All through the Depression and then the war, Americans were deprived not just of their luxuries, but often of the basic necessities they'd come to expect. While the U.S. has always been a relatively prosperous nation, people had a lot of resentment about their inability to provide for their families in the years before and during the war.
But the greatest generation is known for being thrifty! Public spending for the war jump-started the economy, and Cold War defense spending helped keep it going. But so did the average American. In this new boom, Americans could afford middle-class necessities, like automobiles and houses, which they'd been wishing for for a long time.
Americans responded to this prosperity by pumping as much money into the economy as they could. During the 15 years after World War II, the U.S. experienced great economic growth and cemented its reputation as the world's richest country. The gross national product more than doubled from 1940 to 1960, and most Americans began to think of themselves as middle class. Car production quadrupled in the decade between 1946 and 1955 [source: U.S. Department of State].
The rapid integration of television into American society coincided with the explosive rise of this post-war consumer culture for several reasons. A household appliance that was finally affordable, TV provided hours of entertainment for what suddenly seemed like a reasonable price. And because the system ran -- and largely still runs -- on advertising, companies could use the sales platform to sell their products.
It was the perfect situation for this new medium to become central to American routine: There was already a structure in place, thanks to radio, for television to take its place in homes. The advertising model used in radio could have an even greater effect on TV by actually showing the products for sale. And that was just the beginning: Once advertisers realized the power of a 30-second ad, programs went from being sponsored by single corporations to advertising several products at once, which meant a dramatic increase in the number of ads on TV.