Mass Production, Suburbia & Conformity in the 1950s

by Wendy Thowdis

Essential Question    

How did conformity apply as a value to the living choices of Americans during the 1950’s? 

Materials               

Procedure

Use the attached charts and follow-up questions to obtain background information about the Postwar Society.

For homework, have students look up the work of William J. Levitt and answer the questions:

  • How did Levitt revolutionize the housing industry in America during the 1950’s?
  • Why was Levitt called the “Henry Ford” of housing?

Conduct a class discussion with students about times in their lives they have conformed to others’ standards.  Set the lesson in historical context by describing the post-war boom in domestic spending to rebuild America as we struggled with the fallout from the Cold War era at home.  After reviewing all documents, have students hypothesize why conformity was valued in American society during the 1950’s.

Write an essay where you answer the question: “Was Levittown, New York a triumph of post-World War II American society or a symbol of racial injustice?”

Students should have a clear introduction that states their opinion, at least two paragraphs that present supporting evidence, and a concluding paragraph that summarizes their ideas.   

Others options include having students create an advertisement poster or role-play a commercial where they attempt to convince people to purchase a Levitt home.  Make sure they include information about geographic location, cost & construction in the poster, along with a persuasive message to possible home buyers during the 1950’s.

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