Times & Places

20th Century Design: The 1950s

Dominated by conservative politics, social conformity, atomic anxiety, and a soaring birth rate, the 1950s also brought prosperity to many industrialized countries, especially the U.S. Once again, people had money to spend on entertainment and consumer products. Aided by growing mobility due to widespread car ownership, Americans created the "casual" lifestyle. Suburban neighborhoods full of tract houses complete with barbeque pits and boomerang coffee tables sprouted up across the country. Fast-food restaurants, like McDonald's, and fantasy theme parks, such as Disneyland (both founded in 1955), appeared upon the landscape. Large supermarkets increasingly replaced family owned grocery stores, while the advent of things like credit cards (1951) fed the American consumer frenzy for everything from ballpoint pens (invented 1950) to Barbie dolls (launched 1959).

Excerpt from

Dallas Museum of Art, Hot Cars, High Fashion, Cool Stuff: Designs of the 20th Century (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1996).