Monday, August 15, 2005

even more fun facts

All courtesy of One-Night Stands with American History, published by William Morrow & Co. in 1980:

  • James Fenimore Cooper once remarked, "'They say' [is] the monarch of this country." [It's too bad he couldn't have read Rushkoff's Coercion; I think he would have agreed with a lot of it!]

  • Unil the 1830s, Americans did not eat tomatoes. Up to that time tomatoes were believed to be poinsonous and were used only as decorations. They were known as "love apples."

  • During his time as a congressman Davy Crockett made repeated attempts to abolish West Point, which he believed was a haven for the sons of aristocrats.

  • Looks like there might have been even MORE presidents we didn't know about:
    [David Rice] Atchison may have been president of the United States for one day, but no one is sure. The facts are these. Atchison was president pro tempore of the Senate on March 4, 1849, the day President James K. Polk's term expired at noon and one day before Zachary Taylor was sworn in (Taylor refused to take the oath on March 4, since that was a Saturday). Because Polk's vice-president had resigned a few days before, Atchison, it would seem, was technically the only person legally allowed to exercise the powers of the presidency - by virtue of his being third in line in the succession. According to the law, the president pro tempore automatically became president when the presidency and vice-presidency were vacant. Nothing happened during Atchison's one days in office, though a few friends jokingly requested appointments to the cabinet.

  • Why are barns painted red? In the early nineteenth century farmers learned that the color red absorbed sunlight extremely well and was useful in keeping barns warm during winter. The farmers made their red paint from skim milk mixed with the rust shavings of metal fences and nails.

  • The ice-cream soda [yum] was invented by accident in 1874, when Robert M. Green ran out of sweet cream and substituted vanilla ice cream in sodas he was selling at the semicentennial celebration of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

  • The word "hooker" goes back before the Civil War, to the time the Dutch seaport Hook became famous for its streetwalkers. But not until the War between the States did the term become popular. At that time prostitutes south of Washington, D.C.'s Constitution Avenue began being referred to as Hooker's Division - in honor of Joe Hooker, the Union's preeminent paramour.

  • In the fall of 1866, Mexican general Santa Anna, exiled from his native land, lived on Staten Island, New York. His new interpreter and secretary, a young American named James Adams, noticed how the old general would constantly cut slices from an unknown tropical vegetable and place the pieces in his mouth. Inquiring, Adams learned that the substance was called "chicle" [I'd assume that's where the name "Chicklets" comes from]. When Santa Anna left New York the following May, the young interpreter persuaded him to leave behind his supply of chicle. Adams then began experimenting with the substance, adding different sweetening agents to bolster the flavor. Soon he had "invented" chewing gum. When Adams introduced his new product to the American public, he found a willing and hungry market. Later, Adams founded the Adams Chewing Gum Company, and Americans, helped by a most unlikely Mexican source, have been chewing gum ever since.

  • Nouveau riche extravagances included a dinner held in honor of a dog who was given a $15,000 diamond collar, and a man who had little holes drilled into his teeth so that he could have a diamond-studded smile. [from around the end of the 19th century.]

  • According to Louis L'Amour, the Western-fiction writer, the red light became associated with prostitution because late-nineteenth-century trains conductors who visited whorehouses often left their red lamps hanging outside.

  • In 1884 the "latest social craze" - according to numerous advertisements - was displaying framed pictures on walls.

  • Electric lights were installed in the White House during the administration of Benjamin Harrison. Harrison and his wife were so afraid of electricity that they left the job of turning the light switches on and off to the servants.

    And these are just some of the better ones! And the shorter ones, that I didn't mind typing out. This book is chock-full of interesting stuff. I'd suggest you check it out of your local library or get ahold of a copy for youself. I'm sure I'll keep adding more as I go through, so if you are interested in this kind of stuff, keep an eye out. xoxo

    Currently Reading:

    TITLE: The Wisdom of Crowds
    AUTHOR: James Surowiecki

    TITLE: One-Night Stands with American History
    AUTHOR: Richard Shenkman & Kurt Reiger

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