a shut-down in the production schedule. Moreover, film companies had also migrated west in the years leading up to 1920 in order to place a great distance between their studios and Thomas Edison’s Trust, which sought to enforce Edison’s patents. Toward the end of the 1920s, as the industry transitioned from silent films to “talkies,” the film sector experienced even greater growth than it had as the decade opened.

California was then, and remains today, a major agriculture center. This is in part because the same favorable climate that attracted studio heads also makes the state ideal for many crops. Opportunities for migrant workers, as well as for people who dreamed of owning a farm, attracted growing numbers of people to the state in the 1920s. According to the University of California, there were 118,000 farms when the decade opened. That figure had grown to 136,000 by the time the decade closed, leading the farm-based workforce to expand from 261,000 to 332,000. These numbers do not tell the whole story because, as technology and irrigation improved, California farmland became increasingly more productive.

The University of California states that “between 1859 and 1929, the real value of the state’s crop output increased over 25 times.” With its climate and ongoing use of machination, California emerged as a leader in many crops and agriculture areas, including dairy and cotton. For instance, University of California notes that

in 1924 milk production per dairy cow in California was 5,870 lbs., while similar figures for Wisconsin and the United States were 5,280 and 4,167 lbs. respectively.

Oil speculation also attracted tremendous interest during this period. According to NPR, the discovery of oil in 1921 on Signal Hill near the Port of Long Beach helped make Los Angeles “one of the world's major petroleum fields” and notes that it is “difficult to overstate just how much oil was being produced in LA back in the 1920s.”

According to the New York Times, Los Angeles of the 1920s was, "for a brief period," the center of world oil production, reflecting major oil discoveries such as the one noted above at Signal Hill near Long Beach, as well as fields at Huntington Beach, Telegraph Hill and Santa Fe Springs in Orange County. These, according to the New York Times,

made Southern California the world's biggest oil producer. The oil industry became the leading sector of the California economy, and the state was soon responsible for about a quarter of the world's supply.

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