42 stunning photos reveal what life was like 50 years ago, in 1969

Bob Peterson/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty ImagesPat Collins (in red), wife of Apollo 11 astronaut Mike Collins, celebrates the end of the mission with friends.

The last year of the ’60s was much more than groovy fashion, hippies, and peace signs – it was a year of events, accomplishments, and movements that were groundbreaking for the time.

Four Apollo space missions, The Beatles’ last concert and album, “Abbey Road,” the infamous Woodstock music festival, and a historic anti-war protest on Washington were all pieces of history that occurred in 1969.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest moments from that year, told through photographs that shed light on what life was like 50 years ago.

50 years ago, it was the year 1969. At the time, baby boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964, were the kids, teenagers, and young adults who defined youth culture of the decade.

Bettmann/Getty ImagesKids test-drive a wire-framed Volkswagen car as part of an exhibit in Los Angeles in 1969.

In this photo, a group of teenagers hold up peace signs from a wrought-iron Volkswagen car, which was part of an exhibit in Los Angeles in 1969.

From groundbreaking space rocket launches…

Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty ImagesChildren on vacation at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

In 1969, NASA completed four Apollo missions that sent astronauts into space.

…to peace, love, and rock ‘n roll, here are some of the most defining moments of 1969.

Express Newspapers/Getty ImagesEric Clapton and Alice Ormsby Gore in London in 1969.

Rock guitarist Eric Clapton and Alice Ormsby Gore in London following the announcement of their engagement in September 1969.

The year began with the inauguration of Richard Nixon, the 37th president of the United States. His presidency came at a time of major political and social turmoil in America.

Arthur Schatz/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty ImagesPresident Richard Nixon in Vietnam in 1969.

Richard Nixon served one full term and was then re-elected in 1972. His second term was cut short when he resigned from office following his involvement in the Watergate scandal – making him the only US president to resign so far.

The year 1969 saw one of the most historic anti-war demonstrations in the US, where nearly half a million people marched at the Washington Monument in protest of the Vietnam War.

Bettmann/Contributor/Getty ImagesDemonstrators at the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam.

The famous rallies in November 1969 that took place in Washington, DC, were known as the Moratorium Against the Vietnam War. Nearly 500,000 people marched in protest of the US involvement in the war, making it among the largest political rallies in the nation’s history, according to TIME.

The Vietnam War divided generations and took a toll on American culture.

Santi Visalli/Getty ImagesA protester at an anti-Vietnam rally in Washington, DC, in November 1969.

The US was involved in the controversial Vietnam War from 1954 until 1975. During that time, more than 3 million people died, including some 58,000 US troops, according to the History Channel.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono famously held their “bed-in for peace” protest, inch which they vowed to stay in bed for seven days in protest of war.

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesJohn Lennon and Yoko Ono’s ‘bed-in for peace’ protest in March 1969.

From March 25 to 31, the famous couple sat in a bed in Amsterdam wearing pajamas, surrounded by signs that called for peace. Lennon and Ono invited the press to visit their room from 9 am until 9 pm each day of their “bed-in” protest, according to TIME.

Lennon and Ono also bought 11 billboards around the world to display a holiday message for peace.

Batemann/Contributor/Getty ImagesJohn Lennon and Yoko Ono’s peace billboard in Times Square.

In 2018, on what would have been Lennon’s 78th birthday, Ono released her own version of the former Beatles member’s song, “Imagine.”

NASA’s 1969 Apollo missions were perhaps the most defining moments of the decade — and of the history of the US.

Mario De Biasi/Mondadori via Getty ImagesThe Apollo 11 launch.

Here, tourists prepare for the Apollo 11 launch at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The historic space mission launches captured the attention — and TV screens — of people around the world.

Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty ImagesThe Apollo 10 launch.

Pictured above is Barbara Cernan, the wife of astronaut Eugene Cernan, watching the launch of Apollo 10 in May 1969.

In July, some 600 million people tuned in to watch as Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong took the first step on the moon.

CBS Photo Archive/Getty ImagePassengers at JFK Airport watch Apollo 11 on a TV.

Here, crowds of people watched the Apollo 11 lunar landing from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.

About 600 million viewers tuned in to watch the moon landing on July 20, 1969, according to CNN.

With Armstrong’s “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” the world was changed forever.

Science & Society Picture Library/Contributor/Getty ImagesApollo 11 was a turning point in the history of space exploration.

Apollo 11 was the ninth of 14 missions that were part of the Apollo program. Astronauts on Apollo 11 not only made history with the lunar landing and first steps on the moon, but they were also the first to have hot water in space and to eat food with a spoon instead of squeezing it out of a bag.

Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin made history as Apollo 11 astronauts, and their return to Earth was a time of celebration, representing a major victory for the US space program.

Science & Society Picture Library/Contributor/Getty ImagesThe Apollo 11 astronauts returned to Earth on July 24, 1969.

The Apollo 11 astronauts returned to Earth on July 24, 1969. Upon returning from their mission, the astronauts were ordered by NASA to stay in a special isolation compartment, called the Mobile Quarantine Facility, for a few days to prevent them from spreading lunar diseases, according to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

During their time in the Mobile Quarantine Facility, the astronauts were greeted with excited visitors, including their families and President Nixon.

Astronauts were seen as celebrities at the time, and were celebrated with a ticker tape parade, a tradition recognising athletes and other figures who made history.

AP ImagesApollo 11 Astronaut Neil Armstrong, his wife, Jan and sons, Ricky and Mark, are engulfed by ticker tape.

Ticker tape parades have been a New York City tradition since 1918.

Astronauts’ wives also became icons in their own right. Here, the wives of Apollo 12 astronauts hold up signs for news reporters that displayed their emotions: “Proud,” “Thrilled,” and “Happy.”

Bettmann/Contributor/Getty ImagesThe wives of Apollo 12 astronauts: Sue Bean, Barbara Gordon, and Jane Conrad.

Read more:

8 of the surviving Apollo astronauts got together for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, and Buzz Aldrin’s outfit stole the show

That same summer, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighbourhood, leading to an uprising that sparked a larger movement of LGBTQ+ pride.

Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty ImagesThe Stonewall Inn nightclub raid.

In June 1969, police raided a New York City nightclub, the Stonewall Inn, leading to riots and unrest in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood that sparked a pivotal movement in the LGBTQ+ movement.

Read more:
The real history behind the Stonewall riot: one of the most pivotal moments in LGBT history

The summer of 1969 also saw the Woodstock Arts and Music Festival, which brought 400,000 people to a farm in Bethel, New York, for a music event that went down in history.

AP ImagesThe infamous Woodstock traffic jam.

From August 15 through August 18, a dairy farm in upstate New York was the site of “Three Days of Peace and Music” – which later became an important cultural moment.

Thousands of people drove to the farm in upstate New York, causing a massive traffic jam.

AP ImagesA woman sleeps on top of a car at Woodstock in 1969.

Woodstock was a poorly organised three-day festival filled with musical legends, horrible weather, traffic jams, hippie fashion, and ’60s peace and love.

Despite stormy weather, muddy grounds, and lack of food, people who attended Woodstock recall it as a life-changing experience.

AP ImagesWoodstock attendees.

A 30th anniversary festival in 1999, however, devolved into chaos.

Jimi Hendrix was one of the headliners at Woodstock, where he made waves with his famous rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Peter Tarnoff/AP ImagesJimi Hendrix performing his legendary two-hour set at Woodstock.

While Hendrix was booked as headliner, he didn’t perform until the event was nearly over: at 9 a.m. on Monday, to a crowd of only around 30,0000.

Woodstock was an event that defined the ’60s and the rock and roll generation.

AP ImagesWoodstock made music history.

Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, and The Who were just some of the icons that performed at the legendary music festival.

The Rolling Stones took the world by storm following their debut on American TV with a spot on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1969.

CBS Photo Archive/Getty ImagesThe Rolling Stones on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1969.

According to TIME, the band was torn on which American TV show to appear on leading up to their tour. They opted for a feature on the ever-popular “The Ed Sullivan Show” and turned down the edgier “The Smothers Brothers Show,” as “Ed Sullivan” reached a wider audience.

The Rolling Stones also went on tour following lead guitarist Brian Jones’ death. Their tour was called “part of rock and roll legend” by critics.

PA Images via Getty ImagesThe Rolling Stones.

The Rolling Stones’ 1969 tour changed the course of concerts and band tours, as they were among the first band to provide their own lighting and hire opening acts – responsibilities that previously would have been up to the tour or band promoter, according to TIME.

Just two days following the death of the Stones’ original guitarist, Brian Jones, nearly half a million fans flocked to their free concert in Hyde Park, London.

Reg Burkett/Express/Getty ImagesA woman at a Rolling Stones concert in Hyde Park, London.

Two days after the death of former Stones guitarist Brian Jones, the band had its historic free concert in London’s Hyde Park. Between 250,000 and 500,000 fans squeezed into the park in the sweltering July heat, according to Mashable.

The year 1969 also marked some historic “lasts” for The Beatles, as the world-famous band held their final live performance in London.

Express/Getty ImagesThe Beatles’ rooftop concert in London.

The rooftop concert in London was The Beatles’ first concert since 1966 – and it turned out to be their final public performance, according to Rolling Stone.

The Beatles also released their final studio album, “Abbey Road,” in 1969.

Robert Landau/Corbis via Getty ImagesA billboard for The Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’ album in Los Angeles in 1969.

Half a century ago, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and John Lennon walked along the London crosswalk that would become the famous “Abbey Road” album art.

According to Abbey Road Studios, the photographer, Iain Macmillan, took six shots of The Beatles members crossing the street, and the only one where the four musicians were walking in sync was the photo that ended up making the album cover.

In the late-1960s, as more people relied on TV for entertainment, more shows premiered — including the beloved series “The Brady Bunch.”

Paramount Television/Courtesy of Getty ImagesA still from ‘The Brady Bunch’ in 1969.

“The Brady Bunch,” a comedy about the shenanigans of “a lovely lady” and “a man named Brady” and their blended family ran from 1969 until 1974.

So did “Sesame Street,” which marked a new era of children’s educational TV programming.

Grey Villet/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty ImagesThe Muppets of ‘Sesame Street.’

In November 1969, “Sesame Street” broke new ground in children’s TV programming by introducing viewers to the loveable Muppets.Puppeteer Jim Henson, pictured above, was behind some of the most well-known “Sesame Street” characters, including Cookie Monster, Bert and Ernie, Big Bird, and Kermit the Frog.

At the 1969 Oscars — the first televised version of the awards show — Barbara Streisand and Katharine Hepburn tied for the title of Best Actress.

APBarbara Streisand in 1969.

Streisand’s breakout role in the 1968 film “Funny Girl” landed her an Oscar win for Best Actress in 1969. She tied with Katharine Hepburn, who won for her role in “The Lion in Winter.”

Hepburn, then an 11-time Oscar nominee, never attended the awards show. Streisand accepted her award wearing a sheer, sparkly ensemble.

The Jackson brothers who made up the Jackson 5 ranged from ages nine to 14 in 1969, the year “I Want You Back” took the charts by storm.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty ImagesThe Jackson 5 performing in 1969.

The Jackson 5’s debut album, “Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5,” was released in 1969 after they opened for Diana Ross and the Supremes. The group’s most popular single at the time was “I Want You Back.”

Sonny and Cher were also music icons in the late ’60s.

Sellers/Mirrorpix/Getty ImagesMusic duo Sonny and Cher in 1969.

Known for their chart-topping single “I Got You Babe,” and their TV show “The Sonny and Cher Show,” Sonny and Cher truly were a household name in the ’60s and ’70s.

In 1969, advisers to Queen Elizabeth II came up with an idea to film a documentary of the royal family to maintain public support in a changing society.

Bettmann/Contributor/Getty ImagesQueen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip on a plane during the filming of a BBC documentary, circa 1969.

The queen’s advisers came up with the idea for the “Royal Family” documentary, which was filmed in 1969 and gave viewers a look at a year in the life of Queen Elizabeth II and her family.

But not long after the ‘Royal Family’ documentary was made, the queen ordered for it to never been seen again.

Keystone-FranceGamma-Rapho via Getty ImagesPrince Charles and Prince Edward in 1969.

Advisers to the queen thought the film could help maintain public support for the British monarchy amid a world of counterculture – but the queen watched the broadcast once it was aired and ordered for it to never be shown again.

The Jet Age, which began in the late 1950s, continued through the 1960s. In 1969, the Boeing 747 aeroplane made its first flight, and Pan Am was the first airline to fly the jet.

Bettmann/Contributor/Getty ImagesPan Am flight attendants on the Boeing 747 jet in 1969.

The Boeing 747 marked a new era in commercial air travel. Pan Am ads for the 747 jet described it as having “Three living room-size Economy sections … And seats almost as big as First Class … you want to fly the plane that’s a ship, the ship that’s a plane,” according to the Seattle Times.

Innovations in household products and appliances that may seem commonplace now, like self-cleaning ovens, were a big deal at the time.

Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesA kitchen in 1969.

Here, a woman opens a self-cleaning General Electric oven in 1969.

Read more:

20 vintage photos of products that show how far we’ve come in the last 100 years

Some retro gadgets, like this vacuum cleaner, look pretty funny now.

Ian Showell/Getty ImagesA woman wears a vacuum cleaner.

A woman with a portable vacuum cleaner in 1969.

In 1969, New York City’s Twin Towers were just being built.

APThe World Trade Centre in New York City in 1969.

Construction began on the World Trade Centre site in March 1966, and in December 1970, the first tenants moved into the North Tower. The World Trade Centre was dedicated in April 1973, according to The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Fashion in the year 1969 was a mix of “hippie”-inspired styles like bell-bottom pants and fringe — as well as more classic retro silhouettes.

Dean Conger/Corbis via Getty ImagesA mother and daughter at Disneyland in 1969.

Popular fashion in 1969 was a combination of “groovy” and more rigid, traditionally ’60s styles, according to an article from Fast Company that analysed trends from the year.

Women’s shorts were a relatively new fashion innovation in the year 1969.

Vernon Merritt III/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty ImagesTwo women walking in New York City in 1969.

One of the biggest fashion developments from 1969 was the introduction of women’s shorts. Prior to that, most women’s fashions were skirts and dresses, with pants being only a relatively recent innovation in the earlier ’60s, according to Fast Company.

The summer of 1969 also saw the murders committed by followers of Charles Manson.

Vernon Merritt III/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty ImagesCharles Manson.

Over two nights in August 1969, seven people were brutally murdered by the Manson “Family,” including actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of movie director Roman Polanski.

Manson was convicted in 1971 and died in prison in 2017.

“Wizard of Oz” star and Hollywood icon Judy Garland died in 1969. Thousands of fans swarmed her New York City funeral.

Betmann/Contributor/Getty ImagesPeople outside Judy Garland’s funeral service.

The actress and singer died at age 47 due to an accidental overdose of barbiturates in 1969, “sending a shock through global culture,” as written in Billboard.

The people, ideas, music, and movements that shaped the last year of the ’60s are still relevant pieces of culture 50 years later.

Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesPeople protesting the Vietnam War outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, London, in October 1969.

The year 1969 was much more than groovy fashion, hippies, and peace signs – it was a year of events, accomplishments, and movements that were groundbreaking for the time.

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