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.

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.

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Related Reading

Adams, Carolyn, et. al. Philadelphia: Neighborhoods, Division, and Conflict in a Postindustrial City. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991.

—–. Restructuring the Philadelphia Region: Metropolitan Divisions and Inequality. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008.

Arnold, Stanley. Building the Beloved Community: Philadelphia’s Interracial Civil Rights Organizations and Race Relations, 1930-1970. Jackson, Miss.: University Press of Mississippi, 2014.

Bissinger, Buzz. A Prayer for the City. New York: Random House, 1997.

Contosta, David. Suburb in the City: Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, 1850-1990. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1992.

Countryman, Matthew J. Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

Dilworth, Richardson, ed. Social Capital in the City: Community and Civic Life in Philadelphia. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006.

—–. Restructuring the Philadelphia Region: Metropolitan Divisions and Inequality. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008.

Dyson, Omar L. The Black Panther Party and Transformative Pedagogy: Place-Based Education in Philadelphia. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2013.

Goode, Judith, and Jo Anne Schneider. Reshaping Ethnic and Racial Relations in Philadelphia: Immigrants in a Divided City. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994.

Greiff, Constance M. Independence: The Creation of a National Park. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987.

Heller, Gregory, and Alexander Garvin. Ed Bacon: Planning, Politics, and the Building of Modern Philadelphia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.

Henry, Margo. “Attention, MOVE! This is America!” Chicago: Banner Press, 1987.

Kaniss, Phyllis. The Media and the Mayor’s Race: The Failure of Urban Political Reporting. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.

Knowles, Scott Gabriel. Imagining Philadelphia: Edmund Bacon and the Future of the City. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009.

Kuklick, Bruce. To Every Thing a Season: Shibe Park and Urban Philadelphia, 1909-1976. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991.

Luconi, Stefano. From Paesani to White Ethnics: The Italian Experience in Philadelphia. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 2001.

Lyons, Paul. The People of This Generation: The Rise and Fall of the New Left in Philadelphia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.

Masters, Patricia Anne. The Philadelphia Mummers: Building Community Through Play. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2007.

McKee, Guian. The Problem of Jobs: Liberalism, Race, and Deindustrialization in Philadelphia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Moyette, Michael, and Randi Moyette. Let it Burn: MOVE, the Philadelphia Police Department, and the Confrontation that Changed a City. Quadrant Books, 2013.

Office of the City Controller, City of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: A New Urban Direction. Philadelphia: Saint Joseph’s University Press, 1999.

Peltz, Rakhmiel. From Immigrant to Ethnic Culture: American Yiddish in South Philadelphia. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1998.

Perkiss, Abigail. Making Good Neighbors: Civil Rights, Liberalism, and Integration in Postwar Philadelphia. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2014.

Stein, Marc. City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves: Lesbian and Gay Philadelphia, 1945-1972. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Whalen, Carmen Teresa. From Puerto Rico to Philadelphia: Puerto Rican Workers and Postwar Economies. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001.

Related Collections

Connecting the Past with the Present, Building Community, Creating a Legacy