Craft: Research

1946 vs. 2011

Three generations. A lot has happened. After researching the era it amazes me the differences and the things that have remained the same in sixty-five years.


Drinking: The late forties saw a rise in alcohol consumption. Many men were accustomed to unrestricted alcohol consumption overseas and brought the habit back with them. The men of World War II didn’t start businesses like their fathers, but either went to college or started up the managerial ladder, where among the social elite, mixing drinking and work already existed. Those that couldn’t hold their liquor were looked down upon. But the age old stigma still surrounded women. Men could be alcoholics but women could not.

Movies: Out of every dollar earned, $.80 went to the movie industry. Popular movies of the era were: The Best Years of Our Lives, Gilda, & Laura.

Reading: Book clubs sprung up during the war, in part, because soldiers were extremely board. Like many things, soldiers brought this habit back home with them. Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and Cain’s Mildred Pierce. Forever Amber was banned in 1944 from many libraries because it was deemed obscene.

Radio was vital link to the outside world. And in many ways, the 1940s was the golden age for radio.

Everyone smoked. There were lots of brands available.


Today, people pretty much wear what ever they want. In 1946, even with the war over, people were still feeling the effects of rationing. It wasn’t until late 1947, before factories were completely switched back to domestic production. Both men and women were eager to shed frugality and their military uniforms for something of comfort.

  • Men: For men it meant dawning a suit again, a fedora, and polished shoes. But many men only wore an undershirt and dungarees for home comfort.

  • Women: For business or formal attire, women still preferred the tailored suit or stunning dresses that brushed their toes. Every woman wore a hat that suited her personal style. Hair was usually kept at shoulder length and curled. Powder and lipstick were still the rage. Stockings were still in high demand, but troubles with post-war production limited their supply. Women either used leg make up, went without, or paid black market prices.

  • Teenagers: Bobby-soxers had different meanings depending on who you were talking to. Usually they were teenagers girls who wore skirts & sweaters with saddles shoes and were crazy about Frank Sinatra. Either way, the birth of the teenager was on the rise.


Men – Once the war ended factories were immediately shut down. It took a bit to retool for domestic production again. The economy was at a standstill until 1947, when things got moving again. Strikes were all too frequent. From 1946-1947 thousands of workers went on strike for better working conditions & better pay. Even in newspapers like the Des Moines Tribune, there was at least one story about a strike in the newspaper per issue.

Women – 1994 – 57.3% of women worked outside the home compared to 1950 where only 37% worked outside the home. Many working women gave up good paying jobs to take lesser ones to support the war effort. Ford Motor Co. was a popular employer in Des Moines. Many women worked as machinists during WWII. There were lots of women workers but no women mangers. Mangers were all men either 4F or old. Once war was over, many people were called on the carpet. Many were asked to give their jobs to their husbands while others were given pink slips out right. Many women were grateful to give up their jobs once the men came home. They were either taking the jobs for their husband or doing it out of patriotic duty. Woman that chose to stay in a profession either saw their positions eliminated and given to men, or given menial jobs. Most of the younger veterans were the ones who gave women the most trouble. They felt that the women’s place was in the home, and that their jobs should go to them. Many women that did decide to stay working, saw hostility not only from men, but from women as well. Many women believed that women’s places was at home not in the work force.

Teenagers – During WWII, teens got a taste of the freedom money could bring. Many left home to make extra money in jobs normally taken by older teenagers.

Will be adding more as time goes on. Keep checking back….

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