Week 7: Consumerism and Conservatism

Reading:  Foner Chapter 24:  "An Affluent Society, 1953-1960"

American culture during the first phase of the Cold War was confronted with dramatic material transformations of daily life.  The development of suburbs as bedroom communities were first realized in the decade after the Second World War.

Levittown on Long Island was planned and built between 1947 and 1951 and  became the prototype community for cheaply produced mass consumption track housing.  Residents at Levittown also pushed for and got public swimming pools.  Here are some links on the importance of this prototype suburb.

Levittown: Documents of an Ideal American Suburb Peter Bacon Hales, Art History Department, University of Illinois at Chicago
Levittown Historical Society

The Levittown Story

Levittown Revisited Part II

Levittown 1947 promotional film

The suburbs were the product of a new mass consumption society aided by cheap gasoline and an expansive new communications system of freeways and mass media for consumption.  Televisions, radios, phones all became consumable technology items that could be marketed and distributed through a national market network.  The rise of supermarkets first began in this period with stores like Sears & Roebuck moving from catalog stores in small towns to large department stores accessible by freeways in the new suburbs.

The Organization Man - website to the classic management book by William Whyte
Note the emphasis on white male patriarchy in the new corporate model.

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suite 1956

For a critique of male patriarchy the classic work is Betty Friedan The Feminine Mystique (1963)

Racism, Segregation and the Struggle for Civil Rights 

Marquette University documentary clip on the Little Rock Nine

This webcast features an awards ceremony and interviews with the surviving members of the Little Rock Nine, the nine students who perservered and helped integrate Little Rock High School in 1957.  This was a test of the Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v. Board of Education cases (1954). 

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