The Eisenhower Era
I. Affluence and Its Anxieties
The economy really sprouted during the 50s, and the invention ofthe transistor exploded
the electronics field, especially in computers,helping such companies as International
Business Machines (IBM) expandand prosper.
Aerospace industries progressed, as the Boeing company made thefirst passenger-jet
airplane (adapted from the superbombers of theStrategic Air Command), the 707.
In 1956, “white-collar” workers outnumbered “bluecollar” workers for the first time,
meaning that the industrialera was passing on.
As this occurred, labor unions peaked in 1954 then started a steady decline.
Women appeared more and more in the workplace, despite thestereotypical
role of women as housewives that was being portrayed onTV shows such as “Ozzie and
Harriet” and “Leave It toBeaver.”
More than 40 million new jobs were created.
Women’s expansion into the workplace shocked some, but reallywasn’t surprising if one
observed the trends in history, and now,they were both housewives and workers.
Betty Friedan’s 1963 book The Feminine Mystique was abest-seller and a
classic of modern feminine protest literature.She’s the godmother of the feminist
II. Consumer Culture in the Fifties
The fifties saw the first Diner’s Club cards, the opening ofMcDonald’s, the debut of
Disneyland, and an explosion in thenumber of television stations in the country.
Advertisers used television to sell products while“televangelists” like Billy Graham, Oral
Roberts, andFulton J. Sheen used TV to preach the gospel and encourage religion.
Sports shifted west, as the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants moved to Los
Angeles and San Francisco, respectively, in 1958.
Elvis Presley, a white singer of the new “rock androll” who made girls swoon with his
fleshy face, pointing lips,and antic, sexually suggestive gyrations, that redefined popular
Elvis died from drugs in 1977, at age 42.
Traditionalists were shocked by Elvis’s shockingly opensexuality, and Marilyn Monroe (in
her Playboy magazine spread)continued in the redefinition of the new sensuous
Critics, such as David Riesman in The Lonely Crowd, William H.Whyte, Jr. in
The Organization Man, and Sloan Wilson in The Man in theGray Flannel Suit, lamented
this new consumerist style.