That's a great question, don't you think? We will answer it in class on Thursday in a (hopefully) fun activity, but to prepare, we should do a little background reading and watching. Read "The Fifties" in Creating America (28-3, pp. 800-803), read over the ABC-CLIO links posted below, and watch the videos below.


The Cold War at Home / The Economy Booms / The Sky is the Limit / Boom-Time for Babies and Houses

The "Duck and Cover" video - 1950 classic - a must watch

Some more 1950s Cold War propaganda - giggles


  • because the US was spending so much on making weapons, the US economy prospered during the 50s
  • many new types of cars were being made
  • TVs were in very high demands, and so were dishwashers, plastics, microwaves, etc.
  • By 1952, the US was producing 65% of the world's manufactured goods
  • The industry for houses really boomed
  • many more people were moving out to the suburbs and this also caused many highways to be built and many other things in this area as well-helped economy even further
  • Since many servicemen were returning to the US, they wanted to settle down and start a family-population grew by 28,000,000 in the 50s
  • wages increased
  • more office jobs were being created-more being employed
  • there was more money that was able to be spent
  • Americans were making more money so more were joining the middle class
  • 1 million houses built in 1952, 4 millions cars built in 1952
  • TVs were in incredibly high demand and by '49, 250,000 TVs were bring bought a month!
  • people were really enthusiastic
  • science was growing and a lot of research was going into medicine and space
  • antibiotics were now being used a lot to cure diseases and vaccines were made to prevent things like the flu and Polio!
  • there was a lot of research going on for missiles-in 1949, a missile was made that could go 250 miles into the air
  • satellites were being launched into space to orbit the earth-$1 billion given to new space program in the US


  • Not everyone prospered in the 1950's
  • 1957, nearly one out of every five Americans liked in poverty
  • Many of the poorest people lived in cities
  • there were people left behind and forgotten about
  • Often those most affected by urban decay were African Americans and Latinos
  • Many could not afford homes in the suburbs
  • The people who crossed the boarder illegally, often earned low wages and endured difficult living and working conditions
  • When the program ended they the illegal immigrants stayed. they were fearful of getting sent back to Mexico so workers were forced to work longer hours for lower pay
  • critics worried Americans were being forced to fit into suburban life
  • argued that in business offices and suburbs people felt pressured to conform, to agree with the beliefs and ideas of the majority
  • women were in Time Magazine, not all women felt fulfilled in this role. some felt bored or isolated
  • women working outside the home had limited job choices
  • movie attendance plummeted as more and more people stayed at home to watch TV

In Class Discussion on the Positives and Negatives of the '50s

1. 1 out of 5 Americans were in poverty. The people who were deepest in poverty lived in the city because they couldn’t afford to live in the suburbs.
2. Women were very limited in the jobs that they could do.
3. Many Mexicans started illegally crossing the border and endured very low wages and tough living conditions.
4. People felt pressured to believe in the same things that the majority felt.
5. People weren’t going to the movies as much because more were staying home.

1. Baby boomers-30 million people born in the 50s-population grew a lot!!!!
2. Because of the population growth, people started moving to the suburbs. This brought movie theatres, restaurants and shopping centers to the suburbs.
3. People were happy to live in safe and good neighborhoods. They could happily send their kids to a safe school.
4. Magazines, films and televisions praised women for their role of house makers.
5. The economy boomed and so did the American industry-vacuum, dishwashers, etc.

POSITIVE-The 50s really razzed my berries. They were a very great time because of so many reasons. One of the main reason was the baby boomers. Many people were real gone so they played backseat bingo and one thing lead to another and, well….you know how it goes. 28,000,000 babies were born between 1950 and 1959. That’s a lot of babies!!

NEGATIVE-This is very true, but because of the growing population, 1 out of 5 Americans were in poverty! Because of this poverty, people couldn’t afford the nice products like the dishwashers and vacuums that really helped our economy.

POSITVE-You shuckster! Our economy did well which means people WERE able to buy those things! Our economy was cookin’ because of this!

NEGATIVE-Righto, but women were very limited in what gigs they could do. Many thought that women should just stay in the house and take care of the many kids. People felt pressure to believe what radioactive people thought.

POSITIVE-But look at the magazines and films that were made! Those are trying to help show women working outside of the house! You have some illuminations, but this isn't one of them.

NEGATIVE-Women might have been portrayed as working outside of the house in movies, but there's just one problem....people were staying at home more and not going to movies as much!

POSITIVE- Well, people were still going to flicks, especially those who lived in the suburbs. Because of the huge population growth, people started moving to the suburbs! This brought many great things out there like movie theaters, restaurants and shopping centers! People were happy to live in safe neighborhoods. This also allowed them to send their kids to safe schools as well.

NEGATIVE-The people who were moving to the suburbs were those who had a lot of money. Those who were in deep poverty, like I mentioned before, were living in the city. This made them prone to do bad things because they were surrounded with bad things. That brings me to another point! The Mexicans! They were doing many bad things. The Mexicans were illegally crossing our and they had to endure many poor living conditions and low wages.

POSITIVE-You actor! You think that you can impress me with your fancy lingo! Ya'know what? Anything was better than what they had to face when they were actually in Mexico! Those conditions were far worse!

NEGATIVE-You're cruisin' for a bruisin' you grody goof!

POSITIVE-Not if I give you a knuckle sandwich first goopy nosebleed!

NEGATIVE-Cool it man! I said I was gunna pound you first!!!

POSITIVE-I'm done talking to you! Later you nerdy gator!