January 1959

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04 05 06 07 08 09 10
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25 26 27 28 29 30 31
January 3, 1959: 49th state added to the U.S.A.
January 8, 1959: Fidel Castro arrives in Havana
January 25, 1959: Boeing 707 begins service

The following events occurred in January 1959:

January 1, 1959 (Thursday)[edit]

  • Cuban President Fulgencio Batista fled to the Dominican Republic as the forces of Fidel Castro closed in. Before leaving, Batista named Judge Carlos Manuel Piedra as provisional president. Piedra ordered a cease-fire moments after taking office.[1] At 10:00 pm, the ships F.M. Robinson, Jack W. Wilke and the Peterson were directed to sail to Cuba to evacuate Americans if necessary.[2]
  • Cultivars of plants, such as new varieties of roses, could no longer bear a Latin name, as of this date, based on an amendment to the ICNCP, the International Code for Nomenclature of Cultivated Plants.[3]
  • Born: Azali Assoumani, President of the Comoros 1999–2002; in Mitsoudjé

January 2, 1959 (Friday)[edit]

January 3, 1959 (Saturday)[edit]

Suvadive Republic
  • Alaska was proclaimed as the 49th U.S. state by President Dwight D. Eisenhower at 12:02 p.m. in Washington. A new American flag, with seven staggered rows, each with seven stars, was introduced. Given that a 50th state might soon be admitted, the 49-state flag was not widely produced, and Eisenhower added, "With limited exceptions, agencies of the Federal Government will continue to display the 48-star flag so long as it is still in good condition and until existing stocks of unused flags are exhausted. It is appropriate for all citizens to do the same."[6]
  • Separatists in the Maldivian islands of Suvadiva, Addu and Fua Mulaku declared independence. Abdullah Aleef proclaimed the United Suvadive Republic, which was crushed by Maldivian troops later that year.[7]
  • Died: Edwin Muir, 71, Scottish poet, novelist and translator

January 4, 1959 (Sunday)[edit]

  • At 0259 GMT, the Luna 1 satellite became the first man-made object to pass the moon on its way to solar orbit as the first artificial planet.[8] President Eisenhower congratulated Soviet scientist on achieving "a great stride forward in man's advance into the infinite reaches of outer space", while House leader John W. McCormack commented that "it is time America awoke to its peril".[9]
  • Riots broke out in Léopoldville (now Kinshasa) in the Congo after police broke up a meeting of the independence group ABAKO. After two days, at least 49 people had been killed.[10][11]

January 5, 1959 (Monday)[edit]

  • New York Herald-Tribune columnist Marie Torre went to jail for a 10-day sentence for contempt of court, rather than to reveal her source for a 1957 story about Judy Garland. Torre was imprisoned on the seventh floor of the Hudson County Jail in Jersey City.[12] She was released on her tenth day on January 14, without disclosing her information.[13] Torre, later to become a television anchorperson in Pittsburgh, would be recalled after her death in 1997 as "the first reporter to gain national attention for going to jail for refusing to identify a news source."[14]
  • Four British balloonists were rescued at sea, 19 days after contact was lost during their attempt to sail across the Atlantic. The Small World had set off from the Canary Islands on December 12, bound for Barbados. A fishing vessel located the floating gondola and brought the three men and one woman the rest of the way.[15]
  • Democrat Pat Brown takes office as Governor of California. He succeeds Republican Goodwin Knight.
  • Born: Clancy Brown, American actor (Carnivàle); in Urbana, Ohio

January 6, 1959 (Tuesday)[edit]

  • In Bowling Green, Virginia, Mildred and Richard Loving were found guilty of a felony for violating Virginia Code §20-59, the law against miscegenation. [16] Richard was white, Mildred was black, and they had married in Washington, D.C., on June 2, 1958, then returned to live with her parents in Central Point. They were arrested ten days later. Judge Leon M. Bazile sentenced them each to a year in jail, suspending the sentence on condition that they leave Virginia for 25 years.[17] Mr. and Mrs. Loving moved to Washington, D.C., but in 1963 they filed a motion in the court to vacate the judgment. After Virginia's highest court upheld the law, the Lovings appealed to the United States Supreme Court. On June 12, 1967, in the case of Loving v. Virginia, the Court ruled as unconstitutional the Virginia law, and similar laws in 15 other states.[18]
  • In the House of Representatives, Joseph W. Martin's 20-year reign as leader of the House Republicans ended by a 74–70 vote of the GOP causus. Martin, who had been Speaker of the House from 1947 to 1949, was replaced by Charles A. Halleck of Indiana.[19]

January 7, 1959 (Wednesday)[edit]

January 8, 1959 (Thursday)[edit]

De Gaulle

January 9, 1959 (Friday)[edit]

  • At 12:30 in the morning, the village of Ribadelago, Spain, was destroyed when a dam at the lake Lago de Sanabria burst, and 144 people were drowned as 230 million cubic feet of water swept through the town in minutes.[26]

January 10, 1959 (Saturday)[edit]

January 11, 1959 (Sunday)[edit]

  • In Carmel, California, retired movie actress Claire Delmar was found stabbed to death in her home. Delmar, whose real name was Claire Mohr, had appeared in silent films with Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer and with Rudolph Valentino in The Four Horsemen.
  • A nine-day-old baby girl, who had been kidnapped from a hospital three hours after her birth, was found safe at a Brooklyn apartment. Mrs. Jean Iavarone was arrested on charges of having stolen Lisa Chinochio from St. Peter's Hospital in New York on January 2, prompting a citywide hunt.[28]
  • Lufthansa Flight 502, a Lockheed Super Constellation, crashed while attempting to land in Rio de Janeiro on the fifth stop of a flight from Hamburg to Buenos Aires, plowing into Flecheiras Beach after striking the water.[29]

January 12, 1959 (Monday)[edit]

  • The Caves of Nerja were discovered in Spain by five boys who wanted to go hunting for bats. The cave, blocked by stalactites, had been sealed for more than 3,000 years and was a trove of Paleolithic artifacts.[30][31]
  • In the largest mass execution of former officials since Castro's victory, Cuban communists shot 71 supporters of Fulgencio Batista over a seven-hour period, then buried them in a mass grave.[32]
  • A Lufthansa jet crashed at Rio de Janeiro, killing 36.[33]
  • Born: Per Gessle, Swedish singer-songwriter and Roxette guitarist; in Halmstad

January 13, 1959 (Tuesday)[edit]

  • Forty people were missing after the explosion of the tanker Mirador as it was being towed into the harbor at Iskenderun, Turkey. All 34 of the crew of the tugboat Imroz were presumed dead.[34]
  • Union City, California, was created after voters in the towns of Decoto and Alvarado voted 837–220 to merge, and incorporated on January 26.[35] The town of 6,000 would grow to 74,000 after 50 years.[36]

January 14, 1959 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • Antarctic explorers from Japan were stunned to find alive two of the 15 Karafuto husky dogs that they had abandoned eleven months earlier. A six-man advance party had helicoptered from the ship Soya to reopen the base on Ongul Island. Masami Muriyama radioed back that the dogs greeted them with tails wagging, and were in good condition. The next day, Japan was in celebration, with hourly updates on the radio, and a headline "in type normally reserved for the outbreak of war" announcing "TWO DOGS SURVIVE!"[37] The story was recounted in the 1983 film Nankyoku Monogatari and the inspiration for the 2006 Disney film Eight Below.
  • Japan's Crown Prince and future Emperor, Prince Akihito, announced his engagement to commoner Michiko Shoda, breaking tradition. His proposal included traditional gifts of sea bream, rice wine, and five rolls of silk, and was sealed by a prayer to his ancestors in three Shinto shrines.[38]

January 15, 1959 (Thursday)[edit]

  • In Montgomery, Alabama, Circuit Judge George C. Wallace was cited for contempt of court for defying an order by U.S. District Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. to turn over voter registration records to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. Judge Wallace, who would become Governor of Alabama, had blocked inspection of records by turning them over to grand juries instead of the Commission.[39]
  • Andrija Artukovic, wanted for Nazi war crimes from his role as an official in the puppet state of Croatia, was allowed to stay in the United States after a federal commissioner ruled against Yugoslavia's request for extradition. Artukovic, wanted for ordering the murders of 200,000 of his countrymen in 1941 and 1942, would finally be extradited in 1986, and would die at 88 before a death sentence could be carried out.[40]
  • The Soviet Union conducted its first census since World War II. "Russ Announce Plan for a Census in 1959", Milwaukee Journal, February 8, 1957, p34

January 16, 1959 (Friday)[edit]


  • Born: Sade, Nigerian-born British singer; as Helen Folasade Adu in Ibadan

January 17, 1959 (Saturday)[edit]

  • In San Francisco, the North American Rugby Football League was unveiled in a press conference, with Ward Nash as Commissioner of the first pro rugby league in the United States. Former 49er Gordy Soltau was introduced as owner of the San Francisco franchise in a projected six team league with Los Angeles, Vancouver, Seattle, Houston and Dallas. The season was to start in February 1960 and run until late May, and expressed plans to use retired and off-season players from the Rams and the 49ers. The NARFL, however, did not materialize.[44]
  • Born:

January 18, 1959 (Sunday)[edit]

January 19, 1959 (Monday)[edit]

  • Sgt. Richard G. Corden, who had been captured as a POW in the Korean War and then chose to live in Communist China rather than to return to the United States, returned to the United States after an 8-year absence.[46]

January 20, 1959 (Tuesday)[edit]

  • Soviet Foreign Minister Anastas Mikoyan returned to Moscow after a controversial 17-day tour of the United States.[47]

January 21, 1959 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • The European Court of Human Rights was established.[48]
  • Born:
  • Died:
    • Cecil B. DeMille, 78, American movie producer and director, died at his home after a short illness. At the time of his passing, DeMille was reportedly working on plans for an epic film about the Boy Scouts, followed by a secret project that he only described as "something entirely different".[49]
    • Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, 31, former American child actor known for the Little Rascals, was shot and killed in North Hollywood during a fight with Bud Stilz, whom Switzer confronted over a claimed debt. Switzer, 31, had recently been in the Tony Curtis film The Defiant Ones. An inquiry concluded that Stilz had acted in self-defense.[50]

January 22, 1959 (Thursday)[edit]

January 23, 1959 (Friday)[edit]

  • Wernher von Braun predicted that men would be living and working on the moon by 1974, fifteen years hence. He added that "The Russians could put a man on the moon this year. But they couldn't get him back."[52]
  • On the same day, United States Postmaster General Arthur E. Summerfield announced a serious proposal for the mail to be delivered "by guided missile". Summerfield, who, in 1955, had successfully changed corner mail boxes from olive drab to red, white and blue, added that "If Congress provides us with sufficient funds, you may be assured that mail-carrying rocket missiles will be painted with the traditional colors-- red, white and blue-- of which every American is justly proud."[53]
  • Died: English race car driver Mike Hawthorn, 29, was killed in an accident

January 24, 1959 (Saturday)[edit]

  • Walter Stolle of Germany began what would become the longest bicycle tour on record. Over nearly 18 years, ending on December 12, 1976, he rode more than 402,000 miles (647,000 km) in 159 countries, before retiring at age 50.[54]
  • In Rome, celebrations were held in observance of the 1,900th anniversary of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans.[55]

January 25, 1959 (Sunday)[edit]

  • Pope John XXIII announced his plans to convene Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), in Rome. The call for a worldwide gathering of up to 2,500 Catholic cardinals, archbishops and bishops followed a Sunday mass in honor of St. Paul.[56]
  • The first American passenger jet service began as an American Airlines Boeing 707 flew from Los Angeles to New York City. Among the 112 passengers was poet Carl Sandburg who said,"We salute the intelligence and the daring of man that has wrought this strange and blessed device, now so familiarly known as the passenger jet plane." After California's First Lady, Bernice Brown, pushed the button to start the engines, Captain C.A. McAtee took off at 9:01 a.m. and arrived in New York 4 hours, 3 minutes later. Captain Hamilton Smith then flew the jet and its 112 passengers back to Los Angeles.[57]

January 26, 1959 (Monday)[edit]

January 27, 1959 (Tuesday)[edit]

  • The 21st Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was opened at Sverdlovsky Hall in Moscow as Nikita Khrushchev welcomed 1,500 delegates, including Communist leaders from 70 nations. For the first time, Western reporters were admitted to the conclave, held for the first time since 1956.[59]
  • NASA Director T. Keith Glennan disclosed that the first 110 candidates had been selected for the first American in space, and that he believed that man would land on the moon by 1969. Scientist Eugen Sänger of Stuttgart predicted that man might be able to approach the speed of light by 1999, reaching a speed of 670 million miles per hour.[60]
  • The Convair 880 jet airliner made its first flight, taking off from San Diego and returning after two hours. The jet, fastest up to that time, got its name from its speed of 880 feet per second (600 m.p.h.) but the planes had high operational costs and complicated electrical systems. The last was flown in 1975.[61]

January 28, 1959 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • American Scientists at NASA announced that data from the Vanguard 1 satellite had shown that the Earth was not completely round, but actually "a little pear-shaped". The announcement was made at a press conference at the American Physical Society by Dr. J. A. O'Keefe and scientists Ann Eckels and R. K. Squires of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The differences were slight, but Vanguard data showed differences of sea level around the North Pole being 50 feet higher, and that around Antarctica being 50 feet lower than previously believed. [62]
  • In Durango, Mexico, actress Audrey Hepburn was severely injured, breaking four vertebrae in her back, when she was thrown from a horse while filming a Western. According to news reports, "Camera trouble developed, and when someone yelled 'Cut!', the horse stopped abruptly. She went over the horse's head." Hepburn recovered, and The Unforgiven would be released in 1960.[63]
  • Despite a ban on political parties other than Francisco Franco's ruling Falange, the Unión Española was formed by 100 people, including army officers, businessmen and professors, in Spain.[64]
  • Died: Walter Beall, 59, American baseball player

January 29, 1959 (Thursday)[edit]

January 30, 1959 (Friday)[edit]

  • The Danish ship MS Hans Hedtoft, returning to Copenhagen with 95 people on board after its maiden voyage to Greenland, struck an iceberg and sank off of the coast of Greenland.[68]

January 31, 1959 (Saturday)[edit]

  • The Virginia General Assembly gave up on further attempts to block the integration of state schools, clearing the way for schools in Norfolk to reopen for the first time in more than four months. The district had shut down the schools on September 15 rather than enroll 17 African Americans, while schools in Arlington were integrated after Chief Justice Earl Warren denied a motion to delay the process there. Mixed classes began on Monday, February 2.[69]
  • Born: Kelly Lynch, American model and actress
  • Born: Kelly Moore, American NASCAR driver


  1. ^ "Batista Flees Cuba; Govt. Calls Ceasefire", Oakland Tribune, January 1, 1959, p1
  2. ^ "U.S. Warships in Standby Off Cuba", Oakland Tribune, January 2, 1959, p1
  3. ^ Charles Jeffrey, An Introduction to Plant Taxonomy (CUP Archive, 1982), p98
  4. ^ Daphne Burleson, Space Programs Outside the United States (McFarland, 2005), p230
  5. ^ "Tanks Battle Batista Men In Downtown Havana", Oakland Tribune, January 2, 1959, p1
  6. ^ "Ike Proclaims Alaska State; New 49-Star Flag Unfurled", Oakland Tribune, January 3, 1959, p1
  7. ^ "Maldivs", Historical Dictionary of European Imperialism (Greenwood Publishing Group, 1991), p386
  8. ^ "Soviet Rocket Passes Moon On Way to Sun Orbit or Death", Oakland Tribune, January 4, 1959, p1
  9. ^ "Eisenhower Congratulates Red Scientists", Id.
  10. ^ Ch. Didier Gondola, The History of Congo (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002), p111
  11. ^ Zeilig, Leo (2008). Lumumba: Africa's Lost Leader. London: Haus. p. 70. ISBN 978-1-905791-02-6. 
  12. ^ "Marie Torre to Start Jail Sentence", Oakland Tribune, January 5, 1959, p4
  13. ^ "Marie Torre Out of Jail Smiling", Oakland Tribune, January 14, 1959, p4
  14. ^ "Marie Torre, 72, TV Columnist Jailed for Protecting News Source", New York Times, January 5, 1997
  15. ^ "4 Balloonists Saved at Sea Off Barbados", Oakland Tribune, January 5, 1959, p1
  16. ^ Phyl Newbeck, Virginia Hasn't Always Been for Lovers: Interracial Marriage Bans and the Case of Richard and Mildred Loving (Southern Illinois University Press, 2008) pp14-15
  17. ^ http://www.ameasite.org/loving.asp
  18. ^ Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967); Susan Dudley Gold, Loving v. Virginia: Lifting the Ban Against Interracial Marriage (Marshall Cavendish, 2008) pp7–10
  19. ^ "Veteran House Floor Leader Martin Ousted", Oakland Tribune, January 6, 1959, p1
  20. ^ "First Alaska Delegation Takes Seats", Oakland Tribune, January 7, 1959, p3
  21. ^ "10 Officers of Batista Army Slain ", Oakland Tribune, January 7, 1959, p1
  22. ^ p155
  23. ^ "DeGaulle, Debre Take Over Power", Oakland Tribune, January 8, 1959, p1
  24. ^ "Throngs Hail Castro Entry", Oakland Tribune, January 8, 1959, p1
  25. ^ "Israel Planes Clash With Egypt MIGs", Oakland Tribune, January 8, 1959, p1
  26. ^ "Dam Break Wipes Out Town; 300 Die", Oakland Tribune, January 9, 1959, p1; K. R. Saxena and V. M. Sharma, Dams – Incidents and Accidents (Taylor and Francis, 2004), p20
  27. ^ "New Court Rulings Hit Segregation", Oakland Tribune, January 10, 1959, p1
  28. ^ "Mother of 8 Jailed in Baby Kidnaping", Oakland Tribune, January 12, 1959, p1
  29. ^ Aviation-Safety.net
  30. ^ http://www.csmonitor.com/1987/0825/lnerja.html
  31. ^ Southern Spain (Insight Guides, 1998), p226; "Underground adventure on the Spanish coast" Christian Science Monitor, August 25, 1987
  32. ^ "Cuba Rebels Shoot 71 at Mass Grave", Oakland Tribune, January 12, 1959, p1
  33. ^ "51 Die in Argentine Plane Crash ", Oakland Tribune, January 17, 1959, p4
  34. ^ "Tanker Explodes, Sinks; 40 Missing", Oakland Tribune, January 13, 1959, p1
  35. ^ "Union City 'Born'; 13th In County", Oakland Tribune, January 14, 1959, p1
  36. ^ http://www.ci.union-city.ca.us/general/About_UC.htm
  37. ^ "Japan Overjoyed at News 2 Polar Dogs Found Alive", Bridgeport (Ct.) Post, January 15, 1959, p1
  38. ^ "Prince Seals Troth", Oakland Tribune, January 14, 1959, p2
  39. ^ "Dixie Judge Cited by U.S. For Contempt", Oakland Tribune, January 15, 1959, p1
  40. ^ "Slavic Nazi Wins Fight to Stay in U.S.", Oakland Tribune, January 15, 1959, p1
  41. ^ "Big U.S. Breakthrough: Tiny A-Power 'Dynamo'", Oakland Tribune, January 16, 1959, p1
  42. ^ "51 Die in Argentine Air Crash", Chicago Daily Tribune, January 17, 1959, p1
  43. ^ PlaneCrashInfo.com
  44. ^ "49er Gridders May Play in Rugby Loop", Oakland Tribune, January 18, 1959, p56; "Coast Pro Rugby Bacers Meet in S.F. Tomorrow, Daily Review (Hayward, Cal.), p19
  45. ^ "Demos Pick L.A. for 1960 Convention", Oakland Tribune, January 18, 1959, p2
  46. ^ "Turnabout GI Arrives, Says He Isn't Red", Oakland Tribune, January 19, 1959, p1
  47. ^ "Friendship Letter Sent to Mikoyan", Oakland Tribune, January 20, 1959, p1
  48. ^ "The court in brief" (PDF). European Court of Human Rights. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  49. ^ "DeMille Boy Scout Story And Secret Film Unfinished", Oakland Tribune, January 21, 1959, p3
  50. ^ ""'Alfalfa,' Star of 'Our Gang' Movies, Slain— Shot in Quarrel Over Debt Collection", Chicago Daily Tribune, January 22, 1959, p1
  51. ^ "River Floods Mine, Traps 50 in Shaft", Oakland Tribune, January 22, 1959, p1
  52. ^ "Men Soon May Live On Moon", Oakland Tribune, January 23, 1959, p1
  53. ^ "Soon: Guided Missile Mail", Oakland Tribune, January 24, 1959, p4
  54. ^ Norris McWhirter, The Guinness Book of World Records (Bantam Books, 1983), p601
  55. ^ "1,900th Anniversary", Oakland Tribune, January 25, 1959, p1
  56. ^ "Pope John Calls World Conclave", Oakland Tribune, January 26, 1959, p1
  57. ^ "Trans-Nation Speed Record Set by Jetliner", Morgantown (W.V.) Post, January 26, 1959, p7
  58. ^ "U.S. Needs Hawaii Too, Says Saton", Oakland Tribune, January 26, 1959, p1
  59. ^ "Khrushchev Boasts of Arms Might", Oakland Tribune, January 27, 1959, p1
  60. ^ "Scientists See Man on Moon by '69", Oakland Tribune, January 28, 1959, p1
  61. ^ Clinton Groves, Jetliners (Zenith Imprint, 1993), p22
  62. ^ "Columbus Was Wrong; Earth Is Pear Shaped!", Chicago Tribune, January 29, 1959, p1
  63. ^ "Audrey Breaks 4 Bones in Back", Oakland Tribune, January 30, 1959, p1
  64. ^ "Franco Opposed By New Party", Oakland Tribune, February 2, 1959, p2
  65. ^ "Britain Fears Return of 'Death Gas'", Oakland Tribune, January 30, 1959, p1
  66. ^ "Britons Emerge From 3 Days of Choking Smog", Independent Press Telegram (Long Beach, California), February 1, 1959
  67. ^ Leonard Maltin, The Disney Films, (Disney Editions, 2000) p152
  68. ^ "Three Rescue Vessels Reach Ship-Iceberg Collision Scene", Oakland Tribune, January 31, 1959, p1
  69. ^ "Virginia Legislature Submits to Integration in Schools", The Post-Standard (Syracuse, New York), February 1, 1959, p3