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The 19th-Century American Movement to Suburb Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Sep 13th, 2021

In the 19th century, most of the political, economic and social life in the American society was very disorganized. This was because of the rapid growth of the cities that were experienced with poor planning and implementation. This culminated in to the development of three classes of people in the society, the rich, middle class and the poor. The rich lived in the city because they could afford high rents; the middle class lived in the suburbs as they could afford building their own houses or buy the built. The poor majority lived in the city slums under poor living conditions.

After the Second World War, many changes in political, social and economic sphere took place. The post war era saw the increased purchasing power in commodities and veterans compensation saw them purchase many houses and the government’s involvement in restructuring their lost time brought about high economic growth (Chafe 2006 pp 106), A large population moved from living in the cities and headed to the suburbs.

Most of the people who moved to the suburbs were the soldiers who had returned from the world war (State Museum of Pennsylvania). They did prefer the suburb because of the good environment experienced in the area unlike the crowded, dirty, cities that were as well crowded with criminals. According to the state museum of Pennsylvania, the L.I catered for veterans and Manhattan commuters while Levittown P.a targeted blue-collar workers in Delaware valley. The economic change had created a different class of managers, “…the blue collar work force increased by 3 percent … but the white collar jobs increased by 50 percent,” (Chafe, 2006, pp110).

Many people lived together as a family and avoided the external threats that were created by the communist menace. This created a new social diversity while setting up a new family conformity. According to Chafe (2006), the suburb families of the 1950’s experienced a situation where matriarchy and patriarchy was replaced by filiality, and the families were run in a way that could provide children with easy mobility.

The media gave family teachings directed to certain members of the family. Women were taught how to be individualistic, good mother and a good wife while fathers were to be good breadwinners as well as meaningful family man. The women were torn between being culturally dependent and practically independent. The suburbs placed them in such a manner that they needed to drive so as to be successful wives and mothers. The suburbs created a strong nuclear family that bound them together to avoid communist ideas, but have capitalization privacy.

The Levvit suburb was built in a form new America. The major attraction of the city was a community. This made Levitt to build houses that could represent the new American community that had an extended neighborhood holding the community together. He wanted a suburb with a town like feel with schools, churches, shopping center and recreation places for children (State Museum of Pennsylvania). Levitt buildings were built depending on the architectural theories he had read during the depression period and the experience he had seen with the houses that were built for the military and the department of defense.

The Leavitt salesman of the pitch gave promising opportunities to personalize the interior and not only the outer of the Levittown houses. This was due to the fact that the new owners of the Levittown houses and later the original owners felt that the landscape was not awful. The character of the houses changed with time as the owners changed through improved innovation of the community.

The informal and formal institutions grew up resembling the various areas that individuals had come from. For instance the New York City, or the New Jersey. This brought up a neighborhood that did not had the same heritage or residue of generations.

Suburbization across American states was built as a result of social and technological development. Such issues as transportation evolution, ethnic culture and the economic status of the inhabitants characterized the early suburbs.

The creators of the suburbs had an idea that could have helped the ordinary people to have a better life. These ordinary people needed to have good and affordable housing with all the facilities like parks that seemed to be only of the elite class.

But the suburbs sprawl also had certain disadvantages that were coupled with them. The movement to the Levittown suburbs brought about segregation in the community.

The earliest Levittown suburbs were more racial segregated. The whites did not want to sell the houses to especially blacks. According to the State Museum of Pennsylvania, the Levittown excluded African Americans, and the white Protestants were also underrepresented as compared to Catholics and Jewish believers. If for instance a person sold a house to the Negro, the seller could be sure that about 90-95% of the whites would not have bought in the neighborhood. Some blacks that dared to buy houses in these suburbs were met with treatment such as rock-throwing, bomb threatening as well as screams from the neighborhood that were racial directed. This form of segregation created tension in the society that was just kept under surface waiting for mass action from the aggrieved population. According to Chafe, 2006 pp 139,

No group had greater reason to initiate that protest than American blacks. And no group could highlight more dramatically or effectively the problems of inequality that stood at the heart of continuing failure to make the American dream a reality for all citizens.

This also encouraged the emergence of the civil rights movement in the America. Much of the changes and activities that were happening in America at the time were also as an influence of the cold war that was taking place between the Americans and the USSR. It was through civil rights movement that brought about the undermining of the cold war and the experienced cultural practices. Martin Luther king Jr. championed such movements that seeked for equal treatment of the blacks and whites under the American law. Many other groups such as the gays, students, women etc also came up to claim for their rights. These different kind of groups’ agitation captured attention of the entire nation to check on rights of the groups that had been neglected for the past decades.

Most of the people who were born and brought up in the Levittown suburbs find it easy and comfortable to buy homes and start their families in the suburbs. This is because they find that most of the people they grew up with are around and they are familiar with the environment. Others find it easier to settle in Levittown because the houses are cheap and the beautiful environment as compared to the rest of the places. The heterosity of the current Levittown shows the resilience of the American community, their optimism and expansiveness as well as the prosperity of the American people.

Work cited

Chafe W. H.The Unfinished Journey, America Since World War II, (6th Ed), ISBN10:0195315375, Oxford University Press, 2006.

State Museum of Pennsylvania, Building the suburb dream, 2003. Web.

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