The 1950s at Home
This was the era of the "baby boom," as the birth rate set records between 1946
and 1964. In Michigan, more than one million houses were built between 1954 and 1960. You
can see a typical 1950s living room, kitchen and bathroom in this gallery.
The consumer shopped for convenience products and items made from new, colorful
materials. The gallery features Eames chairs of molded plywood, pink appliances and
Michigan food products. Visitors can watch clips from Detroit Red Wings, Lions and Tigers
games; I Love Lucy; and other 1950s broadcasts on the living room's built-in TV.
Savings from the World War II years and television advertising fueled the economy.
Michigan's Gerber Products Company relied on supermarkets"Mothers'
baby food cupboards"to make baby foods universally acceptable during
this decade. The Kellogg's Company declared its leadership in the "presweetened"
cereal field, introducing Sugar Pops (1951), Sugar Frosted Flakes (1952) and [Sugar]
Smacks (1953). Specially commissioned paintings"Kids" by Norman
Rockwellappeared on Kellogg's packages in 1954 and 1955.
Many families moved to the suburbs, bought a second caroften a station wagonand
began commuting on newly built highways. In 1955, the J. L. Hudson Corporation developed Northland,
one of the nation's first shopping malls, in Southfield.
A trading stamp craze swept the nation. People
got the stamps when they bought groceries, gasoline and other products. They pasted the
stamps into books, took the books to redemption centers and exchanged the books for more
products such as those shown in the S&H Green Stamp Store exhibit here. S&H Green
stamps, Top Value, King Korn, Triple S, Gold Bell and Plaid were popular
trading stamps. (Thomas Sperry of Jackson, Michigan, and Shelly Hutchinson of Baltimore,
Maryland, founded S&H. They issued their first trading stamps in Jackson, Michigan, in
Underneath the prosperity of the 1950s were undercurrents that would surface in the
next decade. Mortgage lenders, realtors and insurance firms "redlined" parts of
cities to keep Blacks and others from purchasing homes in certain areas. This meant that
although a family had enough money to buy a home, it still could not buy the home it
The United States and its allies pitted their beliefs and economies against those of
Communist nations. Fear that this "Cold War" would become a nuclear war led
some people to build bomb shelters. Cities, such as the "critical target areas"
of Detroit, Flint, Lansing and Grand Rapids created evacuation plans to be used in case of
Acting on the prevailing fear of Communism, the state legislature passed the
Michigan Communist Control Law
in 1952. The law required that members of the Communist Party register with the State
Police. The State Police Commissioner created a secret "Red Squad" that
collected information about people suspected of being communists. Detroit Police
Commissioner Harry S. Toy established a similar squad in Detroit. (During the next decade
the two squads collected information about Civil Rights activists and those opposed to the
Viet Nam War.)