What Happened in 1961 – Trivia, Movies, Songs, Sports, Born In 1961

Trivia, Movies, Songs, Sports, Celebrities Born In 1961, News, Fun Facts and more.

Ever wonder, “What Happened in 1961?”

Well if you if you are planning a birthday party, trivia game night, wedding anniversary event, class reunion or just curious about 1961 movies, music, tv, famous people born, news and fun facts; well you are in luck. Party Game Ideas has pulled together a list of fun and interesting things that happened in 1961, so you can create trivia games or activities based on 1961. If you need games for a 1961 birthday party, be sure to come back and check out our soon to be released Born in 1961 – Birthday Party Game Pack.

1961 Items – Page Topics Listed in Order
1961 History & News, 1961 Fun Facts
1961 Top Movies, Notable Quotes, Top 40 Songs of 1961, Sports
Celebrities Born in 1961, Top TV Shows of 1961, Saturday Morning Cartoons
What Did Things Cost in 1961


1961 History & News

  • John F. Kennedy becomes 35th U.S. President.
  • Yuri Gagarin, Soviet cosmonaut, becomes first human in space during a single-orbit flight.
  • Commander Alan Shephard Jr. becomes first American in space in a suborbital flight aboard Mercury 3.
  • Apollo program created with goal of getting a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
  • Soviet space probe Venera 1 reaches Venus and becomes the first man-made vehicle to reach another planet.
  • The World Wildlife Fund was established.
  • President Kennedy established the Peace Corps.
  • Soviet begin construction of the Berlin Wall, physically dividing East and West Berlin.
  • “Freedom Riders” travel throughout the South to promote integration measures, many arrested in Jackson, MS.
  • Cuban exiles fail in their bid to invade Cuba through the Bay of Pigs.
  • Anthropologists Louis and Mary Leakey discover Homo habilis in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.
  • Harper Lee received the Pulitzer Prize for her novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • Citizens of Washington D.C. are given the right to vote in presidential elections.
  • Time Man of the Year: John F. Kennedy

Interesting & Fun Facts about 1961

  • First Six Flags amusement park opens in Texas.
  • Audrey Hepburn defines the iconic “Little Black Dress” in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
  • The Fantastic Four comic book #1 is released.
  • Black and Decker introduced the first cordless power drill.
  • Popular Food Trend – Chicken à la King and for dessert Gelatin everything. Jell-O was really a big deal.
  • Pampers disposable diapers are introduced.
  • IBM Selectric (Golf Ball) Typewriter is launched and changes typing.
  • Sprite is introduced by the Coca-Cola company.
  • The first episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show was filmed.
  • Life cereal hits breakfast tables, but doesn’t take off until the 70s when the Mikey Likes It campaign is launched.
  • The world’s first revolving restaurant opened atop Seattle’s Space Needle.
  • Julia Child released her first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
  • ABC’s Wide World of Sports debuts.
  • Stratego strategy game is released.
  • Batgirl is introduced by DC Comics.
  • Charlie the Tuna becomes the cartoon mascot for Starkist brand.

World Population – 3,072,000,000


Top Movies 1961 – US Box Office in millions
This list represents the earnings of movies that were released in 1961. We have found several different rankings online, this list is a composite of those rankings.

1. 101 Dalmatians $73.9
2. West Side Story $41.3
3. The Guns of Navarone $37.1
4. El Cid $34.3
5. The Parent Trap $29.9
6. The Absent Minded Professor $29.7
7. Lover Come Back $24.3
8. King of Kings $22.9
9.  Come September $18.6
10. Flower Drum Song $15.7

Additional Notable Movies from 1961
Blue Hawaii, Babes in Toyland, Return to Peyton Place, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Splendor in the Grass, The Hustler

The Academy Awards often takes place in February.

  • 1961 Academy Award for Best Picture – The Apartment
  • 1961 Best Actor – Burt Lancaster for Elmer Gantry
  • 1961 Best Actress – Elizabeth Taylor for Butterfield 8

Below are the Academy Awards that were presented in 1962 for movies released in 1961. View all 1962 Academy Award Winners.

  • 1962 Academy Award for Best Picture – West Side Story
  • 1962 Best Actor – Maximilian Schell for Judgement at Nuremberg
  • 1962 Best Actress – Sophia Loren for Two Women

Notable Quotes from 1961

“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
– President John F. Kennedy

New Advertising Jingles – Catch Phrases

“Sorry, Charlie. Starkist wants tuna that tastes good, not tuna with good taste”
– Starkist Tuna


60th Birthday Party Games - Born in 1961 Birthday Party Trivia and Games


Top 40 Songs of 1961 – Ratings are based on Hot 100 Charts from Jan. 2, 1961 through November 1961 ranking by Billboard.

1. “Tossin’ and Turnin‘” Bobby Lewis
2. “I Fall to Pieces” Patsy Cline
3. “Michael” The Highwaymen
4. “Crying” Roy Orbison
5. “Runaway” Del Shannon
6. “My True Story” The Jive Five
7. “Pony Time” Chubby Checker
8. “Wheels” The String-A-Longs
9. “Raindrops” Dee Clark
10. “Wooden Heart” Joe Dowell
11. “Calcutta” Lawrence Welk
12. “Take Good Care of My Baby” Bobby Vee
13. “Running Scared” Roy Orbison
14. “Dedicated to the One I Love” The Shirelles
15. “Last Night” The Mar-Keys
16. “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” The Shirelles
17. “Exodus” Ferrante & Teicher
18. “Where the Boys Are” Connie Francis
19. “Hit the Road Jack” Ray Charles
20. “Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)” Sue Thompson
21. “Mother-in-Law” Ernie K-Doe
22. “Bristol Stomp” The Dovells
23. “Travelin’ Man” Ricky Nelson
24. “Shop Around” The Miracles
25. “The Boll Weevil Song” Brook Benton
26. “A Hundred Pounds of Clay” Gene McDaniels
27. “The Mountain’s High” Dick and Dee Dee
28. “Don’t Worry” Marty Robbins
29. “On the Rebound” Floyd Cramer
30. “Portrait of My Love” Steve Lawrence
31. “Quarter to Three” Gary U.S. Bonds
32. “Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)” Barry Mann
33. “Calendar Girl” Neil Sedaka
34. “I Like It Like That” Chris Kenner
35. “Apache” Jørgen Ingmann
36. “Don’t Bet Money Honey” Linda Scott
37. “Without You” Johnny Tillotson
38. “Wings of a Dove” Ferlin Husky
39. “Little Sister” Elvis Presley
40. “Blue Moon” The Marcels

Other notable 1961 Songs that were in the Top 100
46. “Runaround Sue” by Dion, 58. “The Way You Look Tonight” by The Letterman, 63. “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King, 94. “Let’s Twist Again” by Chubby Checker, 96. “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” by Elvis Presley

Three Songs that reached No. 1 on the weekly Hot 100 in November and December but didn’t make the chart “Big Bad John” by Jimmy Dean, “Please Mr. Postman” by The Marvelettes, and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by The Tokens.


1961 Year in Sports

  • Football
    AFL Championship – Houston Oilers defeated San Diego Chargers 10-3
    NFL Championship – Green Bay Packers defeated New York Giants 37-0
  • Horse Racing – Kentucky Derby – Carry Back
  • Ice Hockey – Stanley Cup – Chicago Black Hawks defeated Detriot Red Wings 4 games to 2
  • NBA Finals – Boston Celtics defeated St. Louis Hawks 4 games to 1 games
  • Golf – U.S. Open – Gene Littler
  • Tennis
    Wimbledon Championships – Men’s Rod Laver, Women’s Angela Mortimer
    US Open – Men’s Roy Emerson, Women’s Darlene Hard
  • Baseball – World Series – New York Yankees defeated Cincinnati Reds 4 games to 1 games.
  • Tour De France – Jacques Anquetil of France wins. (He would win a total of 5 Tour De France races.)

1961 NCAA

  • Football
    Orange Bowl: January 2, 1961 – Missouri defeated Navy
    Rose Bowl: January 2, 1961 – Washington defeated Minnesota
    Sugar Bowl : January 2, 1961 – Ole Miss defeated Rice
    Cotton Bowl: January 2, 1961 – Duke defeated Arkansas
  • Men’s Division 1 Basketball – Cincinnati defeated Ohio State 70 – 65


Celebrities Born in 1961

Check out these famous people born in 1961. Some of these celebs will surprise you because they look so young and others you might say, “I thought they were older.”

Born in 1961 George Clooney
George Clooney

When was Eddie Murphy Born? Celebrities Born in 1961
Eddie Murphy

When was Julia Louis Dreyfus Born 1961
Julia Louis Dreyfus

When was Meg Ryan born? 1961 Trivia
Meg Ryan

When was Barack Obama Born 1961
President Barack Obama

When was Michael J Fox born? Celebrities born in 1961
Michael J Fox

More Celebrities and Famous People Born in 1961.

  • Nadia Comaneci
  • Jennifer Coolidge
  • Billy Ray Cyrus
  • Diana, Princess of Wales (1961-1997)
  • Melissa Etheridge
  • Laurence Fishburne
  • Boy George
  • Ricky Gervais
  • James Gandolfini
  • Wayne Gretzky
  • Woody Harrelson
  • Toby Keith
  • Heather Locklear
  • George Lopez
  • Ralph Macchio
  • Christopher Meloni
  • Lea Thompson

Top Baby Names of 1961

  • Girls Names – Mary, Lisa, Susan, Linda, Karen
  • Boys Names – Michael, David, John, James, Robert

Most Popular TV Shows of 1961
We include the Top 20 TV shows for two seasons, since they are different. Interesting to see the shows shift in popularity from 1960-61 to 1961-62. Amazing how many of the top shows are Western themed.

Top TV Shows of 1960 – 1961 Season
1. Gunsmoke 37.3
2. Wagon Train 34.2
3. Have Gun – Will Travel 30.9
4. The Andy Griffith Show 27.8
5. The Real McCoys 27.7
6. Rawhide CBS 27.5
7. Candid Camera 27.3
T8. The Untouchables 27.0
The Price Is Right
10. The Jack Benny Show 26.2
11. Dennis the Menace 26.1
12. The Danny Thomas Show 25.9
T13. My Three Sons 25.8
77 Sunset Strip
15. The Ed Sullivan Show 25.0
16. Perry Mason 24.9
17. Bonanza NBC 24.8
18. The Flintstones 24.3
19. The Red Skelton Show 24.0
20. General Electric Theater 23.4

Top TV Shows of 1961 – 1962 Season – based on Nielsen Media
1. Wagon Train 32.1
2. Bonanza 30.0
3. Gunsmoke 28.3
4. Hazel 27.7
5. Perry Mason 27.3
6. The Red Skelton Show 27.1
7. The Andy Griffith Show 27.0
8. The Danny Thomas Show 26.1
9. Dr. Kildare 25.6
10. Candid Camera 25.5
11. My Three Sons 24.7
12. The Garry Moore Show 24.6
13. Rawhide 24.5
14. The Real McCoys 24.2
15. Lassie 24.0
Sing Along with Mitch
17. Dennis the Menace 23.8
18. Ben Casey 23.7
19. The Ed Sullivan Show 23.5
20. Car 54, Where Are You? 23.2


Popular Saturday Morning Shows in 1961
Before blocks of Saturday morning cartoons became the norm, you had a mix of cartoons, education, and variety shows for kids.

  • Mighty Mouse Playhouse
  • The Roy Roger’s Show
  • Captain Kangaroo
  • The Magic Land of Allakazam
  • Pip the Piper

What did things cost in 1961
Check out this 1961 prices for food, gas, and even gold. Know that these tend to be average prices for an item in the US during the year. When possible we used US Govt. Economic data.

  • Stamp $0.04
  • Loaf of Bread $0.21
  • Gallon of Milk $0.49
  • Dozen Eggs $0.57
  • Bacon 1 lb. $0.67
  • Gallon of Gas $0.31
  • Movie Ticket $0.77
  • Minimum Wage $1.15
  • One Ounce of Gold $35.50
  • New Car $2,850
  • Average Income $5,315

Most likely if you are here researching What Happened in 1961, you are getting ready to plan a big event like a birthday celebration for a spouse or close friend. We hope that our 1961 trivia, fun facts, top movies, top 40 songs of 1961 and other information was helpful and interesting.

If you are hosting a birthday party for someone Born in 1961, be sure to check out these party supplies and decorations that will help make your event extra special.

Party Game Ideas may receive compensation if featured items are purchased from linked web sites.


Thanks for visiting our What Happened in 1961 Trivia page. We hope you had fun reliving the movies, top songs & music, tv shows, actors born in 1961, fun facts and other items from 1961. We created a graphic so you can save this page on Pinterest.

1961 Top Songs Movies News TV - what Happened in 1961