On February 7, 1964, Pan Am Flight 101 landed at New York City’s JFK Airport with four pieces of very precious cargo aboard: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison. It was The Beatles’s very first trip to America—and the official beginning of what the world soon dubbed “Beatlemania.”
An estimated crowd of 4000 people—the majority of them screaming teenage girls—was at the airport awaiting the band’s arrival and the chance to witness the moment their feet touched American soil for the very first time.
No one quite knew what to make of the rabid reception, not even the Fab Four themselves. It was only six days ahead of their arrival that The Beatles had scored their first No. 1 hit in America with “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
“I still get asked about the pressure of that first trip to the U.S.,” Paul McCartney wrote in The Atlantic in 2023, in which he shared several of the many photos he took during the band’s historic two-week trip abroad. “So many people back home were rooting for us—it was a huge deal for a British band to be No. 1 over there. It sounds like a lot to put on the shoulders of four lads in their early 20s but, in reality, we were just wisecracking guys, and we had fun with one another whatever we did and wherever we went.”
Just two months before the trip, in late December 1963, The Beatles learned that they were booked to travel to America—and seemed to have a hard time wrapping their heads around why.
Their arrival was only the beginning of the so-called “British Invasion,” or what one news anchor jokingly described as “Britain’s revenge for the Boston Tea Party.” In the days that followed, The Beatles would make history once again when they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, with a whopping 74 million people—or 40 percent of the country’s population at the time—tuning in to see what all the fuss was about.