Henry Ford and the 1920s Economy

Contributor: Sarah Lerdal. Lesson ID: 11142

What kind of car can you get for $290? Would TV be better without commercials? The 1920s saw a boom in production and promotion, partly due to Henry Ford and his Model T. Create your own ad campaign!



learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

  • What do you think makes an advertisement effective?

Check out the advertisements below courtesy of Vintage Ad Browser. Do they below meet your criteria?

Advertising, due to the amount of available goods, really exploded in the 1920s.

As you can see, a society's advertising can tell us a lot about their culture.

What do they value, what is considered "attractive," and which people are influenced, are some things marketers might consider.

Advertisers of the 1920s used psychological research and techniques to encourage people to buy. When looking at 1920s advertising, we can tell there was a consumer revolution, characterized by widespread amounts of products being marketed, that led to a consumer culture.

During the Roaring Twenties, many new, affordable goods became available. The growing accessibility of electricity and the ability to buy with credit stimulated more interest in consumer goods. As consumerism increased in the 1920s, many Americans made a new purchase for the first time — they bought automobiles.

You probably already know something about Henry Ford.

  1. Make a list of everything you can recall about him.
  2. Read bio.com's Henry Ford Biography and History.com's article, Henry Ford. Make sure to watch the short video at the top of the site.

Being the businessman that he was, Henry Ford supported Prohibition. Recall that Prohibition was the time period in America from 1920–1933 when the distribution and sale of alcohol was illegal (Check out the Elephango lesson under Additional Resources in the right-hand sidebar to learn more.).

  • Why do you suppose he liked this ban on alcohol?

Look at your original list of what you know about Ford. Cross off anything that was incorrect, and add any new facts that you learned.

Due to Ford's efficiency with the assembly line, the mass production of the Model T caused its price to go down over time.

In 1908, the Model T first sold for $850, but by 1927, it was $290. This meant that by 1927, 56% of families were able to own a car. View the R&L Time Payment Plan advertisement, courtesy of The Henry Ford, on flickr.

When items are mass produced, it means they are rapidly created, resulting in large numbers of identical products. Imagine going to the grocery store and coming out, just to realize you forgot where you parked.

  • How would you identify which black Ford is yours?

The automobile greatly helped stimulate the economy. Brainstorm and discuss with your teacher or parent all the ways in which building cars would help other sectors of the economy.

  • With the large-scale production of cars, what else would be needed?

If one of the things you guessed was advertising, you are correct! Advertising was a tool used by manufacturers to encourage Americans to buy their products. With the growth of radio, advertisers were more easily able to market and spread their company name.

Henry Ford's products were just one example of an American product that came to have a mutually beneficial relationship with advertising. Ford Motor Company, based in Detroit, helped stimulate various other industries.

This boom in the economy is regularly traced back to Henry Ford and his ability to make automobiles affordable for the average American.

Drive on over to the Got It? section to "interview" Mr. Ford!

Elephango's Philosophy

We help prepare learners for a future that cannot yet be defined. They must be ready for change, willing to learn and able to think critically. Elephango is designed to create lifelong learners who are ready for that rapidly changing future.