Consequences of World War 1 Essay Example

When World War I ended, people naturally celebrated. In their eyes, the worst war so far in history, the one to end all wars, had ended, and they no longer had to fear for their lives. This newly found environment gave birth to hope, freedom, and the Jazz Age. It also brought surprising changes and repercussions to the American economy and population. These changes range from dietary changes to industries shutting down due to lack of demand for their products. Although the end of the 1920s brought about the Great Depression, there were problems regarding unemployment, racism, and working conditions beforehand as a result of the war ending.

Many companies and industries that relied on consumer consumption collapsed after the war due to a decaying amount of demand coupled with an abundant amount of supplies. This caused millions to lose their jobs, homes, and the ability to support their families. In the early 1920s, a sharp drop in food exports from Europe paired with the end of government price support resulted in a two decade long farm bust/agricultural depression. As a result of their income failing, farmers lost their land and

machines. The Republican Party of 1920 did little to support the farmers, leaving them to fend for themselves and their families. In addition to the changing amounts of demand for industries and their products, fashion and the general idea of beauty also evolved during this time. Victorian plumpness was the previous average Americans sense of beauty, but now being thin was in style. As a result, the agricultural depression worsened due to people eating less and with a more varied diet. Farmers

had a hard time supporting this dietary change because fewer products were sold along with having to provide different foods than usual. For example, the use of fabric in clothes quickly replaced the use of cotton. This factor further worsened the agricultural depression because cotton was an economic cornerstone in the South. Now that supply heavily outweighed demand, the prices for cotton dropped dramatically. In 1921, the price of one pound of cotton was 10 cents, a quarter of its value in its previous year. This was one of the main factors as to why a farmer at this time did not make enough income to support themselves or their family (Streissguth 54). Many lost their jobs and moved elsewhere for other work. In 1920, Cleveland had a population of 796,841 and was second in unemployment rates. Cleveland relied on the production of steel and metal industries to keep their economy afloat. The steel industry was one of the first to suffer and one of the last industries to recover. The industry relied on the government/war as its main consumer because of its huge demands for weapons and armor. When the war ended, these factories had to shut down, leaving most of the population unemployed. Pittsburgh was the number one city in unemployment rates for the same reasons. Thousands of residents entered their second year of unemployment in the autumn of 1921 (Klein). This increasing rate of unemployment affected different groups more than others due to prejudice against other races.

Americans started to but did not entirely welcome immigrants and minorities into society, causing them to have a tougher time fending for themselves during the depression of 1921. As a result of decades of growing doubt about the impact of foreign born on American society, Americans lashed out at immigrants and minorities with an aggressive assertion of traditional American culture (Nativism). At first, many foreign speaking towns were smoothly absorbed in cities while colored population quadrupled as a result of war industries pulling them from southern labor. Life was decent for them until jobs grew scarce. Those who were colored were the first dropped or fired from their job. Along with having their resources drained faster than any other group, their habit of dependence sent them to public and private charities for help. Black workers suffered high unemployment rates, making up about 80% of clientele’s for public welfare departments. They strained resources of existing public and private

social welfare organizations. City officials, who were aware of the ratio, but not aware of the disadvantages colored groups suffered from, pressured charities to stop giving them aid. These organizations withstood the pressure and continued to give aid to those in need. Klein notes that public service employment departments and charities proved unable to meet the needs of the unemployed. The difference between supply and demand was too large, causing charities and employment offices to be of little

help to the destitute families (Klein). The lucky ones who could maintain their jobs suffered from its working conditions, causing problems for both employers and laborers.

As a result of the harsh working conditions laborers had to suffer through, strikes to increase quality of life and workers rights were common. In 1920, Filipino sugar-plantation workers called for a strike to improve the conditions listed above. Although the working and living conditions on Hawaiian sugar plantations had always been abysmal, World War I ruined the cost of living for laborers. Workers found little relief and were forced to make attempts to enforce improvements. The members of the

Japanese Federation of Labor (JFL) joined forces with the Filipino Labor Union (FLU) and created the Hawaiian Labor Association (HLA) to raise $600,000 in an attempt to support 8,000 strikers (77% of the entire workforce on Oahu). Their demands included raising wages of workers, overtime pay for holidays and Sundays, improved medical care and recreational facilities, and an 8 week paid maternity leave for women. The Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association (HSPA) resisted worker demands and reacted with brutality. Planters issues 48 hour eviction notices to workers in the midst of an influenza epidemic. They attempted to bribe labor leaders, fermented distrust between Japanese and Filipino workers, and attempted to replace these workers with Hawaiian, Portuguese, and Korean laborers. These replacements receive two to three times the wages that HLA asked for. When the support funds ran dry, planters claimed victory. Although 3 months later they increased wages by 50% and made improvements to worker housing, Japanese workers never constituted a majority of the plantation workforce again. By that time, most had already left the plantations in search for employment elsewhere (Phillips). Simultaneously, the Farmer Labor Party of 1920 emerged from a chaotic convention held in Chicago. This party represented an amalgamation of the Labor Party of Illinois, smaller labor parties, and the remnants of the “Bull Moose” Progressive Party. With support from the Chicago Federation of Labor headquarters, they could call for disarmament, the expansion of civil rights, guarantees to civil liberties, an 8-hour workday, and a 40-hour week nationalization of “all basic industries” (Kutler). Although many of the strikes during this time were unsuccessful, changes that benefitted the laborers and their conditions were successfully put in place by the late 1920s.

Although the end of World War I brought relief to many, its effects rippled through the United States and negatively affected its economy. Much of the population was left unemployed and unable to support themselves after the war. In addition to that, many blacks were a victim of prejudice, leaving them forced to depend on public and private charities to survive. Those who managed to stay employed at the time suffered from harsh working conditions, resulting in strikes demanding more benefits for workers. As years passed, and the late 1920s approached, workers received more benefits and conditions improved. Stock prices rose and the causes of the previous depression were eliminated. Industrial productivity soared due to improvements to electrification, technology, and streamlined systems of production and distribution. It was a Golden year for business where new homes and products were available to consumers and employers made large profits. Due to these factors, John Moody notes that the economic future seemed promising at the time and that this boom seemed stable and would not bust (Rose).


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