How Much Do You Know About America in the 1950s?



By: Isadora Teich

6 Min Quiz

Image: wikimedia

About This Quiz

Think you know everything about '50s living in America? The 1950s is an era famous for fashion and excess. When people say they love a vintage aesthetic, they are often referring to the glamor and famous silhouettes of this decade. This iconic decade is known for hyper-feminine and masculine attire, cigarette ads, full skirts, large elaborate cars, the baby boom and the rise of suburban life. The economy was booming, families grew and America was at its height as both a military power and the land of opportunity.  

Despite the wealth, optimism, glossy looks, materialism and emphasis on traditional values, which some people are nostalgic for, life in the 1950s was not all red lipstick and white picket fences. In this decade, the civil rights movement began and the red scare was in full swing. Americans began to fight for their rights at home, often facing violence, while tensions with the USSR caused fear in every corner of America. Many kids of the baby boom took part in drills in school preparing for Russian attack, and many Americans who were falsely accused of communist sympathies had their lives ruined. 

If you think you know everything about the glitz, comfort, social unrest and change of the 1950s, try your hand at this quiz! 

Who is the King of Rock & Roll?

Elvis Presley's style and sound took America by storm in the late '50s. He took the charts by storm and changed music forever.


Which of these men was an icon of '50s Western films?

John Wayne is a true Hollywood icon who set the standard for Westerns and is widely considered to be one of the coolest men to ever hit the silver screen. He appeared in classics like "The Searchers" and "Rio Bravo."


During the Red Scare, the U.S. government attempted to uncover:

Between 1945-1952 the American government held dozens of hearings to route out secret communist enemies who were supposedly attempting to destroy America from within. While almost no communists were uncovered during the Red Scare, tens of thousands of Americans lost everything in what was essentially a countrywide modern witch hunt.


What war was right before the era of American prosperity of the 1950s?

While much of the world struggled to rebuild after World War II, America took its place as a global economic powerhouse. This prosperity was largely shared with the middle class, which also boomed for the first time.


In 1955, who became famous for not giving up their seat to a white person on a Montgomery, Alabama bus?

In 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat on a bus to a white person. This sparked a boycott of city buses by activists that lasted over a year, forcing them to stop discriminating against black passengers.


Which icon was one of the most famous sex symbols of the 1950s?

Marilyn Monroe is one of the most famous women to ever live. She originated the blonde bombshell archetype and starred in classics like "The Seven-Year Itch" and "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."


What genre dominated music in the late '50s?

Rock & roll dominated American music and culture throughout the mid- to late 1950s. This mix of black American music with country western and pop took the world by storm.


During the 1950s, women were encouraged to be what?

During the 1940s, many women had worked, doing the jobs men did before they were drafted into the war effort. In the 1950s, women were relentlessly pressured to return home, cook, clean, raise kids, look good and do nothing else.


The 1950s is famous for the creation of:

In the 1950s newly middle class people looking to build families flocked to the suburbs. This is because of Roosevelt's G.I Bill, which was created to help WWII vets integrate into secure civilian lives. It made moving into a suburban home more affordable for veterans than renting an apartment in the city.


Which '50s film icon died young?

James Dean was famous for his good looks, acting chops and tragic death in 1955 at the age of 24. He starred in classics like "Rebel Without A Cause" and "East of Eden."


What color lipstick was on trend for women?

Red lipstick was all the rage. It was made iconic by stars like Marilyn Monroe.


Which of these '50s dishes has stood the test of time?

This recipe was created by Campbell's in 1955 as a way to sell more cream of mushroom soup. As a casserole made almost entirely of canned ingredients, it is an incredibly 1950s dish.


Which war affected the US heavily over the course of the 1950s?

The Cold War lasted from 1947-1991 and was mostly a state of geopolitical tension between the capitalist U.S. and communist USSR, who pitted other smaller countries against one another in shadow wars. Communism was considered a threat both internationally and within America, leading to mass hysteria and paranoia.


What was declared unconstitutional in the 1950s?

The 1954 Brown vs the Board of Education case brought black Americans' struggle for equality in America to the American mainstream. In it, the Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were inherently unequal.


No fashionable woman in the 1950s would leave the house without:

Fashionable women had hats, gloves and a handbag for every outfit. The most iconic of these of the ear was the pillbox hat, which was often accompanied by a veil.


Women were expected to accessorize their outfits, but were men?

Men were expected to look as stylish as women. They would coordinate a hat, handkerchief, tie, socks and wingtip shoes with their suits.


What type of food blew up during this decade?

McDonald's was founded in the '40s, and by the '50s numerous other chain restaurants would pop up and spread. These include KFC, Taco Bell and Burger King.


Which of these became popular in the 1950s?

Tanning was considered an activity of leisure and privilege, causing many young people to bake in the sun for countless hours. Unfortunately, people were not aware of the health effects of this back in the day and did not often wear sunscreen.


There were a record number of ________ in the 1950s.

Baby boomers were born during the postwar boom, from 1946-1964, when the American economy flourished and people were optimistic about the future. About 4 million babies were born a year during the 1950s, leading a generation of about 77 million people by the end of the baby boom.


What kind of dish became a housewife favorite?

One-dish meals were marketed very heavily during this era, with companies often joining to push recipes that featured their appliances, goods and utensils. Tuna noodle casserole and similar one-dish meals became popular with housewives due to their marketing and convenience.


What caused much of the prosperity of the 1950s?

Between 1945 and 1960, America's GDP more than doubled and the middle class boomed. This is because the government spent money on infrastructure, schools, technology and benefits for the veterans of World War II, creating numerous employment opportunities and improving the quality of life of the growing middle class.


___________ dinners became popular during the 1950s.

Frozen dinners or TV dinners took off after being advertised by Swanson in 1954. These became immensely popular, and many of the original meals are still available in grocery stores.


What was considered a mental illness cure-all in the 1950s?

Lobotomies were considered to be a cure for everything from mild anxiety to schizophrenia but often left the victims disabled or killed them. Between the 1940s and 1960s, over 50,000 lobotomies were performed in the U.S., mostly on women.


How did many women feel about the return to traditional gender roles in 1950s suburbia?

Many women, who had gotten a taste of working during the 1940s, felt trapped and unhappy after being forced to stay at home and raise kids in suburbia throughout the 1950s. This dissatisfaction contributed to the explosion of the feminist movement in the 1960s.


What became popular in the 1950s?

The American middle class had more money to spend than ever before and spent it on technological innovations like TV. Many American families gathered around their TVs nightly to watch shows like "Gunsmoke" and "I Love Lucy."


The _________ look was popular during this decade.

Tight sweaters were a '50s fashion staple for women. They were worn with bullet bras to give busts a pointed look.


Men's suits in the 50s were:

Men's fashion was particularly somber in the 1950s. Suits were loose-fitting and dark-colored with matching dark accessories.


It was common for pregnant women to do what during the 1950s?

Pregnant women thought nothing of smoking and drinking, which were far more common back then. In fact, it was not unheard of for doctors to offer pregnant women cigarettes at their appointments.


What type of foods became popular in America for the first time?

The booming middle class had a lot of money to spend, and changes in mass production and technology meant there was more available for them to buy than ever before. Americans stocked their cupboards with canned meats and vegetables and their freezers with frozen options.


Which major Rock & Roll icon died in a plane crash at the end of the 1950s?

In 1959 rock icons Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens all died in a plane crash in Iowa. This event came to be known as "The Day the Music Died."


How did many people imagine America's future during the 1950s?

The wealth of the 1950s made the huge middle class optimistic about the future. Despite the perceived communist threat, many people expanded their families and imagined lifetimes of opportunity and comfort for their children.


What aesthetic influenced men's casual wear?

Due to the popularity of western film and TV, men's casual wear became somewhat western-inspired. This was only appropriate casually, however, and not for the office.


Which skirt became popular in the 1950s?

There were two main iconic silhouettes of the decade. These were the wasp waist full skirt and the form-fitting pencil skirt.


During the 1950s, many cities had ___________ problems.

Before environmental regulations, factories, refineries, steel and chemical plants, and private citizens could pollute the air as much as they pleased. This led to many major U.S. cities being shrouded in a poisonous haze for years.


Which type of song became popular again in the 1950s?

Novelty songs, or nonsense songs that are usually meant to be funny, were first popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Novelty songs like "Witch Doctor" by David Seville and "Yakety Yak" by The Coasters topped charts in the 1950s.


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