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1950s American Culture - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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1950s American Culture. Baby Boom. Late 1940s through to the early 1960s Became the largest generation in America’s history. 1957- a baby was born every 7 seconds!. Why a boom?. Husbands return home from war (in 1945) Age in which couples marry decreases

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American Culture

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Baby Boom

  • Late 1940s through to the early 1960s

  • Became the largest generation in America’s history

1957- a baby was born every 7 seconds!

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Why a boom?

  • Husbands return home from war (in 1945)

  • Age in which couples marry decreases

  • New desirability for larger families

  • Economic prosperity

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  • Suburban growth with economic expansion and prosperity

  • Desirable option for many returning war veterans

  • Based on the fulfillment of the ‘American Dream’ and the ‘good life’

  • Stimulated by white migration out of busy, ‘corrupt’ cities

  • Residents were mostly white and of the middle class

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Levittown, NY

  • William Levitt

  • 1947-1951 housing development

  • first mass produced suburb

  • low monthly cost, no down payment

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  • Families have more money

  • New homes required the purchasing of new goods

  • ‘Keeping up with the Jones’

  • Consumption fulfilled idea of the ‘good life’

  • Material goods were a symbol of status and success

  • The production of new appliances (vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, etc.) re-emphasized prominent social ideals

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Car Culture

  • Americans bought over 60 million cars in a short 10 year span

  • Influential in the development of suburbia

  • Rise of new services and access to leisure activities

  • Interstate Highway system

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  • Bright colours

  • Poodle skirts

  • The bikini

  • Men grew hair longer

  • Beehive and Ponytail hairstyles were popular among women

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  • Hula Hoop

  • Frisbee

  • Barbie

  • Mr. Potato Head

  • Candyland, Chutes & Ladders

  • Superman, Batman Comics

  • Change in childhood experiences (contrast to previous generations)

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  • Became the dominant form of entertainment

  • Number of American families with TV sets grew from 8 million – 42 million over 1 decade

  • Ownership was a symbol of prosperity (especially for families with the new colour TV set)

  • Programs presented viewers with messages about social norms

  • Television advertising began to surge also re-emphasizing societal ideals

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Popular Programs

  • Sitcoms (Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best)

  • Musicals (American Bandstand)

  • Comedy (Ed Sullivan Show)

  • Additional Resource:

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqMQDb9aG4A

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  • Era of Rock n Roll domination

  • Mix of Rhythm & Blues with Country Western

  • Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis Presley

  • Growth of the Electric Guitar

  • Concern from parents about controversial lyrics and impact of music on teenagers

  • Additional Resource:

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOvUdZgl7vo&feature=related

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  • Rise of science fiction film

  • Adolescent targets (James Dean, “Rebel Without A Cause”)

  • Musicals: “Oklahoma!”, “Singin’ in the Rain”

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Beat Generation

  • Culture of rebellious teenagers (defy social norms)

  • Anti-materialistic literary movement

  • Non-conformity

  • Howl (1956), On the Road (1957)

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  • DNA structure discovered (1953)

  • Polio Vaccine (1955)

  • Sputnik 1 launched/ U.S. Explorer 1 launched (1957)

  • Organization of NASA

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Gender Roles

  • Women urged to leave the workplace after WW2 or were laid off

  • Pressure for women to stay at home

  • Return to traditional roles for women

  • Emphasis put on expectations by the mass media

  • Gender segregated jobs

  • Idea of men as the breadwinners

Additional Resource: