Archive for September, 2017

Television in the 1950s

by admin - September 27th, 2017

By Jess Fournier

The growing popularity of television in 1950’s homes completely altered American daily life. Television first became popular in only certain cities that were heavily populated, such as New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, or St. Louis. Even for the people living in or close to these major cities, televisions were not easy to afford.

Unlike any other household technology, the number of televisions began to rapidly increase into houses. In 1948, the number of homes with TVs was about 0.4 percent, but then jumped up to 55.7 percent in 1954, and then 83.2 percent in 1958. According to Alfred R. Oxenfeldt, the major rise of this new technology was not due to a decline in the price of receivers, but the increase of stations, which rose from 16 to 354 in a matter of six years. Another reason was the vast amount of shows they had for children, considering it seemed as though almost every couple was having children in the 1950s. Some of the children shows included NBC’s “Howdy Doody Time”, WGN’s “Bozo”, and many more. Unfortunately, this did account for decreasing popularity of listening to the radio and going out to the movies, with theaters closing down even in cities that only had one channel. Also, less people went to see shows on Broadway because they could get live entertainment at their houses instead.

Some of the most popular genres watched on television were comedy, variety shows, crime, and Westerns. One of TV’s first superstars, Milton Berle, hosted a very successful comedy show called Texaco Star Theater that lasted for eight years. Then, many other comedy shows followed the lead of Berle’s, such as Your Show of Shows, written by Neil Simon and Mel Brooks. A somewhat similar genre was the variety shows, which included singing, music, dancing, comedy skits, animal acts, and circus performers. The most known variety show was The Ed Sullivan Show, where he would have guest appearances that would be very important for the success of new talent. For example, Elvis Presley was featured on an episode, making it amongst the most viewed programs of the decade. Also, crime series that told a story through several episodes and characters would be watched by many people, for instance Man Against Crime. Producers began to step away from live production, especially when making episodic series. Immediate success came with I Love Lucy, which was one of the first shows to be pre-recorded and soon to be the greatest television hit of the decade. Others included the family oriented shows of Ozzie and Harriet, Leave it to Beaver, and Father Knows Best. Another popular genre was Westerns, such as The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, and Gunsmoke.

In a way, American television brought the country together, because almost everyone was watching and listening to the same shows at the same time. Dunar writes, “The result made the United States a smaller place. It hastened the decline of regionalism, diminishing differences in accent attitudes, entertainment, cultural tastes, and preferences in food, clothing, and other consumer goods” (Dunar 233). On the other hand, this website explains how television caused a social separation, with more people staying in to watch TV rather than going out with friends or family. However, it is certain that American television helped shape this country and contributed greatly to the pivotal decade of the 1950s.

Pictured here is an American family sitting around their television, relaxing and focusing all of their attention on the small screen.

Works Cited

Dunar, Andrew J. America in the fifties. Syracuse, NY, Syracuse University Press, 2006.

Television Comes to America, 1947-57. Accessed 26 Sept. 2017.

The Age of Television (Monday, Sept 25)

by admin - September 25th, 2017

Some clips for today:

Ozzie and Harriet + Hotpoint Ad (1955)

Edward R. Murrow, See it Now 9 March 1954

NBC Camel News Caravan (1954)

Queen for a Day

Newton Minow, on the “Vast Wasteland” speech (Full text of the speech here)

The Ku Klux Klan in the 1950s

by admin - September 24th, 2017

By Meg Downing

In the 1950s, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a largely branched white supremacist group was determined to end the lives of all black people. As this decade was the start of the civil rights movement, it was also the start of a massive increase in Klan members. There were many actions occurring, such as the Brown v. Board. This caused massive backlash. “The Ku Klux Klan experienced a resurgence, and cross burnings and violence against blacks became common. White Citizens’ Councils formed throughout the South, and found means other than violence to purse the same ends as the Klan” (p.210-Dunar). This includes employment, housing, voting, and educational discrimination.

The original KKK had been founded in 1866. Nearly every single southern state had Klans within four years. The group, besides being domestic terrorists, used their numbers to intimidate white and black leaders who were trying to bring about any change. The KKK’s goal was to keep black people as second-class citizens, believing the pigmentation of their skin determined their worth. There were numerous accounts of Klansmen even making their way into government positions. During a time where every government employee was being thoroughly investigated because of the Red Scare, this causes concern of why they were not being openly impeached because of their activities. There were also many corrupt police officers that were Klansmen themselves or did not apply the law to them. There are many who would simply say that it was a different time, but the KKK at this time fully engaged in murder and torturing of black families, which is not tolerable at any point in time.

In some southern states, there was outcry for governors to outlaw the Ku Klux Klan under state laws. One governor seemed to show his opposition of the Klan publicly, but when approached to outlaw, he deemed such a state law unconstitutional. The same governor, “Warren of Tallahassee, Florida announced that he was increasing the reward for the finding and conviction of the murderers of the Moores’, a Negro family. According to the article, the Moores were found dead in their household after a bomb went off under their bed” (The History Engine). The hate group found the existence of many minorities a problem to them, and would engage in the extremely harmful acts such as the ones done to the Moore family.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was continually working against the Klan, with it being one of the Eisenhower Commission’s primary targets. Due to the work of the agents of the FBI, they faced the threat of danger from the Klan. “Agents would always watch. They’d look underneath their cars to make sure we did not have any dynamite strapped underneath…Then you’d open up your hood and make sure that everything was clear there. We had snakes placed in mailboxes. We had threats” (

The Ku Klux Klan had gained power extremely quickly in the 1950s, much to the danger of any people of color or anyone that spoke against them. These domestic terrorists have been a group for over one hundred and fifty years in modern times and still try to make themselves a threatening presence.

Works Cited
Dunar, Andrew J. America in the Fifties. Syracuse University Press, 2006.
“The History Engine.” History Engine: Tools for Collaborative Education and Research | Episodes, The University of Richmond.
“KKK Series.” FBI, FBI, 21 July 2016.
Cunningham, David. “Truth, Reconciliation, and the Ku Klux Klan.” Southern Cultures, The University of North Carolina Press, 19 Aug. 2008.

The Korean War (Fri 9/22)

by admin - September 22nd, 2017

Links for today:

Korean War documents, Truman Library


New York Times: News Topic North Korea (Now)

New York Times: News Topic Korean War (Then)

Two newsreels:

The Nostalgia Trap – Wed 9/20

by admin - September 20th, 2017

Link for today:

Take Me Back to the Fifties

Wikipedia Workshop – Mon 9/18

by admin - September 18th, 2017

Wikipedia Introduction

Wikipedia Five Pillars

What Wikipedia Is Not

US in the 1950s entry

Some suggestions –

Korean War
Top 40 Radio
Kennan telegram
Dean Acheson
Little Rock crisis
Montgomery bus boycott
Baby boom
Berlin airlift
Army McCarthy hearings
Brown v. Board of Education
Marshall Plan
Elvis Presley
Chuck Berry
Ed Sullivan Show
Executive Order 9981
Mickey Mouse Club
Elia Kazan
Hollywood Ten
Suez Crisis
Leave it to Beaver
1953 Iranian coup d’etat
1954 Guatemalan coup d’etat
Alan Freed
Operation Wetback
Checkers speech
Marilyn Monroe

Luckiest Generation

by admin - September 15th, 2017

Links for today, Friday Sept 15:

“Family Date” instructional film (1950)
“Two Ford Family” commercial
Betty Crocker cake mix commercial
Opening scene of “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” (1955) – fantastic movie, by the way
“I Love Lucy” Season 2, Episode 4 (job switching episode)
A look at some exceptional 1950s recipes

Day 2 Links: Origins (Dunar Ch 1)

by admin - September 11th, 2017

How to take notes using Cornell Method

Truman Doctrine

(More on the Truman Doctrine from the Truman Library)

Kennan Telegram

Marshall Plan

(More on the Marshall Plan from the Marshall Foundation)

National Security Act 1947

Berlin Airlift

(More on the Berlin Airlift from American Experience, Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation, and the Truman Library)

Day 1 Links

by admin - September 6th, 2017