America in the 20th Century - Vol. 6

America in the 20th Century - Vol. 6

America in the 20th Century - Vol. 6

America in the 20th Century - Vol. 6


Copiously illustrated with period photographs, prints, and historic documents to appeal to students from sixth grade through high school, these volumes provide a decade-by-decade overview of American history in the 20th century, with a focus on social issues. Attention is paid to developments in politics, business, technology, and people's lives at home and at work; short biographies of leading figures are included. Two of the volumes contain primary sources, also grouped by decade; documents are followed by discussion and short lists of questions. Annotation (c)2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (


Before 1945, television simply did not exist for most people in the United States. Yet, by 1950, 4.4 million American families owned tv sets, and by 1956, they were buying them at the rate of twenty thousand a day! By 1960, 90 percent of American homes had at least one television. This single invention introduced some astounding changes to American culture in the fifties, altering not just family entertainment and the communication of news but the ways in which people looked, acted, and even thought.

“If the television craze
continues with the pre
sent level of programs, we
are destined to have a
nation of morons.”

Boston University
President Daniel Marsh,

The Golden Age of

By 1950, four major networks were on the air — nbc, cbs, abc, and the DuMont Television Network. Although the DuMont network only lasted until 1955, it owned stations in New York, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C. It also provided a good deal of exposure for such stars as Jackie Glcason and Bishop Fulton J. Sheen before it folded.

Television technology also continued to be developed. By the late 1940s, scientists and engineers had been closing in on the invention of color television, and in the fifties, inventors were working hard on other tools that would continue to revolutionize television technology — inventions such as videotape, home video systems, and satellite transmission.

Even more miraculous in the early fifties was the exceptional group of people who came together to create the first nationally broadcast shows. It was their efforts that created what has come to be known as the golden age of television. There were no pretaped programs during this period in television history; everything was live. the potential catastrophes of putting on a live show — the flubbed lines, stage fright, accidents on the set — added to the spirit of adventure and discovery.

Many of the first television viewers were affluent city people who regularly attended the theater, so drama became an important part of tv programming right from the beginning. Many of the first tv dramas were recreations of existing Broadway plays, but soon networks were hiring writers to create original dramas expressly for tv. Many great producers and directors, such as Fred Coe, Fred Zinneman, and George Roy Hill, got started working on such series as “Studio One,” “The U.S. Steel Hour,” “Kraft Television Theater,” “The Alcoa Hour,” and “Pulitzer Prize Playhouse.” So did a number of important writers: Paddy Chayefsy, who wrote the classic drama “Marty;” Rod Serling, who wrote “Requiem for a Heavyweight” before going on to write the “Twilight Zone” and “Night Gallery” anthologies; J. P. Miller, Gore Vidal, William Gibson, and many others started on tv.

According to director John Frankenheimer, as soon as programs began to be pretaped, the people involved no longer felt compelled to give each take . . .

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