The New York Times provides access to its sprawling archive to paying customers, and hooo boy is it easy to get sucked in. In a fit of curiosity, I read some of the biggest stories of December 29, 1961. The day's paper was a tiny sample of a distinct era: when JFK was present, the civil rights movement gained traction, and the Cold War escalated. Here are a few of the headlines:
–Strike averted on city transit; 15 cent fare is kept— 15 cents! Can you believe it! If the Pizza Principle holds up, a New York slice would likely set you back the same amount.
–Former First Lady Edith Wilson died on December 28th on what would have been her husband's 105th birthday. She was 90.
–Kennedy to Ask Authority To Purchase U.N. Bonds— President Kennedy wanted to buy up to half of the United Nations' projected $200,000,000 bond issue to finance "peace-and-security operations in Congo and the Middle East." Congo was particularly politically unstable at the time— it was newly independent from Belgium. In addition, the US had recently supported a coup to replace the elected leader Lumumba, who had communist ties, with pro-Western leader Mobutu.
–US sues to upset Louisiana's law on voting tests— Fifty years ago, the Justice Department asked a Federal court to strike down a Louisiana law requiring voters to pass a "constitutional interpretation test." In the suit, the Justice Department said the laws' purpose was "maintaining white political supremacy and racial segregation."
–American colleges are accused of slighting educational goals— A book by Dr. Nevitt Stanford accuses higher education of being a "corporate enterprise" and a "watchdog of the upper-middle class." One could say the same in 2021 (sigh).
-US father to ask reds to free son— Edgar Pankey, the father of a 20-year-old American student serving a two-year term in an East Berlin prison, flew to Berlin in hopes of getting East German authorities to free his son.
–Church closings in Soviet tallied— Cue the pearls clutching! 1500 Soviet churches closed in 1961.
–Babes in Toyland— "A soggy line of diehards" waited in line outside Rockefeller Plaza to see Walt Disney's Babes in Toyland movie which was released two weeks before.
-"Fashions to please men in '62"— Over in the women's section, the articles aged like milk. The Times declares "1962 will undoubtedly be the year in which men finally approve of women's fashions." In: feminism, youth, emphasized bosoms, and belted waistlines. Out: "hard architecture look."
–1961 sets record in cigarette use— Americans smoked more than ever, and the US manufactured cigarettes to keep up. Including exports, the US produced 528 billion cigarettes!
There was so much more, from articles to classifieds to puzzles. At the time, a year-long mail subscription cost $51.50.