Uncertainty of Everyday Life, 1915-1945 / Edition 1

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The era between the world wars, from the "roaring 20s" to the grim days of the Great Depression, was a time of tremendous change. The United States became an increasingly urban culture as people left their farms to seek work in the cities. Many blacks moved North to escape the violence and racism of a resurgent Ku Klux Klan in the South. And, while life became more comfortable for many Americans during this period, by 1941 only half the population enjoyed the modern conveniences we now take for granted. With improvements in technology and the rise of consumerism (spurred by the new "science" of advertising) the country was expanding in every direction. However, for many Americans, daily life was fraught with uncertainty. Jobs and wages were unpredictable, labor unrest was constant, and savings vanished in the stock market. In this vividly detailed narrative, Harvey Green recounts an era of unprecedented change in American culture and examines the impact of these uncertain times on such aspects of daily life as employment, home life, gender roles, education, religion, and recreation.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The author . . . has filled his exceptionally readable work with minutiae of everyday life, from frozen foods to Superman comics, using these material things to illuminate broader aspects of American culture." —Deborah Hammer, The Library Journal
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this splendid account of our society in this century, Green ( Light of the Home ) traces the minute changes that, as they accumulated, shook the underpinnings of the ``American Way'' of life. He examines the subtle effects of the confusing choices available in the contemporary marketplace (the Model A Ford, by contrast, was available in just one shape and color), and the gradual changes in the labor movement, the work ethic, education, concepts of sex and marriage, the practice of medicine, reading habits, scientific and technological advances, sports and pleasure. Pressed by the plethora of uncertainties these transformations produced, a ``sanitized vision'' of American history ``became a mooring for many Americans,'' yet their idea of the nation as a chosen people in a promised land ``precluded their ability to comprehend that their culture and the world were changing at the very moment they wished--and assumed--history would stop.'' Green's voice is calm and detached, his material is rich and colorful; his approach is original; the impact is powerful. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Aug.)
Library Journal
The author, chief historian at the Strong Museum in Rochester, New York, finds that technological innovation transformed the nation in the 1915-45 period, leading to a growing personal uncertainty in Americans' lives. New methods of production increased consumption; under-consumption and selective prosperity, he argues, led to the Depression. Advertisers worked to persuade consumers that newly created social ills could be cured, but only by using a certain product. Advances in electrical appliances promised the housewife more freedom, but scientific studies questioned the foods she served her family. Green has filled his exceptionally readable work with the minutiae of everyday life, from frozen foods to Superman comics, using these material things to illuminate broader aspects of American culture. This fifth volume in the series will be useful to social and cultural historians.-- Deborah Hammer, Queens Borough P.L., New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781557285980
  • Publisher: University of Arkansas Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 262
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Harvey Green is a professor of history at Northeastern University. His earlier works include The Light of the Home: An Intimate View of Women in Victorian America and Fit for America: Health, Fitness, Sport, and American Society 1830–1940.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Work, Struggle, Intolerance 17
2 Crash 71
3 Houses and Homes 91
4 Growing Up, Going Out, Getting Old 119
5 The Healthy Table and the Healthy Home 155
6 Playing 187
Epilogue 231
Notes 239
Index 253
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