Monday, March 9, 2009

Living It Up in the Roaring Twenties (3)

The radio and the automobile were one of the major consumer products of the 1920s. For many families it was a luxury which they simply felt they could not afford. Without the radio those who lived in the rural areas namely farmers were isolated from all communication from each other and from other parts of the country. As a result of the economical boom, higher wages were paid, profits made and the items that were considered luxuries before the war were able to be purchased. At the end of the day families and friends , would gather around the radio to listen to the nation's most popular nightly comedy radio show, "Amos and Andy." which first aired in 1926. Radio stations began mushrooming all over America, the programs being paid for from advertising.

Now with the purchase of a radio, farm families from even the remotest corners of the country were brought into immediate and daily contact with the rest of the nation. With just a twist of the dial, entertainment, sports, religion, latest news and music could be heard.

Consumer credit was also making it easy for the American population to buy on time, even when they did not have the money. Newer products were continually being produced flooding the buyers market with enticing advertisements that awakened an irresistible urge of "Ooooooh... this I must have." So by the end of the 1920s "nearly half of the American population had purchased automobiles, radios, and other consumer goods such as refrigerators and vacuum cleaners.

"In 1925, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) released statistics indicating that of the 26,000,000 homes in the United States, 5,000,000, or 19.2 percent, had radio receivers, though the number of broadcast listeners was estimated at 20,000,000. In his Historical Dictionary of the 1920s (1988), James S. Olson notes that sales of radio went from $60 million in 1922 to $843 million in 1929. It is estimated that by 1929, approximately 35 to 40 percent of American families owned radios, and the number ran considerably higher, in some cases up to 75 percent, in both wealthy suburban and larger metropolitan areas." (4)

Although the radio had its high priority in just about every household as a form of recreation from early morning until far into the night, the automobile revolutionized the use of leisure time. Families were able to leave the surroundings of their homes and partake of sports, beaches, parks, flock to theaters, and visit amusement areas. The automobile offered families opportunities for travel all over the country.

To be continued: (4)


4. Library of Congress, American Memory; Coolidge-Consumerism, “Radio: A Consumer Product and a Producer of Consumption”



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