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New Museum Exhibition: The Modern Consumer — 1950s Products and Style

New exhibition explores American Consumerism during the 1950s

A wave of consumerism swept across the United States during the 1950s. Driven by a thriving postwar economy, designers utilized bold styling to transform everyday objects into visually expressive items. Manufacturers unleashed an array of products to keep pace with demand. Stores carried everything from portable televisions and pocket-sized radios to space-age toys and plastic dinnerware sets. Many families adorned their homes with modern furniture and automatic, push-button appliances. Consumers began to purchase items because they were the latest and greatest things.

This distinctly American, consumer-based culture developed as the population of the United States soared during the 1950s. Median family income doubled and the gross national product grew by more than $200 billion. Advertising and credit replaced rationing and restraint, and a growing number of middle-class families engaged in a spending spree. Shopping centers and indoor malls with vast, paved parking lots catered to new suburban housing developments that extended from cities and towns. Often located at the intersections of major roads and highways, shopping centers offered easy access to a multitude of supermarkets and stores. 

At home, television exerted a profound influence on the development of a consumer-based popular culture. TV lamps glowed atop television sets while families ate pre-packaged TV dinners on Melamine trays. Networks divided viewers into target audiences and advertisers spent large sums to promote their products. Official toys and games were marketed alongside children’s programs. Elvis Presley performed to millions of TV viewers, launching rock ‘n’ roll into the mainstream and a craze for 45-RPM records. From tabletop jukebox selectors and portable record players to battery powered robots and space-themed lunchboxes, this exhibition presents examples of futuristic styling and innovative marketing from the golden age of consumerism.     

Visit https://www.flysfo.com/museum/exhibitions/modern-consumer for more information.    

@SFOMuseum  #1950sConsumer

The Modern Consumer — 1950s Products and Style is located post-security in Terminal 3, Departures Level, San Francisco International Airport. This exhibition is accessible to ticketed passengers from December 8, 2018 – October 27, 2019.