World Events
  • US breaks diplomatic relations with Cuba (Jan. 3).
  • 1,200 US-sponsored anti-Castro exiles invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs (April 17); the attackers are all killed or captured by Cuban forces.
  • East Germany erects the Berlin Wall between East and West Berlin to halt flood of refugees (Aug. 13). Background: The Cold War
  • USSR detonates 50-megaton hydrogen bomb in the largest man-made explosion in history (Oct. 29). Background: nuclear weapons
  • There are 2,000 US military advisers in South Vietnam. Background: Vietnam War
  • OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) formally constituted.
    World Statistics

    Population: 3.080 billion

    Nobel Peace Prize:
    Dag Hammarskjöld (Sweden)
U.S. Events
  • Robert Frost recites “The Gift Outright” at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration (Jan. 20).
  • First US astronaut, Navy Cmdr. Alan B. Shepard, Jr., rockets 116.5 miles up in 302-mile trip (May 5).
  • Virgil Grissom becomes second American astronaut, making 118-mile-high, 303-mile-long rocket flight over Atlantic (July 21).
    U.S. Statistics

    President: John F. Kennedy
    Vice President: Lyndon B. Johnson
    Population: 183,691,481
    Life expectancy: 70.2 years
    Violent Crime Rate (per 1,000): 19.1
    Property Crime Rate (per 1,000): 17.5
    Homicide Rate (per 100,000): 4.7

US GDP (1998 dollars):   $544.8 billion
Federal spending:   $97.72 billion
Federal debt:   $292.6 billion
Consumer Price Index:   29.9
Unemployment:   5.5%
Cost of a first-class stamp:   $0.04


World Series
NY Yankees d. Cincinnati (4-1)

NBA Championship
Boston d. St. Louis Hawks (4-1)

Stanley Cup
Chicago d. Detroit (4-2)

Women: Angela Mortimer d. C. Truman (4-6 6-4 7-5)
Men: Rod Laver d. C. McKinley (6-3 6-1 6-4)

Kentucky Derby Champion
Carry Back

NCAA Basketball Championship
Cincinnati d. Ohio St. (70-65 OT)

NCAA Football Champions
Alabama (AP, UPI, NFF) (11-0-0) & Ohio St. (FW) (8-0-1)



  • Patsy Cline releases “I Fall to Pieces” and “Crazy.” The success of the songs help her cross over from country to pop.
  • West Side Story is adapted for the big screen, and will go on to win Oscars for Best Picture, Supporting Actor (George Chakiris), Supporting Actress (Rita Moreno), and Directing (Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins).
  • Audrey Hepburn delights as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but Henry Mancini emerges as the real star. He won two Oscars and four Grammy Awards for the score, which included the hit “Moon River.”


  • West Side Story, The Hustler, Judgment at Nuremberg, La Dolce Vita


  • Patsy Cline, “I Fall to Pieces” and “Crazy”


  • Joseph Heller, Catch—22
  • Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
  • Lewis Mumford, The City in History
  • V. S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas
  • Walker Percy, The Moviegoer
  • J. D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey
  • Entertainment Awards
  • Pulitzer Prizes
    Fiction: To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
    Music: Symphony No. 7, Walter Piston
    Drama: All the Way Home, Tad MoselOscars awarded in 1961
    Academy Award, Best Picture: The Apartment, Billy Wilder, producer (United Artists)Nobel Prize for Literature: Ivo Andric (Yugoslavia)1961 Emmy Awards1961 Tony AwardsGrammys awarded in 1961
    Record of the Year: “Theme From A Summer Place,” Percy Faith
    Album of the Year: Button Down Mind, Bob Newhart (Warner Bros.)
    Song of the Year: “Theme From Exodus,” Ernest Gold, songwriterMiss America: Nancy Fleming (MI)
  • Moscow announces putting first man in orbit around earth, Major Yuri A. Gagarin (April 12). Background: Soviet Staffed Space Flight Programs
  • Gherman Stepanovich Titov is launched in Soviet spaceship Vostok II: makes 17 1/2 orbits in 25 hours, covering 434,960 miles before landing safely (Aug. 6). Background: Space Exploration
  • Alan B. Shepard becomes the first American man in space aboard the Freedom 7. Background: US Staffed Space Flights
  • Jack Lippes develops the contraceptive intrauterine device (IUD). Background: Birth & Contraception
    Nobel Prizes in Science

    Chemistry: Melvin Calvin (US), for establishing chemical steps during photosynthesisPhysics: Robert Hofstadter (US), for determination of shape and size of atomic nucleus; Rudolf Mössbauer (Germany), for method of producing and measuring recoil-free gamma raysPhysiology or Medicine: Georg von Bekesy (US), for discoveries about physical mechanisms of stimulation within cochlea
  • Sir Thomas Beecham
  • Ty Cobb
  • Carl Jung
  • Chico Marx


1961 – The movie West Side Story
(Marlon Brando & Natalie Woods)