The 60s Official Site



The Headline News and Key Facts of 1961


On the National Scene

 March: President Kennedy creates the Peace Corps to improve education, agriculture, and living standards in Latin America, Asia, and Africa

In April the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by 1,600 rebels trained by the US is a horrible disaster and embarrassment to President Kennedy.

JFK advises a prudent family plan to have a bomb shelter.

April 12: Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin is the first man to travel into space, as he circles the earth in 90 minutes in the Vostok I 187 miles above the earth.

May 5: Navy Commander Alan B. Shepard, Jr., blasts into space for a 20 minute ride "out of this world" in the Freedom 7. The space race is under way, but the U.S. is behind.

In May FCC Chairman Newton Minow claims that television is a "vast wasteland."

In August East Germany closes the border between East and West Berlin (deep in the heart of East Germany). Khrushchev orders construction of a wall to prevent East Germans from escaping to freedom. Eventually the wall would be 26 miles long ; thousands East Germans flee before wall is complete.

Adolph Eichman goes to trial in Jerusalem and is found guilty and hanged.

Castro makes Cuba Socialist; Ends Vote.



Coca Cola introduces Sprite to complete against 7-Up.  Another race is under way.

IBM introduces the Selectric typewriter; that's the one with the "bouncing ball" type.

Ray Kroc buys out the McDonald brothers and takes control over the hamburger chain. Ray Krock opens 200 McDonalds in California.

Johnson & Johnson introduces Tylenol.

The Yo-Yo becomes the newest craze and is the largest selling toy.

Ernest Hemmingway commits suicide with shotgun.

Rock's second era begins in earnest with the debut of Del Shannon's "Runaway" which is the first pure unadorned and uptempo rocker to hit #1 on the Pop Charts in almost a year. The song also introduces the "musitron", an early form of the synthesizer.

The Marvelettes "Please Mr. Postman" becomes the first #1 Pop hit released on a black owned and operated label - Motown.

Soul music starts gaining a foothold with hits by Sam Cooke, James Brown, Solomon Burke and former Drifters lead signer Ben E. King, who's "Stand By Me" is a #1 R&B record.

Elvis Presley gives his last live performance for eight years.



The New York Yankees win the World Series by defeating Cincinnati in five games.


Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle compete to beat Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs. Maris hits number 61 on October 1.


Mantle and Maris



Vince Lombard's Green Bay Packers begins its dynasty run as they defeat the New York Giants for the NFL title.

Movies and Television

The Academy award for Best Picture goes to "West Side Story," which also wins several other awards.

Sophia Loren is named best actress for her role in Two Women. Audrey Heburn stars in Breakfast At Tiffany's. Other popular movies included 101 Dalmatians, Guns Of Navarone, The Absent Minded Professor, and El Cid. The golden age of television westerns continues its run as the most popular shows are Wagon Train, Bonanza, and Gunsmoke. Other favorite shows are Hazel, Perry Mason, and The Red Skelton Show.

Click Here for Billboard's Top Ten songs of the Day in 1961.



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