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1959 History, Trivia and Fun Facts

<< - 1958

1959 History Snapshot

  • Politics: Cuban President Batista resigned and left Cuba, then communist-backed Fidel Castro took over.
  • The Top Song was Mack The Knife by Bobby Darin
  • The Big Movies included Ben-Hur, Sleeping Beauty and Some Like It Hot
  • Price of Alcoa Aluminum wrap, 75 foot roll in 1959: 69 cents
  • The World Population was ~ 2,987,000,000
  • US Life Expectancy: Males: 66.8 years, Females: 73.2 years
  • The BIC Crystal ballpoint pen was first sold in the US in 1959 for $0.19. It is still sold for approximately $0.19 even with inflation.
  • Risk: The Continental Game (now Risk: The Game of Global Domination) was introduced by Parker Brothers in 1959.
  • And... There's a Burger King in the town of Mattoon, Illinois which actually opened before the giant chain and registered as a statewide trademark in 1959. The Burger King chain isn’t allowed to operate within 20 miles of the original restaurant.

World Series Champions

Los Angeles Dodgers

NFL Champions

Baltimore Colts

National Basketball Association Champions

Boston Celtics

NHL Stanley Cup Champions

Montreal Canadiens

US Open Golf

Billy Casper

US Open Tennis (Men Ladies)

Neale Fraser/Maria Bueno

Wimbledon (Men/Women)

Alex Olmedo/Maria Bueno

NCAA Football Champions


NCAA Basketball Champions


Bowl Games

Orange Bowl: January 1, 1959 - Oklahoma over Syracuse
Rose Bowl: January 1, 1959 - Iowa over California
Sugar Bowl : January 1, 1959 - LSU over Clemson

Kentucky Derby

Tommy Lee

Westminster Kennel Best in Show Dog

Fontclair Festoon

Time Magazine's Man of the Year

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Miss America

Mary Ann Mobley (Brandon, MS)

Miss USA

Terry Huntingdon (California)

1959's Fresh Faces and Top Celebrities

Brigitte Bardot, Susan Chew, 'Wilhelmina' Cooper, Doris Day, Mamie Van Doren, Anita Ekberg, Annette Funicello, June Ferguson, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, Julie Newmar, Kim Novak, Donna Reed, Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner, Toni Wallace, Tuesday Weld, Jane Wyatt

"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

Soviet Premiere Nikita Khruschchev was denied a request to visit Disneyland during a trip to the United States. He became enraged and stated "But just now I was told that I could not go to Disneyland. I asked 'Why not? What is it? Do you have rocket-launching pads there?' I do not know."

1959 Pop Culture History

The 1959 film Ben-Hur was a remake of a 1925 silent film, which was in turn a remake of a 1907 silent film, based on a book from 1880.

Volvo invented the modern seatbelt in 1959. To save lives, they decided to make it an "open patent," allowing other manufacturers to use the same design. Every car produced today uses this mechanism, considered one of the major safety inventions of the 20th century, saving over 1M lives.

Integrated Circuit (microchip) forerunner of the microprocessor, was invented by Jack Kilby and future Intel founder Robert Noyce.

Only one person, pilot William Rankin, has survived a fall through a cumulonimbus cloud. The descent began at 47k feet after he ejected directly above the cloud formation after an engine failure over South Carolina. He was about 47,000 feet up, suffered frostbite and a probable lightning strike. The ordeal lasted over 40 minutes due to a parachute malfunction.

In 1959 popular teen heartthrob Neil Sedaka had his first international hit with "Oh! Carol", addressed to his high school girlfriend Carol Klein. She would later go on to find even greater success of her own as a singer and songwriter under the name Carole King.

William Rankin, a pilot, ejected from his jet at 45,000 feet and spent the next 40 minutes being thrusted up and down inside of a thunderstorm.

25 South African students climbed into a telephone booth, setting a world's record for the 'event' that they had just created.

The current US flag was designed in 1958 by Robert Heft as a junior high history project an got a B- for it. The grade was later changed to an A after Heft's design was accepted and adopted by the United States Congress in 1959.

Ben Hur won 11 Oscars.

Richard Berry the guy who wrote Louie, Louie sold the song's rights for $750 to pay for his wedding. In the mid-80s, he was living on welfare with his mom in South Central LA, when a lawyer convinced him to take action to get the rights back. He settled out of court and became a millionaire.

The BIC Crystal ballpoint pen was first sold in the US in 1959 for $0.19. It is still sold for approximately $0.19, even with inflation.

From 1959 to 1966 the Boston Celtics won the NBA championship a record 8 consecutive times.

Object 269, created by Soviet engineers in 1959, was a tank that was designed to survive a nuclear explosion.

Troll Dolls were originally created in 1959 by Danish fisherman and woodcutter Thomas Dam. Dam could not afford a Christmas gift for his young daughter Lila and carved the doll from his imagination. Other children in the Danish town of Gjøl saw the troll doll and wanted one.

Futurama is named after an exhibit at the 1939 World's Fair that showed what they thought the world would be like in 1959.

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

The opening song sung by prisoners in O Brother, Where Art Thou was a recording of actual prisoners in 1959, and one of the prisoners, James Carter, was tracked down and paid 40 years later.

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

There's a Burger King in the town of Mattoon, Illinois which actually opened before the giant chain and registered as a statewide trademark in 1959. The Burger King chain isn't allowed to operate within 20 miles of the original restaurant.

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

The USSR launched a craft called the Mechta towards the Moon. It missed, and instead became (inadvertently) the first man-made satellite to go into orbit around the Sun.

The "inch" was adjusted by 2 millionths of an inch, to make it equal exactly 25.4 millimeters.

COBOL, a programming language first introduced in 1959, still processes 90% of the planet's financial transactions, and 75% of all business data

January 3rd - Alaska became state # 49.

August 21st - Hawaii became the 50th state.

RIP, Scandals, Sad and Odd News

Many people thought that Rock Hudson & Doris Day were an item off camera... Not true! You know what they say about all the good ones? Well, he wasn't 'taken...'

Liberace sued Daily Mirror columnist William Connor for libel after he published an article strongly hinting that Liberace was homosexual. He was awarded £8000 in damages.

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

In Apartheid South Africa, the words "European" and "Non-European" were replaced by "Whites" and "Non-Whites" at Johannesburg Airport, because Americans tended to use the Non-European doors in order to distinguish themselves from actual Europeans.

A spoof organization called The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals (SINA) appeared on 'The Today Show' to promote their ideas of clothing animals.

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

John S. Lappo, a US Air Force, pilot flew a RB-47 Stratojet Bomber underneath the Mackinac Bridge just because he always wanted to.

A social psychologist aranged for three men that all identified themselves as Jesus Christ live together in a mental hospital for two years. He wanted to test the strength of self-delusion. At the end of their two-year stay, each man still believed he was the one and only Son of God.

In May 1959, when singer Billie Holiday was taken to Metropolitan Hospital in New York with liver and heart disease, she was arrested for drug possession as she lay dying. Her hospital room was raided by police and she remained under police guard until her death in July.

Physicist Richard Feynman gave a speech entitled There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom, in which he inspired the conceptual beginnings of Nanotechnology (enacted decades later), discussing the manipulation of matter at the atomic level.

Airplane Celebrity Deaths: (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?)

Firsts and the Biggest Christmas Gifts

Barbie, playing Risk

Transatlantic Review Magazine (1959-1977)

The Habits

Everybody watched the biblical epic Ben-Hur at their local theaters.
Playing the Card Game Canasta.
Reading Exodus by Leon Uris
Reading Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow
Watching Anatomy of a Murder, Ben-Hur, Some Like it Hot, Noth by Northwest, The Diary of Anne Frank, Imitation of Life, Rio Bravo and Sleeping Beauty in theaters.

1959/60 Biggest Television Shows

(according to Nielsen TV Research)
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. The Price is Right (CBS)
9. Wanted: Dead or Alive (CBS)
10. Perry Mason (CBS)

Popular Music Artists

The Biggest Pop Artists of 1959 include
Bobby Darin, Brook Benton, Connie Francis, Dee Clark, The Coasters, The Crests, The Drifters, Duane Eddy, Elvis Presley, Fabian, Fats Domino, The Fleetwoods, Frankie Avalon, Jackie Wilson, Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, Johnny Mathis, Pat Boone, Paul Anka, The Platters, Lloyd Price, Paul Anka, Ricky Nelson, Ritchie Valens, The Skyliners, Tommy Edwards

(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 1959

December 22, 1958 - January 18, 1959: The Chipmunks with David Seville - The Chipmunk Song

January 19, 1959 - February 8, 1959: The Platters - Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

February 9, 1959 - March 8, 1959: Lloyd Price - Stagger Lee

March 9, 1959 - April 12, 1959: Frankie Avalon - Venus

April 13, 1959 - May 10, 1959: The Fleetwoods - Come Softly to Me

May 11, 1959 - May 17, 1959: Dave "Baby" Cortez - The Happy Organ

May 18, 1959 - May 31, 1959: Wilbert Harrison - Kansas City

June 1, 1959 - July 12, 1959: Johnny Horton - The Battle of New Orleans

July 13, 1959 - August 9, 1959: Paul Anka - Lonely Boy

August 10, 1959 - August 23, 1959: Elvis Presley - A Big Hunk o' Love

August 24, 1959 - September 20, 1959: The Browns - The Three Bells

September 21, 1959 - October 4, 1959: Santo & Johnny - Sleep Walk

October 5, 1959 - November 15, 1959: Bobby Darin - Mack the Knife

November 16, 1959 - December 13, 1959: The Fleetwoods - Mr. Blue

December 14, 1959 - December 27, 1959: Guy Mitchell - Heartaches by the Number

December 28, 1959 - January 3, 1960: Frankie Avalon - Why

Popular Movies

Anatomy of a Murder, Ben-Hur, The Best of Everything, Black Orpheus, Compulsion, The Diary of Anne Frank, Imitation of Life, North By Northwest, The Nun's Story, Pickpocket, Pillow Talk, Plan 9 From Outer Space (or Grave Robbers From Outer Space), Ride Lonesome, Rio Bravo, Room at the Top, The Shaggy Dog, Sleeping Beauty, Some Like It Hot, Suddenly Last Summer, The Young Philadelphians

More Pop Culture History Resources

Popular Music in 1959
# 1 Hits of 1959
Pop Culture News

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pop, as in 'popular' :(adjective) Pertaining to the common people, or the people as a whole as distinguished from any particular class.
Having characteristics attributed to the common people and intended for or suited to ordinary people.

culture:(noun) That which is excellent in the arts.
A particular stage of civilization. The behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group.

madness: (noun) The state of being mad. insanity, senseless folly, intense excitement or enthusiasm.
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