Television at Home and Abroad
Television was developed in 1927 but did not become a popular entertainment medium until the 1950s, and this period was termed the “Golden Age” of television. In the four years following World War II, Americans purchased 11.6 million television sets. In 1950, only 9% of American homes had television sets but by 1959, 85.9% of families had purchased sets (Patterson 250). Citizens were purchasing televisions at such a remarkable pace because the money income of Americans drastically increased by 50 percent. Because the purchasing power of American families skyrocketed, this inspired citizens to purchase consumer goods after years of saving. Not only had the average income increased, but spending was accessible to everyone due to the increase of consumer credit. People from all classes began enjoying consumer goods, which created the sense that "nearly all Americans had a higher quality of life than ever before" (Cohen 113). Citizens purchased more, new, and better goods that were not previously available to the general public. The increase in income, the rise of consumer goods, and the greater number of products offered provided hope for a more stable and prosperous economic future. The rise of television purchases proved that Americans had more disposable income and had a higher quality of life than the Russians.
The United States also had the greatest number of television receivers per 1000 inhabitants especially compared to the Soviet Union, which greatly trailed behind in production. The general consensus was that mass consumption was not a personal indulgence but rather a “civic responsibility designed to provide…full employment and improved living standards for the rest of the nation” (Cohen 114). The widespread prosperity of the 1950s legitimized capitalism, and citizens could seemingly obtain a more egalitarian and classless society without a social revolution. Saving was now seen as “un-American” and consumer spending on goods such as televisions became a citizen’s duty in order to defeat communism (Cohen 114). Americans undertook this obligation and purchased televisions to strengthen the national economy. Americans secured a firm foundation for freedom by arguing that the United States’s high living standards negated Soviet charges that capitalism created extremes of wealth and poverty. Because the average income greatly increased, most Americans could partake in this consumer revolution that would eventually eradicate communist Russia.