1960 Fun Facts, Trivia, and Major Events
Quick and Interesting Facts From 1960
What are some fun facts, trivia, and major events from 1960? For openers, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was a box-office success, the term paparazzi originated, and Little Debbie Cream Pies appeared on grocery shelves for the first time. Chubby Checker popularized "The Twist," the last episode of The Howdy Doody Show aired on NBC, and the Summer Olympics were held in Rome. A McDonald’s hamburger was still 15¢, the Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series, and the theme from A Summer Place was a number one song for nine weeks.
In 1960, General Motors was America’s biggest company, John F. Kennedy was elected President, and a gallon of gas cost 31¢. Gunsmoke (CBS) was the most popular television show, Chicken a la King and Lipton Onion Soup dip were crowd-pleasers, and popular baby names were Michael and Lisa.
Back in 1960, the minimum wage was $1.00, the average family income was $6,691.00, a new house cost $12,700.00, and the retail price for a gallon of gas averaged 31 cents. White bread was 12¢ a loaf, Kraft Miracle Whip cost 51¢ for a quart jar, and a six-pack of Pepsi cost 59¢.
In 1960, Chatty Cathy and the Play-Doh Fun Factory were favorite Christmas gifts, “cooties” were an “imaginary germ” that uncool people had, and Hurricane Donna battered the Caribbean and Eastern United States from late August until mid-September. Advise and Consent was a national bestseller, Venetian Way won the Kentucky Derby, and a movie ticket cost 69¢.
On the international news stage, OPEC was created, North Vietnam escalated military operations against the South Vietnamese, and Cuba nationalized American companies in defense of “economy and sovereignty." 1960 was also the year of the Black Knight satellite when it was believed that an alien satellite was in orbit around the earth.
With money in their pockets and high consumer confidence, Americans in 1960 were pursuing the American dream of home ownership and raising a family. In spite of rising inflation, an economic "boom" was still in full force.
Whether you’re a millennial, a 50-something, or a baby boomer, this article teaches you quick facts, trivia, and major news events from 1960.
Table of Contents
For your convenience, I have divided this article into the following categories:
Grocery Prices in 1960
Other Retail Prices in 1960
Major News Events from the USA and World
Interesting Sports Trivia
Miscellaneous Fun Facts, Trivia, and Pop Culture Trends
Bestselling Fiction & Non-Fiction Books
1960/1961’s Most Popular Television Shows (according to Nielsen)
Broadway Shows That Opened in 1960
Biggest Pop Music Artists
Number One Music Hits for the Year
Famous People Born in 1960
Famous People Who Died in 1960
American Companies Founded
America’s Biggest Companies
How Much Did a New Car Cost in 1960?
1. Grocery Prices in 1960
- Apples - $0.16 per pound
- Bananas - $0.10 per pound
- Cabbage - $0.10 per pound
- Calf Liver - $0.79 per pound
- Campbell’s Pork & Beans - $0.15 for a 16-ounce can
- Canned corn - $0.15 for a 15-ounce can
- Canned orange juice - $0.43 for a 46-ounce can
- Carrots - $0.05 for a one-pound bag
- Chewing gum - $0.05 per pack
- Chicken fryers - $0.37 per pound
- Coffee - $0.75 per pound
- Corn syrup - $0.27 for 24 ounces
- Del Monte Sliced Yellow Cling Peaches - $0.29 for a 16-ounce can
- Eggs - $0.53 per dozen
- Flour - $0.49 for a five-pound bag
- Fresh corn - Six ears for $0.25
- Frozen French fried potatoes - $0.10 for eight ounces
- Frozen turkey - $0.39 per pound
- Gerber’s Baby Food - $0.25 for three jars
- Grape jelly - $0.29 for 12 ounces
- Ground beef - $0.33 per pound
- Hershey Bar - $0.05 for a one-ounce bar
- Heinz Ketchup - $0.22 for a 14-ounce bottle
- Hickory smoked ham - $0.49 per pound
- Iceberg lettuce - $0.17 per head
- Ice cream - $0.79 per half gallon
- Jello - $0.35 for four packages
- Kraft Miracle Whip - $0.51 for a quart jar
- Land O Lakes Butter - $0.67 per pound
- Margarine - $0.27 per pound
- Milk - $0.95 per gallon
- Nilla Wafers - $0.25 for a 12-ounce box
- Onions - $0.09 per pound
- Oranges - Two dozen for $0.89
- Peanut butter - $0.29 for a one-pound jar
- Pepsi - Six-pack for $0.59
- Pillsbury Cake Mix - $0.25 per box
- Pork chops - $0.59 per pound
- Potatoes - $0.72 for a 10-pound bag
- Rice - $0.45 for a three-pound bag
- Shortening (hydrogenated) - $0.82 for a three-pound can
- Sirloin steak - $0.89 per pound
- Skippy Peanut Butter - $0.79 for a 16-ounce jar
- Sliced bacon - $0.79 per pound
- Sliced pickles - $0.26 for 15 ounces
- Soda crackers - $0.23 for a one-pound box
- Sugar - $0.38 for a five-pound bag
- Starkist Tuna - $0.31 for a six-ounce can
- Sweet potatoes - $0.14 per pound
- Tea bags - $0.24 for 16 bags
- T-bone steak - $0.85 per pound
- Tomato soup - Two cans for $0.25
- Watermelon - 2½ cents per pound
- Weiners - $0.49 per pound
- Wesson Oil - $0.47 per quart
- White bread - $0.20 per loaf
2. Other Retail Prices in 1960
1,000 kWh of electricity - $0.25
45 rpm single record - $1.00
A gallon of gas - $0.31
Budweiser - $0.99 for a six-pack
Buster Brown shoes - $3.00
Can of Aqua Net hairspray - $0.47
Can of shaving cream - $0.59
Cup of restaurant coffee - $0.10 - $0.15
Daily newspaper - $0.10
Dining set (table and six chairs) - $158.95
Doctor’s office visit - $5.00
Full-size mattress and box-spring set - $69.99
Kenmore washing machine - $158.00
McDonald’s Coca-Cola - $0.10
McDonald’s French fries - $0.10
McDonald’s cheeseburger - $0.19
McDonald’s coffee - $0.10
McDonald’s hamburger - $0.15
McDonald’s malt shake - $0.20
McDonald’s orangeade - $0.10
McDonald’s root beer - $0.10
Men’s electric shaver - $20.30
Men’s Oxford shoes - $12.95
Movie ticket - $0.69
New car - $2,600.00
New home - $12,700.00
Pair of men’s Levi’s jeans - $5.00
Payphone (local call) - $0.10
Polaroid Land Camera - $93.45
Popcorn at the movie - $0.20
Postage stamp - $0.04
Record album - $3.00
Sofa set (two lounges, one with a table and one without) - $174.95
Sunburst clock - $27.50
23-inch television - $219.95
Tennis shoes - $5.00
Tuition at Columbia - $1,460
Tuition at Harvard - $1,520
Tuition at MIT - $1,200
Tuition at Northwestern - $1,200
Tuition at Penn State - $480
Tuition at UC Berkeley - $0.00
Women’s swinging shift skirt - $5.00
3. Major News Events from the USA and World
- Based on U.S. Census data, the population of the United States was 179,32,175. Comparatively, the 1950 population was 151,325,798.
- The world’s population was 3,000,000,000.
- In 1960, the unemployment rate was 5.5% and the inflation rate was 1.72%. Comparatively, the 1959 inflation rate was 0.69%. On the average, you had to spend 1.72% more money in 1960 than in 1959 for the same goods and services. Housing and energy costs were the major factors for the jump in inflation between the two years.
- The minimum wage was $1.00 and the average hourly manufacturing wage was $2.32.
- The 1960 Summer Olympics were held in August with Rome as the host city. A total of 83 countries and 5,338 athletes participated in the 150 sporting events. For the first time, the games were televised live in 18 European countries, the United States, Canada, and Japan to the delight of millions of viewers.
- The Winter Olympics were held in Squaw Valley, California. A total of 83 countries and 5,338 athletes participated in the 150 sporting events.
- Democratic nominee John F. Kennedy won the 1960 presidential election by defeating Vice President Richard Nixon. JFK was the first Roman Catholic and youngest person to be elected President of the United States.
- In September 1960, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon took part in the first televised presidential debate.
- The mysterious Black Knight satellite, witnessed by both American and Soviet air defense teams, disappeared after about three weeks. Brian Dunning tells us that "By 1960, both the United States and the Soviet Union had hardware in orbit. But on February 11, 1960, newspapers everywhere reported some alarming news: that somebody else also had something in orbit. A radar screen, designed by the US Navy to detect enemy spy satellites, had picked something up. It was described as a dark, tumbling object. It wasn't ours, and it wasn't the Soviets' either."
- Fidel Castro nationalized U.S. oil and sugar interests in Cuba in defense of “economy and sovereignty."
- North Vietnam escalated military operations against the South Vietnamese.
- Le Duan replaced Ho Chi Minh as head of North Vietnam’s ruling communist party.
- The United States launched the USS Enterprise, the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
- Hurricane Donna battered the Caribbean and Eastern United States from late August until mid-September. Florida was especially hard hit.
- 1960 was the first year in which the U.S. census was mailed out.
- Zip codes were first introduced in 1960 and the USPS used a mascot named Mr. Zip to help Americans through the transition.
- American engineer Wilson Greatbatch developed the heart pacemaker.
- American engineer and physicist Theodore Maiman built the first laser at Hughes Research Laboratories.
- Israeli agents discovered that Hitler henchman Adolf Eichmann and his family had relocated to Argentina.
- On September 10–14, OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) was created at the Baghdad Conference by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. Today, OPEC’s 12 members are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.
- In China, an estimated 20 million people died after swarms of locusts destroyed much of the country’s crops. This catastrophe could have been prevented if sparrows, the natural predator of locusts, were not deliberately killed two years earlier to alleviate a “pest problem.”
- The Irish Republican Army (IRA) began its fight against the British.
- Construction began on the Aswan High Dam in Egypt.
- A tidal Wave in Morocco killed 12,000.
- Several witnesses including Mrs. Dorothy Strong reported seeing a “phantom army” on a road near Otterburn, Northumberland, the site of a 1388 battle between Scotland and England.
- The FDA banned sassafras oil from root beer because of the carcinogenicity of its constituent “safrole.”
- The National Agricultural Center & Hall of Fame was established.
- In 1960, about 65% of Americans were churchgoers, compared to about 40% in 1940.
4. Interesting Sports Trivia
World Series Champions - Pittsburgh Pirates
NFL Champions - Philadelphia Eagles
AFL Champions - Houston Oilers
NBA Champions - Boston Celtics
Stanley Cup Champs - Montreal Canadiens
NCAA Football Champions - Minnesota & Mississippi
NCAA Basketball Champions - Ohio State
U.S. Open Golf - Arnold Palmer
U.S. Tennis (men/women) - Neale Fraser/Darlene R. Hard
Wimbledon (men/women) - Neale Fraser/Maria Bueno
Kentucky Derby - Venetian Way
5. Miscellaneous Fun Facts, Trivia, and Pop Culture Trends
- In 1960, the starting salary for a teacher was $5,135. It was $4,400 for a police officer and $9,400 for an engineer.
- American farmers were paid $1.79 for a bushel of wheat and $0.98 for a bushel of corn.
- In 1960, farmers made up 8.3% of the labor force. There were about 3,711,000 farms back then, averaging about 303 acres apiece.
- There were about 45 million television sets in the U.S. Over 90% of households had at least one TV.
The term paparazzi originated. The word was taken from Paparazzo, a minor character in Federico Fellini’s 1960 film La Dolce Vita. Paparazzo is an Italian word for a noisy mosquito.
- In 1960, Detroit was the wealthiest per capita city in America.
- Frozen bagels were introduced.
- Instant sweet potatoes were developed.
- Coffee Rich, the non-dairy coffee creamer, was invented.
- Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies first appeared on grocery store shelves. They are described at LittleDebbie.com as "Two soft, chewy oatmeal cookies baked with whole grain oats and molasses, then layered with creme."
- The Hawaiian Pineapple Company was renamed Dole Corporation.
- Granny Smith apples first appeared in American grocery stores.
- Aluminum cans were used commercially for the first time.
- Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cook Book was published.
- The last episode of The Howdy Doody Show was broadcast on NBC.
- The Flintstones aired on television for the first time.
- A Taste of Honey and 57 other shows opened on Broadway.
- Joseph Kittinger broke the world record for the highest skydive at 102,800 feet.
- Chubby Checker popularized The Twist, a dance done by swiveling the hips. You could do the twist with or without a partner
- Domino’s Pizza, Four Seasons Hotels, and Hardee’s were all launched in 1960.
- In 1960, brothers Tom and James Monaghan bought a pizza restaurant in Ypsilanti, Michigan for $500. The restaurant, originally called DomiNick’s, was renamed Domino’s in 1965. Over the next 10 years, Domino’s would open 200 more locations.
- FoodReference.com tells us that Wilbur Hardee opened the first Hardee's restaurant in Greenville, North Carolina on September 3, 1960. It had no tables and only a few items on the menu, but the drive-thru restaurant was an immediate success. The main attraction was a 15-cent lean-beef burger that was made to order on a custom-built charcoal broiler.
- Golf Magazine began publishing.
- In 1960, favorite Christmas gifts included Barbie, Chatty Cathy, Etch-A-Sketch, Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss, Mattel's Lie Detector Game, and the Play-Doh Fun Factory.
- Courtesy of HotPopSongs.com, the biggest pop artists in 1960 included Bobby Darin, Bobby Rydell, Brenda Lee, Chubby Checker, Dinah Washington, The Drifters, Elvis Presley, Connie Francis, Elvis Presley, The Everly Brothers, Fats Domino, Frankie Avalon, Jackie Wilson, Jimmy Jones, Johnny Preston, Pat Boone, Paul Anka, Percy Faith, Ray Charles, The Shirelles, and Dinah Washington.
- The theme from A Summer Place by artist Percy Faith was a number one song for nine weeks. Percy Faith received a Grammy Award for Song of the Year and another Grammy for Record of the Year.
- Alfred Hitchcock's classic thriller Psycho was the first film ever to show a toilet flushing.
6. Bestselling Fiction & Nonfiction Books
This book trivia has been made available courtesy of KruegerBooks.com.
- Advise and Consent by Allen Drury
- Hawaii by James A. Michener
- The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa
- The Chapman Report by Irving Wallace
- Ourselves to Know by John O'Hara
- The Constant Image by Marcia Davenport
- The Lovely Ambition by Mary Ellen Chase
- The Listener by Taylor Caldwell
- Trustee from the Toolroom by Nevil Shute
- Sermons and Soda-Water by John O'Hara
Courtesy of Pop-Culture.us, here were the Top 10 non-fiction books for 1960:
- Folk Medicine by D.C. Jarvis
- Better Homes and Gardens First Aid for Your Family by the BH&G Editors
- The General Foods Kitchens Cookbook by the GFK Editors
- May This House Be Safe from Tigers by Alexander King
- Better Homes and Gardens Dessert Book by the BH&G Editors
- Better Homes and Gardens Decorating Ideas by the BH&G Editors
- The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer
- The Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater
- I Kid You Not by Jack Paar
- Between You, Me and the Gatepost by Pat Boone
7. Popular Movies
- The Magnificent Seven
- The Apartment
- La Dolce Vita
- The Time Machine
- Ocean's 11
- The Unforgiven
- The Alamo
- The Last Voyage
- Eyes Without a Face
- Swiss Family Robinson
- Peeping Tom
- Surprise Package
- The Little Shop of Horrors
- The Virgin Spring
- The Entertainer
- Village of the Damned
- Purple Noon
- Inherit the Wind
- G.I. Blues
- Let's Make Love
8. 1960/1961’s Most Popular Television Shows (according to Nielsen)
- Wagon Train
- Have Gun, will travel
- The Andy Griffith Show
- The Real McCoys
- Candid Camera
- The Untouchables
- The Price is Right
- The Jack Benny Show
- Dennis the Menace
- The Danny Thomas Show
- My Three Sons
- 77 Sunset Strip
- The Ed Sullivan Show
- Perry Mason
- The Flintstones
- The Red Skelton Show
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Here is a list of daytime soap operas in 1960:
- As the World Turns
- Guiding Light
- Love of Life
- Search for Tomorrow
- The Edge of Night
- The Secret Storm
9. Broadway Shows That Opened in 1960
These fun facts have been made available courtesy of BroadwayWorld.com.
A Distant Bell
A Lovely Light
A Second String
A Taste of Honey
Advise and Consent
An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May
Bye Bye Birdie
Do Re Mi
- Finian's Rainbow
- Irma La Douce
Martha Graham and her Dance Company
Period of Adjustment
Send Me No Flowers
The 49th Cousin
The Best Man
The Cool World
The Deadly Game
The Good Soup
The Long Dream
The Unsinkable Molly Brown
- The World of Carl Sandburg
- Toys in the Attic
- Under the Yum-Yum Tree
- Viva Madison Avenue!
- West Side Story
10. Biggest Pop Music Artists
This information has been made available courtesy of Billboard.com.
Favorite music artists in 1960 included Bobby Darin, Bobby Rydell, Brenda Lee, Brook Benton, Chubby Checker, Dinah Washington, The Drifters, Elvis Presley, Connie Francis, Elvis Presley, The Everly Brothers, Fats Domino, Frankie Avalon, Jackie Wilson, Jim Reeves, Johnny Preston, Marty Robbins, Pat Boone, Paul Anka, Percy Faith, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, The Shirelles, and Dinah Washington.
11. Number One Music Hits for the Year
These fun facts and trivia from 1960 have been made available courtesy of Pop-Culture.us.
December 28, 1959 - January 3, 1960: Frankie Avalon - Why
January 4, 1960 - January 17, 1960: Marty Robbins - El Paso
January 18, 1960 - February 7, 1960: Johnny Preston - Running Bear
February 8, 1960 - February 21, 1960: Mark Dinning - Teen Angel
February 22, 1960 - April 24, 1960: Percy Faith - Theme from 'A Summer Place'
April 25, 1960 - May 22, 1960: Elvis Presley - Stuck on You
May 23, 1960 - June 26, 1960: The Everly Brothers - Cathy's Clown
June 27, 1960 - July 10, 1960: Connie Francis - Everybody's Somebody's Fool
July 11, 1960 - July 17, 1960: Hollywood Argyles - Alley-Oop
July 18, 1960 - August 7, 1960: Brenda Lee - I'm Sorry
August 8, 1960 - August 14, 1960: Brian Hyland - Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini
August 15, 1960 - September 18, 1960: Elvis Presley - It's Now or Never
September 19, 1960 - September 25, 1960: Chubby Checker - The Twist
September 26, 1960 - October 9, 1960: Connie Francis - My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own
October 10, 1960 - October 16, 1960: Larry Verne - Mr. Custer
October 17, 1960 - October 23, 1960: The Drifters - Save the Last Dance for Me
October 24, 1960 - November 13, 1960: Brenda Lee - I Want to Be Wanted
November 14, 1960 - November 20, 1960: Ray Charles - Georgia on My Mind
November 21, 1960 - November 27, 1960: Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs - Stay
November 28, 1960 - January 8, 1961: Elvis Presley - Are You Lonesome Tonight?
12. Popular Foods
Frieda Caplan’s exotic fruits (kiwis)
Iceberg wedge salad
Japanese steak houses
Tunnel of fudge cake
13. Famous People Born in 1960
Prince Andrew, Duke of York (son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip)
Jeffrey Dahmer (serial killer)
Hugh Grant (actor and film producer)
Jean-Claude Van Damme (martial artist and actor)
Gary Lineker (footballer)
Sean Penn (Academy award-winning actor)
Richard Ramirez (serial killer)
John F. Kennedy, Jr.
Julianne Moore (actress)
Elena Kagan (Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States)
Jeremy Clarkson (broadcaster)
Tom Cook (CEO of Apple, Inc.)
Chad McQueen (actor and producer)
Reed Hastings (co-founder of NetFlix)
Sarah Brightman (soprano)
David Simon (author)
Randy Pausch (motivational speaker)
Peggy Whitson (astronaut and biochemist)
Neo Rauch (painter)
Christopher Lloyd (screenwriter and film producer)
Courtney Vance (television and stage actor)
Cal Ripken, Jr. (baseball shortstop)
Yannick Noah (tennis player and coach)
Alison Bechdel (cartoonist and comics writer)
Mark Dawson (talent agent)
14. Famous People Who Died in 1960
January 2 - Fausto Coppi, ran world record 45,798 km
February 2 - Jeno Huszka, Hungarian composer
February 12 - Bobby Clark, vaudevillian (world's funniest circus clown)
April 5 - Alma Kruger, actor (Made For Each Other)
April 25 - Hope Emerson, actress (I Married Joan, Peter Gunn)
May 6 - Paul Abraham, Hungarian composer (Blume von Hawaii)
June 1 - Paula Hitler, sister of Adolf Hitler
July 16 - John P. Marquand, American writer (The Late George Apley)
August 23 - Oscar Hammerstein II, American lyricist who worked with Richard Rodgers
August 10 - Emil Strauss, German writer (Vaterland)
September 24 - Melanie Klein, child psychoanalyst
September 3 - Joseph Lamb, American ragtime composer
December 7 - Clara Haskil, Swiss pianist
November 16 - Clark Gable, American actor
November 28 - Richard N Wright, American author (Native son)
15. American Companies Founded
Four Seasons Hotels
Reser’s Fine Foods
16. America’s Biggest Companies
Standard Oil of New Jersey
Goodyear Tire & Rubber
Firestone Tire & Rubber
17. How Much Did a New Car Cost in 1960?
In 1960, General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Chrysler Corporation were the Big Three automakers. There were two independent car manufacturers, namely AMC/Rambler and Studebaker. Here is how much a new car cost in 1950 by make and model:
- A Chevrolet Impala cost $2,950.00.
- A Buick Electra cost $3,348.00.
- A Cadillac Seville cost $7,410.00.
- An Oldsmobile 88 cost $2,895.00.
- A Pontiac Bonneville cost $3,295.00.
Ford Motor Company
- A Ford Thunderbird cost $3,755.00.
- A Lincoln Continental cost $5,700.00.
- A Mercury Park Lane cost $4,000.00.
- A Chrysler DeSoto cost $3,340.00.
- A Dodge Dart cost $2,350.00.
- A Plymouth Fury cost $2,950.00.
- An AMC American cost $2,380.00.
- A Studebaker Hawk cost $2,650.00.
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