Daily Life in the United States, 1920-1939: Decades of Promise and Pain

By David E. Kyvig | Go to book overview

6

Carrying on Day by Day: Life’s Basics

Routine aspects of life appear at first glance to change very little from day to day or even year to year. People seem to eat, dress, and take care of themselves in much the same way from one generation to the next. Fashions in food and apparel appear to change only superficially and practices of keeping clean even less. Usually only after the passage of considerable time does it become possible to look back and recognize that significant changes have taken place in these routine features of daily life. But while small and slow alterations in mundane matters of life are not as apparent, not to mention as exciting as earth-shaking events or technological revolutions, they are just as much a part of historical transformation. The details of how life’s ordinary practices are conducted help distinguish one historical era from another. In this respect, the 1920s and 1930s are as distinctive as any other time.


CHANGING DAILY LIFE

Sometimes gradually and at other times with surprisingly rapidity, Americans in the 1920s transformed some of the ways in which they carried out their daily lives. Urban growth and technological innovations stirred by the automobile, radio, and cinema brought about many of these changes. Those living in an expanding urban America encountered and embraced change more rapidly than did those in more rural areas. Rural dwellers were not so isolated, however, that they were unaware of developments elsewhere. Indeed awareness of growing differences

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