Beginning of the Consumer Age

Today we think we are the members in good standing of the ‘consumer age’ but rather it started back with many of your ancestors, grandparents, great aunts and uncles, in the Roaring 1920s. The 1920s were an age of dramatic social and political change. For the first time, more Americans lived in cities than on farms. The nation’s total wealth more than doubled between 1920 and 1929, and this economic growth swept many Americans into an affluent but unfamiliar “consumer society.”

This is part was due to having just been in a major world war and people just wanted to ‘live’, let loose and have a good time. Spending money which many people were now earning good salaries. People’s appearances also changed, no longer the strict full length dresses for women, now the ‘flapper’ style shorter dress, sleeveless and their hair cut short. In fact the idea of comfortable clothes even saw more women wearing trousers. The shorter hair, that was a major change since women had always had the long hair, put into some sort of bun. You might think of your grandmother as a fun loving, carefree 1920s woman, but I bet she was.

Even men’s fashions changed. Men also abandoned highly formal daily attire and even began to wear athletic / sporty clothing for the first time. The style of suits men wear today are still based, for the most part, on those worn in the late 1920s.

Having more automobiles available and affordable was a big part of the new 1920s life, making it a consumer era. In the auto, more people took vacations and trips, something not often done prior to the 1920s.

Your grandparents also now had more household items like vacuums, electric washing machines, electric stoves / ovens and refrigerators making housework easier.

To better understand your ancestors, list those relatives who were age 10 to 50 during the 1920s. See what they were doing during that decade, where they lived and what social events were part of their lives, such as going to the movie theatre. Taking photos was popular because cameras were now affordable. Beauty pageants like Miss America became very big and everyone loved going to dances. This included a the newest activity, marathon dance, which started in 1923 and seeing who could last the longest dancing. 

Look through family albums for photos that might illustration the activities and life of your ancestors during the 1920s. If any alive, make a point to interview them of those ‘consumer years’. This can be a fun activity.

Photos: Fashions of 1920s women, auto traffic and dancing marathons.

Related FamilyTree Blogs:

Cost of Living

Summer of 1925

Phrases and Sayings

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