The Best of the Fifties: 30 Fascinating Facts from 1950s


1TV dinner

TV dinner

In 1953, Swanson had 260 tons of leftover turkey from Thanksgiving and didn't know how to get rid of it. They asked their workers for ideas, and one man thought they should package it in individual trays with sides and freeze it. The TV dinner was born.

2. In 1954, an archaeologist named Kamal el-Mallakh discovered 1,224 intact pieces of wood from 2500 B.C. under the Great Pyramid of Giza. A boatbuilder then spent 14 years figuring out how they fit together and un-warping them to assemble the "Khufu ship", visible in a museum today.

3. In 1953, a paperboy acquired a hollowed-out nickel-containing a ciphered message while collecting for his deliveries. He told the daughter of an NYPD officer and the news got to the FBI, eventually leading to the arrest and conviction of KGB agent Vilyam Fisher four years later.

4. In 1952, Albert Einstein was offered the Presidency of the State of Israel. He declined, saying that as a scientist trained to deal with objective facts, he lacked the aptitude and experience to deal with people.

5. In 1953, a North Korean fighter pilot named No Kum-sok defected to South Korea with his MiG-15 and was rewarded $100,000 from the United States.



In the 1950s, during the height of the Red Scare, Einstein offered to appear as a character witness in defense of W.E.B. Du Bois who was being indicted by the feds for failing to register as a "foreign agent." Einstein's offer made the judge drop the case.

7. In 1952-54, Felisa Rincón de Gautier, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico had snow delivered by plane to the city so that the children who had never seen or played in the snow, would be able to do so.

8. In the 1950s, Casinos in Las Vegas offered “Atomic Tourism” in which guests could watch atomic bombs being tested in the desert as a form of entertainment.

9. April 11, 1954, was the most boring day in history, according to a computer program tracking news. The most noteworthy events of that day included a general election in Belgium and the birth of a Turkish academic.

10. In the 1950s, a Catholic Priest named Gerald Fitzgerald proposed banishing all sexually predatory priests to a remote island for life.

11Operation Sea Spray

Operation Sea Spray

In September 1950, the US Navy sprayed San Francisco with "harmless" bacteria to simulate a biological attack. The not-so-harmless bacteria caused a spike in a rare UTI, killing one man. A lawsuit against the government was rejected on the grounds that the government-held legal immunity.

12. In 1951, a poor woman named Henrietta Lacks donated her cells to science without knowing it. Her cells would be the first "immortal cells" that could be kept alive for medical use. They have been used for everything from creating the polio vaccine to cloning.

13. In 1950, Brazil was so sure they would win the World Cup final against Uruguay that the local media hailed them as "future champions" before the match and 22 gold medals had already been made with the names of Brazilian players. They lost 2-1.

14. In 1957, the KKK planned to set up a burning cross at a college in Alabama that recently integrated. However, because it was finals week, the students were all in their dorms and heard the KKK outside. The students then attacked the KKK with bats and golf clubs and forced them to retreat.

15. On April 12, 1955, Edward R. Murrow asked Jonas Salk “who owned the patent to the polio vaccine?”. His response was “Well, the people, I would say... There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”



In 1950, almost no cases of near-sightedness were found among Eskimo children. But after the advent of compulsory education, even their eyesight got worse. In 1979, poor eye vision was relatively high among Greenland Eskimos at all ages.

17. Between 1950 and 1965 the US military lost a total of 10 nuclear weapons, primarily in the ocean, which is still missing.

18. In 1959, Rena Kanokogi disguised herself as a man, entered a men's judo competition, and won first place. Her medal was taken away after her victory when she admitted to being female, but it was awarded back to her in 2009.

19. In 1959, rather than integrate, Prince Edward County in Virginia closed all of their public schools for five years. White children attended state-subsidized "private schools". No provision was made for educating the county's black children.

20. In 1955, evangelist Jack Coe claimed to have divinely healed a three-year-old of polio and told the boy's parents to remove his leg braces. This caused the boy constant pain, but Coe never faced jail time as medical malpractice did not cover divine healing. The next year, Coe died of polio.

21Harry S. Truman

Harry S. Truman

In 1952, President Harry S. Truman gave the first televised tour of the White House. He explained its history, stopped in front of paintings and furniture to tell stories, and even played the Steinway piano in the East Room.

22. In 1957, the BBC aired an April Fools segment showing a family harvesting spaghetti from the family spaghetti tree. When viewers asked how they could grow their own, they were told to place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.

23. In 1950, Ladislao Kubala signed for Barcelona after getting drunk on the way to join Real Madrid.

24. In 1958, Alaska was hit with a Mega Tsunami that measured 1720 feet tall. That’s taller than the Empire State Building.

25. In 1959, the USPS attempted to deliver mail via cruise missile and successfully shipped 3,000 pieces of mail from Virginia to Florida in 22 minutes.