1953 Annual History Facts

1953 Annual History Facts

  • World-Changing Event: Francis Crick and James D. Watson discovered the helical structure of DNA in 1953.
  • Literature: There was a limited edition (200 signed and numbered) of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 bound in asbestos to prevent burning. #scifi
  • Popular Songs include: I Believe by Frankie Laine, That’s Amore by Dean Martin, and Stranger in Paradise along with Rags to Riches by Tony Bennett
  • The Big Movies included Peter Pan, House of Wax, and Hondo
  • The Real Live Adventure Hero: Edmund Hillary, along with a Sherpa mountaineer, Tenzing Norgay, scaled Mount Everest, the first to reach its summit.
  • Price of Champagne in 1953: $3.49 1/5 gallon.
    A 1953 bottle today could be more than $800.
  • The World Population was ~ 2,732,000,000
  • Matchbox Cars were introduced in 1953.
  • And… The first issue of Playboy, published in December 1953, featured a nude Marilyn Monroe from her 1949 calendar shoot and sold over 50,000 copies.

World Series Champions

New York Yankees

NFL Champions

Detroit Lions

National Basketball Association Champions

Minneapolis Lakers

NHL Stanley Cup Champions

Montreal Canadiens

US Open Golf

Dick Mayer

US Open Tennis (Men Ladies)

Tony Trabert/Maureen Connolly

Wimbledon (Men/Women)

Vic Seixas/Maureen Connolly

NCAA Football Champions


NCAA Basketball Champions


Bowl Games

Orange Bowl: January 1, 1953 – Alabama over Syracuse
Rose Bowl: January 1, 1953 – USC over Wisconsin
Sugar Bowl: January 1, 1953 – Georgia Tech over Ole Miss

Kentucky Derby

Dark Star

Westminster Kennel Best in Show Dog

Rancho Dobe’s Storm

Time Magazine’s Man of the Year

Konrad Adenauer

Miss America

Neva Langley (Macon, GA)

Miss USA

Myrna Hansen (Illnois)

Fashion Icons and Movie Stars

Joan Davis, Doris Day, Anita Ekberg, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Audrey Hepburn, Jennifer Jones, Grace Kelly, Audrey Meadows, Marilyn Monroe, Julie Newmar, Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner

“The Quotes”

“The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his client to plant vines – so they should go as far as possible from home to build their first buildings.”
– Frank Lloyd Wright

“You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.”
Pepsodent toothpaste

“Shane. Shane. Come back!”
– Brandon De Wilde, in Shane

“Sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you don’t.”
– Peter Paul Mounds/Almond Joy

Eugene O’Neill was born on October 16, 1888, in a hotel at Times Square; he also died in another hotel in Boston on November 27, 1953. His last words were, “I knew it. I knew it. Born in a hotel room and died in a hotel room.”

When asked about the song What Made the Red Man Red? in the 1953 Disney production of Peter Pan, Marc Davis, one of the supervising animators, said, “I’m not sure we would have done the Indians if we were making this movie now. And if we had, we wouldn’t do them the way we did back then.”

1953 Pop Culture History

Arthur Holly Compton (the Nobel Prize-winning chancellor of Washington University) was irritated by how fast people drove through the campus. To combat this, he designed the modern speed bump.

Although Ohio is listed as the 17th state in the US, it is technically number 47. Until August 7, 1953, Congress forgot to vote on a formal resolution to admit Ohio to the Union.

The Coppertone Girl was introduced to the American public. It is probably the most famous ‘butt crack’ of all time.

The “Air Force One” call sign was created after a 1953 incident during which a Lockheed Constellation named Columbine II, carrying President Dwight D. Eisenhower, entered the same airspace as a commercial airline flight using the same call sign.

Sir Winston Churchill won a Nobel Prize, and it was in Literature, not Peace.

Black leather Jacket and Motorcycle sales reached new heights after the release of 1953’s “The Wild One” starring Marlon Brando.

The word “frenemies” dates back to 1953, when it appeared in print referring to US/Soviet relations.

Since 1953, the government of the Netherlands has sent Canada over a million tulip bulbs as a gift for Canada’s part in the liberation of their country during WW2. Canada has since turned this into the world’s largest Tulip Festival, the Ottawa TulipFest.

The first radio operator to pick up news of Stalin’s death was (future) rock pioneer Johnny Cash, who served with the US Air Force in Germany in 1953.

Johnny Cash ‘borrowed’ Folsom Prison Blues from Gordon Jenkins’ 1953 song Crescent City Blues and later paid him a settlement of $75,000.

RCA invented the first musical synthesizer.

The first issue of Playboy in December 1953 was undated because Hugh Hefner was not sure if there would be a second issue.

From 1953 to 1958, the Cincinnati Reds officially changed their name to the Cincinnati Redlegs because they feared being associated with communism.

Dr. Leon Stuart, an amateur astronomer, saw and photographed a bright white light on the lunar surface. He believed it was a rare asteroid impact, but professional astronomers dismissed and disputed “Stuart’s Event” for 50 years. In 2003, NASA looked for and found the crater.

Austrian Inge Sargent married a Prince from Burma (Myanmar), but he didn’t tell her he was a Prince until they sailed back to Burma and were greeted at the docks by hundreds of well-wishers.

The first transgender American woman, Christine Jorgensen, had to travel to Denmark to perform a sex change operation. She was an instant celebrity when she returned to New York in 1953, and jokes like “Christine Jorgensen went abroad, and came back a broad” didn’t bother her.

Soviet scientists first observed that unpeeling a roll of Scorch Tape in a vacuum produces X-rays.

The 1953 film Singin’ in the Rain was not the first movie to feature its title song. The song originally debuted in The Hollywood Revue of 1929 and was featured in several films before Gene Kelly’s famous performance.

Colgate-Palmolive-Peet became Colgate-Palmolive. We are not sure, but we think that the Peet brothers suffered the same fate as Alvah Curtis Roebuck, of Sears and Roebuck fame.

Because of a court ruling, any movie made before 1953 is in the public domain in Japan, including many Disney movies such as Song of the South, Fantasia, Snow White, Bambi, and Cinderella. You can tape them, sell them, and legally pocket any money you make in Japan.

Pete Schoening was 24,500 feet high up on K2 (the world’s second-highest peak) when five fellow climbers fell, tumbling down an icy slope. He singlehandedly stopped the fall with his axe and rope, in a feat that became legendary to climbers as “The Belay.”

Coca-Cola attempted to persuade the US Treasury to mint a 7.5-cent coin; a can of Coke had been a nickel since 1886 and needed to be raised due to inflation, but they felt a dime was too much.

Swanson had 260 tons of leftover turkey from Thanksgiving and didn’t know how to get rid of it. They asked their workers for ideas, and one man thought they should package it in individual trays with sides and freeze it. The TV dinner was born.

Ore-Ida offered ‘Tater Tots’ in grocery stores. There were pressed leftovers from their french fry line.

Biologists James D. Watson and Francis Crick published Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid. With little more than a drawing and some accompanying text, Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA. Crck also introduced the idea of ‘Directed Panspermia,’ which suggests Aliens seeded Earth.

RIP, Scandals, Sad and Odd News

Seven hundred rats and 56 dogs were used as part of Operation Upshot-Knothole (PROJECT 4.2) to test air blast exposure from nuclear weapons on animals. The animals were so destroyed by the blast no reliable data was gathered.

In 1953, the City of Niagara Falls bought a plot of land called “Love Canal” for $1 from a chemical company (Hooker Chemical Company, now Occidental Chemical Corporation) that had used the area as a dump. Despite warnings from the company, a school was built on the land. From 1974-1978, 56% of children in the area were born with birth defects.

Following athlete Jim Thorpe’s death, his widow was upset that his native Oklahoma would not memorialize him. Hearing a town (Mauch Chunk) in Pennsylvania desperate for money, she (and others) convinced them to name the new town Jim Thorpe, PA, which it’s still called today.

United States Air Force pilot Felix Moncla encountered a UFO while flying his jet. Radar recorded both the UFO and Moncla’s plane on a direct course for one another, until both blips merged and then vanished completely. #withoutatrace

Jean Robic cheated in the Tour de France by adding a lead-filled water bottle at the summit of a mountain so he could descend faster.

The youngest soldier in the Korean War was Master Sgt. Gilbert Zamora could enlist at 13 because he was already 6’2” and weighed 195 pounds. He retired in 1988.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were US citizens executed for conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union in 1953.

North Korean Air Force Lieutenant No Kum-Sok (age 21) flew his MiG-15 to the South. Since this fighter plane was then the best the Communist bloc had, No’s defection was considered an intelligence bonanza, and he was awarded $100,000.

Duncan Hamilton won the grueling 1953 Le Mans car race completely inebriated.

A US Scientist named Frank Olsen was administered LSD without his knowledge as part of the MKULTRA program. A week later, Olsen ended up dead. The CIA claimed Olsen jumped from a hotel window, but later paid his family $750K, and a second autopsy revealed he was likely assassinated.

All radios manufactured in the US between 1953 and 1963 had a white triangle on the dial at 640 AM to indicate where Civil Defense information would be broadcast.

Piltdown Man, an archeological find from 1912, was exposed as a forgery, consisting of the lower jawbone of an orangutan combined with the skull of a fully developed, modern man. The theory of Evolution took several steps back with this scandal.

Early televangelist Fulton Sheen substituted the names of Soviet leaders in a reading of the burial scene from Julius Caesar, then intoned, “Stalin must one day meet his judgment.” That week, Stalin had a stroke and died.

Country Pop Star Death: Hank Williams (drugs and alcohol poisoning)

Firsts and the Biggest Christmas Gifts

Scrabble, Mrs Potato Head, Wiffle Ball invented, Matchbox (U.K.)

TV Guide began publication

The Habits

Playing the Card Game Canasta.
Reading The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas
Reading Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
Reading The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
Watching Shane, Roman Holiday, Peter Pan, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, From Here to Eternity, and The War of the Worlds in theaters.

1953/54 Biggest Television Shows

(according to Nielsen TV Research)
1. I Love Lucy (CBS)
2. Dragnet (NBC)
3. Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts (CBS)
4. You Bet Your Life (NBC)
5. The Milton Berle Show (NBC)
6. Arthur Godfrey and his Friends (CBS)
7. Ford Theatre (NBC)
8. The Jackie Gleason Show ((CBS)
9. Fireside Theatre (NBC)
10. The Colgate Comedy Hour (NBC)

Popular Music Artists

The Biggest Pop Artists of 1953 include
Ames Brothers, B.B. King, The Clovers, Dean Martin, The Dominoes, Eddie Fisher, Frank Sinatra, Frankie Laine, Hilltoppers, Joe Turner, Joni James, Kay Starr, Les Baxter, Les Paul & Mary Ford, Nat ‘King’ Cole, The Orioles, Patti Page, Percy Faith, Perry Como, Ruth Brown, Stan Freberg, Teresa Brewer, Tony Bennett

(Data is compiled from charts, including Billboard’s Pop, Rock, Airplay, R&B/Dance, and Singles Charts. The Hot 100 is the primary chart used for this list.)

Number One Hits of 1953

December 27, 1952 – January 9, 1953: Jimmy Boyd – I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

January 10, 1953 – February 13, 1953: Perry Como – Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes

February 14, 1953 – March 20, 1953: Teresa Brewer – Till I Waltz Again With You

March 21, 1953 – May 15, 1953: Patti Page – The Doggie In The Window

May 16, 1953 – July 24, 1953: Percy Faith – The Song From Moulin Rouge (Where Is Your Heart)

July 25, 1953 – August 7, 1953: Eddie Fisher – I’m Walking Behind You

August 8, 1953 – October 9, 1953: Les Paul and Mary Ford – Vaya Con Dios (May God Be With You)

October 10, 1953 – November 20, 1953: Stan Freberg – St. George And The Dragonet

November 21, 1953 – January 1, 1954: Tony Bennett – Rags To Riches

Popular Movies

Abbot and Costello meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr, Hyde, The Band Wagon, Beat the Devil, The Bigamist, The Big Heat, From Here to Eternity, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, House of Wax, I Confess, Julius Caesar, The Naked Spur, Niagra, Peter Pan, Pickup on South Street, The Robe, Roman Holiday, Shane, Stalag 17, The War of the Worlds, The Wild One
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