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The Postwar Years at Home ( )

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1 The Postwar Years at Home (1945-1960)
Chapter 17

2 Postwar Economic Boom During the years following World War II the U.S. experienced one of its greatest periods of economic expansion. During the postwar years the Gross National Product of the United States more than doubled. The per capita income also nearly doubled from 1945 to 1960.

3 Businesses Reorganize
The Great Depression made many giant corporations wary of investing all their resources in a single business. A conglomerate was a giant corporation that invests in a wide range of businesses that produce different kinds of goods. The franchise was a business that contracts with a larger parent company, to offer certain goods and services. The franchise contract, generally allows the business owner to use the parent company’s name, suppliers, products and production methods. The franchise owner assumes less risk. The franchise system replaced many unique stores, with ties to the local community.

4 First and Early McDonalds

5 Technology Transforms Live
Television The Computer Industry Nuclear Power Advances in Medicine

6 Television Americans fell in love with television in the 1950s.
In 1955, the average American family watched television four to five hours a day. In the early days of television most programs were broadcast live. Advertisements on the Television (commercials) helped spur economic growth in the post war years.

7 Early Television Sets

8 The Computer Industry The computer was another innovation which appeared in the 1950s and would eventually transform American life. Wartime research led to the development of ever more powerful calculators and computers. Grace Hopper, a research fellow at Harvard, pioneered the creation of software that ran computers. The transistor was a tiny circuit device that amplifies, controls, and generates electrical signals. The transistor dramatically reduced the size of electronic appliances.

9 First & Early Computers

10 Grace Hopper

11 Vacuum Tube versus Transistor

12 Advances in Medicine Dr. Jonas Salk’s injected vaccine, together with an oral version later developed later, effectively eliminated the threat of polio. Antibiotics such as penicillin were developed before WWII, but during the 1950 advances in production and the discovery of antibiotics that were effective against penicillin-resistant bacteria, were saving countless lives. Surgical techniques developed during the war allowed doctors to correct heart defects, and the specialty of heart surgery grew rapidly.

13 Dr. Jonas Salk

14 Changes in the Work Force
Before World War II most Americans made a living as blue-collar workers. As a result of automation, machines assumed many of the jobs previously performed by people. Some blue-collar workers learned new skills to work in white collar jobs. Young people, particularly former servicemen with new college degrees, also chose white-collar jobs. Corporate expansion meant more people were needed to keep growing organizations running. By 1956 more Americans held white-collar than blue- collar jobs.

15 Blue Collar versus White Collar

16 The Impact of the Changing Workforce
Some people, like sociologist C. Wright Mills, believed that white- collar workers were less connected with the products and services their companies provided and were more likely to conform in their behavior. Postwar prosperity also brought blue-collar workers into the expanding middle class. Some union workers won important gains, such as cost-of-living increases. By 1955, nearly 33% of the total labor force was unionized In 1955, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CI0) merged. The new AFL- CIO became an even more powerful organization.


18 Baby Boom The high birth rate that started during World War II, continued after the war, and peaked in 1957. The birth rate, which had fallen to 19 births per 1,000 people during the Depression, soared to 25 births per 1,000 in the peak year of 1957. Seeking more room, growing families retreated from the cities to the suburbs.

19 Baby Boom

20 GI Bill of Rights (GI Bill)
World War II veterans opportunities were expanded with the help of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, or the GI Bill of Rights. It granted them low-interest mortgages to purchase new homes and provided them with educational stipends for college and graduate school. This act provided fuel for the postwar economic boom and the modern middle class lifestyle that developed during the 1950s. It helped create upward social mobility.

21 GI Bill of Rights

22 The Suburbs With more people able to afford mortgages, developers began to cater to the demand for housing. William J. Levitt was a developer who mass-produced new communities in the suburbs. Levitt called his new communities Levittown's. With mass-production techniques, using precut and preassembled materials, Levitt and others built houses in just weeks instead of months. Other developers followed Levitt’s techniques and new suburban communities sprang up all over the U.S. For the first time many average Americans could afford to buy their own home. Some people complained that the new developments all looked too much alike.

23 Levittown

24 The Car Culture Some stores began to move from cities to shopping centers in the suburbs. Many people living in the suburbs built beyond the reach of public transportation, and depended more on the automobile. From 1948 to 1958, passenger car sales increased by more than 50%. The growth of the auto industry and the increased use of cars produced many other changes, including a “car culture.” The 1956 Federal-Aid Highway Act created the interstate highway system. New businesses and activities that developed as part of the car culture included; gas stations, repair shops, parts stores, drive-in movies and restaurants, vacations to national parks, seaside resorts, and amusement parks.

25 Drive In Movie & Restaurant

26 Consumer Credit Eager to cash in on the increasing number of cars on the roads gasoline companies began offering credit cards. Credit cards became a popular means of purchasing things, because of their ease and convenience. Just as installment buying had done in the 1920s, credit cards encouraged people to purchase beyond their means. Total consumer debt rose from more than $8 billion in to more than $56 billion in 1960. Americans used credit to purchase things they otherwise would not have bought.

27 Credit Cards & Consumer Credit

28 Comfort and Security Before the Depression and World War II most Americans valued individuality, but after the war, during the 1950s, the shift was toward conformity and the security it provided.

29 Youth Culture Some called the youth of the 1950s the “silent generation.” America’s youth in the 1950s seemed to have little interest in the problems of the larger world. During the height of the depression many young people had to quit school to help support their families. By the 1950s, most middle-class teenagers were expected to stay in school. With more leisure time many young people devoted much of their time to entertainment. With the movement to the suburbs, the extended family was less able to help with child-care, and by the 1950s baby-sitting was a job done by young daughters of friends and neighbors. Businesses hoping to sell products to the youth, through the media (television and movies), helped create a greater sense of conformity and style. Marriage became the norm for many young women. By 1954, close to half of all brides were in their teens, typically marrying grooms slightly older.

30 A Resurgence in Religion
In the U.S. in the 1950s there was a renewed interest in religion. This interest was in part a response to the Cold War struggle against “godless communism,” and in part to find hope in the face of the threat of nuclear war. In 1954, Congress added the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance In 1955 congress required the phrase “In God We Trust,” to appear on all American currency. Like other aspects of American life, religion became more commercial and used new technology. By the end of the 1950s, about 95% of all Americans said they felt connected to some formal religious group.

31 Godless Communism

32 Evangelist Billy Graham & “In God We Trust”

33 Men’s and Women’s Roles
Americans in the post-World War II years were keenly aware of the roles that they were expected to play as men and women. These roles were defined by traditions, both social and religious. Men were expected to go to school, and then find jobs to support their families, and to make important decisions. They were responsible for the public sphere away from home. Women were expected to manage the household and most were expected to be full-time homemakers. Dr. Benjamin Spock’s book influenced women that they should stay home with their children.

34 The House Wife & Dr. Spock’s Child Care

35 Some Women Challenge Conformity
In spite of the traditional roles that were expected of women many had enjoyed working outside the home during WWII and were reluctant to give up their good jobs. More women held paying jobs in the 1950s than ever before. The number of married women working outside of the home rose from 24% in 1950 to 31% in 1960. Betty Friedan a woman’s rights advocate, who authored The Feminine Mystique, believed that the culture wrongfully forced women into staying at home and caring for children.

36 Betty Friedan & Feminine Mystique

37 Youthful Rebellions Some young people rejected the values of their parents and felt misunderstood and alone. Films like “Rebel Without a Cause” and books like “The Catcher in the Rye,” reflected the alienation of many of America’s youth in the 1950s and their desire to resist pressure to conform. Rock ‘n’ roll, popular music that combined elements of rhythm and blues, gospel music, and country and western and was known for its strong beat and urgent lyrics, gave young people in the 1950s a style of music they could call their own. Alan Freed was a Disc Jockey who first used the term rock ‘n’ roll, to describe the new style of music emerging in the 1950s.

38 Rebel Without a Cause & The Cather in the Rye

39 Elvis Presley & Rock ‘n’ Roll

40 The “Beat Generation” The beat movement was a literary movement of the 1950s that rejected uniform middle-class culture and sought to overturn the sexual and social conservatism of the period. The Beatniks were a counter-cultural group of the 1950s, that promoted spontaneity and rebelled against conformity and traditional social patterns. Jack Kerouac, the author of “On the Road,” was considered the spiritual leader of the Beat Generation.

41 Beatniks & Jack Kerouac & On The Road

42 The Peacetime Economy Harry Truman wanted to follow in Franklin Roosevelt’s footsteps. Truman’s first priority after the war was reconversion—the social and economic transition from wartime to peacetime. In an effort to make the economy more responsive to consumer preferences, the government eased controls on inflation in 1946. When the government lifted price controls after the war, prices rose faster than wages. Workers demanded wage increases. In 1946 nearly 4.6 million workers went on strike more than ever before in the U.S.

43 Truman & Labor Truman agreed that workers deserved more money but he thought their demands were inflationary. When a railroad strike disrupted the economy in 1946, Truman attempted to draft the striking workers into the army. Truman received a note stating the strike had ended on his terms.. In 1947, Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act. This act allowed the President to declare an 80-day cooling off period during which strikers would have to return to work, if the strikes were in industries that affected the national interest. The act also required union officials to sign oaths that they were not communists. Truman vetoed the Taft-Hartley Act, but Congress passed the act over his veto.

44 Truman’s Fair Deal The Fair Deal was Truman’s plans to extend FDR’s New Deal goals. Truman agreed with FDR that the government needed to play an active role in securing economic justice for all U.S. citizens. Truman’s Fair Deal included; legislation to promote full employment, a higher minimum wage, greater unemployment compensation, housing assistance, a national health insurance program and legislation to control atomic energy.

45 Harry Truman

46 Truman and Republicans
Truman ran into tremendous political opposition in congress from a coalition of conservative Democrats and Republicans. This opposition rejected most of Truman’s Fair Deal goals. In 1946 Republicans won majorities in both houses of Congress. The 80th Congress battered the President for the next two years. Led by “Mr. Republican” Robert A. Taft, the Republicans blocked Truman’s fair deal and worked to reduce the size of government.

47 Truman on Civil Rights On civil rights initiatives, especially Truman found opposition throughout his presidency. While privately holding the prejudices he had learned growing up Truman did work for civil rights. Truman met with African American leaders who asked him to support a federal anti-lynching law, abolish the poll tax, and to establish a permanent board to prevent discriminatory practices in hiring. Truman appointed a biracial Committee on Civil Rights, which recommended all these reforms. With southerners threatening to filibuster Congress took no action. In July 1948, Truman banned discrimination in the hiring of federal employees. He also ordered an end to segregation in the armed forces. Though real change came slowly.

48 The Election of 1948 It did not appear that Harry Truman had much chance to be elected in 1948 because he had lost the support of his own party. Protesting a moderate civil rights plank in party platform, southern democrats split off from the party, the segregationists formed the States’ Rights, or Dixiecrat party and nominated Strom Thurmond for President. The Liberal Wing of the party also deserted Truman in favor of Henry Wallace who headed the Progressive Party ticket. The Republican candidate was Thomas E. Dewey.

49 More on the election of 1948 Truman campaigned not so much against Dewey as against the Republican Congress, which he mocked as the “do-nothing” 80th Congress. When congress refused to let the government buy surplus grain and farmers were forced to sell their products at very low prices. Truman attacked Congress saying they had “stuck a pitchfork in the farmers’ back.” On election day virtually all experts and polls expected Dewey to win, Truman scored an astounding upset. Democrats also won control of Congress.

50 Truman’s Upset

51 Truman’s Second Term Even with his victory and the Democratic victory in Congress, Truman’s Fair Deal scored only occasional successes. Still upset over FDR’s four terms, Republicans together with southern Democrats, moved for the passage of a constitutional amendment limiting a President to two terms. The Twenty-second Amendment passed, in the absence of public opposition rather than as a result of Public support, in The amendment contained specific language that allowed Truman to be reelected, but he decided not to run in Instead the Democrats chose Adlai Stevenson.

52 Eisenhower & the Republican Approach
The Republican candidate in 1952 was Dwight Eisenhower, former commander in chief of the Allied forces. Eisenhower had a much more conciliatory approach than Truman. Eisenhower’s formula for victory in 1952 was “K1C2,” which focused on three problems: Korea, communism, and corruption. Eisenhower promised to end the Korean War and the Republicans guaranteed a tough approach to the Communist challenge. Eisenhower’s vice-presidential running mate, Richard Nixon hammered the topic of corruption in government. Nixon himself was accused of having a special fund, set up by rich Republican supporters. In his famous “Checkers Speech,” Nixon was able to turn a political disaster into political win.

53 Dwight Eisenhower & Nixon’s Checkers Speech

54 Eisenhower & Modern Republicanism
Eisenhower won the election of 1952, with a Republican Congress. Eisenhower tended to work behinds the scenes with a conciliatory yet persuasive style which was popular. Eisenhower defeated Adlai Stevenson again in 1956 but the Democrats won back control of congress. Eisenhower wanted to slow the growth of the Federal government. He also wanted to limit the President’s power and increase the power of Congress and the courts. Ike’s priorities which he called “dynamic conservatism,” or “Modern Republicanism” included: cutting spending, reducing taxes, and balancing the budget. He intended to be “conservative when it comes to money, liberal when it comes to human beings.”

55 More Ike Ike’s attempt to balance the budget backfired.
His cuts in government spending caused the economy to slump. When the economy slumped tax revenues dropped, and the deficit grew instead of shrinking. The country suffered three economic recessions during Eisenhower’s presidency. Despite economic troubles Eisenhower helped the country maintain a mood of stability. He also maintained the New Deal’s efforts to guarantee the economic security of all Americans. In 1954 & 1956, Social Security was extended to 10 million additional workers. Eisenhower endorsed a military strategy of relying on nuclear weapons, rather than more costly conventional armies.

56 Meeting the Technology Challenge
The launching of Sputnik in 1957, caused many Americans to think the U.S. was losing its competitive edge especially in the areas of technology and missiles. The National Defense Education Act was designed to improve science and mathematics in school. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was an independent agency for space exploration created in response to the launching of Sputnik.

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