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Recent and Contemporary America America at the Mid-Century The 1950s The Cold War Demographic Patterns Social Stability Science and Technology Economic.

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Presentation on theme: "Recent and Contemporary America America at the Mid-Century The 1950s The Cold War Demographic Patterns Social Stability Science and Technology Economic."— Presentation transcript:

1 Recent and Contemporary America America at the Mid-Century The 1950s The Cold War Demographic Patterns Social Stability Science and Technology Economic Abundance

2 The Cold War Any questions?

3 Demographic Patterns What did stuff cost in 1957? Postage Stamp $0.03 Loaf of bread $0.19 Sports Illustrated $0.25 Movie ticket $0.35 Gallon of milk $0.50 Average hourly wage $2.05 New car $2,845 Median income for family of four $5,234 Median price of a home $19,500

4 The Baby Boom The “Baby Boom” refers to the dramatic increase in post-war births during the 50s Young couples had delayed families until after the war(s) The GI Bill encouraged/financed home ownership Popular culture celebrated pregnancy, parenthood, and large families

5 U.S. Births, 1949-1961

6 U.S. Births, 1930-2008 1957 – 4,308,000 2007 – 4,317,000

7 U.S. Birth Rates, 1949-1961 Birth rate: number of children being born related to the total population; usually based on births per 1,000

8 U.S. Birth Rate, 1930-2008


10 Population Shifts People migrated to the south and the west – to the “Sunbelt” Warmer climate Better jobs Lower taxes “Right to work” laws; fewer unions Depopulation of the countryside


12 -2 +4 +2 +1

13 Population Shifts People vacated the inner cities – growth of “suburbia” Need for more space Wanted their own, free-standing home Transfer by employer Moving from parent’s home Affordability Escape crime and conditions of the city





18 Population Shifts Urban renewal (programs to eliminate poverty by tearing down slums and erecting new high-rise buildings for poor residents) contributed to the decline of the inner city Created an atmosphere of violence (the projects) Encouraged people to remain poor by evicting them as soon as they began earning a higher income Encouraged people to remain poor by evicting them as soon as they began earning a higher income Racial separation “chocolate cities and vanilla suburbs”

19 Economic Abundance The war spending of the 1940s began a period of sustained economic growth, bringing to an end the depression of the 1930s. Government spending on infrastructure stimulated further growth in the post war years. Employment was plentiful (unemployment averaged around 4%) In the 1950s median wage rose 60% with an average inflation rate of 2%. These wage increases led to increased purchasing power and standards of living. Increased availability of credit led to further spending New technology

20 “The Age of the Automobile” A car culture develops around the burgeoning highway system




24 1958 – Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz 1958 – Cadillac Eldorado Brougham

25 1959 – Dodge Custom Royal Convertible

26 Businesses Reorganize More Americans working in offices “white-collar” vs. “blue-collar” Beginnings of conglomerates large corporations that own many smaller companies that produce entirely different goods or services

27 Businesses Reorganize Beginning of franchises The right to open a restaurant — or business— using a parent company’s brand name and system Ray Kroc, who sold milkshake machines, bought out a family owned business to create the first hamburger franchise Growth of multi-national corporations Expansion of companies overseas to closer proximity of natural/raw materials

28 Growth Industries Growth of the “new” industries Automobiles Chemicals – (Dow, Du Pont) – aerosols, plastics, teflon Aerospace & air travel Business machines – copiers, computers Decline of the “old” industries Coal Cotton & Textiles Railroads Agribusiness overwhelms the small farm

29 Science and Technology Television Visualized the radio programs of the 1920s & 30s News and entertainment into people’s homes Financed through commercial advertisements Presented the image of a common US culture Comedy – Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny Variety – Ed Sullivan Action and Westerns – The Lone Ranger, Dragnet, Gunsmoke

30 Science and Technology “If the television craze continues with the present level of programs, we are destined to have a nation of morons.” Daniel Marsh President, Boston University (1950)

31 Science and Technology “When television is good, nothing -- not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers -- nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland. You will see a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly commercials -- many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you'll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, I only ask you to try it.” Newton Minow “Television and the Public Interest” 9 May 1961 Former FCC Chairman

32 Science and Technology Radio Lost listeners, and advertisers, to television Focused marketing on the automobile industry Number of radio stations doubled between 1948 &1957 The development of the transistor (as a replacement for the vacuum tube) made miniature and mobile radios possible

33 Science and Technology Computers The binary computer introduced in the 1930s The first digital computer? The ABC (Atanasoff-Berry Computer) has the patent, but the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator) was the first functional digital computer (1946) 1,800 square feet 18,000 vacuum tubes 50 tons

34 Science and Technology Computers Grace Hopper, programmer, coined the term “debugging”; developed the first arithmetic language Computers become available for personal and business use IBM becomes an industry leader in computer research and development

35 Science and Technology Computers MIT introduces the Whirlwind (8 Mar 1955) – the first digital computer with magnetic core RAM and real-time graphics Transistors replace vacuum tubes

36 Science and Technology Movies Decline of films with the popularity of television Introduction of 3-D glasses

37 Science and Technology Movies Cinemascope – large screen, panoramic views

38 Science and Technology Medicine Radiation and chemotherapy for cancer treatment First successful kidney transplant Pacemakers

39 Science and Technology Medicine Polio vaccine – Jonas Salk Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation based on the ABC’s of resuscitation (airway, breathing, circulation)

40 Social Stability Class and Status Postwar economic growth enabled millions of Americans to increase their incomes, advance their occupational statuses and improve their standards of living Wealth remained concentrated in the hands of a relatively small number of families at the top Society stratified based on wealth, status, political clout, legal protections, education, health, and patterns of recreation and leisure

41 Social Stability Class and Status, cont’d Defenders of the “affluent society” argued America had become a nation of the middle class The poor, about 25% of the population, were primarily non-white, elderly, urbanites, and women

42 Social Stability Men’s and Women’s Roles Public Private Support familySupport husband Provider Nurturer Judged by wealth and possessions Judged based on perspective of and relation to husband

43 Social Stability Men’s and Women’s Roles, cont’d Dr. Benjamin Spock Baby and Child Care 1946 Women should make child-rearing their primary task in order to have well-adjusted children Betty Friedan The Feminine Mystique 1963 “It was unquestioned gospel [in the 1950s] that women could identify with nothing beyond the home..unless it could be approached through female experience as a wife or mother or translated into domestic detail.”

44 Social Stability Men’s and Women’s Roles, cont’d The 1950s transition to a “togetherness” concept in which a happy family melded into a team as family life was oriented around shared activities The husband, however, remained the dominant team member; the wife, though not second-class, was secondary

45 Social Stability A Resurgence in Religion Partially in response to the cold-war struggle against “godless communism” A new-found commitment to religion (1954 the addition of “under God” to pledge; 1955 “in God we trust” added to currency)

46 Social Stability A Resurgence in Religion, cont’d Commercialization and de-personalization of religion (e.g “Dial a Prayer”) Rise of radio and television personalities (e.g. Billy Graham) Religion became less concerned with doctrine, with a greater emphasis on religious affiliation for identity and socialization

47 Social Stability Growing Youth Culture The “silent generation” had little interest in the world at large School instead of work More leisure time

48 Social Stability Growing Youth Culture, cont’d An increase in juvenile delinquency (anti-social or criminal behavior of young people) Beginnings of a “counter-culture” Television Movies Comic books Racism Busy parents Rising crime rate Lack of genuine religion Anxiety over the draft Rebellion against conformity to parental ideals Poverty

49 Social Stability Rock and Roll

50 Suburb picnic Suburb family Ohio Historical Society Colored Baltimore Kroc’s First Restaurant Retro Car Ads Regency TR1 Grace Hopper ENIAC Whirlwind Cinemascope Anamorphose_cinemascope_desert_sens_defilement.jpeg Pacemaker

51 Jonas Salk

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