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Demand for the multitude of new products that emerged in the 1920s was pumped up by a new industry, advertising, which developed new methods of enticing buyers to desire new products through new media like the radio. The minstrel-show radio sitcom, Amos n' Andy, became a smash nationwide hit... sponsored by Pepsodent toothpaste. Through such sponsorships, the advertising industry grew in perfect harmony with the emerging industries of mass culture—especially network radio and Hollywood cinema. The emergence of broadcast networks and proliferation of studio-linked movie theaters made possible the development of a robust nationwide mass culture. For the first time, a Detroit factory worker, a San Francisco longshoreman, and a Birmingham domestic could be expected to enjoy the same radio programs and watch the same films... and to smoke the same cigarettes and use the same tooth paste promoted on screen and on the radio.

Rural America: Left Behind by Modernity

However, the prosperity of the 1920s was not universal. In 1920, nearly half the nation's population still resided in rural areas, dependent upon agriculture for survival. And the Roaring Twenties were unkind to America's farmers. The decade began with the end of a period of great prosperity. World War I, by disrupting the agricultural production of much of Europe, had created enormous demand and high prices for farm products throughout the world. Farmers in America, like other areas that hadn't been turned into trench-lined battle zones, increased production accordingly and reaped great profits. However, the war's end allowed the resumption of normal European production, and suddenly the world faced a huge glut of agricultural products, with no market of buyers.

From 1920 to 1921, farm prices fell at a catastrophic rate. The price of wheat, the staple crop of the Great Plains, fell by almost half; the price of cotton, still the lifeblood of the South, fell by three-quarters. Farmers, many of whom had taken out loans to increase acreage and buy efficient new agricultural machines like tractors, suddenly could not make their payments; throughout the decade, farm foreclosures and ruralbank failures increased at an alarming rate. Agricultural incomes remained flat, with rural Americans' wealth falling far behind their urban counterparts. Rural electrificationincreased at a snail's pace, with more than 90 percent of American farms still lacking power into the 1930s. The proportion of farms with access to a telephone actually fell during the Roaring Twenties.