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Activists W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington
Communication and Media in the 1930s
Consumer Products in the 1930s
Entertainment in the 1930s
Fashion in the 1930s
Film-Radio-Dance-TV in the 1930s
Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman
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Consumer Products in the 1930s
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Consumerism Final Essay Aubrey Allen 5-13--2013.docx
Rough Draft Body Paragraphs.docx
By Aubrey Allen and Claire Kinsey
What is Consumerism?
Consumerism is "a movement that promotes the interests of buyers of goods and services" (Time-Life Books 1017).
Optimism is a difficult trait to obtain. It can be hard to find the strength to look at the glass half full, especially when living during one of the most depressing economic times. It was challenging to separate reality from fantasy, the optimistic being the only people to be able to handle reality. The 1930s had many ups and downs and many companies had to lower prices in order to maintain business due to the shortage of money in many families. Consumer products influenced the 1930s by revolutionizing the country and changing life styles.
People go out and buy consumer products on a daily basis varying from food to personal care, electronics to clothing, and luxurious automobiles to celebrity hair care products. Once the Great Depression started, many consumers did not shop educated, plus they needed to escape the harsh the reality. Therefore, a main good “in the 1930s was entertainment”; people often spent money on reading and viewing materials (“Consumerism” par. 3). People also wanted a cheap and easy way to preserve food. For this reason, “retailers responded by revolutionizing the grocery business, turning to canned food and the newly introduced frozen foods to save space and operating expenses” (The 1930s par.3). “During the 1930s, the production of radios was a major economic activity in the Chicago area, which was one of the centers of this new industry” but now we don’t really use radios anymore since so many people have an iPod (Encyclopedia of Chicago par. 3).
International Baccalaureate Traits
The consumer product industry was full of risk-takers. First, you had to find enough workers, and money to even make your product. Then, you have to keep pushing to get it noticed in the market. “National brands like Post, Heinz, Kellogg and Campbell’s were soon recognized by everyone, and these companies spent huge amounts on mass media advertising campaigns”, many of which are still seen in stores today (Young 96-97). However, the only reasons that these companies were such a success is because they took that risk and put so much of their money into this process to get their brand recognized nationally and have it noticed in the future too. In addition, Coca-Cola was a leading producer for soft drinks at the time and “although it never became a best seller, Moxie did challenge Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola in some markets” (Young 117). Moxie did challenge Coca-Cola in some markets, but evidently not enough because they could stay alive as long as Coca-Cola and Pepsi have.
Advertisements promoting consumer products used propaganda techniques such as glittering generalizations Bandwagon or patriotism, and even fear tactics ("Propoganda Techniques" par. 1). In the 1930s, the most menacing threats to the national well-being were bad breath, unpleasant body odors, pyorrhea [inflammation of gums], and poor complexions", which many companies communicated throughout their ads that such
problems would disappear if you purchased their product (Stillman 283). For example the ad on the right states "Romance comes to the girl who guards against cosmetic skin" (Stillman 282). Using a certain product will never guarantee romance, but when companies communicate this idea, consumer demands increase. Also, consumers are the biggest influence on our market economy, so if the consumer themselves do not communicate, than the economy does not prosper. This makes it a duty of the consumer to express the value of consumer safety.
Because of the overwhelming inflation of the economy after the stock market crashed in 1929, the value of money decreased while prices increased, This meant that at a time when the unemployment rate was "more than 30 percent", people could afford
less, therefore needing balance ("Consumerism" par.1). Being balanced is to achieve personal well-being for oneself and others, which many families' goals were to do. Appliances such as an "electric washing machines [cost] 47.95 dollars", being more expensive than an "8 mm movie camera, costing 29.50 dollars" (Time-Life 27). Consumers had to make informed purchases while balancing the needs of themselves and others with their costs. The list on the right shows the prices of commonly purchased items from 1932 to 1934. In addition, producers strive for balance in competition.“Pepsi had taken to bottling their soda in twelve-ounce bottles but continued to charge the same amount, five cents” challenging Coca-Cola’s lead in the market (Young 117). The Coca-Cola company charged five cents for a bottle, but with less ounces, meaning that people were more likely to buy Pepsi products whereas you get more for the same price. Producers needed to not only find a balance with the amount they charged per product, which gave them a profit, but needed to find the appropriate wage amount to pay employees while still being able to make a profit and have promotions.
How Does Consumerism Relate to Present Day?
"Growing demands for domestic apparel and a 25 percent drop in imports" was a result of the Buy American Campaign started by Hearst Jr. and his newspaper company, showing that consumers started to care how and where products were produced (Klein 3). Advertisements made it more patriotic sounding like one was less American if they did not buy more or exclusively American based products. This relates to today's want for limiting the amount of jobs outsourced. In 2011, 2,273,392 jobs were outsourced, 53 percent of them being manufacturer jobs. If there was that push in communication through journalism and propaganda like there was in the 1930s, than their could be a similar reaction. "Buying American became so popular that president Hoover signed it into law as the Buy American Act of 1933", showing how much interest in this idea arose from consumers, and more so consumers shaped a part of the government. Some companies currently promote that their products are 100% manufactured in America, but many still overseas. Using journalism could promote domestic apparel today.
An ad promoting Amerian Apparel in the late 1800s.
In addition, the american diet changed forever when Clarence Birdseye
(1886-1956) discovered that when food was "frozen fast enough, its cellular structure was minimally affected, and its appearance, taste, and texture were not changed" ("Who Made America" par. 3). The depression changed the diet of Americans when "lower food prices and an increasing number of women working outside the home shifted many eating habits to canned and processed foods" ("The 1930s: Business and the Economy:overview" par.3). In 1930 in Springfield, Massachusetts frozen packaged foods were test marketed ("Who Made America" par.4). It still proves to "save space and
operating expenses" ("The 1930s: Business and the Economy:overview" par.3). From this evolutionary idea, America has evolved into a place of processed and packaged foods, frozen and canned. Today, "35.7 adults in America are obese", going to show that consequences come with everything("Adult Obesity Facts" par.1). Today Birdseye is still a thriving frozen vegetable company. He is still known as the inventor of frozen foods. Also, Hostess closed recently in November, 2012, but obviously thrived for awhile because “in 1931, Hostess Twinkies made their first appearance, making a quick cheap, simple snack or even dessert” (Young 102). People were devastated when they found out that hostess was going out of business, who does not want a Twinkie?
How Does Consumerism Relate to To Kill A Mockingbird?
In chapter eleven of To Kill A Mockingbird, it is the day after Jem's twelfth birthday and he wanted to spend his birthday money in the town of Maycomb. He was going to buy something for himself and something for scout, a miniature steam engine and a twirling baton. Scout says "I had long had my eye on that baton: it was at V.J. Elmore's, it was bedecked with sequins and tinsel, it cost seventeen cents" (Lee 100), describing the price, appearance and even a popular store of the time. This gives some insight into the prices then and maybe even
the wants and aspirations of 8 year old girls, Scout saying that it was "then her burning ambition to grow up and twirl with the Maycomb County High School band" (Lee 100). The picture to the left is a an actual V. J. Elmore's Store from the 1950s, being the typical dime-store in the south (Campbell par.1). The blue circle is where it says V.J. Elmore's.
How Does Consumerism Relate to the past?
Consumers' clubs "attempted to educate consumers on how to make better purchasing decisions", trying to aid consumers in appreciating the value of the dollar
(“Consumerism” par. 1). With little affect nationwide a main good became
Entertainment in the 1930s
. Also,with little consumer protection for years to come, a significant event happened. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy gave a speech to Congress outlining four basic consumer rights,
"the right to be informed, the right to safety, the right to choose, and the right to be heard" ("Your Rights as a Consumer" par. 1). The last four were added in 1985 by the United Nations. There is even a World Consumer Rights Day, March 15th. For more information on the evolution of consumer rights and a more detailed overview of all eight please visit
The Consumers' Bill of Rights
1. The right to choose.
This means that competition will continue throughout our free market economy, creating choices for consumers, meaning no monopolies are present in the government.
2. The right to safety.
This means that products will follow certain regulation so no harm is brought to any consumers.
3. The right to be informed.
Consumers can compare products to make the best purchase possible, incorporating Health and Social Education.
4. The right to be heard and the right to voice.
Businesses and Government are expected to respond to the complaints of consumers to make their product more satisfying.
5. The right to redress or remedy.
Complaints will be settled creating satisfaction.
6. The right to environmental health.
Consumers can live and work in safe environments not altered by air pollution from corporations.
7. The right to service.
Basic needs should be available for purchase.
8. The right to consumer education.
Consumers have the right to knowledge.
Health and Social Relationship
Decisions were based off of the health of the economy. Consumerism had an impact on literal health. In 1938, legislation was passed increasing the “oversight power of the Food and Drug Administration” as well as the Federal Trade Commission, which watches over advertising clams and techniques (“Consumerism” par. 5). This was in response to consumers expressing the value of consumer safety. This represents that government accurately reflected Americans when they wanted a change in how safe what they were buying was. Also, many toiletry and cosmetic companies "proclaimed the unmentionable" when advertising for such products (Stillman 283). "Who cares if your gown is beautiful, how's your breath today" is an ad from Listerine Mouthwash, showing how companies went to extreme propaganda usage (Stillman 282). People had to chose whether or not to believe advertisement claims, making informed decisions on whether or not to buy the product. Lastly, a part of Consumer's general believes were in "Vitamin D and in irradiation foods and face creams", showing how consumerism often influences believes and opinions of individuals ("Big Business Creed for its Many Loyal Believers" par. 4).
“Adult Obesity Facts.” US Government. Center for Disease Prevention, n.d. Web. 20 May 2013.
“Big business creed for its many loyal believers.” The Progressive. Dec. 2009: 50. General One File. Web.10 Apr.2013.
Campbel, Joe. "Temple Avenue." Fayette County Alabama. RootsWeb, 08 April 2008. Web. 22 May 2013.
“Consumerism.” Dictionary of American History. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. 14. Apr.2013.
"Ford ads from 1930s "For 1939 two Ford cars with winning ways", 1939 – Adbranch." Adbranch - Evolution of advertising industry. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2013. <
Gerdes, Louise. The 1930s. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press. 200. Print.
“Job Outsourcing Statistics.” Statistic Brain. Sourcing Line Computer Economic, 20 Feb. 2012. Web. 20 May 2013.
Klein, Katharine. “Made in America.” National Museum of American History. Smithsonian, 28 7 2011. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.
Lee, Harper. To Kill A Mockingbird, Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1960. Print.
"Pepsi cola hits the spot - YouTube."YouTube. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2013. <
“Propaganda Techniques.” Reporting America at War. PBS, n.d. Web. 20 May 2013.
Stillman, Edmund O. The American Heritage history of the 20s and 30s. New York: American Heritage Pub. Co, 1970. Print.
"Vintage Coke/ Coca-Cola Advertisements of the 1930s (Page 3)."Vintage Ad Browser. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2013. <
"Vintage Food Advertisements of the 1930s (Page 32)." Vintage Ad Browser. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2013. <
Young, William H. The 1930s. Westport, Conneticut: Greenwood Press, 2002. Print.
“Your Basic Rights as a Consumer.” Consumer Association of Penang. Consumer Association of Penang, n.d. Web. 20 May 2013.
“The 1930s: Buisness and the Economy: Overview” American Decades. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. 14 Apr. 2013.
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