Did you know that “do-it-yourself” home-improvement projects boomed in 1950s America? While home maintenance and repair were far from new concepts, the ’50s saw them transform into a popular leisure-time hobby with a market worth billions of dollars.02 May 1954, Sun Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.com
Even as it was happening, people in the 1950s noticed that the popularity of DIY home improvement was skyrocketing. Newspapers of the era used terms like “boom,” trend,” “craze,” and “fad” to describe it.
Statistics from the decade illustrated just how fast the industry was growing. Papers reported that:
- In 1952, 60 percent of homeowners hung their own wallpaper, compared to 28 percent in 1948.
- Sales of home power tools rose from $6 million in 1947 to $80 million in 1952.
- In 1953, the do-it-yourself industry was estimated to be worth almost $4 billion, but by 1954 DIY homeowners were spending $6 billion annually, increasing to $8 billion in 1957.
What Caused the Craze?
Another theory pointed to a lingering “mend and make do” mentality from the Depression and World War II; and yet another suggested it stemmed from increased mechanical skills learned during the war in home-front industries or the military.
But there were more theories than just these. One 1955 newspaper article outlined 14 potential reasons for the DIY fad!
Tips, Tricks, and Advice
With the increase in “do-it-yourself” home-improvement projects, many newspapers published tips for the home handyman (or handywoman). Some papers even dedicated entire pages to project ideas and advice.
Here’s a sampling of some of those tips and tricks from 1950s newspapers:05 Aug 1956, Sun The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois) Newspapers.com
19 Aug 1956, Sun The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois) Newspapers.com
04 Oct 1956, Thu The Newark Advocate (Newark, Ohio) Newspapers.com
28 Apr 1957, Sun The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois) Newspapers.com
18 Aug 1957, Sun Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Florida) Newspapers.com
End of the Fad?
After the boom of the 1950s, views on the DIY movement shifted by the ’60s. No longer were newspapers covering it like a passing fad; instead, they suggested that “do-it-yourself” home improvement had simply become a way of life.