Cover image for The great boom, 1950-2000 : how a generation of Americans created the world's most prosperous society
The great boom, 1950-2000 : how a generation of Americans created the world's most prosperous society
Sobel, Robert, 1931 February 19-1999.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
450 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
"Truman Talley books."
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HC106.5 .S63 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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InThe Great Boom, historian Robert Sobel tells the fascinating story of the last 50 years when American entrepreneurs, visionaries, and ordinary citizens transformed our depression and war-exhausted society into today's economic powerhouse. As America's G.I.s returned home from World War II, many of the nation's best minds predicted a new depression--yet exactly the opposite occurred. Jobs were plentiful in retooled factories swamped with orders from pent-up demand. Tens of thousands of families moved out of cities into affordable suburban homes built by William Levitt and his imitators. They bought cars, televisions, and air conditioners by the millions. And they took to the nation's roads and new interstate highways--the largest public works project in world history--where Kemmons Wilson of Holiday Inns, Ray Kroc of McDonalds, and other start-up entrepreneurs soon catered to a mobile populace with food and lodgings for leisure time vacationers. Americans and their families began to channel savings into new opportunities. Credit cards democratized purchasing power, while early mutual funds found growing numbers of investors to fuel the first postwar bull market in the go-go '60s. At the same time the continuing boom enriched the fabric of social and cultural life. A college education became a must on the highway to upward mobility; high-tech industries arose with astonishing new ways of conducting business electronically; and an unprecedented 49 million families had become investors when the 1981-2000 stock market boom reached 10,000 on the Dow. The Great Boomis the first major book to portray the great wave of homegrown entrepreneurs as post-war heroes in the complete remaking and revitalizing of America. All that, plus the creation of unprecedented wealth--or themselves, for the nation, for tens of millions of citizens--all in five short drama-filled decades.

Author Notes

Robert Sobel was Lawrence Stessin Distinguished Professor of Business History at Hofstra University

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Sobel, who died last year, was a respected business historian and prolific author with nearly three dozen books to his credit. His works include popular histories of Wall Street and finance, portraits of companies such as RCA and IBM, and profiles of the automobile and tobacco industries. When Giants Stumble: Classic Business Blunders and How to Avoid Them (1999) was published posthumously. Sobel passed away just after completing the final draft of The Great Boom, and his wife edited the final version. Just as Tom Brokaw paid homage to the veterans of World War II with The Greatest Generation (1998), Sobel here credits them with rebuilding America after the war. He argues that the same values that were instilled in Americans during wartime helped them lay the foundation for a half century of unprecedented prosperity. Suggesting that two subsequent generations followed their parents' lead, Sobel rosily paints a grand, sweeping portrait of U.S. life. --David Rouse

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this wide-ranging, entertaining socioeconomic survey, the late Sobel (IBM: Colossus in Transition) provides an optimistic perspective on the advances, upheavals and trends of the last 50 years. Starting from the post-World War II period, he analyzes the factors that produced an unprecedented prosperity that surprised everybody with its vigor and consistency. Although fear of imminent economic disaster may have been lurking after the Great Depression, demand for new housing, new automobiles and all the goods and services associated with the baby boom kept entrepreneurs jumping. Economic good times not only did not stop (as they had in 1929) but were fueled by new developments in society. More women entered the workplace, and civil rights legislation, social reform and raised social consciousness extended economic opportunity to previously excluded groups. While factories hummed and an expanding workforce found employment, Americans pursued leisure activities as never before. Sobel draws the conclusion that, whether it was the inflation of the 1970s or the rash of leveraged buyouts of the 1980s, there is an "American proclivity to adjust to changing circumstances and to absorb ideas and people and fit them in with what already existed." In contrasting where we were as a nation in 1950 with where we stand today, he argues persuasively that the United States has evolved into the society that World War II veterans hoped for: "a place where hard work, education, playing by the rules, and sobriety paid off." Photographs not seen by PW. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This survey of the American economy during the second half of the 20th century looks at how the "GI generation," which grew up during the Depression and fought World War II, took advantage of new opportunities in education, home ownership, business, and investing to amass more personal wealth than it could ever have imagined. Sobel (When Giants Stumble: Classic Business Blunders and How To Avoid Them) traces its members' efforts and attitudes as well as those of their children and grandchildren. The author, who died last year, concludes that the GI generation prevented a slide into another depression and built a prosperous society very different from the one predicted by experts in the 1940s. This book covers a lot of ground and, consequently, lacks depth in many areas, but anyone over 40 will probably have personal familiarity with much of what Sobel describes. His book is recommended to most academic libraries and is sufficiently well written to find a home in public libraries, too.DLawrence R. Maxted, Gannon Univ., Erie, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. 1
Introductionp. 8
1 Coming Home: A Time of Despair and Hopep. 22
2 A Home and Car of One's Own, and What They Impliedp. 70
3 The Family: Its Work, Play, and Investmentsp. 109
4 The Creation of Wealth on Wall Streetp. 154
5 The Electronic Countryp. 194
6 The End of the Postwar Periodp. 240
7 Alternate Means to Wealthp. 282
8 The New Rules of the Game on Wall Street and on the Campusesp. 325
9 The New View of Retirement and Educationp. 357
10 The Third Generationp. 381
Acknowledgmentsp. 419
Selected Bibliographyp. 421
Indexp. 439