SuburbiaThe advancement of suburbs—residential areas on the suburbs of cities—was among the most leading features of American life in the twenty century. Far from being simply a method Americans organized their housing and also ordered your landscape, the suburbs developed an totally new method of notified American social life and also culture. The result was a phenomenon recognized as "suburbia," a term denoting not only a physics place yet often a cultural and society mind-set together well. The increase of suburbia in the nineteenth and also twentieth centuries had actually a significant role in the breakthrough of American culture, prolonging long-cherished American beliefs in individuality and an agrarian best in brand-new ways while at the same time working come reshape both the American physical and also social landscape.

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While suburbia had its significant impact during the twentieth century, the originated and also developed in the nineteenth century. "I view huge cities," thomas Jefferson as soon as wrote, "as pestilential to the morals, the health, and the free of man." Jefferson"s anti-urban watch was mutual by a growing number of people in the nineteenth century. Together cities ended up being crowded through people, bringingincreased sanitation, transportation, and crime problems, those americans who can afford to, namely the farming middle class, started moving to larger, single-family residences on the suburbs of major American cities. This was in direct opposition to european cities, wherein the middle and upper classes wanted to stay in the main city, and poorer human being were thrust to the outskirts. Before the mid-nineteenth century, work and home were very closely intertwined, and cities reflected this mixture as well with residential buildings coexisting through commercial ones. Together industrialization advanced, home and work became increasingly separated as guys went turn off to work and also women continued to be at home. Brand-new innovations in transportation, native ferries and omnibuses to heavy steam railroads and also horse-drawn streetcars, aided make this change possible.

These brand-new 1840s and 1850s suburbs added to the monumental change in middle-class society in crucial ways. New suburban homes ended up being a measure of success because that these middle classes, a means of informing the human being they had arrived. Having money and success supposed that the guy of the house was may be to relocate his household out of the progressively grimy and dangerous city come a much more pastoral, Edenic ar separated from the civilization of work and also commerce. The also allowed these households to reestablish at the very least a symbolic connection to Jefferson"s agrarian ideal, where every household owned its very own piece the land and thus remained independent—a an essential necessity for the successof liberty, and thus the republic. With fewer world making your living in farming as the century progressed, suburban houses with their regularly ornate gardens available the closestly approximation possible to this agrarian ideal. The suburbs likewise contributed to the advancement of the cult that domesticity. Separated native the people of work-related in their suburban enclaves, females were put at the center of the domestic world, caring because that hearth and home, husband and children, a function exalted as among supreme importance. Women were viewed as the centers that morality and also the necessary transmitters of this morality to your children and also thus come future generations.

These ideals were not unique to the nineteenth century. The exaltation the the residential sphere because that women, the extreme desire of american to own their very own homes, the should keep some kind of connection to the rural previous in an significantly urbanized present, the desire for social status, and the need for physical and also economic security ongoing to discover resonance in ~ American society throughout the twenty century. Transportation components again played crucial role, from the development of streetcars in the so late nineteenth century come the increasing prominence of the car after the 1920s and specifically after the breakthrough of the national highway system that started in the 1950s. Suburbs throughout the twentieth century continued to act as an significantly attractive alternative to inner-city living because that those who might afford it. Suburbs grew greatly throughout the 1920s and also 1930s, together bungalow houses and other layouts sprang increase one after the other on the more affluent political parties of major cities about the joined States. Transparent this period, suburbs remained very closely tied come their metropolitan cores, and their development accompanied the larger procedure of urbanization developing in the unified States. In 1920, the variety of people life in city centers ended up being a bulk of the populace (51.7 percent) for the first time.

With this increase in metropolitan growth, developers across the country took benefit of the continuing desire for suburban living, to buy up large parcels of suburban land and also developing it right into neighborhoods and also subdivisions. Among the most successful was J. C. Nichols the Kansas City, Missouri, whose nation Club District advancement played ~ above the deep cultural imperatives behind suburbanization. Nichols merged the lure of the brand-new with the pastoral beauty of the past. His homes built during the 1920s had the most modern-day of conveniences: gas and electric service, the latest family appliances, and access to transport connections. He set the homes amid a park-like setting, with generous set-back lines native the street, and also ensured his development"s success by enacting long-term deed restrictions that limited the extent to which inhabitants could adjust their houses and yards. He also enacted racially restrictive covenants, ensuring the no resident marketed his or her residence to afri Americans, Jews, or members of various other minority groups. In doing so, Nichols ensured the his advancement remained exclusive. His homes were expensive, and also both he and also his buyers made sure their invest did not decline in value. An ext importantly, these restrictions preserved the factor many people were relocating to the suburbs in the an initial place: to prevent the problems (and peoples) of the cities and to administer an environment in i m sorry they would not just be surrounding by the bounty of nature, but likewise by their own kind the people. Nichols"s formula, and also success, verified a an effective example come developers across the country who mimicked the border covenants, design, and also prestige of Nichols"s nation Club District. Many comparable developments sprang up across the unified States throughout the 1920s.

The depression of the 1930s, and the please of the housing market, brought a temporary end to the great wave of exclusive suburban developments, but suburbia, and the requirements it served, was hardly finished. After world War II, the United states experienced its best wave that suburban development, one the showed little sign that abating in ~ the finish of the 1990s. The same social factors that had actually influenced suburban advance in the period in the nineteenth and also early twentieth centuries remained in the postwar period. One vital difference to be that as suburbia grew, the became easily accessible to a more comprehensive spectrum of Americans, showing the growth of the middle course during the postwar financial boom; however, the still remained largely closed to minorities. No much longer were suburbs the to exclude, domain of the well-to-do. Indeed, it is the 1950s that plenty of associate with the suburbs, also though they existed lengthy before, and also continued long after, that decade. The association is the an outcome of the vast cultural and social influence suburbia had on the United claims in the postwar years.

The widening accessibility to suburbia largely deserve to be attributed come one man, developer william Levitt. Choose his predecessor Nichols, Levitt"s approach proved immensely successful and thus very popular, spawning one untold number of imitators. Levitt"s idea was quite simple: he lugged mass-production techniques and also low prices to suburban real estate just as Henry Ford had actually done in the car industry. Taking advantage of the an excellent demand for housing, and benefiting from federal government housing policies which listed mortgage guarantees for both developers and homeowners, Levitt purchased a big parcel that rural floor in suburban long Island. There, he supplied mass-production techniques to construct an ext than ten thousand small, cheap homes. Every were essentially identical, and all sold nearly immediately. They showed immensely popular with young couples eager to advanced their brand-new families in a comfortable and safe environment. The result was an nearly instant community, dubbed Levittown. V low initial and monthly payments for homes in such communities, plenty of families could afford to leave the urban in greater and also greater numbers for the family member space, comfort, and security of the suburbs. The result was "white flight," as city whites relocated out of the inner urban to to escape the growing influx of black, Hispanic, and other minority groups. This population movement ultimately took jobs, taxes money, and also a diverse population away indigenous America"s inner cities, contributing come the decrease of cities throughout the country.

But for those who can enjoy these new suburban developments, suburbia had actually a solid impact ~ above American social life, so much so that the suburban lifestyle dominated American society from the 1950s on. Television shows such as Leave It come Beaver and also Ozzie and Harriet centered about white middle-class families in the suburbs. Their resides were idyllic ones, representing peace and also harmony. The suburbs and their images on television also worked to promote a reworking of sex roles. Fathers were commonly dressed in company suits and were often displayed coming residence from occupational to uncover the crashes or other plot twists the had developed during the day. Ladies were depicted as homemakers content with baking cookies, make dinner, and also caring for their children and husbands. This idyllic see of suburbia to be not completely incorrect, however, together the suburbs reinforced traditional notions of family and also gender that had been challenged by functioning women throughout the world War II years. V the strict department of the residence from the human being of work, suburbia in the 1950s and also after continued trends the had begun in the mid-nineteenth century. The suburbs likewise contributed come what countless soon labeled the "culture that conformity." brand-new suburban advancements such together Levittown to be homogenous places. Not just were the houses virtually identical, however their residents were as well. These new communities were easily filled by new families, numerous of them headed by young veterans passionate to return to a common life after thetraumas of people War II, with comparable backgrounds, experiences, needs, and also ages. Team socialization and the follow to created social norms was encouraged; individuality and isolation were not. Many found this new environment appealing, yet critics soon began to criticize the society conformity inquiry by the suburbs. John Keats, in his publication The crack in the photo Window (1956), struck the conformity the suburbs as a "postwar, homogenous hell" of rigid social roles that developed an setting of mediocrity. Folksinger Pete Seeger sang in "Little Boxes": "Little boxes, ~ above the hillside, little boxes do of ticky-tacky … little boxes every the same." and not just were the dwellings all the same, however the civilization were together well, walk through precisely the same experiences, life in the same social boxes that, together Seeger sang it, could well have actually been coffins.

In addition to its social impact, suburbs likewise had a an excellent impact on the American landscape and environment, encouraging the breakthrough of one automobile culture and suburban sprawl. Spread out out away from cities, without access to enlarge public transportation systems such as subways and rail lines, suburbanites depended upon their dare for accessibility to work in the city. This advancement was encouraged by the 1956 commonwealth Highway plot which provided more than $25 exchange rate to construct more than forty thousand miles of highways. It was the biggest public works job in the background of the unified States. In a culture that was currently in love with the automobile, the suburbs motivated even higher reliance on them. The an outcome was suburban sprawl. Instead of strict compacted centers where many services, entertainment, and employment to be easily accessible on foot, suburbs encouraged every one of these functions to spread out out. Thus restaurants, stores, and other facilities each populated their own buildings with parking bordering them. Part were clustered in piece malls or enclosed shopping malls, yet like the suburbs as a whole, every were geared to the require of the automobile.

Suburbia likewise encouraged the distinctive American society phenomenon the obsession through lawns and also lawn care. Amongst the deeper ideology system bases because that suburbia to be the have to recreate one Edenic natural setting that was believed to be remarkable to the concrete jungles that city life. Keeping the picture of life in a garden, however, was difficult with so numerous houses for this reason close together. Together a substitute, Americans started to see their lawns together each contributing come a smooth expanse of grass that created as much of a park-like setting as possible. Maintaining this lawn became critical cultural imperative, as homeowners to be responsible for keeping up their part of the "park." motivated by magazines, advertising, seeds companies, and also often by homeowners associations" restrictive clauses the mandated proper upkeep the lawns, lawn care came to be a significant suburban activity. In suburban advancements during the warmer months, weekends were filled with the drone the lawn mowers. Competitions were hosted in neighborhoods to create the "yard that the month," and also people who refused to execute their component were regularly shunned and also occasionally sued for their noncompliance. The lawn obsession to be also part of a larger social interest in outdoor life, and suburbs promoted such points as out barbecues, swimming pools, and also gardening.

While the standard 1950s picture of suburbia still exists at the revolve of the century, suburbs in the 1980s and 1990s to be in the middle of change. The biggest change came in the relationship in between suburbs and also the urban they surrounded. By the 1980s, plenty of suburbs were start to evolve into self-contained communities where civilization not only lived, but worked. In Orange County, California (outside Los Angeles); Cobb County, Georgia (north of Atlanta); Tyson"s Corner, Virginia (outside Washington, D.C.); and in similar communities across the country, suburbs ended up being the areas for major office complexes the were home to thousands of workers. Through their living and also working demands now easily accessible in the suburbs, there was less and also less need for suburbanites to take trip to the downtowns of main cities. They emerged into your own small cities that writer Joel Garreau labeled "edge cities." that trend, which historian Jon Teaford called "postsuburbia," was indicative that a new age in the background of suburbs. While tho a relatively new phenomenon, this change may also portend a change in the ability of suburbia to to fill certain social needs. Through work and home sites now close together, the role of suburbs as an idyllic retreat from the human being of commerce was an altering by the so late 1990s, reversing a trend that began in the early on nineteenth century. These developments, and the increasing worry over suburban sprawl with its often negative effects on the environment and on what many were calling a loss of ar in American life, were still in their infancy by the so late 1990s. The long-term impacts of these changes on the historical roles suburbia has played in American society and cultural life remain to be seen.

—Timothy Berg

Further Reading:

Gans, Herbert. The Levittowners. New York, Pantheon, 1967.

Garreau, Joel. Edge City: Life top top the new Frontier. Brand-new York, Doubleday, 1991.

Hayden, Delores. Redesigning the American Dream: The Future that Housing, Work, and also Family Life. Brand-new York, W.W. Norton, 1986.

Jackson, Kenneth T. Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization that the united States. Brand-new York, Oxford university Press, 1985.

Jenkins, Virginia Scott. The Lawn: A history of an American Obsession. Washington, D.C., Smithsonian school Press, 1994.

Palen, J. John. The Suburbs. New York, McGraw-Hill, 1995.

Teaford, Jon C. City and also Suburb: The politics Fragmentation of city America, 1850-1970. Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins college Press, 1979.

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——. Post-Suburbia: Government and Politics in the sheet Cities. Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins college Press, 1997.