We have a lot to thank the 1950s for. It was the first decade to emerge post-war, creating cultural revolutions all over the world. Popular music was on the rise, as was home entertainment via television. It was also a huge revolution for fashion, as well as one for strides in racial equality.
It’s a huge decade – and we probably have thousands of interesting facts about the 1950s we can share with you! However, for now, make a point of poring through the following and familiarize yourself with this epoch-making, game-changing few years.
1. It was a decade for change.
The 1950s was a crucial decade for civil rights. In 1955, Rosa Parks, an African American, defied racial segregation laws by sitting at the front of public transport, which was initially reserved for white people. She refused to move – and a movement for African American rights began.
2. Rationing was still ongoing.
Believe it or not, by the 1950s, some foods were still being rationed after the Second World War. Meat was rationed in the UK until 1954, when farming and meat production had recovered sufficiently from the effects of the conflicts. In 1953, sugar ceased to be rationed in the UK, too.
3. War was far from over.
The ‘Cold War’ was dominating politics in the 1950s. Immediately after the end of the Second World War, tensions between Russia and the US grew. Both superpowers possessed weapons of mass destruction.
This led to a cold standoff, as neither enemy could launch weapons without devastating retaliation. ‘Resisting’ the use of their ‘hot’ weapons, along with the threat of war and the tensions between these countries, gave the ‘Cold War’ its name.
Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Britain, used the term ‘Iron Curtain’ to identify the ‘iron strong’ boundary the Soviet Union had created to separate itself from other European countries.
4. Churchill took power for a second time.
Clement Attlee, having become Prime Minister of the UK in 1945, was replaced by Winston Churchill in 1951. This was Churchill’s second term as Prime Minister, and in 1955, he was succeeded by Sir Anthony Eden who held the position for just under two years.
In January 1957, Harold MacMillan took over as Prime Minister, remaining in office until
1963. That’s a lot of changes at the top in one decade!
5. Fashion made a lasting mark!
In the early 1950s, the fashion industry was reinvigorated. Flowing skirts and blouses with ‘Peter Pan’ collars were popular, and denim jeans were also becoming hugely popular. They’ve never really gone away!
6. Meanwhile, in the States…
7. Tinseltown was just getting started.
Iconic films of the 1950s include ‘Cinderella’, ‘A Street Car Named Desire’, ‘Singing in the Rain’, ‘High Noon’ and ‘Rashomon’
Rashomon is a Japanese film which won a ‘Golden Lion’ at the Venice Film Festival for innovation, which paved the way for more films such as ‘Seven Samurai’ to be made and reach audiences in the west.
8. Shockwaves spread far and wide.
9. Peak efficiency!
Tenzing Norgay made history in 1953 by becoming the first person to ever reach the top of Mount Everest. He achieved the feat along with Sir Edmund Hillary.
10. Good grief!
1950 itself saw the debut of the ‘Peanuts’ comic strip, written and illustrated by Charles Schulz. It’s these comics where we saw the debut of iconic characters in Charlie Brown and Snoopy.
11. Major scientific breakthroughs took place.
The 1950s was also the decade in which DNA was officially ‘discovered’ by James Watson and Francis Crick. Specifically, they uncovered the double helix, which has been crucial in our understanding of genetics ever since.
12. Aquatic nukes made their debut.
The world’s first nuclear submarine was launched in 1954 – the USS Nautilus.
13. Kermit before the Muppets? You’d better believe it!
1955 saw the official TV debut of Kermit the Frog, though he wasn’t with the Muppets at this point! Creator and puppeteer Jim Henson debuted him as part of his show ‘Sam and Friends’.
14. TV went colorful.
1951 played host to the first-ever TV show in color in the US, through the RCA network.
15. The golden arches first emerged.
McDonald’s first opened for business in 1955, specifically in Des Plaines in Illinois.
16. It was the decade of Elvis.
The 1950s was also a pivotal year for popular music, and the rise of rock and roll. Its biggest star, Elvis Presley, bought his now-iconic estate, Graceland, in 1957.
17. Long may she reign!
18. The Fab Four joined forces.
The 1950s also saw the genesis of The Beatles. It was in 1957 that Paul McCartney and John Lennon met for the first time. They would go on to become one of history’s most famous songwriting duos, and The Beatles remain only second to Elvis in worldwide record sales.
19. The US took full shape.
There have been no other territories admitted to the US since this date, though some countries continue to apply.
20. Space exploration took flight.
21. Life in plastic… it’s fantastic!
Barbie would also make her debut towards the end of the decade, emerging at the International Toy Fair of March 1959. She’s been a part of toy store shelves ever since.
22. A decade of culture.
Some of the most important cultural landmarks of the 20th century emerged from the 1950s. For example, West Side Story was launched on Broadway, the Wizard of Oz debuted on Television, and JD Salinger published Catcher in The Rye.
The 1950s also saw the first iteration of The Twilight Zone, which first emerged on our screens back in October 1959. It’s been rebooted multiple times, though the original stories are normally remembered the most fondly.
This show also established Rod Serling as a popular fixture on US TV. He would go on to helm a further anthology series, Night Gallery, some years later.
FAQs about The 1950s
What were the 50s known for?
The 1950s were mainly known for a boom in entertainment, the civil rights movement, and the birth of the Cold War that would last for at least another four decades.
What were the 50s nicknamed?
The 1950s earned the nickname of the ‘Golden Age of Capitalism’, among others, thanks to huge economic growth.
What made the 50s so prosperous?
It’s thought that increased consumer interest - mass spending - helped to encourage enormous growth in the 50s. It’s worth noting, too, that adults spending in the 50s likely grew up during the Great Depression.
Do you know any interesting facts about the 1950s? Share them in the comments below!