USH Timeline: 1940's to 1950's

Cold War Events

War begins in China between Nationalists and Communists

April 1927

During the 1920s, the Nationalist Party and the Chinese Communist Party worked together to unify China, take power from the warlords and throw off foreign influence. However, in 1927 the Nationalists turned on the Communists and the Chinese Civil War began as a war fought between these two factions. The civil war continued intermittently until late 1937, when the two parties formed a Second United Front to counter a Japanese invasion. China's full-scale civil war resumed in 1946, a year after the end of hostilities with Japan. After four more years, 1950 saw the cessation of major military hostilities—with the newly founded People's Republic of China controlling mainland China, and the Republic of China's jurisdiction being restricted to Taiwan, Penghu, Quemoy, Matsu and several outlying islands.

Potsdam Conference

July 17, 1945 - August 2, 1945

Held in Potsdam, Germany, the Potsdam Conference was a gathering of “The Big Three”―Britain (under Churchill), the United States (under Pres. Roosevelt), and the Soviet Union (under Stalin)―to discuss how to administer punishment to the defeated Nazi Germany, which had agreed to unconditional surrender nine weeks earlier (V-E Day). The goals of the conference also included the establishment of post-war order, peace treaties issues, and countering the effects of the war. The Potsdam Conference resulted in the Potsdam Agreement, which stated that there was to be a complete disarmament and demilitarization of Germany, and Germany would be split into four zones of Allied occupation. The Potsdam Declaration was also a result, which outlined the terms of surrender for Japan and presented the country with an ultimatum―surrender, or the country will be brutally attacked and destroyed.

Creation of the United Nations

October 24, 1945

After the Second World War, President Roosevelt saw the value of planning for the creation of an international organization to maintain peace in the post-World War II era. With the creation of the UN, the weaknesses of the League of Nations would be acknowledged and fixed, and a global organization of member states dedicated to preserving international peace through collective security would be created. President Roosevelt and the US provided leadership in the creation of the UN, thanks to the economic and military power the US gained after the war. After numerous conferences and votes, the United Nations officially came into existence in late 1945 after the US, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, China, France, and a majority of other signatories ratified the United Nations Charter.

US establishes containment policy

February 1946

By the time World War II ended, most American officials agreed that the best defense against the Soviet communist threat was a strategy called “containment.” In February 1946, in his famous “Long Telegram,” the diplomat George Kennan explained this policy: The Soviet Union was a political force committed fanatically to the belief that with the U.S. there can be no permanent agreement between parties that disagree; as a result, America’s only choice was the long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies. President Harry Truman agreed with Kennan, and the policy of containment ended up shaping American foreign policy for the next four decades.

Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech

March 5, 1946

On March 5, 1946, Churchill gave his famous “Iron Curtain” speech to a crowd of 40,000. In this speech, Churchill gave a very descriptive phrase that surprised the United States and Britain: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.” Before this speech, the U.S. and Britain had been concerned with their own post-war economies and remained extremely grateful for the Soviet Union's proactive role in ending World War II. The phrase “iron curtain” came to stand for the division of Europe.

HUAC begins hearings


The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) was an investigative committee of the United States House of Representatives. It was created in 1938 to investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens, public employees, and those organizations suspected of having Nazi ties. The hearings started in 1947, when the committee held nine days of hearings into alleged communist propaganda and influence in the Hollywood motion picture industry. After conviction on contempt of Congress charges for refusal to answer some questions posed by committee members, the "Hollywood Ten" were blacklisted by the industry.

Satellite Nations


A satellite state is a political term for a country that is formally independent, but under heavy political and economic influence or control by another country. The term was coined by analogy to planetary objects orbiting a larger object, such as smaller moons revolving around larger planets, and is used mainly to refer to Central and Eastern European countries of the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War. When used for Central and Eastern European countries, it implies that the countries in question were "satellites" under the hegemony of the Soviet Union. In some contexts it also refers to other countries in the Soviet sphere of influence during the Cold War--such as North Korea (especially in the years surrounding the Korean War) and Cuba. In times of war or political tension, satellite states sometimes serve as a buffer between an enemy country and the nation exerting control over the satellite.

Establishment of Truman doctrine

March 12, 1947

Part of the first steps taken during containment, the Truman Doctrine was a policy proposed by the President Truman in a speech on March 12, 1947, stating that the U.S. would support Greece and Turkey with economic and military aid to prevent their falling into the Soviet sphere. Truman thought it was the responsibility of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures. As a result, $400 million was sent to Greece and Turkey to help end the Communist threat in the region. The Truman Doctrine outlined the basic foreign policy that the United States would use against the Soviet Union and Communism for the next four decades.

Formation of the CIA

September 18, 1947

The Central Intelligence Agency was created by Congress from the National Security Act of 1947, signed into law by Pres. Truman. It came after the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) of World War II, which was dissolved in October 1945. Eleven months earlier, in 1944, William J. Donovan, the OSS's creator, proposed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt to create a new organization directly supervised by the President that will procure intelligence both by overt and covert methods and will at the same time provide intelligence guidance, determine national intelligence objectives, and correlate the intelligence material collected by all government agencies. Under his plan, a powerful, centralized civilian agency would have coordinated all the intelligence services. He also proposed that this agency have authority to conduct subversive operations abroad, but no police or law enforcement functions, either at home or abroad.

Hollywood 10

November 24, 1947

The House of Representatives votes 346 to 17 to approve citations of contempt against 10 Hollywood writers, directors, and producers. These men had refused to cooperate at hearings dealing with communism in the movie industry held by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). The "Hollywood 10," as the men were known, are sentenced to one year in jail. The Supreme Court later upheld the contempt charges. The contempt charges stemmed from the refusal of the 10 men to answer questions posed by HUAC as to whether they were or had ever been members of the Communist Party. In hearings that often exploded with rancor, the men denounced the questions as violations of their First Amendment rights. Albert Maltz, Dalton Trumbo, John Howard Lawson, Samuel Ornitz, Ring Lardner, Jr., Lester Cole, Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Edward Dmytryk, and Robert Adrian Scott were thereupon charged with contempt of Congress.

Hollywood blacklist

November 25, 1947

The Hollywood blacklist was the mid-20th-century list of screenwriters, actors, directors, musicians, and other U.S. entertainment professionals who were denied employment in the field because of their political beliefs or associations, real or suspected. Artists were barred from work on the basis of their alleged membership in or sympathy toward the American Communist Party, involvement in liberal or humanitarian political causes that enforcers of the blacklist associated with communism, and/or refusal to assist investigations into Communist Party activities. The idea first originated on July 29, 1946, when William R. Wilkerson, publisher and founder of The Hollywood Reporter, published a "TradeView" column entitled "A Vote for Joe Stalin"; it named as eleven people as alleged Communist sympathizers.

Marshall Plan Instituted

April 1948

In April 1948, Congress passed the Economic Cooperation Act, better known as the Marshall Plan. The plan was economic arm of the Truman Doctrine. Named for Secretary of State George C. Marshall, the plan offered money to war-torn areas for the rebuilding of cities and their infrastructures. American policy-makers recognized that, without quick rebuilding of war damage, countries across Europe were likely turn to Communism. During the years of the plan receiving nations experienced an economic growth of between 15% - 25%. This boom helped push communist groups out of power and created an economic divide between the rich west and poor east as clear as the political one.

Berlin Airlift

June 28, 1948

On Dec. 31, 1948, Allied aircraft logged the 100,000th flight of the Berlin airlift. The airlift began after World War II when Germany was occupied territory and Berlin was surrounded by the Soviet zone. The city itself was divided into four sectors controlled by Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union. The Soviets tried to dissuade a West German government in the city by gradually escalating harassment of Western traffic to and from Berlin, which culminated in the Berlin blockade, imposed June 24, 1948. Royal Air Force Dakotas deployed from the United Kingdom to Germany and flew their first missions into Berlin. On June 28, the Air Force ordered C-54s from Alaska, Hawaii, and the Caribbean to Germany to reinforce the airlift. These were the first U.S. and British cargoes for Berliners. On May 12, 1949, the Soviets lifted the blockade and by Sept. 30, 1949, the airlift ended.

NATO established

April 4, 1949

The Berlin blockade increased Western European fear of Soviet aggression. As a result, ten western nations formed a defensive military alliance called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, including Belgium, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Canada, and the US. With the establishment of NATO, it was the first time the US had entered a military defense treaty during peacetime and any chance of a return to isolationism ended.


1950 - 1954

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s America was overwhelmed with concerns about the threat of communism growing in Eastern Europe and China. Capitalizing on those concerns, a young Senator named Joseph McCarthy made a public accusation that more than two hundred “card-carrying” communists had infiltrated the United States government. Though eventually his accusations were proven to be untrue, and he was censured by the Senate for unbecoming conduct, his zealous campaigning ushered in one of the most repressive times in 20th-century American politics.While the House Un-American Activities Committee had been formed in 1938 as an anti-Communist organ, McCarthy’s accusations heightened the political tensions of the times. Known as McCarthyism, the paranoid hunt for infiltrators was notoriously difficult on writers and entertainers, many of whom were labeled communist sympathizers and were unable to continue working. In all, three hundred and twenty artists were blacklisted, and for many of them this meant the end of exceptional and promising careers. By 1954, the fervor had died down and many actors and writers were able to return to work. Though relatively short, these proceedings remain one of the most shameful moments in modern U.S. history.



Brinkmanship is the practice of pushing dangerous events to the verge of--or to the brink of--disaster in order to achieve the most advantageous outcome. It occurs in international politics, foreign policy, labor relations, and military strategy involving the threatened use of nuclear weapons. The term brinkmanship was coined by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles under the Eisenhower administration, during the Cold War. This maneuver of pushing a situation with the opponent to the brink succeeds by forcing the opponent to back down and make concessions. This might be achieved through diplomatic maneuvers by creating the impression that one is willing to use extreme methods rather than concede. During the Cold War, the threat of nuclear force was often used as such an escalating measure. Adolf Hitler also used brinkmanship conspicuously during his rise to power. Eventually, the threats involved might become so huge as to be unmanageable at which point both sides are likely to back down. This was the case during the Cold War; the escalation of threats of nuclear war, if carried out, is likely to lead to mutually assured destruction.

Korean War begins

June 25, 1950

On June 25, 1950, the Korean War began when some 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army poured across the 38th parallel, the boundary between the Soviet-backed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the north and the pro-Western Republic of Korea to the south. This invasion was the first military action of the Cold War. By July, American troops had entered the war on South Korea’s behalf. As far as American officials were concerned, it was a war against the forces of international communism itself.

McCarran Act

September 23, 1950

Enacted over President Truman’s veto, The Internal Security Act of 1950, also known as the Subversive Activities Control Act or the McCarran Act, named after its principal sponsor Sen. Pat McCarran, is a United States federal law of the McCarthy era. It was enacted over President Harry Truman's veto. The act required Communist organizations to register with the United States Attorney General and established the Subversive Activities Control Board to investigate persons suspected of engaging in subversive activities or otherwise promoting the establishment of a totalitarian dictatorship, either fascist or communist. The act also contained an emergency detention statute, giving the President the authority to apprehend and detain each person as to whom there is a reasonable ground to believe that such person probably will engage in, or probably will conspire with others to engage in, acts of espionage or sabotage. It tightened alien exclusion and deportation laws and allowed for the detention of dangerous, disloyal, or subversive persons in times of war or internal security emergency.

General MacArthur fired

April 11, 1951

On April 11, 1951, US President Harry S. Truman relieved General of the Army Douglas MacArthur of his commands for making public statements that contradicted the administration's policies. Leading up to MacArthur’s relief were the events of the Korean War, the Battle of Inchon, the Wake Island Conference, and MacArthur’s public statements about those events. He was seen as an irritant between Asia and Truman.



The concept of the thermonuclear weapon was first developed and used in 1952 and has since been used in most of the world's nuclear weapons. The first thermonuclear bomb was exploded in 1952 at Enewetak by the United States, the second in 1953 by the USSR. Great Britain, France, and China have also exploded thermonuclear bombs, and these five nations comprise the so-called nuclear club—nations that have the capability to produce nuclear weapons and admit to maintaining an inventory of them. The hydrogen bomb is the single most destructive weapon ever devised by man, and is the only successful effort by mankind to harness the same basic process that is created deep inside the sun to generate energy.

Rosenbergs execued for treason

June 19, 1953

Found guilty of relaying U.S. military secrets to the Soviets, the Rosenbergs were the first U.S. civilians to be sentenced to death for espionage. The Rosenbergs were accused of persuading Ethel's brother, David Greenglass, to provide them with confidential U.S. military information gained from his involvement in the development of nuclear weapons. It was believed that Julius, who was an active member of the Communist party, then funneled the top-secret information on to Soviet intelligence. Although the court found the evidence strong enough for a conviction, the ruling and the Rosenberg's death sentence became a controversial topic among the American public. Many believed that the anti-Communist political climate, which was being stirred up by the infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy, made for an unfair trial.

Korean War Ends

July 27, 1953

After some early back-and-forth fighting across the 38th parallel in Korea, the fighting stalled and casualties mounted with nothing to show for them. Meanwhile, American officials worked anxiously to fashion some sort of armistice with the North Koreans. The alternative, they feared, would be a wider war with Russia and China–or even, as some warned, World War III. Finally, in July 1953 with the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement, the Korean War came to an end. In all, some 5 million soldiers and civilians lost their lives during the war. The Korean peninsula is still divided today.

Khrushchev rises to power in USSR

September 14, 1953

The death of Joseph Stalin on March 5, 1953 created a tremendous vacuum in Soviet leadership. With his passing, the heir apparent was Georgi Malenkov, who was named premier and first secretary of the Communist Party the day after Stalin's death. Yet, when Stalin died in March 1953, Khrushchev was overlooked in favor of Malenkov. To replace Malenkov, the party announced the establishment of a new position, a five-man Secretariat. Even Western journalists noted that in announcing the five-person position, Khrushchev's name was always listed first, while the others were in alphabetical order. It was soon apparent that Khrushchev was the driving power in the Secretariat, and in September 1953, he secured enough backing to be named secretary of the Communist Party. In February 1955, he and his supporters pushed Malenkov out of the premiership and replaced him with a Khrushchev puppet, Nikolai Bulganin. In March 1958, Khrushchev consolidated his power by taking the office of premier himself. Officials in the United States, including Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, badly underestimated Khrushchev. Despite their concern, Khrushchev's rise to power did initiate a period in which tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union began slightly to ease, as he called for "peaceful coexistence" between the two superpowers.

Geneva Accords

April 27, 1954

On April 27, 1954, the Conference produced a declaration which supported the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Indochina. In addition, the Conference declaration agreed upon the cessation of hostilities and the introduction of foreign involvement (or troops) in internal Indochina affairs. Northern and southern zones were drawn into which opposing troops were to withdraw, to facilitate the cessation of hostilities between the Vietnamese forces and those that had supported the French. Viet Minh units, having advanced to the far south while fighting the French, retreated from these positions, in accordance with the Agreement, to north of the ceasefire line, awaiting unification on the basis of internationally supervised free elections to be held in July 1956. Most of the French Union forces evacuated Vietnam, although much of the regional governmental infrastructure in the South was the same as it had been under the French administration. An International Control Commission was set up to oversee the implementation of the Geneva Accords, but it was essentially powerless to ensure compliance. It was to consist of India, Canada, and Poland. The agreement was among Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, France, Laos, the People's Republic of China, the State of Vietnam, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom. The United States took note and acknowledged that the agreement existed, but refused to sign the agreement, to avoid being legally bound to it. The U.S. government undertook to build a separate anticommunist state in South Vietnam and in 1956 supported South Vietnam’s refusal to hold nationwide elections in consultation with North Vietnam.

Warsaw Pact Established

May 14, 1955

On May 14, 1955, the USSR established the Warsaw Pact in response to the integration of the Federal Republic of Germany into NATO in October 1954. The Warsaw Pact, so named because the treaty was signed in Warsaw, included the Soviet Union, Albania, Poland, Romania, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria as members. The treaty called on the member states to come to the defense of any member attacked by an outside force and it set up a unified military command under Marshal Ivan S. Konev of the Soviet Union. The introduction to the treaty establishing the Warsaw Pact indicated the reason for its existence. This revolved around "Western Germany, which is being remilitarized, and her inclusion in the North Atlantic bloc, which increases the danger of a new war and creates a threat to the national security of peace-loving states." This passage referred to the decision by the United States and the other members of the NATO in May 1955 to make West Germany a member of NATO and allow that nation to remilitarize. The Soviets obviously saw this as a direct threat and responded with the Warsaw Pact.

Eisenhower Doctrine Established

January 5, 1957

In response to developments in the Middle East with Egyptian leader Nasser’s anti-Western nationalism, in a January 5, 1957 address to Congress, President Eisenhower called for "joint action by the Congress and the Executive" in meeting the "increased danger from International Communism" in the Middle East. Specifically, he asked for authorization to begin new programs of economic and military cooperation with friendly nations in the region. He also requested authorization to use U.S. troops "to secure and protect the territorial integrity and political independence of such nations." The Eisenhower Doctrine received its first call to action in the summer of 1958, when civil strife in Lebanon led that nation's president to request American assistance. Nearly 15,000 U.S. troops were sent to help quell the disturbances. With the Eisenhower Doctrine and the first action taken in its name, the United States demonstrated its interest in Middle East developments.

Sputnik launched

October 4, 1957

The Soviet Union inaugurates the "Space Age" with its launch of Sputnik, the world's first artificial satellite. However, many Americans feared more sinister uses of the Soviets' new rocket and satellite technology, which was apparently strides ahead of the U.S. space effort. Sputnik was some 10 times the size of the first planned U.S. satellite, which was not scheduled to be launched until the next year. The U.S. government, military, and scientific community were caught off guard by the Soviet technological achievement, and their united efforts to catch up with the Soviets heralded the beginning of the "space race."

Castro takes power in Cuba

January 1, 1959

The Batista regime, which maintained close relation with the United States, was corrupt and unpopular with the Cuban population.Fidel Castro led a nationalistic movement against Batista, launching an armed attack on the Moncada Barracks on July 26, 1953. The assault was put down and many of the revolutionaries—including Castro and his brother Raul—were imprisoned. Though the attack was a military failure, it helped spark the Cuban Revolution. Batista released Castro in 1955 at the urging of the Cuban public. Over the next several years, Castro’s 26th of July Movement waged a guerilla war against the Cuban government, gaining widespread support of the Cuban people. The guerillas seized Santa Clara on Dec. 31 and the Cuban army collapsed; Batista’s reign had become untenable. In the early hours of Jan. 1, Batista and many of his aides escaped the country. “For the salvation of the republic,” declared General Eulogio Cantillo, “the military forces have decided that it is necessary for General Batista to withdraw from power.” Celebration and rioting overtook the streets of Havana, as Castro’s forces gained control of the city. Castro descended from the mountains to Santiago, where he declared the formation of a new government. He triumphantly arrived in Havana on Jan. 8 and officially became Prime Minister a month later.

U-2 Incident

May 1, 1960

On May 1, 1960, a U.S. U-2 (spy) plane departed from Peshawar, Pakistan, on a reconnaissance mission over the Soviet Union. It never arrived at its destination—Bodo, Norway. On May 6, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev announced that the aircraft had been shot down by a surface‐to‐air missile deep inside Soviet territory. Washington countered by saying that the aircraft was on a weather research mission when it strayed off course after the pilot's oxygen system failed. Khrushchev then revealed that the U‐2's film magazines had been recovered and that the pilot, Francis Gary Powers, was alive and in Soviet custody. The incident created a sensation and threatened to scuttle the Soviet‐American summit conference scheduled to convene in Paris on May 16. In a controversial move, President Dwight D. Eisenhower accepted responsibility for the flights rather than let the world believe that lower‐level functionaries had such authority. He also promised an end to the missions, but refused to apologize. The overflights, he asserted, had been necessary to safeguard American security. An angry Khrushchev refused to attend the summit conference. The summit's cancellation was both a public humiliation and a personal blow to Eisenhower. He had hoped to make what would have been his final summit meeting a fitting capstone to his presidency by reaching agreement on a number of critical issues.

Cultural/Political/Social Events

Development of Rock and Roll

1940 - 1959

The immediate roots of rock and roll lay in the rhythm and blues, then called "race music", and country music of the 1940s and 1950s. Particularly significant influences were jazz, blues, gospel, country, and folk. Commentators differ in their views of which of these forms were most important and the degree to which the new music was a re-branding of African American rhythm and blues for a white market, or a new hybrid of black and white forms. It was the realization that relatively affluent white teenagers were listening to this music that led to the development of what was to be defined as rock and roll as a distinct genre. Far beyond simply a musical style, rock and roll influenced lifestyles, fashion, attitudes, and language. In addition, rock and roll may have helped the cause of the civil rights movement because both African American teens and white American teens enjoyed the music. Many early rock and roll songs dealt with issues of cars, school, dating, and clothing. The lyrics of rock and roll songs described events and conflicts that most listeners could relate to from some point in their lives. Topics that were generally considered taboo, such as sex, began to be introduced in rock and roll music. This new music tried to break boundaries and express the real emotions that people were feeling, but didn't talk about. An awakening in the young American culture began to take place.

First Levittown constructed

May 7, 1947

Levittown is the model on which scores of post-WWII suburban communities were based--a place that started out as an experiment in low-cost, mass-produced housing and became, perhaps, the most famous suburban development in the world. On May 7, 1947, Levitt and Sons publicly announced their plan to build 2,000 mass-produced rental homes for veterans on their Island Trees land. Two days later, the New York Herald Tribune reported that 1,000 of the 2,000 proposed homes had already been rented. “Levittown” would be the eventual name for the new development. So great and so far-reaching was the success of the Levittown community that on July 3, 1950, William Levitt was featured on the front cover of Time Magazine. This success continued throughout 1950 and 1951, by which time the Levitts had constructed 17,447 homes in Levittown and the immediate surrounding areas.

Election of 1948


The United States presidential election of 1948 was held on Tuesday, November 2, 1948. Incumbent President Harry S. Truman, the Democratic nominee, successfully ran for re-election against Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican nominee. This election is considered to be the greatest election upset in American history, since virtually every prediction indicated that Truman would be defeated by Dewey. Months before the election, the Marshall Plan was passed.

“Dewey Defeats Truman”

November 3, 1948

“Dewey Defeats Truman” was a famously incorrect banner headline on the front page of the first edition of the Chicago Tribune on November 3, 1948. Incumbent United States President Harry S. Truman, who had been expected to lose to Republican challenger and Governor of New York Thomas E. Dewey in the 1948 presidential race, won the election. A delighted Truman was photographed at St. Louis Union Station holding a copy of his premature political obituary. Only a few hundred copies of the paper were published before the Tribune issued a second edition that backed off from proclaiming a winner. The headline is a cautionary tale for journalists about the dangers of being first to break a story without being certain of its accuracy. It is also a caution about allowing editorial preference to cloud judgment; the Tribune had been strongly against Truman throughout the campaign.

Development of Suburbs


Suburbs are the communities surrounding cities that are usually made up of single-family homes, but are increasingly including multifamily homes and places like malls and office buildings. Emerging in the 1850s as a result of a fast rising urban population and improving transportation technology, suburbs have remained a popular alternative to the city even today. In 1934, the United States Congress created the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), an organization intended to provide programs to insure mortgages. Poverty struck everyone's life during the Great Depression (beginning in 1929) and organizations like the FHA helped to ease the burden and stimulate growth. Rapid growth of suburbia characterized the post-World War II era for three chief reasons: (1) The economic boom following World War II, (2) the need for housing returning veterans and baby boomers relatively cheaply, and (3) whites fleeing the desegregation of urban cities brought on by the civil rights movement. Some of the first and most famous suburbs in the post-war era were the Levittown developments in the Megalopolis. In the 1950s, suburban expansion started up again. In particular from the 1950s, some suburbs developed industrial and warehousing functions. The availability of large areas of greenfield land and its relatively low cost and the increasing importance of road access meant that the edge of urban settlements had distinct advantages over more central locations.

Role of Native Americans in the 1950s

1950 - 1959

In the 1950’s, in an attempt to move Indians off reservations and into cities, the federal government initiated a policy of removal and termination. Under this policy, Native Americans would no longer be government wards on reservations. They would be removed and made, according to the resolution: “subject to the same laws and entitled to the same privileges and responsibilities as are applicable to other citizens of the United States.” Their status as government wards would be terminated as would their cultural identities. According the 1953 legislation, tribes would relinquish their sovereignty by leaving the reservations and assuming rights and responsibilities as American citizens. Of the 35,000 participants, about 30% returned to their reservations. Many who remained in the program lived in urban poverty, poor health, with substance abuse, emotional suffering, and a terrible loss of tribal connection and cultural identity. Their common heritage of small community and rural culture values, and dependence of the BIA did not prepare them for the strains of urban living.

Impact of Consumerism

1950 - 1959

Following the conclusion of World War II, the American economy experienced an incredible economic boom incomparable to most other stimuli of this nature. The United States began to transition from the heavy industry of war materials into a consumer based economy, pumping out billions of different products for consumption. Unlike previous Americans, those in the 1950s lived in a time when consumer values dominated the American economy and culture. The "good life" was defined in economic terms and the dynamic economy provided more leisure and income. Above all, Americans were confident the good life was permanent and they enjoyed flashy cars, televisions, and an openness about sex. In some ways mass marketing and consumerism brought about a material conformity. In social areas, like religion, and gender roles conformity seemed to be the norm. However, America was still made up of dissimilar people. While some celebrated conformity, others reveled in unconformity. In the prosperous 1950s Americans demanded less of their government. They looked to Washington, and the president, for reassurance rather than bold action. Dwight D. Eisenhower dominated the decade. He was a comfortable moderate leader well suited to the times. The "Modern Republicans" appealed to a prosperous electorate but Eisenhower’s anticommunist foreign policy was not bland. Socially Americans were challenged by a rebellious youth culture, the alienated Beat movement, and a divisive civil rights struggle. What seemed so homogenous and prosperous and secure was in reality none of those things.

Social roles of women and men during 1950s

1950 - 1959

The role of women in the 1950 was repressive and constrictive in many ways. Society placed high importance and many expectations on behavior at home as well as in public. Women were supposed to fulfill certain roles, such as a caring mother, a diligent homemaker, and an obedient wife. The mother was supposed to stay home and nurture. A diligent housewife had dinner on the table precisely at the moment her husband arrived from work. However, many women entered the workforce thanks to the scarcity of male workers due to the war. These industry jobs provided good pay for the women who did the duty, but by the time the men returned from the war the tide shifted back to a male-dominated workforce. Men outnumbered women in the workplace five to two. The only acceptable reason a mother should take her time away from her family and work was if the family needed the income. There was a patriarchal sentiment of the decade, where men not only were the primary breadwinners but ultimately presided over the family unit itself.

Role of Mexican-Americans in the 1950s

1950 - 1959

When the U.S. entered World War II, it turned to Mexico to address wartime labor shortages. In August 1942 the Bracero Program was initiated, allowing for the importation of temporary contract laborers from Mexico. Over the following two decades, more than 4 million Mexican farm-workers arrived in the U.S. under this guest worker program, most of them destined for the cotton-fields and orchards of California's Central Valley and the Pacific Northwest, and the ranches and sugar beet farms of the Midwest. Texas chose to opt out of the Bracero program and hire farm-workers directly from Mexico. At its height, over 437,000 guest-workers entered the U.S. annually under the Bracero Program, which was discontinued in 1964, as the invention of a mechanical cotton harvester reduced labor needs, and scandals over the exploitation of guest workers led the Department of Labor official overseeing the program to denounce it as 'legalized slavery'. In the post-World War II years, agricultural work opportunities continued to attract Mexicans and Mexican Americans to Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. Also, as their numbers increased in the 1940s and 1950s their cultural and religious celebrations fostered ethnic solidarity. Mexican Americans in Idaho staged Mexican fiestas in the labor camps of Wilder, Nampa, and Caldwell in the 1940s and the 1950s. In 1957 in Quincy, Washington, Mexican Americans began celebrating the Mexican fiesta.

I Love Lucy premiers

October 15, 1951

This enormously popular sitcom, TV’s first smash hit, starred the real-life husband-and-wife team of Cuban actor/bandleader Desi Arnaz and talented redheaded actress/comedienne Lucille Ball. The black-and-white series originally ran from October 15, 1951, to May 6, 1957, on the CBS. They played Ricky and Lucy Ricardo, a New York bandleader and his aspiring actress/homemaker wife who was always scheming to get on stage. This was the first sitcom to be filmed live before a studio audience, and it did extremely well in the ratings both the first time around and in reruns. I Love Lucy was the most watched show in the United States in four of its six seasons, and was the first to end its run at the top of the Nielsen ratings.

Election of 1952


The United States presidential election of 1952 was held on Tuesday, November 4, 1952. During this time, Cold War tension between the United States and the Soviet Union was escalating rapidly. In the United States Senate, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin had become a national figure after chairing congressional investigations into the issue of Communist spies within the U.S. government. McCarthy's so-called "witch hunt", combined with national tension and weariness after two years of bloody stalemate in the Korean War, the Communist Revolution in China, the 1949 Soviet acquisition of nuclear weapons, and the early-1950s recession, set the stage for a hotly fought presidential contest. In this election, unpopular incumbent President Harry S. Truman decided not to run, so the Democratic Party instead nominated Governor Adlai Stevenson II of Illinois; Stevenson had gained a reputation in Illinois as an intellectual and eloquent orator. The Republican Party countered with popular war hero General Dwight D. Eisenhower and won in a landslide, ending 20 consecutive years of Democratic control of the White House.

Jonas Salk develops polio vaccine


Jonas Salk is among the most venerated medical scientists of the century. In 1947, Salk became the head of the Virus Research Lab at the University of Pittsburgh. He worked on improving the flu vaccine and began to study poliovirus with hopes of creating a vaccine against the disease. Salk applied findings from many other scientists to this problem. From some he found a way to produce large quantities of the virus; from others a way to kill the virus with formaldehyde so that it remained intact enough to cause a response in humans. In 1952, he first inoculated volunteers, including himself, his wife, and their three sons, with a polio vaccine made from this killed virus. Everyone who received the test vaccine began producing antibodies to the disease, yet no one became ill. The vaccine seemed safe and effective. The following year he published the results in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and nationwide testing was carried out. The success of the vaccination effort won Jonas Salk unsought fame.

Election of 1956


The United States presidential election of 1956 was held on Tuesday, November 6, 1956. The popular incumbent President, Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, successfully ran for re-election. The election was a rematch of 1952, as Eisenhower's opponent in 1956 was Democrat Adlai Stevenson, whom Eisenhower had defeated four years earlier.
Eisenhower was popular, but had health conditions that became a quiet issue. Stevenson remained popular with a core of liberal Democrats but held no office and had no real base. He (and Eisenhower) largely ignored the civil rights issue. Eisenhower had ended the Korean War and the nation was prosperous, so a landslide for the charismatic Eisenhower was never in doubt. A notable event--earlier in the year, Eisenhower authorized the phrase "under God" to be added to the Pledge of Allegiance.

Federal Highway Act signed; work begun on Interstate Highway system

June 29, 1956

On June 29, 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. The bill created a 41,000-mile “National System of Interstate and Defense Highways” that would, according to Eisenhower, eliminate unsafe roads, inefficient routes, traffic jams and all of the other things that got in the way of “speedy, safe transcontinental travel.” At the same time, highway advocates argued, “in case of atomic attack on our key cities, the road net [would] permit quick evacuation of target areas.” For all of these reasons, the 1956 law declared that the construction of an elaborate expressway system was “essential to the national interest.” After the Act was signed, construction of the Interstate Highway system began the same year. The initial cost estimate for the system was $25 billion over 12 years; it ended up costing $114 billion and took 35 years.

Alaska and Hawaii become states


In 1959 Alaska and Hawaii became the last two states to join the USA. In 1867 the United States bought Alaska from Russia for 7 million dollars. At that time many Americans were against this but as it turned out Alaska was a great investment. The state has a lot of mineral resources and is the biggest oil-producing state in the US. Finally, on January 3, 1959 President Eisenhower declared Alaska the 49th state of the union. Hawaii became an American territory in 1900. Three years before, The US installed a naval base at Pearl Harbor. It served as the command base for the American operations during World War II. In August 1959 Hawaii became the 50th state of the USA.