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What Happened in July 1960?

Updated on November 9, 2014

July 1960 - A Landmark Month That Lives On In Surprising Obscurity

July 1960 was an interesting month, notable for the astonishing lack of historic moments that took place during those 31 days.

Oh sure, to those who were born in July 1960, it was a bit of a landmark. And there was Somali Independence Day... and Elvis hit the charts with It's Now or Never,one of his biggest singles ever... and the Etch-A-Sketch appeared in toy stores for the first time... and the Stars and Stripes got 50 stars... and JFK snagged the Democratic nomination... but really, who remembers all those things now?

No, July 1960 languishes sadly in the shadows, as far as popular memory goes.

So let's track down those golden gems of events and give that long-ago month its rightful place in the public eye. Join us, won't you, in a fond look back at July 1960...

Photo: Ceremony of transfer from Army control to NASA control July 1, 1960 By US Army [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Etch-A-Sketch, New in July 1960 - Innovative Drawing Toy is Launched

The tricky-knobbed Etch-A-Sketch was to the children of the '60s what the iPhone is to today's youth. Just consider this conversation, which could have been recorded (in sterophonic 4-track sound on a mod slim-line tape machine!) in many North American homes, July 1960 ...

Remember the Top Toy launched in July 1960?

Etch A Sketch - Classic
Etch A Sketch - Classic

1960 Dad: "Frickin-fracken thing is busted. I can't make it..." 1960 Kid: "Aw gee, Dad, it's easy as pie! Here, give it to me and I'll show ya."


Hot Summer On the Hit Parade

When those wacky kids weren's busy with good clean fun of twiddling knobs on the Etch-a-Sketch, they were turning the knobs on the car radio or bedroom transistor set, seekingto tune in the latest musical hits - rock 'n' roll music, of course, to drive the oldsters to distraction and heat up a hot summer night. Who else turned on the romantic steam, back in July 1960, like the King, the one and only Elvis Presley?

July 1960 - It's Now or Never - Elvis Come-Back Single Released July 1960

Elvis Presley's single "It's Now Or Never" (B-side:"A Mess of Blues") was released in July 1960 and launched itself immediately to the top of the UK and US charts, re-introducing the singer to his public after a stint of military service at a US base in Germany.

With lyrics by Wally Gold and Aaron Schroeder set to the tune of O Sole Mio, in July 1960, Elvis's softer side won over even the most conservative of radio station programmers - and reclaimed the hearts of record-buying fans, to the tune of 20 million copies.

In this fan video, the song is played over live footage of Sergeant Presley as he returns to the United States (March 1960) and meets the press - ready to re-invent his hip-swivelling bad-boy image as a clean-cut young American crooner. Take a listen!

Now or Never

But I Digress...

Photograph: Harpo Marx Telegram to John F. Kennedy, July 14, 1960 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (above).

Telegram from Harpo Marx to JFK - July 14, 1960

The irrespressible Harpo Marx sent this telegram message to JFK on July 14, 1960, offering congratulations, asking if the President needed a harp player in his new Cabinet, and sending his regards to "Ma and Pa" Kennedy.
The irrespressible Harpo Marx sent this telegram message to JFK on July 14, 1960, offering congratulations, asking if the President needed a harp player in his new Cabinet, and sending his regards to "Ma and Pa" Kennedy. | Source
Kennedy bros. United states Senate [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Kennedy bros. United states Senate [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

United States Enters the "Camelot" Era

July 15, 1960 - John F. Kennedy Accepts the Nomination as Democratic Party's Candidate for President

The speech JFK gave at the 1960 Democratic National Convention, 15 July 1960, came to be called "The New Frontier," a phrase that seems now to weirdly foreshadow Star Trek's "final frontier," for those of us who grew up in the 1960s as hopeless nerds...

Other campaign communications from JFK:

Photograph: Kennedy Brothers, July 1960 - United States Senate [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Meanwhile, in Fashion... - In July 1960, Jackie Kennedy sets the style

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Jacqueline Kennedy refuses to wear another dress that looked like a lampshade, declares that girls who wear fur coats look like roadkill (I'm paraphrasing here; she probably didn't use the term roadkill), and popularizes the lean, tailored, A-line styles that were the bane of "hippy" women well into the next decade.

Unknown child on the beach at De Panne, Belgium (ca. 1959-1960) by jinterwas, on Flickr
Unknown child on the beach at De Panne, Belgium (ca. 1959-1960) by jinterwas, on Flickr

More! More!

Is that all that happened in July 1960?

Of course, that's not all.

My friend John Tannahill has a whole different take on the magical month of July 1960, to begin with, including an especially loving look at our beloved iconic toy Etch-a-Sketch. John dubs July 1960 the "Most Important Month of the Twentieth Century" - see if you agree!

A few other things of note did happen in July 1960, and this page of mine is a work in progress. In fact, there's a whole (slim) file folder of July 1960 facts and frivolities, sitting on my desktop, just waiting for time to be added here.

Memories of July 1960 to share? - Please drop a note in the Guestbook.

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      Colin323 3 years ago

      I turned 13 in July 1960 and remember the rise of Kennedy - he seemed like a breath of fresh air over here to us in the UK. It was the start of a new decade too for me, and there was something new stirring in society, particularly if you were a new teenager as I was.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 4 years ago

      @casquid: I don't think I knew about that event - must go look it up, thanks!

    • casquid profile image

      casquid 5 years ago

      Who could forget Jack Parr walking off the Tonight Show and not returning for three weeks?

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 5 years ago from Somewhere in England

      @flycatcherrr: Yes, Canada was the last to ban it in 1962, but there was probably just a few months in it. There was a boy who lived in the next street to mine who was one of those affected. He's the only one I knew personally. Mat Fraser is a famous actor in the UK with short arms due to Thalidomide. You don't see many these days, I think there are only about 500 left in Britain. I have a very different attitude towards people with physical disabilities as a result of knowing I could so easily have been one.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      @ecogranny: I always found that an interesting story - you can look at it many ways. Was the refusal to wear TV make-up an attempt to be seen to be as straightforward and upfront, an overconfidence in his power to persuade, a feeling of vague threat to his masculinity, or simply underestimating the special expertise of the television types who advised the use of make-up under bright lights and camera? One thing is sure: that was the starting gun for the current era of "politics as performance art"!

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 5 years ago from San Francisco

      The moment I saw the title of this page, I thought of the Nixon-Kennedy debates. The man who refused to wear makeup for television lost the debates to the man who made sure he looked well, fit and congenial on national TV.I was surprised to see the Etch-A-Sketch hadn't come out until 1960 though. I could have sworn I had played with one in the Fifties.

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 5 years ago from East Central Florida

      Nothing to share here. It was that year I was experiencing the 'exciting' world of junior high.... but this sure is an interesting page!

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      @AstroGremlin: The beginning of the end of the baby boom, in more ways than one, eh?

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 5 years ago from Somewhere in England

      I was just having this discussion with my Mum, she's talked about it before but it's awkward. After she became pregnant with me in late 1959, she was offered a drug by the family doctor to help her with morning sickness. She'd been through it all with my elder brother so she decided not to take it. Thalidomide! There but but by the grace of God. It was licensed in the UK and only banned in 1961.

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      John Tannahill 5 years ago from Somewhere in England

      @flycatcherrr: Yeah. I want to hear that story too.

    • AstroGremlin profile image

      AstroGremlin 5 years ago

      If the generation of that time knew what they were in for, they might have faltered. It was to be a time when we lost a President, became mired in Vietnam, and went to the Moon. Social changes came quickly and sometimes violently. It was the time when Americans lost their innate optimism, I'm told it happened in 1967, the belief that their children would have a better life than theirs went away. But so much good was to come, too.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      @Wednesday-Elf: Good heavens!! July 1960 sounds like a very memorable month for you, and yes, I can just bet there are stories aplenty! Are you going to tell your Nell Harper Lee encounter one of these days... with a Squidoo lens, perhaps?

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 5 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      Summer after freshman year of college -- July 1960 - boyfriend (later hubby) & I took the train from Rochester, NY to NYC and saw Dick Van Dyke & Chita Rivera in "Bye Bye Birdie" on Broadway. Also had lunch with Nell Harper Lee who wrote "To Kill a Mockingbird" (and yes, there is a story behind that fact...). Also visited NBC Studios because Bob was studying broadcasting in college. He was told to graduate, get 5 years experience, then come back, but not before...LOL. In other words, Broadcasters do NOT begin their career at the top level. (We knew that... it was fun having a tour anyway). You've brought back some fun memories.

    • Zebedee32 profile image

      Zebedee32 5 years ago

      I was born in the next decade, but i still Love Etch-a-Sketch