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The Cold War. Demographic Patterns. America at the Mid-Century The 1950s. Economic Abundance. Science and Technology. Social Stability. Recent and Contemporary America. The Cold War. Any questions?. Demographic Patterns. What did stuff cost in 1957?.

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Recent and Contemporary America

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Presentation Transcript

The Cold War

Demographic Patterns

America at the Mid-Century

The 1950s

Economic Abundance

Science and Technology

Social Stability

Recent and Contemporary America

the cold war
The Cold War

Any questions?

demographic patterns
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

the baby boom
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
u s births 1930 2008
U.S. Births, 1930-2008

1957 – 4,308,000

2007 – 4,317,000

u s birth rates 1949 1961
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

population shifts
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



















population shifts1
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
population shifts2
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
    • Racial separation
      • “chocolate cities and vanilla suburbs”
economic abundance
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

the age of the automobile
“The Age of the Automobile”

A car culture develops around the burgeoning highway system


1958 – Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz

1958 – Cadillac Eldorado Brougham

businesses reorganize
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

businesses reorganize1
Businesses Reorganize

The right to open a restaurant — or business— using a parent company’s brand name and system

Beginning of franchises

Ray Kroc, who sold milkshake machines, bought out a family owned business to create the first hamburger franchise

Expansion of companies overseas to closer proximity of natural/raw materials

Growth of multi-national corporations

growth industries
Growth Industries

Growth of the “new” industries


Chemicals – (Dow, Du Pont) – aerosols, plastics, teflon

Aerospace & air travel

Business machines – copiers, computers

Decline of the “old” industries


Cotton & Textiles


Agribusiness overwhelms the small farm

science and technology
Science and Technology


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

science and technology1
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)

science and technology2
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

science and technology3
Science and Technology


Lost listeners, and advertisers, to television

Focused marketing on the automobile


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


science and technology4
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

science and technology5
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
science and technology6
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
science and technology7
Science and Technology
  • Movies
    • Decline of films with the popularity of television
    • Introduction of 3-D glasses
science and technology8
Science and Technology
  • Movies
    • Cinemascope – large screen, panoramic views
science and technology9
Science and Technology
  • Medicine
    • Radiation and chemotherapy for cancer treatment
    • First successful kidney transplant
    • Pacemakers
science and technology10
Science and Technology
  • Medicine
    • Polio vaccine – Jonas Salk
    • Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation based on the ABC’s of resuscitation (airway, breathing, circulation)
social stability
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
social stability1
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
social stability2
Social Stability

Men’s and Women’s Roles



Support family

Support husband

Judged by wealth and possessions

Judged based on perspective of and relation to husband



social stability3
Social Stability

Men’s and Women’s Roles, cont’d

Betty Friedan

The Feminine Mystique


“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.”

Dr. Benjamin Spock

Baby and Child Care


Women should make child-rearing their primary task in order to have well-adjusted children

social stability4
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

social stability5
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)
social stability6
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
social stability7
Social Stability
  • Growing Youth Culture
  • The “silent generation” had little interest in the world at large
  • School instead of work
  • More leisure time
social stability8
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”


Rising crime rate


Busy parents

Anxiety over the draft

Lack of genuine religion

Comic books



Rebellion against conformity to parental ideals

social stability9
Social Stability

Rock and Roll


Suburb picnic

Suburb family

Ohio Historical Society

Colored Baltimore

Kroc’s First Restaurant

Retro Car Ads

Regency TR1

Grace Hopper






Jonas Salk