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[Detail] Vacuum cleaners on display at the J.C. Harding & Co.

Andrew Mellon and America's Economic Policy | American Labor | The American Federation of Labor | Immigration | Advertising | Thrift

Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy provides users an opportunity to examine a variety of source materials (ranging from print ads and books to personal correspondence and short films) as they investigate the mass consumer economy of the 1920s. Materials reflecting the opposing forces of advertising and the promotion of thrift, labor conditions, economic policies, and some immigration concerns of the era allow for a detailed understanding of prevalent concerns and ideas under the Coolidge administration. Before reviewing the collection, users should examine the seven introductory essays in the Special Presentation, "Introduction to Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929." These essays highlight some of the principal themes of the collection and suggest some points of entry into the materials.

1) Andrew Mellon and America's Economic Policy

From 1921 to 1932, Andrew Mellon served as the Secretary of the Treasury for the Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover administrations. His economic policies influenced the prosperity and perils of America’s economy during this era.

A search on Accomplishments of the Coolidge Administration provides Andrew Mellon’s October 17, 1928 press release that highlights Republican accomplishments on behalf of Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover’s 1928 presidential campaign. A search on Mellon yields details of his tax reduction plans as well as opposition to his policies.

You can read a letter sent to Hamilton Kean, the Republican National Committee member from New Jersey, criticizing Mellon’s plan as “satisfactory only to 330,000 taxpayers while it displeased 13,000,000 of the working class.” There is also an article in the February 8, 1928 issue of The New Republic claiming: “The power which Mr. Mellon now exercises is the most sinister single fact in American life.” After reviewing Andrew Mellon’s policies and the subsequent public reaction, consider the following questions.

  • Who benefits from the tax reduction plans?
  • Why does the letter to Hamilton Kean distinguish between “taxpayers” and “the working class”?
  • Why would The New Republic make the preceding statement in 1928 if Mellon had been Secretary of the Treasury since 1921?