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1950s Conformity and Counterculture

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Design +1 Age Levels Elementary (9 to 12 years old), Middle School (13 to 15 years old)
The 1950s were a period of post-war peace and prosperity. The growing economy and baby boom led to a culture of consumerism and growing Cold War tensions led to an embrace of all things American. This student activity includes a number of images reflecting the 1950s (most of them in postage stamp form). After investigating these images and evaluating how they support or challenge conformity, students are asked to research the counterculture that began to develop in the 1950s. The final assessment asks students to create a stamp image reflecting one of the people, events, or movements that pushed back against 1950s conformity.

Guiding questions:
-What caused a sense of American conformity to develop in the 1950s? How was this feeling expressed?
-What challenges to conformity existed in the 1950s?
-Is it more "American" to conform or to rebel?

33c Post-war Baby Boom single

National Postal Museum

William J. Levitt

National Portrait Gallery

Newspaper clipping, McDonald's Menu

National Museum of American History

33c Drive-in Movies single

National Postal Museum

32c James Dean single

National Postal Museum

33c Rock n' Roll single

National Postal Museum

33c Teen Fashions single

National Postal Museum

Jack Kerouac

National Portrait Gallery

33c Tail Fins and Chrome single

National Postal Museum

Dumbo

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Allen Ginsberg

National Portrait Gallery

33c World Series Rivals single

National Postal Museum

33c I Love Lucy single

National Postal Museum

Swanson TV Dinner Tray

National Museum of American History

Sputnik

National Air and Space Museum

Marlon Brando

National Portrait Gallery