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B4 1950s Convery

Page history last edited by MArmstrong2012@yahoo.com 9 years, 12 months ago

Mary Armstrong, Meghan Jacobs    , Michelle Black                

  

 

 

MYP Unit Question: How did culture, events and leadership shape and reflect post-WWII America?

 

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      During the 1950’s an understanding of America’s economy dawned on Americans which led to the success of the American economy during the 1950’s. In this time period America’s economy was one of the strongest in the world. 

     Exports were at a high point and were still increasing.  Their value being higher than the value of imports, meaning there was a trade surplus. The 1950s: Business and the Economy: Overview states that “People all over the world were willing to buy the products American workers produced; automobiles, electronics, furniture, chemicals, glass, metals—anything bearing a tag that read "Made in the U.S.A."—were respected internationally for their quality and reliability (American Decades).”

     During the 1950’s there was more government involvement in the economy and an increase in the confidence of businesses that any problem could be solved quickly. For example, congress passed antitrust regulations to keep corporate from taking over in the market place. However, the increase in government involvement also had a negative side. It increased taxes and also created rising taxes, inflation. 

     The government during this time period was afraid that the labor unions would become infested with communists because of this they passed allowing the removal of communists. Labor union power was kept to a minimum so they would not shut down key U.S. industries.  Presidents (Dwight D. Eisenhower and Harry S. Truman), knowing this, did not hesitate to bring in troops to break up strikes (American Decades). The gross national product because of this soared reaching 28.7%.

 

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      It was in the 1950’s that people began to consider it took more than a little education to face the challenges of the day. Education during this decade was highly impacted by racial problems, McCarthyism, the Cold War, and budget shortages. Education was redefined by Americans and expanded on more than reading, writing, and arithmetic.

                School attendance increased 30% in the 1950’s as a result of the baby boomers.  A record was set in the 1959-1960 school year as 2 million new students entered school. In early years of the decade college enrollment showed a decrease as young men were called to fight in the Korean War.  The biggest college enrollment occurred in the year 1956 with 450,000 students. Seeing as there was a dramatic increase in students there was a shortage in teachers and school resources. There was a 345,000 shortage of classrooms in 1953 which lead to overcrowding in schools. Many students attended schools that did not meet safety requirements. Still after a rush to fill the shortages, the number of people wanting education exceeded resources.

                If a person walked into a classroom in the 1950’s they would hear daily bible readings and religious instruction as part of the curriculum. However, people began to question this and debates erupted over funding and the separation of the church. Pennsylvania was the first to ban Bible reading in public classrooms.

                In 1957 the national pride and sense of security took a hit, as the Sputnik was launched in space. Since the soviets were first in space it reflected that their education surpassed America’s. There was a renewed emphasis on applied sciences like physics, chemistry, biology, and engineering.

 

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     After the United States won the war, the people became confident and began to develop their own sense of style.  Boys wore blue jeans and a plain white t-shirts.  This was worn by movie idols and symbolized the spirit of rock and roll.  Women began to change their style from what was worn by the French and English.  The new American style emphasized the female figure and included tight sweaters and poodle skirts.  Women also began to wear plenty of makeup and are very concerned with style.  Men are not concerned with fashion as women are.  They wore the same basic clothes to work: a gray flannel suit conservatively tailored, worn with a white suit and tie.  This symbolized the businessman’s conformity and became an icon.  The less formal, younger men also made the loafer the most common shoe in America.

                Blue jeans had been around for many years and symbolized the ruggedness of America.  During the 1950’s blue jeans began to be an icon for rebellion and were worn with white t-shirts and leather jackets.  Teenagers rushed to buy the hip new pants while teachers and parents tried to ban them from schools and public places.  The most popular brand of denim jeans in the 1950’s became the Levis 501 shrink to fit jeans which were the must have type of the 50’s. 

 

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      During the 1950’s film and theater underwent a few changes.  First, as TV got more popular, the amount of people going to cinemas dropped.  Also, the Supreme Court passed a law limiting the choice theaters had in what movies they showed.  This led to the studios producing less than 100 movies in 1954.  However, even though there were fewer movies made, the ones that were produced were more impressive and much larger.  They included large crews, good story lines, and amazing sets.  Also, these studios began to make movies on new topics.  These topics questioned the morals that older movies were made with including drama, suspense, and humor.  To try and raise movie sales there was a brief set of 3D movies in the early 1950’s.  this was aimed at giving people an experience they could not get from television. 

     Two major movie stars from the 1950’s were Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.  Marilyn Monroe was a rags to riches story.  She spent her childhood in foster care and then became a Hollywood star.  She starred in many movies in the 1950’s including Some Like it Hot andGentlemen Prefer Blondes.  James Dean is an icon for American youth to this day because of his short lived career and early death.  His career lasted less than a year but in the movies and television he starred in he played the anxious youth.  Both of these stars made history and were important to the 1950’s.

 

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       In the 1950’s people continued to eat home prepared meals with a few changes.  Restaurants began to franchise which helped places like McDonalds make large profits.  McDonalds began the idea of franchising and other restaurants opened that were similar to it.  The first burger king opened in Miami, Florida, in 1954.  This was a year before McDonalds was franchised.  Burger King sold mostly hamburgers which were 18 cents each.  In 1957 they introduced the Whopper which would be its most famous burger.  Also, during the 50’s the first TV dinners were introduced.  They were an instant success because people could eat at home with their families but the meals were easy to prepare. 

            During this time young people began to hang out in diners while they enjoyed hamburgers, fries, and milkshakes.  French fries were first introduced in the US in the 50’s.  They quickly grew in popularity and mass production began.  This showed that hamburgers and fries were the most popular foods of the 1950’s.  

 

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In the 1950’s print included mostly of magazines, newspapers, and nonfiction novels.

 Magazines:

            One magazine article that represents the culture of the fifties is the article, “Battle over Television: Hollywood Faces the Fifties: Part II.” This magazine article talks about the invention of the television and the creation of motion picture. In the 1950’s the television just started to become an average household item. The Article describes how at first when motion picture came out the average American would go to the neighborhood cinema a couple times a week. Then the black and white television came out and people were overjoyed with the new advancements. But now as the advancements in the 50’scontinue the television is the number one must have in American homes. The television also has helped the economy majorly in the movie making industry. This article also talks about how the television is going to change the way Hollywood is portrayed. Whereas a second magazine article that shows the more serious economic side of magazine media is “The Challenge of Inflation” by Howard Buffet. This magazine article tells readers to be concerned with the inflammation in America. Buffet explains that although President Eisenhower has a seemingly tight control on the money the sectors of inflammation could come roaring back at any moment. Shown through these two articles the 1950’s had both serious articles and articles made for enjoyment.

 

 

News Papers:

            News Papers consisted of many arrangements of ideas and postings but mostly included sports. The Most popular section in the 1950’s was the sports section. One article that shows this is the article “Detroit Beats Rangers in 2d Overtime.” This article talks about the victories of the Detroit red wings in the past couple years and what people are expecting out of them in the seasons to come. A second article is, “Ethel and Julius Rosenberg: The Final Letter from the Rosenberg's to Their Children.” This article describes how Ethel and Julius were proven guilty for spying on the soviets during WWII and giving false information. This article describes their final goodbyes to their families and friends as they are taken to jail. Not much has changed about the newspaper compared to today’s news papers.

 

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 (Jackie Robinson)

      Americans began to become more interested in sports in the 1950’s.  Sports Illustrated provided people with articles, information, and pictures about sports.  Also in the 50’s pro football became more popular than college football partly because it was broadcasted weekly on the television.  Baseball remained the favorite sport of Americans and the Yankees were the best team during the 50’s winning seven World Series.  Basketball also became more popular for the winter with the newly created NBA.  One of the most important ideas of this decade was integration.  Some African Americans led their baseball teams in the 50’s and the NBA also allowed African Americans.  These events were a sign that African Americans were beginning to be fully accepted. 

     Besides sports there were new games for the children of the 50’s.  LEGO building bricks were imported from Denmark and allowed kids to use their imaginations to build anything they wanted.  Also, Etch A Sketch was introduced and was a reusable drawing tool for kids. Skateboards were also a pastime for teens in this era.  Lastly, in the 1950’s, an idea of physical readiness was promoted by Jack LaLanne. His feats of strength introduced staying physically fit and ready because of the threatening Cold War.

 

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 (Elvis Presley)

      Before 1948 listening to music on records required a “forgiving ear and a vivid imagination.” This was because there was not enough technology at the time to make the records more clear. As time progressed in to the 1950’s new advancements came out, the sound quality became better and more songs were able to fit on a disk. At this point the problem became that there were too many different seizes of disks and too many different types of disks. So it was not very practical to buy the disks before the 1950’s. the sales of records soared in the 1950’s.in 1950 the record sales reached 830,000 then in 1952 they jumped to 1.5 million, and before the decade was over they doubled again. In the beginning of the decade the records cost only thirty five dollars, but by the end of the decade they were selling for several hundreds of dollars.  

      The type of music is the most important part though. This included of mainstream pop, country, R&B (black pop). The music consisted of about 50% mainstream pop. The two most popular mainstream pop songs in 1950 were “Good night Irene” by Jordan Jenkins and “Weaver”.  

 

 

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              According to, Bowling, Beatniks, and Bell-Bottoms: Pop Culture of 20th-Century America, “the 1950’s are sometimes thought of as America’s bland decade (1950s: The Way We Lived).” In general, life was stable for families and the economy was flourishing. This increasing prosperity was celebrated by having a record number of babies, the baby boom. More and more people began moving to the suburbs and cars sales dramatically increased. A national highway system was developed to create a more effective method of transportation.

            Many toys and amusements were created like the Slinky, Silly Putty, Frisbee, and the hula hoop. There was also a noticeable increase of attendance at amusement parks.  Bowling, Beatniks, and Bell-Bottoms: Pop Culture of 20th-Century America, also states that “a new form of music called rock and roll emerged as an important expression of youth culture (1950s: The Way We Lived).”

            However, looming of all the prosperity and success was suspicion and fear created from the Cold War. Bomb shelters were created in suburban home areas and worry about communist influence was spread. This worry was evident in the action of U.S. senator Joseph McCarthy, who spread his anti-communist crusade to all areas of American Culture.

            These social disruptions also sparked the unhappiness of woman with their status as house makers. African Americans started protesting discrimination. People also disregarded the sexual conservative ideas they once followed, as Playboy magazine was created along with the invention of birth control. The 1950’s became a time of change (1950s: The Way We Lived). 

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(President Eisenhower)

     Eisenhower was the dominant president in the 50’s. He started running for president in 1952 after Truman. In the 1950’s there was a strong fear of communism in America. This is because many countries such as Korea and China had just become communist. The Americans immediately intervened and then in 1950 we got involved in the Korean War in efforts to stop communists. Allies decided that Japanese South Korea would surrender to the United States post WWII. In the beginning of the war people praised Truman for sending troops to stop communism. But then later on in the war the General Douglas Mac Arthur proceeded to drag China in to the war going against Truman’s idea of containment. As a result Truman fired the general. Later on an idea of McCarthyism evolved. Joseph R McCarthy was a senator from Wisconsin. This idea is saying that there were not enough people working for anticommunism in China. This idea caught American’s attention and also increased McCarthy popularity. With Eisenhower becoming president a new era of government evolved. Eisenhower broke the 20 years of democratic control and there was no longer a president without a college degree. Government and politics in the 1950’s most revolved around stopping communism as well as introducing new idea in to the government.

 

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           The first President in the 1950’s was President Harry S. Truman. He was president from April 12, 1945 to January 20, 1953. The first couple of months of his presidency Truman made many decisions. On May 7 1945 Germany surrendered and he had to decide what to do with the Nazi soldiers. Then just a week later he made the decision to drop a bomb on Japan. Also Truman ordered American troops to be stationed in South Korea. As president, Harry S. Truman confronted inflammation, Labor disputes, and demands for troop recovery. Soon Truman was known for making rapid decisions; also the public perception of him was going down.  Later on congress and Truman adopted the Martial Plan to help the economy of Western Europe. In congress most of the republicans tended to disagree with Truman as far as taxes, agriculture, housing, and price control.

 

     The next president after Truman was Dwight D Eisenhower. He was a five star general and the thirty-fourth president of the United States. Eisenhower first ran for president in 1949 for Columbia University. Then at the age of sixty two he again decided to run for president in 1952 but in a much larger scale. For the past twenty years all the presidents had a democratic political view, so Eisenhower was the first president in a long time that ran with a republican political view. Taft was a strong candidate for Eisenhower but Eisenhower foreign policy was what made him win. Eisenhower promised to go to Korea to stop Communism. As he was president Eisenhower the cold war was President Eisenhower’s dominate foreign policy. One Eisenhower’s successes were when he helped make the interstate highway system. Also after the soviets launched a space craft he focused more on improving the space program and increasing the math and science programs. Also it was President Eisenhower who sent federal troops to force school desecration in little rock. Eisenhower was reelected in 1956. His second term was known for disappointments in Cuba.

 

 

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 (Captain Marvel Scorpion)

           During the 1950’s crime was constantly on the minds of American’s. It was displayed on television nightly both fictional and non-fictional crimes.  Newspapers contained articles about escalating crime that was witnessed on streets. Crime was up to an all time high, as shown through statistics featured in articles. In U.S. News & World Report statistics showed that crime increased more than double between 1940 and 1960.

          However, many people remained unconvinced and explanations of why the increase was so extreme were sought. Doubt was placed upon the accuracy of local police stations from which the statistics came from. Also, population was not taken into consideration for some statistics and laws existing in 1960 might have defined more actions as crime then laws in 1940. Even with these factors taken into consideration American’s remained concerned not only with the number of crimes but also the nature of them. The sharp increase in juvenile crime was especially concerning. Arrests of people under the age of eighteen doubled between 1948 and 1959. Another concerning criminal in the 1950’s was the gangster. Though never proven that here was an actual existence of an overlord controlling mob activity, such a figure still loomed in America’s imagination.

People increasingly relied on the criminal justice system to maintain order and for protection. However, some doubts existed that their faith in the criminal justice system was misplaced. Stories were spread of police corruption and incompetence throughout the decade.  As a whole law enforcement improved from things like new technologies and better communication between police around the nation.

            During the 1950’s justice could not really be considered blind. The rich were treated differently from the poor, whites treated differently from minorities. Court procedures varied state to state and judges based their rulings on the quality of the opposing legal counsels or the popular opinions of the day. In addition to the lack of blind justice good lawyers were hard to find. Some speculate this was due to lawyers looking for more rewarding options then trial work.

            After the ruling of the Brown case politicians and school officials struggled to find new ways to keep the racist system alive. A couple schools even closed rather than admit Africa-American students. President Dwight D. Eisenhower showed support by sending troops to force compliance on the schools part.  Segregation would no longer be tolerated.

 

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      The 1950’s was an important time in churches. In the Christian churches there was a lot of segregation at this time. Not only was there segregation but people began to recognize it as a major problem. One leader to this ongoing problem was Georgia Elma Harkness. She said, “Even in churches this virus is widely prevalent. It was not a theological, but a racial, issue that split the Methodist Church in 1844 and kept it in sectional units for almost a hundred years, with the breach only partially healed by the formula of union in 1939. The northern and southern Presbyterians and Baptists are still separated with race in the background, though with important theological differences in addition to the racial attitudes that have prevailed in Methodism” (Christian Ethics). The virus she is talking about is the virus of segregation. Even when John F Kennedy ran for president he addressed the issue of segregation in churches. Although this problem has been going on long before the 1950’s, the 1950’s is an important time because people such as Georgia Elma Harkness, Martian Luther King Jr., and many more are beginning to recognize this issue as a problem. This identification of this problem is a major step forward in American history of religion.

            By 1950 the number of Catholics grew from almost 10 million in 1900 to 28 million by 1950 according to the Census Bureau. As the number of Catholics continued to increase during the 1950’s many of the Protestant Americans feared that Catholics would soon have too much power in the American government and impose their belief on to the American people. This problem was soon solved when Pope Benedict gave Protestants guidance in presenting their opinion towards the Catholics. As a result many people were more comfortable with the Catholics being in charge. Although this problem was thought to be over with, there were still people who were uneasy with American Catholics running the political system.

            In 1953 the issue of proving government money to teaching of religion in private schools arose in the Supreme Court. It all started when church attendance increased due to a “nuclear-age.” As people became more religious many parents wanted the state to pay for the transportation for their children to church related schools. In the case of McCollum vs. Board of education they ruled this want to be unconstitutional due to the fact that it was too much establishment of religion within the schools. From this point forward the American government is unable to provide funding to schools set up to teach religion. 

 

 MYP Unit Question: How did culture, events and leadership shape and reflect post-WWII America?

       The 1950's were a time of peace and prosperity. The economy that had once hit a low point before the war had finally become stable. Families rejoiced at being reunited after the war, and the population soared with the baby boomer generation being born. Changes in life could be seen as families moved to suburbs and car sales were at an all time high. Many ideas that America once clung to were altered and exchanged for new ones.

     The culture in the 50's underwent through a major change as  mentality of American's turned towards a general sense of rebellion.After, the the war women became unhappy with their traditional roles as housewives. They began to feel like their was more to life then staying at home and taking care of kids. These feelings sprouted because women had been use to filling the men's positions during WWII and when the men came back they returned to their life before the war. In addition, African Americans began protesting discrimination. The once sexual conservative ideas were discarded as things like Playboymagazine and birth control came out. The fastion also indicated the attitude of rebellion. Women changed their style from what was worn by the French and English to a style the emphasized the female figure. Blue jeans represented the ruggedness of America and during the 50's became an icon of rebellion. These new pants, rushed to be worn by teens, were banned from schools and public places. 

     The 1950's were marked by the beginning of the cold war.  Fear was created by the spreading of communism that was evident at the the time. For example, because of the fear of communism bomb shelters were built in suburban home areas. In the 50's China and North Korea had become communist. In the case of  South Korea America immediately intervened to stop communism from spreading, thus America became involved in the Korean War. The Rosenberg trial also contributed to this fear of communism. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted American Communists who were executed for conspiracy to commit espionage. They were said to pass information about the Atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. Another major event in the 50's was the Brown vs. Board of education case. The landmark decision from this case was that separate could not be equal and separate public schools for black and white students was unconstitutional.  To add to the fight against discrimination in 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give her seat on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

     President Eisenhower was the dominant president in the 50's.  He broke the 20 years of democratic control. He was also well loved by the people who, because of this, were eager to support his decision. For example, like when he pledged to help South Vietnam. During the 50's the idea of McCarthyism spread like wildfire throughout America. It stemmed from senator Joseph McCarthy from Wisconsin. His idea basically stating not enough people were working to prevent communism. This idea spread throughout the American population because of fear and also increased McCarthy's popularity.

 

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