The Fifties

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The Fifties Essay, Research Paper

The 1950’s were a time of enormous growth here in America. Many were finding jobs paying decent wages and as a result people began to afford low cost houses located on the outskirts of cities. The reason these homes were inexpensive is because they were mass-produced at a rate of 1.5 million a year. The man behind this ingenious scheme was William Levitt, who was referred to as the Henry Ford of the housing industry because he was the first person to mass-produce homes in an assembly line manner. His houses were one story ranch homes with four rooms and a tow toned color. Many manufacturers copied this style of building and design and because of this neighborhoods of this type began to pop up all over the nation. These small communities of houses became known as the suburbs and they were the fastest growing community in the 1950’s. Many of these communities were built near factories such as the communities that showed up in Warren MI, around the tank plant at Van Dyke and 11 mile and at the Chrysler and Ford plants along 9 mile and Mound road. Due to all this movement into the suburbs there was a great need for automobiles, simply because there was no public transportation and places such as grocery stores were farther away than they would be in the city. Also people needed transportation to their jobs and since there was nearly no public transportation they would have to drive. This need for cars started up the auto industry again for the first time since before the WW2. The business began to boom since people could now afford cars unlike in the past years. Harvey Earl was one of the great influences of this time. He started out making custom cars for movie stars but he soon became the vice president of GM. He took advantage of the mass consumerism that was taking place by designing cars with desirable fins and bodies and then changing the look each year to make people want the newest car on the market. He also would make consumers think that their car was “hopelessly out of date”. This idea worked,for thousands of Americans bought new cars each year just so that they could have the new model and not because they were in need of a new car. Pretty soon the nation was full of automobiles and traffic began to plague the country. This was the time when freeways were being built. These high speed roads with virtually no stops were recommended because the public wanted a faster way to get places with less traffic but they were finally built because they could be used to carry munitions across the country in case of Soviet attack. Now the country was in full swing of the fifties and everybody was looking for ways to be more efficient. Gadgets came out to supply the consumer hungry people, freeways were built so people could get to where they were going faster and shopping malls were put up so that people could buy everything they needed in one condensed area. The J.L. Hudson Company built the first shopping mall in Michigan in 1954. Many people praised this new form of shopping but some people felt that the malls would take away business from the downtown areas, never the less malls popped up all over the nation. In summation the 1950’s were a time of great consumerism, efficiency and growth.

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