1950s

Top, L-R: U.S. Marines engaged in street fighting during the Korean War, circa late September 1950; Delegation of Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany attended signing ceremony of the Treaty of Rome at the Capitoline Hill, Italy; which lead formations of EEC, later known as European Union.
Centre, L-R: US tested its first thermonuclear bomb with code name Castle Romeo as part of Operation Castle on March 27, 1954; In 1959, Fidel Castro overthrew Fulgencio Batista in the Cuban Revolution, which resulted in the creation of the first communist government in the Western hemisphere; Elvis Presley became the leading figure of the newly popular music genre of rock and roll in the mid-1950s.
Bottom, L-R: Smoke rises from oil tanks on Port Said following invasion of Israel, United Kingdom and France to Egypt as part of Suez Crisis in late 1956; French paratroopers marched in Algiers in the beginning of Algerian War, 1957; Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite to orbit the earth, on October 1957.
Millennium: 2nd millennium
Centuries:
Decades:
Years:
Categories:

The 1950s (pronounced nineteen-fifties; commonly abbreviated as the '50s or Fifties) was a decade of the Gregorian calendar that began on January 1, 1950, and ended on December 31, 1959.

By its end, the world had largely recovered from World War II and the Cold War developed from its modest beginning in the late-1940s to a hot competition between the United States and the Soviet Union by the early-1960s.

Clashes between communism and capitalism dominated the decade, especially in the Northern Hemisphere. The conflicts included the Korean War in the beginnings of the decade and the beginning of the Space Race with the launch of Sputnik 1. Along with increased testing of nuclear weapons (such as RDS-37 and Upshot–Knothole), this created a politically conservative climate. In the United States, the Second Red Scare caused Congressional hearings by both houses in Congress and anti-communism was the prevailing sentiment in the United States throughout the decade. The beginning of decolonization in Africa and Asia took place in this decade and accelerated in the following decade.

Wars and conflicts[]

Internal conflicts[]

Fidel Castro becomes the leader of Cuba as a result of the Cuban Revolution
Raúl Castro (left), with his arm around his second-in-command, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, in their Sierra de Cristal mountain stronghold in Oriente Province, Cuba, in 1958

Decolonization and Independence[]

Prominent political events[]

Notable world leaders[]

Note: Names of world leaders shown below in bold remained in power continuously throughout the decade.

International issues[]

Africa[]

America[]

The maximum territorial extent of countries in the world under Soviet influence, after the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and before the official Sino-Soviet split of 1961

Asia[]

Europe[]

Disasters[]

Natural:

Non-natural:

Economics[]

Inflation was moderate during the decade of the 1950s. The first few months had a deflationary hangover from the 1940s but the first full year ended with what looked like the beginnings of massive inflation with annual inflation rates ranging from 8% to 9% a year. Fortunately, by 1952 inflation subsided. 1954 and 1955 flirted with deflation again but the remainder of the decade had moderate inflation ranging from 1% to 3.7%. The average annual inflation for the entire decade was only 2.04%.[3]

Religion[]

On November 1, 1950, in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, the Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption of Mary as a dogma:

By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

Pope Pius XII deliberately left open the question of whether Mary died before her Assumption.

Before the dogmatic definition, in Deiparae Virginis Mariae Pope Pius XII sought the opinion of Catholic Bishops and a large number of them pointed to the Book of Genesis (3:15) as scriptural support for the dogma. In Munificentissimus Deus Pius XII referred to the "struggle against the infernal foe" as in Genesis 3:15 and to "complete victory over the sin and death" as in the Letters of Paul as a scriptural basis for the dogmatic definition, Mary being assumed to heaven as in 1 Corinthians 15:54: "then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory".

Science and technology[]

Technology[]

30k USSR postage stamp depicting Sputnik 1

The recently invented transistor, though initially quite feeble, had clear potential and was rapidly improved and developed at the beginning of the 1950s by companies such as GE, RCA, and Philco. The first commercial transistor production started at the Western Electric plant in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in October, 1951 with the point contact germanium transistor. It wasn't until around 1954 that transistor products began to achieve real commercial success with small portable radios.

Television, which first reached the marketplace in the 1940s, attained maturity during the 1950s and by the end of the decade, most American households owned a TV set. A rush to produce larger screens than the tiny ones found on 1940s models occurred during 1950–52. In 1954, RCA intro Bell Telephone Labs produced the first Solar battery. In 1954, you could get a yard of contact paper for only 59 cents. Polypropylene was invented in 1954. In 1955, Jonas Salk invented a polio vaccine which was given to more than seven million American students. In 1956, a solar powered wrist watch was invented.

A surprise came in 1957: a 184-pound (83 kg) satellite named Sputnik 1 was launched by the Soviets. The space race began 4 months later as the United States launched a smaller satellite. In 1958 the first plastic Coke bottle appeared.

Operation Castle became the highest-yield nuclear test series ever conducted by the United States

Science[]

Popular culture[]

Music[]

Popular music in the early 1950s was essentially a continuation of the crooner sound of the previous decade, with less emphasis on the jazz-influenced big band style and more emphasis on a conservative, operatic, symphonic style of music. Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Frankie Laine, Patti Page, Judy Garland, Johnnie Ray, Kay Starr, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Dean Martin, Georgia Gibbs, Eddie Fisher, Teresa Brewer, Dinah Shore, Kitty Kallen, Joni James, Peggy Lee, Julie London, Toni Arden, June Valli, Doris Day, Arthur Godfrey, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Guy Mitchell, Nat King Cole, and vocal groups like the Mills Brothers, The Ink Spots, The Four Lads, The Four Aces, The Chordettes, The Fontane Sisters, The Hilltoppers and the Ames Brothers. Jo Stafford's "You Belong To Me" was the #1 song of 1952 on the Billboard Top 100 chart.

The middle of the decade saw a change in the popular music landscape as classic pop was swept off the charts by rock-and-roll. Crooners such as Eddie Fisher, Perry Como, and Patti Page, who had dominated the first half of the decade, found their access to the pop charts significantly curtailed by the decade's end.[4] doo-wop entered the pop charts in the 1950s. Its popularity soon spawns the parody "Who Put the Bomp".

Chuck Berry (1957) became a popular rock and roll musician

Rock-n-roll emerged in the mid-1950s with Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard, James Brown, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly, Bobby Darin, Ritchie Valens, Duane Eddy, Eddie Cochran, Brenda Lee, Bobby Vee, Connie Francis, Johnny Mathis, Neil Sedaka, Pat Boone and Ricky Nelson being notable exponents. In the mid-1950s, Elvis Presley became the leading figure of the newly popular sound of rock and roll with a series of network television appearances and chart-topping records. Chuck Berry, with "Maybellene" (1955), "Roll Over Beethoven" (1956), "Rock and Roll Music" (1957) and "Johnny B. Goode" (1958), refined and developed the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive, focusing on teen life and introducing guitar solos and showmanship that would be a major influence on subsequent rock music.[5] Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Everly Brothers, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, Johnny Horton, and Marty Robbins were Rockabilly musicians. Doo-wop was another popular genre at the time. Popular Doo Wop and Rock-n-Roll bands of the mid to late 1950s include The Platters, The Flamingos, The Dells, The Silhouettes, Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers, Little Anthony and The Imperials, Danny & the Juniors, The Coasters, The Drifters, The Del-Vikings and Dion and the Belmonts.

The new music differed from previous styles in that it was primarily targeted at the teenager market, which became a distinct entity for the first time in the 1950s as growing prosperity meant that young people did not have to grow up as quickly or be expected to support a family. Rock-and-roll proved to be a difficult phenomenon for older Americans to accept and there were widespread accusations of it being a communist-orchestrated scheme to corrupt the youth, although rock and roll was extremely market based and capitalistic.

Jazz stars in the 1950s who came into prominence in their genres called bebop, hard bop, cool jazz and the blues, at this time included Lester Young, Ben Webster, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Art Tatum, Bill Evans, Ahmad Jamal, Oscar Peterson, Gil Evans, Jerry Mulligan, Cannonball Adderley, Stan Getz, Chet Baker, Dave Brubeck, Art Blakey, Max Roach, the Miles Davis Quintet, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Nina Simone, and Billie Holiday.

The American folk music revival became a phenomenon in the United States in the 1950s to mid-1960s with the initial success of The Weavers who popularized the genre. Their sound, and their broad repertoire of traditional folk material and topical songs inspired other groups such as the Kingston Trio, the Chad Mitchell Trio, The New Christy Minstrels, and the "collegiate folk" groups such as The Brothers Four, The Four Freshmen, The Four Preps, and The Highwaymen. All featured tight vocal harmonies and a repertoire at least initially rooted in folk music and topical songs.

On 3 February 1959, a chartered plane transporting the three American rock and roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson goes down in foggy conditions near Clear Lake, Iowa, killing all four occupants on board, including pilot Roger Peterson. The tragedy is later termed "The Day the Music Died", popularized in Don McLean's 1972 song "American Pie". This event, combined with the conscription of Elvis into the US Army, is often taken to mark the point where the era of 1950s rock-and-roll ended.

Film[]

Cary Grant as Roger O. Thornhill in North by Northwest (1959)

European cinema experienced a renaissance in the 1950s following the deprivations of World War II. Italian director Federico Fellini won the first foreign language film Academy Award with La Strada and garnered another Academy Award with Nights of Cabiria. In 1955, Swedish director Ingmar Bergman earned a Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival with Smiles of a Summer Night and followed the film with masterpieces The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries. Jean Cocteau's Orphée, a film central to his Orphic Trilogy, starred Jean Marais and was released in 1950. French director Claude Chabrol's Le Beau Serge is now widely considered the first film of the French New Wave. Notable European film stars of the period include Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, Max von Sydow, and Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Japanese cinema reached its zenith with films from director Akira Kurosawa including Rashomon, Ikiru, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, and The Hidden Fortress. Other distinguished Japanese directors of the period were Yasujirō Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi. Russian fantasy director Aleksandr Ptushko's mythological epics Sadko, Ilya Muromets, and Sampo were internationally acclaimed as was Ballad of a Soldier, a 1959 Soviet film directed by Grigory Chukhray

In Hollywood, the epic Ben-Hur grabbed a record 11 Academy Awards in 1959 and its success gave a new lease of life to motion picture studio MGM.

The "Golden Era" of 3-D cinematography transpired during the 1950s.

Television[]

The 1950s are known as The Golden Age of Television by some people. Sales of TV sets rose tremendously in the 1950s and by 1950 4.4 million families in America had a television set. Americans devoted most of their free time to watching television broadcasts. People spent so much time watching TV, that movie attendance dropped and so did the number of radio listeners.[6] Television revolutionized the way Americans see themselves and the world around them. TV affects all aspects of American culture. "Television affects what we wear, the music we listen to, what we eat, and the news we receive."[7]

Art movements[]

In the early 1950s Abstract expressionism and artists Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning were enormously influential. However, by the late 1950s Color Field painting and Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko's paintings became more in focus to the next generation.

Pop art used the iconography of television, photography, comics, cinema and advertising. With its roots in dadaism, it started to take form towards the end of the 1950s when some European artists started to make the symbols and products of the world of advertising and propaganda the main subject of their artistic work. This return of figurative art, in opposition to the abstract expressionism that dominated the aesthetic scene since the end of World War II was dominated by Great Britain until the early 1960s when Andy Warhol, the most known artist of this movement began to show Pop Art in galleries in the United States.

Fashion[]

New ideas meant new designers who had a concept of what was fashion. Fashion started gaining a voice and style when Christian Dior created “The New Look” collection. The 1950s was not only about spending on luxurious brands but also the idea of being comfortable was created. It was a time where resources were available and it was a new type of fashion. Designers were creating collections with different materials such as: taffeta, nylon, rayon, wool and leather that allowed different colors and patterns. People started wearing artificial fibers because it was easier to take care of and it was price effective.[8] It was a time where shopping was part of a lifestyle.

Christian Dior: "The New Look"

Different designers emerged or made a comeback on the 1950s because as mention before it was a time for fashion and ideas. The most important designers from the time were:

Christian Dior: everything started in 1947 after World War II was over. Christian Dior found that there were a lot of resources in the market. He created the famous and inspirational collection named “The New Look.” This consisted on the idea of creating voluminous dresses that would not only represent wealth but also show power on women. This collection was the first collection to use 80 yards of fabric.[8] He introduced the idea of the hourglass shape for women; wide shoulders, tight waistline and then voluminous full skirts. Dior was a revolutionary and he was the major influence for the next collections. He is known for always developing new ideas and designs, which led to a rapid expansion and becoming worldwide known.[9] He had pressure to create innovative designs for each collection and Dior did manage to provide that to the consumers. He not only made the hourglass shape very famous but he also developed the H-line as well as the A and Y-Lines. Dior was a very important designer, he changed the way fashion was looked on the world but most importantly he reestablished Paris as a fashion capital.[9]

Cristobal Balenciaga: Cristobal Balenciaga a Spanish designer who opened his first couture house in 1915. In 1936 he went to Paris in order to avoid the Spanish Civil War, there he had inspiration for his fashion collections. His designs were an inspiration for emerging designers of the time. His legacy is as important as the one from Dior, revolutionaries.[9] He was known for creating sack dresses, heavy volumes and balloon skirts.[10] For him everything started when he worked for Marquesa de Casa Torre who became his patron and main source of inspiration. Marquesa de Casa Torre helped Balenciaga enter the world of couture.[9] His first suit was very dramatic. The suit consisted on cutout and cut-ins the waist over a slim skirt, something not seen before.[9] Balenciaga was a revolutionary designer who was not afraid to cut and let loose because he had everything under control. In 1950s and the 1960s his designs were well known for attention to color and texture. He was creating different silhouettes for women, in 1955 he created the tunic, 1957 the sack dress and 1958 the Empire styles.[11] He was known for moving from tailored designs to shapeless allowing him to show portion and balance on the bodies.[9] Showing that his designs evolved with time and maintained his ideologies.

Details on a Coco Chanel Suit

Coco Chanel: After World War II the famous designer reestablished herself. This time Chanel introduced very useful clothing for women, the boxy suit. The suits created in 1954 were special because of the unique tweeds that were made just for her.[12] Her ideology was to create comfort clothing that had function and made women look pretty and young. The suits had jackets, skirts and accessories such as hats and handbags.[13] Her style was well known over the world and her idea of having functional luxurious clothing influenced other designers from the era. Chanel believed that luxurious should come from being comfortable that is why her designers were so unique and different from the time period, she also achieved her looks by adding accessories such as pearl necklaces.[14] Chanel believed that even though Dior designs were revolutionary for the time period they did not managed to represent the women of the time. She believed women had to wear something to represent their survival to another war and their active roles in society.[15] Coming back from a closed house of fashion was not easy for Chanel and competing against younger designers.[15] The Chanel suit was known as a status symbol for wealthy and powerful women.[15] Chanel influenced over the years and her brand is still one of the most influential brands for fashion.

Paavo Nurmi and the Olympic flame in the opening ceremony of the 1952 Summer Olympics

Sports[]

Olympics[]

FIFA World Cups[]

The 1958 World Cup is notable for marking the debut on the world stage of a then largely unknown 17-year-old Pelé.

People[]

World leaders[]

Politics[]

Entertainers[]

Musicians[]

Bands[]

Sports figures[]

See also[]

Timeline[]

The following articles contain brief timelines which list the most prominent events of the decade:

1950195119521953195419551956195719581959

References[]

  1. ^ "The Pentagon Papers, Volume 1, Chapter 5, Section 3, "Origins of the Insurgency in South Vietnam, 1954–1960"". 
  2. ^ Stratton, J.M. (1969). Agricultural Records. John Baker. ISBN 978-0-212-97022-3. 
  3. ^ "Inflation and CPI Consumer Price Index 1950–1959". Inflation Data. InflationData.com. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  4. ^ R. S. Denisoff, W. L. Schurk, Tarnished gold: the record industry revisited (Transaction Publishers, 3rd edn., 1986), p. 13.
  5. ^ M. Campbell, ed., Popular Music in America: And the Beat Goes on (Cengage Learning, 3rd edn., 2008), pp. 168–9.
  6. ^ Kallen, Stuart (1999). A Cultural History of the United States. San Diego: Lucent. 
  7. ^ American History. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 11 Dec. 2012.
  8. ^ a b Thomas, Pauline. "1950s Fashion History 50s Glamour, Dior New Look". www.fashion-era.com. Retrieved 2016-10-31. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f Stevenson, N.J. (2012). Fashion: A Visual History from Regency & Romance to Retro & Revolution: A Complete Illustrated Chronology of Fashion from the 1800s to the Present Day. New York City: St. Martin's Griffin. 
  10. ^ "Cristobal Balenciaga : Fashion, History". theredlist.com. Retrieved 2016-10-31. 
  11. ^ "Cristóbal Balenciaga". LoveToKnow. Retrieved 2016-10-31. 
  12. ^ "Fashion History—Women's Clothing of the 1950s". Bellatory. Retrieved 2016-10-31. 
  13. ^ "Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel". LoveToKnow. Retrieved 2016-10-31. 
  14. ^ "Coco Chanel Biography". Biography.com. August 12, 2016. 
  15. ^ a b c Krick, Jessa. "Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (1883–1971) and the House of Chanel | Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art". The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Retrieved 2016-10-31. 

Further reading[]

United States[]

External links[]