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1950s American Culture

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1950s American Culture

  1. 1. THE 1950s: “ Conservatism, Complacency,Contentment and Teenagers”
  2. 2. <ul><li>1 A . Baby Boom </li></ul>It seems to me that every other young housewife I see is pregnant. -- British visitor to America, 1958 1957  1 baby born every 7 seconds
  3. 3. <ul><li>1 B . Baby Boom </li></ul>Dr. Benjamin Spock and the Anderson Quintuplets Notice the dramatic change in school enrollment after the 1950’s!
  4. 4. Federal Assistance <ul><li>GI Bill: Loans to Veterans for Education </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Loans for Housing </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Federal Housing Loans: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>White Americans used the loans to buy in Suburbs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>African-Americans, Rural Poor use to move to cities </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>2 A . Suburban Living </li></ul>$7,990 or $60/month with no down payment. Levittown, L. I.: “The American Dream” 1949  William Levitt produced 150 houses per week.
  6. 7. <ul><li>2 A . Suburban Living: The New “American Dream” </li></ul><ul><li>1 story high </li></ul><ul><li>12’x19’ living room </li></ul><ul><li>2 bedrooms </li></ul><ul><li>tiled bathroom </li></ul><ul><li>garage </li></ul><ul><li>small backyard </li></ul><ul><li>front lawn </li></ul>By 1960  1/3 of the U. S. population in the suburbs.
  7. 8. <ul><li>2 B . Suburban Living </li></ul>SHIFTS IN POPULATION DISTRIBUTION, 1940-1970 1940 1950 1960 1970 Central Cities 31.6% 32.3% 32.6% 32.0% Suburbs 19.5% 23.8% 30.7% 41.6% Rural Areas/ 48.9% 43.9% 36.7% 26.4% Small Towns U. S. Bureau of the Census.
  8. 9. <ul><li>2c. Suburban Living: The Typical TV Suburban Families </li></ul>The Donna Reed Show 1958-1966 Leave It to Beaver 1957-1963 Father Knows Best 1954-1958 The Ozzie & Harriet Show 1952-1966
  9. 10. <ul><li>modern laundry room of the 1950's </li></ul>Embracing home life and consumer culture
  10. 11. <ul><li>3a. Consumerism </li></ul>1950  Introduction of the Diner’s Card All babies were potential consumers who spearheaded a brand-new market for food, clothing, and shelter. -- Life Magazine (May, 1958)
  11. 12. <ul><li>3 B . Consumerism </li></ul>
  12. 13. <ul><li>3 B . Consumerism </li></ul>1952 1955 1956 1957 1954
  13. 14. 4 A . A Changing Workplace Automation : 1947-1957  factory workers decreased by 4.3%, eliminating 1.5 million blue-collar jobs. By 1956  more white-collar than blue-collar jobs in the U. S. Computers  Mark I (1944). First IBM mainframe computer (1951). Corporate Consolidation : By 1960  600 corporations (1/2% of all U. S. companies) accounted for 53% of total corporate income. WHY?? Cold War military buildup.
  14. 15. 4 B . A Changing Workplace New Corporate Culture : “The Company Man” 1956  Sloan Wilson’s The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit
  15. 16. 5 A . The Culture of the Car Car registrations: 1945  25,000,000 1960  60,000,000 2-family cars doubles from 1951-1958 <ul><li>1956  Interstate Highway Act  largest public works project in American history! </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Cost $32 billion. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>41,000 miles of new highways built. </li></ul></ul></ul>1959 Chevy Corvette 1958 Pink Cadillac
  16. 17. 5 B . The Culture of the Car First McDonald’s (1955) America became a more homogeneous nation because of the automobile. Drive-In Movies Howard Johnson’s
  17. 18. 5 C . The Culture of the Car The U. S. population was on the move in the 1950s. NE & Mid-W  S & SW (“Sunbelt” states) 1955  Disneyland opened in Southern California. (40% of the guests came from outside California, most by car.) Frontier Land Main Street Tomorrow Land
  18. 19. 6 A . Television 1946  7,000 TV sets in the U. S. 1950  50,000,000 TV sets in the U. S. Mass Audience  TV celebrated traditional American values. Television is a vast wasteland.  Newton Minnow, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, 1961 Truth, Justice, and the American way!
  19. 20. 6B. Television – The Western Davy Crockett King of the Wild Frontier The Lone Ranger (and his faithful sidekick, Tonto): Who is that masked man?? Sheriff Matt Dillon, Gunsmoke
  20. 21. 6C. Television - Family Shows I Love Lucy The Honeymooners Glossy view of mostly middle-class suburban life. But... Social Winners?... AND… Loosers?
  21. 22. 7 A . Teen Culture <ul><li>In the 1950s  the word “teenager” entered the American language. </li></ul><ul><li>By 1956  13 mil. teens with $7 bil. to spend a year. </li></ul>1951  “race music”  “ROCK ‘N ROLL” Elvis Presley  “The King” Elvis became a parents nightmare!
  22. 23. 7 B . Teen Culture “ Juvenile Delinquency” ??? Marlon Brando in The Wild One (1953) James Dean in R ebel Without a Cause (1955) 1951  J. D. Salinger’s A Catcher in the Rye
  23. 24. 7 C . Teen Culture <ul><li>The “Beat” Generation : </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Jack Kerouac  On The Road </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Allen Ginsberg  poem, “Howl” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Neal Cassady </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>William S. Burroughs </li></ul></ul></ul>“ Beatnik” “ Clean” Teen
  24. 25. 7 D . Teen Culture Behavioral Rules of the 1950s: <ul><ul><li>Obey Authority. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Control Your Emotions. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t Make Waves  Fit in with the Group. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t Even Think About Sex!!! </li></ul></ul>
  25. 26. 8 A . Religious Revival <ul><li>Today in the U. S., the Christian faith is back in the center of things. -- Time magazine, 1954 </li></ul>Church membership : 1940  64,000,000 1960  114,000,000 Television Preachers : 1. Catholic Bishop Fulton J. Sheen  “Life is Worth Living” 2. Methodist Minister Norman Vincent Peale  The Power of Positive Thinking 3. Reverend Billy Graham  ecumenical message; warned against the evils of Communism.
  26. 27. 8B. Religious Revival Hollywood : apex of the biblical epics. It’s un-American to be un-religious! -- The Christian Century , 1954 The Robe The Ten Commandments Ben Hur 1953 1956 1959
  27. 28. 9 A . Well-Defined Gender Roles The ideal modern woman married, cooked and cared for her family, and kept herself busy by joining the local PTA and leading a troop of Campfire Girls. She entertained guests in her family’s suburban house and worked out on the trampoline to keep her size 12 figure. -- Life magazine, 1956 Marilyn Monroe The ideal 1950s man was the provider, protector, and the boss of the house. - - Life magazine, 1955 <ul><li>1956  William H. Whyte, Jr.  The Organization Man </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>a middle-class, white suburban male is the ideal. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  28. 29. 9 B . Well-Defined Gender Roles Changing Sexual Behavior : Alfred Kinsey: 1948  Sexual Behavior in the Human Male 1953  Sexual Behavior in the Human Female <ul><li>Premarital sex was common. </li></ul><ul><li>Extramarital affairs were frequent among married couples. </li></ul>Kinsey’s results are an assault on the family as a basic unit of society, a negation of moral law, and a celebration of licentiousness. -- Life magazine, early 1950s
  29. 30. <ul><li>10A. Progress Through Science </li></ul>1951 -- First IBM Mainframe Computer 1952 -- Hydrogen Bomb Test 1953 -- DNA Structure Discovered 1954 -- Salk Vaccine Tested for Polio 1957 -- First Commercial U. S. Nuclear Power Plant 1958 -- NASA Created 1958 -- First Plastic Coke bottle 1959 -- Press Conference of the First 7 American Astronauts
  30. 31. <ul><li>10 B . Progress Through Science </li></ul>1957  Russians launch SPUTNIK I 1958  National Defense Education Act
  31. 32. <ul><li>10 C . Progress Through Science </li></ul>UFO Sightings skyrocketed in the 1950s. War of the Worlds Hollywood used aliens as a metaphor for whom ??
  32. 33. <ul><li>10 D . Progress Through Science </li></ul><ul><li>Atomic Anxieties : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Duck-and-Cover Generation” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Atomic Testing : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1946-1962  U. S. exploded 217 nuclear weapons over the Pacific and in Nevada. </li></ul></ul>
  33. 34. <ul><li>The 50s Come to a Close </li></ul>1959  Nixon-Khrushchev “Kitchen Debate” Cold War -----> Tensions <----- Technology & Affluence
  34. 35. <ul><li> The postwar era witnessed tremendous economic growth and rising social contentment and conformity. Yet in the midst of such increasing abundance and comfortable domestic lives; some social critics expressed a growing sense of unease with American culture in the 1950s. </li></ul><ul><li>Assess the validity of the above statement and explain how the decade of the 1950s laid the groundwork for the social and political turbulence of the 1960s. </li></ul>Class Discussion Topic:
  35. 36. Comparison <ul><li>The 1950s and 1920s share a great deal in common. </li></ul><ul><li>What are some ways that these two eras in America history are similar? </li></ul>

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