Pop Culture in Review for the Year 1959

1959 was a historic year when it comes to politics. The unemployment rate went down to about 5.5%, and the inflation rate was at 0.9%. Gas was 25 cents a gallon, and the average yearly income was $5,010.00. A Barbie doll was introduced, and the first team of astronauts was announced to the public by NASA.

Following are some more major highlights of the year 1959:


“Suddenly, Last Summer”​

“Suddenly, Last Summer” was released on 20th December 1959 in Los Angeles, California. The film was southern gothic mystery-themed, based on the play of the same name by Tennesee Williams, written in 1958. The film was directed by Joseph Mankiewicz and produced by Sam Spiegel. Also, it was nominated for the Academy Awards.

The film features the story of a young woman named Catherine Holly, who suffers from shock after witnessing the death of her cousin in Spain. The film focuses on her experiences and what she goes through while being treated for her emotional trauma.


Ben-Hur was a historical and drama film based on Lew Wallace’s novel “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ,” written in 1880. The film was a remake of the 1925 film, with a similar name. It was known for its massive production budget of about 15 million dollars, which was the largest production budget of the time. Moreover, the film was directed by William Wyler and produced by Sam Zimbalist. It premiered in New York City in November of 1959. The film was also nominated for 12 Academy Awards and has set a record of winning 11 of them.

Ben-Hur features the story of a Jewish prince by the name of Judah Ben-Hur, played by Charlton Heston. The story is set in the era of Jesus when he was alive, and it features the life and journey of a Jewish prince and his devotion to his faith mixed with the intensity of his love life and the hardships he faced at the hands of the Roman Empire.

“Anatomy of a Murder”

Anatomy of a Murder was a crime film based on the novel with the same name written by a Supreme Court judge of Michigan, John D. Voelker, under the pen name Robert Traver. The film was produced and directed by Otto Preminger and the screenplay by Wendell Mayes. It was released in the first week of July 1959. One of the critics has described the movie as “probably the finest pure trial movie ever made.”

The movie explores the events of a defense attorney in the court of law with an excellent display of dialogue and argument skills. It features a case of an ex-army veteran who is on trial for murdering a man. While investigating the case, unexpected details and accounts of witnesses come forth.

In short, it is a classic 1950s courtroom drama film to check out.

“Sleeping Beauty”

Sleeping Beauty is a classic fairy tale that we’ve all heard and seen growing up. Directed and produced by Walt Disney, the film is based on the novel “Sleeping Beauty” by Charles Perrault. Among the directors and producers were Les Clark, Eric Larson, and Wolfgang Reitherman of Disney. The film was released in theatres in the first week of January 1959. Not only that, but it was also the first-ever animated film to have been photographed in the Super Technirama 70 widescreen process, as well as the second full-length animated feature film to be filmed in anamorphic widescreen.


1959 was the year of country music and jazz. Artists like Frank Sinatra, Paul Anka, Johnny Horton, and Lloyd Price were among the popular artists of the time.

Some of the popular songs were:

“The Battle of New Orleans”

The Battle of New Orleans was a famous rendition of the song, originally written by Jimmy Drift, performed by Johnny Horton, and was released on 6th April 1959. Johnny Horton’s version of the song reached #1 on the Billboard charts and became the most popular song of the year.

The song relates the story of an American soldier, narrating the events of the Battle of New Orleans fought against the British army before independence.

“High Hopes”

High Hopes was another famous and popular song performed by Frank Sinatra and released on 8th May 1959. The song was featured in a movie called “A Hole in the Head” and, as a result, won an Oscar for it.

“Mack the Knife”

Mack the Knife was originally a German song written by Bertolt Brecht and composed by Kurt Weill for their drama “Threepenny Opera” It was introduced in the States by Louis Armstrong. The song got its popularity when Bobby Darin performed a rendition of it inNew York Cityin December of 1958.

The song was officially released in August 1959, making its way to the top of Billboard Hot 100 charts and resulted in him winning a Grammy Award for the record of the year.


Personality was a single hit song written and performed by Lloyd Price featuring music by Harold Logan in 1959. This classic R&B song became one of the most popular songs ever right after its release. The song reached number 2 on the list of Billboard’s Hot 100, where it remained for about three weeks just behind the song “The Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton.


The Boeing 707 Airliner

The Boeing 707 was a jetliner airplane that was first introduced to the public in the year 1959 and brought into service by Pan American World Airways. The Jetliner was a narrow-bodied airplane, 145-feet long and 8 feet wide. Due to its availability and service to the public, the travel distance between transatlantic and transcontinental flights was cut by 8 hours, making travel faster and easier. The Boeing 707 resulted in the start of what people call the “Jet Age.”

Launch of the first United States Weather Station in Space

The United States launched a weather station in space as part of the Navy’s Project Vanguard on 17th February 1959, into the earth’s orbit. Vanguard II was its name, and it was the first weather satellite to have ever launched in space. The main purpose of the satellite was to measure cloud-cover distribution over the daylight portion of its orbit for 19 days and to provide information on the density of the atmosphere for the lifetime of its orbit. The station is 51 cm in diameter and has two optical telescopes with photocells. The last contact made with it was on 15th March 1959.

The Ampex Video Tape Cruiser

The Ampex Video Tape Cruiser was a sort of bus designed to capture video while en route. The first demonstration of it happened at Hollywood Desilu studios in February of 1959. It consisted of two camera chains, a videotape recorder, a monitor and switching setup, and camera mounts on the roof with a total cost of 185,000 dollars. This cruiser gained massive attention with calls coming in for it, from all over North America and even overseas.


Los Angeles Dodgers win over Chicago White Sox in the World Series

The 1959 baseball World Series featured a spectacular game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox, drawing in a record number of the crowd never before seen. The game ended in Los Angeles Dodgers Winning over Chicago White Sox by 4 to 2.

Jack Niklaus becomes The United States Amateur Golf Champion

US Junior Amateur Golf Championship is one of the national golf championships held by the United States Golf Association. They allowed people who are under 19 to participate on the last day of the competitions and, hence Jack Niklaus won the championship in 1959, becoming the youngest US Amateur Golf Champion at the age of 19.


The Untouchables

The Untouchables was an American television show based on crime produced by Desilu Productions on 15th October 1959 and was shown on ABC channel. It was based on an autobiography written by Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley called “Memoir of the same name.” The show starred some great actors like Robert Stack and Abel Fernandez.

Moreover, it features the story of a prohibition agent who fights crime along with a team of people handpicked for their noble characteristics. These people were known as the Untouchables.

The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone was an anthology based supernatural and thriller drama series. The show explores various genres, such as supernatural, psychological, thriller, horror and fiction, etc. It is known for having unexpected outcomes and plot twists, usually leaving behind a moral at the end of each episode.

Created by Rod Sterling and aired on CBS TV in 1959, the first series was made in black and white and had five seasons. The show became one of the greatest TV shows of all time, which is presently still quite popular among peeps.


Rawhide is one of the classic Western-themed TV-series consisting of eight seasons starring Clint Eastwood and Eric Fleming. The show aired on CBS on 4th January 1959, lasting seven and half years, making it the sixth longest-running TV series. The show was directed and produced by Charles Marquis Warren.

It features the story of drovers in the Wild West and the challenges faced by them daily.


Alaska became the 49th State of the US

Alaska became the 49th state to join the United States on 3rd January 1959. This happened when President Sir Eisenhower signed a special proclamation to admit the territory of Alaska as the 49th state of America. Alaska was originally a Russian colony but was later acquired by the US for about 7 million dollars.

Hawaii became the 50th state of the US

Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States on 21st August 1959 when President Sir Eisenhower signed the Hawaii Admission Act into Law. The state of Hawaii consists of small islands with volcanic mountains.

The US-Canada Saint Lawrence Seaway

Saint Lawrence Seaway is a trade route from Canada to the US, allowing a shortcut for sea trade. This route was completed in 1959 and has had a massive impact on sea trade as it stretches from Montreal, Quebec to Lake Erie as well as Welland Canal.

Mattel’s Barbie dolls

We’re all familiar with the Barbie dolls and how famous they are among the girls. But did you know that it was first introduced in the year 1959? Yes, it is right; Ruth Handler in New York City introduced it. The inspiration of the Barbie doll came from a German doll named Bild Lilli. After its public debut, the Barbie doll became a culture icon ranging from toys to fashion, music to cartoons, and even films.

Since its introduction in 1959, the Barbie doll has been manufactured by Mattel, a toy company that was formerly owned by the creator of the Barbie doll and her husband, Elliot Handler. You can read our article, “Learn About Mattel the Pop Culture Toy Icon,” to know more about Mattel and its founders.



The twist was a popular dance movie that emerged in 1959 and remained trending till the sixties. The rock and roll music inspired this dance move and became one of the reasons for the dance craze in the world. The dance became very popular among the teenagers and, it wasn’t until the song “Teardrops on Your Letter” was released that it was accepted widely by the public.

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