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1956 History, Trivia and Fun Facts

<< - 1955

1956 History Snapshot

  • Politics: Congress passed the Interstate Highway Bill.
  • The Top Song was Don't Be Cruel/ Hound Dog by Elvis Presley
  • The Big Movies included The Ten Commandments, Around the World in 80 Days and War and Peace
  • Minimum Wage in 1956: $1.00 per hour
    Price of an Oldsmobile, "88" Holiday sedan: $2,929.29
    Price of a movie ticket: 50 cents
  • The World Population was ~ 2,856,000,000
  • US Life Expectancy: Males: 66.7 years, Females: 72.9 years
  • 'Sock Hops'- 50s school dances, were named after the fact that you had to take off your shoes to protect the varnished cafeteria and gymnasium floors.
  • And... The first guest to ring the opening bell on the NYSE was Leonard Ross (age10). Young Ross got this chance by winning a television quiz show answering questions about the stock market.

World Series Champions

New York Yankees

NFL Champions

New York Giants

National Basketball Association Champions

Philadelphia Warriors

NHL Stanley Cup Champions

Montreal Canadiens

US Open Golf

Cary Middlecoff

US Open Tennis (Men Ladies)

Ken Rosewall/Shirley J. Fry

Wimbledon (Men/Women)

Lew Hoad/Shirley Fry

NCAA Football Champions


NCAA Basketball Champions

San Francisco

Bowl Games

Orange Bowl: January 2, 1956 - Oklahoma over Maryland
Rose Bowl: January 2, 1956 - Michigan State over UCLA
Sugar Bowl : January 2, 1956 - Georgia Tech over Pittsburgh

Kentucky Derby


Westminster Kennel Best in Show Dog

Wilber White Swan

Time Magazine's Men of the Year

Hungarian Freedom Fighter

Miss America

Sharon Ritchie (Denver, CO)

Miss USA

Carol Morris (Iowa)

Fashion Icons and Movie Stars

Brigitte Bardot, Dorothy Dandridge, Doris Day, Anita Ekberg, June Ferguson, Anne Francis, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren, Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, Julie Newmar, Kim Novak, Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner, Toni Wallace, Tuesday Weld, Jane Wyatt

"The Quotes"

"That'll be the day"
- John Wayne, in The Searchers

"You’re in good hands with Allstate"

"We will bury you."
- Nikita Khrushchev

"Live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse"
- James Dean

"Takes a licking and keeps on ticking"
-Times (watches)

"Away go troubles down the drain"
- Roto-Rooter

1956 Pop Culture History

On his wedding day in 1956, Beryl Lailey promised to keep a canned whole chicken until his 50th Anniversary, when he would eat it. He did and did not become ill.

Swedish sailor Ake Viking sent a bottled message "To Someone Beautiful and Far Away" that was found in Sicily by a 17-year-old Sicilian girl named Paolina, sparking a correspondence that culminated in their marriage in 1958.

The Chrysler Corporation offered an under the dash mounted record player (phonograph). The option was discontinued the following year.

One reason why The Ten Commandments are on display at so many courthouses in the US is because Cecil B DeMille gave away 4,000 tablets engraved with the scripture to promote the 1956 film, The Ten Commandments.

NBC introduced its multicolored peacock logo in 1956 to entice people to buy color TVs manufactured by RCA, which owned the network.

In 1956 the IBM 350 hard disk drive had 3.75 MB of storage, weighed over 2000 lbs, and had to be moved around with forklifts.

For a bet, while drunk, Thomas Fitzpatrick stole a small plane from New Jersey and then landed it perfectly on a narrow Manhattan street in front of the bar he had been drinking at. Then, two years later, he did it again after a man didn't believe he had done it the first time.

Grace Kelly's family paid a $2 million dowry when she married Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956.

The first Republican (and president) that The New York Times endorsed was Abraham Lincoln. The last Republican they endorsed was Dwight Eisenhower, in 1956.

In February 1956, the last surviving eye witness to the Lincoln assassination, Samuel Seymour, appeared on the television show, "I've Got a Secret".

Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan Kenobi) converted to Catholicism in 1956 after playing a Catholic priest in a film. While filming Father Brown in Burgundy in 1954, Guinness was in costume as a Catholic priest, and was mistaken for a real priest by a local child.

Monkee's Mike Nesmith's mother, Bette Nesmith Graham invented "Mistake Out," later renamed Liquid Paper.

In September IBM launched the 305 RAMAC, the first 'SUPER' computer with a hard disk drive (HDD). The HDD weighed over a ton and stored 5 MB of data.

Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman took acting classes together in 1956. Their classmates voted them "Least Likely to Succeed."

A contestant onThe Price Is Right was offered an elephant as a bonus prize to make for extra ivory for the grand piano he had just won. The real prize was in fact $4,000 but the contestant insisted he wanted the elephant. The show eventually delivered an elephant from Kenya to him.

October 8, Game 5 of the World Series, NY Yankee right-hander Don Larson pitched a 'perfect game.'

Hillsdale College founded in 1844, known as the conservative Harvard, was the first college to have discrimination based on sex, religion, or race in admissions prohibited in its charter, and also refused to play in the 1956 Tangerine Bowl when its black players were not allowed on the field.

A killer fog blanketed London in 1952 and left as many as 12,000 people dead. It led to Parliament passing the first Clean Air Act in 1956.

The Olympic Closing Ceremony tradition of athletes mingling and celebrating together began at the 1956 games following a suggestion by a 17 year old Chinese student, John Wing, who thought the idea would ease the many political tensions present at those games.

The United States passed the Refrigerator Safety Act, which made it mandatory for all fridges to be magnetically sealed. This was due to the high amount of children who suffocated in latched refrigerators.

The hovercraft was invented by Christopher Cockerell.

The infamous 'Priory of Scion' that many people believe is a secret organization who protects the on-going Merovingian bloodline of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene is not ancient organization. It was founded in 1956 "for the defense of the rights and the freedom of affordable housing".

25 people were hospitalized after a melee at a Bill Haley concert in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

ALCOHOL-RELATED ARTIST DEATH: Jackson Pollock died in a car accident. His 1948 work, No. 5 sold to David Geffen for $140,000,000.

Bon Appétit began publication

RIP, Scandals, Sad and Odd News

Paul Hogan shocked the art world by unhooking an Impressionist masterpiece ( Jour D'Ete -Summer's Da- by Berthe Morisot) from a wall in the Tate Gallery (in London) and carrying it calmly out of the gallery. Despite being photographed by journalists while he was stealing it, he's never been prosecuted. It was returned four days later.

Charles Van Doren and Herb Stempel, the leading competitors on TV's quiz show, Twenty-One, admitted to being coached by producers of the show.

American Richard B. Fitzgibbon, Jr., the first official death of the Vietnam War, was not killed in action but instead was murdered by another American airman.

Due to a combination of air friction and a steepened dive path, an F-11 Tiger shot itself down with its own gunfire.

Scriptores rerum Germanicarum septentrionalium, vicinorumque populorum diversi (Various historians of the Northern Germans and of neighbouring peoples), a book borrowed in 1667-68 from Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge was not returned until 1956.

Commercial flights were allowed to fly any course to their destination and would often detour over points of interest. This ended in 1956 when two planes crashed mid-flight over the Grand Canyon.

At the 1956 Olympics, an Australian student successfully impersonated an Olympic torchbearer, handing the mayor of Sydney a painted chair leg topped with a pair of burning underwear in front of a crowd of thousands.

Dick Clark took over hosting duties on Bob Horn's Bandstand after Bob allegedly 'twiddled' with female teenage dancers who appeared on his show. They changed the name to American Bandstand.

Firsts and the Biggest Christmas Gifts

Yahtzee, Ticklebee Game , Play-Doh (color, actual white came out in 1958), Ant Farm

The Habits

Playing the Card Game Canasta.
Reading Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy
Reading Don't Go Near the Water by William Brinkley
Watching The Ten Commandments, Giant, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Bus Stop, Caousel, Forbidden Planet, The King and I, The Man Who Knew Too Much and The Searchers in theaters.

1956/57 Biggest Television Shows

(according to Nielsen TV Research)
1. I Love Lucy (CBS)
2. The Ed Sullivan Show (CBS)
3. General Electric Theatre (CBS)
4. The $64,000 Question (CBS)
5. December Bride (CBS)
6. Alfred Hitchcock Presents (CBS)
7. I've Got A Secret (CBS)
8. Gunsmoke (CBS)
9. The Perry Como Show (NBC)
10. The Jack Benny Show (CBS)

Popular Music Artists

The Biggest Pop Artists of 1956 include
Bill Haley and His Comets, Chuck Berry, Dean Martin, Eddie Fisher, Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Four Aces, The Four Lads, Frank Sinatra, Gale Storm, Gogi Grant, Guy Mitchell, Joe Turner, Kay Starr, Lawrence Welk, Les Baxter, Little Richard, Little Willie John, The McGuire Sisters, Nat 'King' Cole, Nelson Riddle, Pat Boone, Patti Page, Perry Como, The Platters, Ray Charles, Teresa Brewer

(Data is complied from various charts including: Billboard's Pop, Rock, Airplay, R&B/Dance and Singles Charts. The Hot 100 is the primary chart used for this list.)

Number One Hits of 1956

November 26, 1955 - January 13, 1956: Tennessee Ernie - Sixteen Tons

January 14, 1956 - February 17, 1956: Dean Martin - Memories Are Made Of This

February 18, 1956 - February 24, 1956: Kay Starr - Rock And Roll Waltz

February 25, 1956 - March 23, 1956: Nelson Riddle - Lisbon Antigua

March 24, 1956 - April 20, 1956: Les Baxter - Poor People Of Paris

April 21, 1956 - June 15, 1956: Elvis Presley - Heartbreak Hotel

June 16, 1956 - July 27, 1956: Gogi Grant - The Wayward Wind

July 28, 1956 - August 3, 1956: Elvis Presley - I Want You, I Need You, I Love You

August 4, 1956 - August 17, 1956: The Platters - My Prayer

August 18, 1956 - November 2, 1956: Elvis Presley - Don't Be Cruel / Hound Dog

November 3, 1956 - December 7, 1956: Elvis Presley - Love Me Tender

December 8, 1956 - February 8, 1957: Guy Mitchell - Singing The Blues

The Top 40 Songs of 1956*

*according to Billboard Magazine
1. Don't Be Cruel/ Hound Dog - Elvis Presley
2. Singing The Blues - Guy Mitchell
3. The Wayward Wind - Gogi Grant
4. Heartbreak Hotel - Elvis Presley
5. Rock and Roll Waltz - Kay Starr
6. The Poor People of Paris - Les Baxter
7. Memories Are Made of This - Dean Martin
8. Love Me Tender - Elvis Presley
9. My Prayer - The Platters
10. Lisbon Antigua - Nelson Riddle
11. I Almost Lost My Mind - Pat Boone
12. The Green Door - Jim Lowe
13. Moonglow and Theme From "Picnic" - Morris Stoloff
14. The Great Pretender - The Platters
15. Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom) - Perry Como
16. I Want You, I Need You, I Love You - Elvis Presley
17. No, Not Much! - The Four Lads
18. Blue Suede Shoes - Carl Perkins
19. Honky Tonk (Parts 1 & 2) - Bill Doggett
20. Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera) - Doris Day
21. Canadian Sunset - Hugo Winterhalter with Eddie Heywood
22. Alleghany Moon - Patti Page
23. Just Walking In The Rain - Johnny Ray
24. Ivory Tower - Cathy Carr
25. Standing on the Corner - The Four Lads
26. I'm In Love Again - Fats Domino
27. True Love - Bing Crosby & Grace Kelly
28. The Flying Saucers Parts 1 & 2 - Buchanan & Goodman
29. On The Street Where You Live - Vic Damone
30. (You've Got) The Magic Touch - The Platters
31. Band of Gold - Don Cherry
32. I'll Be Home - Pat Boone
33. Tonight You Belong To Me - Patience & Prudence
34. Moonglow and Theme from "Picnic" - George Cates
35. More - Perry Como
36. A Tear Fell - Teresa Brewer
37. Born To Be With You - The Chordettes
38. Friendly Persuasion (Thee I Love) - Pat Boone
39. Memories Are Made of This - Dean Martin
40. See You Later, Alligator - Bill Haley and His Comets

Popular Movies

Anastasia, Around the World in 80 Days, Baby Doll, Bigger Than Life, Bus Stop, Carousel, Forbidden Planet, Friendly Persuasion, Giant, High Society, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Killing, The King and I, Love Me Tender, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Patterns, The Red Balloon, Rodan, The Searchers, Seven Wonders of the World, The Ten Commandments, Written in the Wind, The Wrong Man

More Pop Culture History Resources

Popular Music in 1956
# 1 Hits of 1956
Pop Culture News

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