10 things that came and went while Gunsmoke was on the air
The long-running western outlasted many products, bands and major historical periods.
Images: Associated Press
The classic Western Gunsmoke lasted so long that many things started… and ended during the show's original run! Children born during its early seasons were entering college before the finale. Four different Presidents could watch new episodes of Gunsmoke while in office.
Premiering in September 1955 and airing until March 1975, the series paralleled major changes, trends and crazes happening in America.
Here are six things — some famous and era-defining, others obscure and short lived — that all started and ended while Gunsmoke was airing on TV.
1. The Space Race
While there is no official starting point or finish line for this race, most people would agree that the cosmic competition between the United States and the Soviet Union fits snuggly between the years 1955 and 1975. NASA's Project Mercury (1958–63), Project Gemini (1961–66) and Apollo program (1968–72) all began and ended as Marshal Matt Dillon patroled Dodge City. The first humans to reach space and, ultimately, the first people to walk on the moon, all reached their milestones in this span.
Image: Associated Press
2. The Beatles
The most famous rock band in history, the Beatles lasted a surprisingly short time. Though some members began playing together in the late 1950s, the lineup we know today — Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr – did not officially come together until 1962. The next eight years saw the "Fab Four" dominate the charts and release some of the most popular albums ever recorded. The Beatles made their American television debut on Ed Sullivan as Gunsmoke was deep into its ninth season. But nothing lasts forever — the band broke up in 1970. The group's final studio album, Let It Be, hit shops shortly after Gunsmoke season 15.
Image: Associated Press
3. Pontiac GTO
This iconic American muscle car is instantly recognizable because of its front "nose" and separate two-grill design. Pontiac produced the first GTO's in 1964 as an add-on package for the LeMans. John DeLorean — while still at General Motors before founding his namesake car company — chose the initials as a reference to the Ferrari 250 GTO (Gran Turismo Omologato) race car. The 1974 Pontiac GTO was the last new model year (not counting a brief come back in Australia from 2004-2006). A highly competitive muscle car market combined with rising gas prices contributed to the GTO's termination.
Image: General Motors
4. Daisy*s and Whistles snacks
Two other short-lived American inventions created in 1964 were the snacks Daisy*s and Whistles. One was a puffed cheese snack shaped like a flower and the other was similar except formed into a hollow tube. Both only lasted for a few years — but a third shape in this snack trio, dubbed "televittles" by advertisements at the time, went on to become a favorite snack to this day. That snack is, of course, everyone's favorite cone-shaped chips: Bugles.
Image: General Mills
5. Chatty Cathy
This talking doll gave Barbie a run for her money in the 1960s, becoming the second highest-selling doll of the decade. Pull the string from her back and Cathy would speak one of 11 phrases. "I love you" was one, of course. Even Marcia Brady was a fan! Though Cathy spawned numerous other "chatty" toys, the original Chatty Cathy dolls were only sold through 1965.
6. Elvis Presley's entire film career
Rock 'n' roll was just getting started as Gunsmoke premiered. "Rock Around the Clock" was the biggest song in the country when "Matt Gets It," the first episode, aired. Elvis would blow up shortly thereafter. "The King" made his film debut in 1956 with Love Me Tender. He would go on to appear in 33 films in his career, his final movie being the documentary Elvis on Tour in 1972.
Image: 20th Century Fox
7. The Washington Senators
Major League Baseball awarded an expansion franchise to the nation's capital in 1961. (The original Senators had moved to Minnesota to become the Twins.) Mostly playing in what became known as RFK Stadium, the team was the definition of futility, losing loads of games, even with legend Ted Williams as manager (seen here). In 1971, the Senators relocated to Texas to become the Rangers.
Image: Associated Press
8. Tanganyika and the Malagasy Republic
If you were taking Geography in the Sixties, you might remember that even countries came and went during Gunsmoke's run. The map of southeast Africa, in particular, went through changes. Tanganyika gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1961. A few years later, it unified with Zanzibar to became Tanzania. Meanwhile, not far away, the Malagasy Republic gained its independence from France in 1958, lasting until a military coup in early 1975. Today, you know it as Madagascar.
9. Patio Diet Cola
Pepsi's first foray into diet cola (or "diet cola flavored dietetic" as the can proclaimed) was brought back into the public consciousness thanks to Mad Men. After launching the cola in 1963, a fleet of new flavors including orange, grape and root beer hit shelves the following year. However, by the end of 1964, Patio Diet Cola would become good old Diet Pepsi.
10. Bucky Beaver
The Ipana toothpaste brand had been around for decades, but advertisers took the dental product to new heights in the late 1950s when they teamed with Disney. Disney Commercial Studio created the Bucky Beaver mascot — and Mousketeer Jimmy Dodd provided the voice. Bucky reminded Boomer kids to brush their teeth for years, but was gone from the ad airwaves before Gunsmoke wrapped.