National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Previously either urban or rural, the post-World War II social geography of America changed with the growth of the suburbs. Suburbanization had many contributors-government loan programs, prefabricated construction methods, cheap gasoline, and the expansion of roads and highways-but its primary appeal was to the traditional dream of Americans to own their own home. William Levitt, from a home-building family, capitalized on these trends to build inexpensive homes on an assembly line, controlling everything from land purchase to loan or rental agreements. "Levitt Towns" became instant suburbs, especially on the East Coast, where they "developed" Long Island and filled in the spaces between New York and other cities. Criticized for creating monotonous tracts of "ticky-tacky" houses, Levitt replied that he fulfilled both a need and the dream of an improved living standard.