Use this primary source imagery to analyze major events in history.
- Use this primary source with the Dr. Benjamin Spock and the Baby Boom Narrative and The Sound of the Suburbs Lesson to analyze the impact that the baby boom and urbanization had on American culture.
Levittown was the name given to suburban housing developments in New York and Pennsylvania created by the company Levitt & Sons between 1947 and 1963. Using an “assembly line” method, the company was able to construct a house in as little as one day. The communities were attractive to growing families during the baby boom and veterans were able to afford the houses with low-cost mortgages obtained through the Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Administration. However, lenders at the Federal Housing Administration implemented racist policies during the loan approval process and many communities excluded people of color, regardless of their veteran status or income.
- Who were the target customers for the Levittown housing developments?
- What government agencies provided mortgages to veterans?
- What method allowed Levittown houses to be built in a day?
Video 1: Watch the Creators of Communities newsreel.
Video 2: Watch the A Report to Home Builders. Levittown 1947 video from 9:15–15:33.
Video 3: Watch the Crisis in Levittown video from 0:30–10:30.
- (Video 1) What was revolutionary about Levitt’s new concept of home building?
- (Video 1) How did this new way of producing homes help meet American society’s needs after World War II?
- (Video 1) What segment of the population purchased Levittown homes?
- (Video 1) What were some of the needs of that segment of the population in their communities?
- (Video 2) What kinds of neighborhoods did the builder believe he was creating?
- (Video 2) What items did the couple disagree on when it came to the construction of their home?
- (Video 2) How were the roles of men and women in the postwar portrayed in this film?
- (Video 2) What statement did the wife make about the house that illustrated the differing gender roles during that time?
- (Video 2) According to the film, what characteristics helped lure people to the suburbs?
- (Video 3) How were the Myers much like many citizens of Levittown? In what way were they different?
- (Video 3) How did different citizens react when the Myers moved into the community?
- (Video 3) What was the attitude of the first woman interviewed in regard to the Myers?
- (Video 3) What did she think would help the community come to accept the Myers and other black families in the community?
- (Video 3) What were the two major concerns of the second woman interviewed in the film about blacks living in the community?
- (Video 3) How does the film represent the racism that existed in the suburbs in postwar America?
Historical Reasoning Questions
- How does the first woman interviewed in the final clip, Crisis in Levittown, serve as a foil to the housewife in the second clip?
- What historical events can you predict were coming by watching these films?
Video 1: “Creators of Communities” Newsreel (watch all) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OApZePeJSdU
Video 2: Levittown Planning a Home (watch 9:15–15:33) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WJUVPoCP78
Video 3: “Crisis in Levittown” (watch 0:30–10:30) https://archive.org/details/crisis_in_levittown_1957