Design in the Atomic Age

Atomic design Ice Crusher.

July 16, 1945, Trinity site, New Mexico – the first detonation of a nuclear bomb heralded the birth of the Atomic Era. Despite the ominous display of nuclear science’s potential for destruction, Americans of the 1950s were ready envision its peacetime potential. Nuclear technology promised energy so cheap that it wouldn’t be metered, cars and planes that could glide across the country on atomic power, even space would be conquered by rockets powered by nuclear engines. This atomic optimism translated into the aesthetics of the era.

Atomic design Ashtray.

Smooth lines, sleek glossy surfaces, and geometric shapes molded a general style that was punctuated by elements such as starbursts, rocket or bullet shapes, and boomerangs. This style breaks with traditional forms and exudes a sense of refined purpose through its rational design and use of modern materials. Designers like Charles and Ray Eames, Arne Jacobson, George Nelson, and Eero Saarinen were responsible for shaping the style of this era, which has become know as Mid –Century Modern, and for producing some of its most iconic pieces.

Atomic design Frying Pan.

The Ohio Historical Society’s upcoming exhibit on the 1950s will be a platform to experience some of these modern designs and explore the Atomic age. If you would like to contribute to the 1950s exhibit please contact us at collections@ohiohistory.org.

Cameron Wood
History Curator

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