The land had been overturned in a great speculative
frenzy to make money in an unsustainable wheat market..
.. The rains disappeared—with no sod to hold the earth in
place—the soil calcified and started to blow. Dust clouds
boiled up, ten thousand feet or more in the sky, and rolled
like moving mountains…
—Timothy Egan in The Worst Hard Times
For America and for most of the world, just prior to the First World War, manufacturing enough furniture, appliances, and equipment to serve people’s needs seemed to be the major economic challenge. John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Andrew Carnegie—titans of earlier generations—were confident that whatever they constructed in railroads or produced in oil and steel, Americans would consume. As the nation industrialized, however, conditions changed, and enlarging public demand usurped the challenges of production.
With ever lessening dependence upon hand skills, efforts shifted from production methods toward increasing consumption. It was necessary to convince people that they needed more—larger homes, new inventions, different furniture, this year’s vehicle, appliances, and gadgets of every description. Along with rosy incomes and larger industrial production arose another enterprise—a huge venture with staggering societal impact. That venture was advertising—the planting and promotion of wants in people.