Prosperity and Thrift Home Page

Guide to People, Organizations, and Topics in Prosperity and Thrift
Index | A-B | C-F | G-L | M | N-R | S-Z

Sanders, Everett (1882-1950)
Everett Sanders succeeded C. Bascom Slemp as one of President Coolidge's private secretaries on March 4, 1925, the beginning of the president's second term. Sanders had served as a Republican congressman from Indiana, but declined to be a candidate for renomination in 1924, becoming instead director of the Speakers' Bureau of the Republican National Committee. As a presidential secretary, he combined personal and professional assignments in work that required great diplomacy and discretion. Sanders was so well regarded that after Coolidge's second term President Hoover appointed him chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Sanders preserved copies of fifty-nine speeches delivered by President Coolidge between June 22, 1925, and February 22, 1929. They are part of the Everett Sanders Papers at the Library of Congress.

Social Science Research
The 1920s witnessed a new reliance on social science research and methodologies. Large-scale studies undertaken by the federal government, philanthropic foundations, and social science research agencies accumulated much economic and social data. These studies established the authority of the social science disciplines and their recognized practitioners.

This digital collection includes selections from two of the most notable government-sponsored studies, Recent Economic Changes in the United States (1929) and Recent Social Trends (1933). These publications document the interrelationships among the social and economic trends of the Coolidge era.

This collection also includes the following reports of business surveys undertaken by the federal government: Retail Store Location (1924), advising merchants on how to select the best business location; National Retail Credit Survey (1930), with information on retail credit patterns for 1925-27; and The Cooperative Movement in the United States in 1925 (Other than Agricultural), a 1927 Bureau of Labor Statistics study dealing with worker-owned businesses. In addition, the collection includes many surveys produced by private organizations and individual researchers, among them (1925), from the Butterick Publishing Company; Spending Ways of a Semi-Skilled Group: A Study of the Incomes and Expenditures of Ninety-Eight Street-Car Men's Families in the San Francisco East Bay Region (1931), from the University of California Heller Committee for Research in Social Economics; An Analysis of Over 3,000,000 Inquiries Received by 98 Firms from 2,339 Magazine Advertisements(1927), by Daniel Starch; and Social and Economic Consequences of Buying on the Instalment Plan(1927), by Wilbur C. Plummer for the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

Social Science Research Council
The Social Science Research Council (SSRC), founded in 1923 by the University of Chicago political scientist Charles E. Merriam, embraced efforts to collect and synthesize social science data in forms useful to business and government. The goal of the SSRC was to enhance the social sciences in the hope that technical expertise could contribute to the management of society. Prominent figures associated with the SSRC included Merriam; the sociologist Robert S. Lynd; the economist Wesley Mitchell, chairman of the President's Research Committee on Social Trends (1929-33); and the psychometrician and economist Beardsley Ruml, director of the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Foundation, a Rockefeller family foundation that led the Carnegie Corporation, the Russell Sage Foundation, and other smaller philanthropies in subsidizing social science research. "Consumption and Leisure as Topics of Social Science Research Council Research", from the Robert S. Lynd Papers, contains SSRC planning documents to which Mitchell and Lynd contributed.

In the 1920s the U.S. Department of Commerce, led by Secretary Herbert Hoover, supervised a large-scale reorganization of its Bureau of Standards. Originally established to test the materials used by the government, the Bureau of Standards was now assigned to help business set standards for product quality. Sizes, packaging materials, weights, ingredients, parts, and processes were increasingly brought into conformity with generally recognized measurements, quality guidelines, and protocols. In order to eliminate wasted time, labor, material, and money, the bureau also promoted the standardization of parts and practices within industries. By the end of the decade, the bureau housed the largest research laboratory in the world, and its Division of Simplified Practice had secured industry support for over one hundred simplified practices that it had developed and recommended. In federal offices as well as in businesses and nonprofit organizations in the 1920s, standardization was an important trend.

Strauss, Samuel (1870-1953)
Samuel Strauss left a family-owned dry-goods and millinery business in Iowa to become a journalist and critic of consumerism. From 1902 to 1910, he was publisher of the New York Globe, and for several years before 1916 he was treasurer of the New York Times. From 1917 until 1925, he wrote and published his own weekly periodical, The Villager, from his home in Katonah, New York, a suburban community in Westchester County. In 1927, two years after it had ceased publication, The Villager was described by the Atlantic Monthly as a "journal of personal philosophy extraordinary in the freshness of its observation."

This digital collection offers selections from The Villager for the years 1923-25. Strauss's essays during this period contain critical observations on President Coolidge and the consumer economy, on shopping and holidays, on department stores, and on Henry Ford. Strauss's signature essay, "'Things Are in the Saddle,'" was published in the November 1924 issue of the Atlantic Monthly (to which Strauss also contributed many articles) as a meditation on materialism. In it Strauss described the excessive emphasis on consumerism in the 1920s as an "empire of things," drawing on Ralph Waldo Emerson's lines to W. H. Channing, "Things are in the saddle, / And ride mankind." Strauss maintained that the nation had been overwhelmed by the ethics of "consumptionism," which he defined as "the science of compelling men to use more and more things."

See also: "Bernays Typescript on the Importance of Samuel Strauss: 1924-- Private Life" (Bernays Papers).

Taylor, Frederick W. (1856-1915)
The prosperity of the 1920s was due in part to the legacy of the efficiency engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor, who is considered to be the father of "scientific management." Taylor set forth the principles of scientific management in 1911 in Principles of Scientific Management and Shop Management. Drawing on his own work as a laborer and foreman at the Midvale Steel Company, Taylor advocated the use of scientific observation to find the "one best way" to accomplish industrial tasks. In a method known as time-motion study the optimal amount of time required to perform a given task was calculated on the basis of the actual time it took a competent worker to do the job as measured by a stop watch. If necessary, the job was then redesigned. Taylor claimed that the most efficient flow of work could be planned and implemented through this sort of management control.

His theories, collectively known as Taylorism, were increasingly influential in the decades leading up to the Coolidge era. By the 1920s they had been incorporated into the standard management practices of many larger shops, offices, and industrial plants. Indeed, Taylorism is often credited with helping to drive the 1920s economy into the production and distribution of goods on a mass scale. Taylor's influence is apparent in the 1920s in industrial and management practices, standardization initiatives, home economics, the Better Homes Movement, and many other areas of the consumer economy.

This collection includes the retrospective June-August 1926 issue of the Bulletin of the Taylor Society, which is wholly devoted to a reprint of Taylor's 1912 testimony regarding scientific management before the U. S. House of Representatives.

Terrell, Mary Church (1863-1954)
Mary Church Terrell was a noted African American educator, author, lecturer, and advocate of rights for blacks and women. As founder and first president of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), Terrell used her position to speak out on lynching, segregation, women's issues, and suffrage. As president of the Women's Republican League and a Coolidge supporter in the 1924 presidential campaign, Terrell also pressed for a position in President Coolidge's administration. She wanted to head what would be called a "colored women's section" in either the Women's Bureau or the Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor. The Coolidge Papers case file "Mary Church Terrell, 1924-25" offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the administration's response to her initiative.

The Thrift Movement
The Thrift Movement was modeled on the virtues represented by the popular image of Benjamin Franklin, whose birthday anniversary on January 17 marked the inception each year of a week-long celebration. Observance of Thrift Week, sponsored by the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), began in 1916 as a way of supporting preparedness efforts leading up to World War I. Thrift Week emphasized the importance of educating children in the habits of saving and wisely using money. In the 1920s the subject of thrift was taught with a sense of urgency in the nation's elementary, vocational, and high schools, even though the need for thrift was less obvious then than during the wartime years. Thrift Week was supported by a broad range of professional and voluntary interests and had the approval of Herbert M. Lord, the director of the U.S. Bureau of the Budget. President Coolidge was also perceived to be a standard-bearer for thrift; to many Americans, he embodied the frugality popularly associated with Benjamin Franklin. His thrift and plain living were underscored in pictures that showed him dressed as a simple New England farmer, and his public image endorsed the notion of prudent saving and spending.

The notion of thrift, and the virtues associated with it, appeared in many areas of American life in the 1920s. The papers of the consumer activist Anna Kelton Wiley contain much material on the subject. Of particular interest are "National Thrift Week in Washington, D.C., 1927", "National Thrift Week in Washington, D.C., 1927-28", and "Homemaker-Consumer Life in Washington, D.C., 1922-23," which includes a "National Thrift Budget Book" published by the Industrial Department of the YMCA International Committee with Benjamin Franklin's image on the cover and a list of "Ten Financial Commandments."

See also: Thrift Education; Being the Report of the National Conference on Thrift Education, Held in Washington, D.C., June 27 and 28, 1924 (1924); and "Thrift-Encouragement, 1923-29" (Coolidge Papers).

Truth-in-Advertising Movement
The advertising industry ranked lower in public opinion than other businesses in the 1920s. Its practitioners were apt to be considered charlatans and hucksters. The Truth-in-Advertising Movement was the industry's attempt at self-regulation. It arose out of efforts by the Associated Advertising Clubs of the World to respond to public fears that advertisers would observe no limits in the claims they made for their products. Critics felt that while certain kinds of consumer deception had been brought under control, others more insidious and basic to the nature of advertising persisted. The ethical goals of self-regulation and truth in advertising allowed members of the advertising industry to present themselves as professionals while also enhancing their credibility with the public. The Associated Advertising Clubs' activities gave rise to the National Better Business Bureau, which replaced the National Vigilance Committee.

See also: Associated Advertising (June 1925); and "Advertisement Exploitation" (Coolidge Papers).

Truth-in-Fabric Legislation
In 1920 and 1924, the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate held hearings on proposed legislation known as the Truth-in-Fabric and Misbranding Bills. These bills would have required that garments and certain other dry goods be marked with a label specifying the fabric's content. Truth-in-fabric legislation was considered necessary because garments were often made out of "shoddy" wool recycled from used garments, which manufacturers then claimed or allowed the consumer to assume was new fiber. (The term "shoddy" originally meant wool of inferior quality, though it has since evolved to signify anything of inferior quality). Supporters of the truth-in-fabric legislation likened its consumer-protection value to that of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Truth in Fabric and Misbranding Bills (1924) is a record of hearings on wool labeling held before the subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Interstate Commerce. Those present at the hearing included Senator Arthur Capper, Republican from Kansas and publisher of Household Magazine, the sponsor of the French-Capper bill, a different "truth-in-fabric" measure; Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Republican from Massachusetts, who at the time was sponsoring more comprehensive misbranding legislation; and Senator James Couzens of Michigan. None of the fabric bills debated in 1924 became law.

See also: "Honest Cloth" (National Consumers League Papers).

Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA)
The Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) was established as a self-help organization by Marcus Garvey (1887-1940) in 1914. One of its major objectives was to promote black pride in the face of racial discrimination. By 1919 the UNIA had at least a million members in over seven hundred branches nationwide. In the 1920s the UNIA provided its members with self-help and self improvement services, including lectures, socials, food assistance, correspondence courses, classes for adults, and death benefits. The UNIA was also a source of start-up assistance for small businesses such as laundries, restaurants, and dry-goods stores. In addition, the organization ran the Black Star Line, a steamship company, and extended its influence through The World, its weekly newspaper.

Under Garvey's leadership the UNIA became a powerful organization with followers in every part of the African American world. Garvey preached a philosophy of racial separatism and advocated resettlement of black Americans in Africa. In 1925, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted him on grounds of defrauding the Black Star line, but he continued to be active in UNIA. In 1927, President Coolidge commuted Garvey's prison sentence to deportation. He died in London in 1940.

See also: "African American Economic Issues" (Coolidge Papers).

Walker, Madam C. J. (1867-1919)
Madam C.J. Walker was the business name of Sarah Breedlowe Walker, a native of St. Louis who invented a hair-care preparation that made her America's wealthiest African American woman and rendered the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company one of the country's leading African American businesses. Skin conditioners and preparations to stimulate the growth of hair and to straighten it were among the consumer products most commonly purchased by African Americans in the early twentieth century. In the first decade of the century, Walker sold her toiletry articles door-to-door in St. Louis. Later her company not only manufactured the preparations but invited readers to apply to become company representatives in their local area, a practice later adopted by the Avon and Mary Kay cosmetic companies.

Mrs. Walker herself was the model for her company's advertisements, which were noted for their images of black female beauty. Before she began marketing her products, most advertisements directed at black consumers used either white models or images of blacks that many African American consumers found objectionable, as The Southern Urban Negro as a Consumer makes clear. Advertisements for Mrs. Walker's skin- and hair-care products commonly appeared in African American publications. The back cover of The Messenger for March 1926 is a full-page promotion of Madam C.J. Walker hair- and skin-care products. The National Urban League periodical Opportunity also carried advertisements for Madam C.J. Walker's chain of beauty culture schools, and the Southern Workman for August 1927 has an article on black businesswomen that mentions Mrs. Walker.

Wiley, Anna K. (1877-1964)
The consumer activist Anna Kelton Wiley was the wife of Dr. Harvey W. Wiley (1844-1930), who had been the prime mover behind passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Law when he was chief chemist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Both Dr. and Mrs. Wiley were leaders in the fight to improve consumer health and safety in food, beverage, and drug products.

Anna Kelton Wiley was president of the Housekeepers' Alliance from 1912 to 1914 and again in 1922. Formed in 1908, the Alliance promoted safety and sanitation for the homemaker-consumer in food, clothing, and other household items. The Alliance also promoted thrift, providing advice on the use and saving of money in the household, and advocated the application of "just weights and measures."

Anna Kelton Wiley was also active in the nationwide Thrift Movement and served as president both of the Washington, D.C., chapter of the National Consumers League (1911-12) and of the American Pure Food League (1933-35).

See also: Selections from the National Consumers League Papers; and Selections from the Anna Kelton Wiley Papers at the Library of Congress.

Wiley, Harvey W. (1844-1930)
Both Harvey Washington Wiley and his wife Anna Kelton Wiley were leaders in the fight to improve consumer health and safety. They had a particular interest in the safety of food, beverages, and drugs. From 1883 to 1912, Dr. Wiley was chief chemist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and in 1906 he became the prime mover behind passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act. After leaving government Harvey Wiley raised dairy cows. He did not cease to be a consumer activist, however, as evinced by his "Letter to President Coolidge on Enforcement of the Pure Food and Drug Laws to Protect Consumers". During the 1920s, he secured an audience for his consumer protection views as director of Good Housekeeping's Bureau of Foods, Sanitation, and Health. "Dr. Wiley's Question-Box," the column in which he responded to letters from consumer-readers, was a regular feature in the magazine.

Index | A-B | C-F | G-L | M | N-R | S-Z

Prosperity and Thrift Home Page