Thesis: While some Americans did accumulate debt due to certain credit plans in marketing campaigns, Henry Ford, consumerism in general, and advertising unified Americans in the 1920s through making the novelties of the time available to the masses.

Henry Ford and the Model T: Henry Ford, through various methods, made his cars available to virtually all consumers, whether wealthy or of the working class, promoting unity through a widely increased standard of living.

Why so sucessful?

-Ford’s refinement of the assembly line, a concept seen in use as early as 215 B.C. in China, allowed for highly efficient production.
-One car could be assembled in an hour and a half, which before took over twelve hours
-The assembly line called for workers with less skill, and therefore less pay for their jobs

Shows the influence of Ford has through media

-Because of his rate of production, Ford was able to sell his Model T cars at about $850 (equivalent to $20,000 today), increasing his market (which included his workers, uniting labor and big business in small, temporary way) and setting a new standard to meet in the automotive industry.
-At one point 10% of cars were made by Ford, a record that still holds today
-Because of Ford’s innovations in the auto industry, America now produces upwards of 8 million cars per year, placing among the most productive countries worldwide.

Consumerism: Cars, Radio, and Music: In the 1920s, these novelties were available to vast numbers of people, and unified the U.S. population through nationalized programming.

-In the wake of Ford’s breakthrough, his competitors (Chrysler, Maxwell, etc.) were able to adopt his production methods, raising the production of automobiles from 6 to 27 million in less than ten years.
-While the Model-T focused simply on convinience, other companies added luxuries that appealed to the customer without sacrificing price
-The competition help keep costs down, and by the end of the decade, on average each American family owned a car

-Shortly after the first public broadcast in 1920 (Pittsburgh, PA), Americans lined up to buy radios made by companies such as Roger’s and RCA-by 1930 60% of American families owned a radio.
-Americans began listening to public broadcasts in mass, which ranged from comedies, sporting events (boxing, Dempsey fights), musical shows by the National Symphony Orchestra and other groups (radio ads also flourished).

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Other electronics:
-The radio led to the birth of many modern electronics, including stereo systems, TVs, and other listening devices; its modern equivalent, the TV, is now owned by 99% of American families today, and still broadcasts shows of similar styles/genres and formats.
-In addition to entertainment purposes, the spread of electricity caused a flourish of products for househould convenience

  • Refrigerators
  • Vaccum cleaners
  • Washing Machines
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-The added luxuries allowed middle class to enjoy luxuries they hadn't before had

Advertising/Marketing: While many Americans fell into debt because of the credit plans which emerged from aggressive ad campaigns, advertising in the 1920s nonetheless unified Americans by defining them through name brands.

-The 1920s essentially saw the invention of the celebrity testimonial; immense numbers of posters and radio ads featured famous actors and singers promoting various products.
-Used by large companies to manipulate the masses into buying their products
-As radio grew, advertising grew with it, even prompting complaints concerning the quantity of ads on certain radio channels.
-Advertising allowed large companies to spread their name and become spread across the whole nation
-Coca-Cola is the classic example of 1920s advertising, launching enormous ad campaigns through posters, radio, and other forms of media; this is in large part why the company is world-renowned today.
-Advertising today can be seen on billboards, heard on the radio, and watched on TV; competition is so stiff that a network TV commercial slot for 30 seconds can cost between 80 and 600,000 dollars (not including special sporting events like the Super Bowl).

Effect on society:

  • MIddle-class gained welath and privilages that previously only the wealthy had
  • Supported the growing tendency to urban population
  • Unified the country under name brands and shared privliges