1950 Fun Facts, Trivia, and History
History Facts From the Year 1950
What are some fun facts, trivia, and history from the year 1950? For openers, Sam Walton opened the five-and-dime store that was the start of his Walmart empire, Private Kenneth Shadrick became the first U.S. casualty of the Korean War, and the United States began to construct the hydrogen bomb. McCarthyism labeled certain Americans as "communists," hurricanes in the Atlantic basin were given names for the first time, and CBS received an FCC license to broadcast in color.
In 1950, the FBI started the “Ten Most Wanted” list, Diners Club became the world’s first multipurpose credit card company, and the eastern U.S. was devastated by the Great Appalachian Storm of 1950. The New York Yankees won the World Series, the first Peanuts comic strip appeared in nine newspapers, and Harry Wasylyk invented plastic garbage bags.
Back in 1950, Otis installed the first self-service elevator in Dallas, the precursor to Xerox developed the first photocopy machine, and Marion Donovan invented disposable diapers. Minute Rice first appeared on grocery store shelves, Pillsbury launched its annual “Bake-Off,” and Kraft introduced packaged cheese slices.
In 1950, the minimum wage was 75¢, the average annual income was $3,210.00, and a new house cost $8,450.00. A movie ticket was 46¢, a gallon of gas averaged 30¢, and a McDonald’s hamburger cost 15¢. White bread was 12¢ a loaf, 10 pounds of potatoes were 35¢, and frozen chicken pies cost 19¢ apiece.
Back in 1950, All About Eve was the most popular film, Texaco Star Theatre (NBC) was the most popular TV show, and The Cardinal was the most popular fiction book. Television host Jay Leno was born, dramatist George Bernard Shaw passed away, and Dunkin’ Donuts was launched.
Here are some more fast history facts from 1950: Silly Putty was a popular Christmas gift, Mona Lisa was the number one song for five weeks, and Chicken a la King and chiffon cake were food trends. Tuition at the University of Pennsylvania was $600, Prevention Magazine began publishing, and eight million American homes had televisions.
On the international stage, the Korean War began, U.S. military personnel were sent to Vietnam to aid French forces, and a mummified body from the 4th century was found in Denmark. 1950 was also the year of the Chinchaga Firestorm, when the moon and sun turned blue in both the United States and Europe.
Famous people in the news back in 1950 included Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, General Douglas MacArthur, Private Kenneth Shadrick, Joseph McCarthy, Clement Attlee, Winston Churchill, Ho Chi Minh, Hirohito, Sam Walton, Albert Einstein, Ralph Bunche, William Faulkner, Isaac Asimov, Paul Harvey, Jackie Robinson, Betsy Rawls, Connie Mack, Joe DiMaggio, Sugar Ray Robinson, Florence Chadwick, Gloria Swanson, and Shirley Temple.
With money in their pockets and wartime victory under their belts, Americans in 1950 were pursuing the American dream of home ownership and raising a family. Suburban living was becoming as popular as playing canasta on a Saturday night. In essence, the post-war "boom" was in full force.
Whether you’re a millennial, a 50-something, or a baby boomer, this article teaches you fun facts, cool trivia, and history from the year 1950. Find out about popular TV shows, movies, music, books, cars, interesting foods, sports facts, fashion fads, and other pop culture trends to get the right mix of questions and answers for your 1950s-themed trivia quiz.
Table of Contents
For your convenience, I have divided this article into the following categories:
Grocery Prices in the Year 1950
Other Retail Prices for the Year
History Facts From the USA and World
Random Sports Facts
Miscellaneous Fun Facts, Trivia, and Pop Culture Trends
Top Fiction and Nonfiction Books
1950/1951’s Most Popular Television Shows (according to Nielsen)
Cool Pop Music Artists
Number One Music Hits
Famous People Born in 1950
Famous People Who Died in the Year 1950
How Much Did a New Car Cost in 1950?
1. Grocery Prices in the Year 1950
These facts from the American grocery industry have been made available courtesy of the Morris County Public Library in Whippany, NJ.
- American cheese: $0.45 per pound
- Apples: $0.19 per pound
- Bananas: $0.12 per pound
- Cabbage: $0.06 per pound
- Campbell’s Pork & Beans: Two one-pound cans for $0.25
- Carnation Milk: $0.14 per can
- Chicken: $0.43 per pound
- Chuck roast: $0.59 per pound
- Coffee: $0.37 per pound
- Cream corn: Three one-pound cans for $0.38
- Eggs: $0.49 per dozen
- Frozen chicken pie: $0.19 each
- Frozen green beans: $0.49 per pound
- Frozen turkey: $0.49 per pound
- Gerber’s Baby Food: $0.10 per jar
- Grapefruit: Six for $0.25
- Ground beef: Three pounds for $0.89
- Heinz Cream of Tomato Soup: Two cans for $0.25
- Iceberg lettuce: Two heads for $0.25
- Jiffy Cake Mix: $0.10 per box
- Kraft Mayonnaise: $0.62 for a quart jar
- Lamb chops: $0.49 per pound
- Margarine: $0.19 per pound
- Milk: $0.85 per gallon
- Mushrooms: $0.49 per pound
- Onions: Five pounds for $0.15
- Oranges: Two dozen for $0.69
- Peanut butter: $0.29 for a one-pound jar
- Pineapple: $0.25 each
- Pork roast: $0.39 per pound
- Porterhouse steak: $0.95 per pound
- Potatoes: $0.05 per pound
- Pumpkin: $0.02 per pound
- Rib roast: $0.29 per pound
- Sirloin steak: $0.55 per pound
- Sliced bacon: $0.35 per pound
- Sugar: 5-pound bag for $0.43
- T-bone steak: $0.59 per pound
- Tide Powder: $0.67 for the giant size
- White bread: $0.12 a loaf
2. Other Retail Prices for the Year
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index, $10 in 1950 is equivalent in purchasing power to $101.57 in 2017, a difference of $91.57 over 67 years.
Here are 44 miscellaneous consumer prices from 1950:
- 10″ records: $2.85
- 12″ records: $4.85
- A gallon of gas: $0.18
- Adding machine: $1.62
- Alice in Wonderland Watch: $7.65
- Ballpoint pen: $0.25
- Boy’s shoes: $4.95
- Chenille bedspread: $3.49
- Cotton checkered dress: $3.29
- Double holster set: $2.82
- Emerson Radio: $14.95
- Happi-Time Camera: $1.59
- Howdy Doody's TV Game: $1.98
- Ladies sandals: $2.95
- Mass-market paperback book: $0.25
- McDonald’s Coca-Cola: $0.10
- McDonald’s French fries: $0.10
- McDonald’s cheeseburger: $0.19
- McDonald’s coffee: $0.10
- McDonald’s hamburger: $0.15
- McDonald’s malt shake: $0.20
- McDonald’s orangeade: $0.10
- McDonald’s root beer: $0.10
- Mechanical adding machine: $3.98
- Men’s all wool suit: $28.90
- Movie ticket: $0.46
- Nautical Maple Living Room Suite: $147.50
- New car: $1,510.00
- New home: $8,450.00
- Nylon stockings: Two pairs for $1.00
- One carat diamond ring: $399
- Pack of cigarettes: $0.15
- Philco Black and White TV (20-inch): $229.95
- Phonograph: $6.85
- Plastic covered chairs: $9.75
- Polo shirt: $0.99
- Postage stamp: $0.03
- Regency Gas Range: $144.95
- Rollaway bed: $14.99
- Ronson Electric Shaver: $28.50
- Serta Foam Mattress: $59.95
- Singer Portable Sewing Machine: $19.90
- Sofa beds: $59.95 - $64.95
- Tweedie Singing Bird in Cage: $2.67
3. History Facts From the USA and World
According to the 1950 U.S. Census, the population of the United States was 150,697,361. (The world’s population was 2,579,000,000.)
In 1950, four million babies were born in the U.S.
The unemployment rate was 5.3% and inflation was 1.26%.
The prime rate was 2.25%, and the average price for an ounce of gold was $40.25. MainStreetCoin.com reports that "Today an ounce of gold is worth almost $1,200. This means that an ounce of gold is worth nearly thirty times what it did in 1950. The average price of gold was about $600 an ounce in 2006--half of what it is now, and almost $900 an ounce in 2008. So if you’ve held gold for a long time, you’re making out like a bandit."
U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy began a witch hunt for Americans who were believed to be “communists” or “communist supporters.” His fear campaign, known as McCarthyism, was short-lived.
The United States began constructing the hydrogen bomb.
The FBI debuted the “Ten Most Wanted” list to publicize dangerous fugitives.
An eleven-member gang stole more than $2 million from the Brinks Building in Boston.
Sam Walton opened Walton's 5&10 in Bentonville, Arkansas. Walmart.com reveals that "Inspired by the early success of his dime store, and driven to bring even greater opportunity and value to his customers, Sam opened the first Walmart in 1962 at the age of 44 in Rogers, Arkansas."
New York businessmen Frank McNamara and Ralph Schneider launched Diner's Club which became the world’s first multipurpose credit card company. The original Diners Club cards were made of cardboard and were not replaced by plastic until the 1960s. Within a year, Diners Club had over 10,000 cardholders from New York’s business elite. The company later introduced a travel insurance policy as well as corporate credit cards. They also became a pioneer in the credit card industry by introducing Club Rewards.
The eastern U.S. was devastated by the Great Appalachian Storm of 1950. Weather.gov explains that “One of the most damaging and meteorologically unique winter storms to strike the eastern United States occurred on Thanksgiving weekend, 1950. After it was over, up to 57 inches of snow blanketed the central Appalachians and one of the most widespread and damaging wind events ever recorded over the Northeastern U.S. made the Great Appalachian Storm of 1950 the costliest storm on record up until that time.”
The 1950 Atlantic hurricane season was the first year that storms were given names in the Atlantic basin. According to WikiWand.com, “Names were taken from the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet, with the first named storm being designated ‘Able,’ the second ‘Baker,’ and so on.”
John Hopps invented the cardiac pacemaker.
Antihistamines were introduced to treat allergies and head-colds.
The Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for the Broadway musical South Pacific.
William Faulkner received the Nobel Prize for literature.
In 1950, 36.3% of all advertising dollars were spent on newspapers, 11.7% on radio, and only 3.3% on television.
The Korean War began in 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea.
Private Kenneth Shadrick became the first U.S. casualty of the Korean War.
Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year” was the “American Fighting-Man” in Korea.
In 1950, twelve nations created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to provide security for the United States, Canada, and Europe. The 12 founding countries were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
In the British general election, Clement Attlee (Labour) defeated Winston Churchill (Conservative) and Clement Davies (Liberal).
In South Africa, the Group Areas Act enforced racial segregation.
The Chinchaga Firestorm also occurred in 1950, when the moon and sun turned blue in both the United States and Europe. Cordy Tymstra tells us that “In 1950, the biggest firestorm documented in North America--one fire alone burned 3,500,000 acres of boreal forest in northern Alberta and British Columbia--created the world’s largest smoke layer in the atmosphere. The smoke travelled halfway around the northern hemisphere and made the moon and sun appear blue.” Since there was very little news of the fire, many thought that the dark sky was a nuclear holocaust.
Violent storms and even a tornado devastated southern England.
4. Random Sports Facts
- The New York Yankees won the World Series by defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in a sweep. This was the 13th world championship for the Yankees.
- The Cleveland Browns won the NFL championship by defeating the Los Angeles Rams in an upset.
- The NFL and the financially impoverished AAFC merged, and added three teams to the league including the Cleveland Browns.
- In 1950, football games were televised for the first time.
- The World Cup took place in Brazil, and Uruguay won the title.
- The Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup by defeating the New York Rangers in seven games.
- Sam Snead won the PGA Championship.
- Jimmy Demaret won the Masters and was the first player to win the Masters three times.
- In world heavyweight boxing, Ezzard Charles defeated Joe Louis at Yankee Stadium to retain his title. Sugar Ray Robinson defeated Jose Basora to win the middleweight title.
- Middleground won both the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes.
- Johnny Parson won the Indianapolis 500, and Bill Rexford was the NASCAR Grand National Champion.
5. Miscellaneous Fun Facts, Trivia, and Pop Culture Trends
In 1950, 64% of Americans lived in cities. However, families were moving to the suburbs in record numbers, particularly in the manufacturing belt areas of New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Midwest.
About 55% of Americans owned their own home.
The U.S. imported over 20,000 cars.
There were 2,200 drive-in movie theaters, a 200% increase over 1949.
Eight million homes in the U.S. had televisions.
CBS received an FCC license to broadcast in color.
Paul Harvey began his national daily broadcasts on ABC radio.
At the 22nd Academy Awards, which honored the best films of 1949, All the King’s Men won an Oscar for Best Picture, Joseph L. Mankiewicz (A Letter to Three Wives) won an Oscar for Best Director, Broderick Crawford (All the King’s Men) won an Oscar for Best Actor, and Olivia de Havilland (The Heiress) won an Oscar for Best Actress.
The first metal lunchbox, featuring Hopalong Cassidy, appeared in the marketplace. Over 600,000 “Hoppy” lunch boxes were eventually sold.
Hotties and hunks in 1950 included Lauren Bacall, Doris Day, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Eartha Kitt, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner, Humphrey Bogart, Montgomery Clift, and Gregory Peck.
Golf Digest and Prevention Magazine both began publishing.
The first Dunkin’ Donuts opened in Quincy, Massachusetts.
Minute Rice appeared on grocery store shelves for the first time.
Pillsbury launched its annual “Bake-Off” to promote flour.
Kraft introduced packaged cheese slices.
Corn Pops was introduced. In 1951, the name was changed to Sugar Corn Pops and later changed to Sugar Pops.
General Mills and Pillsbury both introduced prepared cake mixes.
Julia Child enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school.
Haloid Corporation, which later became Xerox, developed the first photocopy machine.
Otis installed the first self-service elevator in Dallas.
Zenith Radio's Lazy Bones, the first TV remote control, appeared in the marketplace.
Harry Wasylyk invented green plastic garbage bags made from polyethylene,
Marion Donovan developed disposable diapers.
Bell Laboratories and Western Electric created the first telephone answering machine.
PaperMate introduced the first leak-proof ballpoint pen.
6. Top Fiction and Nonfiction Books
This book trivia has been made available courtesy of KruegerBooks.com.
Top fiction books:
1. The Cardinal by Henry Morton Robinson
2. Joy Street by Frances Parkinson Keyes
3. Across the River and into the Trees by Ernest Hemingway
4. The Wall by John Hersey
5. Star Money by Kathleen Winsor
6. The Parasites by Daphne du Maurier
7. Floodtide by Frank Yerby
8. Jubilee Trail by Gwen Bristow
9. The Adventurer by Mika Waltari
10. The Disenchanted by Budd Schulberg
Top nonfiction books:
1. Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book by the Betty Crocker Editors
2. The Baby produced by The Pet Milk Company (now Pet Incorporated)
3. Look Younger, Live Longer by Gayelord Hauser
4. How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger
5. Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl
6. Mr. Jones, Meet the Master by Peter Marshall
7. Your Dream Home by Hubbard Cob
8. The Mature Mind by H.A. Overstreet
9. Campus Zoo by Clare Barnes Jr
10. Belles on Their Toes by Frank Gilbreth Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
7. 1950/1951’s Most Popular Television Shows (according to Nielsen)
1. Texaco Star Theatre (NBC)
2. Fireside Theatre (NBC)
3. Philco TV Playhouse (NBC)
4. Your Show of Shows (NBC)
5. The Colgate Comedy Hour (NBC)
6. Gillette Cavalcade of Sports (NBC)
7. The Lone Ranger (ABC)
8. Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts (CBS)
9. Hopalong Cassidy (NBC)
10. Mama (NBC)
8. Popular Movies
Generally suitable for all age groups, movie trivia questions and answers are a welcome addition to any party game.
- All About Eve
- The Asphalt Jungle
- Born Yesterday
- Father of the Bride
- The File on Thelma Jordon
- Gun Crazy
- The Gunfighter
- In A Lonely Place
- King Solomon's Mines
- Panic in the Streets
- Rio Grande
- Seven Days to Noon
- Sunset Boulevard
- Treasure Island
9. Pop Pop Music Artists
These fun facts and trivia from 1950 have been made available courtesy of Pop-Culture.us.
Ames Brothers, Andrews Sisters, Anton Karas, Bing Crosby, Eileen Barton, Esther Phillips, Frank Sinatra, Frankie Laine, Guy Lombardo, Ivory Joe Hunter, Jimmy Wakely, Jo Stafford, Johnny Otis, Lloyd Glenn, Louise Jordan, Lowell Fulson, Margaret Whiting, Nat King Cole, Patti Page, Perry Como, Phil Harris, Red Foley, The Robins, Roy Brown, Sammy Kaye, Teresa Brewer, Roy Brown, Dinah Washington, Weavers with Gordon Jenkins
10. Number One Music Hits
These fun history facts been made available courtesy of Pop-Culture.us.
- November 26, 1949 - January 6, 1950: Frankie Laine - Mule Train
- January 7, 1950 - January 13, 1950: Gene Autry - Rudolph, The Red-nosed Reindeer
- January 14, 1950 - February 10, 1950: The Andrews Sisters - I Can Dream, Can't
- February 11, 1950 - February 17, 1950: Ames Brothers - Rag Mo
- February 18, 1950 - March 17, 1950: Red Foley - Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy
- March 18, 1950 - April 14, 1950: Teresa Brewer - Music! Music! Music!
- April 15, 1950 - April 28, 1950: Eileen Barton - If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake
- April 29, 1950 - July 14, 1950: Anton Karas - The Third Man Them
- July 15, 1950 - August 18, 1950: Nat King Cole - Mona Lisa
- August 19, 1950 - November 17, 1950: Gordon Jenkins and The Weavers - Goodnight Irene
- November 18, 1950 - December 1, 1950: Sammy Kaye - Harbor Light
- December 2, 1950 - December 29, 1950: Phil Harris - The Thin
- December 30, 1950 - March 2, 1951: Patti Page - The Tennessee Walt
11. Popular Foods
Chicken a la King
Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast
Dinty Moore Beef Stew
Green Bean Casserole
Mary Kitchen Hash
Swanson Frozen Turkey Dinner
Tuna Noodle Casserole
12. Famous People Born in 1950
- Alan Silvestri (composer, conductor, voice actor, and film score composer)
- Arianna Huffington (author)
- Chuck Schumer (U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator)
- David Cassidy (actor, singer, musician, and television actor)
- Dr. Phil McGraw (television host)
- Franklin Chang Diaz (former NASA astronaut)
- Gary Larson (cartoonist)
- Jane Pauley (journalist)
- Jay Leno (television host)
- Joan Lunden (journalist)
- John Byrne (comic-book writer and artist)
- John Candy (actor, comedian, and screenwriter)
- Julius Erving (basketball player)
- Karen Carpenter (singer)
- Mark Spitz (swimmer)
- Morgan Fairchild (television actress)
- Narendra Modi (Prime Minister of India)
- Natalie Cole (singer)
- Princess Anne
- Rick Perry (Governor)
- Robert B. Laughlin (physicist)
- Rowan Douglas Williams (theologian)
- Samuel Alito (Magistrate, judge, and lawyer)
- Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple Computer)
- Stevie Wonder (musician)
13. Famous People Who Died in the Year 1950
January 6 - Isaiah Bowman, geographer/co-founder of Geographical Review
February 3 - Karl Seitz, President of Austria (1920)
February 19 - Edyth Walker, American opera singer
March 6 -Albert Lebrun, President of France (1932-40)
March 10 - Marguerite De La Motte, American actress
March 19 - Edgar Rice Burroughs, science fiction author (Tarzan of the Apes)
March 30 - Léon Blum, Prime Minister of France
April 7 - Walter Huston, Canadian actor (Maltese Falcon, Treasure of Sierra Madre)
April 27 - Hobart Cavanaugh, American actor (Border Town, Black Angel)
July 5 - Private Kenneth Shadrick becomes the first identified American soldier killed in the Korean War
July 17 - Evangeline Booth, the 4th General of The Salvation Army
August 8 - Fergus McMaster, Australian businessman and aviation pioneer (Qantas)
September 13 - Sara Allgood, Irish actress (Jane Eyre, Spiral Staircase)
November 2 - George Bernard Shaw, Irish dramatist
November 16 - "Dr. Bob" Smith, American physician and co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous
14. Companies Founded
- Club Med - hospitality firm
- David’s Bridal - clothier specializing in wedding gowns and other formal wear
- Desilu Productions - television production company
- Diners Club International - credit card company
- Dunkin’ Donuts - restaurant chain
- Elektra Records - record label
- Frontier Airlines - airline company
- G&R Wrenn - manufacturer of model railways
- Glitterex - manufacturer of precision-cut glitter
- Hunt Petroleum - oil and gas exploration and production company
- Kopp’s Frozen Custard - restaurant chain
- Questar Corporation - optical equipment manufacturer
- Tastee-Freez - restaurant chain
- Taubman Centers - lessors of real estate
15. How Much Did a New Car Cost in 1950?
In 1950, General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Chrysler Corporation were the Big Three automakers. There were also a number of independent car manufacturers, including Hudson, Packard, and Studebaker. Here is how much a new car cost in 1950 by make and model:
- A Chevrolet Styleline Special cost $1,390.00.
- A Chevrolet Bel Air cost $1,740.00.
- A Buick Roadmaster Convertible cost $2,981.00.
- A Cadillac Coupe de Ville cost $3,150.00.
- A Cadillac Series 62 Convertible cost $3,654.00.
- An Oldsmobile 76 cost $1,719.00.
- A Pontiac Streamliner DeLuxe cost $1,910.00.
Ford Motor Company
- A Ford Crestliner cost $1,624.00.
- A Lincoln Cosmopolitan cost $3,187.00.
- A Mercury Monterey cost $2,125.00.
- A Chrysler Newport cost $1,890.00.
- A Chrysler Town & Country Wagon cost $2,925.00.
- A DeSoto Sedan cost $2,174.00 and a convertible sold for $2,578.00.
- A Dodge Wayfarer Convertible cost $1,890.00.
- A Plymouth DeLuxe Convertible cost $1,980.00.
- A Hudson Commodore cost $2,257.00.
- A Kaiser DeLuxe Vagabond cost $2,228.00.
- A Nash Rambler cost $1,800.00.
- A Packard Super Eight cost $2,608.00.
- A Studebaker Champion cost $1,419.00.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Gregory DeVictor