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Collection Calvin Coolidge Papers

Introduction to Prosperity and Thrift

Group of people standing outside the White House.
John Drew, Al Jolson and other prominent actors with President and Mrs. Coolidge, 1924, during a White House event arranged by publicist Edward L. Bernays, National Photo Company Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-111396 (b&w film copy neg.)

The 1920s were a decade of profound social change and intense debate, following World War I and leading up to the Great Depression. This was the first decade in which more Americans lived in cities and town than in rural areas. Americans consumed manufactured goods and pursued recreation as never before. A new modern aesthetic took root. African Americans, women, and others pressed for change and raised their voices against injustices. This was Calvin Coolidge's America. Sworn in as Warren G. Harding's vice president in March 1921, Coolidge ascended to the presidency on Harding's death in August 1923, won the presidential election in November 1924, and left the White House to Herbert Hoover in March 1929, after declining to run for a second full term.

The Library of Congress launched an online portal into this world in 1999, following a major Coolidge symposium the year before. Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929 features short essays that explore the Coolidge administration, prosperity and poverty during the 1920s, the nation's transition to a mass-consumer economy, the growth of merchandising and advertising, the rise of consumer activism, and the role of African Americans in a consumer economy. A companion Guide to People, Organizations, and Topics in Prosperity and Thriftt serves as an essential glossary of individuals and topics important to understanding the era. The essays and guide provide links to an array of digitized primary sources which are as eclectic as the decade itself. Scholars, teachers, students, and the curious will find letters, speeches, pamphlets, photographs, books, magazines, and more, written or created by Americans in the 1920s as they examined their world. Some of these items are from the Calvin Coolidge Papers, now digitized in their entirety. Items are also included from other digital collections at the Library of Congress. Still others have been digitized specifically for this presentation.

This revised presentation of Prosperity and Thrift now forms part of the online Calvin Coolidge Papers, website, with minor edits to the text and updated links. The 1999 version of Prosperity and Thrift can be accessed in its original format External through the Internet Archive.