American consumer AbundanceFor over half a century, Americas soaring confidence had always promised a sugar-frosted future filled with frost-free fun and abundance. But that buoyant bubble of optimism has since gone bust. Along with out jobs, retirement funds and split level homes, the American Dream has gone into foreclosure.

This collection of vintage advertising and illustrations from the New Deal to the New Frontier offer a mirror to the once upon a time American Dream as presented in the can-do American media calculated to sell the American Way to the world …and to ourselves.

Copyright (©) 20011 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved


Graduates Deserve A Break Today

Graduates Deserve A Break Today.

A Post-War Primer on Mother Nature

A Post-War Primer on Mother Nature.

Do You Dream in Kodacolor?

Do You Dream in Kodacolor?.

Inherited Dreams

Baby Boomer boy eating Oreeos 1950s

Though it would be my parents generation- those who lived through the Great Depression and later rolled up their collective sleeves, pitched in and sacrificed for the greater good in their fight against tyranny-  who would be knighted by Tom Brokaw as “The Greatest Generation” it was in fact their progeny, the Baby Boomers who were born bearing that moniker.

And no not for anything we sacrificed but for exactly the opposite- for all the compromises and sacrifices we would never have to make.

Snapshot: Looking for America

 Suburbanites driving in search of the American dream

Sunday Drives

Next to the milkman, and drive- in-movies, the recreational “Sundays Drive” belongs firmly and fondly in our not too distant past. In Mid-Century America, driving was still considered a pleasure and gasoline was still the biggest bargain in America’s shopping list. “Drive more,” we were encouraged, “it gets cheaper by the mile.”

My family’s Sunday Drives were of an exploratory nature. Heading east on Long Island, our suburban travels would take us to the furthermost reaches of rapidly overdeveloped  Nassau County, into the outer limits of unknown, underdeveloped Suffolk County, as Old Horizons would open the way for New Horizons.

Although these adventures seemed aimless we were on a mission- in search of new satellite developments filled with model homes.

Middle class midcentury family at Model Home

The Middle Class and the Model Home

Visiting new Model Homes was a favorite suburban pastime. These new split levels developments drew huge crowds. It was a mix of serious weekend house hunters-claustrophobic, apartment dwelling families looking for space, growing families that were themselves expanding, and the group we belonged to, current home owners with no intent on moving but looking at houses for the sport of it.

Traipsing through one new up-to-date furnished splanch to the next, the visitors all shared in the same restless, distinctly American search- for a glimpse of a new way of living.

People came to see not so much a new house as a future that was newer and different. The purest expression of the American Dream

Suburbia For Sale

American Dream Foreclosed

Whether a split level or a McMansion the American home has been the very embodiment of the American Dream. Once the mark of achievement, the suburban home was a solid investment, the guarantee of a secure future.

Now row after row of identical houses, with identical sky-high mortgages and identical For Sales signs grace their unkempt suburban  lawns.

The forlorn For Sale sign beckoning the nonexistent buyer has become the lawn ornament of our time, as ubiquitous as the Pink Flamingo was in the 1950’s.

Copyright (©) 20011 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved

Consuming Passions

American couple dreaming of Consumer goods This homage to the American Dream  appeared on a Saturday Evening Post Cover exactly 14 years to the day from that August day when  Americans from coast to coast were celebrating the surrender of Japan. Until late in the night of August 15, 1945, people snaked danced, formed conga lines tossed tons of paper confetti through office windows as a frenzy of kissing occurred.

The frenzy of celebration lasting 24 hours would soon open up a frenzy of pent-up consumer desire that had no end in sight.

The end of WWII left us with no restrictions of how much happiness we could buy. We entered the postwar world as ardent consumers and it wasn’t long before there was a spontaneous combustion of red-hot excitement that was fueled by accelerants provided by Hotpoint, Frigidaire and General Electric.

Dreaming The American Dream

By 1959 the Space-Age star-struck young couple on the Saturday Evening Post cover gazing into their future, a future filled with an abundance of consumer items, were living in the future we had looked forward to at the end of the war.

The illustration “A Moonlit Future” by artist Constantin Alajalov perfectly captures the spirit of the American Dream filling the moon lit sky with a constellation of sparkling consumer goods from televisions, percolators and power tools, stereos, station wagons and refrigerators to fill their new suburban ranch house occupied by little league boys and little piano playing girls.

The Post offered it’s readers this  description of the illustration:

“They’re in love, they’re going to be married, and tonight, as you can tell by that remarkable constellation, they are ecstatically moon-dreaming.”

“Artist Alajalov, soaring skyward with the lovers , at first started to paint among the star spaces some filmy ethereal castles in Spain: but then thinking how practical and knowledgeable today’s young people are about outer space, he came down to earth with their dream. A bit cynical? No, because it takes as much moon magic to create a 2 car domicile as it does to whip up an air castle.”

“In essence what the young romantics want is happiness and since they have each other, their dream will come true.”


Copyright (©) 20011 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved