The 1950s: American Pop Culture History


Ahhh, the 1950s: The decade of the baby boomer. Exciting times indeed.


The post-war baby boom was just the beginning. Unfortunately, paranoia about Communism made a lot of good people act bad. Racism was rampant in many parts of the country, but especially in the south.

Although baseball and Jackie Robinson started the integration process in 1947, it really became an integrated sport in the 1950s. Willie Mays and Hank Aaron were two African American baseball players that, at times, completely owned the sport.

If you’re name had two M’s in it you were a guaranteed star. Mickey Mantle, Marilyn Monroe and Mickey Mouse all were some of the most famous stars of them all.

Movies were still popular, but television was starting to take a chunk out of the film industry’s revenue. Every night families huddled around the TV to watch their favorite shows, which was usually a western like Gunsmoke or anything featuring Lucille Ball.

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Music in the early 1950s was much like the 1940s: crooners everywhere. And that’s not a bad thing, but apparently the kids thought it was. By the mid-1950s Elvis Presley’s new style, a sound that upset a LOT of parents, caught on like wildfire.

The 1950s
Don’t believe me? Look at the charts. Elvis completely dominated the late fifties. And the other artists that charted during his reign were rip-offs (I’m looking at you Conway Twitty). Guys like Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Chubby Checker all ushered in a brand new style of music people called “rock n’ roll.”

The household also became much more modern. Many appliances that we take for granted now were invented or perfected in the 1950s. Truly it was the decade of the modern American family, who finally had enough money to buy these new conveniences. The average middle class fifties household had a television, a dishwasher, electric appliances and much more.

Learn much more about the 1950s by reading our in-depth profiles below. We cover a wide range of topics like fashion, cars, sorts and much more.


In-Depth 1950s Profiles


Cars in the 1950s »

1950s cars were some of the most classy, exotic, powerful and unsafe cars ever made. Learn about the history of 1950s cars & browse over 150 pictures.
1950s Fashion

1950s Fashion: Styles, Trends, Pictures & History »

Fashion in the 1950s varied greatly from the beginning to end. There were many new styles as well as older styles that paid homage to the 1920s.
Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront (1954)

1950s Movies: What Did People Watch? »

The movie industry in the 1950s was under attack by a new foe: Television. Monroe, Dean and Loren were the hottest names in show business.
1950s TV Shows

1950s TV Shows: What Did People Watch? »

1950s television was led by sitcoms & game shows. Westerns & musicals were also hugely popular. Color TV was finally starting to gain some traction.
1950s Toys

1950s Toys: What Toys Were Popular in the 1950s? »

Many 1950s toys are quite valuable today. Research 1950s toys history here with a year-by-year timeline and 50+ pictures.

1950s Music: What Songs Were Most Popular? »

Global audiences for music in the 1950s were the largest in history. There was a noticeable broadening of the taste of listeners from Elvis to Bach.
Sports in the 1950 Collage by Paul Phipps

1950s Sports: History, Facts, MVPs & Champions »

Sports were very popular in the 1950s. Boxing was fueled by Marciano & Patterson. Cleveland was actually good at football & the Yankees were unstoppable.

Unique 1950s Pictures


1950s News Headlines

  • On October 3, 1951, New York Giants player Bobby Thomson hit a pennant-winning home run often called the “shot heard ’round the world.”
  • In 1953, Dr. Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine was proven effective in University of Pittsburgh tests.
  • Audrey Hepburn won an Academy Award in 1953 for her portrayal of Princess Ann in the movie Roman Holiday.
  • J.D. Salinger penned the book, Catcher In The Rye. It has become popular with adolescent readers for its themes of teenage angst and alienation.
  • Disneyland opened in 1955.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien publishes the Lord of the Rings.
  • Maxwell House company claimed in its advertisements to be “Good to the last drop.”
  • In 1954, Roger Bannister ran the first recorded sub-4 minute mile in human history.
  • In 1958, Bank of America launches the first credit card.
  • In 1958, the Saab GT750, manufactured in Sweden, becomes the first car to have seat belts.
  • The classic novel Animal Farm was written by George Orwell.
  • In 1957, Toyota sells the first Japanese car ever in the United States.
  • M&Ms new slogan begins: “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.”
  • In Montgomery, Alabama, a bus boycott begins after Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white person.
  • Charlton Heston captivates audiences in the 1959 film titled Ben-Hur.

Play the 1950s Trivia Game

Play the 1950s Trivia Game

1950s Statistics & Facts (U.S.)


U.S. Population: 149,188,000
– Urban/rural: 16/9
– Farm: 15.3%
Life Expectancy: Male (65.6), Female (71.1)
Births per 1,000: 24.1
Marriages per 1,000: 11.1
Divorces per 1,000: 2.6
Deaths per 1,000: 9.6
Deaths per 100,000:
– Heart: 502
– Cancer: 139
– Tuberculosis: 22
– Car accidents: 21.3


Unemployed: 3.288,000
GNP: $364.8 billion
Federal budget: $39.6 billion
National debt: $257.4 billion
Union membership: 14.8 million
Strikes: 4,843
Prime rate: 1.5%
Car sales: 6,665,800
Average salary: $2,992


Homicides per 100,000: 5.3
Suicides per 100,000: 11.4
Labor force male/female ratio: 5/2
Social welfare: $23.51 billion
Public education: $5.84 billion
College Degrees
– Bachelors: Male (328,000), Female (103,000)
– Doctorates: Male (6,969), Female (714)
– Movies (weekly): 60 million
– Baseball (annually): 17.6 million


Consumer Price Index (if 1967 = 100): 77.1
Eggs: 72 cents per dozen
Milk: 21 cents per quart
Bread: 14 cents per loaf
Butter: 60 cents per pound
Bacon: 64 cents per pound
Round steak: 94 cents per pound
Oranges: 52 cents per dozen
Coffee: 55 cents per pound


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8 thoughts on “The 1950s: American Pop Culture History

  1. Kitty

    I blog frequently and I truly appreciate your content. The article has truly peaked my interest. I am going to book mark your website and keep checking for new information about once per week. I subscribed to your Feed as well.

  2. Richie Dixon

    Dear creators and managers of,
    As somebody who wishes to live in the 1950’s, I am always researching and looking for movies, cars, and of course, music of that time period. I am a huge fan of doo-wop, as well as Elvis, and jazz music. I greatly appreciate your website and your content, as Kitty has mentioned above. I am fascinated about the information you have from so many time periods. Please, keep up your work! Do not think your website is never visited or not useful! It is extremely entertaining!
    Keep up the great work!
    Richie Dixon.

  3. Christine Stornable

    When I was about 4 I remember sitting on the floor of my great grandparents house my grandparents and my parents too. The show was Liberace. Another of their favorites was The Lawrence Welk show. I was too young and too outnumbered to change the channel. Besides those were the days when kids were seen and not heard. Teen music from Neil Sadaka Richie Valens the Everly Brothers. My sister’s favorite song Wake up Little Susie. Paul Anka Fats Domino Chubby Checker and who didn’t know how to do the twist the jitter bug and the stroll. Don’t forget Barbie.

  4. Christine Stornable

    Cartoons and these are very obscure but they were out there. Felix the Cat Dick Tracy Little Lulu and Baby Huey Clyde Crashcup David Seville and the 3 chipmunks Alvin Simon and Theodore. A blind 12 year old black kid named Little Stevie Wonder sang Felice Navidad at Christmas. We drank from garden hoses never wore seat belts everything but the towels were starched and ironed. No panty hose blow dryers curling irons but lots of hair spray and Dippity Doo. What little girl doesn’t remember Betsy Mc Call cut out dolls in the middle of Mc Calls magazine every month.

  5. Christine Stornable

    Leave it to Beaver Dennis the menace As the World Turns and that underwater adventure show with Loyd Bridges and his 2 sons Beau Bridges and Jeff Bridges do those names sound familiar? The Adventures of Jamie McPheters Huntley Brinkley evening news telephones were black and heavy. There were party lines where 2 different customers would share the same number. Whenever you picked up the phone you had to check if the other person was using the line. We had a refrigerator with the motor on top and a wringer washer. The dryer was a pully clothes line outside. Every Saturday night when I was very little about 5 or 6 I would put my mom’s and grandma’s here up in pin curls with bobby pins while the watched Lawrence Welk. Colgate Toothpaste was green. There was Hop Along Cassidy the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans show with Trigger. The Lone Ranger and Tonto. Queen for a Day

  6. Glenda Rider

    I’ve been researching the 50’s since I am coordinating our high school’s 62nd reunion (a bit late for the 60th). I was so delighted to find your site and it brought back so many memories. Do the math – our class is now or approaching 80 this year. When I tell the little ones that there was no TV when I was a child, they look amazed. My parents bought our first TV in 1948 when I was 12 and, if you’re old enough, you’ll remember all TV programming stopped at the end of the evening. I went through the fashion of circle skirts over crinolines so huge you just about fit through a doorway — the bigger the better, and ballerina slippers were very “in.” The teen years in the 50’s were great. There was a popular disc jockey, Martin Block, who I listened to on the radio (pre-TV) who hated the growing popularity of the new “rock and roll” sound (which, if I recall, didn’t really grow into its full popularity until the late 50’s) and he swore it was a fad and wouldn’t last. Was he ever wrong. My friends and I were very big on the doo op groups and I still love the sound. Glad I found you guys.

  7. Ann Hunt

    I was only a small child during the 1950’s. I’m a published author and would love to use some information from RetroWaste with your permission in my new book about the 1950’s in America. I will of course give every website and author credit in my end notes. I’ve done a great deal of research about this decade. Thank you so much.

  8. Leah

    This is a wonderful website full of clear information. I GREATLY appreciate this website and everything about it. There’s no crazy pop up adds and everything is clearly marked. I love this website, and I WILL be using it much more often!! <3


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