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March 23, 2024

30 Vintage Snapshots of People Posing With Their Television Sets in the 1950s and 1960s

Once upon a time, families gathered in front of the fireplace to have their photographs taken. The flickering flames, the giver of warmth, the focus of a family at rest was quickly and dramatically usurped by technology—first the wireless then television from the 1950s onward. Now kith and kin gathered together to pose in front of the flickering cathode ray.

Though television has been around in one form or another since the 1920s, it wasn’t until the fifties that TV became the first choice for family entertainment. America pioneered the way, producing a golden age of dramas and serials and films. For most people, TV sets were expensive, very expensive. They were considered valuable assets, signifiers of a family’s wealth and status. To own a color TV in the 1950s was to be part of a much-hyped affluent jet set. Up until the late 1960s color TV sets were still pretty much a rarity.

Rather than watch TV, people use TV as a prop and backdrop for the presentation of self and family. These snapshots depict a broad range of families across racial, class, and ethnic backgrounds. Like today’s selfies, TV snapshots were a popular photographic practice through which people pictured themselves in an increasingly mediatized culture.


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