Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

Search Collections
Teaching the American Twenties: Exploring the Decade through Literature and Art


Capital and Labor

American Business

A string of vigorously pro-business presidents and their equally ardent administrations made the Twenties a particularly fertile era for business growth. Indeed, Calvin Coolidge's pro-capital fervor mirrored that of thousands of business and government leaders. "The man who builds a factory," said Coolidge in a January 1925 speech, "builds a temple. The man who works there worships there."

Indeed, many such temples were built. Factories producing everything from sewing machines (which themselves had revolutionized the garment industry) to newfangled gadgets like vacuum cleaners sprung up all over the country. The "Steel Belt" developed across urban centers located on the Great Lakes. The waterways provided easy access for receiving raw materials and shipping out finished goods.

The need for rapid production of tanks and other war machines during World War I had resulted in technological innovation and inspired much of the vigor that characterized 1920s industrial America. After the war, Europe had little energy (or capital) with which to compete with the momentum of American productivity.

High tariff policies, reductions in corporate income taxes, a dramatic decline in the power of the Federal Trade Commission, and the weakening of what little social legislation existed further invigorated industry. With the rise of advertising, "consumer culture," and buying on credit, many Americans craved luxury and enjoyed convenience never before imagined. The time was ripe for giddy stockholders and flush C.E.O.s.

Click Image to Get a Closer Look
Photograph of industry on the Great Lakes
Photograph of industry on the Great Lakes
New York Evening Journal

The new industrial landscape grew on the banks of the Great Lakes. The tractor being loaded onto the Ford-branded freighter could be bound for ports as disparate as Houston or Capetown. It would return with raw materials and component parts to build more...
more information >>

<< previous section | next section >>

Printer-friendly Text