This page is intended to provide a “snapshot” of life in the United States in the year 1955. The following are major cultural and political figures, events, and entertainment.
President of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953-1961
Vice President of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1953-1961
Political Affiliation: Republican
01/10/1955: Chinese Communist Air Force raid the nationalist-controlled Tachen Islands and seize Ichiang Island. January 10, 1955
01/19/1955: The first filming of a presidential press conference. January 19, 1955
03/16/1955: Eisenhower announces that the United States would use atomic weapons in the event of war with Communist China. March 16, 1955
05/31/1955: In Brown II, the Supreme Court orders schools integrated “with all deliberate speed.” May 31, 1955
07/18/1955: The Geneva Conference opens, attended by the heads of state of Britain, France, the U.S.S.R, and the United States. July 18, 1955
Dwight D. Eisenhower – Geneva Convention Begins
On July 18, 1955, the leaders of the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, and France began their meetings at a Summit Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. This was the first meeting between the “Big Four” since the end of World War II. While few tangible accomplishments emerged from this summit, the meeting inaugurated a new, less hostile phase of the Cold War.
President Dwight Eisenhower and his advisers were hesitant about meeting with the Soviet Union. The death of Stalin in 1953 had done little to diminish the animosity between the nations. Accordingly, Washington developed a test of Soviet sincerity: if the USSR would sign a long-delayed peace treaty with Austria, Eisenhower would agree to attend a conference. Even after the Soviets passed this test, however, some members of the administration, such as Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, feared the consequences of such a meeting. Dulles counseled Eisenhower to make few concessions and to avoid friendly social interactions with his Soviet counterparts. Eisenhower partially followed Dulles’s advice. He made hard-line demands on the Soviets, calling for elections in Eastern Europe and the unification of Germany. Socially, however, Eisenhower was friendly when meeting with Soviet leaders. The President’s approach led to feelings of good will, but little in the way of concrete agreements.
One of the major sticking points for an arms control agreement was the issue of inspection. Each side needed to confirm the removal of nuclear weapons through some type of examination. In order to bypass this impediment, Eisenhower proposed an “open skies” policy, which would allow nations to inspect military installations from the air. The Soviet representatives rejected this idea, correctly viewing the proposal as a way that the Americans could gain critical intelligence.
The “Spirit of Geneva” eased tensions between the Soviets and the United States, and Eisenhower returned home triumphant, even though the conference failed to produce agreements on arms control or other major international issues. The President had demonstrated that the United States was sincere in pursuing peace while remaining firm against the threats of the Soviet Union. According to a Gallup poll, Eisenhower’s popularity reached 79 percent after the conference, the highest level of his presidency.
07/29/1955: Plans for the first artificial satellites, scheduled to be launched in 1957, are announced by the United States. July 29, 1955
08/28/1955: Fourteen-year old Emmett Till is kidnapped and murdered in Money, Mississippi. August 28, 1955
09/24/1955: Eisenhower suffers a “moderate” heart attack in Denver, Colorado. September 24, 1955
10/10/1955: The Supreme Court orders Autherine Lucy admitted to the University of Alabama. October 10, 1955
11/25/1955: The Interstate Commerce Commission bans racial segregation on interstate trains and buses. November 25, 1955
12/01/1955: Rosa Parks is arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. During the following week, the Montgomery African American community, led by Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., organizes a boycott of the city’s buses that lasts for more than a year. December 01, 1955
12/26/1955: Eisenhower tries to persuade Richard Nixon to take a cabinet post and not stand for re-election in 1956 as vice president. December 26, 1955
THEATRE: Tony Award Winners for 1955:
MUSIC: Top Ten Songs of 1955 (click on title to hear the song!):
1 Perez Prado – Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White
2 Bill Haley and His Comets – Rock Around The Clock
3 Mitch Miller – The Yellow Rose Of Texas
4 Roger Williams – Autumn Leaves
5 Les Baxter – Unchained Melody
6 Bill Hayes – The Ballad Of Davy Crockett
7 Four Aces – Love Is A Many Splendored Thing
8 McGuire Sisters – Sincerely
9 Pat Boone – Ain’t That A Shame
10 Georgia Gibbs – Dance With Me Henry
(See more hits at: Billboard.fm)
MOVIES: Academy Award Winners for 1955
Actor – Marlon Brando “On the Waterfront”
Actress – Grace Kelly “The Country Girl”
Director – Elia Kazan “On the Waterfront”
Best Picture – “On the Waterfront”
Here is a YouTube link to “On the Waterfront.”
TELEVISION: Top Ten TV Shows 1955-56
1. The $64,000 Question – CBS
3. The Ed Sullivan Show – CBS
4. Disneyland – ABC
5. The Jack Benny Program – CBS
6. December Bride – DBS
7. You Bet Your Life – NBC
8. Dragnet – NBC
9. I’ve Got a Secret – CBS
10. General Electric Theater – CBS
CULTURAL EVENTS: Major landmark events in 1955
Ray Kroc opens the first McDonald’s restaurant in Des Plaines, IL.
First riot at an Elvis Presley concert takes place in Jacksonville, FL.
Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery AL bus, signaling the beginning of the civil rights movement.
James Dean’s stars in “East of Eden” and is killed in car accident in California.
First Guinness Book of World Records Published.
Disneyland opens in Anaheim, CA.
“The Mickey Mouse Club” debuts on ABC.