Pieces of the past have the power to tell a story or evoke a sense of nostalgia. That’s why significant historical objects like vintage posters, space age tech gadgets, and black and white photographs of cultural icons remain popular with contemporary collectors.
Often, collectors interested in history choose to focus on a specific subject or time period when purchasing items. Starting in 1946, the baby boomer generation entered a much different world than that of their parents and grandparents. Below, we examine five of the most significant events that took place during the baby boomer generation and the physical objects that were left behind.
The Civil Rights Movement, 1954 – 1968
Martin Luther King Jr. led the nationwide call for racial equality from Atlanta, Georgia. In April of 1960, King appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press. During the episode, he addressed the legal and moral ramifications of student sit-ins and the federal response to the Civil Rights Movement.
Dubbed “the First Lady of Civil Rights,” Rosa Parks devoted her life to activism in the American South. This is a photograph of Parks after her arrest for violating Chapter 6, Section 11, of the Montgomery City Code by refusing to give up her seat on a city bus to a white passenger. The resulting protest spurred a yearlong bus boycott that forced the city and the Supreme Court to reconsider its segregated transportation laws.
In addition to being one of the greatest athletes of all time, boxer Muhammad Ali was a staunch advocate for civil rights and a symbol of pride in the African American community. Ali declared himself a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War after he was drafted, for which he was arrested and banned from boxing for three years. His conviction was later overturned by the Supreme Court in 1971.
The above photograph is from one of Ali’s iconic interviews with BBC presenter Michael Parkinson. Parkinson interviewed Ali about his career and his devotion to racial equality several times over the course of the 1970s.
The Space Race, 1957 – 1975
Antagonism developed after WWII as the United States and Russia wrestled for the title of world superpower. This competition is epitomized by the space race of the 1950s. After the successful launch of Sputnik, a small Russian satellite, the United States mobilized its scientists to match their efforts. In 1969, American astronauts Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. and Neil Armstrong became the first men to land on the moon, bringing with them the flag of the United States of America.
The Election of John F. Kennedy, 1960
John Fitzgerald Kennedy ran for the office of President of the United States at the age of 43. During his campaign, Kennedy was confronted with claims that he was too young and inexperienced in foreign affairs to be President. An advocate for civil rights, Kennedy leveraged his charisma to appeal to underrepresented voters and eventually won against his opponent, Richard Nixon. The block-letter pamphlets and red, white, and blue campaign buttons created for Kennedy’s campaign remain iconic.
Modern music was irrevocably marked by the contributions of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr in the 1960s. With a massive fan base and an unmatched collection of hit songs, the Beatles were revered as jewels of England when they arrived on American soil in 1964. Beatles memorabilia, from vinyl records to lunch boxes, is still collected by fans all over the world.
Woodstock took place over three days in New York in August of 1969. The fair, which was attended by over 400,000 people, featured performances by iconic musicians including Joe Cocker, Janis Joplin, and the Grateful Dead. Jimi Hendrix famously played a rock version of the Star Spangled Banner during his Woodstock set. This performance was emblematic of the significance of protest music during the era.