new industrial research labs - AT&T, GE

DuPont synthetic fiber - 1920s, rayon

1934 Wallace Carothers - nylon.

1920s & 30s age of new materials, plastics - 1935 Plexiglas.

Toys of 1920s – model airplanes, Erector sets;


May 20, 1927 Charles Lindbergh, “Spirit of St. Louis”.

non-stop NY-Paris – solo;

"Lucky Lindy."


Big technological changes actually began back in 19thC - telephone, electricity & automobile; radio, movies;

1919-1929, GNP rose 39%, manufacturing output almost doubled, & corporate profits almost doubled.  Workers wages average 25% higher in 1929 than 1919.

taller skyscrapers. 

1917 20% of US homes electrified; 1940, 90%. 

1924 65,000 mechanical refrigerators; 1934 ten million. 

1910 1 car for every 184 people; 1930 1 car for every 5.


New technology – mass production of culture & entertainment:

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1896 Guglielmo Marconi - Morse code “wireless telegraph”.

“like magic”,

1912 Titanic.

amateur radio fraternity - “listening in.”

exploratory listening, technical skill.

“It’s Great to be a Radio Maniac”:  “Your wits, learning and resourcefulness are matched against the endless perversity of the elements.”

“DXing", pull in far-away stations – “distance fiends” or “DX hounds” - “How far did you hear last night?  A ten year-old girl in Michigan brings in New York, Denver, Atlanta, Dallas, and other distant stations.”

“I can travel over the US and yet remain at home.”

1916 David Sarnoff, “I have in mind a plan of development which would make radio a household utility in the same sense as a piano or phonograph.  The idea is to bring music into the house by wireless.” 

1920, Westinghouse - “KDKA Pittsburgh”.

1922, more than 200 radio stations in US; 1926 almost 700.

“There is radio music in the air every night, everywhere.  Anybody can hear it at home on a receiving set which any boy can put up in an hour.”

Radio craze 1920-1924. Westinghouse 25,000 sets per month.  Listeners did “not sit packed closely, row on row, in stuffy discomfort endured for the delight of the music.  The good wife and I sat there quietly and comfortable alone in … our own home… and drank in the harmony coming three hundred miles to us through the air.”

Early 1920s, programming local – newspapers, colleges, socialists, department stores & ham radio operators; unions, churches;

News - 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial".

NBC 1926, CBS 1927;

1926 World Series

Collier’s: radio would bring “mutual understanding to all sections of the country, unifying our thoughts, ideals, and purposes, making us a strong and well-knit people.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald – 1920s “Jazz Age”.



1800s still photography - daguerrotypes.

George Eastman - 1888 Kodak, first camera for amateurs - "You Press the Button, We Do the Rest".

Edison 1887 patent "kinetoscope" ("moving view") The invention “does for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear, which is the recording and reproducing of things in motion and in… a form… cheap, practical, and convenient.”

“studio” in West Orange, NJ

NY City 1894, kinetoscope parlor.

“automatic vaudeville” or the “penny vaudeville” – “A Busy Day at the Corset Models”.

Louis & August Lumiere - projector.

Edison “Vitascope”.

1896 music hall NY - New York Times “triumph” - films “almost the acme of realism.”

1905, nickelodeons.

1907, 200 nickelodeons Manhattan;

Adolph Zukor, Marcus Loew, William Fox, Harry Warner, and Lewis Selznick.

 “the poor man’s amusement”, “workingman’s theater”.

“leisure revolution”

“If I ever go to Berlin or Paris I will know what the places look like…. I know what a fight in an alley in Stamboul looks like… I know a lot of the pictures are fakes, but what of it?  It costs only five cents.”

1910 26 million people, 30%  pop’n, movies each week. 

1920 fifty million, 15,000 theaters.


- 1920s movie palaces - air-conditioning.

"talking picture" 1927 "The Jazz Singer" - Al Jolson.

1930, over 13,000 theaters sound equipment.

color films 1935, (end 1940s, still only 12% in color);

1920s & 1930s - 100 million tickets per week.


  - 1920s consumer culture - credit financing;

1919-1929, annual production of washing machines doubled, 66% of urban population. 

1920 20% homes had flush toilets, 1930 50%.

75% of radios, 60% cars installment plan. 


Urbanization - 1920s over 50% Americans in cities & towns.


1918-1941, "Machine Age" – new devices, new materials, new environments, new processes. 


1920s prosperity.

1923 Calvin Coolidge "The business of America is business."

Coolidge: government "hands off" approach to business;

Herbert Hoover – government promotion & coordination;

Hoover West Branch IA 1874;

Stanford – mining engineering;

Work Australia, China.

heyday of US engineering;

engineer as expert – key to social improvement – engineers’ responsibility;

age 40, millionaire - the "Great Engineer".    

WWI head of Food Administration

organizing famine relief for Europe, - “Great Humanitarian”.  

Secy Commerce 1921-1928;

over 1000 conferences on ways to cut waste in industry,


Encouraged radio - assigning frequencies. 

promoted aviation, cutting airmail rates, promoting improvement of airports. 

early tests of television.

1928 election - landslide for Hoover & promise of business prosperity.