Celebrating 65 Years of the Pioneer Auto Show: The Trends and Hits of 1954

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Here at the Pioneer Auto Show, we’re gearing up for an extra special summer, as this year marks 65 years since our museum was started by AJ ‘Dick’ Geisler! Over the last 65 years, many things have changed: cars, music, technology, the list goes on and on. But one thing remains the same – the Pioneer Auto Show is the place to go for a peek into the past while surrounded by good old-fashioned Midwest hospitality. Since 1954 was the big year for Pioneer Auto Show, we wanted to take you back to that magical time!

News and Big Events of 1954

 In 1954, Dwight D. Eisenhower was the President of the United States, with Richard Nixon acting as Vice President. That year, he signed into law the then-new social security bill that is funded by employers and employees. Some other notable events of that year include:

  • One of the worst hurricanes of the 20th century, Hurricane Hazel, hit the US east coast, resulting in a high death toll and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.
  • The first mass vaccination to guard against polio was first introduced to children in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • The Supreme Court ruled on Brown vs. Board of Education, deeming segregation in public school unconstitutional.
  • The first hotel in the world built outside of an airport, The Hyatt House in Los Angeles, opens.
  • The first successful kidney transport was performed by Joseph E. Murray, who went on to win the 1990 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work in organ and cell transplantation.

 Cars of 1954

It will come as no surprise that in 1954, Chevy and Ford were in a sales war, one that had been going on for years, and that would continue for decades to come. However, 1954 saw Chevy reigning supreme, with over 17,000 more Chevy cars registered than Ford. There were also huge advancements made in cars during that year, including:

  • Mercedes introducing the 300SL coupe.
  • GM producing its 50 millionth car.
  • Buick started adding power brakes as standard equipment on all models from 1954 on.
  • The Mercury XM-800 was rolled out by Ford. The XM-800 was a concept car, which were very popular during the 1950’s.
  • Nash and Hudson merged to form the American Motors Corporation (AMC).

Music of 1954

 This year marked an important one in music, as it was the year that Elvis Presley began entertaining the masses! On July 19, his first single, “That’s All Right” by Sun Records was released. There were many artists hitting the airwaves during that time that would become legends, including:

  • Bill Haley and the Comets, whose song “Rock Around the Clock” was the most popular rock and roll song of 1954.
  • Kitty Kallen – her song “Little Things Mean A Lot” was Billboard Magazine’s #1 song of 1954. She was voted “Most Popular Female Singer” that year, but went on to lose her voice the following, which caused her to take a four year long hiatus from the music industry.
  • Frank Sinatra – Although he already had established his place in entertainment history, his 1954 Academy Award win for Best Supporting Actor in the film From Here to Eternity helped to resuscitate his music career.
  • Les Paul, who commissioned Ampex in 1954 to build the first eight track tape recorder.

Television in 1954

 1954 was a big year for television technology, with the very first all electric color television from RCA hitting the market, going for $1,000 apiece. With televisions becoming the norm in every household across the nation, TV stars that are still widely known and loved came onto the scene. Some big television happenings during 1954 were:

  • NBC’s “The Tonight Show” aired for the first time, featuring Steve Allen as the host.
  • In September 1954, the first Miss America Pageant was broadcast across the country.
  • “Lassie” premiered on CBS.
  • “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” premiered on ABC.

Cost of Living in 1954

 If the music, television and cars aren’t enough to convince you that 1954 was a great year, the prices will! The following are how much things cost in 1954:

  • New house - $17,250
  • Average monthly rent - $85
  • New car - $1,950
  • Gallon of gas – 22 cents
  • Movie ticket – 70 cents
  • Bread – 17 cents per loaf
  • Milk – 92 cents a gallon

We hope you’ve had a good time looking back at 1954 with us! Don’t forget to mark your calendar for the Pioneer Auto Show 65th anniversary celebration bash taking place on August 17th! Stay tuned to our Facebook page, where we will post more details in the coming months.


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