The postwar years were a time of great economic
growth in America. Between 1945 and 1960, the per
capita income, or average annual income per
person, rose considerably.
American businesses switched from providing war
needs to meeting increasing demand for consumer
products. In order to protect against economic
downturns, many formed conglomerates, corporations
made up of three or more unrelated businesses.
Television — Television becomes a popular and powerful
medium. Like the radio, TV gave people the same
news, entertainment, and programming.
Computers and Electronics — The invention of the
transistor, a tiny circuit device that amplifies, controls, and
generates electrical signals, revolutionizes computers and
Nuclear Power — Wartime nuclear research is put to
peacetime use in nuclear power plants and nuclear-
Advances in Medicine — Dr. Jonas Salk develops a vaccine
against polio; advances in antibiotics and surgical
techniques save countless lives.
The baby boom, or rise in birth rates, that had begun
in the 1940s continued into the 1950s.
The GI Bill of Rights gave returning soldiers low-
income mortgages, enabling many to buy homes in
newly built suburbs
The growth of suburbs led more Americans to rely on
cars for everyday transportation.
More and better roads were needed to support the
increase in cars. The 1956 Federal-Aid Highway Act
provided billions of dollars to build an interstate
Cars became part of American culture as new
businesses such as drive-in movies emerged.
The stimulus of money into housing caused a housing
boom characterized by the development of the first
suburban housing developments, such as
Levittown, New York.
The Levittown housing development became the
proto-type for future developments. Floor plans were
standardized and houses were designed to be mass
produced in a 27 step process (much like an
The Peacetime Economy — Reconversion, the social and
economic transition from wartime to peacetime, resulted
in discrepancies between wages and prices. The Taft-
Hartley Act of 1947 required a cooling-off period during
which workers on strike from industries affecting the
national interest had to return to work.
The Fair Deal — Modeled on Roosevelt’s New
Deal, Truman’s Fair Deal was a set of proposals for postwar
economic improvement. Although some measures
passed, many were rejected by Congress.
Truman on Civil Rights — Truman formed the biracial
Committee on Civil Rights in 1946 to address concerns of
African Americans; opposition in Congress meant that
change came slowly.
Although Truman’s Democratic Party was splitting and
support for him was disintegrating, Truman chose to
seek another term as President in 1948.
With a blunt but effective campaign style, Truman
won the election despite polls’ predictions against
In response to Roosevelt’s unprecedented four terms as
President, the Twenty-second Amendment was passed
in 1951. This amendment specified that no President
could serve more than two elected terms.
Although the language of the Twenty-second Amendment
allowed Truman to run for President again in 1952, he
chose not to do so.
Republican Dwight Eisenhower and his running
mate, Richard Nixon, were able to turn accusations about
illegal campaign funding into support for their campaign.
As President, Eisenhower advocated Modern
Republicanism, an approach to government involving
conservative economic policies but liberal social policies.
Eisenhower’s administration favored big business and
ending government competition for offshore oil lands.
However, his presidency was marked by several economic