The 50’s Culture: 1. a. The totality of socially transmitted behavioral patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought. 2. b. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community,or population. 3. c. These patterns, trairs, and products considered with respect to a particular category, such as a field, subject, or mode of expression. Culture can further be broken down into five catergories: Social,Health, Technological, Political, and Entertainment issues. In order to fullyunderstand a decade, all of these issues must be discussed and understood. How can one expect to understand the 50s if one cannot understand theissues and incidences which made it what it was? Social At the start of the decade, racial segregation was a fact of life inmost of the U.S. Although the army under President Truman s orders, hadbeen integrated in 1948, pressures on the home front continued to point toan unavoidable conclusion. The battle front of segregation was to be thepublic schools. – As long as I am governor, Negroes will not be admitted to white schools. -Georgia s Gov. Herman Talmadge– …if segregation is abolished the American army will march in armed rebellion. -Grand Dragon Bill Hendrix of the KKK– …if the court changes what is now the law of the land so that we cannot maintain segregation…we will abandon the public school system. To do so would be the lesser of two great evils. -South Carolina Gov. Jimmy Byrnes In December of 1952, the Supreme court listened for three days toarguments on the US s most controversial social issue: racial segregation inthe public school system. At that point in time, segregation was mandatoryunder the laws of seventeen states and was legal, if so desired by the localdistricts in four others. The primary goal of these arguments by theN.A.A.C.P. ( National Association For the Advancement of Colored People)was to force the courts beyond the separate but equal ruling laid down in1896 in the Plessy Vs. Ferguson case. At 12:30 P.M. on May 17, 1954, theSupreme Court unanimously ruled that racial segregation in public schoolsviolated the Constitution. The fight for racial equality continued throughout the decade. In1956, Autherine Juanita Lucy, 26, became the first Negro ever admitted toa white public school or University in the state of Alabama. Other studentsthrew rocks and eggs at her, and the car which was escorting her from classto class. The crowd reverberated with cries of , Hey hey, ho, ho. Autherine must go. After her second class she couldn t even leave thebuilding. Later, the state police escorted her to her home. Anotherinfamous incident occurred in Little Rock, AK in 1957. Nine high schoolstudents were kept from entering an all white public high school for threedays. U.S. troops were finally called in by President Eisenhower to allow thechildren into the building. The final showdown occurred in 1956, when Mrs. Rosa Parks, a42-year-old Negro seamstress, refused to give up her seat on the bus to awhite man. Her actions prompted a Negro boycott on bus traveling whichwas 95% effective. This ultimately led to the emergence of Martin LutherKing Jr. as a prominent spokesperson for the movement. In November of1956, the Supreme Court ruled that the separate but equal laws were aslegally dead for public transportation as for public schools. At decade s end,the drive for civil rights was beginning to build momentum for the climacticefforts of the 1960s. Health Epidemic In the early 1950s, paralytic poliomyelitis was the terrifying scourgeof American families. 1952 was polio s peak year with over 57,879 casesreported and 3,145 deaths. In 1953, testing began for the production of a polio vaccine. The nextyear, 1,830,000 children participated in validation tests in the hopes toprove the worth of the new vaccine. 440,000 children were inoculated. Aplacebo group of 210,000 received a dummy shot (testing whether thevaccine just played a part in mental healing). 1,180,000 children wereobserved as a control group. Of those 1,830,000, only 1,013 developed polioin 1954. The vaccine was proven to be 90% effective. Even as early as 1951, scientists were working diligently to overcomecancer. In 1951, a patient received the first series of treatments by thefirst Cobalt Bomb. It was developed by scientists to fight cancer, yethistory shows us that it was also the strongest source of radioactivity everused in any country for a peaceful purpose. In 1953 another huge break through in the medical field occurred. Dr. J. H. Gibbon Jr. of Philadelphia created and utilized the first heart-lungmachine. This machine did the work of the heart and continued to pumpoxygenated blood to the body, while allowing the doctor to be more accuratein his operation with no blood in the heart. The patient was hooked to the
machine for 45 minutes. The machine breathed and pumped blood for herfor 26 of those minutes. Innovations and Breakthroughs The 1950s were a time of technological breakthroughs, not only in thearea of medicine, but in every day life as well. Many of the comforts andconveniences we take for granted today were just becoming a part of everyday life in the 1950s. The refrigerator, for example, became a commonappliance in the home. The television also began its rise during this decade. It was seen more and more often in the average American home. By 195567% of American homes had a television. High speed freeways, jet travel,and rock n roll, all of which seemed unimaginable at the beginning of thecentury, all became reality by the end of the 50s. On Friday, May 29, 1953, the world s highest peak, Mr. Everest, wasconquered by England as mountaineer, E.P. Hillary planted the Union Jack onthe highest spot on earth. Alongside Britain s flag, he raised the U.N. flag,and the banner of Nepal, in whose territory Everest stands. Another exciting discovery occurred in 1954 on October 25. Thefirst fully transistorized radio was claimed by Regency, a division ofIndustrial Development Engineering Associates. This radio used fourtransistors instead of the old vacuum tubes. In 1956, Bell Telephone Laboratories created a large-capacityelectronic computer whose essential works occupied only three cubic feet ofspace instead of a good-sized room. This computer became the fore-runnerof the modern PC. Calder Hall, Britain s first atomic power station , was opened inOctober of 1956. This was the first one of its kind, and marked thebeginning of the atomic age. December of 1956 marked the birth of fiber optics . Dr. NarinderSingh Kapany made this singular discovery possible. His design made manyother technological break throughs possible. The Chicago drug manufacturers G.D. Searle and Co. created acontraceptive pill, commonly known today as the the pill in May of 1957. The USA was ushered into the commercial jet age in 1958 with thePan American Boeing 707. Mamie Eisenhower smashed a bottle of waterfrom the seven seas on the fuselage of the jet clipper at Washington sNational Airport. Throughout the 1950s, great leaps and bounds were occurring withinthe space program. NASA, National Aeronautic Space Administration, whichwas created in 1958, launched the USA into the space age in January of1958 with the launching of Explorer 1. Political Joseph Raymond McCarthy started the decade off with a heatedaccusation directed at the State Department in February of 1950. Hischarge was that the Department had been infiltrated by Communists. duringthe next three years, he repeatedly accused various high ranking officials ofshady activities. His accusations were never substantiated. As chairman ofthe Senate subcommittee on investigations, McCarthy continued to probefor proof of the alleged Communist activities. In April of 1954, he accusedthe Secretary of the Army of concealing foreign espionage activities. Inthe resulting investigations, McCarthy was cleared of all the charge theArmy had in turn charged him with, but was censured by the Senate for hisabuse of certain Senate subcommittees and his methods for obtaininginformation. From 50-52 Harry S. Truman was the head of government inWashington. As our 33rd president, he initiated the Cold War. The ColdWar, although not a military war, was a struggle between the U.S. and itsallies and the group of nations led by the Soviet Union. Stalin, the initiatingSoviet leader, died in 1953. Even as the non-military Cold War occurred, a bloody battle wasbeing fought in Korea. The Korean Conflict, though only three years induration (1950-1953) resulted in 157,530 American casualties. In 1953, America s 34th president, Dwight D. Eisenhower wasinaugurated. He served from 1953-1961. His popularity was based on hisstatus as a war hero. He was criticized for not stopping the McCarthyistsmear tactics, however he did effectively end the Korean Conflict and wasresponsible for sending troops to Little Rock to deal with the racial conflictat home. Entertainment The 1950s marked the birth of rock n roll. One name comes to mindimmediately, Elvis Aaron Presley. . . the King . Perhaps no other artist hasever equaled the fame achieved by this one man. His singing career began in1956 with Heartbreak Hotel followed by Hound Dog and Don t Be Cruel and in 1957 All Shook Up . The rest is history. Television was, of course, becoming increasingly popular. Actors likeCharlie Chaplin were making their fortunes off the American public. Actorslike Johnny Carson got their start with shows ( Who Do You Trust? ) whichbecame the forerunners for many of our modern talk shows. The number ofnational networks was increasing as everyone sought a piece of the fame andfortune of television. In conclusion, I would have to say that the 50s were a period oftransition. A transition from the poverty of the 30s and 40s to theaffluency which, to this day is still held by Americans. I believe thatAmerica is what it is today because of each individual time period in itshistory. The 50s played a large roll in shaping the America, and even theAmericans of today.