5 Events that Defined the Baby Boomer Generation

Presidential Campaign Leaflet Signed by John F. Kennedy, 1960. Sold for $750 via Swann Auction Galleries.

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.

Though stamps and coins are among the most common historical collectibles, niche items like antique portraits and advertisements also do well at auction.

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

Left: Signed photograph of Martin Luther King, Jr. on the set of Meet the Press, 1967. Sold for $11,250 via Bonhams (October 2013); Right: Signed photograph of Rosa Parks. Sold for $125 via Christiana Auction Gallery (October 2016).

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.

Signed photo of Muhammad Ali and Michael Parkinson, 1974. Sold for £450 via Simon Parr’s Auctions Ltd (February 2016).

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

Left: Life magazine (July 4, 1969 issue) signed by Neil Armstrong. Sold for $1,100 via Alexander Historical Auctions (June 2010); Right: Three official NASA photographs signed by the astronauts. Sold for £744 via Dreweatts (September 2017).

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

Left: “Youth for Kennedy” button. Sold for $656.25 via Heritage Auctions (February 2015); Right: “Vote for Kennedy” leaflet. Sold for $750 via Swann Auction Galleries (May 2005).

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.

Beatlemania, 1963

Left: Vintage movie poster for “A Hard Day’s Night.” £450 via Antikbar Original Vintage Posters; Right: Rock-Ola “Yellow Submarine” Jukebox, 2001. Morphy Auctions (January 28).

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, 1969

Left: Original Woodstock Festival Poster, 1969. Offered via Rock Legends LTD (April 2014); Right: Bruce Fleming, Black and White Photograph of Jimi Hendrix, 1967. Sold for $937 via Heritage Auctions (June 2017).

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.