Life in 1961 – Popular Culture Facts


This page offers an insight into life in 1961 and includes World news, political leaders, prices, population statistics and information about the popular culture of 1961.

The year 1961 began on a Sunday. It was not a leap year.

1961 In The News

Life in 1961 - Yuri Gagarin
Yuri Gagarin

12th April – Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space.

17th April– The Bay of Pigs invasion to topple Fidel Castro began.

5th May– Alan Shepard became the first American in Space.

13th August– Construction of the Berlin Wall began.

25th October– The satirical magazine, Private Eye, was launched.

14th November – Yves Saint Laurent fashion brand was founded.


Life in 1961 – Price Check

dollar bill

Average house:
UK – £2,403; USA – $12,500
Petrol per gallon:
UK – £0.23; USA – $0.30
Loaf of Bread:
UK – £0.05; USA – $0.21
Gold per ounce:
UK – $35.25, USA – $36.5

Life in 1961 – Population

World Map

World: – 3,083,508,980
Australia: – 10,598,814
Canada: – 18,634,976
China: – 644,669,952
India: – 454,425,504
Soviet Union: 121,324,344
United States: – 182,992,000
United Kingdom: – 52,807,000


Life in 1961 – Music

Popular MusicBest Selling Single:
UK – Wooden Heart – Elvis Presley
USA – Tossin’ and Turnin’ – Bobby Lewis
AUS – I’m Gonna Knock on Your Door – Eddie Hodges
CAN – I’m Gonna Knock on Your Door – Eddie Hodges

Best Selling Album:
UK – G.I. Blues – Elvis Presley
USA – Camelot – Original Broadway Cast
AUS – No data – Charts began 1965
CAN – No data – Charts began 1968

Popular Artists:
Ray Charles, Chubby Checker, Patsy Cline, Sam Cooke, The Drifters, Connie Francis, Ben E King, Ella James, Roy Orbison


On the Bookshelves

BookshelfBooks Published in 1961:

James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
The Winter of our Discontent – John Steinbeck
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark
A Fish Out Of Water – Helen Marion Palmer

At the Movies

Movies Films1961 Top Movies (USA box office figures):

1. West Side Story – $19.6 million
2. The Guns of Navarone – $13 million
3. El Cid – $12 million
4. The Parent Trap – $11.3 million
5. The Absent-Minded Professor – $11.1 million


Life in 1961 – World Leaders

Life in 1961 - John F Kennedy
John F Kennedy

Australia Prime Minister – Robert Menzies 
Canada Prime Minister – John Diefenbaker
China President – Mao Zedong to 27th April; Liu Shaoqi after 27th April
India Prime Minister – Jawaharlal Nehru
Soviet Union Leader – Nikita Khruschchev
United States President – Dwight Eisenhower to 20th January, John F Kennedy from 20th January
United Kingdom Prime Minister – Harold MacMillan


Born in 1961

Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy

3rd April – Eddie Murphy (Actor)
18th June – Alison Moyet (Singer)
25th June – Ricky Gervais (Comedian)
1st July – Princess Diana (Royal Family)
1st July – Carl Lewis (Athlete)
4th August – Barack Obama (President of the USA)

Died in 1961

George Formby
George Formby

6th March – George Formby (Actor and Singer)
13th May- Gary Cooper (Actor)
6th June- Carl Jung (Psychiatrist)
11th October – Chico Marx Comedian)
2nd November – James Thurber (Humourist)


1961 Sport Highlights

Tottenham 1961
Tottenham with the FA Cup

Football – Tottenham Hotspur won the FA Cup
Cycling – Jacques Anquetil (FRA) won the Tour de France
Golf – Gene Littler won US Open; Arnold Palmer won British Open
Figure Skating – World Championships cancelled after the entire US team were killed in a plane crash
Baseball – New York Yankees won the World Series
Horse Racing – Safron Tartan won the Cheltenham Gold Cup; Carry Back won the Kentucky Derby


Christmas Wishlist

Etch a Sketch

Ken Doll
Barbie Doll
Etch A Sketch
Plastic Hula Hoop
Slinky Dog
Chatty Cathy doll
Troll dolls

What Was New?


World Wildlife Fund founded
Sedative Valium developed
Scientists discovered how to read genetic code
The belt massager was invented as a form of exercise



First published 2020; updated and republished Mar 24 2022 @ 10:38 am – Updated – Mar 30, 2022 @ 12:14 pm