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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2019 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Family Night: 1957

Family Night: 1957

December 1957. "Family listening to radio." Mother sewing; Father reading; Sis petting; Junior tuning. 35mm negative by Warren K. Leffler. View full size.

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Perfect Family

Around that same year, Prudential Insurance offered family portraits quite similar to this one. Our whole family, like this one, sat around posed for the evening. I was five and was placed standing behind my two older sisters while watching them play a duet on our perfectly-dusted living room piano. Why is it that families had to appear perfect?

TVs weren't universal

For all those commenting on the lack of a TV I'd throw in my own experience. My family did not own a TV until into the early 1970s and I never even saw a TV until the mid '60s. We weren't poor, but were probably lower-middle-class and lived in a small town. Very few people had TVs in those parts - probably because there wasn't much reception. At any rate, it isn't odd to me that in 1957 a family was TV-less.

It's a Good Thing that is a Radio...

If it was a television my mother would be saying "Bob, don't sit so close to the TV, you will hurt your eyes"

That Cat

Sis is in the act of siccing that cat on little brother. It's his paws clawing for traction that has hiked her hem and her foot is in full retraction attempting to maintain hemline integrity.

Televisions at home

Surely by this time a television occupied a spot somewhere in the home. Likely in a corner we can't see, or in the "Family Room" ~ a new invention of the architects of the Post War suburbs.

Ashtrays etc.

Although Mom has done an ace job dusting, as anyone who lives in a smoker house knows, the walls, windows and ceilings are coated with a greasy orange nicotine slime. In a less nauseating vein, I take note of the daughter's skirt, with the hem randomly hiked up on one side. My 12-year-old daughter would be thoroughly mortified if a photo of her with such a fashion indiscretion were published in a magazine for the whole nation to see. And where's Dad's drink?

60s vintage

I'm a 60s vintage myself, but I do remember photos with my older cousins which do not look too different.

Apart from that, my folks were pretty conservative.
- We had terrestrial TV only well into the 90s. In our neck of the woods that meant three stations. Dad didn't approve of the satellite dishes architectually, and the cable companies were in no hurry as our place was kind of out of the way.
- The TV set was a tube black-and-white into the early 80s, when it really, really could no longer be repaired.
- Remote worked by telling the kids.
- The time of the real re-runs ("What's a re-run, Calvin?" "You'll learn, believe me.").
- Of course, TV choices had to be approved, and TV time was rationed. Starship Enterprise frequently lost out over Waltons' Mountain or Upstairs, Downstairs, which ran at the same time on the other channel. On account of ladies (Mom and Sis) first, and Dad didn't care for either. Argh! Dang-dadadang-dadadang-Bonanzaaa!!!! was very approvable, though.
- Anybody else got treated to the comment of getting rectangualar eyes?


How did they log onto the Shorpy site back then?

Another exciting evening at home

While Dad checks out the Washington Post's Outlook section, the others have simply checked out of any sort of familial interaction.

Warren K. Leffler would go on to record images of more newsworthy events, mostly in the Washington, D.C. area.

A Silent Butler

To keep up with the ashtrays, this family has placed a "silent butler" on the coffee table. This long forgotten mid-century implement was used to store ashes dumped from ashtrays about to overflow. We had one in our house. It had a metal bowl and lid with a long wooden handle and a felt bottom, so as not to scratch the wood on the table. The one in the picture is in much better shape than ours was. When my father quit smoking in the late '60's, so did the silent butler!

Angel watching over them

Spotted a "birthday angel" on the wall shelf, third from right on top. I still have mine from the 50s. Your birthday month is written on the front - "Made in Japan" on the bottom.

Wonderful World of Color

Got our first color TV in the early 60's. The first show I ever saw in color was Bonanza. I'll never forget how beautiful it was. The TV was a Zenith with a mechanical remote. The channel knob would clunk around one channel at a time when you pressed the button on the remote. Hi tech in those days. By the way, the TV was second hand. The old man didn't believe in buying new.

NBC Color Spectaculars

1957. That fall NBC began producing 'spectaculars', expensive color productions, mostly costume epics in my memory, with large casts of ladies in various brilliant colors.

A one time laundromat in my neighborhood was converted to a combination color TV sales&showroom with a couple dozen folding chairs for folks to stop in and watch for free. And maybe buy an RCA.

And I love those knickknacks! They scream "Mid-Century!"

The Stare

What a great look into what the nuclear family did on a family night...except the stare. Daughter definitely has some plot forming in her head.

BTW: I totally want a knick knack shelf like that!

Misty Watercolor Memories

I was 9 years old in 1957, and if I could find a photo from that year, taken in my living room, you could almost overlay it onto this picture.

Dad had his "own chair" of course, and was an early recliner; leather, I think. Mom sat on the couch and sewed, or read. My brother and I watched TV (limited), and our viewing choices had to be approved by Mom AND Dad. We actually had conversations about our day -- what we did, how school and work were going etc.

Ties were NOT required for casual evening interaction, but coffee cups abounded.

God! How I miss those wonderful evenings!


The good old days. Back then we had to make our own entertainment. Played a lot of board games and worked puzzles. Stayed outside a lot! How could we have survived before the internet?

Despite ashtrays

Not a speck of dust anywhere. Perfect, gleaming surfaces all around. Mom must have spent the day perfecting her already-tidy living room in anticipation of the photo shoot.

Darning socks

The mom is darning socks with a darning egg pushed into the sock to hold it in place (with another sock in her lap that needs fixin') while she attempts to 'reweave' the hole which is something that people actually used to do. Now we just throw them away. By 1957 I think most people probably had a TV, especially an upscale family like this, but I'm not seeing one. It would be hard to guess how many people today would prefer to go back to those simple times but I must admit it looks a little boring.

Tie one on?

Junior is wearing a tie? A semi-formal evening with Mom and Dad and Sis!

I'll bet the hi-fi was really cool!

All's well

and ash trays aplenty.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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