Unearthing Benny the Bulldozer: The Culture of Clearance in Postwar Children’s Books
Abstract

Abstract:

Alongside the large-scale clearance of buildings and land in the post-World War II United States emerged a body of children’s “bulldozers books” that reflected and endorsed this work. While scholars and adult non-fiction authors have typically treated the bulldozer as symbol of protest, rather than subject of inquiry, postwar children’s book writers and illustrators placed the machine front and center. Through their books, they helped a younger generation make sense of the world around them as their environment underwent massive physical destruction for suburban, highway, and urban renewal construction. They also naturalized real-world clearance processes by promoting this work as technological progress, attempting to involve readers in clearance, and putting a friendly, masculine, all-American face on the machines and their operators. In so doing, the books and their authors advanced a “culture of clearance”—the ideology, technology, policy, and practice of clearing the landscape of its natural and built environment.