Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Twentieth Century after 1945

In the second half of the twentieth century, an era of social change, manufacturing in the Philadelphia region plummeted as northeastern states lost factories and jobs to the Sunbelt and international competitors. Philadelphia’s longtime major industry, textiles, also was hit by product changes, for example the change in consumer preferences for nylon hosiery rather than silk and for carpets made from nylon or other synthetics instead of wool. By the end of the century, most of the factories in Philadelphia, Camden, and other cities stood vacant. Shipyards closed. Instead, the region’s major employers included health care, pharmaceuticals, business services, education, and government.

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As many middle-class residents, primarily whites, moved to postwar suburbs, civic leaders and urban planners pursued projects to stabilize and revitalize cities. Initiatives in Philadelphia included the Greater Philadelphia Movement (formed in 1948) and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (formed 1958). Urban redevelopment projects sought to clear slum areas and create a central city more attractive to the white middle class. Recognizing that the region’s common challenges required regional action, Pennsylvania and New Jersey formed alliances such as the Delaware Valley Urban Area Compact (1965-66) and Delaware Valley Planning Commission to address issues such as transportation, environmental quality, and economic development.

Topics: Twentieth Century after 1945

Gallery: Twentieth Century after 1945

Timeline: Twentieth Century after 1945

Map: Twentieth Century after 1945

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