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

By David E. Kyvig | Go to book overview

9

Culture for the Masses: The Standardizing of Daily Life

The conventions of day-to-day and year-to-year existence, together with the new technologies of automobiles, electricity, radio, and cinema, combined to shape the American people’s way of life in the years after World War I. In the 1920s, this manner of living rapidly became more standardized throughout the nation. Neither regional nor class differences entirely disappeared from customary practices, popular aspirations, or the public’s sense of what was proper or tasteful. Increased frequency and variety of communication, however, contributed to a growing uniformity in American culture.


NEW CULTURAL ERA

If we regard culture as the sum of tastes, behaviors, and values that a society embraces in carrying out its daily life, then the period following World War I appears to have been a new cultural era for the United States. An unprecedented ease of communication and travel worked together to stimulate desire for experiences and possessions previously out of sight and generally unknown, if existing at all. Enhanced awareness of what other Americans were actually doing in their daily lives, or at least appeared to be doing, stirred desires to do likewise. Evidence cropped up repeatedly that American activities and aspirations were becoming increasingly similar across the country. Regional and class differences did not disappear, but they began to fade in significance. In their place, more and more signs of a national culture emerged.

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