1960s Fallout Shelters: Cramped Quarters For Nuclear Families

By Karen Harris
Left: The National Museum of American History's recreation of the interior of a fallout shelter. Right: Model Mary Lou Minor demonstrates a $1250 backyard unit that 'doubles as utility room or guest house' in 1951. Sources: Smithsonian; Bettmann / Getty

Did we need fallout shelters? Cold War tensions were high at the start of the 1960s and many Americans felt as though a nuclear attack on U.S. soil was a very real possibility -- perhaps even imminent. Powerless to stop the super-powers from engaging in nuclear warfare, the average American turned their attention and energy into finding ways to survive if a bomb was dropped. Public drills to prepare citizens for a nuclear attack weren’t enough. So began the practice (and business) of building small bunkers for Americans to huddle in should the Soviets start bombing.