The decade of the Fifties gave birth to Rock and Roll. When Bill Haley’s Rock Around The Clock became popular in 1952, the nation learned to swing to a whole new sound. But, Rock wasn’t the only music of the Fifties. (Rewind the fifties jukebox) Other artists with other songs had folks humming’ for much of the decade. Pat Boone, Perry Como and Patti Page – just to mention the “Ps”. (Fifties Web) The feel-good innocence of a lot of the Fifties music reflects on the post World War II optimism in America. The young people of the time, an emerging force called teenagers, hadn’t struggled through the war years.
They were looking for something more exciting. They discovered that vitality in Rock and Roll. During the Fifties both styles of music co-existed quite nicely. Some of the music you associate with the Fifties was actually recorded in the Sixties. Works by well-known dramatists still held audiences and won new admirers. Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman were written in the 40’s but were still very popular in the 50’s. Eugene O’Neill finished Long Day’s Journey into Night in 1952. Williams wrote Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Baby Doll.
Musicals were very well received. Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Joshua Logan won acclaim with South Pacific in 1952. One of the most emotionally charged plays of 1952 was The Diary of Anne Frank. Dance underwent change during this period. Martha Graham’s work influenced dancers worldwide. In 1952, Alvin Ailey created the American Dance Theatre, which featured all-black casts, and dance styles that were culturally based and truly American in style. (1950’s Theater-Type Standing Ashtray-Arrows) Radio’s influence was still very great as is seen in the rapid growth of Rock and Roll .
Music of Perry Como, Rosemary Clooney, Nat King Cole among others was listened to by people carrying small transistor radios. Music could be heard in any location because it was now portable. Pollock. There was a fresh artistic outlook after World War II ended and the artistic world reflected this outlook. Abstract expressionism like Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, Willem de Kooning , Clyfford Still and Franz Klinereceived official recognition at the New York Museum of Modern Art . These artists, referred to as the New York School, were generally experimental.
Works of Art) Other abstract artists rebelled against the self-absorption of the New York School and delved into existentialism. Mark Rothko used large-scale color blocks to create an overpowering material presence. Painters like Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, also abstract artists, did not want the viewer to rely on what he saw to interpret a painting. Part of 1952 boom in consumerism-included housing. People could afford single-family dwellings and suburbia was born. A small suburban community called Levittown was built by William Levitt for returning servicemen and their families.
An influence of Frank Lloyd Wright is seen in the popular Ranch style house. Designers like Bauhaus , who helped create the International style, influenced Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson, Charles and Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen . Louis Kahn, architect of the Salk Institute, was a noted architect during this period. America had just begun her recovery from World War II, when suddenly the Korean Conflict developed. The USSR became a major enemy in the Cold War. Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed to know that Communists had infiltrated the United States government at the highest levels.
Americans were feeling a sense of national anxiety. Was America the greatest country in the world? Was life in America the best it had ever been? As the decade passed, literature reflected the conflict of self-satisfaction with 50’s Happy Days and cultural self-doubt about conformity and the true worth of American values. Authors like Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking, or Bishop Fulton J. Sheen -Life is Worth Living, indicate power of the individual to control his or her fate.
The concern with conformity is reflected in David Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd, John Kenneth Galbraith -The Affluent Society,William H. Whyte’s The Organization Man, Ayn Rand – Atlas Shrugged, and Sloan Wilson’s The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. A new group of authors appeared on the scene in the form of the Beats, or the beat generation or some called them beatniks. (Fifties Web) Best known of these are Jack Kerouac – Kerouac’s works – On the Road, Dharma Bums, The Town and The City, Mexico City Blues(Poetry), Lawrence Ferlinghetti A Coney Island of the Mind, Pictures of a Gone World, and Allen Ginsberg Howl .
Gregory Corso, Neal Cassady, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, William S. Burroughs were other beat authors giving voice to the anti-establishment movement. (1950’s: Movies, TV, and Society: (A Short Bibliography of Books and Articles in the UC Berkeley Libraries) Science Fiction became more popular with the actual possibility of space travel, Ray Bradbury wrote The Martian Chronicles. Isaac Asimov wrote I, Robot, and other books about worlds to be discovered. (Literary Kicks) Established authors continuing to write included Tennessee Williams -The Roman Spring of Mrs.
Stone, Robert Penn Warren -World Enough and Time, Carl Sandberg -Complete Poems, Herman Wouk -The Caine Mutiny, J. D. Salinger-The Catcher in the Rye , Truman Capote -The Grass Harp,John Steinbeck- East of Eden, Edna Ferber -Giant, James Michener -The Bridges of Toko Ri, Hawaii, Thomas Costain-The Silver Chalice, Eudora Welty -The Ponder Heart, William Faulkner -The Town. During the fifties, American education underwent dramatic and, for some, world shattering changes.
Until 1952, an official policy of separate but equal educational opportunities for blacks had been determined to be the correct method to insure that all children in America received an adequate and equal education in the public schools of the nation. In 1952, Chief Justice Earl Warren and other members of the Supreme Court wrote in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas that separate facilities for blacks did not make those facilities equal according to the Constitution. (Education on the Internet & Teaching History Online) Integration was begun across the nation. In 1952, Authoring J.
Lucy successfully enrolled in the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. In 1952, Elizabeth Eckford was the first black teenager to enter then all-white Little Rock Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas. Although integration took place quietly in most towns, the conflict at Central High School in Little Rock was the first of many confrontations in Arkansas, which showed that public opinion on this issue was divided. Another crisis in education was uncovered by critics like Rudolph Flesch in his book Why Johnny Can’t Read, who claimed that the American educational system was not doing its job.
Education on the Internet & Teaching History Online) Other voices in the movement to revamp American schools were Arthur- Educational Wastelands, Albert Lynd- Quackery in the Public Schools, Robert Hutchins – The Conflict in Education, and Admiral Hyman Rickover- Education and Freedom. One of the things, which most characterize the 1952, was the strong element of conservatism and anticommunist feeling, which ran throughout much of society. One of the best indicators of the conservative frame of mind was the addition of the phrase under God to the Pledge of Allegiance. Religion was seen as an indicator of anti-communism.
Fifties clothing was conservative. Men wore gray flannel suits and women wore dresses with pinched in waists and high heels. French fashion designers such as Dior, Channel and Givenchy were popular and copied in America. (Twentieth Century Fashion) Families worked together, played together and vacationed together at family themed entertainment areas like national parks and the new Disneyland. Gender roles were strongly held, girls played with Barbie dolls and Dale Evans gear, boys with Roy Rogers and Davy Crockett paraphernalia. Drive-in movies became popular for families and teens. Cars were seen as an indicator of prosperity and cool-ness.
Highways were built to take people quickly from one place to another, bypassing small towns and helping to create central marketing areas or shopping malls such as Sharpstown Mall, Gulfgate Mall and Meyerland Plaza in Houston. Fashion successes were Bill Blass and his blue jeans, poodle skirts made of felt and decorated with sequins and poodle appliqus, ponytails for girls, and flat tops and crew cuts for guys. (Twentieth Century Fashion) Teenagers were defined as a separate generation and were represented by James Dean who wore blue jeans in Rebel Without a Cause and created a fashion and attitude sensation.
Activities we liked were flying saucer watching , and watching and dancing to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand . Fad hits with kids were toys like hula-hoops and Hop along Cassidy guns and western gear, Davy Crockett coonskin hats and silly putty. Maybe the most far-reaching change in communications worldwide was the advancement in the area of television broadcasting. 1952, television became the dominant mass media as people brought television into their homes in greater numbers of hours per week than ever before.
In the early fifties, young people watched TV more hours than they went to school, a trend, which has not, changed greatly since that time. (The Day The Back And White World Changing Into Living Color) What was portrayed on television became accepted as normal. (Fifties Web) The ideal family, the ideal schools and neighborhoods, the world, were all seen in a way, which had only partial basis in reality. People began to accept what was heard and seen on television because they were eyewitnesses to events as never before.
The affect on print news media and entertainment media was felt in lower attendance at movies and greater reliance on TV news sources for information. And then, in 1952, black and white broadcasts became color broadcasts. Shows called ” sitcoms ” like The Honeymooners, Lassie, Father Knows Best, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and I Love Lucy featured popular characters whose lives thousands of viewers watched and copied. (Classic TV) Families enjoyed variety shows like Disneyland and The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday evenings.
Daytime programs like Guiding Light, “soap operas” were popular and helped advertisers sell many products to the homemakers of America. News broadcasting changed from newsmen simply reading the news to shows which included videotaped pictures of events which had occurred anywhere in the world, and then to more and more live broadcasts of events happening at the time of viewing. This was made possible in 1952 with the development of coaxial cable and microwave relays coast to coast. When Edward R. Murrow began offering his weekly radio program called “Hear It Now” on TV as “See It Now, the world of news broadcasting was irrevocably changed
People in the Fifties loved sports. More leisure time and greater general prosperity led to greater participation in athletic activities for the average person and added large numbers of fans to all types of sports. Unlike many areas of society in this decade, athletes were a diverse group. Popularity was not based on social status, but on the ability of the individual. All American sports such as baseball and football gave opportunities for the rise of stars like Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Henry Aaron, Juan Marichal, Jim Brown, and Frank Gifford.
Great women athletes played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. (Sports-1950s) As television became more popular and available, other sports found growing numbers of fans. College football was widely followed. Professional golf became very popular with stars like Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer helping to create the idea that to succeed in business, men needed to play golf. Women like Babe Zaharias-Didrikson created the Ladies Professional Golf Association in 1952, so women were joining men on golf courses all over America.
People watched the Olympics 1952 and 1952, and in part due to the Cold War, rivalry between countries became very fierce. Track and field athletes like Bob Mathias and Bobby Morrow were favorites. Sports like tennis, basketball and boxing were also popular in the fifties. Althea Gibson was the first African-American to play in the U. S. Lawn Tennis Nationals at Forest Hills, NY. Major names in basketball were Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Bob Cousy, Oscar Robertson and Dolph Schayes. (Sports-1950s) Another favorite, boxing, gave opportunities to great athletes, Sugar Ray Robinson and Rocky Marciano.