Urban Geography Blog Post #3 Posted on February 26, 2016 by saorsa2014 Usual rules…500 words… Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading... Related
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These six images describe post-World War II residential trends in the United States. Due to economic conditions and policies the majority of post-war residential development in the US was new-build, single family, detached housing. Programs such as the Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Administration made mortgages possible to returning veterans and others who were searching for housing in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.
The quintessential post-war housing development is demonstrated in Levitt Towns. These developments were located outside of cities but within commuting distance. Locations included an area of Long Island that made commuting to New York City possible and Levittown, PA which was close to Philadelphia and Trenton, NJ. Traveling to and from work was made possible through the Interstate Highway system constructed under the Eisenhower administration. The network of large, controlled access highways connecting major cities can be seen in the bottom right image. An important aspect of this program was the defense measures that the interstate highway system allowed and is reflected in its official name “The National System of Interstate and Defense Highways”. The unforeseen consequence of the interstate system was that it allowed the dispersal of populations over a larger swath of land.
Newly built, single family, detached houses are shown in the upper right image. These 700-1400 square foot houses promised “every modern city convenience plus country comfort”. This advertisement compares the positive aspects of living in Levittown to the negative aspects of city life. These included inconveniences like nearby factories and traffic congestion. Levittown promised a utopian community set in the “country” where everyone could own their own slice. Lists such as this enforced the disregard for American cities in favor of a peripheral community away from city problems.
The three images on the left show the modern conveniences that each Levittown house was equipped with. The use of air conditioning, refrigeration, and other appliances speak to several aspects of post-war life in America. The widespread use of technology, such as air conditioning facilitated widespread building that didn’t have to respond to regional conditions. The widespread use of appliances such as an oven, a stovetop, and a refrigerator show the industrial strength and mechanization of products during this era in the United States. Growth of the American middle class consumer market is also shown by the complete equipment of each Levittown house. These electrical conveniences became the new norm in residential domestic life and required that each house have adequate electrical supply, which also became standard. Additionally, the image on the lower left showcases the new social, gender-specific, domestic realm of women in the US in the 1950s. As families moved away from cities to areas such as Levittown, women became sequestered to the home and domestic responsibilities. Modern appliances made daily chores (cooking and cleaning) simpler, however larger households (both in square footage as compared to inner-city apartments and family size) increased the amount of work that needed to be done in the house. The common way of life for families who lived in places such as Levittown was that the fathers would go off to work (commute to the city) and the mothers would take care of the house, take the children to and from school, and take care of things such as cooking and cleaning. This was a specific social shift from previous decades in which a considerable amount of women worked outside of the home in various roles.
World War II left the United States in a completely different state than before the war and was a vehicle for lasting social and economic gains. Prior to World War II, the United States was in severe depression and dictatorship was rising in Europe. However, this massive world war gave women more opportunities, lifted the United States out of depression with the mass production of war materials, and helped boost the economy into a better state that it had seen before. The images above show some of the post-war trends in North America, looking specifically at the economic and housing developments.
The typical housing development in the post-war era was that of the Levittown. Shown in the upper right and upper left hand corners, these homes were located just outside of the large cities; close enough to commute to work but far enough away to be in the suburbs. Usually about 1000 square feet, these single family, detached houses were convenient and contented. Each family could own their own land with a house on it, and no longer had to live in the inner city near the industrial belts. These neighborhoods had schools nearby and created a sense of belonging that wasn’t felt before the war.
These houses also came with the ability to have air conditioning, stovetop appliances and refrigeration, all of which were not available to the pre-war communities. As the United States continued to make advancements in technology, they began to show up in the newly built houses and neighborhoods. However, with Levittowns and the suburbs becoming more popular, and the working classes moving further away from the cities, we have to look at the highway and road systems that were developed to keep these families connected to the inner city.
The bottom right photo shows the major highway and interstate systems in the United States at the time. These highways not only connected people in the suburbs to the centers of the city, but also connected large cities to one another. This intercontinental highway system allowed families to live away from work, while being able to commute to their jobs. Although it is seen as a fairly positive design, this new transportation system allowed people to continually move further away from the cities and begin to create cities of their own once they had enough people.
The bottom left photograph shows the role of women in the post-war era. Prior to the war, omen found many jobs closed to them and often earned less money than a man who did the same amount of work. During the war, when men had to enter the military, women took over the industrial jobs that the men left behind. However, when the men returned from war, and when people began to move their families to the suburbs, women no longer had the ability to work within the cities so they became bound to their homes. Their job was now to take care of both, the house and their families. Living in larger homes now required the women to work harder to maintain order in the house but the new appliances implemented due to the increase in technology made the tasks simpler.
Very good discussion.
The post-World War II era in The United States was marked by several changes including the continued growth of an already burgeoning industrial sector, as well as diversification in other services and areas of business to maintain its budding population.
As the United States’ economy grew so did the potential for city dwellers to make an exodus to the suburbs. The images on the top left and top and middle right illustrate the post war residential housing boom that took place under the watch of developers like William J. Levitt.
These houses, for many who could afford them, represented the realization of the American Dream. Achieving the dream was made possible for returning soldiers and others through programs and mortgages offered through the Veterans’ Administration and the Federal Housing Administration.
Levittown was seen as the prototype for ensuing suburban developments. Construction, and by extension ownership, began in the 40s and 50s in New York on the outskirts of the city and in many ways became symbolic for the idea of sprawl.
These prefabricated, mass produced, single family homes were marketed specifically to people who were contributing to the post war baby boom by illustrating that they gave these new families ‘room to grow’ since they did not have to share their immediate space – like people did in the city.
People who bought into the American Dream, also by extension bought into the then expanding auto industry – as many of these developments required owners to have private transportation to facilitate commuting to the city core.
This commuting was made possible by The Highway Act of 1956 – as illustrated in the image on the lower right of the vast road network created by the National System of Defense and Interstate Highways.
And, as is typical with United States’ historic development, new avenues to transportation meant new ways of doing business. As a result, the suburban landscape became more diversified with many businesses and shopping centers becoming established near these housing developments in order to generate revenue.
This, along with technological innovations helped to catalyze the rise of consumerism. Marketing and advertising (as well as product design) also played a pivotal role in drawing the parallel between consumer goods and the American Dream in order to create the image of the perfect life beyond the less than ideal living conditions associated with the city.
The images at the top middle and lower left feature appliances that allowed for consumers to have access to ‘luxuries’ they had not before and gave then the opportunity to fully customize their own space. Notably, the image on the lower left, illustrates the paradigm shift of women’s roles – moving from an income earner and thereby financial contributor to the home, to that of a house wife and services contributor.
When combined, all these factors helped to solidify the imagery of the American Dream as a utopic way of life characterized by a single family, living in a suburban house of considerable size, with a yard, all the modern conveniences – inside and out – and a car that helped them to escape the confines of the city.
These images are advertisements for the massive development of Levittowns in places like Pennsylvania and New York after World War II. These were cheap, freestanding, 1.5 or 2 story homes and often contained yards. These single family residences became a trend in the middle class during the 1950s. The market for these homes arose after the government gave incentives for people to buy new builds rather than an older home with maintenance problems. People no longer wanted to live in the city near jobs, services, and amenities because the city was believed to be unhealthy, unsafe, and ethnically diverse. The city structure transitioned from high population density areas with access to service and walkability into a residential morphology that relied on these single family homes, along with the automobile.
These houses usually consisted of 1 bathroom and maybe 2 bedrooms. They came with all appliances, and ranged from 900 to 1700 square feet. In 1955, the average cost of one of these homes was $70 per month. They were, for the most part, pre-fab generic models, but the buyer had the option to customize the carpet or tiles. People could afford to buy these homes because of the mortgage programs that were introduced. So basically, the goal of the Levit model was to provide everything for the buyer upfront the cheapest way possible. Levittowns were often suburban communities far away from the urban central business district. This resulted in the need of cars for each family living in Levittowns. The homes accommodated for the car by creating a hardstand car space, which had never been needed to be addressed before. People started driving everywhere, and there was a massive shift to a car-oriented culture. Eventually, the price of cars went down as the assembly line became more efficient.
The creation of an interstate system, seen in the bottom right image, allowed this travel to and from the city to be possible. Before we knew it, the city was sprawling further and further from the poor inner city. Assembly lines were introduced, making building supplies more accessible. Other products, such as the kitchen appliances seen in the bottom left image, were also being created due to the assembly line. The telephone became a part of individual households, which also contributes to the dispersal of the American family into Levittowns. The telephone also allowed businesses to separate and have multiple locations. All of these new industries were creating new jobs, making the 1950s a huge economic boom era.
Due to the introduction of Levittowns, there was a decrease in social housing creation in the United States. Some of the inner city run down social housing complexes were left to deteriorate. Most attempts to create social housing were shut down by a fear of communism. This resulted in social housing becoming a ghetto dominated by the poorest population because everyone else was living in suburban areas.
very nice, good discussion.
All the advertisements and map depicted epitomize the urban design characteristics and trends of the post-industrial city post world war two. The US entered WWII in 1941 and through the end of the conflict in 1945 the US mainland was not bombed by the enemy. This preservation and protection of US infrastructure left the country in a unique position to pick up the much needed slack in goods production, not only for the US market, but crucially for war torn Europe as well. So when the war ended and US troops where demobilized and returned to the workforce the United States saw an explosion in economic and population growth, coinciding with the baby boom. This population increase along with advancing infrastructure, like trains across the mid-west, led to the mass production of housing materials and for the first time affordable housing that middle class families could own not rent. The American Dream mentality that everyone should aspire to owning a single family home also contributed the economic boom post world war two.
The images on the top left, right, and the middle right are all advertisements for Levittown community/ subdivisions, the top left being one for a development in Cambridge Park, Marlton New Jersey. Levittown’s were the natural consequence of the massive housing and production uptick in the US after the war. Levittown housing developments were revolutionary in that they were the first cheap to produce and own house and that also came pre-furnished with appliances included. The typical Levittown home was about 1400-1700 square feet, one and a half bedrooms, and cost about seventy dollars a month. Thanks to developers like Levitt and the materialistic mindset and rhetoric of US society post WWII demand for consumer goods skyrocketed.
The idea of the American Dream calls for a family to own a home but it also requires ownership of much more, including many appliances like white goods, which are large electrical goods like washer and dryers. The bottom left and top middle images are both advertisements for such white goods, in this case both are for refrigerators. Post war demand for home goods was so high that factories applied and embraced assembly lines to maximize product output. However, the assembly lines did not hamper creative or innovative new products. In order for companies producing home goods to compete they were constantly introducing new features and design options for their white good products. The advertisements show this phenomena, the top middle photo shows fridges with many different style options, the bottom left showing a fridge/stove/sink combo. New and futuristic ideas weren’t limited to home items; America’s favorite transportation option was highly customized as well.
The bottom right map depicts the extensive national interstate highway system, illustrating America’s love obsession with the automobile. During this post war time period the United States fully embraced the car as the prime form of travel, using a vehicle was a necessity because of the huge migration from the city to the suburbs, and the day to day commute was extensive. From this time period and on the United States has been a car oriented society, subscribing privilege to activities including vehicles like drive in movies and food.
Very nice, good observations.
After World War 2 the American city changed drastically due to a couple different factors predominantly because of the technological advancements made in the war. However, the overall biggest reason for the new American city formation was because of the car and the growth of the automobile industry. In the bottom right photo there is a map of the national interstate and highway system that began to connect the states and make car travel easier to and from places. What car travel influenced was a rise in movement of people to other places out of the normal city which further led to urban sprawl and businesses moving towards the suburbs.
Urban sprawl and suburbanization go hand and hand as both people and industry realized there was more room, lower taxes, and a less crowded neighborhood they could move their families too. Cities hollowed out and the population decreased as people moved out. This created the first levittowns. The top pictures show the typical look of homes that were built that were built and these new settlements of people leaving the cities. Levittowns were America’s first suburbanized neighborhoods that popped up in the 50s, usually outside major cities so the working class could commute to work into the city but yet still be outside the city chaos. These communities were filled with single family homes that were small yet affordable. They had yards and cookie cutter architecture that portrayed the home of the “American Dream.” The houses were typically two or three bedrooms, one bath, and had a one car garage for the now automobile dependent society. The typical American family was four people; mom, dad, and ideally one boy and one girl child. The families that moved here were mainly middle class and white. The poor, old, disabled, and colored either couldn’t afford to move here and were left in the city or weren’t accepted into the tight communities. As more and more families moved to the suburbs the structure of homes grew with it. In the middle left photo there is a Levittown home upgraded with a half second floor that provided another room or two and allowed growth of the family.
Also shown in the blog pictures are the appliances that came included in homes like refrigerators, ac units, washer and dryers so laundry could be done at home, and more advanced kitchen appliances including a dishwasher and garbage disposal. Two photos on the left show how the kitchen could be decorated by the women which shows the role women played in this time as being the housekeeper, cook, and mother of the home. These ideas of decorating the kitchen were just a part of the developing consumer society and need for materialistic things. Spendable money was becoming a reality and so people wanted fancier kitchens for example.
Post World War 2 was economically a good time for the middle and upper class with new developments in industry, homes, and everyday life. Americans began to spread out, build suburban cities, and travel more with the cars that began easily obtained and necessary for the new American lifestyle arising.
Post World War 2 there was an explosion of Levitt towns across the Unites States. This can be contributed to the Marshall plan due to the investment into economic support for Western Europe from the United States. In return Western European countries bought exported goods from the United States. This helped increase the amount of manufactured goods produced in the United States. This fueled an economical boom in the United States and helped aid in employing all the returning soldiers from WW2. During this time the United States saw a large growth in the size of the middle class. This coupled with federally backed mortgages lead to the sprawl of American cities. Federally backed mortgages where the United States answer to public housing. Seeing that public housing was too close to communism.
This is where the Levitt model really prospered, cheap standardized living. Standardized parts for housing meant that mass production was now a possibility. This lead to incredibly cheap housing outside of the city. As a result most of the middle class migrated from the cities to the suburbs, now called “suburban flight”. This increased the need for transportation from the suburbs to the cities where most of the middle class worked. Some cities attempted forms of public transportation but over time the automobile became the primary vessel for transportation from the suburbs. Thus the need to connect the cities and suburbs arose, insteps the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. Although this was not the primary intention of the highway system it most definitely increased the flow of traffic from the suburbs to the city.
This helped secure middle class Americans piece of the pie, or the American dream(aspire to live in the suburbs with people that look and act like you). A nice house with a yard, and a car to drive in. With this middle class growth came a growth in disposable income. Meaning now you have a nice house, time to fill it with appliances! There became a huge middle class consumer market for these appliances.
Suburbanization has had a profound affect on American culture. Social impacts include the decline of social capital(creation of the Drive-Thru nation), declines in neighborhood quality due to an increase of rental properties, and a lack of diversity among suburban neighborhoods(both ethnic and economic). The Economic impacts will obviously be increased infrastructure costs and transportation costs due to the highway system and the necessity to own a car. As well as a lack of public transportation or increased cost of public transportation due to the sprawl of cities and suburbs. These impacts will also lead to a greater environmental impact as well. Increased automobile transportation leads to a higher consumption in the use of fossil fuels and a rise in pollutants. With sprawl also comes a loss in large amounts of green space due to construction. Runoff from roads and parking lots can seriously degrade water quality. While also increasing the amount of impervious ground leading to larger amounts of runoff entering streams causing flooding.
These images all deal with the American post-industrial city, which has its roots in the Great Depression and began taking on distinctive characteristics compared to European cities in the years following World War II. In this period, nearly all of the U.S. government’s actions were driven by an intense fear of communism. Lawmakers wanted citizens to have a stake in the economy, because if people had a stake in the economy, they would have something to lose in the event of general social unrest or increasing communist sentiment. The government quickly realized that encouraging home ownership would meet this goal.
In order to get citizens invested in the national economy in this way, several steps were necessary. During the Depression, the government invested heavily in infrastructure, including dams and bridges, which opened much of the West to urban development. Through the creation of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Federal Housing Administration, the government enabled an explosion of consumer credit and accessible, low down payment mortgages. Additionally, in the post-war period, VA mortgage programs enabled veterans to obtain mortgages at very low interest rates.
However, FHA and VA mortgages came with certain conditions, like that the unit must be a single family detached home, and must be new build. These conditions led to a massive demand for new construction houses, which was partially fulfilled by Levitt and his Levittowns. Levittown homes, like the ones shown, were affordable and included many of the creature comforts of the day. These houses were mass produced and along with them came the end of distinctive regional styles of architecture.
Once the houses were built, people needed to buy lots of consumer goods to fill them. The skyrocketing real estate market led to a need for manufactured goods, including decorator refrigerators, combined stovetop/refrigerator/sinks, and cars. Ford’s invention of the assembly line allowed all of these now ‘necessary’ goods to be manufactured at a much lower price, making them more affordable and in-demand.
Furthermore, the construction of the Eisenhower Interstate System ensured that the new suburbanites would be able to easily commute to and from work in the central city. The ideal location to live was outside the ring road, because land there was much cheaper. The longer distance from the city center did not necessarily lead to a longer commute, thanks to the presence of interstates and freeways. The suburbanites and their commutes would eventually lead to the unfortunate phenomenon of the 9-to-5 city.
Because the U.S. government was so intent on increasing home ownership, social housing was almost completely neglected in the post-war period. A few attempts at creating a system of social housing were passed into law, but their limitations ensured that social housing would never be as widely adopted as in Europe. These laws limited the upfront cost of social housing projects; pushed maintenance costs onto local governments, which could not afford to pay them; and set extremely low income limits for social housing residents, ensuring that the income diversity would be very low and prohibiting social housing projects from becoming thriving communities.
These are six pictures that are a snapshot of what the United States looked like Post-World War II. We came back from war, and our economy was on an upswing. Everyone was after the American Dream: A single family home away from the hustle and bustle of the city. People wanted their own space and were tired of the crowded lower quality of life in the cities, so when magazines like Sears created kit homes, where people could build their own single family home on their new open plot of land. These kit homes slowly turned into what we are familiar with today: the great American Suburbs.
A picture perfect example of these creeping suburbs is the Levittown. These single family homes in far out subdivisions were starting to pop up all over, as pictured in the top left and upper and middle right images. The homes were small and affordable and ready for people to move in. VA Mortgages were a big part of why the Levittown were as successful and popular as they were. The mortgages were only an option if you go a new-build, single family home, and those were only available in the newly developed suburbs in these Greenfield developments on the outskirts of the cities. These houses and neighborhoods were being tailored to a certain type of market: the white middle class. Redlining was a common practice that excluded mostly African Americans but also other minorities. Banks wouldn’t give loans to certain neighborhoods, usually lower income and of a minority majority make up. The only way it was possible to live out in these suburbs but still keep your well-paying city job was to have a car, which although were affordable were still hard to get access to for some people in the country.
The same magazines that advertised kit homes also had ads for the new technologies that were up and coming around this time like new kinds of refrigerators and stoves, as shown in the top middle and lower left images. They were showing off the wealth that was pouring in to the country right after the war, showing it off to their neighbors and to the rest of the world which was desperately trying to recover from the devastation of the war.
What ties the suburbs to the cities, and what really made them initially start working so well and what keeps them working still to this day, is the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways as pictured in the bottom right image. These highway systems functioned as a part of national security but also allowed for connectivity across the country like we had never had before. It was easier than ever to get away from the city, so living further and further from the central business district where the suburbanites’ jobs were located wasn’t even a little complicated anymore.
Cars literally drove people out of the cities and into the suburbs, and this movement out of the center of cities to these suburbs is what created the American landscape fabric we are familiar with today. Far stretching suburban towns with cookie-cutter neighborhoods not unlike the next town over.
US cities were not distinctly different from other cities of the global north up until World War II. People came back from war and started to have children, which caused the so-called baby boom. The total fertility rate reached 3.2 – 3.4, which has been one of the highest in the US history. This took seven years for it to happen in Europe since they were having problems recovering from war.
The VA made available mortgage loans to people who had just come back from war. They wanted detached houses that were already built. This called the attention of real estate companies to mass produce housing for the veterans. These were small detached housed that included everything in it: air conditioning, all appliances, garbage disposer, washer, dryer, etc. The mortgage monthly payment for these houses was seventy dollars, which back then was a very affordable allowance. SEARS was one of the first contractors to participate in this project in order to build and equip houses. These were 900 square feet houses with two bedrooms and one bathroom that came with heating and air conditioning system.
As we can see in the picture located at the right upper corner, these houses were built taking into consideration the environmental conditions of the area. In the picture we can see a house that has the chimney in the middle. It is probably a house that was built in the northeast where the heat generated by the chimney will keep it warm. There are other houses where the chimney is located in one side of the house. This is probably a house built in the south where there is no need to retain as much heat, since the weather is warmer.
The railway facilitated the transportation of material for the construction of these houses. Due to this transportation tool less wood was used and the housing building was standardized. Other materials such as rocks and sand were transported from the coasts to the middle of the country to produce other types of materials for housing construction.
The introduction of the interstate system in the 1950 allowed the quick transportation of materials to mass-produce cars and appliances (white goods). The interstate system came to replace the use of train for a more efficient and rapid method of transportation. Since roads were more efficient on serving the purpose of transporting material more rapid, more tax money was designated for the construction of roads. Trains were not used that much because of the fact that they were not as efficient and the land where the rails of train passed by was privately owned. The location of the train rails required that a big portion of money tax was spend subsiding the land of the people where the rails of the train passed by. That money was then invested in the construction of the highway system and airports that provided a faster and more efficient mode of transporting raw materials for the car construction and the housing building industries.
People began to specialize on different types of works to be able to produce cars and white goods in a faster and more efficient manner. As a result of this process of specialization the prices of cars and white goods plummeted, which allowed people to have access to these kinds of goods. Also, people working in the industries that produced cars and white goods started to become bored of doing the same task over and over. The salary of the workers had to be raised to keep them working in these production industries.
For the development of residential projects, the car and the white goods industry contributed to a huge economic growth in the United States in the 1950’s.
The residential morphology was built taking into consideration the introduction of the car in. The use of the car become part of people’s every day life what created a type of dependency towards it.
Very nice observations.
Post World War 2 America saw many changes to society. We saw significant portions of people buying houses for the first time, car ownership began sky rocketing, the interstate highway system was built, and the rise of home appliances like the refrigerator and air conditioner. Unlike pre-World War 2, the economy was now booming. Americans now had money to spend and government subsidized loans were now available. This meant that everyone could now own a house. So, because of this, people started to buy what were known as Levitt Homes.
Photos of Levitt homes can be seen in the top left, top right, and middle right of these series of photographs. Levitt homes were developed by William Jaird Levitt. Levitt was an Americal Real-estate developer and the president of Levitt & Sons. He is widely credited as the father of the modern American suburb. Levitt homes were relatively cheap homes that were almost mass-produced in nature. You got to choose from a set of choices, and then they would build the home to the specification that you wanted. These Levitt homes were usually built outside of the main city center in suburb-like areas known as Levittowns (hence why William Levitt is credited as the father of the modern American Suburb).
Once you had your Levitt house, you needed a way to fill that home up with cool stuff to make life easier and more convenient. The pictures at the bottom left and top center are examples of the kind of things people (house wives specifically in these examples) wanted to buy to improve their home lives. The bottom left photograph shows a cool stove, refrigerator, sink combination unit. Refrigeration units became an extremely common household item after the Second World War.
Another example (not pictured) of a home appliance that greatly improved the living conditions of people in these Levitt homes after the second world war was the air conditioner. Air conditioners became very common after World War 2. Air conditioner units allowed people to build homes (like levitt homes) in locations (like Florida) that they wouldn’t have settled without the ability to make the inside climate comfortable.
The final, and hugely important thing pictured in this series of pictures is the picture of the United States interstate highway system. The Interstate Highway System (originally known as the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways) is a network of controlled-access highways that forms a part of the National Highway System of the United States. The system was named for President Dwight D. Eisenhower who championed its formation. Construction was authorized by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, and the original portion was completed 35 years later, although some urban routes were cancelled and never built. The network has since been extended and, as of 2013, it had a total length of 47,856 miles making it the world’s second longest after China’s.The cost of this interstate highway system is estimated to have cost over $500 Billion in 2015 dollars.
Levittown represented the first major move to cookie cutter homes and suburban development communities. In the post-World War II era the United States saw a shift to commercialism and with that an exodus from the cities to the suburbs of families in search of the American dream. The stereotypical American dream was to have your own piece of property complete with all of the commercial items of the times. This dream was aided by the ability of the greatest generation’s access to low cost home loans through the GI bill and VA loans. This shift to a commercial society also lead to a change in occupations with the city centers becoming more of an advertising and shopping center than an industrial, manufacturing center as they were before. The Levittown model of homes were the generic home that was easily produced and very affordable. This common theme of like housing allowed for the mass production of the homes to fill the demand of the times. As the middle class moved out of the cities they left a void filled by the lower class and also by the non-desired races of the suburbs. The segregation evolved in the form of HOAs and other management groups setting impossible standards that ensured only the desired clients would be able to obtain housing in the area. The exodus was also added by the rise in the commuter worker. The increase in the accessibility of automobiles and transportation into and from city centers increased rapidly during this time period. As is evident from the illustration of the federal highway system. The decrease in dependency on railways also facilitated the movement of jobs to other than the common manufacturing areas near rail hubs. Adding this to the ability to communicate via phone lines many jobs that were previously remanded to the city center were able to be exported along with the workers to the suburbs. The overall shift to commercialism is seen in the two advertisements for things that not only functioned but were also innovative. Much like today the need for the new it item drove people to the commercial items and spurred the increase in items available to make the American dream happen. This trend was not a fad as it has endured to today commercial society, where a person or families’ value is based off of their possessions more than anything else. This was not the only idea of the times that has endured since a quick trip around any modern area will display countless housing developments with little to no variety in the structures. The cookie cutter development is as prevalent today as any other item from the post-world war time period. In fact the idea has been given steroids up until the housing boom with everyone in America trying to claim their own bit of the American dream via a standardized house just like their neighbors on all sides.
Post-World-War-II Unites States saw an unprecedented boom in the economy. It was a time when New Deal politicians invested in America; it invested in infrastructure and housing, particularly in the form of the highway system and government backed (or provided) mortgages, respectively. Another factor was the advent of the mass production of house building materials. So the materials were getting cheaper, the highways allowed people to spread out, and the mortgages for single family homes were easy to get. Almost any family could afford a house in this period off of only one income. So everyone filled their homes with various products which led to a general boom in manufactured goods as well. A majority of these homes were quite small; hence the advertisement on the lower left which was advertising a whole kitchen in 5 square feet. I doubt very much that anyone would rent or buy a house today that came with only that for a kitchen. Notice also that the advertisements were directed toward women. This was because they didn’t have to have two incomes to make the mortgage payment then and, as a result, the women were the “homemakers.”
Another consequence of the mass production of homes was that the started to look more and more alike. Entire towns were made of houses by the same designer, with only a few different, small variations. This was a time when the rhetoric of the “American Dream” became most prominent. It became a very specific image of a house with a yard, children, dog, picket fence, and the like. It was a powerful tool for the American businessman of the time, a national pride in consumerism. The rhetoric is still used today, but more often people talk of how it has failed—now no more than what it is called, a dream. Some people will cite rare examples of “rags to riches” stories as evidence that the “American Dream” is alive and well, but this sort of anecdotal evidence is dangerous and counterproductive to real conversations about much needed policy change.
There are some real lessons to be learned from this time in American history. In particular, what we should learn is that government investment in the economy is essential for the prosperity of the middle class. But, since we understand the world a lot better in some ways today, we could implement government investment in a much more socially and environmentally responsible way. This could be a success story for the detailed analysis of the causes of historical events, we just have to act on the insights which it has illuminated.
Levittown was a very significant development in post-WWII America. The idea that everything was presented up front was a monumental strategy in advertising history from this point forward. Levittown provided all of the goods to the young, suburbanizing, white family. It outlines everything that a family would seem to need, and asks the question “What more could you need, because doesn’t a Levitt-model home have all of that and more?” The advertising strategy drew in more and more urban-to-suburban migrating families and began to develop communities of comparison, or “The Johnson’s have one of those new General-brand all-in-one refrigerators, let’s get one for ourselves!”. The community of comparison is the entrepreneur’s dream. Consider a fishbowl where all of the fish are hungry (in this case for new and innovative goods) and feeder has access to a new idea and funds to support it (the entrepreneur and his or her new concept), the fish will compete for the food until all of them have been fed. The only issue with this model is that the fish must not be overfed and must be fed equally, but eventually, given this, they will get sick if fed too much, or if the water is not cleaned. This massive allegory is the essence of Levittown. A brand-new kind of living space with hundreds of options for development and design and hundreds of new toys and appliances to use in one’s new home. The only issue is that the model could not be nurtured forever, and leading to serious problems in suburban life shortly after the consumer-craze of the Levitt model. In post-WWII context, the 1950’s and 60’s and 70’s and, really still, but mostly in those eras of Levittown, sexism, the idea of the nuclear family, and rigid gender roles were rampant. So heavily so that it extended into both men and women perpetuating the concept at times. However, the idea that the man goes off to work and the woman is left home alone to tend to the house and the children practically led to alcohol and prescription drug abuse in the suburban home, and psychologically led many housewives to become “people-pleasers” or, ignoring their own needs in order to satisfy the needs of another, destroying any sense of personal autonomy. Psychologically this exchange historically, and still today, had and still has a major effect on suburban home life and expectation, and domestic violence rates (many unreported perhaps) were probably very high too. The Levittown suburb hosts a utopian image of suburban life, but that is what advertising does, and in practice, established racially segregated communities (not to mention gender and wealth segregation within them) and reinforced this all the way to our present day. Levittown is the supreme example of why the critical study of intersectionality is important, as we see that Levittown reinforced and glamorized the white, heterosexual, middle class, male-as-head-of-the-household stereotype, and marginalized all of the rest in a really huge way. Not to say that this disparity did not exist before this in an even larger way, but rather, Levittown is the definition of intersectional disparity in the mid to late 20th century, triumphing and centralizing the image and power of the white male in popular ideology. Although there is much discussion to be had on the efficacy of the Levitt-model, the discussion on the disparity within these communities is important just as much.
Good observations – paragraphs!
Before the end of World War 2, President Franklin Roosevelt came up with the “New Deal” project to help the United States economy come back from the Great Depression. In the “New Deal” package, the Works Progress Administration was formed to help build the infrastructure of roads. This helped lead to the development of the suburbs, since people would be able to have the ability to commute to work more quickly. The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 created even more connectivity between the major cities in this country. With Increased ability to move around the country, businesses were able to expand at a much greater rate. After World War 2, the idea of Levitt Houses started to be developed. People were able to get housing loans to help pay for mortgages of these homes. The FHA(Federal Housing Administration) that was also part of Roosevelt’s New Deal were one of the biggest influence on the new ability to get money to get a new home.
Ironically enough after the Allied victory, the only economy that wasn’t in shambles was the United States. With the infrastructure in place to help Europe rebuild, the United State invoked the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan allowed the United States to create jobs for American troops coming home. The American men were finally able to find jobs, and the women had a greater place in the workforce(although some women went back to managing the household). With more funds per family available, there was an increase in the size of the families. This baby boom, meant there would be a greater need for bigger homes. In stepped William Levitt who created the Levitt house model. The Levitt model was houses with all the new modern amenities. They came complete with areas to park cars, appliances, and furniture. These houses were quickly mass produced. Basically they were houses loaded with the entire Sears catalog(which is basically a very early version of the modern Amazon.com). Levitt took advantage of the baby boom house crisis and easily became one of the richest men in America. The earliest Levitt towns were created in the state of New York, in the outskirts of New York City.
The appliances in these households were the result in technological advances after World War 2. Air conditioners became more widely available. The air conditioners allowed previously inhospital climates to become much better places to live. Refridgerators, better stoves, and microwaves were more widely bought and placed into these homes. These homes are what we think of when we think of the stereotypical American dream of the post World War 2 world. These communities were placed on the outskirts of major cities. With the ability to commute into the city to work, the modern suburbs were created. These homes would generally be about 1000 Sq. Feet. The advertising picture with the appliances could also be shown as the precursor to modern advertising. The image shows 3 beautiful women cooking and cleaning the appliances. It seems to me that this is early usage of sex appeal to help sell products.
Levittown and other suburbs like it have never been a good solution for anything other than consumerism. This might seem incorrect until you actually consider how many more items services and goods you consume when your lifestyle is car dependent. If you live in the inner city you could go out your door, down the street, into the grocery store to shop, and then return home all by walking. The only real “good” you are consuming is your time. If you bought into the hype about Levittown or some other planned subdivision and moved there you suddenly lose your ability to do this without the aid of a vehicle. This was before insurance was required everywhere but cars still cost money to operate and cars in this era required a lot of regular maintenance. So now you are still consuming your time but you are now spending money to do this task. If you traded a dirty inner city life for a new house with a mortgage and all the thrills, you get the benefit of cleaner air and maybe direct sunshine. You also get a new home and do not have to listen to the neighbors on the other side of the apartment wall.
Unfortunately, you do not know your neighbors as you are all new here. Your children will probably make new friends before you do because they now have to ride the bus together every day. The images show how this dream of a new home was available to people of many different socioeconomic strata. Something to pay particular attention to is that they nicer homes are advertised one at a time. There could be a number of reasons for this but in part it was because subdivisions were built to accommodate specific sets of white flighters. This was not and is not an unusual practice then or now. Many areas still have exclusive subdivisions tailored to specific demographics of people.
The odd image in the group is the one for the all-in-one kitchen appliance. I can remember when sears sold an item like this in the late 70s into the early 80s. It was supposed to allow one or two people to live in a more cabin like environment am free up space for other items. What is different here is that the woman who appears to be triplets is dressed up to use her two burner stove. It seems that this advertisement would be focused on someone who bought the smallest tract home or for those who did not or could not flee the city. This might be a serious upgrade for your cold water flat.
So the desire to allow more home ownership had resulted in one of the easiest ways to still enforce segregation. This does not mean only racial segregation but financial as well. Often these two factors go hand in hand because the minorities are living in a depressed area. If there are too many undesirables in the neighborhood just go build a new one on the edge of town, this worked in Springdale.
These are pictures of post-industrial/post-WWII cities in the United States. This was a time of rapid urban development caused by a housing boom resulting from returning soldiers. The G.I. Bill subsidized private housing so that the United States government could house all these returning soldiers. The VA offers mortgages for single-family detached homes that were newly built. These houses were constructed from mass produced components (windows, doors, fixtures, etc.) that were bought by developers. These “kit-houses” came with everything you need to build a small house that you could even build yourself.
The top left picture is an ad for a typical home in Levittown that you could buy. Levittown was the first example of the mass produced housing community. These communities were made of the exact same houses in a grid form that would be easy to navigate. The typical rent for these kinds of houses were $70/month in 1955 for 700-800 square feet. Levittown was the model of affordable, cookie-cutter houses where you can only change a few details, mainly cosmetic. The top middle picture is an example of these cosmetic choices you could make. You are able to choose the materials of towels, furniture, rugs, etc. to customize the color scheme of the house, but that is about the extent of the variation of these houses.
The bottom left picture is an ad for a kitchen appliance. Around this time refrigeration and personal dishwashers were starting to become more mainstream and widely available for personal use. This is most likely an ad from Sears or a similar home appliance/materials distributor. This is an example of one of the other customization options that you could have in your Levittown home, though it looks like a ridiculous idea to have all these appliances in one feature. Air conditioning made these personal refrigerators available for home use, rather than having to use an icebox. The advent of air conditioning also allowed for people to live in locations where you normally couldn’t without it, such as Florida or Arizona.
The top and middle pictures on the right are examples of typical homes that were for sale in Levittown or similar type communities. They showcase the home’s features and additional options that are available for purchase. You are able to choose different kitchen, living room, or bedroom arrangements to customize the interior.
The bottom right picture is a map of the United States interstate network during this time. During this time period we started to see the beginnings of publically funded infrastructure. The federal highway system was the major infrastructure project after the war. While its main goal was to set up a network to transport military supplies across the country, it was also a much-needed civil work to connect the country for its citizens. Once it was completed, you could drive from New York to California on major interstates rather than small roads.