The following sample essay on American life after World War One showcases the major changes that happened culturally and economically. If you are interested in this topic, check out the blog for even more posts and search the Ultius website for precise topic samples.
What caused World War I?
The Great World War, which is now known as World War One, was a huge war that played a big part on our history. This war has been said to have started over a series of events that exploded into The Great War. WWI was a world conflict that began in 1914 lasting until 1918. Throughout these years there were series of events before and during the war that made impacts on why this war continued on for so long.
Prior to the war in 1907 the Triple Entente was formed also known as the “allies” including Great Britain, France and Russia. Triple Entente formed as a way of choosing sides with the triple Alliance (Germany, Austria, and Hungary) over the. Archduke Franz Ferdinand was heir to the throne of Austro-Hungarian Empire him and his wife were assassinated on by a gunman of the Black Hand Terrorist Group. This was said to have been the first big spark of World War I. Black Hand members stood for Serbia’s freedom from the Austria-Hungary Empire that ruled Serbia as well.
Woodrow Wilson’s Presidency
President Woodrow Wilson was elected for president in 1912, and declared U.S. neutrality right away, trying preventing disrupting trade between U.S. and the Allies. Britain had then formed a naval blockade of Germany forcing him to take sides. In February of 1915 Germany declared all waters around the British Isles a war zone, a policy that was enforced with unrestricted submarine warfare and sunk ships with Americans on board. This was a huge violation of international law.
In May of this year the Germans sank The Lusitania and 128 Americans on board were killed. Even after this event Wilson still remained neutral and “He kept us out of war” became his slogan to facilitate his re-election as President in 1916. It seems though that if America had to choose sides, it would be against Germany. As re-elected president, Wilson continued to try to stay out of war. He made many speeches focusing on “his vision of an end to the war that would bring a just and secure peace”, if the U. S. did get involved. In January of 1917 a telegram was uncovered from Germany to Mexico. Arthur Zimmerman wrote and sent the telegram and basically wanted Mexico to support Germany. If Mexico agreed, Germany stated they would assist Mexico in regaining many lost lands that the United States had taken during the Mexican War.
Here we are in March, 1917. Yet another event brings the Unite States closer to war; the Bolshevik Revolution. The Russian people were not very content with their current leader, Czar Nicholas II. Czar Nicholas II led at least 11 million Russian people into the war. The Russian people had suffered many injuries and loss of life due to the war; the country was ready to revolt against the Czar. After the Czar was dethroned, a Provisional Government was put in place to take over the Czar’s vacancy. This group did not empathize with the common masses of people, the workers and the peasants. Lenin returned from his exile and joined the Bolshevik party which eventually overthrew the Provisional Government.
On April 6, 1917, our country declared war on Germany and its allies. The last straw seemed to be the Zimmerman Telegram. Americans were ready to join in the fight against Germany. Teddy Roosevelt also played a role in the war. He criticized Wilson saying that we needed to get involved because it was inevitable we were going to war with Germany. Interestingly enough, Teddy Roosevelt was also considered an “isolationist”, as well as many American men and women from all areas of American life. It seems the isolationists were opposed to any type of war. In the end, Teddy Roosevelt did support this war.
The Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. Germany suffered greatly on this day. Not only did they have to take full responsibility for the war but also for the damages to those countries attacked by them. They had a war bill of about $31.4 million. Germany was not at all content with such demands of this treaty. They also had to give up a lot of land territory to some of the countries as well. Even though the war had ended, the seeds of another seemed to be on the rise.
The implications of WWI
The First World War had a major impact on the American culture, entertainment, and automobiles. Including the rise of fads, the “Over There Generation”, “Roaring 20s”, leading into the Stock market crash and The Great Depression.
During the war the industry in the United States grew, the government adopted new policies, and the women’s movement progressed. All aspects of America changed during the war and continued to have an effect for years after. Manufacturers sped production up to keep up with the pace of the war. As a result of speeding up production new technologies were needed to provide everything for the government and the people. The more goods produced the more jobs available to the women while men were at war. Needing women for work later assisted the passing of the 19th Amendment. As the production rates were booming so was the economy, unemployed people were holding jobs, making more money than they had since the recession of 1897. “Mass production and consumption made post -WWI America the richest nation in the world.”
Once the war started coming to an end soldiers were coming home, which meant the production rates began to drop, and less jobs available for factory workers preceding The Great Depression. Many Americans felt as though it was too hasty of them to have joined the war. “This sentiment caused a new era of diplomacy that include not becoming involved with European conflicts. The diplomacy of America became that unless attacked by a belligerent nation, America would not enter a war any time soon.”
Development of consumer culture
New fads and fashions turned into big business opportunities. Dances crazes, jazz tunes, ballroom dancing all became very popular, along with the tango and the fox trot. Theda Bara, a Silent Movie star was the first “vamp” actress to be on the big screen. “Vaudeville” a genre of variety of entertainment including talents of musicians, dancers, comedians, to museums, acrobats, and freak shows. Movie stars of this genre gained mass appeal with actors Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks. The popular musical writers were Richard Rogers, Cole Porter & George Gershwin.
This became an era known as the “Roaring Twenties” – a boisterous period characterized by rapidly changing lifestyles, financial excesses, and the fast pace of technological progress. “ A middle class economy derived in the roaring twenties from radios, appliances cars, and suburbs. The passing of the nineteenth amendments not only was a law for female rights. But also changed the way women were viewed as a whole. Women became infatuated with the flapper girl image that dominated the early twenties. These were stereotyped as short bobbed hair, straight loose dresses that went to their knees with a dropped waistline; stockings with garters, heavy makeup and long beaded necklaces. This was known as the Flapper Movement. The twenties was a time that people worshipped celebrities although it did not invent the cult of celebrity, it definitely was the first to elevate fame with a status of an industry. Sports were on the rise at this time as well. Babe Ruth become a major idol, and was an extremely loved and popular baseball start Cobb was another baseball player throughout the twenties, and self-confessed racist. Large crowds were attracted to Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen for amateur golf. Jack Dempsey the big boxer at this time was the first heavyweight champion to have fights called on the radio. People were getting recognition and loved by fans.
Related Blog Post: Read about how WWII impacted consumer culture as well.
The automobile and american cultural values
The new automobile culture changed lives for Americans, making them more independent, and mobile. The automobile had before been seen as an item for the rich Americans, after the war Ford came out with a vehicle that was affordable for the average American. By the late twenties these vehicles were everywhere making Americans more mobile than ever. Along with mobility, aviation was the on the rise. At the beginning of the war airplanes were still in their first stage. By the time the war was over planes were more reliable, durable, and easier to facilitate. The planes were stronger being able to capable to carry more weight and travel far distances at speed higher than ever before. Leading to several pilots, grounds, records being set for high speeds and great distances. People who accomplished this were treated as champions. With this being said the war may have made several countries fall, and hurt thousands of people yet still managed to introduce a lot of technologies that we still use and continue to on work improving today.
It is apparent that The Great War sped up the process of developing and producing, giving the people and soldiers what was needed. Once these products stopped being on such high demands people started losing their jobs there was too much, financial meltdown was in process. Late October of 1929 investors started to panic. Stocks that they had purchased at high prices weren’t worth nearly as much as when they were purchased. Stock investors were selling stocks for whatever prices they could get. In just two days the value of companies trading on stock exchange fell 25%. People were on the edge of their seats paying close attention to the news, so scared some killed themselves. “Millions of people from all over the world who owned stocks waited helplessly as stock values crashed.” The vicious cycle of the Stock Market going full speed downhill continued for about three years. A stock market bubble was created a “type of economic bubble taking place in stock markets when market participants drive stock prices above their value in relation to some system of stock valuation.” It would take Roosevelt and the Neal Deal to bring the country back from the financial mess.
A new financial system
The United States banks played a role as well. Banks were financing stock purchases; buyers only needed to put 10% down and the banks financed the balance at 10%-15% interest. It was very to buy stocks and consequently the stock market rose very rapidly in the late 1920’s. However, there was a fatal flaw in this American stock market. In order to make a profit or even break even the stock market itself must grow 10%-15% a year. This was not happening. Needless to say some investors started selling their stock and therefore the stock value fell even more. This caused a panic, more people sold their stocks and prices fell again and again. “By November 1, investors had lost $40 billion, and by November 13, the stock market had lost half of its value.”
The American people were running scared and began to panic (much like 2008). They had lost faith in the future and did not continue to invest or buy. This trickled down to the factories that cut production because people were not buying enough products to keep workers on. People lost their jobs. American’s had lost faith in their own economy. The stock market continued to fail and decline. The United States industrial production fell by half in 1932.Stocks that had been worth $100 were now worth only $ .50! Five thousand American banks collapsed due to over investing in the stock market. These banks tried to call in the loans from Europe but their economies were unstable and too dependent on our banks. The result “A worldwide depression spreading from America and Europe to the rest of the world that was tied into these economies”.
The impact of agriculture
One other factor that needs to be considered was in U. S. agriculture. Our country increased farmland dramatically to meet the demands of the European countries during the war. After the war, the European countries began to recover and did not need as much food production from the United States. We had over production of crops. The price of Grains fell and fell, and the American farmers were losing their farms. The farmers were unable to make their mortgage payments. It seemed as if our agricultural economy was strong but it was in trouble as well.
Several factors led the Great Depression. There was an illusion of prosperity after the first decade of the 1920’s, which was seen, as politically and economically stable. There were new technological products, cars, vacuum cleaners; radios, etc. were mass-produced; talking movies, and more. There was also a rise in American Sports. Baseball became the “national pastime” in the 1920’s. College football became more popular. Stars like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in baseball were heroes of the 1920’s. Boxing also became popular. The entertainment industry grew as well, with live radio broadcasts of events like the World Series. The talking movies progressed and sport stars were now like movie stars, both enjoying the celebrity life.
In conclusion, many factors led to the Great Depression. There were good and bad. The good things, like sports became the center of America and helped people get through the tough years of the depression. This was a crucial part in our history, and played a major part in making America what it is today.