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Postwar Rise of the Suburbs

Primary Source Set

With the end of the Second World War, thousands of soldiers and their families were ready to get an education, find a job, and settle into an affordable home of their own. Many of them headed to the suburbs to do it. The first and largest prefabricated suburb was Levittown in Nassau County on Long Island, New York, which added thirty new houses per day at the height of its construction but initially excluded black residents. Suburban complexes like Levittown became a physical expression of the American Dream for thousands of people throughout the 1950s—all of them white and many of them fleeing the decay, and diversity, of urban America. The resources here, which include photographs, documents, cartoons, and advertisements, help to paint a picture of this unique time and place in American history.

Additional resources for research

  1. America on the Move: City and Suburb, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

  2. Suburban Growth, ushistory.org.

  3. Boomtown! The great suburban demographic shift, PBS.

  4. Mrs. America: Women's Roles in the 1950s, PBS.

  5. Levittown: Building the Suburban Dream, The State Museum of Pennsylvania.

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