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Timeline of a Generation

Boomer List Timeline

The years 1946 to 1964 define the post-war baby boomer generation, when the United States saw a spike in its birth rate. The American economy flourished and supported larger families, advances in technology made it easier to share ideas and culture, and space exploration took off. But the boomers’ era was also marked by great unrest. Americans born during this period were shaped by a world ravaged by a World War that included unimaginable mass genocide and the atom bomb. The hypocrisy of American freedom and democracy was exposed by African-Americans who stood up against shameful racial injustice and inequality. And just as boomers were coming of age into adulthood, drafts for the Vietnam War began.

This timeline looks at events and people that made the news in each year of the boomer generation.


President Truman proclaims end of World War II (combat ended in 1945 but the hostilities were considered over once war crime trials in 1946 ended)

Emperor Hirohito of Japan announces he is not a god

Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering (later renamed Sony) is founded with approximately 20 employees

ENIAC (for “Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer”), the first general-purpose electronic computer, is unveiled at the University of Pennsylvania

AT&T announces their first car phones

Benjamin Spock’s influential The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care is published


The V-2 rocket launched into space

Kenneth Arnold makes first widely reported UFO sighting near Mount Rainier, Washington; a downed extraterrestrial spacecraft is reportedly found near Roswell, New Mexico

The first practical electronic transistor is demonstrated

Edwin Land, founder of the Polaroid Corporation, makes first “instant camera”, the Polaroid Land Camera


The first tape recorder is sold

Supreme Court rules that religious instruction in public schools is unconstitutional

The U.S. State Department announces plans to place objects into Earth’s orbit


J. Edgar Hoover, director of the F.B.I., gives actress Shirley Temple a tear gas fountain pen

President Truman establishes rocket test range at Cape Canaveral, Florida

President Truman increases minimum wage from 40 cents to 75 cents.


President Truman orders development of the hydrogen bomb in response to detonation of Soviet Union’s first atomic bomb in 1949. He sends U.S. military advisors to Vietnam to aid French forces

The first TV remote control, Zenith Radio’s Lazy Bones, is marketed

The Mattachine Society, the first gay liberation organization, is founded in Los Angeles, California


The Ninth Street Show, featuring notable Abstract Expressionist artists, marks debut of post-war New York City avant-garde, known as the New York School

Direct dial coast-to-coast telephone service begins in the U.S.

First regularly scheduled transatlantic flights begin operation

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and sentenced to death


The Lever House skyscraper opens in New York City, heralding a new age of commercial architecture

Newspapers report that a fleet of UFOs hovered over Washington, D.C. and were tracked on multiple radar. Fighter planes were scrambled and the Air Force holds a press conference

A mechanical heart is used for first time in a human patient

Christine Jorgensen, a transsexual woman in Denmark, becomes the recipient of the first successful sexual reassignment operation


Georgia approves the first literature censorship board in the U.S.

68 percent of all television sets in the U.S. are tuned into I Love Lucy to watch the character Lucy (Lucille Ball) give birth

The CIA helps overthrow government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran; CIA Technical Services approves use of the synthetic drug LSD in a MKULTRA subproject (MKULTRA was a covert, illegal CIA human research program investigating mind control)

The first meeting of Narcotics Anonymous takes place in Southern California


The U.S. Census indicates 239,000 farmers gave up farming

The first shopping mall opens in Southfield, Michigan

Ground breaking begins on Disneyland in Anaheim, California

President Eisenhower reports detonation of first H-bomb (done in 1952)

President Eisenhower warns against U.S. intervention in Vietnam

The first microbiology laboratory opens

The first mass vaccination of children against polio begins in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


Racial segregation is forbidden on trains and buses in U.S. interstate commerce

The American Civil Liberties Union defends Allen Ginsberg’s epic poem “Howl” against obscenity charges

The Pentagon announces plan to develop ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) armed with nuclear weapons

The first electric power generated from atomic energy is sold commercially


Elvis Presley appears on Ed Sullivan Show

Dick Clark appears as host of American Bandstand

Ninety-six U.S. Congressmen sign “Southern Manifesto,” a protest against the 1954 Supreme Court ruling desegregating public education

The first transatlantic telephone cable goes into operation

Videotape is used for the first time on television

The first pre-frontal lobotomy is performed

IBM introduces the first computer disk storage unit, the RAMAC 305


President Eisenhower orders U.S. troops to desegregate schools in Little Rock, Arkansas

Georgia State Senate unanimously approves Sen Butts’ bill barring blacks from playing baseball with whites

New York City is first to legislate a Fair Housing Practices Law against racial or religious discrimination

The Ford Motor Company introduces the Edsel car

Toyota begins exporting vehicles to the U.S.

The Gaither Report calls for more American missiles and fallout shelters

Elvis Presley is drafted into the U.S. Army

President Dwight D. Eisenhower suffers a stroke


The first successful American satellite, Explorer 1, is launched into orbit

A 7,600-pound hydrogen bomb is lost in the waters off Savannah, Georgia

A U.S. B-47 bomber accidentally drops an atom bomb on a house in South Carolina—but no nuclear fission occurs

The U.S. Army launches the Explorer 3 satellite

CBS Labs announce stereophonic records

Actress Betsy Palmer joins The Today Show

Mao Tse Tung starts the “Great Leap Forward” movement in China

Nikita Khrushchev becomes Soviet Premier and First Secretary of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union

The Habana Hilton opens in Havana, Cuba


Cuban Dictator Fulgencio Batista flees Cuba for the Dominican Republic

The Dalai Lama flees Tibet for India

A Vatican edict forbids Roman Catholics to vote for Communists

Nikita Khrushchev is denied access to Disneyland

The Barbie Doll debuts and begins domination of the toy market

Allen Ginsberg writes his poem “Lysergic Acid”

Congress passes a bill authorizing food stamps for poor Americans

Pan Am begins regular passenger flights around the world

Soviet Luna 3, the first successful photographic spacecraft, impacts the Moon

NASA announces selection of seven military pilots to become the first U.S. astronauts

The United Nations Committee On Peaceful Use of Outer Space is established


Four students stage the first civil rights sit-in at a Woolworth counter in Greensboro, North Carolina

Elvis Presley ends his 2-year stint in the U.S. Army

U.S. announces 3,500 American soldiers will be sent to Vietnam

U.S. Senate passes the Civil Rights Bill

The Key Largo Coral Reef Preserve in Florida establishes the first protected underwater park

The first guided missile is launched from a nuclear powered submarine

The U.S. Court of Appeals rules that D. H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterly’s Lover (1928) is not obscene

The first contraceptive pill is made available on the market

Chubby Checker releases his song, “The Twist”

John F. Kennedy becomes the 35th President of The United States


President Eisenhower delivers farewell address warning against the “military-industrial complex”

President Kennedy accepts “sole responsibility” for The Bay of Pigs invasion and declares national goal to reach the Moon

Astronaut Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space

Betty and Barney Hill claim they were abducted by aliens in New Hampshire

Singer/songwriter Bob Dylan hitchhikes to New York City

The Supremes are signed by Motown Records

Judy Garland makes a comeback at Carnegie Hall

Barbra Streisand appears on The Jack Paar Show

FCC Chairman Newton Minow criticizes TV as a “vast wasteland”

The Museum of Modern Art hangs Matisse’s Le Bateau upside down for 47 days

TWA shows the first in-flight movie

A U.S. commercial plane is hijacked to Cuba

Construction of the Berlin Wall begins in East Germany

Former Nazi sympathizer B. Johannes Vorster, known as John Vorster, becomes South Africa’s Minister of Justice. (He becomes Prime Minister in 1966.)


President John F. Kennedy begins blockade of Cuba, introducing “duck and cover” into the vernacular

Astronaut John Glenn is first American to orbit Earth

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy conducts tour of newly refurbished White House on TV

Vaughn Meader’s “First Family” comedy album goes #1

Marilyn Monroe found dead in her bed

Actress Elizabeth Taylor is condemned by Vatican for “moral vagrancy,” and is wildly cheered by thousands of Catholic extras during the filming of Cleopatra in Rome

The Beach Boys introduce a new musical style with their hit “Surfin”

Folk singers Peter, Paul & Mary release their premier hit “If I Had a Hammer”

No less than five research groups announce the discovery of anti-matter

The drug Thalidomide is banned in The Netherlands

The first Wal-Mart and K-Mart stores open


Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee wins the Tony Award for Best Play

Betty Friedan publishes The Feminine Mystique, relaunching Women’s Movement

Coca-Cola Company debuts Tab, its first diet drink

American Heart Association is first agency to campaign against cigarettes

Los Angeles ends streetcar service after 90 years

Push-button telephones and Instant Replay are introduced

Nuclear submarine USS Thresher sinks 220 miles east of Boston, Massachusetts

Cancellation of Mercury 10 effectively ends U.S. manned space flight

After signing a nuclear test ban treaty, John F. Kennedy proposes a joint U.S.-Soviet voyage to the Moon

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC

President John F. Kennedy promises a Civil Rights Bill

President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas

Census records U.S. population at 190,000,000

CIA’s Domestic Operations Division is created


Civil Rights Act of 1964 passes in the U.S. Senate 73-27

Dr. Martin Luther King, described by J. Edgar Hoover as “a most notorious liar,” is awarded The Nobel Peace Prize

Che Guevara speaks at the United Nations, while an unknown terrorist fires a mortar shell at the building

Plans are announced to build the New York City World Trade Center

Beatles debut to mass ‘tween “Beatlemania” on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” launching pop “British Invasion” of America

Bob Dylan introduces The Beatles to cannabis for the first time

Twelve young men in New York City publicly burn their draft cards

Comedian Lenny Bruce is convicted of obscenity

China becomes fifth nuclear power

NASA launches its first Orbital Geophysical Observatory (OGO-1)

The World’s Fair opens in Flushing Meadows, Queens, in New York City

U.S. report titled “Smoking & Health” connects smoking to lung cancer

Federal Trade Commission rules health warnings must appear on all cigarette packages


Who and What Was Meaningful to You?

Do you remember these people and events or did your parents or grandparents talk about them? Share your take on Boomer generation timeline events in the comments section, below.

American Masters: The Boomer List premieres nationwide Tuesday, September 23, 9-10:30 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), telling the story of this influential generation through the lives of 19 iconic boomers—one born each year of the baby boom.

Image credits: Polaroid Land Camera 320, Michele M.F., Creative Commons; 1958 Edsel Citation, Michael Barera, Creative Commons



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