The familiar hot pinks and pale blues of the incumbent First Lady Jackie Kennedy were no where to be seen at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday, April 3, 1961, but the adults and children attending the event more than made up for that. What nobody there could know was that the very next day, President Kennedy would give his approval for the disastrously failed invasion of Cuba that would come to be known as the Bay of Pigs.
These fourteen photographs, from the collections of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library recall more of the Fifties than the popular conception of the Sixties, but the end of the one decade and the beginning of the other, in many ways, constituted a self-contained time capsule all its own. Today, its popularly known as the Mad Men era, after the popular AMC cable television series which began in that time period and is highly regarded for its meticulous detail to history.
At the time. it was familiarly called The Jet Age, commenced by the widespread use of jet planes for commercial use, and coming to an abrupt end with the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy. Following that tragic event, the president’s widow dubbed the time from 1961 to 1963 as Camelot, an expression that came to evoke not just the loss of the young President but the national sense of a hopeful future.
It was, as is most instantly recognizable times, very much defined by the latest technology. These pictures are eye-popping not just for the bright monochromatic colors of the formal clothes that most families wore on Easter Sunday, but also the vividness provided by Kodachrome camera film, then rapidly becoming affordable and available to everyone. It was also an era marked by the increase of television shows being produced in what NBC famously called “living color.”
The seeming accessibility of the pictures, however, is truly an illusion. These images show Americans in their prime over half a century ago, a world long gone.