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Daily Life in the United States, 1920-1940: How Americans Lived Through the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression [Paperback]

by David E. Kyvig
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 30, 2004 1566635845 978-1566635844
The twenties and thirties witnessed dramatic changes in American life: increasing urbanization, technological innovation, cultural upheaval, and economic disaster. In this fascinating book, the prize-winning historian David E. Kyvig describes everyday life in these decades, when automobiles and home electricity became commonplace, when radio and the movies became broadly popular.

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Daily Life in the United States, 1920-1940: How Americans Lived Through the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression + Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What were your grandparents doing in the 1920s and '30s? How did they spend their days and how were they affected by the popular culture? What were their work and domestic lives like? These are the questions Kyvig, a Bancroft Prize winner for Explicit and Authentic Acts and Northern Illinois University history professor, explores probingly in his new study. Kyvig covers everything from the development of the small pick-up truck to the spread of country and western music and shifting practices in religion and health care. He delineates how the mass production of cars changed people's buying habits with the introduction of credit, and how battery-powered radios meant rural folks could share the new mass culture with city dwellers. Kyvig also documents the massive impact—most of it negative—of Prohibition, a sign of the federal government's growing impact on people's lives, an impact greatly heightened by the New Deal. In the midst of his quite lucid and readable analysis, the author also touches on race, gender, class and the differences between rural and urban environments. In sum, Kyvig's book represents a penetrating information-packed portrait of Main Street, USA, during tumultuous times. 53 b&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Kyvig—a respected historian . . . writes in an agreeably lucid style . . . about subjects that should be of immediate interest to all readers. (Review Of Higher Education)

Kyvig regularly comes up with illuminating details . . . and new ways of thinking about familiar subjects. . . . This is an unusually satisfying book. (Atlantic Monthly)

The details of work life, domestic life, and leisure activities make engrossing reading . . . on a level we can all understand. (Walla Walla Union Bulletin)

This enjoyable read brings the period clearly into focus. (Forbes)

Virtually encyclopedic in its coverage of a vast array of topics, yet it manages to be readable and engaging. (Ronald E. Butchart University Of Georgia)

David Kyvig’s Daily Life in the United States, 1920–1940 is an excellent social history which examines how 'ordinary people' reacted to the massive changes during what have been called the 'prosperity' and 'depression' decades. (Roger Daniels, Charles Phelps Taft Professor Emeritus of History, University of Cincinnati)

Daily Life in the United States, 1920–1940 is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the origins of contemporary America. (William L. O'Neill, Professor of History, Rutgers University; author of Coming Apart)

In the midst of his quite lucid and readable analysis, the author also touches on race, gender, class and the differences between rural and urban environments. In sum, Kyvig's book represents a penetrating information-packed portrait of Main Street USA, during tumultuous times. (Publishers Weekly)

Stands strong on a bedrock of solid research and clear writing. (Library Journal)

A happy marriage of political and social history. (William E. Leuchtenburg, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, author of The Supreme Court Reborn)

An excellent popular approach to an important subject by a well respected historian. (G. Wesley Johnson, Brigham Young University)

Product Details

  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee (June 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566635845
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566635844
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
58 of 58 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, well-written, and insightful November 9, 2004
The Great Depression is an event that tends to dominate the history of America from 1920-1940, and while it certainly had an impact, this impact was not uniformly felt throughout the country. Other factors helped shape the modern world we live in today, and many of them had their genesis in the period 1920-1940. Music, movies, diet, fashion, where people lived, what they did on dates, and even family planning -- this book covers it all and does so in a way that is easy to read and entertaining. If you think the Depression and Prohibition are all there was to life during this time, then I recommend you pick up this book for a more well-rounded view.
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47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A broad overview laced with fascinating details December 6, 2005
By Amanda
The automobile and electricity are so common in today's society that it is difficult to imagine life without them. It is easy to forget that at one time these things we take for granted were new innovations that altered every aspect of life. In Kyvig's thoughtful examination of American daily life through the 1920s and 1930s, he explores the innovations that changed daily life and the varying speeds at which changes were accepted. He begins his enlightening examination with a discussion of daily life in the 1920s, prior to many of the changes he later discusses. Then he smoothly transitions into a discussion of the technology that completely changed the lives of contemporary Americans in both rural and urban settings, including the automobile, electricity, radio and cinema. Kyvig's clever and insightful portrayal demonstrates the full implications of technology. For example, he shows how the automobile made it possible for people live farther from work, led to the school consolidation movement and changed dating rituals as teenagers ventured farther than their own front porches with their dates for the first time.

His discussion on the Great Depression, however, changes its focus to a discussion of government adminstration and programs, and is not as fascinating or focused on "daily life" of common people as the rest of his book.

This book was enjoyable to read and covered a variety of aspects on the daily lives of Americans, so it would have wide appeal for a number of readers. It is backed by solid scholarly research, and includes fascinating pictures that add to the enjoyment of the narrative. Kyvig has a true talent for writing, and this is apparent through reading his book.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very general, but worth the read May 30, 2005
Daily Life in the United States, 1920-1940, by David E. Kyvig, traces the developments in American culture and lifestyle during this critical period. Using US Census Data, Kyvig calls attention to the demographic changes that occurred over these dynamic twenty years, one of the strong points of this book. Among the technological developments discussed are the automobile, electricity, radio and movies. There are two chapters devoted to the day-to-day aspects of life during that time covering such topics as food, fashion, hygiene, courtship, etc. Kyvig also discusses the impact of the Great Depression, the New Deal and the expanded role of government during that era.

As a former history teacher, this book reminds me strongly of an expanded version of the typical US History chapter covering this time period. It isn't terribly deep, but does provide a solid overview. It is well-written, easy to read, and is a good starting point for people interested in the time period (or for students who need help for a research paper). Those of us who want more detailed information will need to look elsewhere.
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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and easy reading January 30, 2005
The author, whose master work, Explicit and Authentic Acts/Amending the U.S. Constitution, I read with great satisfaction on 6 Feb 1998 and which was a co-winner of the 1997 Bancroft History prize, does in this work a good job discussing the two decades referred to in the title, devoting separate chapters to automobiles, electricity, radio, cinema, culture, and other topics. He discusses these without much foreshadowing, thus taking us into events as they appeared to the people who lived during them, rather than looking at them from the present. I found the book well-done and there is a good bibliography.
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26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not so much daily lives January 3, 2007
My real interest in this book was to learn how ordinary people coped with life in a great depression. What interests me is in finding out how certain parts of society experienced it as I am sure the impact varies greatly.

This book - despite its title - clearly fails to answer this. Sure it tells me some of the reasons around the boom and bust, and some statistics on unemplyment, etc. But what I really wanted was the 'how they lived their lives' aspect that the title and blurb teased me with.

Despite my annoyance, I can't give this a 1 star (which is what it is worth to me) since it is a well written book and covers the topic well.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Book! March 4, 2009
I could not put this book down...certainly was the cause of a few tired mornings at work for keeping me up too late! It covers all the small details of life that most history books never get into. I was fascinated by all the "mundane" aspects of life that the author does a great job of describing in detail. You really get a good sense of what life was like during this time. I highly recommend it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Really Good Review of the Era
A good job of taking the reader back to the troubling days of the pre-depression days, thru the 1940's. Very well documented, and an easy read.
Published 7 days ago by James T. Hammond
5.0 out of 5 stars Great go-to book
This book was required for a class I am taking. It is very informative and a fairly easy read.
The book's focus' deals with the depression and how it affected America.
Published 5 months ago by gene
4.0 out of 5 stars Revolutionay Changes; History is Repeating Itself, but More Rapidly...
Chose book as relating to rapid changes in today's world which are too fast and too complex for this senior. Read more
Published 10 months ago by doris e. attaway
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book
This book was exactly what I was looking for. The author described life in the US from 1920-1940 very well. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in that period.
Published 13 months ago by Virginia A Sharp
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!
Easy to read and interesting, I was reading chapters ahead of where we were in class and continued reading past the required pages. Loved it!
Published 14 months ago by Kylie
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read!
A must read book for anyone interested in this era, a must have for any library collection. An A+ ten-fold
Published 15 months ago by Christopher King
1.0 out of 5 stars Never got the book
I would love to write a good review or even a scathing one, but seeing how I never got the merchandise I can't do either!
Published 15 months ago by Marc Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, quick information
Using this for a work project. Finding it to be a good summary read of trends, examples and social history.
Published 15 months ago by K. Boardman
4.0 out of 5 stars Good (hard to find) details, repetitive
If you are interested in the day-to-day and mundane parts of life from the 20s-40s, this is a good place to start. Read more
Published 17 months ago by cowfeet
2.0 out of 5 stars A Textbook
Although this book is undeniably thoroughly researched, I must agree with some of the other reviewers on here in that this a dry, dull overview of what was a fascinating time. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Fanny's Daddy
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