·        NYC 
  • MadisonOur football team finishes the season with a pathetic 0-6 record, our basketball team did a bit better but still didn’t qualify for the playoffs. On Feb. 6th the largest snowfall in NYC history (17.4") results in a one-day school holiday and lots of Madison HS students earn the big bucks shoveling walks and digging out cars.
  • Politics – Mayor Wagner breaks with Tammany boss Carmine DeSapio and defeats Louis Lefkowitz to win a third term.
  • Eduation – The City University of New York is formed. The NYC Board of Education turns over much of its authority to local school boards.
  • Popular Culture – Marvel Comics is born. Spiderman will live in Forest Hills and the Fantastic Four in Manhattan. Frank Sinatra makes his Carnegie Hall debut. Bob Dylan begins singing at the Greenwich Village coffeehouse Gerde’s Folk City.
  • The Arts – The Metropolitan Museum of Art pays an unprecedented $2.3 million for Rembrandt’s Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer.
  • Transportation – The Throgs Neck Bridge opens. The Pennsylvania Railroad announces that the Penn Station will be replaced with a remodeled facility, an above-ground Madison Square Garden complex and an office tower above that. Eastern Airlines inaugurates a shuttle between NY, Washington and Boston – the fare to Washington, $14. 
  • Unrest – A riot breaks out on W. 84th Street after a fight between a black and a Puerto Rican woman. One rioter is blinded by lye thrown in his face.
  • Architecture – The prestigious Dakota apartment house goes co-op.
  • The NYC Parks – The Wollman skating rink opens in Prospect Park and the Children’s Zoo opens in Central Park.
  • Dining – Lutèce opens and is eventually known as the “city’s temple of traditional French cuisine.”
  • Radio –WBAI goes on the air with listener-supported radio.
  • Population – NYC and its suburbs have a combined population of 14.2 million.
·        Politics and Social Movements
  • Presidential Election – John F. Kennedy succeeds Dwight Eisenhower as the 35th President. “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty . . . And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” Marilyn Monroe sings “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy at Madison Square Garden. 
  • Civil Rights – James Meredith is refused access at the University of Mississippi. Police stand by as the mob beats Freedom Riders with iron pipes in Montgomery, Alabama. A Freedom Riders bus is fire-bombed near Anniston, Alabama and civil rights protestors beaten by an angry mob. The Interstate Commerce Commission’s federal order banning segregation at all interstate public facilities officially goes into effect. PGA eliminates Caucasians-only rule. Spain accepts equal rights for men and women.
  • Social ActivismKennedy establishes the Peace Corps. Amnesty International is founded. 
  • The U.N. – After Dag Hammarskjöld dies in a plane crash, U Thant is elected acting Secretary General.
  • The Cold War – The construction of the Berlin Wall begins. Kennedy warns that “we will not be driven out of Berlin.” Kennedy urges Americans to build fallout shelters. Fidel Castro announces that Cuba is now a Communist state. Cuban exiles and the CIA mount the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion. The Soviet Union resumes nuclear weapons testing after negotiations fail over the issue of verification and on-site inspections.
  • Notable births – Barack Obama, Princess Diana, George Clooney, Michael J. Fox, Wayne Gretzky, Wynton Marsalis, Eddie Murphy and Meg Ryan.
  • Africa – After a 4½ year trial, Nelson Mandela is acquitted. The UN General Assembly condemns apartheid. Patrice Lumumba, former Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo, is assassinated. The Union of South Africa, Sierra Leone and Rwanda gain independence.
  • Middle EastAdolf Eichmann is sentenced to death by the Israeli high court. A military coup in Damascus, Syria effectively ends the United Arab Republic, the union between Egypt and Syria. Six days after Kuwait becomes independent, Iraq announces its intention to annex Kuwait; the United Kingdom sends in troops.
  • Far East Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai walks out of a Moscow Soviet Party Congress, heralding a break in Sino-Soviet relations. Michael Rockefeller, son of Nelson Rockefeller, disappears in the jungles of New Guinea.
  • Vietnam War – The first American helicopters arrive in Saigon along with 400 U.S. personnel.
  • Female Equality – A Ladies’ Home Journal poll finds that “most” woman want four children and “many” want five. A birth control clinic opens at New Haven, Conn., but police close it down after 9 days. Four years later the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional the 1879 birth control law. 
·        The Economy
  • Recession – The recession that started in April, 1960 ends in February.
  • OverallGross National Product – $539 billion (a 1.7% increase over 1960); Federal spending – $104.9 billion; Federal debt – $292.6 billion (an increase of $1.7 billion over 1960). 
  • Wages and prices – Average income – $5,315 (down 5%); Minimum wage –$1.15/hour (up 15¢); a new home – $12,500; gas 27¢, (down 4¢); a new car – $2,275; The NY Daily Mirror – 5¢; dozen eggs – 30¢; Kellogg’s Corn Flakes – 23¢, Nabisco’s Oreo cookies – 45¢; movie ticket - 69¢; a gallon of milk – 49¢; loaf of bread – 21¢, Playboy Magazine - 60¢; and a Cadillac Coupe Deville – $5,252. Inflation is a tame 1.07%. The income tax rate for top earners was 92%, in 2010, it was 35%.
  • Unemployment – Increased 1.2% to 6.7% despite the recession winding down. 
  • Unions – James Hoffa elected chairman of Teamsters.
  • The Stock MarketThe Dow Jones ends the year at 741.14, up 20%. 
  • International TradeThe balance of trade is a positive $4.2 billion, up 20%. The top 10 imported cars are Volkswagen 177,308, Renault 44,122, Mercedes-Benz 12,903, Volvo 12,787 and Fiat 11,839, Triumph 11,683, Austen-Healey 8,935, MG 8,806, English Ford 8,660, and the Metropolitan at 8,657 vehicles.
  • Autos Jaguar’s Series 1, theChrysler’s Newport, the first AMC Rambler convertible, the first convertible Lincoln Continental, the Buick Skylark and Special, the Oldsmobile F-85 and the Pontiac Tempest were introduced. Automatic transmissions become standard.
  • Savings – First CD’s offered by New York's First National City Bank
  • Fast Food – McDonald’s hamburger stands proliferate across the country after Ray Kroc buys out the McDonald brothers for $14 million. The first Hardee’s fast-food restaurant opens. 
·        Arts and Entertainment
  • Oscars – Best Picture – Fanny; Best Director – Federico Fellini for La Dolce Vita ; Best Actor – Charles Boyer in Fanny; Best Actress – Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
  • Top Grossing films One Hundred and One Dalmatians, West Side Story, The Guns of Navarone, El Cid and Splendor in the Grass.
  • BroadwayPremieresHow to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Carnival, Mary, Mary, Sunday in New York, The Night of the Iguana, Subways Are for Sleeping, Donnybrook!, and Milk and Honey.
  • Music Billboard Top 10 #1 Tossin’ and Turnin’Bobby Lewis; #2 Big Bad John – Jimmy Dean; #3 Runaway – Del Shannon; #4 Wonderland By Night – Bert Kaempfert; #5 Pony Time – Chubby Checker; #6 The Lion Sleeps Tonight – The Tokens; #7 Blue Moon – The Marcels; #8 Take Good care Of My Baby – Bobby Vee; #9 Calcutta – Lawrence Welk; #10 Runaround Sue – Dion.
  • Grammy Awards – Record of the Year – Percy Faith for Theme From A Summer Place; Album of the Year – Bob Newhart for The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart; Song of the Year – Ernest Gold for Theme of Exodus;Best Classical Performance – Orchestra – Fritz Reiner & the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Best Performance, Folk – Harry Belafonte for Swing Dat Hammer; Best Vocal Performance Single Record or Track, Female – Ella Fitzgerald for Mack the Knife Best, Vocal Performance Single Record or Track, Male – Ray Charles for Georgia on My Mind.
  • The Beatles – Brian Epstein discovers the Quarrymen (the Beatles) at the Cavern Club in Liverpool.
  • Elvis Are You Lonesome Tonight? peaks to #1 but this is the year noted for the start of his decline. 
  • Beach boys - 1st performance.
  • Dance – The Pony becomes the new dance craze.
  • New Books A New Life – Bernard Malamud; Calories Don’t Count – Dr. Herman Taller; Mastering the Art of French Cooking – Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle; The Pawnbroker – Edward Lewis Wallant; Hombre – Elmore Leonard; The Carpetbaggers – Harold Robbins; The Spinoza of Market Street and Other Stories – Isaac Bashevis Singer; Franny and Zooey – J. D. Salinger; The Death and Life of Great American Cities – Jane Jacobs; The Winter of Our Discontent – John Steinbeck: Catch–22 – Joseph Heller; Mila 18 – Leon Uris; The City in History: Its Origin, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects – Lewis Mumford; Stranger in a Strange Land – Robert A. Heinlein; The Making of the President – Theodore H. White; The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – William Shirer.
  • Best Sellers The New English Bible, The Making of the President by Theodore H. White, The Last of the Just by André Schwarz-Bart, The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone, Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger.
  • Prizes for Literature – The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; Pulizter Prize for Drama - All The Way Home by Tad Mosel.
  • Emmy Awards – Program of the Year Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Macbeth II;  Best Actor in a Series – Raymond Burr in Perry Mason;Best Actress in a Series – Barbara Stamwich in The Barbara Stanwyck Show;Best Supporting Actor or Actress in a Series -Don Knotts in The Andy Griffith Show;Best Drama - Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Macbeth II; Best Show, Humor - The Jack Benny Program; Best News Show - The Huntley-Brinkley Report; Best Public Service Program - The Twentieth Century: Best Variety Show - Astaire Time; Best Children’s Show - Young People's Concerts: Aaron Copland Birthday Party.
  • TV – FCC Chairman Newton N Minow criticizes TV as a “vast wasteland.” Maybe it was no coincidence that Francis the Talking Mule was the mystery guest on What’s My Line.
  • TV Debuts – The Dick Van Dyke Show, Car 54 Where are you?, Ben Casey, Hazel, Dr. Kildare, Mr. Ed., ABC’s Wide World of Sports and Sing Along with Mitch.
  • Top TV FavoritesWagon Train, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Hazel, Perry Mason, The Red Skelton Show, The Andy Griffith Show, The Danny Thomas Show, Dr. Kildare and Candid Camera
  • TV Finales The Millionaire, Bat Masterson, This Is Your Life, and You Bet Your Life. 
  • Fashion – First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy creates a fashion sensation at inaugural ceremonies with a simple pill-box hat designed by the Bergdorf Goodman milliner Halston. Audrey Hepburn’s beltless, sleeveless, high-bosomed princess dress in Breakfast with Tiffany’s propels Hubert de Givenchy to open ready-to-wear affordable high fashion boutiques.
  • Celebrity Couples – Marriages: Lauren Bacall and Jason Robards , Andy Williams and Claudine Longet, Janice Rule and Ben Gazzara, Peter Fonda and Susan Brewer, Ted Williams and Lee Howard, David Nelson and June Blair, Laurence Olivier and Joan Plowright, Ginger Rogers and William Marshall, Dr. Ruth and Fred Westheimer, Vivian Vance and John Dodds, Lee Harvey Oswald and Marina Oswald. Divorces: Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, Mamie Van Doren and Ray Anthony, Henry Fonda and Afdera Franchetti, Willie Mays and Margherite Chapman, Peter Sellers and Anne Howe, Louis Prima and Keely Smith file for divorce. 
  • MAD Magazine informs us that 1961 was an “upside-up” year—i.e., one in which the numerals that form the year look the same when rotated upside down.
  • Last Goodbyes – Gary Cooper, Joan Davis, Dashiell Hammett, Moss Hart, Ernest Hemingway, Cisco Houston, George S Kaufman, Leonard "Chico" Marx, and James Thurber.
·        Sports
  • Baseball – The Yankees defeat the Cincinnati Reds 4-1 to win the World Series. Roger Maris wins the homerun dueling battle against Mickey Mantle. Maris hits his 61st in the last game of the season, beating the 34-year-old record held by Babe Ruth. An injured Mantle hits 54 runs.
  • Football – The Packers clobber the Giants for the NFL title, 37-0. The Heisman Trophy is awarded to Ernie Davis, the first African-American to win the Trophy.
  • Basketball – The Celtics beat the Hawks for the NBA championship. Bill Russell becomes the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.
  • Bicycling – Jacques Anquetil of France wins the Tour de France, averaging 22 mph.
  • Track and Field – The 64th Boston Marathon is won by Eino Oksanen, of Finland, in 2:23:3954. Women aren’t allowed to compete until 1966. Wilma Rudolph sets a new women's record July 19 at Stuttgart, running the 100-meter dash in 11.2 seconds.
  • Golf – Gene Littler wins the US Open and South African Gary Player becomes the first non-American player to win the Masters. Arnold Palmer wins the British Open.
  • Tennis – The US Tennis Open is won by Roy Emerson defeating Australian Rod Laver. Darlene R. Hard wins the women’s singles.
  • Auto Racing – The Daytona 500 auto race is won by Marvin Panch in a ‘60 Pontiac, averaging 149.601 mph.
  • Boxing – Floyd Patterson remains the undefeated World Heavyweight Champion.
  • Horse Racing – Johnny Sellers aboard Carry Back wins the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.  
·        Technology and Medicine
  • Space – Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human in space. The USSR launches Venera 1 towards Venus. Alan Shepard makes first US space flight. Gus Grissom becomes the second American to go into space. Kennedy announces his goal to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. The US performs the first test launchings of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
  • Astronomy – The first quasar is discovered by Allan Sandage at Mt. Palomar, California.
  • Biology – English biochemist Peter Mitchell suggests that stored electrical energy in cells is used to send nerve signals and move muscles. Frank L. Horsfall, Jr. proposed that that all forms of cancer result from changes in the cell DNA. Julius Axelrod proposes that neurotransmitters are recaptured by nerve endings at the synapse and reused. Marshall Nirenberg works out the first letter of the genetic code. The existence of messenger RNA is confirmed. James Till and Ernest McCulloch prove the existence of stem cells.
  • Medicine – Thalidomide is shown to have caused severe congenital abnormalities in over 10,000 babies. William F. House develops the cochlear implant for people who are hearing impaired.
  • Birth Control – 800,000 US women use the pill. Some complain of swollen breasts, weight gain, migraine headaches, nausea, or blurred vision.
  • Environment – Virgin forests have been disappearing at the rate of a million acres per year. Only 17 million acres of US wilderness remain, down from 55 million in 1926. A major malaria epidemic breaks out in Ceylon after it stops using DDT. Acid rain is first noted in Scandinavia and the Adirondack mountains. Hurricane Carla strikes Texas with winds of 175 mph.
  • Physics – Element 103, named lawrencium (Lr), is created at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory.
  • Electronics – Physicist Elias Snitzer publishes a paper that paves the way for  the transmission of signals by fiber optics.
  • Computers – IBM delivers its 7030 computer (169,100 transistors) to Los Alamos laboratories, where it will be used by the Atomic Energy Commission. John McCarthy introduces the concept of time-sharing. Robert Noyce at Fairchild develops the first planar integrated circuit.
  • Nobel Prizes – The Nobel Peace Prize – Dag Hammarskjöld; The Nobel Prize in Chemistry – Melvin Calvin, for his work on carbon dioxide assimilation in plants. 
  • Energy – Niagara Falls starts producing hydroelectric power.
 
·        Product Introductions
  • Barbie’s boyfriend Ken
  • Acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol)
  • The inert plastic IUD for birth control.
  • IBM’s Selectric typewriter with the moving “golf ball”
  • Kodachrome II color film; it is 2½ times faster than the Kodachrome I.
  • Pampers, the first disposable diaper.
  • In-flight movies on TWA planes.
  • Helvetica typeface.
  • The electric toothbrush by Squibb.
  • Sprite lemon-lime drink by Coca-Cola Co.
  • Total breakfast cereal by General Mills, whose advertising will promote its nutritional qualities.
  • Poppin’ Fresh Pillsbury Dough Boy
  • First envisioned (in science fiction) – e-books, water beds, speed dialing by name, voice recognition, remote video reporting, screensavers, touch screen interactive map, and 3D TV.