Middle Class Materialism



Hayley Maltz

Brandon Nilsson

Shane Haggerty


Roni Harel


Materialism has been prevalent throughout the history of our nation. Although it is more obvious in the wealthier class, the middle class has their fair share of materialism as well. The extent of these changes over time, from the Betty Crocker cookbook to Izod and Nintendo, changes with the new advances that our country comes up with. The jobs available to the middle class also morph with time between the Gilded Age and the 1980's. Materialism has taken over most of the aspects of our lives and remains a big influence on a large amount of the decisions that we make.


During the gilded age, materialism was not quite yet as rampant as it would be in the future. The late 1800's and early 1900's were more about the urbanization and industrialization of the country rather than what fad was "in" at the moment. Despite this, the word "gilded" means that it is covered with gold on the outside, but cheaper on the inside; which is definitely materialistic. The construction of railroads, factories, banks, stores, and mines began growing rapidly. This era came right after the Civil War which caused a need for employment. The new construction led to the availability of many more jobs which were needed. Many schools, opera houses, symphonies, public libraries, hospitals, colleges, and charities started opening and expanding. This era was also known for its rise in "Gospel of Wealth" (Andrew Carnegie) and its public building's Neo-Renaissance architecture which shows its economical advance. Although the nation started to boom, the middle class still would not really be established until the later 1940ís.


The 1920ís, also known as the Jazz Age, was the era when people began to enjoy themselves with newly accepted entertainment. Some women of this time were known as ďflappers,Ē who cut their hair shorter and reformed against society; taking actions that once seemed incapable of being done. For the middle class the idea of ďmaterialismĒ was slightly overlooked revolving mostly around the upper class. Money became much more accessible to the common people. In 1925 president Herbert Hoover said ďwe will root out poverty and put two cars in every garage.Ē With the Great Depression beginning in 1929 people resorted to dance marathons as a new way of attaining money, food, and shelter. The Middle Class would gain momentum with their rebound from this depression.


With the 1950ís, referred to as the Golden era, came a boom of spending money on enjoyment rather than just necessities. Disneyland became a place to go to show personal economic prosperity. White collar jobs started to take effect such as secretaries, receptionists, firefighters, and contractors allowing the common middle class to have jobs that would ultimately lead to monetary growth. Most middle class families lived in the suburbs because they wanted to live away from the cities. Following World War II the factories that were once used to create war products were then used to make consumer goods. The war veterans returned home to their wives and to desirable and now attainable products that once seemed out of reach, spending absurd amounts of money to look good to their friends and family rather than being comfortable with what they have. New bills were passed to allow for the middle class people to have some of the same advantages as the wealthier class people; such as the G.I. Bill which provided funding for World War II veterans to go to college and the VA loan was long-term financing to veterans and their spouses. Teenagers, and even adults, felt it necessary to conform with the new developments and be consistent with the latest fads.


††††††††††† In the 1980ís, there was advancement in technology, electronics became more accessible, such as the Izod, walkman, and Nintendo. There was also a boom in the white collared jobs. Some wanted such products like walkmans, sour patch kids, and brand name clothing. This was the time when labels started being very popular. 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 1980sídid and had is similar with that of todayís society. Music celebrities also impacted the people of the 80ís, especially the youth. 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.




External Links


The Gilded Age

American Gilded Age The gilded age is described in depth in this website. From politics to agriculture, this website covers a lot of the information crucial to research on this age.

Gilded Age This website, although brief, is filled with information on the boom in industry during the time period of the late 1870ís to the late 1880ís. This website is also valuable for research on other time periods.


The 1920ís

American 1920ís For a brilliant explanation on the 1920ís and the aspects such as technology and economics, this website is a good source. It also describes the culture and the people of this time.

American Experience Describes the lifestyles of the Americans during the 1920ís. This website focuses on the middle class.

Fads of the 20ís Talks about the roaring 20ís entertainment, inventions, and fads, along with the culture and society.

Authentic 1920 history This website is a basic overview of the 1920ís and the history of it.


The 1950ís

Crazy Fads through history This talks about the fads throughout history, and directly about the fads of the 1950ís.

American History 1950-1959 This website discusses the middle class veterans coming home from war to a new and prosperous lifestyle.

Web generation of the 50ís This website is basic and about the 50ís generationís style and culture. It provides information on other eraís cultures as well.


The 1980ís

About the 20th century Broad overview on the whole 20th century; provides information on all years and their fads, history, and styles.

Web Generation of the 80ís This website is basic and about the 80ís generationís style and culture. It provides information on other eraís cultures as well.

Cultural History This website provides information on the culture throughout the 1980ís. It is most beneficial for research with statistics and links to further studies.