What Were Your Ancestors Doing?

What Were Your Ancestors Doing in the 1950s?

The 1950s were a decade of economic prosperity and cultural change. The modern world as we know it truly came into being. New inventions, cultural changes, and even the emergence of a new, recognized age group all made the world of America most closely resemble the world we know today than any previous decade. These are some of the most important things that happened in the 1950s.

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The 1950s were an exciting decade, especially in the United States. WWII was over, and American life could begin anew, and better than before. While there were new political situations like the Cold War to contend with, there were also amazing things everyone could enjoy, like the space race and the invention of rock and roll music. If you have ancestors who were around in the 1950s, they were probably having a good time, contributing to the baby boom and enjoying an unprecedented time of American prosperity and security. These are some things your 1950s ancestors may have enjoyed, experienced, or celebrated.

Television had been invented a couple of decades before and became a commercial product in the 1940s. However, it did not mature into the TV we know today until the 1950s. In fact, by the end of this decade, most American households owned a TV set. TV shows that are still remembered, loved, and even still broadcast today made their debuts. Must-watch TV became a thing. Some TV shows from the 1950s that are still known and loved today include I Love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver, and The Donna Reed Show. US President Harry S. Truman made the first transcontinental broadcast on TV in September of 1951 when he made a speech addressed to the country. The speech was carried by AT&T, given in San Francisco, and was broadcast from coast to coast at the same time.

The Space Race
The world was taken by surprise in 1957 when the Soviets launched their Sputnik 1 satellite. This began the space race between the USSR and the USA. The USA launched its own satellite four months after the Soviets, but it was a much smaller one. Eventually, the space race included sending animals into orbit around the Earth, then people, then sending people to land and walk on the moon in the next decade.

In addition to the space race, there were some important scientific developments in the 1950s. The United States conducted its first test of a hydrogen bomb. The invention of the modern solar panel was completed. The spiral structure of DNA was discovered. A successful vaccine for polio was invented. The first nuclear power plant in the world was established in Obninsk in the Soviet Union. NASA was brought into being.

Also, the first passenger planes began service. Prior to the 1950s, only VIPs like celebrities, the military, and politicians used planes. The 1950s opened this technology up to consumers for personal travel for business and pleasure.

Rock and roll music was invented in the 1950s. While it was similar to some jazz and rhythm and blues music from previous decades, it had its own modern twist to it. It also differed from music from previous eras in that it was marketed primarily toward teens. In fact, teenagers as an age group were invented in the 1950s, because the economically prosperous conditions of the times meant they did not have to grow up as quickly as previous generations, or support families at young ages. This age group, with their own disposable income from allowances and part-time jobs, bought rock and roll records in the millions. Although their parents hated it, and there were accusations of it being a communist plot to corrupt the youth of America, rock and roll was beloved among American teens. It is still beloved today, even if it has changed a bit since those times.


Will Moneymaker

Will established Ancestral Findings in 1995 and has helped genealogy researchers for over 25 years. He is also a freelance photographer, husband of twenty-eight years, father of four children, and has one grandchild.