What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation

Explore : MID-CENTURY

Journeys

Inspired by Luxury Yachts, Station Wagons Were Once the Height of Mid-20th-Century Design

Before the Minivan and SUV, American Families Rode in a Vehicle Fashioned for Comfort and Room for All

April 11, 2019

Today SUVs clog American roads, but in the middle of the 20th century, the station wagon ruled supreme. Built for growing postwar families—with a distinctive nod toward style and luxury—the iconic car with the “wayback” democratized driving for families across the United States.

In dozens of photographs assembled in the self-published Looking Backward: America’s Love Affair with the Station Wagon, Southern California-based co-authors John Jordan and Will Bodine recall the days when wagons were targeted mainly to the wealthy (the …

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Ideas

The Surprisingly Modest Start to McMansion Sprawl

Builders Like the Campanelli Brothers Helped Fuel Midcentury Suburban Desire, from Massachusetts to Moscow

By Barbara Miller Lane
May 24, 2016

After V-J Day—August 14, 1945—millions of World War II veterans came home and began to look for a place to live. New highways, cars, and government-sponsored mortgages encouraged them to dream big. Up until that point, Americans, especially immigrant Americans, had thought of the Land of Opportunity as the place where discipline and hard work would guarantee prosperity and upward social mobility. After the War, they believed they could have more. The American Dream now meant home ownership and spatial …

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