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Tools for Teaching with

Everything Including the Kitchen Sink—
Progressive Reforms and Economic Wealth
in the 1920s
Authors
Mike Kaiman, Social Studies Teacher, Timberland High School
Mark Bayles, Senior Economic Education Specialist

AP U.S. History Curriculum Alignment (see page 14)
Lesson Description
Students learn that economic forces have an impact beyond the financial world. First,
they learn that Progressive Era public health reforms inspired a commercial response
to the growing demand for sanitation through the rapid increase in bathroom-fixture
production. Students then use FRED®, economic data from Federal Reserve Bank of
St. Louis, to analyze how bathroom-fixture production changed throughout the 1920s.
They examine primary documents⎯1920s advertising⎯to see how companies fused
the Progressive Era with the new consumer culture. Finally, students complete the lesson
by responding to AP U.S. History-style short-answer questions.

Grade Level
10-12

Economic Concepts
Area graph
Consumer goods
Consumerism
Percent change
Percent change from a year ago
Recession
Stacking

© 2016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Permission is granted to reprint or photocopy this lesson in its entirety for educational
purposes, provided the user credits the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, www.stlouisfed.org/education.

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Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

Objectives
Students will
•

identify factors affecting bathroom-fixture production after WWI,

•

describe the economic impact those factors had in the 1920s,

•

use FRED to analyze and manipulate primary economic data to develop an
historical argument,

•

examine primary advertising documents to show how economic phenomenon
affected popular culture and attitudes about women, and

•

develop AP test-taking skills by writing responses to AP short-answer questions.

Time Required
Approximately two 50-minute class periods

Materials
•

Online access for the class to view the FRED® graph at
https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=2bdX

•

“Flush Toilets and the Invention of the Nineteenth-Century Bathroom” in The
Enduring Vision (Fifth Edition) by Paul S. Boyer at http://college.cengage.com/
history/us/boyer/enduring_vision/5e/students/techcult/ch18.html

•

Visuals 1, 2, and 3

•

Handout 1, one copy for each student

•

10 FRED Activities in 10 Minutes (optional) at
https://www.stlouisfed.org/~/media/Education/Lessons/pdf/10-FRED-Activities-in10-Minutes.pdf

Preparation
Assign for reading “Flush Toilets and the Invention of the Nineteenth-Century Bathroom”
by Paul S. Boyer (as noted in the Materials section).

Procedure
1.

Introduce the lesson by saying there are a number of ways to measure the economic
prosperity of the 1920s. Explain that the purpose of this lesson is not only to illustrate
how production increased during the decade but also how it affected the lives of average American consumers. Something as simple as bathroom fixtures—how they’re
produced, advertised, and used—can say a lot about the state of the country.

© 2016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Permission is granted to reprint or photocopy this lesson in its entirety for educational
purposes, provided the user credits the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, www.stlouisfed.org/education.

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Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

2.

Discuss the following questions based on reading “Flush Toilets & the Invention of the
Nineteenth-Century Bathroom” by Paul S. Boyer.
Secondary Source Interpretation Questions

3.

•

What factors provided the momentum to encourage Americans to adopt indoor
plumbing in the early-twentieth century? (Disease prevention, medical science
discovering root causes of diseases, new laws, and advertising)

•

What examples of government reforms pushed by Progressives encouraged private
home owners to install indoor plumbing? (Passage of new metropolitan health
laws and creation of state boards of health)

•

In order to have household indoor plumbing, what reforms had to be made at the
municipal level first? (Municipal water and sewage systems)

•

What social, economic, or other incentives were there for a homeowner to install
an indoor bathroom? (Economic: increased home value; social: increased social
status and practicality—comfort, safety, ease of use)

Display Visuals 1, 2, and 3, Standard Plumbing advertisements, one at a time for students to review and then discuss the following:
Advertising Interpretation Questions

4.

•

What strategies were employed to sell indoor plumbing to Americans in the
1920s? (Answers will vary but may include family happiness, help for women to
look attractive, improved status [e.g., through the use of the tag line “a wealth
of health”], and hygiene.)

•

How might the tagline “Add a wealth of health to the home” be connected less
to 1920s consumerism and more to the Progressive Era? (The purchase of these
products are most beneficial for the health of your family rather than for any
superficial reason.)

Display the graph at myf.red/g/6tOB (Figure 1). Note that it is from FRED®, the online
economic database of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Students with Internet access can open the graph by entering the address into their browser bar.

Figure 1

© 2016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Permission is granted to reprint or photocopy this lesson in its entirety for educational
purposes, provided the user credits the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, www.stlouisfed.org/education.

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Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

5.

Explain that the graph shows total shipments (an indicator of production) of three
household indoor plumbing products—bathtubs, kitchen sinks, and lavatories (toilets)
between April 1917 and December 1931. The units on the y-axis are thousands of pieces
shipped. The vertical gray bars indicate periods of recession—a sustained contraction
in the nation’s economic output. Based upon the information presented in this FRED
graph, discuss the following:
Data Interpretation Questions

6.

•

Why would shipments of bathroom fixtures suddenly drop in late 1917? (WWI
wartime production affected private industry’s output of consumer goods.)

•

What might explain the dip in shipments of bathroom fixtures annually from
November to March? (Home construction and renovation slow during winter
months.)

•

What are practical and economic reasons bathtub shipments generally lagged
behind shipments of sinks and lavatories? (Bathtubs are relatively larger and more
costly than their counterparts to purchase, install, and maintain, so they were not
included in some homes. Because of limited space in homes, some homeowners
installed sinks and toilets only.)

Optional: If students struggle to interpret data confidently, consider having them practice with “10 FRED Activities in 10 Minutes” at
https://www.stlouisfed.org/education/tools-for-teaching-with-fred.
A

7.

Convert the displayed FRED graph (Figure 1) as
follows:
•
•

In the panel that opens, click the “FORMAT”
tab (Figure 2A).

•

Change “Graph type” from “Line” to “Area”
in the dropdown menu (Figure 2B).

•

Change “Stacking” from “None” to “Normal”
in the dropdown menu (Figure 2C).

•
8.

Click the “EDIT GRAPH” button at the top
right of the graph.

D
B
C

Figure 2

Click the “X” at the top right of the panel to close it (Figure 2D).

Discuss the following:
•

How has the visual display of the information changed (Figure 3)? (Quantities are
accumulated [“stacked”] by shading the areas under the values.)

•

Does this visual change make it easier or more difficult to formulate conclusions?
(Answers will vary.)

© 2016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Permission is granted to reprint or photocopy this lesson in its entirety for educational
purposes, provided the user credits the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, www.stlouisfed.org/education.

4

Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

Figure 3

9.

Revise the graph again as follows:
•

Click the “EDIT GRAPH” button at the top right of the graph.

•

Click the “FORMAT” tab.

•

At “Graph type,” change to “Line” from the drop-down menu.

•

At “Stacking,” change to “None” from the
drop-down menu.
A

You will now manipulate the units for all three data
series:
•

Click “EDIT LINES” and select “EDIT LINE 1”
(Figure 4A).

•

Change “Units” from “Thousands of Pieces”
to “Change from Year Ago,
Thousands of Pieces” in the drop-down menu
(Figure 4B).

B

C

Figure 4

•

Click the “Copy to all” button (Figure 4C) to change the units for all three data
series.

•

Close the panel.

10. Invite the students to examine the modified graph (Figure 5), compare it with the
stacked graph (Figure 3), and then discuss the following:
•

How do the graphs differ? (The line graph [Figure 5] starts in 1918, while the
stacked graph [Figure 3] starts in 1917. Also, the line graph uses negative numbers
on its vertical axis to show declines when compared with the same month from
the prior year. The stacked graph also shows declines, but the totals are always
positive.)

•

How has the manipulation of units changed how you might interpret the data?
(Stacking may make it easier to see how the quantities of the three items tend
to rise and fall together; stacking also reveals peak months for combined totals in
1924 and 1925. Figure 5 shows how the changes in the quantities of the goods
rise and fall together by comparing the totals to those from 12 months prior.)

© 2016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Permission is granted to reprint or photocopy this lesson in its entirety for educational
purposes, provided the user credits the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, www.stlouisfed.org/education.

5

Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

Figure 5

11. Modify the units for all three data sets one more time as follows:
•

Click the “EDIT GRAPH” button and then select the “EDIT LINES” tab (Figure 6A)
and “EDIT LINE 1” (Figure 6B)

•

Change “Units” to “Percent Change from Year Ago” in the drop-down menu
(Figure 6C).

•

Click the “Copy to all” button (Figure 6D).

•

Close the panel.
A
B
C

D

Figure 6

12. Discuss the following:
•

Was the bathroom fixture industry recession proof during the 1920s? Use evidence
from the graphs to support your answer. (Answers will vary, but students may
observe that the stacked area graph [Figure 3] shows that producers shipped
increasing quantities during several recessionary months of 1920 as well as during
1923 and 1924. At the same time, the percent-change-from-a-year-ago graph
[Figure 6] depicts a steep drop in the rate of shipments during the early months

© 2016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Permission is granted to reprint or photocopy this lesson in its entirety for educational
purposes, provided the user credits the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, www.stlouisfed.org/education.

6

Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

of 1920 and slower growth or declines during subsequent recessions. The change
in shipments from the percent-year-ago graph [Figure 5] also displays a number of
negative values during recessions.)
•

Which graph of the several viewed best supports the argument that bathroom
fixtures had an enormous positive economic impact on the American economy in
the 1920s? Why? Use evidence from the graphs to support your answer. (Answers
will vary. Students might say the stacked area graph best highlights the decadelong sales growth or that the percent- change-from-a-year-ago graph downplays
the high-sales totals of the 1920s.)

13. Distribute a copy of Handout 1: Everything Including the Kitchen Sink: Progressive
Reforms and Economic Wealth in the 1920s to each student. Instruct them to complete
the short-answer questions. A scoring rubric is provided.
AP Short-Answer Questions—Rubric
Guidelines (0-3 points)
Score 3 Points: Response accomplishes all three tasks set by the question.
Score 2 Points: Response accomplishes two of the tasks set by the question.
Score 1 Points: Response accomplishes one of the tasks set by the question.
Score 0: Response accomplishes none of the tasks set by the question.
Scoring Notes
(a) Briefly explain why one of the following best explains the impact of
bathroom-fixture shipments in the 1920s:
•

The result of Progressive Era reforms in the early 20th century

•

The post-World War I period of economic affluence in the United States

•

The rise of modern advertising after World War I

Provides one explanation of how Progressive Era reforms, post-WWI economic affluence, or modern advertising best explain the increase of bathroom fixture
shipments in the 1920s
•

Progressive Reforms
◦

Desire to improve public health

◦

Scientific discoveries of bacteria, causes of medical issues

◦

•

The push by cities to eliminate disease and pollution through utilities
development

Post-WWI Economic Affluence
◦

Rise of disposable income

© 2016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Permission is granted to reprint or photocopy this lesson in its entirety for educational
purposes, provided the user credits the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, www.stlouisfed.org/education.

7

Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

◦
•

◦

Transition of wartime economy back to peacetime

◦
◦

Connected hygiene with wealth

◦

Satisfied the new public desire to acquire status symbols

Increase in new-home construction with modern amenities

Modern Advertising

Proliferation of mass media (e.g., magazines and newspapers) selling
consumer goods

NOTE: Merely restating the question (e.g., advertising had a great influence on
bathroom shipments, reforms influenced bathroom sales) or noting a vague generality (e.g., people had more money than in the past) does not earn a point.
Students must include an explanation with the answer.
(b) Provide one example that supports your explanation in (a).
Explains one specific example that supports the assertion in part (a).
•

Progressive Reforms
◦
◦
◦

•

◦

Porcelain bathroom fixtures with gas traps
Rise of cast iron indoor plumbing pipes
A 60 percent increase in urban dwellings with indoor plumbing

Post-WWI Economic Affluence
◦
◦
◦

•

Municipal water and sewer systems

An approximate fivefold increase in shipments of fixtures between
1920 and 1925
The implied long-term economic benefits of retrofitting existing
structures or building new structures with indoor plumbing (bathrooms)
Based on analysis of the graph, that bathroom fixture shipments appear
to have been relatively recession proof, although rates of growth slowed
during some months

Modern Advertising
◦
◦
◦
◦

Used scientific findings to sell hygiene to the public
Connected cleanliness with upper-class respectability
Illustrated modern families and women using bathroom fixtures
Used the phrase “a wealth of health” to promote indoor plumbing as
a status symbol

NOTE: Example MUST connect back or refer to explanation in (a) in some way.
Merely listing an example without providing context cannot be awarded a point.
Cause and effect must be noted. Also, these scoring notes are not exhaustive of

© 2016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Permission is granted to reprint or photocopy this lesson in its entirety for educational
purposes, provided the user credits the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, www.stlouisfed.org/education.

8

Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

all the examples that students may create or cite. Students may cite an example
that is not in the scoring notes but still satisfies the requirements.
(c)

Provide specific historical evidence that explains why one of the other
options is less convincing than the option you selected in (a).
Explains how one of the other options provided in (a) is less convincing than the
one chosen.
•

As long as the student cites a specific example and explains effectively its
causation into one of three categories (reforms, affluence or advertising),
a point should be awarded.

© 2016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Permission is granted to reprint or photocopy this lesson in its entirety for educational
purposes, provided the user credits the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, www.stlouisfed.org/education.

9

Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

Handout 1: Everything Including the Kitchen Sink—Progressive Reforms and
Economic Wealth in the 1920s
AP SHORT-ANSWER QUESTIONS
Directions: Answer (a), (b), and (c).
(a)

Briefly explain why one of the following best explains the impact of bathroom fixture
shipments in the 1920s:
•

The result of Progressive Era reforms in the early 20th century

•

The post-World War I period of economic affluence in the United States

•

The rise of modern advertising after World War I

(b)

Provide one example that supports your explanation in (a).

(c)

Provide specific historical evidence that explains why one of the other options is less
convincing than the option you selected in (a).

© 2016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Permission is granted to reprint or photocopy this lesson in its entirety for educational
purposes, provided the user credits the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, www.stlouisfed.org/education.

10

Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

Visual 1: Standard Plumbing Advertisement 1

Image reproduced with permission of American Standard Brands.

© 2016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Permission is granted to reprint or photocopy this lesson in its entirety for educational
purposes, provided the user credits the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, www.stlouisfed.org/education.

11

Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

Visual 2: Standard Plumbing Advertisement 2

Image reproduced with permission of American Standard Brands.

© 2016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Permission is granted to reprint or photocopy this lesson in its entirety for educational
purposes, provided the user credits the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, www.stlouisfed.org/education.

12

Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

Visual 3: Standard Plumbing Advertisement 3

Image reproduced with permission of American Standard Brands.

© 2016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Permission is granted to reprint or photocopy this lesson in its entirety for educational
purposes, provided the user credits the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, www.stlouisfed.org/education.

13

Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

AP U.S. History Curriculum Alignment
Work, Exchange, and Technology
WXT-3.0 Analyze how technological innovation has affected economic development
and society.
Culture and Society
CUL-2.0 Explain how artistic, philosophical, and scientific ideas have developed and
shaped society and institutions.
Period 1890-1945
•

Key Concept 7.1: Growth expanded opportunity, while economic instability led
to new efforts to reform U.S. society and its economic system.
I.

The United States continued its transition from a rural, agricultural economy
to an urban, industrial economy led by large companies.
A)

•

New technologies and manufacturing techniques helped focus the
U.S. economy on the production of consumer goods, contributing to
improved standards of living, greater personal mobility, and better
communications systems.

Key Concept 7.2: Innovations in communications and technology contributed to
the growth of mass culture, while significant changes occurred in internal and
international migration patterns
I.

Popular culture grew in influence in U.S. society, even as debates increased
over the effects of culture on public values, morals, and American national
identity.
A)

New forms of mass media, such as radio and cinema, contributed to
the spread of national culture as well as greater awareness of regional
cultures.

© 2016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Permission is granted to reprint or photocopy this lesson in its entirety for educational
purposes, provided the user credits the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, www.stlouisfed.org/education.

14


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