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 bans 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 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.
- Motown was founded by Berry Gordy Jr. 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
The Hotties and Fashion Icons:
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
“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
Mary Ann Mobley (Brandon, MS)
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.
Pop Culture History:
During screenings of the 1959 film The Tingler – a film about a creature a creature that gets inside a person’s spine, causing them to feel a tingling which 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 gave their final performances 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 are named after Kiwi birds, and prior to 1959 were known as Chinese Gooseberries. They orginated 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 11yr 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 travelling 150,000 miles over 64 days without landing.
25 South African students climbed into a telephone booth, setting a world’s record for the ‘event’ that they had just created. For visitors born before 1990, a ‘phone booth’ contained a large ‘cellphone’ that was connected via wires to other telephones. Originally costing a nickle (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 pay check 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, that was 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 2 millionths of an inch, to make it equal exactly 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.
Television cartoon Futurama is named after an exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair 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.
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.
At the first Grammy Awards, held in 1959, Frank Sinatra won a single award and Alvin and The Chipmunks won three.
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.
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.
Colonel William Rankin became the only known person to survive a fall through a cumulonimbus thunderstorm cloud and suffered from frostbite, welts, bruises, and severe decompression as a result of the 40 minute fall over North Carolina.
Everybody watched the biblical epic Ben-Hur 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
The BIC Crystal ballpoint pen was first 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 then left the patent open so other car manufacturers could use its design.
In 1959 Entemann’s created the see-through cake box.
Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, 1071 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, New York, opened.
Motown Records (then called Tamla Records) was founded by Berry Gordy, Jr.
Bonanza premiered on NBC. It was the first regularly scheduled TV program presented in color.
The Twilight Zone premiered on CBS.
Troll Dolls were originally 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: June 15, 1963
Popular and Notable Books From 1959:
A Seperate 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, 1958 – January 18, 1959:
Chipmunk Song – David Seville & The Chipmunks
January 19 – February 8:
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes – The Platters
February 9 – March 8:
Stagger Lee – Lloyd Price
March 9 – April 12:
Venus – Frankie Avalon
April 13 – May 10:
Come Softly To Me – The Fleetwoods
May 11 – May 17:
The Happy Organ Dave Baby – Cortez
May 18 – May 31:
Kansas City – Wilbert Harrison
June 1 – June 12:
The Battle Of New Orleans – Johnny Horton
July 13 – August 9:
Lonely Boy – Paul Anka
August 10 – August 23:
A Big Hunk O’ Love – Elvis Presley
August 24 – September 20:
The Three Bells – The Browns
September 21 – October 4:
Sleep Walk – Santo & Johnny
October 5 – November 15:
Mack The Knife – Bobby Darin
November 16 – December 13:
Mr. Blue – The Fleetwoods
December 14 – December 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