Middle Class and Materialism
Sarah Scott

Rachel Knight

Daniel Gates

Kenneth Persons


            The middle class has changed greatly throughout the centuries. The middle class has had many different kinds of people. It has grown very large since the gilded age to the present. What defines a person as in the middle class, is been based on their material possessions. Materialism is the desire to define yourself through what you own. A person has always been judged by their material possessions and because of this materialism has become a big part of a person’s social standing.

            During the Gilded Age, there was not much variety. Therefore this left a smaller chance of opportunity to pursue your materialistic wants and desires. Due to this, you were either rich and could afford what ever you wanted or you were poor and could only afford the necessities of life. Middle class was basically little to nonexistent during the gilded age and into the twenties.The most popular item that people of the middle aged purchased were electric irons, refrigerators, cooking ranges, toasters, vacuum cleaners, and electric sewing machines. Since the First World War ended and all of the war material factories did not need to make war materials, the factories needed to produce something else. Also, there was a large income of immigrants into the country that caused the population to increase. The new immigrants influenced materialism because the idea of the American Dream and Life forced them to want all these materialistic products. This massive production of goods and inflow of immigrants made the middle class effective enough to influence other generations such as the 1950’s.

            In the 1950’s the middle class grew considerably in size. Most middle class families lived in the suburbs because they wanted to live away from the cities. Another reason why people moved away from the cities was because they could move away. The production of the automobile allowed the working father and husband to commute everyday while making a better life for his wife and family. The migration to the suburbs made people have a desire for entertainment and hobbies. People even played sports like fishing, hunting, bowling, boating, golf, baseball, basketball, and football for entertainment and recreation. Since the fathers of families could work a full time job, it allowed him to treat his family to a vacation, such as Disneyland.  Some of the materialistic items the middle class wanted during this decade included televisions, washing machines, clothes dryers, and power lawn mowers. The people of the 1950’s wanted to live in Suburban America with the perfect family, home, and life.

            The 1980’s middle class was full blown and dominated the social latter. It had a huge variety of materialism to choose from. Some wanted such products like walkmans, cabbage patch kids, and brand name clothing. This era was the time when labels were plastered on the outside of clothing. The middle class wanted everyone to know what brand they had on and how expensive it was. A lot of the materialistic culture that the 1980s’did and had is similar with that of today’s society. Music celebrities also impacted the people of the 80’s, especially the youth. For example, Madonna’s famous song “Material Girl” was a very popular hit. Some of the lyrics are “And I am a material girl you know that we are living in a material world” (www.azlyrics.com). These words tell the middle class that the materialistic way is the way to go. The middle class wanted to portray themselves as a part of the upper class and the only way to do it was buy into American Materialism.

            Ultimately, the middle class has dramatically changed throughout the centuries. The 1950’s and 1980’s proved to be the most crucial materialistic points in time for the middle class. The Middle Class has and will always struggle to be apart of the upper class.


Important External Links

http://wgeneration.com/index.htm    This cite will walk you through each of the decades of the twentieth century based on the American culture.

http://faculty.uwb.edu/mgoldberg/courses/467/fifties.htm  This cite is focused on the 1950’s and explains the market, youth, and housewives.

http://www.mapsites.net/gotham01/webpages/alisonhannah/broad1920s.html This site tells about how Broadway was a actually a middle class activity as opposed to today’s view of  the Broadway audience.