Endnotes for Introduction

traded up A study made by the Federal Housing Administration showed that almost 70 percent of the homes purchased in the nation each year were existing houses rather than new ones. "The F.H.A. points out that American families have made house-trading a tradition in the last generation. Trading both up and down is becoming more frequent as family needs change." New York Times, "New Home Sales are in Minority: F.H.A. Finds That Existing Houses Account for Bulk of Realty Transactions," February 8, 1959, R7.

Lizabeth Cohen describes her childhood experience of trading up houses. "I moved into my first home in Paramus, New Jersey, a brand-new ranch-style house...My parents had recently bought this 960-square-foot house for $11,990...Four years later, my sister now in tow, we moved three miles away to a larger, more expensive house in a more established, solidly middle-class town...Four years later, when I was eight, we were on the move again, this time to an upper-middle-class suburb in New York's Westchester County." Lizabeth Cohen, A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America (New York: Vintage Books, 2003), 5-6.

"Trading up" implies status as well as size (although the two are usually directly related.) Families do "trade down" in size and status as their needs or financial situation change. However, the concept of the American Dream implies a continuous process of trading up until the dream is achieved. This simulation assumes that the families it represents are in a position to trade up rather than down.


individualized Critics of postwar suburbs focused on those built immediately after the war. It is difficult to deny that postwar suburbs encouraged conformity in appearance and behavior. Whether or not this conformity was a harmless effect of necessarily using mass production to meet the demand for housing or a more ominous example of Cold War-related fears is debatable. However, by 1960 the issue of conformity was being discussed in the media in terms of how consumers were eschewing this conformity in favor of variety. The discourse focused on a "post-post-war period" driven less by consumers' needs and more by their wants. Walter H. Stern, "Realty Men Look to New Era in '60," New York Times, January 10, 1960, R1.

Consumers' choices were still limited by what was profitable for builders to produce, but builders accommodated the most popular features and styles. In "Conformity in Houses: The Experienced House-Hunter Sees Much Variety in Apparent Sameness," Walter Stern writes that "there is a remarkable amount of variety" in the housing market. Buyers benefited from the competition between builders to improve upon each other's designs at acceptable costs. Housing styles such as the split-level were "primarily the developers' answer to a popular demand." Walter H. Stern, "Conformity in Houses: The Experienced House-Hunter Sees Much Variety in Apparent Sameness," New York Times, December 4, 1960, R1.

Another New York Times article reported that "L.I. Developers Give Purchasers Data on Prospective Neighbor." The builders of The Gates at Woodbury, Morris Sosnow and Herbert Sadkin, responded to "one of the major concerns of prospective home buyers--the uncertainty about what neighboring families will be like," by noting information such as the age of children and type and color of home on the plot plan for the development. Their experience "with the considerations that sway families in the choice of a home" encouraged them to implement the practice. The profit motive drove builders to institute the practice, but consumers benefited as well in terms of being able to make a better informed choice about the location and type of their home. "For example, someone planning to buy the two-story Colonial home at The Gates may find that his preferred site adjoins another where an identical dwelling has already been planned. Knowing this, he could select another location in the colony or, if his needs are flexible, he could switch to the ranch or split-level style, thus retaining the individuality of his home (italics added)." The article goes on to explain that the market had changed since the immediate post-war period when developers offered only one type of house and buyers had no choice of plot location. By 1960, "for one thing, developers in almost all price brackets offer a variety of building styles. For another, buyers may choose almost any site within the section currently under development." Furthermore, mass production was "giving way to more individual construction techniques." Many families moving into The Gates were trading up. "Many of the purchasers already own homes, some of them in typical post-war developments consisting of rows of identical dwellings. When buying their second and more expensive home these families almost always insist on a measure of individuality." However, individuality came at a higher price. "In colonies such as The Gates, where houses are priced from $33,700 to $38,000, individuality is an especially important consideration." New York Times, "L.I. Developers Give Purchasers Data on Prospective Neighbor," February 15, 1959, R1.

Remodeling was also one way consumers could bring individuality to a mass produced home. In 1960, the New York Times published an article titled "Guide to Remodeling: It Can Provide the Shortest Route to Ideal Quarters." The article suggested that "for many families today, a 'new' home is an old one that they have remodeled...Whatever the remodeling project, families who undertake it seem to fall into two categories: those who need more space than they can afford in a new home, and those who are tired of the stereotyped floor plans prevalent in buildings constructed today." New York Times, "Guide to Remodeling: It Can Provide the Shortest Route to Ideal Quarters," March 30, 1960, SMA4.

Builders paid attention to the changes and improvements owners made to their homes. Around 1958, Joseph Shapiro and Martin Buxbaum visited a development they had built in order to observe the alterations owners had made to the original ranch homes, which "retained considerable appeal over the years." Although the basic design of the house was successful in its own right, the improvements kept the houses up-to-date with the changing needs of families. Some of the improvements made to the houses included the addition of informal living areas by enclosing the patio, creating a new patio that extended into the back yard, enlarging the kitchen, dining room, and garage spaces, eliminating closets in favor of larger foyers, and extending the roof over the house's rear entrance. New York Times, "Housing Revised By L.I. Builders: New Designs to Incorporate Changes Suggested by Owners for 5 Years," January 26, 1958, R1.

Even the quintessential postwar community, Levittown, was not a static entity in terms of conformity. In Expanding the American Dream: Building and Rebuilding Levittown (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), Barbara M. Kelley argues that Levittowners actively reshaped the interiors of their homes, initially through do-it-yourself projects and later through the growing industry of professional remodeling.


compromise “Probably not many families achieve their dream house completely. Minority families have less chance of doing so than others, and they must make more compromises because the search must be conducted in a limited part of the housing market." Davis McEntire, Residence and Race: Final and Comprehensive Report to the Commission on Race and Housing (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960), 99.

African Americans had to make more compromises than whites for two main reasons. First of all, they typically had lower incomes than whites as a result of differences in pay within occupations as well as discrimination in obtaining better paying jobs. The large discrepancy between the median income of whites and nonwhites can be explained not only by differential earnings within occupations but perhaps even more so by the concentration of nonwhites into lower paying occupations Daniel O. Price, Changing Characteristics of the Negro Population: A 1960 Census Monograph (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1969), 111.

Secondly, they faced discrimination from brokers, who would often refuse to show African Americans certain areas, and lenders, who viewed African Americans as a greater risk. “One of the strongest, most pervasive barriers to the equal participation of minority groups in the housing market is the withholding of real estate broker services, except under special conditions. With occasional exceptions, real estate brokers offer their services to minority homeseekers only in certain areas, usually districts where minority persons are already living.” By 1960, some builders and lenders were beginning to see a potential market in steadily employed midddle class African Americans, but the African American middle class remained a small proportion of all African Americans. Davis McEntire argues that a middle-income African American with a modest down payment and steady employment “is fully as good a credit risk as the white person in comparable statistics,” but many lenders did not realize this because they classified all African Americans together as a risk on the basis of race. Davis McEntire, Residence and Race: Final and Comprehensive Report to the Commission on Race and Housing (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960), 238; 236.

This simulation currently permits the participant to visit Deerfield as the African American family, but it was unlikely that a broker would be willing to show this African American family a house in Deerfield because they would clearly not be able to afford a house in Deerfield on their income. For a truly immersive and more accurate representation of the past, the participant should be restricted from visiting Deerfield as the African American family. Future revisions should consider a way to manage this. For example, the "broker" might refuse to show the family a house in Deerfield, but the family might be able to discover the details of the controversy by reading several of the newspaper articles used as primary sources for the Deerfield portion of the simulation.


suburban home Image of a suburban home from Handy (Jam) Organization, According to Plan: The Story of Modern Sidewalls for the Homes of America (1952), http://www.archive.org/details/Accordin1952


interpretation I do not intend to "bring the past to life." Rather, I have constructed a multimedia argument that has interactive capabilities. Like any other historical interpretation, I have taken evidence out of its original context and arranged it in a way that supports my argument that hegemony and agency coexist in a capitalist consumer culture.

I have used images and audio to immerse the user in the role of buying a home in Chicago in 1960 from the perspective of either a white family or an African American family. The use of these images and audio, however, is an act of interpretation. The use of images by historians to create and sustain an argument has been limited. Images are typically used as illustrations of points made in the text. The images in this simulation argue as well as illustrate. Juxtaposed with audio recordings and text, they become an integral part of my argument, subject to historical criticism.

Therefore, it is important to note that the images juxtaposed with quotations in the Deerfield part of the simulation are authentic but not accurate. Authentic means taken from primary sources of the time, such as magazines and newspapers. For example, the picture of "Morris Courington" was taken from a 1959 deoderant advertisement and used to represent the real Morris Courington. An accurate image would be a picture of the real Morris Courington. The picture of Morris Milgram is accurate because it is a picture of Morris Milgram himself. Furthermore, the audio recordings were made by graduate students, not professional voice actors. The graduate students had access to the primary source documents from which the quotes came. However, these documents include only minimal information about the speakers, notably gender and sometimes occupation. Professional voice actors are aware of additional issues that affect vocal interpretations, such as age, ethnicity, and accent. As historians, we interpret spoken words in text to support an argument. What effect does interpreting spoken words in audio format have on an argument? The interpretations given in this simulation are something of a historiographical experiment. Future historians who use vocal interpretations in multimedia histories will be confronted by these issues and will deal with them more effectively than I have here.