August 21, 2014 The Fifties Decade Is Focus of New Library Publication

Many Never-Before-Seen Images Drawn from Look Magazine Collection

Contact: Audrey Fischer, Library of Congress (202) 707-0022 | Jessica C. Napp, Skira Rizzoli (212) 387-3436

From the Red Scare incited by Sen. Joseph McCarthy to the election of John F. Kennedy as president in 1960, the 1950s heralded some of the most striking and clashing aspects of 20th-century America: the Korean War and “I Love Lucy”; the Bunny Hop and Brown v. Board of Education; bikinis and UFOs; Disneyland and the polio vaccine; Elvis and Allen Ginsberg; “Invisible Man” and “Roman Holiday”; Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy.

Published by the Library of Congress in association with Skira Rizzoli, “The Forgotten Fifties: America’s Decade from the Archives of Look Magazine” by James Conaway brings the 1950s to life. The more than 200 photographs in the book—many never-before-seen—are drawn from The Look Magazine Photograph Collection in the Library of Congress, which was donated by Cowles Communications to the nation’s library in 1971 when the magazine ceased publication. The collection comprises more than 4 million published and unpublished images from the period 1937-1971.

“Our image of the Fifties as the ‘Age of Ozzie and Harriet’ is not entirely false,” said historian Alan Brinkley in his introduction to the book. “It was an image that many middle-class Americans accepted at the time, and it was a reflection of the way many of them lived. But it would be a mistake to accept the middle-class interpretation of American life in the 1950s at face value. Because to understand the realities of society in the 1950s is to acknowledge there were not only prosperous suburbs and the affluent middle class; there was also persistent poverty, harsh racial segregation, obstacles for women to find meaningful jobs and many other problems.”

The Library will debut “The Forgotten Fifties” at the Library of Congress National Book Festival. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 30 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. Author James Conaway, editor Tom Wiener and photo editor Amy Pastan will discuss the book at 3:30 p.m. in the Special Programs Pavilion. For a complete schedule, go to The book will also be discussed at the Library at noon on Sept. 23.

Conaway is the author of nine books of nonfiction, among them “Memphis Afternoons” and “Napa: The Story of an American Eden” and several novels, including “Nose” and “The Big Easy.”

The 224-page hardcover book, with 200 color and black-and-white photographs, is available for $45 in bookstores nationwide and in the Library of Congress Shop, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C., 20540-4985. Credit-card orders are taken at (888) 682-3557 or

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PR 14-149
ISSN 0731-3527