February 1959

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February 3, 1959, "The Day the Music Died": Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. Richardson and pilot Roger Petersen killed in plane crash
February 12, 1959: Lincoln Memorial put on the American penny
February 17, 1959: First weather satellite launched

The following events occurred in February 1959:

February 1, 1959 (Sunday)[edit]

  • Male voters in Switzerland voted overwhelmingly against allowing women the right to vote, by a margin of 654,924 to 323,306. It was not until 1971 that Swiss women were granted full suffrage. The cantons of Vaud and Neuchâtel approved women voting in local elections.[1]
  • Died: Frank Shannon, 84, American actor (Dr. Alexis Zarkov in the Flash Gordon serials)

February 2, 1959 (Monday)[edit]

  • Schools in Norfolk and Arlington County, Virginia, integrated peacefully, as 21 African American students began classes at formerly all-white schools. At Stratford Middle School, with 1,076 white and 4 black pupils, in Arlington, there were fewer absences than usual despite threats of a boycott, and white students volunteered to escort the new students to class. In Norfolk, 7,000 of 10,000 students, including 17 African-Americans, returned to senior and junior highs after four months of attending private schools or being tutored.[2]
  • After arriving from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson gave their last performances, appearing at the Surf Ballroom at 460 North Shore Drive in Clear Lake, Iowa.[3]
  • Born: Jari Tervo, Finnish author
  • Dyatlov Pass Incident: Nine hikers died mysteriously while on an expedition in the Ural Mountains of Russia.[4]
  • Born: Judith Anne Gouchie, (aka Trudy), to Don and Marg Gouchie. New sister for Cathy and Lynn. Happy Birthday Trudy!

February 3, 1959 (Tuesday)[edit]

Allsup loses coin flip
Jennings gives up seat on plane
  • Died: J.P. Richardson, 28, "The Big Bopper", American singer; Buddy Holly, 22, American singer; Ritchie Valens, 17, American singer. On their way to Fargo, North Dakota, Holly, Valens and Richardson were killed. They had boarded an airplane at Mason City, Iowa, along with pilot Roger Peterson. Waylon Jennings had given his seat up to Richardson, while Valens and Holly's guitarist Tommy Allsup had flipped a coin to see who would get the other seat on the plane.[7] The Beechcraft Bonanza airplane took off at 12:50 a.m. and crashed minutes later on the farm of Delbert Juhl, killing all four persons on board.[8] This became popularly known as "The Day the Music Died".
  • Died: Vincent Astor, 67, American philanthropist who inherited a fortune after the death of his father on the RMS Titanic in 1912, then donated most of it to various charities.

February 4, 1959 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • In Chelyabinsk, Nikolay Shtelbaums broke the record for the 10,000 meter skate, set by Hjalmar Andersen in 1952. The new record, by 1.2 seconds, was 16 minutes, 31.4 seconds.
  • Born: Lawrence Taylor, American football player
  • Died: Una O'Connor, 78, Irish actress

February 5, 1959 (Thursday)[edit]

  • The U.S. State Department released tapes that showed that Soviet jets had shot down an unarmed American C-130 transport plane on September 2, 1958. Transmissions between the two fighter planes, identified as "201" and "218", had been intercepted in Turkey. The Soviets denounced the tapes as a "clumsy fake". On the same day, Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev invited U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower to visit Moscow, adding that he could bring anyone, and go anywhere, he chose. In his speech, Khrushchev referred to the Secretary of State and said,"Mr. Dulles, if you so desire, then for the sake of ending the Cold War, we are even prepared to admit your victory in this war that is unwanted by the peoples. Regard yourselves, gentlemen, as victors in this war, but end it quickly." [9]
  • The title E-1 for Air Force personnel was revised from Basic Airman to Airman Basic.[10]

February 6, 1959 (Friday)[edit]

  • Jack Kilby, working for Texas Instruments, filed for a patent for the first integrated circuit, which was granted as U.S. Patent 3,138,743 on June 23, 1964.[11] Kilby had recorded his inspiration on July 24, 1958, writing "The following circuit elements could be made on single slice: resistors, capacitor, distributed capacitor, transistor" and put these on a silicon wafer.[12]
  • Born: Ken Nelson, English record producer

February 7, 1959 (Saturday)[edit]

  • After spending a record 64 days, 22 hours and 21 minutes aloft, two fliers landed their Cessna 172 in Las Vegas. Pilot John Cook and businessman Bob Timm had taken off on December 4, 1958, and on January 23, had broken the previous record of 50 days. They refueled twice each day at Blythe, California, from a truck that would drive 90 miles per hour (140 km/h) beneath the plane.[13]
  • Former SS Colonel Sepp Dietrich was released from prison in Munich after serving half of a sentence for assisting in the execution of high-ranking German officers in 1934.[14]
  • Died: Daniel F. Malan, 84, Prime Minister of South Africa 1948–54 and architect of apartheid

February 8, 1959 (Sunday)[edit]


February 9, 1959 (Monday)[edit]

  • The first ICBM, the R-7 Semyorka missile, became operational at Plesetsk in the Soviet Union. The missile, capable of hitting targets at a range of 12,000 kilometres (7,500 mi) was first tested on December 15, 1959.

February 10, 1959 (Tuesday)[edit]

  • At 2:20 in the morning CST, a tornado in St. Louis killed 21 people and injured hundreds. The twister flattened a neighborhood two blocks from Busch Stadium.[17]
  • Born: Dennis Gentry, American football player

February 11, 1959 (Wednesday)[edit]

February 12, 1959 (Thursday)[edit]

  • The new version of the Lincoln cent was introduced on Abraham Lincoln's 150th birthday. While the portrait of Lincoln was unchanged, the tails side had the Lincoln Memorial replacing the "wheat penny"
  • The last B-36 was decommissioned.

February 13, 1959 (Friday)[edit]

February 14, 1959 (Saturday)[edit]

  • The United States Weather Bureau released a report that concluded "that the world is in the midst of a long-term warming trend", based on data gathered in Antarctica. Dr. H.E. Landsberg, director of the bureau's office of climatology, said that the cause of the global warming was unknown, but added "One theory is that the change is man-made, that a blanket of carbon dioxide given off by the burning of coal and oil retards the radiation of heat by the earth." [19]
  • Born: Renée Fleming, American soprano
  • Died: Baby Dodds, 60, American jazz musician

February 15, 1959 (Sunday)[edit]

  • In Guatemala, President Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes acted to put down an Indian uprising that had been organized by his opponent Raul Estuardo Lorenzana. Ydiogras would later write in his 1963 autobiography My War with Communism that the rebellion was the first of several Communist Cuban plots against his government.[20]
  • Police in New York City concluded what was, at the time, the second-largest drug bust in American history, arresting 27 people between 8:30 Saturday night at 5:00 Sunday morning, and seizing 32 pounds (15 kg) of heroin with a "street value of $3,660,800". A January 1958 roundup in Elmont, New York, had netted 35 pounds (16 kg) and 17 arrests.[21]
  • Nine persons in a single car were killed when their vehicle was hit head-on by another vehicle on United States Highway 281 south of Alamo, Texas. The driver of the other vehicle, whose speedometer was frozen at 80 miles (130 km) per hour after the collision, also died.[22]
  • Died: Owen Willans Richardson, 79, laureate, 1928 Nobel Prize in Physics

February 16, 1959 (Monday)[edit]

February 17, 1959 (Tuesday)[edit]

  • Vanguard 2, the first weather satellite, was launched at 10:55 a.m. from Cape Canaveral to measure cloud cover for the United States Navy.[23]
  • Adnan Menderes, the Prime Minister of Turkey, was among 20 people on board an airplane en route from Rome to London and crashed on its approach to Gatwick Airport. Menderes was scheduled to meet with Prime Ministers Macmillan of Britain and Karamanlis of Greece for an agreement concerning the island of Cyprus.[24] Menderes survived the crash, but was deposed the following year and executed on September 17, 1961.

February 18, 1959 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • Elections were held in Nepal for the first time its history, as voters chose candidates for 18 of the 109 lower house seats, with the remainder to be chosen on eight other days.[25]

February 19, 1959 (Thursday)[edit]

February 20, 1959 (Friday)[edit]

  • Canada cancelled the Avro Arrow program.
  • At the Mkariba hydroelectric dam at Rhodesia, 17 men were killed when the platform they were on collapsed, sending them falling 200 feet (61 m) down a shaft.[28]

February 21, 1959 (Saturday)[edit]

  • The Douglas DC-8 30 Series, a longer range version of the DC-8 passenger jet, made its first flight.[29]
  • "On the Sidewalk", John Updike's parody of On the Road, was published in the New Yorker.[30]
  • The Ben Hecht Show, a live television program on New York's WABC-TV, was cancelled permanently after Hecht's guest, surrealist painter Salvador Dalí, used the word "orgasm" in an interview. Ben Hecht, a screenwriter whom Mike Wallace described as "a trifle profane" on the air, had already been in trouble with the station. Wallace would later describe the episode as "the 'Orgasm and Out!' show" [31]

February 22, 1959 (Sunday)[edit]

  • It was reported that the United States might put a man into space as early as February 26, with Scott Crossfield, a test pilot for North American Aviation, flying the X-15 to a point 200 miles (320 km) above the Earth. The X-15 would be carried to 40,000 feet (12,000 m) abe Wendover Air Force Base by a B-52 jet, then separate and ignite rocket fuel to climb into space. Crossfield was one of seven X-15 astronauts, as was Neil A. Armstrong. The X-15 was tested in March 1959, but was not launched into space.[32]
  • Born: Kyle MacLachlan, American actor

February 23, 1959 (Monday)[edit]

February 24, 1959 (Tuesday)[edit]

  • In San Luis, Mexico, seven children were killed, and 23 people injured, when a packed grandstand collapsed during a school festival.[34]
  • The pilot of an American Airlines flight from Newark to Detroit reported that he and 35 passengers saw flying saucers. Captain Peter Killian, a 15-year veteran pilot, said that the objects were spotted over Pennsylvania at 8:45 and paralleled the DC-6's path for 45 minutes. Other pilots reported by radio that they had seen the craft as well.[35]

February 25, 1959 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • Norway and Israel signed an agreement in Oslo, providing Israel for the first time with deuterium oxide, also known as "heavy water", a key step in Israel's atomic program.[36]

February 26, 1959 (Thursday)[edit]

February 27, 1959 (Friday)[edit]

  • In Boston, the Celtics beat the Lakers (at that time a Minneapolis team) 173 to 139 for the highest score by a team in a regulation NBA game; and, at the time, the highest ever for a losing team. NBA President Maurice Podoloff said that he would ask officials of both teams whether the players were faithfully defending, or just "goofing off".[39] The record was tied on November 10, 1990, by Phoenix Suns (173–145 vs. Denver) for highest number of points in a regulation game. The record, set in overtime on December 13, 1983, is Detroit 186, Denver 184.
  • The wreckage of the American B-24 bomber Lady Be Good, was found nearly 16 years after the plane had crashed in the Libyan desert. The Lady Be Good and its crew of nine had become lost on April 4, 1943 while returning from a bombing raid during World War II, and then had to ditch in the desert sands. The men had died of thirst and exposure within a few days, and the bodies would be located a year later, on February 11, 1960.[40]

February 28, 1959 (Saturday)[edit]


  1. ^ "Last Male Haven", Winnipeg Free Press, February 2, 1959, p1; Robert W. Jackman and Ross A. Miller, Before Norms: Institutions and Civic Culture (University of Michigan Press, 2004), p153
  2. ^ "Schools Calm At Virginia Integration", Oakland Tribune, February 2, 1959, p1
  3. ^ "At Surf", Mason City (Ia.) Globe-Gazette, January 31, 1959, p14. A photograph of Holly included the caption, "Buddy Holly, twice a guest on The Ed Sullivan Show, will be appearing with his group at the Surf Ballroom Monday evening. Holly's vocal recordings of 'Peggy Sue', 'Early in the Morning', 'Heartbeat' and others have made him a popular in-person attraction." [surfballroom.com/surfhistory.html| Surf Ballroom History]
  4. ^ "Mysterious Deaths of 9 Skiers Still Unresolved". St. Petersburg Times. February 19, 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-28.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  5. ^ "Search Pushed for 45 Bodies in Big Airliner Crash; Second Plane Down", Oakland Tribune, February 4, 1959, p1
  6. ^ Vol V King Papers Project standford.edu, pl
  7. ^ Larry Lehmer, The Day the Music Died, pp96–103
  8. ^ "Rock 'n' Roll Idols Die in Air Crash", Oakland Tribune, February 3, 1959, p1
  9. ^ "Talking Tapes Show Russ Downed U.S. Plane; Nikita Seeks Ike Visit", Oakland Tribune, February 5, 1959, p1
  10. ^ TSgt Spink, Barry L. (1992-02-19). "A Chronology of the Enlisted Rank Chevron of the United States Air Force"
  11. ^ In the Matter of Certain Portable Calculators, 337-TA-198 (USITC Publication 1732, July 1985), pp167–168
  12. ^ Michael E. Gorman, Transforming Nature: Ethics, Invention and Discovery (Springer, 1998), pp117–18
  13. ^ "Endurance Fliers Land; Up 65 Days", Oakland Tribune, February 8, 1959, p1
  14. ^ "Ex-Nazi Officer Freed From Prison", Oakland Tribune, February 6, 1959, p3
  15. ^ Simon Marinker, Assassination, Preparations and Consequences: Preparations & Consequences (Trafford Publishing, 2002), pp104-105
  16. ^ Ron Owens, Medal of Honor: Historical Facts & Figures (Turner Publishing Company, 2004), p96
  17. ^ "19 Dead, 265 Hurt in St. Louis Tornado", Oakland Tribune, February 10, 1959, p1
  18. ^ "Fidel Castro In Power as Cuba Premier", Oakland Tribune, February 14, 1959, p1
  19. ^ "World in Midst of Warming Trend", Oakland Tribune, February 15, 1959, p1
  20. ^ Robert L. Scheina, Latin America's Wars: The Age of the Professional Soldier, 1900–2001 (Brassey's 2003) p461
  21. ^ "27 Big Fry Arrested in Dope Raids", Syracuse Herald-Journal, February 16, 1959, p28
  22. ^ "10 Killed in 2-Car Crash On Rain-Slick Vallev Road", San Antonio Express, February 16, 1959, p1
  23. ^ "'Weather' Vanguard Satellite Put in Orbit", Oakland Tribune, February 17, 1959, p1
  24. ^ "12 Die, Turk CHief Safe in Plane Crash", Oakland Tribune, February 17, 1959, p1
  25. ^ "Nepal Casts Vote For First Time", Oakland Tribune, February 18, 1959, p2
  26. ^ "About the building". Portal DZ. 
  27. ^ "Debbie Divorced; 'Triangle' Blamed", Oakland Tribune, February 19, 1959, p1
  28. ^ "Platform Falls Down Shaft; 17 Die", Oakland Tribune, February 21, 1959, p1
  29. ^ Gunter Endres, The Illustrated Directory of Modern Commercial Aircraft (Zenith Imprint, 2001), p392
  30. ^ James Campbell, This Is the Beat Generation: New York-San Francisco-Paris (University of California Press, 2001), p272
  31. ^ Emily Toth, Inside Peyton Place (Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2000), pp215–16
  32. ^ "U.S. Ready To Fire Man Into Space", Oakland Tribune, February 22, 1959, p1
  33. ^ Gerland Home, Black and Red: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Afro-American Response to the Cold War, 1944–1963 (SUNY Press, 1986), pp324–25
  34. ^ "7 Pupils Die as Grandstand Falls", Oakland Tribune, February 25, 1959, p3
  35. ^ AP report, "Three 'Saucers' Follow Airliner", from Ironwood (Mich.) Daily Globe, February 25, 1959, p1; Leonard G. Cramp, UFOs and Anti-Gravity: Piece for a Jig-Saw (Adventures Unlimited Press, 1997), pp143–45
  36. ^ Avner Cohen, Israel and the Bomb (Columbia University Press, 1999), pp62–63
  37. ^ "British Jail Hundreds in Rhodesia", Oakland Tribune, February 26, 1959, p2
  38. ^ "No U.S. Apology For Ship Boarding", Oakland Tribune, February 27, 1959, p1
  39. ^ "NBA President Will Probe Celtics' 173 to 139 Triumph", Oakland Tribune, February 28, 1959, p13
  40. ^ Mario Martinez, Lady's Men: The Story of World War Ii's Mystery Bomber and Her Crew (Naval Institute Press, 1999) p85
  41. ^ Clayton K. S. Chun, Thunder Over the Horizon: From V-2 Rockets to Ballistic Missiles (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006), pp74–75
  42. ^ David L. Hancock, Corona: America's First Satellite Program, By CIA Cold War Records, (Morgan James Publishing, LLC, 2005), p16