Then came World War One. It was like a sharp needle that bursts a balloon. The United States and the Allies won the war against Germany and the Central Powers. But thousands of American troops had died in the European conflict. And many months were taken up by the bitter debate over the peace treaty and the League of Nations.
Most Americans did not want to hear about Europe and international peace organizations any more.
Instead, Americans became more concerned with material things. During World War One, they had lived under many kinds of restrictions. The federal government had controlled railroads, shipping, and industrial production. At the end of the war, these controls were lifted. Industries that had been making war supplies began making products for a peacetime economy.
Wages for most workers in the United States were higher than ever at the beginning of the nineteen twenties. Men and women had enough money to enjoy life more than they had in the past.
Technology made it possible for millions of people to improve their lives. It also caused great changes in American society. Two of the most important new technologies were automobiles and radio.
In the early years of the twentieth century, automobiles were very costly. Each one was built separately by a small team of skilled workers. Most Americans did not have the money to own an automobile.
Then Henry Ford decided to make cars everyone could buy. He built them on an assembly line. Cars were put together, or assembled, as they moved slowly through the factory. Each worker did just one thing to the car before it moved on to the next worker. In this way, the Ford Motor Company could build cars more quickly and easily. And it could sell them for much less money.