The People History

What Happened in 1959 Important News and Events, Key Technology and Popular Culture

Major News Stories include Fidel Castro comes to power in Cuba after Revolution, The Dalai Lama is forced to flee Tibet, Barbie Doll Launched, Alaska becomes the 49th State and Hawaii becomes the 50th state, St. Lawrence Seaway is completed, NASA introduces America's first astronauts to the world including John H. Glenn Jr, and Alan Shepard Jr, US Launches first Weather Station in Space,
Jump To Fashion -- World Leaders -- 1959 Calendar -- Technology -- Cost Of Living -- Popular Culture -- Toys -- News Events

Cost of Living 1959

How Much things cost in 1959
Yearly Inflation Rate USA 1.01%
Yearly Inflation Rate UK 0.9%
Average Cost of new house $12,400.00
Average Yearly Wages $5,010.00
Cost of a gallon of Gas 25 cents
Average Cost of a new car $2,200.00
Movie Ticket$1.00
Loaf of Bread 20 cents
Kodak Movie camera $67.50
Ladies Stockings $1.00
Below are some Prices for UK guides in Pounds Sterling
Average House Price 2,410 Austin 7 ( Mini ) 500



1959 the unemployment problems eased to 5.5%. Television programmes included "Rawhide", "Bonanza" and "The Twilight Zone", movies included "Some Like it Hot", "Ben Hur" and "North by Northwest". Alaska is admitted to the union and becomes the 49th state and Hawaii is admitted to the the Union and became the 50th State. The Boeing 707 Jet Airliner comes into service and little girls love the Barbie Dolls created by Ruth Handler and made by Mattel. Fidel Castro comes to power in Cuba.


Fidel Castro

  • Fidel Castro comes to power in Cuba after Revolution with the first communist state in the west
More Information and Timeline For Cuban Revolution
1. 1952 -Former Cuban President Fulgencio Batista leads a military coup and takes power
2. 1953 - A group of rebels led by Fidel Castro attack the Moncada Barracks, the attack fails and Batista suspends many constitutional rights in retaliation
3. 1954 - Batista is elected virtually unopposed as the opposition either boycotts the election or is intimidated into dropping out of the race
4. 1955 - Fidel Castro and all other political prisoners are released from prison by Batista due to political pressures
5. 1955 - Fidel & Raul Castro flee to Mexico and meet revolutionary Che Guevara. They begin plans for a revolution to overthrow Batista
6. 1956 - Fidel Castro and a number of revolutionaries sail to Cuba from Mexico
7. 1957 - Castro and the few original revolutionaries that were left after several casualties gather support while hiding out in the Sierra Maestra mountains. They are able to launch a few successful attacks against the Cuban army
8. 1958 - Castro's rebels are successful at holding back the Cuban army despite being outnumbered and suffering losses
9. 1958 - The United States of America imposes an arms embargo on Cuba
10. 1958 - Guevara's guerilla troops attack and capture Santa Clara and Cienfuego's guerilla army is victorious in the Battle of Yaguajay
11. January 1959 - Batista flees from Cuba
12. January - Castro and the victorious revolutionaries arrive in Havana
13. Manuel Urrutia Lleo becomes Cuba's new president and Jose Miro Cardona becomes Prime Minister
14. February - Fidel Castro becomes Prime Minister of Cuba and Miro goes into exile
15. Castro forces Urrutia out of office and appoints Osvaldo Dorticos as president and Castro is now known as the Premier of Cuba
Castro then aligns himself with Soviet Russia after being rebuffed by the United States

Soviet Union - Kitchen Debate

United States Vice President Richard Nixon and the Soviet Union’s Premier Nikita Khrushchev engage in an impromptu debate on July 24th. The exchange took place at a U.S. trade show being held in Moscow. Known as the “Kitchen Debate,” the two leaders argued the merits of capitalism and communism while standing in a model of a modern kitchen displayed for the American National Exhibition. The whole encounter was filmed by American press and aired in both nations.


The Dalai Lama

More Information and Timeline For Dalai Lama flees Tibet
1. 1913 - Tibet declares independence
2. 1935 - 14th reincarnation of the Dalai Lama is born
3. 1949 - Mao Zedong founds The People's Republic of China
4. 1950 - The Dalai Lama becomes Tibet's head of state at 15 years old
5. 1950 - China forces Tibetan leaders to sign a treaty that allows China to set up military headquarters in Lhasa but also gives Tibet autonomy and religious freedom, called the "Seventeen Point Agreement"
6. 1954 - The Dalai Lama participates in talks with Mao Zedong in Beijing, but China does not honor the Seventeen Point Agreement
7. 1959 - Tibetans revolt against the Chinese in Lhasa, but the uprising is suppressed
8. The Dalai Lama and tens of thousands of Tibetans flee to India
The Dalai Lama is still in exile but has continued to try to work for peace between Tibet and China

United States - Hawaii becomes the 50th state

  • Hawaii Statehood
More Information and Timeline For Hawaii Statehood
1. 1893 - American sugar growers and business men stage a coup to overthrow Queen Lili'uokalani and create the Republic of Hawaii
2. 1898 - The Republic of Hawaii becomes a United States territory
3. 1941 - Pearl Harbor is attacked by Japan and Hawaii becomes essential to the Pacific war effort
4. 1947 - Delegate Joseph Farrington from Hawaii introduces H.R. 49 to help Hawaii become a state
5. 1950 - The Hawaii Constitution documents are approved
6. 1954 - A petition for Hawaii's statehood with 116,000 signatures is taken to the United States Congress
7. 1955 - The Hawaii-Alaska join statehood bill is not approved by the US Congress
8. 1957 - John Burns becomes Hawaii's territorial delegate to Congress and is highly influential in Hawaii's acceptance as a state
9. 1959 - US President Eisenhower signs the Hawaii Admission Act into law and Hawaii becomes the 50th state in the United States of America
10. William F. Quinn is elected as the state's first governor

1959 Back In Time Gifts

United States - Pioneer 4 Spacecraft

1. NASA launches the Pioneer 4 spacecraft on March 3rd.
2. Pioneer 4 was the first American spacecraft to exit the orbit of Earth.
3. The Soviet Union had already achieved the same feat in January with their Luna 1 spacecraft.
4. Pioneer 4 traveled within 37,000 miles of the Moon and had sensors on board that would allow it to transmit photos of the lunar surface.
5. Unfortunately its sensors were not activated as it never came close enough to the Moon to trigger them due to a trajectory error.
6. The signal from Pioneer 4 was lost after 82 hours in space and 655,000 miles of travel, a record at the time for the farthest a man-made object had traveled through space.


United States - Canada - St. Lawrence Seaway is completed

  • The St. Lawrence Seaway, a joint US/Canadian venture, is completed linking the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean
More Information and Timeline For St. Lawrence Seaway
1. 1895 - The 1st joint US-Canadian Deep Waterways Commission is formed to study the possibility of a seaway
2. 1932 - The 4th Welland Canal is completed, marking the first step in the process to complete a modern seaway
3. 1932 - Canada and the United States sign the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Deep Waterway Treaty
4. 1949 - A 2nd joint US-Canadian Deep Waterways Commission is formed to further study the feasibility of a waterway due to increased public interest
5. 1951 - The St. Lawrence Seaway Authority Act and the International Rapids Power Development Act let Canadians navigate the Canadian side of the river
6. 1951 - The United States begins working on the Wiley-Dondero Canal to bypass the International Rapids
7. 1954 - The US and Canada both pass acts that allow for the development of the St. Lawrence Seaway
8. 1954 - Canada and the United States reach an agreement on construction plans, Canada pays $336.5 million of the $470.3 million costs
9. September 1954 - Construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway officially begins
10. 1958 - Construction deadlines are met with the Iroquois, Snell, and Eisenhower Locks
11. 1959 - The St. Lawrence Seaway is officially completed and opened on June 26th and links the Great Lakes to the rest of the world
12. April - The D'Iberville icebreaker starts the first through-transit of the Seaway
The building of the Seaway forced many communities to resettle as they were destroyed by flooding during construction. It has also caused serious harm to the ecology of the Great Lakes as non-native animals and plant-life (like Zebra Mussels) have been introduced from foreign ships.

Vanguard 2 Weather Satellite

The United States Navy launches the Vanguard 2 satellite during February. The Vanguard 2 satellite was the first successful weather satellite and marked an important milestone in the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States. The purpose of the satellite was to measure the atmospheric density over the lifetime of its orbit and the cloud-cover distribution during the daylight hours for a 19 day experiment. Vanguard 2 was a part of Project Vanguard which was also responsible for launching the first solar-powered satellite with Vanguard 1 in 1958.


World - Antarctic Treaty

The Antarctic Treaty is signed in Washington on December 1st. It was signed by twelve countries who had been active in the Antarctic region during the previous year which included the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, Norway, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, Belgium, France, Argentina, Chile, and Australia. The purpose of the treaty was to guarantee peaceful use of the uninhabited continent for scientific purposes and global cooperation. It became effective in 1961 and has since been expanded to include a total of 53 countries.


USSR - The Luna 2 spacecraft crashes into the Moon

More Information and Timeline for Luna 2
The Soviet Union crashes the Luna 2 spacecraft into the Moon, making it the first man-made object to reach the Moon's surface. The Luna 2 (Lunik 2) was launched on September 12th, and after over thirty hours of flight it crashed into the surface of the Moon on September 14th.

The spacecraft carried Soviet pennants and several scientific instruments like a Geiger-counter to measure radiation and a magnetometer to measure magnetic fields. It ceased operation after impacting the Moon in the Palus Putredinus region.

This was one of the first major events in the space race between the United States and Soviet Union. The United States did not successfully land a spacecraft on the Moon under the Ranger 4 in 1962.


United States - The Film Ben-Hur premieres

More Information and Timeline for Ben-Hur Premiere
The iconic religious epic and award-winning film "Ben-Hur" premieres on the 18th of November, . The film starred legendary actor Charlton Heston and was directed by William Wyler. At the time of its production, the movie had the largest budget of any movie ever made with an estimated $15.9 million spent. It also had some of the largest sets ever created at the time. The film was a remake of a silent film from the 1920's and was also adapted from a novel by Lew Wallace. Ben-Hur was a huge financial and critical success as the film won eleven Academy Awards.


United States - The Twilight Zone

More Information for the Twilight Zone TV Series
The iconic science fiction television series "The Twilight Zone" airs for the first time on October 2nd, on the CBS television network. The Twilight Zone was created and hosted by the talented screenwriter Rod Serling. The Twilight Zone still ranks as one of the most unique and best written television shows in TV history. It ran for five seasons until 1964 and had a total of 156 episodes. Of those 156 episodes, 92 were written by Serling himself and many of them contain some of the most memorable television moments. The show consisted of sci-fi and supernatural mysteries in an anthology setting and featured many then unknown actors who would later become famous, like Ron Howard, Dennis Hopper, Robert Redford and William Shatner.


U.S. -- Mercury Seven First US Astronauts

  • NASA introduces America's first astronauts to the world including John H. Glenn Jr, and Alan Shepard Jr.
More Information for the Mercury Seven
NASA introduces the first group of astronauts, known as the Mercury Seven, during April . The astronauts were Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Walter Schirra, Donald Slayton, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, L. Gordon Cooper, and M. Scott Carpenter. The group consisted of military aviators, 3 from the Navy, 3 from the Air Force, and 1 from the Marine Corps. The astronauts took part in the United States’ first human space flight program, Project Mercury. Many of the men would also go on to take part in future NASA projects such as the Gemini program and the Apollo program. Some notable achievements by the Mercury Seven included Alan Shepard becoming the first American in space and John Glenn becoming the first American to orbit the Earth.


1959 Mens and Womens Fashion Clothes

Part of our Collection of Clothing From 59
Part of our Collection of Fashion Accessories From 59
Women's Fashion Clothing Examples From 1959

Calendar For The Year 1959

1959 Calendar

Part of our Collection of Toys From 59

Part of our 1950s Toys Selection of 250 Fifties Toys

1959 Toys


More News and Key Events

  • The Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in New York City is completed

  • Mattel's Barbie Doll is Launched
Check Out Our History of Toys Section

  • Alaska becomes the 49th State of the United States

  • The new Labor Reform Act passed to control union powers.

  • The Austin Seven ( Mini ) from the British Motor Corporation goes on sale for £500 August 30th

  • Hudson and Nash join on January 14th to become AMC (American Motors Association )

  • Archbishop Makarios is elected president of the Independent Cyprus Republic

  • The United Kingdom grants Cyprus its independence.

  • Flood in Taiwan leaves 2,000 dead.

  • US Unemployment reaches 1.4 million

  • Typhoon Vera with winds over 160 mph strikes Japanese island of Honshu, killing nearly 5,000 people.

  • Direct Dial Payphones Introduced In The UK

  • Southend Pier Pavilion is destroyed by fire

  • An International agreement is signed to preserve Antartica

  • Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev argue about advantages of communism and capitalism in a Kitchen known as the ( Kitchen Debate ) on July 24th

  • The first known human with HIV dies in Congo.

  • Ecuador President declares martial law following riots in the countries capitol.


Popular Culture

  • The US Grammy Music Awards Started
  • The last musical from Rodgers and Hammerstein "The Sound of Music" opens on broadway
  • The chartered plane transporting musicians Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper goes down in an   Iowa    snowstorm, killing all four occupants on board. The tragedy is later termed "The Day the Music Died," popularized in Don McLean's song, "American Pie."
  • The Film Ben-Hur premieres in New York City

Popular Films

  • Ben-Hur
  • Some Like It Hot
  • Anatomy of a Murder
  • North by Northwest
  • Sleeping Beauty

Popular Singers

  • Doris Day
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Connie Francis
  • Jim Reeves
  • Cliff Richard
  • Ella Fitzgerald

Popular TV Programmes

  • Bonanza premieres on NBC, the first weekly television series broadcast completely in color
  • Juke Box Jury premieres on BBC Television
  • Dixon of Dock Green (UK)
  • The Huckleberry Hound Show

Born This Year

Jason Alexander September 23rd
Fred Couples October 3rd
Simon Cowell October 7th
Hugh Laurie June 11th


  • Boeing 707 Jet Airliner comes into service cutting 8 hrs from transatlantic Flight
  • USSR Luna 2 crashes onto the Moon as the first man-made object and Luna 3 sends back first photos of the far side of Earth's Moon
  • First Pictures Of Earth From Space Taken By Explorer 6
  • IBM shipped the transistor-based IBM 1401 mainframe.
  • Full size hovercraft, the SR-N1 by Sir Christopher Cockerell tested for the first time on June 11th at Cowes on the Isle of Wight
  • Xerox launches the first commercial copier
  • US Launches first Weather Station in Space
  • First Section of M1 Motorway from London to Birmingham Opens
  • De Beers manufactures a synthetic Diamond
  • QANTAS introduces the Boeing 707 on its Sydney-San Francisco route, the first transpacific service flown by jet.

Inventions Invented by Inventors and Country ( or attributed to First Use )
Microchip USA by Jack Kilby
Etch A Sketch France by Arthur Grandjean
Computer Modem USA
Lunar Probe Russia Lunik I passed the Moon;
Lunar Probe Russia Lunik II crashed on the Moon;
Lunar Probe Russia Lunik III photographed the far side of the Moon

Major World Political Leaders

Australia -- Prime Minister - Sir Robert Menzies --
Brazil -- President - Juscelino Kubitschek --
Canada -- Prime Minister - John Diefenbaker --
China -- Chairman of the People's Republic of China - Liu Shaoqi --
France -- President - René Coty -- Till 8 January
France -- President - Charles de Gaulle -- From 8 January
Germany -- Chancellor - Konrad Adenauer --
India -- Prime Minister - Jawahar Lal Nehru --
Italy -- Prime Minister - Amintore Fanfani -- Till 15 February
Italy -- Prime Minister - Antonio Segni -- From 15 February
Japan -- Prime Minister - Nobusuke Kishi --
Mexico -- President - Adolfo López Mateos --
Russia / Soviet Union -- First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union - Nikita Khrushchev --
South Africa -- Prime Minister - Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd --
United States -- President - Dwight D. Eisenhower --
United Kingdom -- Prime Minister - Harold Macmillan --

Political Elections

British General Election -- 1959 -- Harold Macmillan ( Conservative )defeats Hugh Gaitskell ( Labour ) and Jo Grimond ( Liberal ) --