Search This Blog

Friday, November 6, 2009

Food in the Atomic Age

The postwar era of the 1950s, changed the way America cooked and ate. Television allowed companies to mass-market their products to consumers, and the automobile culture boomed with the freedom to enjoy food on the go.

The phrase "Atomic Age" was coined by New York Times journalist, William Laurence, who was the official journalist for the U.S. Manhattan Project which developed the first nuclear weapons, and tested them in 1945.

During the 1950s, Las Vegas became a tourist destination known for its casinos and the atomic mushroom clouds seen on the distant horizon, as shown in this 1952 Teich postcard (2CP2072).

The Nevada Test Site, a U.S. Department of Energy reservation located 65 miles northwest of Vegas, was established in 1951 to test nuclear devices. The blasts spurred the growth of the city through tourism and could easily be seen from downtown Vegas hotels.

After the lean years of rationing during World War II (1941-1945), Americans were ready to enjoy life to the fullest again. The new prosperity allowed families to renovate kitchens and buy new appliances for the first time.

The look was cleaner and less fussy than the kitchens of the 1930s, and relied heavily on electricity, which was an efficient power source for the plethora of new gadgets available to housewives. 5CK493 Teich postcard, 1955.

In 1955, the Lyon Company advertised steel cabinets for kitchens with this Teich postcard (D10797). Color was all the rage from pink cabinets to blue blenders. Anything but white was preferred. The cabinet's advantages included doors that opened with a tap, convenient storage in corner, ventilation, and built-in ranges.

Eighteen million women worked during World War II to keep the country and the war effort going. When the war ended, most women left or were forced out of their jobs to make way for returning soldiers.

1950s fashion was characterized by full skirts that accented a slim waistline. The conservatively flattering looks were emphasized by a pageant of colors and patterns influenced by European, Turkish and Asian cultures. Green cotton dress worn in the Mundelein area, circa 1954.

Stainless steel was the material of choice for a durable, modern look. These stainless steel mint julep cups were manufactured by Craft Manufacturing in North Chicago, circa 1950.

Swanson TV Dinners were introduced in 1953 and fit well into the new age of convenience. 9CK713 Teich postcard, 1959.

The postcards and objects shared in this blog are a small portion of items selected and researched by collections staff for the museum's upcoming exhibit, "Food in the Atomic Age" open November 14, 2009 to February 21, 2010.


Alex said...

Love all this. It's optimistic and totally innocent, and at the same time there's an air of fantasy or delusion about the whole era and its 'atomic' products. :D

D_Dretske said...

It is all very polished and Space Age. It's almost like that generation was marketing the era to themselves. Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for reading!