"Populuxe: The Look And Life Of America In The '50s & '60s"

HINE, Thomas

[184] pp.

Alfred A. Knopf


First Edition

10 3/8" x 8 3/4"

The decade from 1954 to 1964 was one of America's great shopping sprees: never before were so many people able to acquire so many things, and never before was there such a choice! [Design critic] Thomas Hine calls it "Populuxe"--Populism and popularity and luxury, plus a totally unnecessary "e" to give it a little class; the word itself is as synthetic as the world it denotes (it's coined in the same Madison Avenue spirit that gave us "Gardol," that invisible shield that stopped bullets and baseball bats and tooth decay). By examining the remarkable objects of this time and the life they represent, Hine takes us on an instructive, entertaining tour of this rather peculiar Golden Age. These were the years when the United States was virtually unchallenged as a world power, the economy was booming, and the country reveled in a kind of innocent hedonism. It was the era of the newly created world of mass suburbia, where everything a family owned--the house, the car, the furniture--was provisional: even if it didn't wear out, one always had the hope of being able to move up the ladder to something better. There were so many new things to buy--a power mower, an even more modern dinette set, a washing machine with a window through which you could see the wash water turn a disgusting gray, a family room, a two-toned refrigerator, a charcoal grill, and, of course, televisions! And since this was the Jet Age, cars sprouted tailfins (the bigger the better); not to be outdone, radios had "sports-car styling." It was also the push-button age--knobs on appliances were replaced by shiny buttons. beaming out the promise that one day, at the tiny flick of a finger, all domestic drudgery would disappear. And no one needed to be reminded of THE BUTTON that we all believed sat on the President's desk, for it was also the Atomic Age: a 1954 ad compared the Bomb's brilliant glow to the gleam of a freshly waxed kitchen floor. This was essence of Populuxe. With the help of more than 250 amazing and amusing pictures in black and white and color (and what colors!), Thomas Hine explores, recaptures, and explains this glorious vanished world of hopes and dreams and cock-eyed optimism. His book is both a celebration of a singular (and slightly bizarre) aesthetic and a revelation of America's not-so-distant past

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