THE AFFLUENT SOCIETY: 1950S EISENHOWER AMERICAN PROSPERITY THE COLD WAR
Two Factors that Defined America in the 1950s and 1960s Prosperity Fight against communism • Economic boom of the 1950s led to an increase in American confidence and world power. • Fear of nuclear war and the spread of Communism united Americans against a common enemy. It also led to a great deal of anxiety in the nation.
Why did the economy grow so rapidly in the 1950s? 1. Government spending 2. Military spending 3. Baby boom led to demand for goods— rise in mass consumption 4. Americans moving to the suburbs Housing construction Automobiles, fuel, oil, gas stations… Road construction
Just how big was the economic boom? ***By 1960, the American people had achieved the highest standard of living of any society in the history of the world. The average American had 20% more purchasing power than in 1945. GNP grew 250%
The Rise of the West, 1950s American West grew faster than any other region of the U.S. –WHY? 1. Industry 2. ***Government projects (military spending) 3. Oil in Texas 4. Universities as research centers 5. Climate and the introduction of air conditioning 6. The region experienced a significant population growth.
American Faith in the Economy 1. Believed in the power of Keynesian economics 2. Believed the government now had tools and power to regulate the economy 3. Believed in permanent economic growth
Labor and Unions in the 1950s Businesses were consolidating Wages and benefits rose Unions had less power Unions were often corrupt New technologies were replacing workers Unions could not gain power in the South
Medical Research of the 1950s 1. Vaccines and medicines=antibiotics, penicillin 2. Immunizations for smallpox, typhoid, tetanus and tuberculosis 3. Vaccines for the flu 4. Polio vaccine
Pesticides • In the 50s, new and amazing products were being discovered, quickly tested and introduced to farmers and the general public. In these early days, there were no downsides to pesticides. After all, the public could see the miracles happening before their eyes. DDT had been used effectively during World War II to kill the insects that carried malaria and typhus, saving the lives of thousands of GIs. In the 50s, very little was known about any problems with these chemical miracles. The studies had just not been done, yet.
New and Improved Electronics 1. T.V. 2. Computer 3. Transistor 4. Integrated circuitry
Bombs, Rockets, and Missiles 1. 1952 U.S. detonated the first hydrogen bomb 2. U.S. and Russians created new rockets and missiles to carry warheads to distant targets. 3. ***ICBM=Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles
The Space Race , 1957-1975 1. A competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union to explore outer space and send humans in to space and to the moon. On October 4, 1957 the Soviets launched Sputnik, a satellite that orbited the earth for two months.
The U. S. reaction to Sputnik • 1. NASA=National Aeronautics and Space Administration • 2. Worked to improve math and science programs in schools • 3. Soviets were ahead of us much of the time • 4. U.S. beat the Soviets to the moon when in 1969 Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. (Apollo program)
People of Plenty Americans in the 1950s
7 Defining Elements of 1950s America 1. Large, prosperous middle class 2. Consumer culture 3. Automobiles transformed the nation 4. Growth of the Suburbs 5. Television—communication revolution 6. Youth culture and Rock ‘n Roll 7. Travel, entertainment, and early stages of environmental awareness
Middle Class of the 1950s • 1. Grew much larger • 2. Prosperous!! Led to mass consumption and a consumer culture • 3. Middle class values dominated society Home Family Work Religion Gender roles Politics Success
Why did Americans become so focused on mass consumption in the 1950s? 1. After WWII, Americans had money to spend 2. Economic Boom—growing prosperity 3. More goods to buy 4. Advertising 5. Easy credit
1950s: Automobiles Transform the Nation ***Federal Highway Act of 1956 Demand for oil—decline in oil reserves Decline in Railroads Decline of downtowns Growth of suburbs and malls Travel increased Growth of motels, fast food industry (McDonalds), drive in theaters, gas stations Air pollution and smog
The Suburban Nation By 1960, 1/3 of all Americans lived in the suburbs. This shift was without precedent in American history. 1. William Levitt and Levittown 2. Why did Americans move to the suburbs? 3. Family life in the suburbs
T.V. in the 1950s Many identify TV as the most powerful medium of mass communication in history (until the internet) CBS, ABC, NBC –only three primary networks Advertising increased Popularity of sports increased Changed social patterns—people apent more of their free time watching T.V. Led to rise in awareness of social conflict –now riots, civil rights violence, war protests were all televised
Youth Culture and Rock n Roll, 1950s Beatniks Restlessness among youth Rebels as icons Music Revolution –Rock and Roll