Geneva and Beaver Falls

BUSINESSES & GENEVA COLLEGE DURING THE 1920’S

Life was great for both businesses and consumers during the 1920’s in the United States. It was especially good for the citizens of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, where employment was high, the population was booming, the economy was great, and businesses were found in abundance, providing the residents with products to meet every need and all of their desires. Prior to Wal-Mart, which did not make its appearance until the early 1960’s, the various “Ma & Pa” shops found around the city were necessary and prospered with the surrounding population, generated by the various industries found in the area as well as Geneva College.

Americans living in the 1920’s were blessed with, simply put, options. “The post-war recession was forgotten as everyone went on a spending spree. Credit enabled consumers to boost corporate profits to new levels”[1]. As is the great circle of economy, when people spend more money, businesses make higher profits. When businesses gain higher revenues, they are able to pay their workers higher wages, expand their business, and use “massive buying power and operating efficiencies to lower prices while increasing service and choice, helping wages to go further”[2]. Consumers were more willing to spend their money, and with all of the innovations breaking out in the 1920’s, products and services were readily available. Choice equals options, and consumers love having options therefore being more “in command” of what they are purchasing.

“People living in the cities and areas of industry benefited most from the increased prosperity”[3]. Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania is one such industrious area. Steel mills, drilling companies, and textile, furniture, and manufacturing factories were established in abundance in the area. This paved the way for smaller, time-honored businesses whose purpose was to meet the needs of the employees of these industrious companies and their families. These industries also advertised for summer employment for college students, especially those at local Geneva College (where all of the advertisements found on this website can be found in their quarterly newspaper –The Genevan), and for their own products. These businesses provided the area and its booming population, consumers who made owning a business optimal for any industry.

With the multitude of businesses found in the area, competition was fierce. Therefore it was beneficial for businesses to be efficient in their advertising. For example, when one looks at the number of food stores, restaurants, bakeries and confectionaries found in the area of Beaver Falls, the importance of advertising becomes clear. So, when Sparrow’s Chocolate company advertised, “When in Doubt… Sparrow’s Chocolates,” they clearly expressed to  clients that they were aware of the choice to purchase Sparrow’s and that they made the right decision. These all helped to make the decision easier on the consumer.

Advertising did not end there however. With the new and great innovations in the industries of film and print shops could be found in excessive quantities, some of which still exist today, such as Graule Studio. Consumers were fascinated with taking photos of the beautiful landscape within and around Beaver Falls and Geneva College. They were also interested in capturing the fashions of, what the decade became known as, the “Roaring Twenties.” These fashions brought the United States into the “modern era”. Hand-in-hand these new fashions opened up opportunities for any aspiring business owner to open up a shop. Of all the business opportunities available in Beaver Falls, opening a clothing shop was the most lucrative. In the Roaring Twenties, the city played host to numerous clothing stores where men and women were able to meet their fashionable desires and spend their hard-earned money. Because of the importance of fashion shops advertising for these businesses became vital. Stores such as Emerick and Dunkerly boasted about their “Shoes of Class” while Spalding Athletic Goods advertised that consumers should “Get a Good Start by Using” their products.

However, people did not always spend all of their money on their wants and needs. Commercial banks expanded greatly during the 1920’s, and, perhaps the most startling expansion took place in the investment-banking field.  Banks of this type rose from 277 in 1912 to 1,902 by 1929[4]. Few can argue against the fact that life in the 1920’s was prosperous both in the United States and throughout the world. “During the 1920’s, people received more income. As a result they spent more money and stock prices began to rise. Billions of dollars were invested in the stock market as people began expecting to make millions on the rising stock prices”[5]. And in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, residents had a choice of which bank they would entrust their hard-earned dollars. Therefore, companies advertised with words such as “trust,” “accommodation,” and “sound and conservative business methods” in order to draw their customers in.

“Good investing” however was not limited to the stock market during the 1920’s in the Beaver Falls area. Hardware stores in the area such as Davidson Hardware Company boasted advertisements asking consumers to ask question “What is the value of your dollar?” Home improvement – adding on bedrooms or bathrooms, remodeling kitchens, etc… – were advertised as a great investment and the hardware stores relied on this.  Local company W.J. Holtzman Hardware store  advertised that they were the “Home of Reliable Goods,” because who wants to make an investment with goods that are not reliable.

Lastly, entertainment and places to stay were vital to the area. As motion pictures progressed from silent films to talkies the theatre business exploded. Going to one of the two reigning theatres in the Beaver Falls area was vital to the sanity of college students who needed breaks from papers and studying as well as the industrial worker who finally got an hour or two off before rushing home to eat and go to bed only to wake up and start his day over again. Visitors to the Beaver Falls area were also recipients to the bustling business growth.  A visiting out-of-towner had plenty of places to choose to stay, with the most “grand” of all being The Grand Hotel, a “luxurious building [that] had sixty guest rooms and [boasted the title of being] the first hotel in Beaver Falls to feature electric lights and steam heat”[6].

Other industries found in the area were laundry shops, which were crucial for the college student and housewife, flower shops and book stores, which helped the worker “woo” his lady,  and jewelry stores and barber shops – to help the residents look good in their new Roaring Twenties fashions. However, the fact remains that the 1920’s, in both the United States and, more specifically, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, was a dream for both business owners and consumers. With new innovations and technologies, products and jobs were not found in short supply and the economy was prosperous, at least for the time being.


[1] “1920′s Business and Economy.” The 1920′s – Roaring Twenties – The Nineteen Twenties in History. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2013. <http://www.1920-30.com/business/&gt;.

[2] “1920’s Business and Economy.”

[3] “1920’s Business and Economy.”

[4] “Finance and Banking – 1920′s Business and the Economy.” Study Guides, Lesson Plans, Homework Help, Answers & More – eNotes.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. <http://www.enotes.com/1920-business-economy-american-decades/finance-banking&gt;.

[5] “Stock Market.” ThinkQuest : Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. <http://library.thinkquest.org/J001569/st.html&gt;.

[6] “Lawrence County Memoirs: Grand Hotel – Beaver Falls PA.” Lawrence County Memoirs. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2013. <http://www.lawrencecountymemoirs.com/lcmpages/38/grand-hotel-beaver-falls-pa&gt;.

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