Looking Back on 1957


Thank you for the great issue "1957, a Year That Changed America" [August 13-20].

I was 12 years old that year, and like most people at that age, I did not have a care in the world nor a clue as to all the profound changes we would see in the years ahead of us. The story was an exceptionally good read, and it was nice to be reminded of such a different time in our lives when we were all so innocent.

Tom Ferraris

Whitestone, N.Y.  

After I received my copy of the August 13-20 issue of your magazine, I was surprised that I shared a 50th anniversary with so many important events. On July 25, 1957, my then 5-year-old daughter and I stepped for the first time on American soil. Since February 1960, I am a "proud American citizen."

Ursula Dusek

Lake Elsinore, Calif.  

In the early 1950s, I was an independent contractor conducting surveys for large companies, organizations, and political parties. The Ford Motor Co. contracted with me to survey a cross section of the general public to learn if people would consider buying a small, American-made, midpriced car to compete with the popular Volkswagen. The findings were positive, but Ford ignored the findings and manufactured the Edsel ["They Built It, They Hyped It, It Flopped"]. That same year, I was contracted to conduct a survey with a select group of women of childbearing age about their willingness to take an oral contraceptive and their physicians' willingness to prescribe it ["The Passions Behind the Pill"]. The findings were positive, and the company heeded the results of the survey.

Marie Whitener Hindery


Though Palatino is my favorite typeface, I enjoyed "A Typeface for All Time" on Helvetica. It is my favorite sans serif type. I prefer the serif style type because it is easier to read, especially at a distance. Why did you not print the article in Helvetica?

Robert Sezak

Waterville, Maine  

I have been a subscriber to U.S. News for about 20 years. In that time, I have read many issues that Ienjoyed for one reason or another. However, the special issue on 1957 is a keeper. Every article is well written, interesting, and fun. It's my intention to get my boys to read all of them. I hope you don't wait 50 years to find another year in U.S. history worth celebrating.

David Zechiel

Lake Forest, Calif.  

As a dentist who uses lasers to treat gum disease, I was drawn to your report "A Lasting Light Show" on how laser beams have revolutionized medicine and industry. However, I was disappointed to see that you failed to mention Theodore H. Maiman, who is credited with building the first working laser in 1960 while at the Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, Calif. Although it is true that Charles Townes created a device in 1957 that would be a predecessor of the laser called the Maser, it used microwaves, not light energy, and had no commercial value. You are also correct in citing Gordon Gould for coining the term laser. But it was actually Maiman who first stimulated a synthetic ruby rod with a flash lamp to produce a beam of visible light that changed the world forever. From cd players to checkout scanners, lasers are in use everywhere today. I had the honor of meeting Maiman last year at a dental meeting honoring his invention. A humble and enlightening teacher, he passed away earlier this year at the age of 79.

David J. Thein

Leawood, Kan.  

How could you not have included the introduction of the world's first commercial electricity-generating nuclear power station? On Dec. 18, 1957, the Westinghouse nuclear reactor at Shippingport, Pa., first generated power. The awesome energy of the atom was converted to the peaceful generation of electricity. Safe nuclear power was introduced to the world and grew for the next 20 years to provide about 20 percent of this nation's electric power with no environmental contamination. Now, after 25 years of unfounded hand-wringing, the potential and advantages of nuclear power are again being recognized and resurrected. I was privileged to be one of the core design engineers for the Shippingport reactor.

John E. Sharbaugh

Acme, Pa.  

The year of 1957 was indeed a pivotal one. Future technology was born, the economy roared, and teenagers ruled the society. Your cover stories left out a huge component. Elvis Presley ruled the country that year. I found it an insult that the Beatles infancy was covered and not the king of rock-and-roll. Without Elvis paving the way, combining sexuality and crass lyrics, there might not have been the Beatles. John Lennon said it best: "Before Elvis, there was nothing." Perhaps your writer needs to consult the history books!

Ken Kolarz


"Lessons From a Bug" relates that the 1957 Asian flu epidemic spread so rapidly that in just eight weeks "it had heavily infected more than half the counties in nearly all 50 states." As one who personally experienced this epidemic, I remember reports of it being widespread in all 48 states. I can also remember that Alaska and Hawaii were territories until 1959, when they were granted statehood.

Edward P. Miller

Hampton, Va.  

What a great issue featuring the significant events of 1957. It was a good mix of things we need and want to know about our own social history. Please do one every year. Please do more than one every year, either a continuation of the year's most noteworthy events or an issue featuring events of 25 years ago.

Bill Cairo

Loveland, Colo.