The Gala

The New "Consumer Society"

Radios and Cars

The Brox Sisters, tuning a radio

With both men and women bringing home paychecks, many Americans had extra money to spend in the 1920s. They spent it on consumer items such as ready-to-wear clothes and home appliances like electric refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, and clothes washing machines. One item in particular that was popularly purchased was the radio. The first commercial radio station in the U.S., Pittsburgh’s KDKA, hit the airwaves in 1920; three years later there were more than 500 stations in the nation. By the end of the 1920s, there were radios in more than 12 million households.

The most important consumer product of the 1920s, however, was the automobile. Low prices (the Ford Model T cost just $260 in 1924) and generous credit made cars affordable luxuries at the beginning of the decade; and by the end, they were practically necessities. In 1929 there was one car on the road for every five Americans. An economy of automobiles was born, with businesses like service stations and motels springing up to meet drivers’ needs. This affected the ability to travel, to do business, and to connect people. The consumer society was literally driving economic decision making in a way like no other time in the history of the US.

Citation

History.com Staff. “The Roaring Twenties.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2010, www.history.com/topics/roaring-twenties.