While the nuclear mushroom cloud rising above the Nevada desert is an iconic and familiar image, what went on beneath the cloud is hazier and less well understood. At the surface level nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site in the 1950s entailed extensive scientific, military, and social experiments. This article focuses on two projects overseen by the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA), Doom Town I and II, and their ties with 1950s cultural values and the consumer landscape. This article situates the two mock American townscapes as part of the cultural battlefield of the Cold War and explores how they served as powerful but also deeply flawed symbols of U.S. capitalism and a new suburban way of life.

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