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1961 History, Trivia and Fun Facts

<< - 1960

1961 History Snapshot

  • Politics: The Twenty-third Amendment to the US Constitution extends the right to vote in presidential elections to citizens residing in the District of Columbia by granting the District electors in the Electoral College, as if it were a state.
  • The Top Song was Tossin' and Turnin' by Bobby Lewis
  • The Big Movies included 101 Dalmations, West Side Story and The Parent Trap
  • Price of 14 oz of Tang in 1961: 51 cents
    RCA Color TV: $495.00
  • The World Population was ~ 3,090,000,000
  • Stratego (board game) became avaialable in the US
  • Cordless Tools and Industrial Robots were introduced in 1961.
  • And... Betty and Barney Hill claimed to be abducted and examined by aliens in Lancaster, New Hampshire. It was the first such story in modern times.

World Series Champions

New York Yankees

NFL Champions

Green Bay Packers

AFL Champions

Houston Oilers

National Basketball Association Champions

Boston Celtics

NHL Stanley Cup Champions

Chicago Blackhawks

US Open Golf

Gene Littler

US Open Tennis (Men Ladies)

Roy Emerson/Darlene R. Hard

Wimbledon (Men/Women)

Rod Laver/Angela Mortimer

NCAA Football Champions

Alabama & Ohio State

NCAA Basketball Champions


Bowl Games

Orange Bowl: January 2, 1961 - Missouri over Navy
Rose Bowl: January 2, 1961 - Washington over Minnesota
Sugar Bowl : January 2, 1961 - Ole Miss over Rice

Kentucky Derby

Carry Back

Westminster Kennel Best in Show Dog

Cappoquin Little Sister

Time Magazine's Man of the Year

John F. Kennedy

Miss America

Nancy Fleming (Montague, MI)

Miss USA

Sharon Brown (Louisiana)

Fashion Icons and Movie Stars

Brigitte Bardot, 'Wilhelmina' Cooper, Doris Day, Anita Ekberg, Annette Funicello, Audrey Hepburn, Anna Karina, Julie London, Sophia Loren, Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, Mary Tyler Moore, Julie Newmar, Kim Novak, Donna Reed, Elizabeth Taylor, Tuesday Weld

"The Quotes"

"Sorry, Charlie. Starkist wants tuna that tastes good, not tuna with good taste"
- Starkist tuna

"Yabba Dabba Do"
- Fred Flintstone

"Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.
- President John F. Kennedy

"For those who think young"
- Pepsi

"Hertz puts you in the driverís seat"
- Hertz

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. "
- From Dwight Eisenhower's Farewell Address to the Nation

"Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity...

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present - and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite"
- Also from Dwight Eisenhower's Farewell Address to the Nation

JFK said "I do ask every publisher, every editor, and every newsman in the nation to reexamine his own standards, and to recognize the nature of our country's peril." (and much more), in a speech given to the, American Newspaper Publishers Association, on April 27, 1961.

The critic Philip Toynbee wrote in The Observer: "There was a time when the Hobbit fantasies of Professor Tolkien were taken very seriously by many distinguished literary figures" but "today those books have passed into a merciful oblivion."

1961 Pop Culture History

Washington DC. residents were officially allowed to vote on Presidential Elections, thanks to the 23rd amendment.

8-year-old Michelle Rochon wrote to President Kennedy concerned about the safety of Santa Claus amid Soviet nuclear testing at the North Pole. Kennedy wrote back that he had spoken to Santa and that he was fine.

1961's Hurricane Debby was the only hurricane to make landfall in Ireland.

Morely cigarettes are a fake brand of cigarettes used across mass media since April 5, 1961, first used on an episode of The Naked City.

The first Six Flags amusement park opened near Dallas Texas. Named "Six Flags Over Dallas," it was named after the six different flags Texas has over the past few hundred years.

HAL9000 the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey sings 'Daisy, Daisy' (Daisy Bell) when he gets turned off beacuse it was the first song ever to be sang by a computer (in 1961 by IBM7094)

Human rights organization Amnesty International was founded in London.

Amnesty International was founded in 1961 after Peter Benenson read in the newspaper that 2 Portuguese students were sentenced to 7 years of prison for doing a toast to freedom.

The newest B-52 bomber in use by the USAF was built in 1961 and it's expected to be in service up until 2040.

When Preservation Hall was founded in 1961, New Orleans was segregated, and a venue could lose its liquor license for allowing black and white musicians to play together, or allowing integrated audiences. So they offered no food, drinks, or dancing, and thus evaded laws against race-mixing.

Jackie Gleason once was an actual pool shark. He made all his own trick shots in The Hustler.

The 2015 film Experimenter is based on the true story of famed social psychologist Stanley Milgram, who in 1961 conducted a series of radical behavior experiments that tested the willingness of ordinary humans to obey an authority figure while administering electric shocks to strangers.

In 1961, one giga FLOPS would have theoretically cost $8.3 trillion USD (adjusted to inflation) whereas today one giga FLOPS cost about 8 cents.

The concept of "famous for being famous" was invented by the historian and social theorist Daniel J. Boorstin. The celebrity, he wrote, is a person "known for his well-knownness." The line was in his book, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America.

Black and Decker introduced the first cordless power drill, powered by nickle-cadmium.

The Rolling Stones would never have been formed if Keith Richards and Mick Jagger hadn't accidentally met at a train station in 1961. Richards struck up a conversation with Jagger about the blues records that he was carrying. The connection was instant and the rest is history.

Pampers disposable diapers were available for the first time.

Guitar distortion in Marty Robbins 1961 song Don't Worry was due to an electrical fault in the guitarist's amp. Other musicians sought to recreate this "fuzz" sound leading to the first purpose-designed commercial distortion circuit being released in 1962.

Le Bateau, an original Matisse painting hung in New York's Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) for 47 days in 1961 before a visitor pointed out they'd hung it upside down.

Jimmy Dean who performed the song Big Bad John in 1961 is also the founder of the Jimmy Dean Sausage Company.

William Castle directed 1961's Homicidal - designed with a 45 second 'fright break' near the climax of the film where scared patrons could walk out and receive a refund from a cardboard booth called 'Coward's Corner'

Laura Bullion, the female outlaw member of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid's gang, the Wild Bunch, lived until 1961.

Mothra Godzilla's frenemy) actually first appeared in a 1961 novel called The Luminous Fairies and Mothra. Mothra's film debut, 1961's Mothra, was an adaptation of this novel.

Clarence Earl Gideon, after being arrested in 1961 for stealing $5 in change and a few bottles of beer, appealed to the US Supreme Court, which established the right to an appointed attorney.

Ibuprofen was introduced to the public, and that became available as an over-the-counter drug in 1984.

Dan Rather was responsible for the first-ever display of a meteorological surveillance radar on television. It may have helped convince an estimated 350,000 people to evacuate their homes from the path of Hurricane Carla.

Hurricane Esther was formed in 1961 and was the first hurricane ever to be discovered by a satellite even before meteorologists knew it existed.

Until 1961 all YMCAS required swimmers to swim naked and the rule only changed because parents petitioned a school board to allow boys to wear swim trunks to swim practice.

RIP, Scandals, Sad and Odd News

In 1927 a fire started in the Laurier Palace Theatre in Montreal, Canada and killed 78 children. The city responded by banning children under 16 from cinemas which lasted until 1961.

The US Air Force accidentally dropped two Mark 39 nuclear bombs in North Carolina, each more than 250 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb, but neither exploded. A single safety switch out of four prevented detonation of one of those bombs.

The Berlin Wall was called the 'Anti-Fascist Protection Wall' (Antifaschistischer Schutzwall) by its builders.

Syracuse RB Ernie Davis was the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy in 1961. He was drafted #1 overall in 1962 but was diagnosed with Leukemia and later died before playing a down in the NFL.

Writer Death by Suicide: Ernest Hemingway

Firsts and the Biggest Christmas Gifts

LEGO Building Sets, Stratego, Ken Carson (Barbie's boyfriend), Slip 'n Slide water slide, Trolls

The Habits

Reading Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
Reading The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone
Reading Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Reading The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
Reading A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipul
Reading The Prime of Miss Jean Brodieby Muriel Spark

1961/62 Biggest Television Shows

(according to Nielsen TV Research)
1. Wagon Train (NBC)
2. Bonanza (NBC)
3. Gunsmoke (CBS)
4. Hazel (NBC)
5. Perry Mason (CBS)
6. The Red Skelton Show (CBS)
7. The Andy Griffith show (CBS)
8. The Danny Thomas Show (CBS)
9. Dr. Kildare (NBC)
10. Candid Camera (CBS)

Popular Music Artists

The Biggest Pop Artists of 1961 include
Adam Wade, Ben E. King, Bobby Bland, Bobby Lewis, Bobby Rydell, Bobby Vee, Brenda Lee, Brook Benton, Chubby Checker, Connie Francis, Del Shannon, Dion, The Dovells, Elvis Presley, Ernie K-Doe, Etta James, The Everly Brothers, Fats Domino, Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, Ike & Tina Turner, Jackie Wilson, James Brown, Jimmy Reed, Gary US Bonds, Linda Scott, Ray Charles, Ricky Nelson, Roy Orbison, The Shirelles, The Tokens

(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 1961

November 28, 1960 - January 8, 1961: Elvis Presley - Are You Lonesome Tonight?

January 9, 1961 - January 29, 1961: Bert Kaempfert - Wonderland by Night

January 30, 1961 - February 12, 1961: The Shirelles - Will You Love Me Tomorrow

February 13, 1961 - February 26, 1961: Lawrence Welk - Calcutta

February 27, 1961 - March 19, 1961: Chubby Checker - Pony Time

March 20, 1961 - April 2, 1961: Elvis Presley - Surrender

April 3, 1961 - April 23, 1961: The Marcels - Blue Moon

April 24, 1961 - May 21, 1961: Del Shannon - Runaway

May 22, 1961 - May 28, 1961: Ernie K-Doe - Mother-in-Law

May 29, 1961 - June 4, 1961: Ricky Nelson - Travelin' Man

June 5, 1961 - June 18, 1961: Roy Orbison - Running Scared

June 19, 1961 - June 25, 1961: Pat Boone - Moody River

June 26, 1961 - July 9, 1961: Gary US Bonds - Quarter to Three

July 10, 1961 - August 27, 1961: Bobby Lewis - Tossin' and Turnin'

August 28, 1961 - September 3, 1961: Joe Dowell - Wooden Heart (Muss I Denn)

September 4, 1961 - September 17, 1961: The Highwaymen - Michael

September 18, 1961 - October 8, 1961: Bobby Vee - Take Good Care of My Baby

October 9, 1961 - October 22, 1961: Ray Charles - Hit the Road Jack

October 23, 1961 - November 5, 1961: Dion - Runaround Sue

November 6, 1961 - December 10, 1961: Jimmy Dean - Big Bad John

December 11, 1961 - December 17, 1961: The Marvelettes - Please Mr. Postman

December 18, 1961 - January 12, 1962: The Tokens - The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Popular Movies

101 Dalmatians, A Rasin in the Sun, The Absent-Monded Professor, Babes in Toyland, Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Exiles, The Guns of Navarone, The Hustler, Judgmet at Nuremburg, The Ladies Man, Lola, Lover Come Back, The Misfits, Mothra, One-Eyed Jacks, One Two Three, The Parent Trap, Splendor in the Grass, West Side Story

More Pop Culture History Resources

Popular Music in 1961
# 1 Hits of 1961
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.
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