The United States experienced unprecedented prosperity after the Second World War, allowing many Americans to engage in personal debt.
Newlyweds Melvin and Maria Mininson spent their honeymoon in an underground bomb shelter in their Miami back yard.
The steel and concrete shelter held enough food and water to survive an atomic attack.
In the 1950s, the image of newlyweds seeking security in a new age of nuclear terror symbolized America.
The nation's traditional optimism was shadowed by the cold war with the Soviet Union.
Most Americans emerged from the Second World War proud of their country's military strength, international stature, and industrial might.
For white, middle- class Americans, it was.
Surveys suggested that most people were content with the economic growth of the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Thanks in part to new antibiotics and the vaccine invented by Dr. Salk, people live longer on average.
The idealized image of America in the 50's as a prosperous nation with good times is a lie.
Life was more complicated at times.
Eisenhower was the leader of politics in the 1950s.
He was a model of moderation, modesty, stability, and optimism and was celebrated for his grin.
He was a soldier and a politician.
He preferred golf over governance.
He wanted to inspire Americans with a vision of a brighter future.
The Truman administration was criticized by the public.
President Truman was put on the defensive by the disclosure that corrupt lobbyists had rigged military contracts during the Korean conflict.
The scandal led to the fifre of nearly 250 Internal Rev enue Service employees.
Public sentiment turned against the Democrats.
Eisenhower was recruited by both Republican and Democratic leaders in the late 1940s.
The Allied invasion of Nazi- controlled Europe was coordinated by Eisenhower.
Many of his supporters wore "I Like Ike" hats and pins.
He spoke to run for president as a Republican to the consumer culture's impact on politics.
Eisenhower was nominated for president at the Republican convention.
Republican leaders tried to assure conserva tives that the ticket was balanced with a youthful running mate: Richard M. Nixon, a thirty- nine- year- old California senator known for his shrewd opportun ism and combative temperament.
The pursuit of the Alger Hiss espionage case brought Nixon national prominence.
Eisenhower would bring "genuine independence" to the people of Eastern Europe.
There were con trasting personality in the presidential campaign.
Eisenhower was a man of integrity and decency.
He promised to clean up the mess in Washington and travel to Korea to get an early end to the conflict.
Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic candidate for governor of Illinois, was unknown outside of his home state.
He came across as more of an intellectual than a leader.
Republicans said he was an "egg head" because he was a balding professor with more intelligence than common sense.
Stevenson was outmatched.
Eisenhower won the election with 34 million votes to Stevenson's 27 million.
The elec toral vote was very close.
Stevenson did not win his home state of Illinois.
Eisenhower cracked the solidly Democratic South by securing four southern states.
Eisenhower was liked more by voters than other Republican candi dates.
Democrats kept control of most governorships, lost control of the House, and broke even in the Senate in the 1952 election.
Since 1868, only one professional soldier has been elected president.
He promised to pursue a middle way between conservatism and liberal ism.
He wanted to end the "excesses" of the twenty years of Democratic control of the White House, rather than dismantle the New Deal and Fair Deal programs.
He promised to reduce the national debt, cut military expenses, and balance the federal budget.
He insisted that workers had a right to form unions.
He said that employees needed to be paid enough to live a good life.
"We all need to produce, produce more, and produce yet more," he said.
The prevailing mood of most voters is influenced by Eisenhower's cautious personality and public face.
He sought consensus and avoided con frontation.
He believed that Congress should make policy and the president should carry it out.
The basic structure of the New Deal was retained, even though he wanted Congress to establish a federal Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.
The minimum wage was increased and additional public housing was approved by Eisenhower.
Conservatives accused him of being too liberal.
The St. Lawrence Seaway and the Interstate Highway System were both launched by the federal government under Eisenhower.
The Great Lakes were opened to oceangoing ships thanks to the St. Lawrence Seaway project.
The $32 billion interstate highway system, funded largely by federal gasoline taxes, took twenty years to construct and was the largest federal project in his tory.
55,512 bridges were needed for it to stretch for 47,000 miles.
It created jobs, stimulated economic growth, and spurred the tourism, motor hotel, bil board, fast- food, and long- haul trucking industries.
The way people traveled and where they lived was changed by interstates, while the family vacation by car was created.
A family gets ready to enjoy a picnic lunch in the countryside in an advertisement for a car.
In 1948, only 60 percent of families owned a car; by 1955, 90 percent owned a car, and many households had two.
Personal freedom and mobility, rugged individualism, and masculine force have always been cherished by Americans.
All these quali ties were embodied by automobiles.
Cars were more than just a means of transportation, they were a means of social status, freedom, and a wider range of choices.
The car culture led to the creation of convenience stores.
The interstate highway system and the car culture caused a surge in the movement of white people from cities to suburbs and weakened public transit systems.
The 1952 presiden tial victory of the Republicans was thought to have curbed the efforts of Joseph R.
McCarthy wanted to find Communist spies in the federal government.
The publicity seeking senator's behavior grew even more outrageous because reporters loved his antics and he became a master at telling outrageous lies.
McCarthy committed political suicide when he made the absurd charge that the U.S. Army was against communism.
The Army- McCarthy hearings in the spring of 1954.
McCarthy was at his worst, browbeating high- ranking officers, shamelessly promoting himself, and producing little evidence to back up his charges.
He told the general that he was a disgrace to the uniform.
You're shielding the conspirators.
You're not an officer.
McCarthy was outwitted by the legal counsel of the army.
The attorney exploded when McCarthy tried to tarnish one of the associates.
The Senate voted to censure McCarthy on December 2, 1954.
His influence began to apsed.
His crusade against Communists catapulted him into the spotlight and captured the nation's attention, but he trampled upon civil liberties.
The Democrats took control of both houses of Congress after his death.
He died at the age of forty eight due to the effects of alcohol abuse.
The economy soared to record heights as businesses built new housing and mass-produced consumer goods.
The quarter century from 1948 to 1973 saw the greatest economic growth in history.
The nation's prosperity was a result of several factors.
Huge federal expenditures during the Second World War and Korean War helped the economy out of the Great Depression.
Unemployment was not real.
The global arms race, as well as the construction of highways, bridges, airports, and ports, resulted in high government spending in the 1950s.
The military budget in 1945 made up 60 percent of the national budget.
The growth of eco nomics can be attributed to the superior productivity of American industries.
The government transferred many federal defense plants to civilian owners who retooled them for peace time manufacturing after the war ended.
Chemicals, electronics, and aviation were stimulated by military- related research.
The aircrat industry was the largest employer.
The emergence of new technologies, including the fifrst generation of computers, made a huge impact on the economy.
The Super Giant supermarket shown above was one of the booming chain stores that dot the suburbs in the fifties.
The oil boom in Texas, Wyoming, and Oklahoma provided low cost fuel to heat buildings and power cars and trucks.
The lack of foreign competition was one of the reasons for the growth.
Britain, France, Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union were all devastated by the Second World War, leaving American manufacturers with a virtual monopoly on international trade.
The large number of people who shared in the rising standard of living was what differentiated the postwar era from earlier periods of prosperity.
Americans spent their money with gusto during the fifties.
The unionized automotive and steel workers moved into the middle class.
It was easier to buy things with innovations in fifnancing.
The credit card was the new norm in 1949. frugality became unpatriotic as personal indebtedness doubled.
Hugh Downs remembered that those were exciting days.
A new house was what most Americans wanted.
60 percent of Americans owned homes by 1960, up from 40 percent in 1945.
The latest electrical appliances in new homes were refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, electric mixers, carving knives, and shoe polishers.
The use of electricity tripled because of the popularity of televi sion, which displaced listening to the radio and going to the movies as the most popular way to spend free time.
The number of homes with TV sets went from 8,000 to 46 million between 1946 and 1960.
The dynamics of American family life changed with the introduction of new products.
The 1959 advertisement for TV dinners shows a family eating out of disposable containers in front of the television.
The popularity of television allowed advertisers to promote a new phase of the consumer culture that was shaped by the nature of work, where people lived and traveled, how they interacted, and what they valued.
Class structure, race relations, and gender roles were affected by it.
In 1946, the son of a Pennsylvania steelworker did not have a car, a television set, or a refrigerator.
Unemployment pay for one year, preference to those applying for federal government jobs, loans for home construction or starting a business, access to government hospitals, and generous subsidies for education were included in the GI Bil's package of benefifts for veterans.
Almost 8 million people took advantage of the GI Bill to attend college.
About 160,000 Americans graduated from college before the Second World War.
The fifgure was 500,000 by 1950.
40 percent of college students in 1949 were vet erans, and the United States could boast of the world's best educated workforce.
Most colleges and universities discriminated against African American veterans by not admitting them.
African American students were not allowed to play on athletic teams, attend social events or join fraterni ties at white colleges.
Black veterans were not allowed to buy homes in white neighborhoods.
The GI Bil program had an effect on widening the income gap between men and women because there were so few women who were eligible.
The second half of the twentieth century brought mass migration to the suburbs.
The escape from inner cities to the suburbs was sparked by a postwar housing shortage.
More than 11 million homes were built in the suburbs.
The Sun Belt states of California, Arizona, Florida, Texas, as well as to the Southeast, where rapid population growth and new highways generated an economic boom, were home to many middle-class white people.
The air conditioning system was designed in the 19th century.
The earliest home unit was installed in 1914 and used hazardous chemicals, but it was too bulky, noisy, and expensive to be widely applicable.
The window air conditioner was more convenient in the late 1930s, but it was too expensive for most residents.
The majority of Americans encountered air conditioning when they were in movie theaters and department stores.
In 1951, inexpensive window units were invented and soon thousands of homes featured dripping, hum ming metal boxes hanging out bedroom windows.
The appeal of living in warmer climates soared as air conditioning became common across the Sun Belt.
California led the way.
By 1963, it was the fifth most populous state.
Since the Civil War, more people moved into the South than out.
During the Second World War, the suburban "good life" included a big home with a big yard on a big lot accessed by a big car.
In 1970, more people lived in suburbs than in cities.
William Levitt was the leader of the suburban revolution.
More than 82,000 mostly lower- middle- class people were housed in 17,447 small homes built on 6,000 acres of Long Island farmland between 1947 and 1951.
He believed he was helping the American dream.
He said that no man who owned his own lot and house could be a communist.
Schools, parks, swim ming pools, shopping centers, and playing fifelds were included in the planned community of Levittown.
The three styles of houses were the Cape Cod, the Rancher and the Colonial.
The floor plan and accessories were the same and all sold for the same low price.
Each had a living room with a picture win dow and a television set, a bathroom, two bedrooms, and a kitchen with an electric refrigerator, oven, and washing machine.
Homeowners were not allowed to hang laundry on outside clotheslines on weekends and were required to cut their grass once a week.
When the houses in Levittown went on sale, people stood in long lines to buy them.
Levittowns were built in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Puerto Rico.
They and other sub urban communities were helped greatly by the government.
Federal and state tax codes favored homeown ers over renters, and local governments paid for the infrastructure the sub divisions required: roads, water and sewer lines, fifre and police protection.
They were produced by the same mass.
"We can solve a housing problem or we can try to solve a racial problem," he said.
Other developers built all- white sub urban communities with rustic names such as Streamwood, Cedar Hil, Park Forest, and Deer Park.
Only 5 percent of African Americans lived in the suburbs by 1960.
The Second World War was larger than the First World War in terms of the mass migration of rural southern blacks to the urban North, Midwest, and West.
More than 5 million blacks allowed the South to look for better jobs, housing, and higher wages.
By 1960, more African Americans were living in urban areas than in rural areas.
Many white residents let blacks go to the suburbs.
Between 1950 and 1960, 3.6 million lion whites let the nation's largest cities for suburban neighborhoods, while 4.5 million blacks moved into the cities.
African Americans sought to change the hearts and minds of their white neighbors through organizations such as the National Association for the Advance ment of Colored People.
Most of the black migrants preferred their new lives in the South to the racism they encountered in the north.
Mexicans and Puerto Ricans were also on the move just as African Americans were.
Following the end of World War II, many African American families moved to northern urban centers.
Mexicans crossed the nation's southwest border.
Los Angeles had the largest group of Mexican Americans in the nation.
Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and other Latinos who served in the military were also given the GI Bil.
The educational and housing programs provided by the federal government allowed many of them and their families to relocate to the mainland United States.
Between 1940 and 1960, nearly a million Puerto Ricans, mostly small farm ers and agricultural workers, moved into American cities.
In the late 1960s, more Puerto Ricans lived in New York City than in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico.
Women were pushed back into traditional homemaking roles during the Second World War due to the return of men to the civilian workforce.
Middle-class women were depicted in advertisements in popular magazines as happily bound to the house, at work in the kitchen in dresses adorned with jewelry and high heels, conversing with children, serving dinner and cleaning.
Middle class life featured tree lined suburban streets, kids riding their bikes through beautiful neighborhoods, and women as devoted servants to their husbands.
Russian women were depicted working in drab factories or on government farms.
The average age of marriage for women plummeted to nineteen during the 1950s as the U.S. marriage rate reached an all- time high.
In the fifties, homemakers used TV shows, movies, and plays for their anxieties and fantasies.
Domestic bliss was out of reach for African American female characters.
The joke was that women went to college to get an M.R.S.
College students were encouraged to take courses such as home economics and interior decoration.