Stories of 1950's American Life

Christina Powell, Olin College of Engineering

Abstract

It’s April, 1955. Another long winter has come and gone, another summer is just around the corner. For the Jones, Ford, and Smith families, that summer is full of promise. Perhaps the promise may be tinged with a little bit of fear and despair, but, for the most part, it’s looking optimistic. These three middle-class families live in a newly-built section of suburbia, just outside of a large city. While the men of the households commute to work in the city, the women stay at home in the suburbs and the children attend school and play with friends from their street. These three families are intertwined, both by living near each other and by relationships between their respective members. The Joneses, Fords, and Smiths are typical American families of the 1950s.

For them and the other families of the time, the 1950s was full of contradictions: peace and war, calm and fear, old and new. It was a time of rapidly changing technology, of society changing in new ways. American life changed dramatically from the beginning of the 1950s to the end, and some of this change can be told through objects from that time, common, everyday objects. These objects each tell a story about American life, a story unique to what they are.