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The Golden Age - America in the 1950's
Transcript of The Golden Age - America in the 1950's
Oftentimes the 1950s are called the Golden Age. In spite of the threat of communism, most Americans, on the surface at least, were living the American Dream. In reality, the 1950s were a time of change that will lay the ground work for one of the most turbulent decades in United States history, the 1960s.
1. The 1950s were a time of incredible economic growth and prosperity:
a. For the first time since 1929 the beginning of the Great Depression, Americans were able to afford new items like refrigerators, television sets and other appliances
b. Incomes rise and more people are able to afford homes. Credit cards are created allowing Americans to have more flexibility with their spending.
c. Technological advances provide more goods and services at lower prices. One example of this is increasing automation - using machines to do work. America was providing goods for the world which was still recovering from World War II.
d. New materials were used to build products such as plastics.
e. Because of the Cold War, there was a lot of defense spending.
f. More professional or white collar jobs
I. American Abundance and Wealth: III. Popular and Changing Culture
A. Toys – Many new toys are made during this time, some of which still are still played with today. One reason for the many new toys is because of the baby boom. Toys (and other items) were made of the new material, plastic
Mr. Potato Head Barbie Doll
Silly Putty Hula Hoop
B. The Age of Television
At the beginning of the 1950s, few homes have televisions; by 1959 most do. TV was broadcast only in the late afternoons and evenings. There were only three stations. Most TV programs showed an idealized family life – the type of life most families wanted to live. Some of the popular shows were
•The Howdy Doody Show
•I Love Lucy
•Father Knows Best
•Leave It to Beaver
C. Music in the 1950s
1. Bunny Hop, a conga line dance
2. Sock hops
3. Rock 'n' Roll, emerged 1954-1955
Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino and Elvis Presley became huge stars. Youth loved it, parents hated it. Rock ‘n’ Roll reflects the youth culture of the 1950s.
D. Fashion in the 1950s
1.Very formal and conservative
2.Female students wore skirts to school
3.Male students wore ties to school
The Golden Age - America in the 1950's
II. Family Life Orientation and Suburban Growth
A. The Baby Boom - A rapidly rising birth rate in the 1950s. This happens as a result of veterans returning from WWII – their goal is to put the war behind them and to settle into family life. As this happens, many babies will be born and
as a result the focus becomes getting good homes for the growing families.
B. Suburbs – Housing developments outside of urban areas. Many people will move to the suburbs in the 1950s. They offered homes at reasonable prices, good schools, green areas with trees and more space.
A famous example is Levittown, New York
C. Automobile Growth – The American love affair with cars begins.
Higher incomes once again allow Americans to buy cars. As a result:
1. The nation’s highway system will be created in the 1950s.
a. It connects cities and suburbs, allowing Americans to live farther away from their jobs.
b. The highway system also has a military purpose.
c. 41,000 miles of highway are constructed.
2. Americans become focused on their cars: drive-thrus and drive-ins emerge for the first time.
D. Revival of Religion –
Americans embrace Christianity and organized religion as a reaction to the Cold War. In communism, there is no organized religion and you are not allowed to freely express your beliefs. Americans want to separate themselves from the “godless communists.” In response to this, in 1954 the phrase “under God” was officially added to the Pledge of Allegiance.
E. Conformity and Non-Conformity
a. The 1950s is viewed as a time of conformity – when everyone is supposed to be the same. This is partly because of the Second Red Scare – no one wanted to seem “Un-American.” Remember – there were significant consequences if you were accused of being a communist!
b. Non-Conformity - Some deliberately rebelled against the conformity and materialism of the 1950s such as the Beatniks – a group of people who tried to live unconventional lives, and who criticized the standard way of life in the 1950s. They focused on freedom and spirituality and experimented with drugs and sex. This group will give rise to the counter-culture (hippies) of the 1960s.