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Aim : What changes occurred in the United States after WW2?. Objective. Student will be able to discuss postwar economics, politics and culture of the 1950s. 4. Postwar Years at Home.
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Student will be able to discuss postwar economics, politics and culture of the 1950s.
Now that the United States had won WW2, they faced problems not only in foreign relations, but in domestic affairs as well.
After World War 2, the three main domestic questions were:
(1) How does the US switch from a wartime to a peacetime economy?
(2)What role does the government play in postwar America?
Harry Truman and the US Congress have to answer these questions now that the war is over.
When the US returned from World War 2, the government had three points to address:
(1) The size of the military decreased after the end of WW2.
(2) The economy went from depression to overproduction-now it must return to peacetime standards.
(3) Now that the Depression is over-how does the government handle labor?
What issues did the US government have to deal with in regards to the post-WW2 economy?
Now the re-adjustment begins……..
One of the first tasks of the government is to cut the size of the armed forces.
The US Army after the end of World War 2 had nearly eight million men. By the time the Korean War starts in 1950, the number of men in the US military had shrunk to 600,000 men.
The reduction of the military is tied to the 1944 G-I Bill. This bill granted government money for education, business or vocational (job) training.
Passed in 1944, returning veterans received money for college, business
or vocational training.
What did the GI Bill provide?
The United States also had to change industry over to peacetime production.
To do this, the United States Government sold many of its war plants to private companies.
Factories that were making military supplies returned to producing consumer goods.
By the end of 1945, nearly 93% of all war plants had been closed or shut down.
What steps did the government take to change the economy over to peacetime conditions?
By the end of WW2, the US had saved over $130 billion dollars and were eager to spend the money.
After the war, goods were scarce and prices rose despite government regulating prices.
Truman kept controls on the prices after the war, but in 1946, after political pressure, he lifted the controls.
Once he lifted the government controls, the prices of goods rose even higher.
The problem was wages did not go up and this led to an increase in the costs of living in the United States.
What economic problem developed after WW2?
After the war, the number of strikes increased.
In these strikes, the companies met the demands of their labor unions, but to cover wages, the companies raised prices on goods. This led to an increase in the standard of living and more demands for higher wages.
The companies now demanded the government to impose stringer controls over labor.
In 1947, the Taft-Hartley Act was passed. This act:
(1) Outlawed the closed shop-forcing men to join unions before they were hired.
(2) Allowed the President to have an 80-day cooling-off period when a strike threatened the economy.
(3) Unions were now prohibited from giving money to political campaigns.
The act alarmed many labor unions because it made it harder for them to attract new members.
Even with the Taft-Hartley Act, union membership grew to 15,000,000 members by 1950.
Why did a large number of labor strikes take place after WW2?
The original copy of the act, seen here, is on display at Harry
Truman’s Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri.
When Truman took office after the death of FDR, he wanted to continue the policies of the New Deal.
However, the feelings of the American people were changing away from the idea of a big government that they had under the New Deal.
In 1946, Truman watched as the Republicans won back the US House and Senate. This made it hard for Truman to pass his policies.
As the election of 1948 grew near, the Republicans grew more confident that they would win back the White House for the first time in 20 years.
The Democrats were not unified behind President Truman.
(1) Southern Democrats were not behind the Democratic stance on civil rights, so they supported Governor Strom Thurmond for
(2) Liberal Democrats created the Progressive Party and supported Henry Wallace
With no chance of winning, Truman refused to admit defeat. He traveled thousands of miles and gave thousands of speeches.
The Republicans chose Governor Thomas E. Dewey, the governor of New York.
In the election of 1948, Truman defeated Dewey, but some newspapers had it wrong.
Given no chance of winning, Harry
Truman pulled a giant upset when
he wins the Election of 1948 against
Thomas Dewey and Strom Thurmond.
Who was favored to win the election of 1948? Who won?
After his victory, Truman set a new plan of reform, known as the Fair Deal off to the US Congress.
The Fair Deal was, in part, a continuation of the New Deal established by FDR. It called for new programs in education, health care, housing . Truman wanted to extend social security and end discrimination.
Republicans and southern Democrats united to kill most of Truman’s programs in the Fair Deal.
The two pieces of the Fair Deal accepted by the US Congress were the National Housing Act which built more public housing and the extension of social security to 10,000,000 workers.
With problems at home and in Korea, Truman did not run for President in 1952
What was the Fair Deal?
Why did Harry Truman not run for President in 1952?
The Democrats nominated Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois and the Republicans nominated World War 2 General Dwight Eisenhower.
Eisenhower wins the Election of 1952. He receives 442 electoral votes to Stevenson’s 89.
Eisenhower also receives some 34 million popular votes to Stevenson’s 28 million.
The Republicans take back the White House for the first time since 1928.
Eisenhower wins the Election of
1952 in a landslide against Adlai
This gives the Republicans the
White House for the 1st time since
Who won the Election of 1952?
As Eisenhower assumed the Presidency, a new fear of communism was sweeping the United States.
Since the end of WW2, the United States had watched the Soviet Union take over Eastern Europe, did nothing to prevent the Communists from controlling China, allowed for other nations to receive our atomic secrets (including the Soviets) and arrested the Rosenbergs who gave the secrets to them.
The Soviets began liberating Eastern Europe in 1945.
They promised free elections but installed
This was the first breaking of the Allied powers alliance
In 1947, the Soviet Union blockaded Berlin.
To aid the citizens of Berlin, Truman began the
Berlin Airlift, in which the US/UK/ French flew supplies
from Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. This upped the ante of
the Cold War. The Rosenbergs were American citizens.
China became a communist nation in 1949 and formed
an alliance with the Soviet Union. They, too, would also
detonate an atomic weapon after the Soviets.
The Korean War starts in 1950.
This made Americans fearful.
American citizens who spied for the Soviet Union. They were accused, tried,
convicted and then executed for selling our atomic secrets to the
The Soviet Union used their secrets to detonate their first atomic bomb in
What events caused some Americans to begin questioning the loyalty of other Americans?
To stop the spread of communism, the US Government passed laws to defend itself.
The nation was split over these laws. Some people were put at ease by the measures, however, others felt these laws to violate their civil liberties.
The Smith Act (1940) made it illegal to support any group that wanted to overthrow the government.
The McCarren Act (1950) forced Communist groups to register with the Attorney General.
The McCarren Act also stopped Communists from entering the United States. The McCarren Act also gave the President the right to jail Communist subversives (people who work to overthrow the government) in an national emergency.
The McCarren-Walter Act (1952) allowed the Attorney General to deport people whose actions were thought to be against the interests of the United States.
The Communist Control Act (1954) banned the Communist Party in the US.
One of the Senators who backed the
US Government in their attempts to
stop the spread of Communism in the
Responsible for the McCarran Act, as
well as the McCarran-Walter Act.
FDR, Truman and Eisenhower all screened government workers to see if they were Communists.
The big step towards a Red Scare came in 1954, when Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin accused people of being communists in the State Department and in the army.
McCarthy formed a Senate committee was formed to see if there were communists in the army.
As millions of Americans watched the hearings on television, many were fearful of the accusations.
However, McCarthy was criticized for his way of treating witnesses. He also lost a majority of support when his charges were clearly false.
The US Senate then condemned McCarthy for his actions.
Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI)
Senator Millard Tydings who tried to stop McCarthy.
He and his committee proved that McCarthy’s charges were a
McCarthy was seen as a fraud and was laughed at by his fellow
After the failure of McCarthy to prove
his point regarding the allegations
of Communists in the State
Department, McCarthyism seems to
be a particular issue that the
Republican Party is not going to
endorse, as illustrated by the GOP
elephant refusing to move towards
Edward R. Murrow, CBS Newscaster was responsible for
turning the American press and public opinion against
McCarthy between 1953-1954.
“ His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. [...] This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent--or for those who approve...We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom--what's left of it--but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear. He merely exploited it, and rather successfully. Cassius was right: 'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves.'[
Senator Ralph Flanders (R/VT)
Senator Arthur Watkins (R/UT)
What did Senator Joseph McCarthy do?
During his eight years in office, Eisenhower’s presidency has been characterized as “middle of the road”.
What that meant was that Eisenhower, at times, came to agreement with some Democratic ideas and bills, angering members of his party.
Instead of finally ending New Deal programs, Eisenhower kept social security and low-cost housing programs. He did eliminate the government in business and favored private enterprise.
Eisenhower did get the Congress to help pass his Federal Highway Aid Act in 1956.
This act set up a federal program of highway construction that would link the major cities of the United States.
When it was completed in the 1990s, the US had constructed some 42,000 miles of highways.
Many of the roads in and around NYC are built during this period of time.
Signed in 1956 and finished in the 1990s, the US constructed about
42,000 miles of interstate highways in approximately forty years.
What approach did Eisenhower take in dealing with issues?
Just as the 1920s were a period of prosperity, the 1950s also were a period of strong economic conditions in the United States.
The United States became an affluent or wealthy society.
Many Americans had more money for their needs such as food, clothing and shelter.
One of the reasons for the growth in the economy was the growth in the population.
The population of the United States in 1950 was around 151 million people.
By 1960, the population increased to around 180 million people.
There were two reasons for the growth. The first was great medical care that allowed for more Americans to live longer than the preceding generation.
The second was a baby boom. Veterans of WW2 returned home, got married and had large families.
Partly because of the baby boom, there was a shift in the population during the 1950s.
As cities became more crowded, Americans began moving to the suburbs.
By moving to the suburbs, people hoped to escape crime, high taxes, pollution and better schools for their children.
In addition, more than one million farmers were moving to the suburbs.
Suburban residents settled in rows of nearly identical houses, which were surrounded by shopping centers, schools, churches and parks.
Many of these suburbanites became commuters, traveling back and forth from the suburbs to their jobs in the cities.
Between 1950 and 1960, the suburban population of the United States doubled.
What were the people that moved to the suburbs hoped to escape?
With new technology and greater prosperity, Americans had more leisure time than ever before.
Television became a main source of entertainment.
Developed in the 1930s, television became available to the general public in the late 1940s.
In 1950, about 3,200,000 people owned a television. By 1960, 50,000,000 people owned a television.
Philo T. Farnsworth is credited with inventing the
1st electronic television, a working electronic
pickup device and the first to demonstrate
the electronic television.
He did this between 1928 and 1934.
1948 Admiral Television
1959 Zenith Television
Sporting events and athletes were also helped by the development of television.
(1) Baseball had stars in Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron.
(2) Football had stars in Jim Brown and Johnny Unitas.
(3) Slowly, games were being broadcasted live on television.
Americans also became interested in pursuing individualized sports such as golf and tennis
Henry “Hank” Aaron (755 HRs), Willie Mays (660 HRs) and Mickey Mantle (536 HRs)
were the heroes of the baseball diamond during the 1950s. The Yankees won eight
World Series during the 1950s and the Giants and Dodgers played in Manhattan and
Brooklyn until the two teams moved west following the 1957 season.
Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns was the most dominating running
back of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Johnny Unitas was the most
prolific passer of the 1950s and 1960s.
The NFL Championship Game of 1958 was between the NY Giants and the Baltimore
Colts. The Colts won the game, but it cemented football and television as at
tradition for most Americans. Football gets the best ratings on television.
Many Americans also began to enjoy cultural activities such as Broadway, art museums, science museums and concerts.
Here are some of the Broadway plays people enjoyed during the 1950s. Many of them have been turned into plays and are enjoying a comeback across many American cities.
In the 1950s, a new form of music called rock and roll was developed from combining jazz, rhythm and blues, country, and pop music.
Rock and roll music had a strong beat and was the first style of music to use electrified instruments.
Major stars included Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, the Coasters, Little Richard and the Everly Brothers sold millions of records.
Television was a place for teenagers to see their stars perform. Shows like American Bandstand was a predecessor to MTV, VH1, BET and American Idol.
Jerry Lee Lewis
Dick Clark created American Bandstand. A television that showed
performances of the top musical acts of the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s,
90s and today. His show was instrumental in that some of his
performers became celebrities and big musical stars much like
American Idol. You see him every New Years Eve.
Leo Fender (Left)/Les Paul (Right) were
crucial in that both men pioneered the
development of the electric guitar.
Allan Freed was a Cleveland DJ who coined the term rock and roll.
Freed was responsible for the birth of rock and roll and rock and roll
The Naked and the Dead
The Caine Mutiny
From Here to Eternity
Some works of literature in the 1950s were about World War II. Many of the novels dealt with the theme of people’s helplessness in the face of such a horrific event.
There were beat movements in New York, New Orleans and San Francisco.
Some of the biggest beat writers included poet Alan Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs
Other novels such as Carson McCuller’s Member of the Wedding and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye dealt with ordinary people caught up in the problems of modern life.