1951: B-52 bomber ordered
- Budget surplus: $6.1 billion (1.8% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $255.2 billion (73.6% of GDP)
In the same year that color television made its debut on CBS, the U.S. Airforce ordered B-52 bombers from Boeing. The bombers are still used in combat today, and can deploy nuclear and conventional weapons.
1952: Hydrogen bomb
- Budget deficit: $1.5 billion (0.4% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $259.1 billion (70.5% of GDP)
The United States tested the world’s first hydrogen bomb, detonating it on an island in the Pacific. In November, Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected president, and Republicans gained control of Congress and the White House.
1953: The Queen’s coronation
- Budget deficit: $6.5 billion (1.7% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $266.1 billion (68.4% of GDP)
President Truman announced in January that the United States had developed a hydrogen bomb, and later in the month, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was sworn into office. Queen Elizabeth II received her crown, and Soviet politician Joseph Stalin died.
1954: Polio vaccine trial
- Budget deficit: $1.2 billion (0.3% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $271.3 billion (69.5% of GDP)
In April, 1.3 million school children participated in a random, double-blind trial of a new polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk. The next year, scientists announced that the test was a success, with the trial showing an 80% to 90% success rate.
1955: Vietnam War begins
- Budget deficit: $3 billion (0.7% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $274.4 billion (64.5% of GDP)
In the same year that the Vietnam War began, President Eisenhower suffered a heart attack, Albert Einstein died, and Disneyland opened in California.
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1956: Browder v. Gayle verdict
- Budget surplus: $3.9 billion (0.9% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $272.8 billion (60.7% of GDP)
When Rosa Parks was arrested and tried for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man in Alabama, it set off the Montgomery Bus Boycott. During the boycott, African American citizens were asked to avoid taking the bus, creating a strain on the transit system. It led to the Browder v. Gayle case, involving four other female victims of segregation. In the end, the court ruled that Alabama’s segregation policies were unconstitutional.
1957: Sputnik launched
- Budget surplus: $3.4 billion (0.7% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $270.5 billion (57.1% of GDP)
The Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite, in October, an action that ramped up the Cold War. Shortly after, Sputnik II carried a dog into space.
1958: NASA established
- Budget deficit: $2.8 billion (0.6% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $276.3 billion (57.4% of GDP)
President Eisenhower requested $125 million to transition the existing National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) into a new National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), in July. The agency's mission was based on the objectives of the National Aeronautics and Space Act.
1959: U.S. gains Alaska and Hawaii
- Budget deficit: $12.8 billion (2.5% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $284.7 billion (54.6% of GDP)
The same year that Alaska and Hawaii became official U.S. states, Playboy magazine debuted, and the Soviet Union’s Luna 2 spacecraft successfully reached, and crashed into, the moon.
1960: Birth control pill legalized
- Budget surplus: $301 million (0.1% of GDP)
- Total U.S. debt: $286.3 billion (52.8% of GDP)
In May of 1960, “the pill” was approved by the Food and Drug Administration as an approved form of birth control. Black students conducted a sit-in at a Greensboro, North Carolina, diner to protest segregated seating, and President John F. Kennedy was elected in November.
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