1959 History, Fun Facts and Trivia

1959 Fun Facts, Trivia and History

Quick Facts from 1959

  • World Changing Event: Antarctic Treaty: 12 countries, including the United States and the Soviet Union, signed a treaty that set aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve and banned military activity on the continent.
  • The Top Song was Mack The Knife by Bobby Darin.
  • Influential Songs include Sea of Love by Phil Phillips, Teen Beat by Sandy Nelson, Peter Gunn by Ray Anthony, and La Bamba by Ritchie Valens.
  • The Movies to Watch include On The Beach, Porgy and Bess, Rio Bravo, North by Northwest, The Beat Generation, Compulsion, Gidget, Li’l Abner, Plan 9 From Outer Space, and Ben-Hur.
  • The Most Famous Person in America was probably Elvis Presley.
  • Notable books include Hawaii by James A. Michener and Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence.
  • The first house with a built-in bomb shelter was shown in Pleasant Hills, Pennsylvania.
  • Price of Kellogg’s Variety Cereal 10 pack in 1959: 49 cents.
  • The Fad: Phonebooth Stuffing.
  • The Disneyland Monorail System opened to the public in Anaheim, California.
  • Berry Gordy Jr. founded Motown as Tamla Records.
  • Rodgers & Barer’s musical Once Upon a Mattress premiered in NYC.
  • The Funny Duo were Mike Nichols and Elaine May
    The Funny Satirist: Tom Lehrer
  • The Day The Music Died: On February 3, 1959, rock and roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. (The Big Bopper) Richardson were killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, along with the pilot, Roger Peterson.

Top Ten Baby Names of 1959

Mary, Susan, Linda, Karen, Donna, Michael, David, James, John, Robert

Fashion Icons and Sex Symbols

Carroll Baker, Brigitte Bardot, Claudia Cardinale, Doris Day, Angie Dickinson, Anita Ekberg, Annette Funicello, Ava Gardner, Audrey Hepburn, Anna Karina, Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe, Julie Newmar, Kim Novak, Leslie Parrish, Stella Stevens, Elizabeth Taylor, Mamie Van Doren

Sex Symbols and Hollywood Hunks

Warren Beatty, Harry Belafonte, Elvis Presley

Oscars: 31st Academy Awards (1959)

The 31st Academy Awards ceremony was held on April 6, 1959, at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. Multiple hosts, including Bob Hope and David Niven, led the event. Gigi stole the show, winning nine awards, including Best Picture. David Niven won Best Actor for Separate Tables, and Susan Hayward was awarded Best Actress for her role in I Want to Live!.

Grammy Awards: 1st Annual Grammy Awards (1959)

The 1959 Grammys ceremony took place on May 4, 1959. Two ceremonies co-occurred—one at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills and another at the Park Sheraton Hotel in New York City. Perry Como and Ella Fitzgerald won the Best Vocal Performance awards for “Catch a Falling Star” and “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Song Book,” respectively.

Emmy Awards: 11th Primetime Emmy Awards (1959)

The 11th Primetime Emmy Awards took place on May 6, 1959, at the Moulin Rouge Nightclub in Hollywood. Raymond Burr took home the Best Actor award for Perry Mason, while Jane Wyatt won Best Actress for Father Knows Best. Alcoa-Goodyear Theatre received the Best Dramatic Series accolade, and The Jack Benny Program won Best Comedy Series.

“The Quotes”

“There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call ‘The Twilight Zone.’”
– Rod Serling, narrating The Twilight Zone

“Well, nobody’s perfect.”
– Joe E. Brown, in Some Like It Hot

After filming Some Like it Hot in 1959 Billy Wilder said about filming another movie with Marilyn Monroe, “I have discussed this with my doctor and my psychiatrist and they tell me I’m too old and too rich to go through this again.”

Time Magazine’s Man of the Year

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Miss America

Mary Ann Mobley (Brandon, MS)

Miss USA

Terry Huntingdon (California)

The Scandals & Tragedies

Airplane Celebrity Death: (February 3rd) Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Big Bopper. This was the day the Music Died.

Mysterious TV Star Violent Death: George Reeves (gunshot wound – murder or suicide?)

In testimony before Congress, gameshow contestant Charles Van Doren admitted he had been coached before appearing on NBC’s 21 game show in 1956.

1928’s scandalous Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence was officially published in the United States.
D.H. had been dead since 1930.

The Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim Museum opened in Manhattan, New York City, on October 15, 1959, ushering in a new era of architecture for museum spaces. The Guggenheim Museum in New York City has been a landmark for the arts. The museum is famous for its unique spiral design by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, which has become iconic in modern architecture around the world.

The museum was founded by Solomon R. Guggenheim and his wife, Peggy, as a place to house their art collection. The building’s construction was partly funded by the proceeds from selling paintings by Wassily Kandinsky, one of the museum’s earliest acquisitions. The building’s design was nearly complete when Frank Lloyd Wright died in 1959, but the project had already been so closely associated with Wright that it is often referred to as a “Frank Lloyd Wright creation.” His vision for this iconic building has stood the test of time and inspired many other museums worldwide.

1959 Pop Culture Facts & History

During screenings of the 1959 film The Tingler – a film about a creature that gets inside a person’s spine, causing them to feel a tingling that can only be stopped by screaming – buzzers were placed in random seats that caused the audience to feel tingling during the film.

The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, is the historic venue where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper performed on February 2, 1959.

A 1959 earthquake in Montana caused an 80 million ton landslide that created Quake Lake by blocking the Madison River in the Gallatin National Forest. 28 people were killed.

Kiwi fruit is named after Kiwi birds, and before 1959, were known as Chinese Gooseberries. They originated in China and came to Australia in the early 1900s.

The British Alpine Hannibal Expedition, led by John Hoyte, found the path used by Hannibal’s army to cross the Alps and invade Roman Italy successfully traversed the Alps from France to Italy with an 11-year-old former circus elephant named Jumbo.

In 1959, Westerns were the most popular television shows. There were 26 running that year.

In 1959, the FDA proposed a standard for peanut butter that was not finalized until a decision by the U.S. District Court of Appeals in 1970. The final standard required a 90% peanut content.

Bob Timm and John Wayne Cook broke the World Record for the longest manned, refueled flight in 1959 by traveling 150,000 miles over 64 days without landing.

25 South African students climbed into a telephone booth, setting a world record for the ‘event’ they had just created. For visitors born before 1990, a ‘phone booth’ contained a large ‘cellphone’ connected via wires to other telephones. They initially cost a nickel (5 cents) for a three-minute call.

Ben Hur won 11 Oscars.

The Rat Pack first appeared, including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop.

Russia’s ‘Luna-2’ landed on the moon, the first successful landing by an unmanned craft.

The Conair hair dryer changed the way hair was styled in the American household.

Neil Sedaka’s first Top Ten Hit Oh! Carol referred to his high school girlfriend Carol Klein. She is better known as songwriter/singer Carole King.

Scientists discovered the Y chromosome was needed to create males.

The opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark was inspired by a comic book story from 1959 – The Prize of Pizarro, in Uncle Scrooge #26, where Donald Duck, his nephews, and Uncle Scrooge must evade a succession of booby traps.

A Cement Truck crashed near Winganon, Oklahoma in 1959, It was too heavy to move, so locals painted and decorated it like a spaceship.

MLB player Stan Musial demanded his paycheck be cut by $20,000 after he had a subpar year in 1959.

Ermal Fraze devised a can-opening method in 1959 (patent #3439833) that would come to dominate the canned beverage market. His invention was the “pull-tab”.

The United States built a plane, the North American X-15, capable of going 4,520 MPH.

Disneyland Monorail System, the first daily operating monorail system in The Americas, opened to the public in Anaheim, California.

In 1959, the “inch” was adjusted by two-millionths of an inch to make it equal precisely 25.4 millimeters.

The USA has been sending checks annually for $4,085 to Cuba for the lease of Guantanamo Bay. Since 1959, only one check has been cashed by accident. The 1903 Lease for Guantanamo has no fixed expiration date.

The television cartoon Futurama is named after a 1939 World’s Fair exhibit that showed what they thought the world would be like in 1959.

January 3rd: Alaska became state # 49.

August 21st: Hawaii became the 50th state.

Civil Rights

Nancy Drew books were revised in 1959 to eliminate racist stereotypes.

The Day the Music Died

The plane crash (in foggy conditions near Clear Lake, Iowa) that killed Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, and pilot Roger Peterson wasn’t described as such until Don McLean’s 1971 song American Pie.

The Odd

At the first Grammy Awards, held in 1959, Frank Sinatra won a single award, and Alvin and The Chipmunks won three.

The Mystery

Dyatlov Pass Incident: Nine students went hiking in the Ural Mountains in 1959 and were inexplicably killed by an “unknown compelling force” that stumped investigators.

The Winner

Australian racer Sir Jack Brabham finished the 1959 Formula One race on foot when his car ran out of fuel with 500 yards to go. He pushed the car the rest of the way to clinch the title.

The Survivor

Colonel William Rankin became the only known person to survive a fall through a cumulonimbus thunderstorm cloud. He suffered from frostbite, welts, bruises, and severe decompression as a result of the 40-minute fall over North Carolina.

The Habit

Everybody watched the biblical epic Ben-Hur in their local theaters.

Nobel Prize Winners

Physics – Emilio Gino Segrè, Owen Chamberlain
Chemistry – Jaroslav Heyrovský
Physiology or Medicine – Severo Ochoa, Arthur Kornberg
Literature – Salvatore Quasimodo
Peace – Philip Noel-Baker

1959 Firsts

The BIC Crystal ballpoint pen was sold in the US in 1959 for $0.19. It is still sold for about $0.19.

Mattel’s Barbie doll and board game RISK debuted.

Volvo invented the seatbelt in 1959 and left the patent open so other car manufacturers could use its design.

In 1959, Entemanns created the see-through cake box.

Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, 1071 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, New York, opened.

Berry Gordy, Jr founded Motown Records (then called Tamla Records).

Bonanza premiered on NBC. It was the first regularly scheduled TV program presented in color.

The Twilight Zone premiered on CBS.

Troll Dolls were created in 1959 by Danish fisherman and woodcutter Thomas Dam.

The Boeing 707 airliner began service.

The first appearance of Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy was in a 1959 comic book called Tales to Astonish, issue #13.

Best Film Oscar Winner

Gigi (presented in 1959)

Broadway Show

The Sound of Music (Musical) Opened on November 16, 1959, and closed on June 15, 1963

Popular and Best-selling Books From 1959

A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Advise and Consent by Allen Drury
Dear and Glorious Physician by Taylor Caldwell
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Exodus by Leon Uris
Happy Birthday to You! by Dr. Seuss
Hawaii by James A. Michener
Goldfinger by Ian Fleming
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico
Poor No More by Robert Ruark
The Ugly American by Eugene L. Burdick

1959 Most Popular TV Shows

1. Gunsmoke (CBS)
2. Wagon Train (NBC)
3. Have Gun Will Travel (CBS)
4. The Danny Thomas Show (CBS)
5. The Red Skelton Show (CBS)
6. Father Knows Best (CBS)
7. 77 Sunset Strip (ABC)
8. Wanted: Dead or Alive (CBS)
9. Perry Mason (CBS)
10. The Real McCoys (ABC)

1959 Billboard Number One Songs

December 27, 1958January 18, 1959:
Chipmunk Song – David Seville & The Chipmunks

January 19February 8:
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes – The Platters

February 9March 8:
Stagger Lee – Lloyd Price

March 9April 12:
Venus – Frankie Avalon

April 13May 10:
Come Softly To Me – The Fleetwoods

May 11May 17:
The Happy Organ Dave Baby – Cortez

May 18May 31:
Kansas City – Wilbert Harrison

June 1June 12:
The Battle Of New Orleans – Johnny Horton

July 13August 9:
Lonely Boy – Paul Anka

August 10August 23:
A Big Hunk O’ Love – Elvis Presley

August 24September 20:
The Three Bells – The Browns

September 21October 4:
Sleep Walk – Santo & Johnny

October 5November 15:
Mack The Knife – Bobby Darin

November 16December 13:
Mr. Blue – The Fleetwoods

December 14December 27:
Heartaches – The Number Guy Mitchell

December 28, 1958 – January 3, 1960:
Why – Frankie Avalon


World Series Champions: Los Angeles Dodgers
NFL Champions: Baltimore Colts
NBA Champions: Boston Celtics
Stanley Cup Champs: Montreal Canadians
U.S. Open Golf Billy Casper
U.S. Tennis: (Men/Ladies) Neale Fraser/Maria Bueno
Wimbledon (Men/Women): Alex Olmedo/Maria Bueno
NCAA Football Champions: Syracuse
NCAA Basketball Champions: California
Kentucky Derby: Tommy Lee

More 1959 Facts & History Resources:

BabyBoomers.com (1959)
Most Popular Baby Names (BabyCenter.com)
Popular and Notable Books (popculture.us)
Broadway Shows that Opened in 1959X
1959 Calendar, courtesy of Time and Date.com
Fact Monster
Fifties Web (1959)
1950s, Infoplease.com World History
1959 in Movies (according to IMDB)
Retrowaste Vintage Culture
1959 Television
1950s Slang
Wikipedia 1959