We landed on the moon, grieved the death of a president and a civil rights leader, and rose up in anger. Hippie culture swept through the country and had people questioning everything. The 1960s were all about reinvention and revolution, but despite how hard they tried to improve society, people unknowingly lived everyday lives packed with risk.
From spending Sundays playing seemingly harmless yard games to driving with your baby, people of that era really didn’t second guess whether the things they were doing were dangerous. Was it a good idea to cover yourself in cooking oil to achieve a tan? No one questioned that, not in the ’60s, when life simply defied the rules.
1. Fallout shelter hype: If your family didn’t have one, they probably had a plan to get one during the peak of the Cold War nuclear. Tensions between the US and the Soviet Union ignited an undercurrent of fear that was a regular part of life.
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2. Drinking from the hose: On a scorching summer day, taking a swig from the garden hose was a no-brainer. Until a scientific study determined that since the hose is exposed to the sun, water passing through can contain lead, BPA, antimony, and other harmful chemicals.
3. Legal LSD: The hallucinogenic drug wasn’t made illegal until 1968, and unbeknownst to the American public, it was used by the government as a mind-control device as part of the secret CIA program, Project MK-Ultra.
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4. Hitchhiking: It used to be completely normal to stick your thumb out on the side of a highway and travel across the country with strangers. Since the ‘60s, we’ve learned how dangerous hitchhiking can be. Plus, many more people own cars today!
5. Dangerous yard games: It’s all fun and games until you get hit in the neck with a Jart. Then it’s just games — regular old, dangerous games. The Consumer Product Safety Commission finally reached their limit for lawn dart-related injuries and banned them for good in 1988.
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6. Babydoll dress: It’s a style that still exists today, though it has a controversial nature. At face value, this style of garment is meant for women to resemble little girls, but some feel it allowed women to own their sexuality and rebel against societal norms.
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7. Giving babies coffee: Cutting edge parenting advice from Dr. Walter Sackett’s book, Bringing Up Babies, assured parents that giving your one-year-olds cups of coffee or tea was part of a regular diet. He reasoned they were less sugary substitutes for babies than sodas.
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8. Car stuffing: It started with the iconic Volkswagen Bug, a novelty for its compact size. A trend of cramming as many people as physically possible in the little cars spread across the globe, with the world record set at 20 individuals.
9. Smoking on planes: Nowadays you can’t bring shampoo on a plane, let alone light a cigarette. However, on a flight in the 60s, you had to deal with the haze and toxicity of smoke without any air circulation.
10. Pregnant smoking: The sight of an extremely pregnant woman puffing on a cigarette incites controversial reactions, but people were unaware of the negative health effects that smoking can cause. All that changed during the Sixties.
11. No dads in labor: While mothers endured the painful miracle of childbirth, dads anxiously paced the stork club, also known as the waiting room. It wasn’t until the women’s rights movements championed for the right to include their partners in the delivery room that changes were made.
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12. Medical poison: Lurking inside the medicine cabinet was this common over-the-counter antiseptic laced with mercury. It was the first thing you grabbed for any at-home first aid. Thankfully, it was pulled off the market once science realized it was potentially fatal.
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13. Baking in the sun: What was that greasy stuff mom slathered all over herself at the beach? Well, it certainly wasn’t sunscreen. People used whatever products that promised the deepest tan and paid no attention to things as trivial as skin cancer.
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14. Ironing your hair: To achieve the pin-straight hair trends of the ‘60s, women turned to the handy household iron. Flattening tresses with the heat of a clothes iron was the early basis for the hair straighteners that exist today.
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15. Lava lamps: Homes glowed with the moody lighting cast from the glurpy- gloppy home decor trend — the lava lamp. Edward Craven Walker invented these conversation pieces after watching an egg timer bubble from the heat of a stovetop. Teenage basements were never the same.
16. Driving with babies: Rudimentary car seats had just started to take hold in the ‘60s. Though, technically, there weren’t any laws for child vehicle safety. Parents held babies on their laps, and, in some cases, let them crawl around the back seats without belts.
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17. No rules drinking culture: Mad Men hammered home the idea that hands in the ’60s usually contained a drink. It was a decade with a widespread appreciation for cocktails, though they surprisingly consumed less alcohol per capita than current society.
18. Jelly sandwiches: In a time before Hot Cheetos, people indulged in a snack so bold, it simply couldn’t survive. A thick slice of highly processed cheese, a scoop of grape jelly, two pieces of bread, all squished together in a pan and voila — a jelly grilled sandwich.
19. Sea-Monkeys: They’re called “Sea Monkeys” because “cyst encased brine shrimp” just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. With a bit of water and the packet of “magic crystals,” nutrients, you could grow your own creatures!
20. Hair helmets: In some circles, it still rings true that the bigger the hair, the more devastatingly glamourous you are. Women from all circles of life rocked the bouffant hairdo, which involved a healthy amount of hair spray and copious teasing, all throughout the ’60.
Keeping up with beauty trends through the decades has cost women time, money, and looking back, some of their dignity. Many of the tools and practices intended to make us more attractive were downright dangerous and way too good to be true.
1. In the 1930s, Cosmetics titan Max Factor was the mastermind behind the beauty micrometer. This torturous-looking device measured which areas of your face needed the most makeup. Charming.
2. The minds behind this electric current treatment made big promises: “the equivalent of eight hours hard exercise,” they declared, “but the fortunate recipient doesn’t have to move off her comfortable couch.” Today you might call this a defibrillator.
3. Eyebrow trends are constantly changing, and back in the ’30s, an impressive arch was desirable. Electric treatments zapped out stray hairs to achieve the ideal curve. Similar processes exist today, with rising fads in brow tattooing and microblading.
4. Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably gotten a good chuckle from a vibrating belt gif. Taking the weight loss industry by storm, these jigglers were responsible for more giggles than gains.
5. It’s safe because it’s pink! Actually, of all the chamber-style beauty contraptions, the Vibrosaun was harmless. Inside the machine, heat and vibrations simulated exercise. While it moves those muscles, cold air was blasted into your totally relaxed face.
6. There are two constants confirmed by this photo: dogs and beauty products are universal human obsessions. A person and her pooch get matching waves from a device that resembles a bunch of suspended microphones bumping into their noggins.
7. The mark of a great facial is that it involves the kind of machinery you’d see in a top dollar car wash. Really, they buffed out every imperfection.
8. Logistically, this product was a plain old mess. By the time you got your lashes out of the eyelash stencil, all the hard work was for naught. Though, this is probably great for scaring small children.
9. Stuck in a frumpy rut? Flag down the roadside beautician. She would give you a fresh cut right on the London sidewalks. Talk about speedy service. Admittedly, it lacked on the health code front.
10. You thought Kim Kardashian invented the contour, huh? Guess again. The trick of enhancing your best angles stretches back to the 16th century! Cosmetic entrepreneur Helena Rubinstein gave the 1935 version to her happy client.
11. Meet the shower cap’s superior: the shower hood. Basically, you enjoy all the cleansing qualities of bathing while maintaining a full face of makeup. German actress Inge Marschall gave it two thumbs up after she wiped away the mascara melting from her eyes.
12. For decades, sunlight therapy was used to combat a slew of illnesses, from glumness to tuberculosis. Members of the Arsenal football team were devotees, but the UV rays were used across the medical community, even on children.
13. If you throw a rock in Finland, you’re likely to bonk a relaxed Finn in a sauna on the head. They are sauna devotees, after all. That’s why this portable version is still manufactured today and is a popular alternative to birthing tubs.
14. Chuck your serums and hyaluronic acids in the trash. Apparently, milk is the secret salve we’ve searched for. After you finish your milk facial, drink up the rest to strengthen your bones. Or, you know, don’t.
15. New York in the 1950s hosted 24-hour health salons. If the urge to simmer in a steam cabinet struck at 3 am, you could make that happen. Glamour queens like actress Lola Fisher took full advantage of the never-closing spas.
16. Nope, not an open audition for magician’s assistants. These gals were working up a sweat in the comfort of massive steam boxes in the government-sponsored spa Roosevelt Baths in 1938.
17. What’s a twisted neck or two on the journey to sick abs? It’s not a good workout unless it’s incredibly dangerous, that was the 1930’s motto. This popular core machine fell from grace after its users suffered whiplash.
18. Before the “wet t-shirt” contest could walk, its bashful cousin, the “Neatest Figure” contest had a run. To drive their priorities home, judges put bags over the faces of contestants, successfully concealing their shame.
19. Don’t let those metal tools scare you. Maree Fox, a beauty therapist, was using ionization to smooth the skin, and it’s a proven method that continues today. This particular device was called the Electric Cathoidermie machine.
20. State of the art hair dryer or extraterrestrial brain sucker? Either way, the folks at the London Hair and Beauty Fair in 1936 were dazzled by the futuristic design. Standing dryers are undoubtedly less sci-fi influenced in current salons.
21. When they exhausted all the jiggling gadgets and beautifying tombs, some perfection chasers resorted to good ol’ fashioned plastic surgery. In the ’30s, you could get a little freshen up without leaving the beauty parlor.
Laughing at past inventions isn’t limited to the beauty field. So many items that were once normal now seem incredibly bizarre, like the bed piano. Today, when you’re sick in bed, you might pull out a laptop and watch Netflix; in 1935, you pulled out your bed piano and knocked out a few afternoon symphonies.
2. Television Glasses: Hugo Gernsback, the man known today as “The Father of Science Fiction,” dared to dream of strapping a television set to his face in 1963 — so he made it happen (and later inspired future 3D glasses, too).
3. Man from Mars Radio Hat: Speaking of entertainment on your head, in 1949, Victor T. Hoeflinch created this hat, which allowed wearers to listen to the radio on the go, so long as they didn’t mind wearing a hat that wasn’t exactly a fashion statement.
4. Dimple Maker: In the ’30s, a smile was nothing without a set of dimples to go with it. But the dimple-less were not the hopeless: the Dimple Maker could force dimples onto their smiles by digging into their cheekbones. It did not work well.
5. The First PET Scan Device: As if going in for a PET scan wasn’t scary enough, the first machine capable of performing one was this wire-wrapped monstrosity, developed at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, New York.
6. Wooden Bathing Suits: These barrel-like suits were invented in 1929 and, allegedly, acted like flotation devices for swimming (wood floats, after all). But they must have been restrictive!
7. Sunscreen Vending Machine: Tennis courts, swimming pools, and beaches of the 1940s offered this vending machine, which dispensed little globs of sunscreen right into your hands. Honestly, weird as this was, it could come in handy today!
8. Cone Mask: The inventor of these masks wanted to protect the wearers’ faces from things like hail and rain. Somehow, getting pelted with rain was a big enough problem that he couldn’t just, you know, tilt his head down like three inches
9. Pedal Skates: In 1913, Charles A. Nordling understood people look for any excuse possible not to walk, so he created the pedal skates. A bit cumbersome, yeah, but unlike many other items on this list, they nobly served their purpose for a while.
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10. Cigarette Pack Holder: Because smoking one cigarette at a time was totally inefficient (and totally lame by 1950’s standards), this 1955 invention allowed smokers to stop dreaming about chain smoking an entire pack and start doing it.
11. All-Terrain Car: Invented in 1936, this English automobile ascended and descended slopes as steep as 65 degrees. With, what, 12 tires, it must have cost an absolute fortune to manufacture. Speaking of all-terrain…
12. Cyclomer: With six flotation devices, the cyclomer — also called “The Amphibious Bike — was designed to function on land and in water. In practice, it was clunky on dry land, borderline deadly in the water, and no one liked it much.
13. Goofybike: So the cyclomer didn’t catch on, but that wasn’t the end of all bike-alteration efforts. The Goofybike — seen in Chicago, 1939 — sat four people, one of which worked a sewing machine that kept the bike’s weight evenly distributed.
14. Pedestrian Shield: To reduce fatalities, inventors drummed up a shield reminiscent of a train’s cowcatcher to slap on the front of automobiles. It doesn’t look like a much better alternative to the front of a car.
15. Fax Newspaper: Imagine just wanting to catch up on your daily news and waiting (and waiting) for the darn newspaper fax to show up! Cool, but a paperboy standing on the corner was probably more efficient.
16. Shower Hood: Marketed as a way to keep your makeup intact, the shower hood prevented water from hitting your hair or face, which kind of defeated the major purpose of taking a shower altogether.
17. The Baby Dangler: Today, naming your device “The Baby Dangler” would make your peers mock you at best and land you in prison at worst; but back in the day, it was the perfect name for a device that strung up a baby between mom and dad.
18. A Radio-Controlled Lawn Mower: The lawn’s not going to mow itself, so why not invent a small mower operated with a remote control? Developed in the 1950s — and later celebrated by British royalty — the device survived time and still exists!
19. Ice Mask: There were plenty of reasons to drink in the 1940s, and inventors knew it. That’s why one developed the ice mask, which advertisers touted as a cure for the morning hangover.