The Post World War II Boom: How America Got Into Gear

Chrysler tank production

 

In the summer of 1945, as WWII drew to a close, the U.S. economy was poised on the edge of an uncertain future.

In late 1940 for the United States to serve as the “arsenal of democracy,” American industry had stepped up to meet the challenge. U.S. factories built to mass-produce automobiles had retooled to churn out airplanes, engines, guns and other supplies at unprecedented rates. At the peak of its war effort, in late 1943 and early 1944, the United States was manufacturing almost as many munitions as all of its allies and enemies combined.

On the home front, the massive mobilization effort during World War II had put Americans back to work. Unemployment, which had reached 25 percent during the Great Depression and hovered at 14.6 percent in 1939, had dropped to 1.2 % by 1944 — still a record low in the nation’s history.

Shopping with ration stamps

With the war wrapping up, and millions of men and women in uniform scheduled to return home, the nation’s military-focused economy wasn’t necessarily prepared to welcome them back. As Arthur Herman wrote in his book, Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, U.S. businesses at the time were still “geared around producing tanks and planes, not clapboard houses and refrigerators.”

Veterans had no trouble finding jobs, according to Herman. U.S. factories that had proven so essential to the war effort quickly mobilized for peacetime, rising to meet the needs of consumers who had been encouraged to save up their money in preparation for just such a post-war boom.

With the war finally over, American consumers were eager to spend their money, on everything from big-ticket items like homes, cars and furniture to appliances, clothing, shoes and everything else in between. U.S. factories answered their call, beginning with the automobile industry. New car sales quadrupled between 1945 and 1955, and by the end of the 1950s some 75 % of American households owned at least one car. In 1965, the nation’s automobile industry reached its peak, producing 11.1 million new cars, trucks and buses and accounting for one out of every six American jobs.

Studebaker 1946

Residential construction companies also mobilized to capitalize on a similar surge in housing demand, as Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans and the GI Bill gave many (but not all) returning veterans the ability to buy a home. Companies like Levitt & Son, based in New York, found success applying the mass-production techniques of the auto industry to home building. Between 1946 and the early 1960s, Levitt & Son built three residential communities (including more than 17,000 homes), finishing as many as 30 houses per day.

Levittown, NY 1947

New home buyers needed appliances to fill those homes, and companies like Frigidaire (a division of General Motors) responded to that need. During the war, Frigidaire’s assembly lines had transitioned to building machine guns and B-29 propeller assemblies. After the war, the brand expanded its home appliance business, introducing revolutionary products like clothes washers and dryers, dishwashers and garbage disposals.

Bendix washing machine ad, Jan. 1947

Driven by growing consumer demand, as well as the continuing expansion of the military-industrial complex as the Cold War ramped up, the United States reached new heights of prosperity in the years after World War II.

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

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Military Humor – Home Front style

“I understand you’ve been riveting in your name and address.”

“Housing shortage or NO housing shortage – that’s going too far!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quarantine Humor – 

‘It’s an ill wind that blows,’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being as most areas are opening, I suppose this will be the last of the Quarantine Humor!  Stay safe and healthy folks!!!

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Farewell Salutes – 

Harold L. Barber – McDonough, GA; USMC, WWII, PTO, Cpl., Purple Heart / US Army, Korea. Major (Ret. 23 y.), Silver Star

William C. Clark – Washington D.C.; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 5th Air Force

Roy “Dan” de Rosa – New Orleans, LA; US Army, Korea, Lt., Bronze Star

Mervin D. Galland – Eveleth, MN; USMC, WWII, PTO, Pvt., KIA (Tarawa)

Paul Lunsford Sr. – Charlotte, NC; US Army, Korea / Nato / Colonel (ret.)

Derrick Madden – Nadeau, CAN; RC Army, WWII, linesman

Margaret Montgomery – Palestine Township, IA; Civilian, WWII, ammo plant

Margaret Ryan – W. Palm Beach, FL; US Navy WAVE, WWII, Cartographer

Gaylord “Chuck” Taylor – USA; US Army, Vietnam, Ranger, Captain, Bronze Star / Author

Stanley Webb – London, ENG; British Army, ETO

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on May 21, 2020, in Home Front, Post WWII, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 137 Comments.

  1. Your supply of cartoons is endless 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great piece of reading mate, wonder what the future holds for manufacturing after all this shit dies down, much to be said for home grown manufacturing these days gp.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on John's Notes and commented:
    I liked this post by GP Cox and chose to reblog it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing this article.

    Like

  1. Pingback: The Post World War II Boom: How America Got Into Gear — Pacific Paratrooper – THE FLENSBURG FILES

  2. Pingback: The Post World War II Boom: How America Got Into Gear | Jim Campbell's

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