tv 1950s American Culture CSPAN September 1, 2017 1:26pm-2:38pm EDT
professor paul moreno teaches a class on 1950s american culture. he describes how post world war ii society changed due to the baby boom, suburbanization, and the emergence of teen culture. he also charged how social norms differed from the victorian era through the progressive era and into the 1950s. this class is about an hour and ten minutes. okay, we're going to start the third part of this course, the third theme of the course. the introduction of this section in the american heritage reader says that there are three salient developments that characterize the united states after the world war ii -- the continuation of the new deal's concentration of power over the social and economic life of the nation and the federal government, the continuation of american involvement in global affairs, the cold war that we've been talking about, and the collapse of traditional judo christian moral and especially sexual standards often characterized as victorian, so that's what we're going to start talking about today is the culture of the 1950s and moving
our way towards the 1960s and the cultural revolution. since historians have recently paid more attention to the ways in which what's often recorded as the '60s cultural revolution really had its seeds planted in the 1950s. so i wanted to describe what the old culture was like. sometimes referred to as victorian, sort of the shared anglo american culture of the 19th and into the 20th centuries. the little piece that i gave you from william o'neill's book on "america 1945," sort of describes some of the cultural assumptions of americans of this generation. and in a way, victorianism, which today is considered, you know, conservative. in ways, it's a derogatory term, puritanical, old-fashioned and retrograde, but much like liberalism, victorianism was actually liberal in its day. in the 19th century, it was an advance upon earlier, premodern cultural patterns, much as liberalism in the 19th century
was sort of a progressive, new thing, and the principles of classical liberalism of the 19th century are considered conservative today, likewise, the progressive sort of victorian developments of the 19th century are by today's standards conservative. they were advanced or progressive with regard to sort of old-world or premodern traditionalism. if you look at sort of basic things like how reproduction is carried on, how families are formed over the course of a historical development, the old-fashioned way, the traditional way was arranged marriages, right, where sort of women were considered as property and the parents arranged the marriage as a way of preserving property and it was done without the children's consent. the victorians made that more consensual and voluntary, you know. children were allowed to pick who their partners were, but the process was still controlled through the rituals of courtship in the 19th century, and that evolved into the 20th century of
dating, where, again, young people had more sort of independence in how they picked their partners, but there were still certain sort of rules and regulations applied to it. whereas today we have devolved to hooking up, right? where, again, this is common on many college campuses, not in hillsdale where we have our particular folk ways. i still don't understand what hills dating is, but maybe you could explain it to me. but you know, large herds of young men and women get together, drink excessively and then fornicate, right? that's what the process of sort of dating and courtship have devolved into. likewise, the family formed sort of traditional, maybe even prehistoric unit of social organization was the tribe, and over the course of time, this was reduced to the extended family, where you had several generations but related by kin. in the victorian period, this is the nuclear family, where you had essentially parents and children of one generation living together. over the course of the 20th century, this dwoflz inevolves
single parents or groups that are sort of sub familian, not just nuclear family, but a subatomic family, where there aren't two parents and may be a combination of children in the same household, so this sort of progressive devolution of these forms. victorianism started in evangelicalism, especially in england. the standards were promoted by the methodists within the church of england, and they were considered to be especially important to deal with the transition that was going on in the 19th century of the urban and industrial revolution. the victorian morals were necessary as a way of maintaining social order in a rapidly changing world, and the same thing applies in america in the later -- into the 20th century. there is also an element of what you'd call post millennialism in this. victorian social reformers in the 19th century believed that
the sort of protestant religion provided a way of dealing with all kinds of social problems that had plagued the world since its beginning. you could see this with the people who founded hillsdale college, the free will baptists who were very active in the antislavery movement, the abolition movement. all those social reform movements of the early 19th century, the campaigns against drinking, campaigns in favor of keeping the sabbath, prison reform, you know, the thing that brought alexis detoteville over to the united states to examine democracy in america, really all had their origins in this predominantly evangelical protestant movement, that we can christianize the social order, that we can bring about a kind of perfect society on earth. theologically, this is known as post millennialism, the idea that the millennium is a period of peace and justice and prosperity of 1,000 years before the second coming of jesus christ. a kind of perfectionism in protestant post millennialism in
19th-century america. the traditional view had been that jesus christ will come and initiate the millennium, the 1,000-year reign of peace and justice. this movement is more characteristic of post millennialism. this movement has its origins in religion, especially protestant christianity, but over the course of time, it sort of outlived its protestant origins. you can see this especially in benjamin franklin. you all read selections from his autobiography, "an american heritage," and you can see how franklin, although he had lost his traditional orthodox christian upbringing, still advocated, maybe the biggest advocate of the bourgeois virtues or the protestant work ethic in the autobiography, right? all those things that really were religious in origin of honesty, frugality, thrift, industry, right, temperance, turn out to be valuable not for
purposes of eternal salvation, but for the purpose of advancing and success in this world, that the way to wealth, the way to improve society, the material conditions of the world are very useful, franklin says. he can see the utility of the old puritan values, even though he doesn't think they have any religious significance anymore. in a way, benjamin franklin's sort of the outstanding figure of the american dream, of the self-made man, that if you simply follow these moral principles, if you cultivate these virtues, then there will be success in the world, and if you apply this to society as a whole, the idea that social problems can be solved by the cultivation of these religiously based virtues. okay, this has its -- this is rooted in an understanding of the nature of man, one that goes back to the very origins of western civilization, something that you all explored over and over again in western heritage, the idea of the dual nature of
man, right, that we were creatures that had a rational and an animal element to us. and part of the job of human beings was to make sure that their rational capacities would control their animal capacities, right? this is the logos controlling humos in classical philosophy, that human beings had it in their power to transcend their fall in nature, that you were -- that self-control, that your ability to engage in moral improvement was what religion and morality was all about. so, the principal virtue for the victorians was self-control. again, in benjamin franklin, you could see his quest for moral perfection, thathe's going to eliminate all of his vices, that he was going to be able to achieve personal moral perfection. so, moderation or temperance would be the chief virtue here. have many of you seen the movie "the african queen" with
humphrey bogart and audrey hepburn? it's a classic. you should all see it. originally in the movie, he is a drunkard and on one of his sprees and he's all hung over and is pleading with her saying, whatever her name was, as well, you know, a man can get drunk once in a while, it's only human nature. and she says, human nature is what we're put on this earth to overcome, right? this is what the victorian moral drama is all about. the individual effort and sort of the social effort to overcome our vices and to be able to control ourselves, to transcend our lusts and our vices and our animal nature, right? so, self-control was the chief victorian virtue. now, i want to show you an example of this from major league baseball, 1947. this is joe dimaggio as an example of this sort of victorian type and self-control. dimaggio is famous for not being
very expressive, right, for being a -- sort of controlling his emotions on the field. there is this one moment, i'll show you a clip from it, the 1947 world series, yankees against the dodgers. the dodgers were up by three runs and dimaggio was on bat with two men on base. he hits a long fly ball that almost certainly would have been a home run and it was caught by the dodgers' outfielder, al john frieda. look at this clip. it's very quick. and look at not so much what's going on with the catch, but look at dimaggio's reaction. >> it's a long one deep into left-center. back towards outfield, back, back, back, back, he makes a one-handed catch against the bullpen! oh! >> see? when dimaggio kicked the dirt like that, that was as emotive as he ever got, right? dimaggio was such a model of self-control that that was the remarkable thing about that play, that the, you know, famously stoic dimaggio lost his temper and just sort of kicked. now, when you compare this to
the way in which athletes today express themselves on the field, you can see the difference between that old model and the new model. and joe dimaggio -- i take this not just because i'm a yankee fan, but because for a generation of americans, dimaggio really did sort of encapsulate that old idea of sort of a greatest generation stoic self-control in american values. yeah? >> was that the same year that -- >> yes, was that the same year jackie robinson broke in, '47? it was. so in many ways a very important year in american cultural history. and also it's important because dimaggio was an italian american, and this is an example of sort of, of immigrant and ethnic assimilation, right? dimaggio was italian american, and italian americans had a reputation for having less self-control than sort of british protestants. again, these are cultural stereotypes, but they were known as sort of volatile people. the fact that dimaggio had sort of absorbed this anglo american
stoic kind of demeanor was a sign that they had made it in america. this is at a time in the 1940s when the expression of prejudicial attitudes about white ethnic groups is still widely accepted. dimaggio was known as the dego, a modern epithet for those of sort of mediterranean dissent. and this is a point that dimaggio has simulated, these groups are becoming part of american culture but are adopting this sort of standard of victorian moral. anyway, that's sort of the individual idea, this sort of struggle for self-control within the individual, to have your rational capacities control your emotions. likewise, social policy follows the same model. the whole goal of social policy is to cultivate personal responsibility, do everything that we can to get individuals to control themselves. in other words, social policy is supposed to reward virtue and to
punish vice, right? we want our social institutions, our economic institutions, our political institutions, our cultural institutions to help cultivate these virtues and minimize these vices. it's one of the most interesting things about america in the 19th century and into the 20 aeth centuries. and one of the things that's changing fundamentally is that you had on one hand a lassie fair economy, in which the government, especially the federal government, doesn't do much to regulate economic activity, okay? america about 1900 was probably the freest economy that the world has ever seen. combined with that, though, is a great deal of cultural and social regulation and control, especially at the local level. the federal government doesn't get involved with this very much because of our constitutional system. but state and local governments did a great deal of policing of moral and cultural and even religious questions. in constitutional parlance, this is known as the police power. so you had a society that was very free economically, but
there was a great deal of control sort of culturally or morally. and today it's ral rather just the opposite. we have a highly regulated economy, but the culture is actually relatively libertarian. so that's sort of the great transformation of america over the last century or so. but as we'll see, most of these institutions were designed in a way to make sure that people are able to manage the economic freedom that they have by the cultivation of these virtues. again, for benjamin franklin, they were directly connected, right? that if you engage in the right kind of behavior, if you're frugal and industrious and tempera temperate, it will lead to economic success. that's the way to wealth, okay? the victorians saw a connection, not a discordance, between a lassie fair economy and a policed culture. the families at the center of all this -- this is the chief institution by which individuals are socialized. and the family of the victorians was, and this used to go without saying, but it was monogamous and it was heterosexual, right?
the family was, again, the nuclear family, and it was between one man and one woman only. but again, to emphasize the ways in which victorian sort of social standards were different than earlier ones, it was still voluntary. no arranged marriages, right? the family was supposed -- was much more based on affection rather than on interest or compulsion. and as i said, it was nuclear. again, this is not the extended family. it's a premodern society but the modern nuclear family. it comes into shape in the 19th century, comes in order in the 20th century. the institution of divorce, therefore, is still limited. legally, no states had no-fault divorce laws until the 1960s. divorce was deliberately meant to be expensive and difficult to obtain. it was still stigmatized. i can remember growing up in the 1970s, and divorce was still something that was rather scandalous, right? over the course of time, it's
lost that stigma and incidents of divorce escalated rapidly in the 1960s and '70s. but at this period in the 1950s, divorce was still something that was unusual, something that was socially frowned upon. it was also politically fatal. people like nelson rockefeller was more or less ineligible to be president of the united states because he had been divorced. there wasn't a supreme court justice who had been divorced until william o. douglas in the 1930s, right? so, there was, divorce still had this stigma to it because it was a threat to the family, which is this central institution. in social policy, the assumption was -- and again, this goes back to benjamin franklin and the protestant work ethic -- is that vice is what led to poverty and not vice versa. the idea today, social sciences of the 20th century come to see that vice is a result of poverty. that people engage in bad behavior because of their economic conditions. the victorian assumption is just
the opposite, that if people are poor, it's because they have engaged in vicious behavior and not vice versa, this is why social policy is so reluctant to adopt welfare into the 19th and 20th centuries because it would have interrupted this assumption people make, the connection between vice and poverty. one of the things that changed this assumption was the great depression. the idea that 25% of the population being out of work, it can't be because of their morals. it can't be because of their vicious behavior. something has broken down in the economic system, and that's one of the chief reasons why the new deal became acceptable. yeah. >> is the world -- is the moral argument the same argument they made for the prohibition movement? >> yes, actually, the moral arguments that are made to encourage the right kinds of behavior in people reach their height in prohibition, and in fact, go too far. we'll see one of the ways in which the progressives actually
took victorian emphasis upon temperance is that, that's a good illustration of this. the difference between temperance and prohibition, the idea of moderating as opposed to absolutely abolishing. absolutely, that's one of the ways in which -- that's why prohibition was adopted with the 10th amendment and repealed with the 21st amendment. so, charity, for example, the old standard in the distribution of charity to the poor was charity had to be limited to the deserving poor, as they were called. the victorians recognize that some people are poor just because of bad luck, right? widows and orphans especially, people who through no fault of their own, not because of their own vicious behavior, are suffering from poverty. those people you can take care of. those are the deserving poor. most of the poor, though, if they're poor because of their own vicious habits, you have to allow them to suffer the consequences of their bad behavior. that's the only way they're going to reform. so you don't want to give charity to the undeserving poor because that will be subsidizing
bad behavior, and then you'll get more of it. again, one of the chief reasons why the limitation on the welfare state before the 20th century. likewise, income transfers would have the same effect. this is why one of the arguments against an income tax, right? an income tax is a tax on people with high incomes, and people have high incomes because they are engaging in the right kinds of behavior, they're frugal and hard working, so why tax them, right? that's discouraging productive behavior. you don't want to do that any more than you want to encourage vicious behavior by giving welfare to the undeserving poor, right? again, the assumption here is that people are economically successful because of their virtuous behavior, and that is called into question in the 19th and into the 20th centuries as well, but those are sort of the assumptions of the connection between moral and economic outcomes that continued into the 20th century but really take a beating, especially with the great depression. thus, when charity was administered in the 19th and
into the early 20th centuries, it was called indoor relief. what we want to do is take the deserving poor outside of their morally dangerous environment and put them into asylums or orphanages, where we can insolate them and protect them against the temptations of vice. the goal here is to improve the moral environment of the poor, right? again, to remove them from the circumstances and their vicious neighbors, and this is what, again, the whole asylum movement in the 19th century was all about. in a way, this is what prison reform is all about, not just to punish people who had committed crimes but to try to morally regenerate them, right? the reformatorys, the penitentiary as an alternative to that. likewise, for orphans, you want to take them out of their neighborhoods and put them into institutions where they could be taught the right kind of behavior. again, this is all an ideal. these institutions didn't usually work this way, but that was the sort of moral theory
that was behind victorian social policy. likewise, there are lots of laws, especially, again, at the state and local level, that were meant to suppress vice and to help people control themselves by removing the temptations to drink too much or to take drugs or to gamble or all these other things, right? so, this idea that those kind of police regulations were perfe perfectly legitimate was something that the government did. as ian just pointed out, this is the difference between temperance and prohibition, right? the victorians generally didn't try to prohibit alcohol altogether, but into the 19th and early 20th century began to do so until the whole nation -- it took a constitutional amendment to do it, but the whole nation adopted briefly prohibition. likewise with regard to prostitution, the victorians generally held to a sexual double standard. their belief was that males had more of a sex drive than females did and that prostitution was
sort of an outlet that you needed males to have, and so, the thing to do about prostitution was to establish a red light district where prostitution would be limited and regulated, rather than trying to do away with it altogether. so, before world war i, especially, every major american city used to have its district that it was known where prostitutes were available. people will tell you stories that this was the case in hillsdale, michigan. i don't know if this is true or not, but you hear stories of buildings downtown where prostitution was flagrant because it was legally tolerated in these districts. the progressives, though, held to a stricter standard than this, especially among 19th-century feminists in what was known as the social purity moveme movement. they objected to the sexual double standard not because they wanted women to be able to engage in the same kind of sexual behavior as males, but they wanted males to exercise as much self-control as females did. they wanted a very stringent unitary standard for the sexes,
and so they campaigned against prostitution altogether. in world war i, the federal government made it a requirement, if you wanted an army base camp in your city, you had to agree to do away with drinking and with prostitution. and so, the red light districts in america pretty much disappeared with world war i. there are some ways in which the federal government did get involved in this. another example of this would be the mann act, the white slave act as it was called. congress passed this in 1910, making it a federal crime to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes. it was designed to get at commercial prostitution but later came to be applied to any kind of illicit sexual relations in which state lines were crossed or in which anybody bet ed trysting that took place across state lines. kind of the assumption under the mann act was if any woman was having sex with any man who was
not her husband was a de facto prostitute. so this law ended up being a nationwide campaign against any kind of sexual immorality. likewise, gambling. although today states actually promote gambling and the idea being the lottery proceeds promote education. every american state in 1900 prohibited gambling and the publication that someone had won the lottery in another country. one of the few ways is that it was a federal crime to transport lottery tickets across state lines. every state suppressed and put down gambling. it is the legitimate function to try to remove the temptations device that will allow people to improve their morals. likewise every american church condemned artificial contraception until about 1930. i think it was the episcopalians
to accept it first, at least for married couples. later in the 1960s when every state had repealed laws the catholic church is about the only hold out prohibiting the use of contraception. supreme court is going to sweep away the rest of the last of these laws. congress tried to help the states that were known as the comstock act. it made it a federal crime to mail anything, to use federal mails for anything that was obscene or immoral. it included any information about abortion or contraception. they tried to help the states in their regulation of sexual immorality. another indication of this would be circumcision reaches high
point in the united states about 1940. there was a revival -- a male circumcision. revival of circumcision in the anglo world in the 19th century for reasons that were not religious. it goes back to the early church in st. paul that christians didn't have to be circumcised as jews did. but for reasons of sexual hygiene and belief it would help males exercise more self-restraint is probably the reason for the increase in circumcision in the 19th and 20th centuries. it's been declining ever since and in europe it's been practically eradicated. but there are all these signs here of encouraging self-control by the prohibition of various practices. all of this is especially concentrated among american protestants. again, methodists, evangelicals of various kinds.
as opposed to the liturgical protestants, like your lutherans who are less inclined and roman catholics were largely out of it. part of the protestants were suspicious is they didn't fit into this sort of victorian culture enthusiasm for social reform. we can sort of achieve perfection in this world by the cultivation of these morals. traditional catholics were rather suspicious of that. protestants were suspicious of catholics because of that. american catholics is they didn't sort of fit into the this american culture enthusiasm for social reform. again, the protestant assumption here i'm talking about is that we can sort of achieve
perfection in this world by the cultivation of these morals. and traditional catholics were suspicious of that. protestants didn't believe that people had the capacity to improve the world in this kind of way. catholics were considered too lenient about sin. and catholics were sort of other worldly in the way the protestant vision i'm talking about here is about perfecting the world we live in. and the traditional protect the next world than this world. this ether is but a veil of tears, a place of vanishment of fears. catholics had sort of a fatalistic view that life on this earth is not about achieving perfection and improvement. it's something you have to suffer through. so catholics just don't have an inclination to try to make these social improvements that evangelical protestants are about. success or poverty in this world may not have a clear connection between people's morality and behavior. that sometimes the wicked do achieve great wealth and success, and sometimes good people are reduced to poverty. catholics are just kind of not with this program of protestant
perm and social improvement. but since most americans are broadly speaking protestants in one way or another, this is sort of the cultural tone of the 19dth and 20th century. and thus it was promoted in public education. reading the bible, this kind of encouragement to the protestant work ethic in american schools was just taken for granted. this is the reason why catholics had their separate section, the public education was essentially protestant education. you could see it in the public school system. so american public life even though you have no established church in the united states, there was this broad nondenominational protestant
culture, but the widely shared -- which didn't emphasize the sectarian points about this, but the widely shared sort of judeau christian, for americans public life as well. so about the 1950s now. the unraveling of the traditional christian judea, you begin to see it in the 1920s. the jazz age, the disillusionment after world war i, right? but then it was interrupted by the great depression and the wars, world war ii and the cold war. and the 1950s are really part of that. this is why you don't really begin to see american society unravel until the 1960s, especially with the decline of
cold war tensions as well as demographic factors like the baby boomers coming of age began to kick in. so the 1950s is sort of a period of hiatus where the united states and the american people are still security conscious. they still place a great deal on the family and social order because of the traumatic impact of the depression and the world war. this is why the 1950s are considered a conservative decade, even though i said historians tend to emphasize the way of which their sort of continuity from the beginning of the 20th century. so the popular image of the 1950s is a decade of conformity, that americans were other directed is one of the phrases that sociologists used. there was less individualism
than earlier there had been or later there would be. the idea was the old sort of protestant work ethic was about inner directed. about you sort of having some fixed absolute standard, one that largely came from religion and following that. that there was a sort of healthy kind of american individualism in this inner intersectedness that came out of especially a puritan where as in 1950s americans were other directed taking moral cues from other people, that americans were largely social in the 1950s rather than individually directly. and america in 1950s you had the society and the culture and the economy dominated by large organizations. a period where the american economy was dominated more than ever before since by a small number of large corporations. we've talked about the ways of
which new deal economic policy and the war itself tended to demonstrate american business in the mid-20th century. workers tend to be members of large industrial unions. in fact 1955 was the high point of union density. and of course government. the new deal had had established a big central government that we had never seen before. and a large part of that, too, is the centralized media in the 20th century. you had a small number of large networks. a smaller number of large big tv and newspapers. nothing like sort of the array of news outlets like you people have today. >> did large corporations of the centralized government also combine with --
>> yeah, big governments, big corporations in the 20th century because we've given up the laissez-faire idea with the new deal. the new deal established you couldn't have large industrial unions without the wagoner act. likewise the new policy was to help reduce competition, reduce individualism within the marketplace and have cartels. which are organizations that attempt to reduce competition. the new deal largely sucked away the -- that. the new deal liberalism hasn't adopted the cultural liberalism that you associate with today. that doesn't happen until the 1960s. so someone like fdr or many of the new dealers, they did attack the the laissez-faire economic assumptions of victorianism but
they did not have in mind homosexual rights or abortion rights or that kind of stuff. they were still very victorian in their social, cultural, moral beliefs. that's all going to change very rapidly in the 1960s. through some avant-garde intellectuals and artists calling into question those moral standards. one of the most interesting illustrations comes from oscar wilde, an essay he wrote in 1990, it's a perfect illustration of this connection between the economic and the moral. you should all read that. wilde makes the argument that once socialism takes care of the economic problem -- you have to believe that socialism is going to take care of the economic problem, then the individual will be free to create himself in any way that he wants. marx makes a similar argument. that every individual will be
able to be like oscar wilde. to express themselves artistically and creatively and to be real individualism. there's economic socialism, collectivism in the economy is what leads to cultural individualism. but in the 1950s we're sort of in a transitional phase where we have to some degree collectivize the economy. the united states in the 1950s is a mixed economy. it's not socialist either but we have not embarked at least on the main stream of that cultural moral overturn. and the family is the central institution in this. '50s have the reputation of being conservative because there was the great baby boom, because it's this great period of family formation in the united states. again, this is why the popular images of the 1950s are very domestic. the certain father knows best sitcom image.
a return to normal family life. americans making up for a lot of the destruction of the great depression and world war ii and you have this great sort of domestic explosion. by the way, it was limited to the united states. this didn't happen in western europe. it didn't happen in japan after world war ii. this is a peculiarly american thing. and a little bit australia and new zealand, but primarily america. most historians try to explain why this happened was a higher degree of religious observance, that americans were more religious than western europeans. the more religious you are, the more family oriented you are. there's a clear correlation to religious observance and family size, for example. part of the reason for the demographic implosion we talked about on day one, those population pyramids, closely
correlated to the decline of religious observance. so we have the baby boom and that is the central demographic phenomenon of this course. about 76 million children were born between 1946 and 1964, the baby boomers. it reached a peak of about 4.3 million that were born in the year of 1967. that's sort of the peak of the baby boom bulge. to give you one example of what a massive and sudden increase in births this was, more children were born in the five years after world war ii than had been born in the 30 years before world war ii. again, this is a tremendous expansion, boom in the population. the average female marriage rate had been about 26 in the 1890s. it had fallen below 20 in 1926.
it means that someone got married younger than that, reached a low point. there were two cohorts who made up the baby boom. one was older women who had delayed having children during the depression of world war ii, getting started late having children. but also younger women who were marrying earlier and starting earlier. so that the average american woman in the 1920s had her last child when she was 26 years old. the first time are read this i thought that's a typo. they mean the average american woman had their first child. no, they were done having children at age 26. and today most women don't start having children until they're 26, and that leaves them more time to have more children the earlier it starts. another thing about the baby boom is there was no part of the population that was not affected by it. usually when we talk about sort of large scale social phenomenon, you start talking
about differences based upon race, class, religion, but there was none of that. this affected the entire american population. if there's any indication of more of a great increase in the birthrate, it was among urban, educated whites. which usually demographically it was opposite. it was usually immigrants who had higher birth rates. it was usually less educated people have more children than more educated people, but it's the opposite in the 1950s. also very unusual. also it's not that americans were sort of returning to the 18th century family practices, having large families. with eight or ten children. most family in the baby boom generation had three or four children. but what made the numbers so vast was almost none had no children. almost everybody had three or four children. there are very few childless couples and very few people who didn't get married.
again, the incidence of marriage in the american population in the 1950s was still very high. i think we talked about this in the first day of class. i think it was recently that a majority of the adult women are not married, first time this has happened in american history. a vast majority of marriage age men and women are married in the 1950s. the other thing is more children who are born live. there were great medical advances in the 1950s. the greatest thing that kept the population down through all of human history was infant mortality. the idea that half of children wouldn't make it through their first year and thus wouldn't produce the next generation. most of that tremendous increase in human population in the 19th and 20th century was due to decline in infant mortality. that continues in the 1950s.
disease like polio and most dramatic stories was the conquest of polio, which was a terrifying disease that affected young people. fdr having been affected by polio later in life. diseases like diphtheria, rubella vaccines were developed for those. so the children that are born are living longer. 37,000 polio cases in 1954 was below 1,000 by 1962. it was almost completely eradicated. the year before i was born, that was a great rubella outbreak that produced 30,000 birth defx -- defects and 20,000 miscarriages. these sorts of things are unheard of. epidemic diseases used to be a common part of life. those children are now living longer as a result of these medical advances.
another thing that comes out of the baby boom was especially this generation of american women had not themselves been part of large families or extended families. one of the best selling books in all of american history was benjamin spock's book on child care. first edition came out in 1946. over 30 million copies were sold. so advice to these large numbers of young women who are having children. and many people have pointed to spok's book that he was responsible for the generation of the 1960s, that his advice to raise children by permissive standards was what accounts for the social turmoil of the 1960s. which one of you is doing spock as your reading assignment? that's one of the myths of this book.
compared to earlier victorian guides of child rearing, spock was relatively permissive. the old standard in the 19th century was children are little devils and their wills need to be broken. that's what child rearing was all about. spock compared to that was much more indulgent but not by later standards of permissive parenting. there were also things he advised that american women didn't follow. he counseled on breast-feeding, and that's made a big comeback, though. when i was a child breast-feeding was out of fashion and formulas were the ways babies were raised. and in his book he sort of assumed boys were boys and girls were girls. he did counsel raising children according to traditional gender roles. as they're called today. so by today's standards spock was something of a sort of reactionary. what really made spock a controversial figure was his opposition to the vietnam war.
he became very active in the antiwar movement. and then people projected his sort of anti-war liberalism onto his child rearing books. but that's something of a distortion. so american families are expanding a great deal in the 1950s, and mostly taken place in the suburbs. 1955 is also a landmark year because it's the year more americans live in suburbs. 1920s more people lived in cities than on farms. it wasn't that much later america became a suburban nation, but more people live in suburbs than cities. the suburban population doubled. from 36 million to 72 million by 1970. by 1970 the suburbs included more people than cities and farms combined. so the country was a majority suburban nation.
and about a million acres of farmland was being developed into suburban housing every year. so the american landscape is changing fundamentally by this demographic change. about 83% of the population increased. and the 1950s were the decade of greatest population increase in american history with maybe the exception of the first or second decade of the 20th century. and it was all notably driven by natural increase. the american population had increased in the past because of both natural increase but also because of immigration. by the 1950s immigration had almost been completely cut off. so this is all homegrown. every major american city in the 1950s lost population, except los angeles. los angeles is something of a suburban sprawl itself. it's not really a concentrated city.
also one of the political consequences of this is that big cities begin to lose their dominance within the state. so that boston doesn't dominate massachusetts it way it used to. new york declined from 55 to 40% of new york state's population in this period. there's been something of a reurbanization movement. new york city has more population now and increased relative influence in the state of new york. boston went from being 18 to being only 9% of massachusetts' population. chicago, losing to the suburbs in illinois. cleveland went from being 13% of ohio population to 4% of ohio population. and detroit likewise. once third of michigan's population was in detroit. it's probably even lower than that now. about 11% of michigan's
population. so, again, there's a great tide of exodus from cities into the suburbs. and also from the farms into the cities. what's happening in a lot of big american cities is that the native born white population is moving out to the suburbs. talked about many ways the subsidies encouraged suburbanization, highway act, banking policies, federal loans and things like that were racially discriminatory. so it was harder for blacks to leave central cities and suburbs than it was for whites. so the movement from the cities to the suburbs was largely a white movement. and the population of those cities were being replaced by black migrants from the south. the continuation of the great migration. also puerto ricans, because they were part of the commonwealth. immigration from puerto rico wasn't limited the way it was from other countries. so new york city whites are moving out and their places are
being taken by blacks and puerto ricans. so the demographics of american cities changes a great deal in the 1950s. all right, domestic culture. television would be the most important sort of illustration of this. the development of television right about the beginning of the 1950s. you can say in the beginning of the 1950s it starts out virtually nobody has a television and then by the end everybody has a television. the numbers are about 172,000 in 1950 to 15 million between 1948 to 1952. this is a faster growth curve than any previous technological development. radio really took off in the 1920s. right after world war i almost no one had a radio. it became a massive sort of consumer product in the 1920s, one of the fastest growing consumer industries in the
1920s. likewise, automobiles. henry ford making mass production automobiles available to ordinary americans. what starts off as a luxury item then becomes a mass produced consumer good. likewise, the telephone. these devices all were rapidly adopted but television was more rapidly adopted than any other. it may well be smartphones i haven't looked into this, i can remember a time where nobody had a smart phone and then suddenly everybody has one. i would imagine the growth curve for those was faster than even television. television was a rapid culturally transforming phenomena. the important thing about television is it's connected to the family. it sort of replaces the fireplace as the center of the home. that's the hearth. it's the thing that the family gathers around and brings american people together. and it's replacing what had been previously the dominant form of popular entertainment and the biggest entertainment industry in the united states, motion
in 1946, it was the peak of american movie attendance, about 90 million americans went to the movies every week in 1946. about 60% of americans let's say went to the movies each week. and that fell to about 45 million a week, half, by 1953. and this is apparently still falling because of later technological innovations like vcrs and dvds or whatever that netflix, whatever it is, streaming, people don't go to the movies the way they used to. >> patterson says television broke down the family unit because they're watching and not talking. do you disagree with that? >> it's funny because it also movies you could say bring people together. and the description that patterson gives of movie theaters as, you know, cultural sort of civic institutions. they're very ornate, very
palatial, had a lot of services and they began to decline as a result of television. certainly television reduces personal interaction. television is a mass produced commodity and so one of the things that it's doing is sort of a homogenizing american tastes. broadcast media where everyone's watching the same things is one of the things that is sort of making american life sort of bland and sort of interchangeable. it's true that television may well reduce the amount of a sort of culture that values conversation and by personal interaction. there's truth to that. there is a degree in which there are sort of cross currents in these cultural developments. television of course, when it started out in the early 1950s, when you had to have some money for television because they were still expensive, the programming changed over the course of the '50s, as well. initially, there was a lot of
high quality kind of high culture television. things that were applied from the stage to early television. and as the audience got bigger as it became more of a mass audience, the quality of television declined in the 1950s. cultural critics made a lot out of that, as well. whenever you mass produce something, it's always going to be pitched toward the lowest common denominator. what's the largest audience share you can get, the quality will be reduced more people have access but the quality of it at least by some people's standards declines. okay. new york city, 55 movie theaters closed in new york city in just the year 1951 alone. this is changing the urban landscape. movie theaters are places that drew people out of their homes and put them together in social space whereas television is reinforcing this idea of the family as the basic social unit. the only growth in movie theaters was naturally drive-ins
in the 1950s because as america became more car oriented in the 1950s, that's the only place in which there was expansion in outdoor movie watching. also, television changed the preferences that americans had for sports. football was more well adapted to television than baseball was. and this is the period in which football and later on basketball began to compete with baseball as the american pastime. television had a lot to do with that. people to this day will tell you had he prefer to listen to a baseball game on the radio than to watch it. whereas these other sports lend themselves more to the visual of television than to the old radio format. so television, you sort of take it for granted today because the application of this idea of the image being and available to people. you have to imagine how new that was to people in the 1950s, right? that radio by bringing sound,
the radio and phonograph into the home had a similar impact. television changes that very dramatically. you're so used to having what i would still call television at your fingertips. you're sort of watching television or images all the time. some of you might we'll be doing that now if i didn't forbid you to bring your phones into the classroom. the ubiquitousness of this you have to imagine what it was like when this was all together was new, the idea of the image available for television was cutting edge. another consequence of the baby boom was the development of a separate youth culture within the united states. the whole idea of adolescence, the teenager is something that's new in western civilization in the 20th century. for one thing, the united states became a lot younger country in the 20th century and as a result of the baby boom. the median age after the united states in this period fell to a little over 28.
that was the average american was 28 years old. over 38 today. the population has been aging ever since the baby boom. the so-called teen population and again, this is a cohort that really sociologists and people didn't recognize till the 20th century, there being a distinct teen phase of life or adolescence was a relatively recent development. so the teen niche or cohort increased, doubled from 10 million to 20 million between 1950 and 1970. all kinds of economic effects. we'll talk principally about the cultural effects and effects in there being a separate youth culture especially. again, in traditional society, there was no such thing as being a teenager. you were a child, and then usually at some point that sort of coincided with biological sexual maturity, you became an adult. there was usually an initiation process by which you went from being a child to being an adult.
as western society and as the economy as all these demographic changes take place there becomes an extended period between childhood and adulthood the teen years begins to take on an independent sort of population cohort, a kind of demographic. the number of years that people spent in school also was attenuated. it used to be at about the age of adulthood, let's say, most people didn't go to school beyond the eighth grade, didn't need to in sort of 19th society, they spend more and more time in school, extending this period of adolescence. only about 13% of the high school aged population, right, between say 14 to 18, were actually in high schools in 1900. high school was the thing that was limited to a small segment of the population, right? high school was a big deal. only for the few, for the elite.
that's increased rapidly over the course of the 20th century. about half the population that is high school age is in high school in 1930. increased to 75% by 1950. almost everybody. by 1965, almost everybody who is high school age is in high school. half of them go on to college. if you look at the college numbers, similar kind of replication. in the late 19th century almost nobody went to college and it's increasingly common today. today about two-thirds of americans spends at least some time in college. only about half of them finish. about one-third of the population are college graduates. the vast majority of people spend some time now in higher education. look what was for high school in the 20th century. again, all of this is sort of extending the period of time this period of adolescence. so you get a separate youth culture, right? again, advertisers are looking at this, young people begin to adopt their own styles of dress, the kind of music they listen to is very different.
there's a kind of segregation, a separation of youth culture from mainstream culture. and what you had was people who are physically adults, one of the things that happens in the 19th and 20th century is biologically speaking, men and women became sexually mature at an earlier age, probably because of increased better nutrition and things like that. people are biologically adults did earlier but not expected to behave like adults especially to make a living for themselves until much later. so you have biological adults without adult responsibilities. they're still dependent upon their families and this dependence is being increased further and further. right? many of you may be thinking about this today. what are you going to do after you graduate from college?
in apparently i don't know what the numbers are, but an increasing number of college graduates go home and continue to live with their families. right? one of the big points in the obamacare debate was president trump said that he wants to maintain the ability for kids to be on their parents' health insurance till they're like 26 years old. 26 is about the age which we might expect young people to go out and start making a living for themselves. that's what i'm talking about the tension of the period of economic social dependence while you have earlier biological maturity. here are the college numbers. about 2 million americans went to college in 1940. that quintuples and reaches 10 million by 1973. that's further expansion of this youth culture. also, more disposable income. yeah. >> go back quickly to your comment about biological adults first. >> social adults. >> right. so but what about there's evidence psychologically we're not really adults, prefrontal cortex development finishes at 25 i think.
was there any belief in this in the 1950s, that psychologically, they're not fully developed as adults? >> well, again, the question of whether people are psychologically adults as opposed to reproduce, that's what i'm talking about here, people are able to reproduce without producing economically. right? the idea that you're emotionally not your full self until you're in your 19, 20s, i'm not familiar with any work about that in the 1950s. there certainly was a sense in which this idea that -- this is a good way to put it. that children or adult adolescents instead of taking their social cues and being an culturated by the previous generation, are getting it from their peers. it is peer rather than an adult an culture ration that's taking place. people are worried about this and patterson talks about the
many people who thought juvenile delinquency was a big problem. this next generation was go be running wild. we talking about rock 'n' roll and see what the musical expression of that was. exaggerated but because nobody had seen before this such a large number of people who were in this sort of twilight zone biologically and economically. but there are -- aristotle said you shouldn't start to study political philosophy until you're in your 30s. you're not mature enough to understand it till then. >> argument to be made that even though biologically we became adults younger, but emotionally becoming adults later because of school and not having to sort of do adult things at a very young age like military and stuff. they're not being forced to grow up at an early age.
>> you have the idea that children don't have to engage or be socially adults until a much later date because societies provides for them. their parents provide for them. they have disposable income. in the early 20th century, even the adults didn't have much disposable income. there wasn't much money to spend on entertainment. now the adults have it and allow their kids to have it and able to indulge in the kind of consumer culture patterson describes as deferring the aim which people have to be adults is certainly taking place here. this had never happened before in human history. no society had the resources to be able to support such a large segment of the population without being productive. in a way, this is wonderful, this is the fruits of capitalism and of economic development. but it may well have these retarding social, emotional consequences. no human society had experienced this before.
also, youths are able to physically separate themselves from adult supervision by the automobile, right? they're able to the geographical mobility of the american people, automobiles provide a place for young people who are sexually mature to be sexually active without adult supervision. things like the transitter radio. for young people who are sexually mature to you know, be sexually active without adult supervision. things like the transistor radio allowed people to have their separate different musical tastes indulged from adults. young people were able to produce their own cultural setting. this had never been seen before the 1950s. also, concerns about this is that as people, more and more
people go to school, more and more children going to high school and college, there was a steady decline in s.a.t. score as this baby boom cohort increased. and this was a matter of some concern. it appeared like the intellectual consequences of this new youth culture were not good. there's no explanation for this. one possibility there does seem to be a clear correlation between a decline in standardized test scores and birth order. you're having more and more second and third and fourth children. they're less apt to do well on the s.a.t. birth order may be a consequence. don't want to disparage anybody. i'm the youngest of three myself, but there is this statistical correlation. educational decline in the 1950s. you could see there's sort of a panic. americans periodically have these sense their educational system is in a crisis and especially in the 1950s as a result of we mentioned the development of sputnik by the soviets that they appeared to be ahead of america in terms of technological and military development and that we needed to do something to reform our educational system and this sort of decline in educational standards in the 1950s was another sense there's something
wrong with american youth and it's displaying itself in standardized test scores. the music of the 1950s is perhaps the most important development. the most important sign of there being a separate youth culture. the development of rock 'n' roll in the 1950s. this was one that came together brought together earlier sort of distinct and local musical cultures that came together in the mass form known as rock and roll. it arose out of country and western music on the one hand and rhythm and blues on the other. and they were brought together into rock 'n' roll. in the 1950s, people made the argument there was earlier examples of this in the 1940s. the country and western music was considered sort of a distinct sort of niche musical
market. this is the way billboard magazine classified these various genres of music. country and western was considered vulgar hillbilly music. rhythm and blues, that was black music referred to as race music before they renamed rhythm and blues and rock and roll was taking these sort of two subcultures and bring them to the white middle class, vast baby boom culture. and the person most important for this is elvis presley. he's the one sort of the largest rock 'n' roll phenomenon of the 1950s. patterson tells phillips, if i could find a white man with a negro sound, i would be a billionaire. this is what concerned a lot of americans in the 1950s about rock 'n' roll. it was taking music of the hillbillies and negroes and our children will be affected by it. many people believed that rock 'n' roll was responsible for the increase in drug use, all these social pathologies that were associated with white people from the wrong side of the tracks and blacks. and you can go and listen to elvis presley and watch them a video of him. it's very hard for you today to imagine that people ever were
concerned about him being a threat. he would seem sort of rather innocent and acquantity to you. but at the time, that idea sort of crossover of these cultures into mainstream middle class white culture alarmed a great. many people. it's interesting over the course of the 1950s, rock 'n' roll eventually became more whitened, right? lost some of the edges of its original rhythm and blues background. if you look at pat boone as an illustration, you can see the way in which rock 'n' roll appeared to be tamed by the end of the '50s. it was going to change in the '60s which changed by the british invasion which took on the beatles and the rolling stones and the who. the idea rock 'n' roll might have been a temporary phenomenon, by 1960, rock 'n and
roll in its original phase, usually preferred to as rock 'n' roll opposed to rock -- that was the audio manifestation of this youth culture. let me stop there and we'll continue with the culture of the 1950s in our next class on thursday. thanks for your attention. "american history tv" is in primetime all week with our original series "lectures in history," focusing on college and university classrooms around the country. tonight, we take a look at the civil war, including a lecture on cultural heritage and confederate monuments. american history tv in primetime begins at 8:00 p.m. eastern. labor day weekend on american history tv on c-span3 at 8:00 p.m. eastern, saturday on "lectures in history," fears about overpopulation. >> some of the issues talked
about, pesticides was a big one. pollution was a big one. nonrenewable resources, things like oil and gasoline. but this super big one, the thing that really overshadowed that first earth day was the prospect of global famine due to overpopulation of the earth. >> sunday on the presidency, the friendship between presidents hoover and truman. >> it was easy to overlook the fact that they both had roots in farming communities. they had known economic hardship and self-reliance. they were transformed by the conflagration of world war i. and they lived in the shadow of franklin d. roosevelt. >> and monday, the 1967 detroit riots. >> we prefer to think about it like a rebellion because all of the energy and anger and
activism that went into that moment had long been predicted. people had been begging for some remedy for the housing discrimination, the police brutality, the economic discrimination. so that frustration cannot be understood as just chaotic andin coherent. it was a rebellion. >> three-day labor day weekend on american history tv on c-span3. now, on "lectures in history," it's james madison university professor evan friss. he teaches a class about the evolution of suburbs from the early 1900s to the present and talks about how changes to home loan policies, the mass production of houses and the rise of automobiles helped create an alternative to urban living. his class is about an hour. so today we're talking about the suburbs. how many of you grew up in the