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.
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.
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.
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!
Cat shaped elapses and headscarves were also coming into vogue, particularly in the USA and Europe.
However, 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 super powers 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.
Clement Attlee, having become Prime Minister of the UK in 1945, was replaced by Winston Churchill in 1951.
Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain
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!
From 1949 to 1953, Harry S Truman was President of the US. He was replaced by Dwight D Eisenhower, who remained in office until 1961.
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.
On 15th August 1950,4,800 people were killed, by an earthquake measuring 8.6 on the Richter scale. Known as the Assam Earthquake, people across India and Tibet were devastated by the aftershocks.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
The world’s first nuclear submarine was launched in 1954 – the USS Nautilus.
1951 played host to the first ever TV show in color in the US, through the RCA network.
McDonald’s first opened for business in 1955, specifically in Des Plaines in Illinois.
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.
In fact, Elvis Presley only made his radio debut four years earlier, in 1953. To this day, he remains the biggest-selling artist of all time, even through the ages of digital downloads and streaming.
Queen Elizabeth II, who is still on the throne in the UK at the time of writing, was crowned in June 1953. Yes – she’s been in charge for that long!
Believe it or not, the US didn’t even have 50 states until the end of the decade. It was only in 1959 that Alaska and Hawaii were finally admitted to the Union.
There have been no other territories admitted to the US since this date, though some countries continue to apply.
Lennon and McCartney
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.
NASA also debuted in the 1950s, with the organization setting up in 1958. That’s only 11 years before the US would land on the Moon!
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.
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.
Do you know any fun, strange or interesting facts about the 1950s you’d like to share? Share them here in the comments section below!