America in the 1950’s was similar in a way to the Roaring 20’s, in that it was generally a post-war time of overall good times throughout the states. The brief Korean war did take place early in the decade, but while the war has to this day never been officially declared over, the conflict had subsided substantially by 1953, thanks to the brand new President Dwight D. Eisenhower. During his term, Eisenhower authorized the interstate highway system, a multiple highway road system throughout the United States that connects many different states, in some cases the whole country, by one highway. This marked a major turning point in American transportation, as automobiles had become increasingly popular since the end of World War II.
Another important aspect of American culture in the 1950’s was the still-increasing popularity of motion pictures. Several films released throughout the decade became very successful, and also introduced some new production principles that would eventually become industry standard. These included the earliest uses of chroma-key, as well as other visual effects. Popular films of the era included Rear Window (1954),The Ten Commandments (1956), and Vertigo (1958). The Ten Commandments was, at the time, the most expensive film ever to be created, coming it at about $123,000,000 in today’s dollars, which is today only slightly higher than average, but was an unprecedented amount at the time.
As I previously mentioned, the interstate freeway system was approved by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. This marked a revolutionary transition in transportation in America, and inter-state and even cross-country travel by automobile was now easier than ever. Cars took on a new style in the 1950’s, often bearing large fins along the back sides near the trunk. Chevrolet Corvettes were popular, as was the Ford Thunderbird. Import cars would not be a popular trend in America until the 1990’s, when Japanese imports would be wildly popular.
In 1959, the 49th and 50th of the United States were admitted into the union. These states were Alaska and Hawaii, neither of which were attached to the continental United States. Alaska is, by far, the largest of the United States, and is attached to northwestern Canada. Its westernmost island is just two miles from Russia’s easternmost island, but the two are separated by the international date line. Thus, if someone were to stand on the Little Dimoede island in Alaska, they might be able to see directly into the future if the visibility is clear. Hawaii is a state made of dozens of small islands located in the Pacific ocean, southwest of the continental United States.
The last major cultural development of the 1950’s in America I will mention here is the civil rights movement. During this decade, almost everything in the country was segregated–schools, transportation, and sports–to name a few. The civil rights movement officially began in 1954, in an effort to abolish racial discrimination against African-Americans and other racial groups. This came just under a century after the Emancipation Proclamation, which had accomplished a similar task–freeing black slaves.
Now, during the late 1950’s and into the mid-1960’s, the American civil rights movement sought to abolish the racial discrimination that had evidently not left the country in the 1860’s. It was back in 1949 that the first African-American to ever play in Major League Baseball made his debut. The result of the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s was the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which was described as “an Act to prescribe penalties for certain acts of violence or intimidation, and for other purposes.”
In conclusion, the 1950’s were yet another time of cultural change and development, in many aspects, including cinema, transportation, and civil rights. After this period, another cultural downturn would strike, as with the 1960’s came an America counterculture, as well as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, followed by war in Vietnam. Until next time, thank you for reading, and please be sure to provide any feedback or point out any errors you may have spotted in the comments.