Chronology, 1944-1961


The following chronology reflects the complex political, economic, cultural, and social makeup of American society in the postwar years. (A separate link, Political Parties, 1947-1961, focuses exclusively on the political parties.)   Numerous themes—the economy, political party developments, the Cold War, the Second Red Scare/McCarthy era, technological and scientific exploration, the  Civil Rights movement, the rise of TV, consumerism, and  pop culture, etc.—focus the choices included.  This is the background—sometimes the foreground—within which the Eisenhower-Nixon relationship matured.  Note how particular facts intersect with several of the themes at once.

Some of the photos are “clickable,” either taking you to a larger copy and/ or to a web site with more information.  There are included as well some audio links.



Ballpoint pens go on sale

GI Bill of Rights passed and signed, providing benefits to U.S. service veterans

Pres. Roosevelt wins unprecedented fourth term, defeating Republican Thomas Dewey

Unemployment is 1.2%



Photograph:General Dwight D. Eisenhower talks to paratroopers of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division just before their departure for Normandy, June 5, 1944. The trooper's “Screaming Eagle” shoulder patch was scratched from this wartime photo for security reasons.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower talks to paratroopers of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division before  their departure for Normandy, June 5, 1944.

First German V1 and V2 Rockets fired

Hitler escapes assassination attempt


Bretton Woods conferees (in July, New Hampshire) create International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) in hopes of averting another Great Depression

Harry Dexter White (left) and John Maynard Keynes (right) at the Bretton Woods Conference  Harry Dexter White and John Maynard Keynes at Bretton Woods


U.S., UK, USSR propose establishing a United Nations


Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma:  The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (2 vols) published.


Casablanca (1942) wins 4 Academy Awards:  Best Picture; Humphrey Bogart, Best Actor; Michael Curtiz, Best Director; and Best Screenplay.




First computer built

Microwave oven invented (see 1952)

The FCC creates the commercial (television) broadcasting spectrum of 13 channels, and receives 130 applications for broadcast licenses.

FDR dies in April

Unemployment is 1.9%

  December 3, 1945  Walter Reuther, UAW


Yalta Conference


(click photo) Churchill, FDR, Stalin


Germans surrender

Hitler commits suicide

Potsdam Conference

United Nations founded

U.S. drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Japan surrenders


Ho Chi Minh creates provisional government in Vietnam; declares independence of Vietnam

British return Vietnam authority to French

Decolonization and Independence movements begin                             



Movies:            Murder, My Sweet; National Velvet; They Were Expendable

Songs:              “White Christmas” (1941) hits #1 again (and repeats in 1947)

Bob Hope USO show, Germany


White bluesman Johnny Otis assembles a combo for Harlem Nocturne that is basically a shrunk-down version of the big-bands of swing

Mercury is founded in Chicago

Jules Bihari founds Modern Records in Los Angeles, specializing in black music

Bill Monroe’s Kentucky Waltz popularizes the “bluegrass” style




 wearing the first bikini   Micheline Bernardini wearing first bikini

Bikinis introduced in Paris 

Dr. Spock publishes The Common Book of Baby and Child Care; generally recognized first year of the “Baby Boom” generation

Strapless bras become popular, ushering in a trend toward bare-shouldered women’s fashions

“Tide”—the first detergent designed for automatic clothes washing machines—introduced 

First electric clothes dryers available

Suntan lotions, developed for troops during World War II, marketed to consumers for the first time

Atomic Energy Commission established

U.S. industry idled by widespread labor strikes; federal government takes control of railroads; most wartime price controls eliminated


Jackie Robinson signs with Brooklyn Dodgers (plays next season)


Juan Perón becomes President of Argentina

Nuremberg Trials

Winston Churchill gives “Iron Curtain” Speech

Indochina war begins to liberate Vietnam from French control


John Foster Dulles, Adlai Stevenson, and Eleanor Roosevelt at the United Nations


President Truman establishes Temporary Committee on Employee Loyalty

HUAC (House UnAmerican Activities Committee) decides to investigate “communist” influence in Hollywood.



Movies:            The Best Years of Our Lives, Notorious, Great Expectations

Songs:              Tenderly, Come Rain or Come Shine, Zip-a-dee-doo-dah

TV Shows:       Gillette Cavalcade of Sports, Esso Newsreel (programming limited to approximately 12 hours per week on two networks)

Books:             Hiroshima, John Hersey; All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren


Muddy Waters cuts the first records of Chicago’s electric blues (rhythm and blues)

Lew Chudd founds Imperial Records in Los Angeles, specializing in black music

The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) film company opens a recording business to sell their movie soundtracks




Polaroid cameras invented

The transistor co-invented at Bell Labs.

First Levittowns constructed on Long Island, NY

Levitt Cape, ca. 1947


Chuck Yeager breaks the sound barrier

Dead Sea Scrolls discovered

Thor Heyerdahl sails from Peru to Polynesia on a raft to prove theory of human migration

Over 1 million veterans enroll in college through the G.I. Bill

First food processors

Inventor Earl Tupper invents Tupperware, and with it the “Tupperware party,” a unique way of marketing the products directly to homemakers

Henry Ford dies, leaving $600 million fortune [$ 5.7 billion in 2005 dollars]

North America and Europe both experience severe winters.  New York is hit with 28 inches of snow (Dec. 17), while Britain has its harshest winter in over 50 years

First documented sightings of “flying saucers”

Drive-in theatres become a booming industry

Boeing 377 Stratocruiser


Jewish refugees aboard the Exodus turned back by British

India and Pakistan declared separate, independent nations


Truman Doctrine [establishes ideological component of Containment]

delivered 12 March 1947 before a Joint Session of Congress: (with audio)

Marshall Plan [economic component of containment] proposed

George C. Marshall delivered speech at Harvard University, June 5 (with audio)


National Security Act establishes the Department of Defense, the National Security Council, and the Central Intelligence Agency


President Truman establishes FELP (Federal Employee Loyalty Program) to counter Republicans and to rally Americans to his foreign policy of containment.  Four million employees investigated during HST administration; 378 dismissed; another 2000 left jobs under cloud of suspicion.

Justice Department compiles “The List” of potential subversives (those with ties to communist, totalitarian, fascist, subversive movements) to help FELP.  Although supposed to be kept secret, the List was published later in the year.  Its publication gave Congress information with which to prosecute the Red Scare and private sector firms information that underlay the blacklisting program.

HUAC charges “Hollywood Ten” with contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the Hollywood investigations.  Despite protests by Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, and Gene Kelley, studio executives begin to “blacklist” any artists who refuse to cooperate with HUAC.


Congress passes over President Truman’s veto the Taft-Hartley Act, which in part, restrains unions’ abilities to strike

Congress passes 22nd Amendment (limiting individuals to two terms as president); 36 states will need to ratify within 7 years



Movies:            Gentleman’s Agreement

TV Shows:       Kraft Television Theatre, Small Fry Club (programming limited to approximately 18 hours per week)

                        Oct:  Pres. Truman first president to address the American people on TV from the White House (international food crisis; suggests meatless Tuesdays).

                        Meet the Press debut

Milton Berle  Milton Berle premiers Milton Berle Show Texaco Star Theatre variety show; will be on the air until 1956, then 1958-1959, 1966-1967 under various titles.  Prime example of vaudeville roots of early comedy on television.

Books:             Doktur Faustus, Thomas Mann; The Diary of Anne Frank; I, the Jury, Mickey Spillaine

Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire wins Pulitzer Prize


Billboard’s writer Jerry Wexler coins the term “rhythm and blues” for Chicago’s electric blues

Roy Brown writes and cuts Good Rockin’ Tonight in Texas

Six majors control the music market: Columbia, RCA Victor, Decca, Capitol, MGM, Mercury

Ahmet Ertegun founds Atlantic in New York to promote black music at the border between jazz, rhythm and blues and pop




“Big Bang” theory formulated

Orville Wright dies

Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male is the first large-scale study of individuals’ sexual habits, with stunning revelations about infidelity, homosexuality and other issues

Boxer Joe Louis retires; Babe Ruth dies

New York’s Idlewild Airport opens (renamed JFK Airport in 1963)

Swiss outdoorsman George de Mestral invents Velcro

Noted food critic Duncan Hines founds a company to make prepackaged cake mixes

Popcorn sold on a mass scale for the first time

“Scrabble” introduced


U.S. continues to cope with severe postwar inflation while rocked by labor unrest

United Auto Workers succeed in linking wage increases to cost-of-living index in contract with General Motors

Berlin Airlift

Gandhi assassinated


Ghandi, India 1946, Gelatin Silver, by Margaret Bourke-White

Policy of Apartheid begun in South Africa

State of Israel founded






Eleanor Roosevelt, whom Pres. Truman appointed as delegate to the United Nations, helped draft the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Dec. 1948 adopted)


Congress enacts federal rent controls

Congress gives $17 billion for Marshall Plan


President Truman orders integration of all U.S. armed services [see]

Selective Service inaugurated, providing a continuous peacetime military draft until repealed in 1973

Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman premieres and wins Pulitzer and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award (1949).



Movies:            Hamlet, Macbeth (Orson Welles), The Naked City, Oliver Twist, The Fallen Idol

Songs:              Nature Boy, Buttons and Bows, All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth

TV Shows:       Howdy Doody, Philco TV Playhouse, Toast of the Town, Kraft Television Theatre, Meet the Press; Boxing and wrestling are TV’s prime attractions

Books:             Crusade in Europe, Dwight D. Eisenhower; Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Paton; The Ides of March, Thorton Wilder; Tales of the South Pacific, James Michener;

The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer


Pete Seeger forms the Weavers, which start the “folk revival”

 Pete Seeger with the Weavers (1950)

Columbia introduces the 12-inch 33-1/3 RPM long-playing vinyl record

Ed Sullivan starts a variety show on national television (later renamed “Ed Sullivan Show”)

The magazine “Billboard” introduces charts for “folk” and “race” records




First non-stop flight around the world (U.S. Air Force plane, Lucky Lady)








George Orwell publishes Nineteen Eight-Four

“Silly putty” introduced

7.9% unemployment (Oct)


Chinese Communists take control of China

NATO established [military component of containment—North Atlantic Treaty Organization]

Soviet Union has atomic bomb

Israel becomes member of United Nations

Apartheid official government policy in South Africa

East and West Germany become nations


Smith Act (1940 antisubversion law) Trials begin.  Eleven communist leaders charged with using ideas to bring down the government.

Board of Regents of the University of California imposed a requirement that all University employees sign an oath affirming not only loyalty to the state constitution, but a denial of membership or belief in organizations (including Communist organizations) advocating overthrow of the United States government.




Movies:            The Third Man, All the King’s Men; Adam’s Rib



Songs:              So In Love, Riders in the Sky, Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Some Enchanted Evening

TV Shows:       Texaco Star Theatre, Candid Camera, Colgate Theatre, Kukla, Fran & Ollie

Books:             The Man with the Golden Arm, Nelson Algren; The Jacaranda Tree, H.E. Bates; Guard of Honor, James Gould Cozzens; Love in a Cold Climate, Nancy Mitford; This I Remember, Eleanor Roosevelt


South PacificSouth Pacific opens on Broadway



February 21, 1949


Fats Domino cuts The Fat Man, a new kind of boogie

Hank Williams’ Lovesick Blues reaches the top of the country charts

Scatman Crothers cuts I Want To Rock And Roll (1949), with Wild Bill Moore on saxophone

RCA Victor introduces the 45 RPM vinyl record




Population:     Total                           Growth Rate               Increase

World:              2,556,517,137             1.47                             37,798,160

U.S.                    152,271,000             2.07                                3,083,000


APRIL:            5,343,000 TV sets are in American Homes

MAY:              103 TV Stations in 60 cities

SEPTEMBER: 7,535,000 TV sets in USA

OCTOBER:     8,000,000 TV sets -- 107 stations

3,880,000 U.S. homes have television sets (9% of all homes)




First modern credit card introduced

First organ transplant

First Peanuts cartoon strip 1950's


4.2% unemployment (Oct)


Officer Leslie Coffelt, White House Police, was shot and killed by Puerto Rican nationalists while protecting President Truman at the Blair House on November 1, 1950


Korean War Begins in June

President Truman Orders Construction of Hydrogen Bomb

U.S. commits $15 ml [$116.3 mil in 2005 dollars] and military mission and advisors to aid French in Indochina


Bob Hope, Wosan, Korea 1950


Senator Joseph McCarthy joins the Red Scare with his communist witch hunt in February

Two of “Hollywood Ten” imprisoned; other 8 are convicted of contempt.

Alger Hiss found guilty of perjury—Richard Nixon’s political star rises.

In the summer,thirty-one “non-signer” University of California professors—including internationally distinguished scholars, not one of whom had been charged with professional unfitness or personal disloyalty—and many other UC employees were dismissed for refusing to sign the “loyalty oath.”

California enacts Levering Act requiring all state employees to sign loyalty oaths.


Movies:            Sunset Boulevard, All About Eve, I Married a Communist; It Can’t Happen Here; Father of the Bride

cover           cover

Songs:              A Bushel and a Peck, Good Night Irene, Mona Lisa, C’est Si Bon

TV Shows:       Arthur Godfrey and Friends, Lux Video Theatre, Fred Waring Show, Your Hit Parade, Fireside Theatre; TV hero Hopalong Cassidy peaks in popularity

Your Show of Shows

2/25/1950 - 6/6/1954 NBC Black and White 90 minutes Feb 1950 - June 1954 Sat. 9:00 - 10:30 Starring Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca With Carl Reiner and Howard Morris

Sid Caesar and Imogene Coco
Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca


The Jack Benny Show

10/28/1950 - 9/10/1965 CBS/NBC Black and White 30 minutes

The Jack Benny Show Cast

Jack Benny
Mary Livingstone (Mrs. Jack Benny) (1950-1959)
Don Wilson - Announcer
Eddie "Rochester" Anderson as Rochester Van Jones (valet)
Dennis Day, Mel Blanc, Artie Auerbach and Frank Nelson

Jack Benny moved his successful radio to show to TV slowly. First aired as a series of specials, then increasingly shown more often as the years passed.

Benny, known for his repetitve 39th birthdays, had an understated sense of humor. His exchanges with Rochester are classics of comedy.

Jack Benny


Books:             The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury; Across the River and Into the Trees, Ernest Hemmingway; Darkness at Noon, Sidney Kingsley; The Way West, A.B. Guthrie, Jr.

Guys and Dolls premieres; George Bernard Shaw dies


Jac Holzman founds Elektra in New York to promote new folk and jazz musicians

The first major rhythm’n’blues festival is held in Los Angeles (the “Blues & Rhythm Jubilee”)

Dutch electronics giant Philips enters the recording business



Color TV introduced – CBS broadcasts first color program from NYC

Mass production of penicillin and streptomycin reaches records

Electricity generated from nuclear power for the first time 

3.5% unemployment (Oct)

22nd Amendment (limiting individual to 2 terms as president) ratified (Feb.)

Triggered by the attack on Truman, Congress enacted legislation that permanently authorized Secret Service protection of the President, his immediate family, the President-elect, and the Vice President, if he wishes.

(Public Law - 82-79).


South Africans forced to carry ID cards identifying race

Truman signs Peace Treaty with Japan, officially ending WWII

Winston Churchill again Prime Minister of Great Britain


President Truman relieves General Douglas MacArthur of command

General Douglas MacArthur: Farewell Address to Congress delivered April 19, 1951:  (with audio)

douglasmacarthur.jpg (20202 bytes)


Kefauver Crime Committee hearings of March 1951 first televised congressional hearings


Duck and Cover—short film produced by Civil Defense to instruct school children how to react to an atomic bomb attack on their school.  The theme song:

There was a turtle by the name of Bert
and Bert the turtle was very alert;
when danger threatened him he never got hurt
he knew just what to do...
He ducked! [inhalation sound]
And covered!
Ducked! [inhalation sound]

A Duck and Cover movie poster


U.S. Supreme Court upholds convictions from Smith Act trial


Movies:            The African Queen, An American in Paris, Strangers on a Train, A Streetcar Named Desire




Songs:              Hello Young Lovers, Getting to Know You, Cry, Kisses Sweeter than Wine, In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening

TV Shows:       I Love Lucy, Adventures of Ellery Queen, Captain Video, What’s My Line

I Love Lucy Photo 

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz      



See It Now

9/11/1951 - 4/7/1958 CBS 30 minutes Black and White/Color Edward R Murrow, anchor

Fred W. Friendly and Edward R. Murrow, producers

See It Now pioneered many features which now seem synonymous with news reporting.  They were the first to use their own footage and not newreel film. They introduced the use of field producers. Interviews were not rehearsed.

On a split screen, viewers of the first installment could see both the Golden Gate and Brooklyn Bridges - spanning the continent in a single moment. This was the first live commercial coast to coast broadcast.

For seven years Murrow, with cigarette smoke swirling about him, let Americans see the world from their TV screens.

Murrow was the first commentator to publicly condemn Senator Joseph McCarthy. Although many of his stands were courageous, he attracted controversy and this often worried sponsors.












Edward R. Murrow



Books:             A Man Called Peter, Catherine Marshall; Lie Down in Darkness, William Styron; Desirée, Annemarie Selinko; From Here to Eternity, James Jones;

The Caine Mutiny, Herman Woulk; The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger


The King and I opens on Broadway


The white Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed decides to speculate on the success of Leo Mintz’s store and starts a radio program, “Moondog Rock’n’Roll Party”, that broadcasts black music to an audience of white teenagers

The first juke-box that plays 45 RPM records is introduced




Car seat belts introduced

Jacques Cousteau discovers ancient Greek ship

Polio Vaccine created

Princess Elizabeth becomes Queen at age 25

Simone De Beauvoir publishes The Second Sex

First contraceptive pill developed

Dr. Jonas Salk develops polio vaccine

Microwave ovens the size of refrigerators and costing $1,200 [$8,535.75 in 2005] go on sale.

3.0% unemployment (Oct)

Eleanor Roosevelt left her post at the United Nations to campaign for Adlai Stevenson against Dwight Eisenhower.



Tuskegee Institute reports that, for the first time in the 71 years it has been keeping records, there were no lynchings of African Americans during the year.


HUAC opens second wave of Hollywood hearings.



Ike and squad leader eat dinner President-elect Eisenhower in Korea, December 1952




Movies:            Limelight, High Noon, Moulin Rouge, The Greatest Show on Earth, Singin’ in the Rain

cover                       cover                 cover

Songs:              It Takes Two to Tango, Your Cheatin’ Heart, Wheel of Fortune

TV Shows:       Our Miss Brooks, Jackie Gleason Show, I Love Lucy, Dina Shore, Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, George Burns and Gracie Allen Show

Books:             The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemmingway; East of Eden, John Steinbeck; The Grass Harp, Truman Capote; The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale


Revised Standard Version of the Bible published


Alec Haley forms the Comets, the first rock and roll band

The Weavers, accused of being communists, are forced to dissolve

Sam Phillips founds Sun Records and declares “If I could find a white man who sings with the Negro feel, I’ll make a million dollars”




DNA discovered

Hillary and Norgay climb Mt. Everest

Playboy founded by Hugh Hefner

3.1% unemployment (Oct)


Joseph Stalin Dies

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg executed for espionage


Screen Writers Guild allows producers to remove screen credits for writers with Communist ties.  [See 1976 film, “The Front”:]

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible premieres.





Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Atoms for Peace”

December 8, 1953 (with audio)










Movies:            Roman Holiday, From Here to Eternity, The Robe (first major motion picture filmed in wide-screen CinemaScope)

Songs:              Doggie in the Window, I Believe, Stranger in Paradise, I Love Paris

TV Shows:       Twenty Questions, Red Skelton Show, GE Theatre, Make Room for Daddy

Books:             Casino Royale, Ian Fleming; Battle Cry, Leon Uris

TV Guide debuts with a cover of Lucille Ball and her newborn son, Desi Arnaz IV


Bill Haley’s Crazy Man Crazy is the first rock and roll song to enter the Billboard charts

The Orioles’ Crying in the Chapel is the first black hit to top the white pop charts

Sam Phillips records the first Elvis Presley record in his Sun studio of Memphis using two recorders to produce an effect of “slapback” audio delay


What Things Cost in 1953:                                        2005 equivalent using inflation index (consumer prices):

Car: $1,850                                                                  $ 12,876.01                            
Gasoline: 29 cents/gal                                                               2.02
House: $17,500                                                           
Bread: 16 cents/loaf                                                                  1.11
Milk: 94 cents/gal                                                                     6.54
Postage Stamp: 3 cents                                                               .21
Stock Market: 281
Average Annual Salary: $4,700                                       
Minimum Wage: 75 cents per hour                                            5.22





Britain sponsors an expedition to search for the Abominable Snowman

First atomic submarine launched

Report says cigarettes cause cancer

New York Stock Exchange prices reach their highest level since 1929

Roger Bannister breaks the four-minute mile







Henry Luce founded Sports Illustrated


In Brown v. Board of Education, the decision widely regarded as having sparked the modern civil rights era, the Supreme Court rules deliberate public school segregation illegal, effectively overturning “separate but equal” doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson. Chief Justice Earl Warren, writing for a unanimous Court, notes that to segregate children by race “generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.” Thurgood Marshall heads the NAACP/Legal Defense Fund team winning the ruling.

Hernandez v. Texas becomes the first Mexican American discrimination case to reach the Supreme Court. The case involves a murder conviction by a jury that includes no Latinos. Chief Justice Earl Warren holds persons of Mexican descent are “persons of a distinct class” entitled to the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment.


The phrase “under God” added to the Pledge of Allegiance


Abdul Nasser seizes power in Egypt

SEATO (Southeast Asia Treaty Organization) established

Eisenhower refers to “domino theory” regarding Southeast Asia

Vietnamese Communists occupy Dien Bien Phu and Hanoi

U.S. signs pact with Taiwan

U.S. tests hydrogen bomb at Bikini Atoll

Geneva Accords (U.S. does not sign) dividing Vitenam and calling for national elections

CIA aids in the overthrow of the Guatemalan government

6.1% unemployment (Sept)



Eisenhower at the World Council of Churches Second Assembly, Evanston, IL; John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State on his left.


March 9th Edward R. Murrow’s “See it Now” television program exposes McCarthy’s tactics and falsehoods.

Army-McCarthy hearings broadcast on two television networks between April 22 and June 17

McCarthy-Welch Exchange: “Have You No Sense of Decency”

June 9, 1954: (with audio)

Senate condemns Sen. Joe McCarthy (December 2)


Movies:            On the Waterfront, Rear Window, The Seven Samauri

cover                        cover                        cover

Songs:              Hernando’s Hideaway, Three Coins in a Fountain, Mister Sandman, Young at Heart

TV Shows:       Jack Benny Show, Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, George Gobel Show, Mr. Wizard, Disneyland

Books:             A Stillness at Appomattox, Bruce Catton; The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien; Lord of the Flies, William Golding



Joe Turner cuts the blues novelty Shake Rattle And Roll

The record companies switch from 78 RPMs to 45 RPMs

The first Newport Jazz Festival is held, the first jazz festival in the world





James Dean Dies in Car Accident

McDonald’s Corporation Founded

Ford Motor Co. introduces Thunderbird

Alan Ginsberg publishes “Howl”

Davy Crockett (introduced in Dec. 1954) becomes a national fad; sales of “coonskin” caps soar

Buddy Ebsen (left) is George Russel, while Fess Parker plays Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier.

Disneyland opens in Anaheim, CA

AFL and CIO merge into one union of unions

President Eisenhower hospitalized for 3 weeks after heart attack (Sept-Oct)

4.7 unemployment (April)

Rudolph Flesch publishes Why Johnny Can’t Read


  March 28, 1955 IBM’s Thomas Watson, Jr.    June 25, 1955 Walter Reuther


Stan Musial  Stan Musial


"Be sure to give mine special attention"

The baby boom generation pushed the limits of available school resources, contributing to overcrowding, substandard buildings, and teacher shortages. President Dwight Eisenhower hosted the first White House Conference on Education shortly after this cartoon appeared but he hesitated to secure needed funding.

Image of Herblock's ""Be sure to give mine special attention"

Herblock, November 23, 1955



U.S. announces plans to orbit man-made satellite

Soviet Union announces plans to orbit man-made satellite

Albert Einstein (shown here in 1940 getting his American citizenship) dies in April at age 76.


Warsaw Pact Signed

Italy, W. Germany, and France establish European Union

W. Germany joins NATO


Rosa Parks refuses to move to the back of a Montgomery, Alabama, bus as required by city ordinance; boycott follows.

Interstate Commerce Commission bans segregation on interstate trains and buses.


Disneyland Gets Its Last Touches

(July 9, 1955, The New York Times)

(Anaheim, Calif. July 8) - The final fantastic touches are being put on Disneyland. The $16,500,000 amusement park created by Walt Disney, the film producer, is scheduled to open July 18.  It covers sixty acres and is calculated to draw about 5,000,000 visitors a year.  Disneyland is situated in this citrus-ranching suburb twenty-two miles from Los Angeles. For it the appellation "amusement park" is inadequate; for it has no such banalities as rollercoasters, Ferris wheels and dodge-'ems in a milieu of honky tonk.  In concept, it is an integrated juvenile world's fair of fantasy. The entrance gate takes you into "Main Street - U.S.A." - a re-creation of the typical American town of 1890. Like everything else in the park, down to railroad trains and park benches, "Main Street", is built on a five-eighths scale. …[]




Movies:            Mister Roberts, Lady and the Tramp, Strategic Air Command, The Seven Year Itch

cover            cover           cover

Rebel Without A Cause and Blackboard Jungle establish a new role model for teenagers, the rebellious loner and sometimes juvenile delinquent


August 29, 1955



Songs:              Rock Around the Clock, The Yellow Rose of Texas, Davy Crockett, Love is a Many Splendored Thing

TV Shows:       Truth or Consequences, Lawrence Welk Show, The Honeymooners, Gunsmoke, Name that Tune, $64,000 Question, Lassie, You’ll Never Get Rich

Books:             The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Sloan Wilson; Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov; Witness for the Prosecution, Agatha Christie


Pete Seeger releases the first album of African music by a white musician, Bantu Choral Folk Songs




Elvis on Ed Sullivan’s Show [ELVIS]

Grace Kelly marries Prince Rainier III of Monaco

T.V. Remote Control invented

Velcro introduced

President Eisenhower signs bill authorizing Interstate Highway System

More Americans working in white collar jobs than in blue collar jobs

4.4% unemployment (July)

IN GOD WE TRUST declared the national motto


Hungarian Revolution—Soviet troops enter Hungary

Khrushchev denounces Stalin

Suez Crisis

Pakistan becomes a Muslim nation

Japan joins United Nations


Coalition of Southern congressmen calls for massive resistance to Supreme Court desegregation rulings

Montgomery bus boycott ends in victory, December 21, after the city announces it will comply with a November Supreme Court ruling declaring segregation on buses illegal

Earlier in the year, Martin L. King’s home bombed

Autherine Lucy is first African American admitted to the University of Alabama


Playwright Arthur Miller appears before HUAC, but does not “name names.” (The following year, Miller is convicted of contempt of Congress.)




  President Eisenhower and Indian Prime Minister Nehru at the White House, December, 1956






Movies:            The Ten Commandments, Lust for Life, Around the World in 80 Days, The Man with the Golden Arm, The Seventh Seal, Invasion of the Body          Snatchers, The Searchers


cover            cover                 cover           











Songs:              Don’t Be Cruel, Blue Suede Shoes, Hound Dog, I Could Have Danced All Night, On the Street Where You Live

TV Shows:       Danny Thomas Show, Perry Como Show, Ed Sullivan Show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, December Bride, This is Your Life


NBC News with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley (show began in 1948; Huntley and Brinkley would work together until 1970, when Huntley died.  Top-rated news show.



David Brinkley                          Chet Huntley





Books:             Peyton Place, Grace Metalious; Profiles in Courage, John F. Kennedy; The Last Hurrah, Edwin O’Connor; The Organization Man, W.H. Whyte


My Fair Lady opens in New York


Artist Jackson Pollock dies



Heartbreak Hotel starts Presley-mania

The rock’n’roll music of white rockers is called “rockabilly” (rock + hillbilly)

The popularity of rock and roll causes the record industry to boom and allows independent labels to flourish





Dr. Seuss Publishes The Cat in the Hat


New York Giants move to San Francisco; Brooklyn Dodgers move to Los Angeles

“Beatnik” used to describe “Beat Generation” counterculture movement

5.2% unemployment (Dec)

U.S. Treasury begins adding IN GOD WE TRUST to all currency (coins, in an intermittent fashion, had the motto since the Civil War)

Births per thousand begin decline, signaling decline of “Baby Boom” (c. 1963/1964 ended)

European Economic Community Established

Soviet Satellite Sputnik Launches Space Age    Sputnik I

Laika Becomes the First Living Animal to Orbit Space



International Atomic Energy Agency established

Great Britain explodes thermonuclear bomb

“Eisenhower Doctrine” pledges U.S. will defend the Middle Eastern nations against communism


Pres. Eisenhower suffers a stroke (Nov.); has difficulty speaking for over a month


AFL-CIO expel Teamsters for ties to organized crime


  February 18, 1957

Arkansas Gov. Orval Rubus uses National Guard to block nine black students from attending a Little Rock High School; following a court order, President Eisenhower sends in federal troops to ensure compliance.

Image: Caption follows  Little Rock Nine” Copyprint. NAACP Collection, Prints and Photographs Division. LC-USZ62-119154 (9-18b) Courtesy of the NAACP


Congress enacts first significant Civil Rights legislation in 82 years—since Reconstruction.  It established a Civil Rights Commission and a civil rights division in the Department of Justice and furnished a weak process for protecting voting rights.  Pres. Eisenhower, who had supported the initial, stronger bill, admitted publicly that he did not understand parts of the bill that passed



U.S. Supreme Court, in a series of decisions, essentially halt Smith Act indictments (over 140 communist leaders had been indicted)

John Henry Faulk (with financial help from Edward R. Murrow) fights blacklisting of radio artists by AWARE (wins suit in 1962).



Movies:            The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Prince and the Showgirl, Twelve Angry Men, Love in the Afternoon; The Spirit of St. Louis

And God Created Woman, a film starring Bridgette Bardot, becomes a controversial sensation; many communities ban the film based on its supposed sexual content


                  cover     cover


Songs:              Young Love, Tonight, Wake Up Little Suie, That’ll Be the Day, Jailhouse Rock

TV Shows:       Phil Silvers Show, Father Knows Best, Price is Right, American Bandstand, Twenty-One, Leave it to Beaver, Nat “King” Cole Show


Books:             On the Road, Jack Kerouac; Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand


West Side Story and The Music Man open in New York


Humphrey Bogart dies


Max Mathews begins composing computer music at Bell Laboratories

Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat launches “calypso”




Boris Pasternak refuses Nobel Prize

Hope Diamond is donated to the Smithsonian

Hula Hoops Become Popular

Lego Toy Bricks First Introduced

Arnold Palmer wins his first Masters golf tournament

U.S. launches man-made satellite, Explorer I

NASA founded


7.5% unemployment (July)

The Boeing 707.

Boeing B707 America’s first commercial jet airliner delivered



“Massive resistance” spreads through the South              

  (click photo) White high school students at makeshift school, Fall, 1958 The Charlottesville Daily Progress


Vice President Nixon tour of South America met with protests



Chinese Leader Mao Zedong Launches the “Great Leap Forward”

European Common Market established

Khruschev leads USSR

Charles de Gaulle becomes President of France

U.S. Marines sent to Lebanon


Movies:            Auntie Mame, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Defiant Ones, The Old Man and the Sea

cover                        cover                       cover

TV Shows:       You Asked for It, Wagon Train, To Tell the Truth, The Rifleman, Donna Reed Show, Have Gun Will Travel

Songs:              Catch a Falling Star, Chipmunk Song, Volare, The Purple People Eater, At the Hop

Books:             A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry; Exodus, Leon Uris; Dr. Zhivago, Boris Pasternak; Masters of Deceit, J. Edgar Hoover; Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote;

The Affluent Society, John K. Gailbraith

The “Cha Cha” becomes a dance craze

New York’s Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, opens


The film company Warner Brothers enters the recording business

The Kingstone Trio’s Tom Dooley launches the folk revival



The Sound of Music Opens on Broadway

U.S. Quiz Shows Found to be Fixed


Studies determine that more Americans have died in auto accidents than in all U.S. wars combined


Toy manufacturer Wham-O introduces the “Frisbee”


Barbie doll introduced

                                    Vintage Barbie





Alaska and Hawaii are admitted as states.

Hawaii, the 50th state, elects Hiram Fong (of Chinese ancestry) and Daniel Inouye (of Japanese ancestry) to represent them in Congress, the first two Asian Americans to serve in that body.


5.8% unemployment (November)


Castro Becomes Dictator of Cuba

Cuban President Fidel Castro smoking a Cohiba                      1959 - Castro & Nixon  April 1959, 2 months after Castro takes control in Cuba



International Treaty Makes Antarctica Scientific Preserve

U.S. and Canada complete St. Lawrence Seaway

Kitchen Debate Between Nixon and Khrushchev [link]


[Graphic] Photo 1 with link to higher quality photo.  President Eisenhower and Nikita Khrushchev Camp David September 1959  (National Park Service)



Movies:            The Entertainer, Rio Bravo, Some Like It Hot, North By Northwest, Ben Hur, Sleeping Beaut,y Suddenly Last Summer,  Anatomy of a Murder, Hiroshima Mon Amour


cover            cover            cover


Songs:              Mack the Knife, High Hopes, Personality, Kansas City, Battle of New Orleans

TV Shows:       Maverick, Rawhide, Fibber McGee and Molly, Peter Gunn, Real McCoys, Dennis the Menace

The Dobie Gillis Show premiers [], with “Beatnik” character Maynard G. Krebs (Bob Denver) in supporting role

Comedian Lenny Bruce appears on The Steve Allen Show []

Books:             Goodbye, Columbus, Philip Roth; Goldfinger, Ian Fleming; The Miracle Worker, William Gibson; The Status Seekers, Vance Packard; The Tin Drum, Günter Grass; Advise and Consent, Allen Drury


The Drifters’ There Goes My Baby introduces Latin rhythm into pop music

Buddy Holly dies at 22 in a plane crash


Since 1955, the US market share of the four “majors” has dropped from 78% to 44%, while the market share of independent record companies increased from 22% to 56%

Since 1955, the US market has increased from 213 million dollars to 603 million, and the market share of rock and roll has increased from 15.7% to 42.7%



Television sets sold:  5,749,000 this year  (85.9% of all households)

45,750,000 U.S. homes have television sets




What Things Cost in 1959:                                            2005 equivalent using inflation index (consumer prices):
Car: $2,200                                                                  $ 
Gasoline: 30 cents/gal                                                              1.92
House: $18,500                                                             
Bread: 20 cents/loaf                                                                  1.28
Milk: $1.01/gal                                                                         6.45
Postage Stamp: 4 cents                                                                .26
Stock Market: 679
Average Annual Salary: $5,500                                        
Minimum Wage: $1.00 per hour                                                6.39






Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho Released

Lasers Invented

U.S.-French team aboard the deep-sea vessel Trieste dives to a record 35,800 feet in the Pacific

First studies linking cigarette smoking with heart disease

6.6% unemployment (December)

Church membership reaches 63% (114.5 million) (up from 50% in 1940)


Congo becomes independent of Belgium

Cyprus becomes independent republic

Soviet Union shoots down an American U-2 reconnaissance airplane over Soviet airspace and captures pilot Gary Powers; U.S. admit to spying over USSR


February 1, Lunch counter sit-in by four college students in Greensboro, N.C. begins and spreads through the South.

On April 17, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is founded. 

Congress approves a watered-down voting rights act after a filibuster by Southern senators.  The Civil Rights Commission (from the 1957 act) was retained, but the Southern politicians prevented establishment of Federal registrars in the states.



Movies:            Psycho, Spartacus, La Dolce Vita, Inherit the Wind, Swiss Family Robinson

cover            cover               cover

Songs:              Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, Let’s Do the Twist, Never on Sunday, Teen Angel, Stay, Are You Lonesome Tonight

TV Shows:       Perry Mason, Bonanza, My Three Sons, The Untouchables, Andy Griffith Show, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Walt Disney Presents

Books:             The Affair, C.P. Snow; The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Allan Sillitoe; To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee; Rabbit, Run, John Updike; The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William L. Shirer

The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back, Bob Newhart.  Second comedy album to hit top of the charts (prequel, The Button-Down Mind was the first); wins 3 Grammy Awards (Best Album, Best New Artist, Best Comedy Performance) the following year.


Twist is the biggest dance-craze in the year of the dance-crazes

Pioneering rock-and-roll DJ Alan Freed arrested in national investigation of “payola” in radio industry

Larry Parnes, Britain’s most famous impresario, arranges a show for the Silver Beetles in Liverpool

The word “reggae” is coined in Jamaica to identify a “ragged” style of dance music, with its roots in New Orleans rhythm and blues





Dwight D. Eisenhower: Farewell Address, January 17, 1961: (with audio)

John F. Kennedy: Inaugural Address delivered January 20, 1961: (with audio)



Population:     Total                           Growth Rate               Increase

World:              3,080,063,747             1.80                             56,018,983

U.S.:                   183,691,000             1.67                                3,020,000


Barbie doll introduced in Europe

First commercially available integrated circuits

7.1% unemployment (May)


Daniel Boorstin publishes The Image (New York: Vintage, 1961), an incisive critique of the media and “pseudo events”:


Adolf Eichmann on Trial for Role in Holocaust

Bay of Pigs Invasion

Berlin Wall Built

Peace Corps Founded

Soviets Launch First Man in Space

[Alan Shepard portrait]NASA launches Alan Shepard in Freedom 7, first American human suborbital flight            








Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) organizes Freedom Rides into the South to test new Interstate Commerce Commission regulations and court orders barring segregation in interstate transportation. Riders are beaten by mobs in several places, including Birmingham and Montgomery, Ala.




Movies:            The Hustler, 101 Dalmatians, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, West Side Story, The Misfits, The Absent Minded Professor, Splendor in the Grass

cover            cover           cover                       

Songs:              Moon River, Where the Boys Are, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, Blue Moon, The Lion Sleeps Tonight

TV Shows:       Bullwinkle, Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, Hazel, Dick Van Dyke Show, Top Cat

Books:             Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein; Catch-22, Joseph Heller; The Carpetbaggers, Harold Robbins; The Making of the President: 1960, Theodore White; The Agony and the Ecstasy,

 Irving Stone; The Winter of Our Discontent, John Steinbeck


Bob Dylan arrives at New York’s Greenwich Village

British bluesman Alexis Korner forms the Blues Incorporated, with a rotating cast that will include Charlie Watts, John Surman, John McLaughlin, Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richard, Eric Burdon, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, etc.

The Tokens’ The Lion Sleeps Tonight uses operatic singing, Neapolitan choir, yodel, proto-electronics

The Beach Boys’ release Surfin in December and launch surf-music





Sources:  Harry S Truman Library and Museum  About 20th Century History  Piero Scaruffi’s History of Rock Music  American Experience Vietnam (PBS) American Experience The Presidents (PBS)  Television History—The First 75 Years  The Inflation Calculator;;  U.S. Census Bureau  History  Life Convention Gallery  U.S. Senate Art & History homepage  U.S. House of Representatives history home page  PBS American Masters:  Arthur Miller  The Greatest Films  The University Loyalty Oath:  A 50th Anniversary Perspective  Museum of Broadcast Communications  NASA History Division  PBS American Masters:  Edward R. Murrow  American Rhetoric Online Speech Bank  U.S. Department of State  unemployment statistics for political conventions  U.S. Treasury Fact Sheet  Bob Hope and USO  Voices of the Civil Rights Movement Aviation History On-line  The Time 100 The Fifties Index  Official Peanuts Web Site