Weird U.S. History
Within each post, every Thursday and Saturday, what you will read are times and events throughout American History you may or may not remember, yet again never knew the truth about. You will read of some events never spoken about when going to school and, for those of you who are, question your history teacher on this and see his or her reaction.
And try not to be surprised when you read the truth about certain things placed here. You could almost say I am a Myth-Buster of sorts.
As for myself, I see this as stupid U.S. History. Things that happened that are incredible to believe, but what you will read, did in fact—happen.
So, sit back, take a read and smirk, laugh, or shake your head in disbelief.
Somewhere in this mix, there will be two long pieces that tie together as parts I and II. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
Better Than The Best
History books have idolized our founding fathers to such an extent, a lot of people believe they were perfect. If you read the first line of the Constitution you will find they were far from perfect, and they especially weren’t more perfect. The first line of the preamble to the Constitution reads, “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union.”
If something is perfect, then—it’s perfect. It can’t be more perfect. Ask any English teacher, and they will tell you that “more perfect” ain’t good English.
Better Late Than Never
General Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson (the nickname came about as he was hard as a hickory tree) was victorious over the British army intent on taking New Orleans during the War of 1812. It became a major boost over the war effort, but even more so a boost for Jackson’s career. He used his hero status to become the seventh president of the United States, but there are two things about the battle that was interesting. The war was already over before the Battle of New Orleans began. The Treaty of Ghent, which officially ended the War of 1812 had been signed on December 14, 1814. The Battle of New Orleans took place January 6, 1815. The other interesting aspect to this was the help of one Jean Lafitte. A French pirate, thief, smuggler, and slave trade runner, used his vessel to moved troops into position to help Jackson win the war. Lafitte didn’t do this because he had a heart. His entire fleet of ships were captured by the U.S. Naval force, and to avoid prison, agreed to help Jackson and in doing so, he would receive a pardon.
Even as far back as then, politics came into play. Just goes to show that some things never change.
On a side note: Rachael, Andrew Jackson’s wife, was the only First Lady who smoked a pipe.
Weird History: 2
When One Has The Last Word
What a person decides to have put on their headstone can say a lot about what was important in life. One would think that a man like Thomas Jefferson might need several headstones to list all his accomplishments. But the inscription he wrote left out a few things. His headstone reads, “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American independence, of the Statute of Virginia for the Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.” He made no mention he was the second vice-president or that he was the third president.
A Town By Any Other Name
When the pilgrims settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts, this of course after originally being dumped in Provincetown, because the crew of the Mayflower was tired of the complaining. The town was called Plymouth since they set sail from Plymouth, England., or so the story goes.
The truth is—the city was already called Plymouth.
In 1614, Captain John Smith mapped out the northeast coast starting from Jamestown, Virginia, and he returned to England with a map where the landmarks listed had Indian names. Smith asked Prince Charles to replace those names with good old fashioned English names, and Charles complied.
When Prince Charles came to the name “Accomack”, he changed it to Plymouth. The fact that the Mayflower set sail from one Plymouth, only to dock in another we can say was nothing more than pure luck.
On a side note: Of the U.S.' first twelve presidents, the only two never to own slaves were John Adams, and his son John Quincy Adams; the first of which famously said that the American Revolution would not be complete until all slaves were freed.
Weird History: 3
Doubleday Double Play
When asked, “Who invented the idea of baseball?” Most people (at least those with a knowledge of sports) would say, Abner Doubleday—and most people would be wrong. Baseball was invented in England.
It was first named and described as far back as 1774 in a booklet titled: A Little Pretty Pocket Book.
Doubleday got the credit via a propaganda campaign. The Major League’s Executive Board wanted to score a “home run” b y claiming baseball was invented in America, so stated a commission report dated in 1907. In this report it was claimed that baseball was credited to Civil War General Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, New York in 1839.
Though with Doubleday’s diaries, not once did he ever mentioned inventing baseball, or the fact that he never was in Cooperstown.
Sort of makes you wonder about the origin of apple pie, and Chevrolet, now, doesn’t it?
Going One Step Further
So who should be credited for inventing baseball? A name you may have never heard of by most authorities say it is Alexander Cartwright. In 1842 he founded The New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club, strangely enough, named after the Knickerbocker Fire Engine, which Cartwright was a volunteer fire-fighter. He actually drew up the diagram of the diamond shaped-field and the rules of the modern game are based on bylaws his team created. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1938.
On a side note: In 1989, George Herbert Walker Bush was the first Vice President elected to the office of the Presidency since Martin Van Buren in 1836. And now, Joseph R. Biden is the second.
Weird History: 4
If you don’t know the film, get acquainted with it. It is one of the most holiday watched films ever. It’s A Wonderful Life. Directed by Frank Capra, for Liberty Films, starring Donna Reed, Jimmy Stewart and with a stellar crew of actors that brings tears at one point and the joy of happiness at the end.
The American Film Institute recognizes this film as 100 of the best films ever made.
But—when it was first released in December 1946, it was heralded as a flop. The film cost $1.3 million to make and grossed less than a million during its release. They had projected their gross to be nearly five-million.
Far cry from today’s movies. Today, five-million may pay for the cost of spotlights alone.
Losing His Marbles
In April 1841, Vice President John Tyler was on his knees playing marbles when he was told that William Henry Harrison had died and that he was now President of the United States.
At that time, marbles was a very popular game for grown ups as well as kids.
I couldn’t find anywhere if he had been playing by himself or if there was someone else in his office then.
On a side note: On June 28, 1836, James Madison’s last words were, “I always talk better lying down
Weird History: 5
David Who? The President Who Never Was
In a prior segment, it was mentioned Tyler was playing with marbles when informed he was about to be president.
What isn’t known or known by many, President-elect Zachary Taylor, in observance of the Christian Sabbath, preferred not to conduct his inauguration on Sunday, March 4th, and the ceremony was delayed until the next day. On Monday, March 5th, Taylor took the oath of office on the Capitol’s east front portico and the transition of power was complete.
To clarify, until the adoption of the Twentieth Amendment in 1933, presidential and congressional terms began and ended at noon on March 4th. In 1849, March 4th fell on a Sunday.
Under the Presidential Succession Act of 1792 the Senate president pro tempore immediately followed the vice president in the line of presidential succession. Which today would be the Speaker of the House of Rep;resentatives.
On that particular Sunday however, George M. Dallas took leave of the Senate for the remainder of the session, as he would have been next in line to step in for such an emergency, and the Senate voted and approved that David Rice Atchison would be the sitting president pro tempore.
Although Atchison had prior involvements in politics, of which one; the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act that would have a significant comsequence leading toward the Civil War (which I will not go into further), on this single day, he was quoted as saying, “Not much happened. I think I slept most of the day.”
On a side note: Atchison joined other pro-slavery advocates and organized incursions into Kansas in 1854 to ensure that Kansas would become a slave state. He warned Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi that they would “be compelled to shoot, burn, and hang” to drive the “Abolitionists” out of Kansas. A group of pro-slavery settlers named their town Atchison in his honor.
Weird History: 6
Another Briquette In The Wall
What do you get when you combine the American inventor and America’s car manufacturer? Would you believe a charcoal briquette?
Thomas Edison and Henry Ford are credited with making from sawdust and glue from Ford’s factory floor and Edison’s creative brilliance—barbeque fuel. They made it all right, but they got the idea from someone else—Ellsworth B.A., Zwoyer, who invented, designed, and patented the original briquette in 1897.
What Comes Around
President John Adams and his wife, Abigail, traveled home from Philadelphia to Braintree, Massachusetts, they went through Newark, New Jersey, and the town celebrated his arrival.
But not everyone enjoyed seeing him. A Republican, Luthor Baldwin out of a pub, half-drunk, half-stupid, took in all the commotion along with a 16-gun salute. Hearing the salute and knowing Baldwin’s hatred for the president, another patron from the pub came up to him saying, “There goes the president, and they are firing at his ass.” To which Baldwin said, “I don’t care if they fire through his ass.”
In saying that, he was arrested under the new Alien and Sedition laws (similar to the Patriot Act) for uttering seditious words lending to defame the President and Government of the United States.
Baldwin was fined, paid all court costs, and sent to a federal jail until he made financial amends. This took him eight years. Supposedly, he never said anything about Adams ever again.
On a side note: Civil War Union General, Lew Wallace (1827-1905) gained his greatest fame, not on the battlefield but as the author of the novel: Ben Hur—A Tale of Christ.
Weird History: 7
The Black And Red Of It All
On January 8, 1835, the United States under President Andrew Jackson, for the first and only time, completely paid off its national debt. They still owed $33,000 plus, but who’s counting? This was done by the sale of public lands in the West. The country went debt-free for a short period of time. Our national debt today is over 27 trillion dollars.
Hey Brother—can you spare a dime?
On a side note: George Herbert Walker Bush is the only president with four names.
Weird History: 8
Don’t Flip Your Whig
When the Whig Party nominated Zachary Taylor as their candidate for president, in June of 1848, they sent him a letter telling him of their choice. He sent the letter back unopened. Why do you ask? Back then people who received mail had to pay the postage, not the person sending it. He didn’t know what was in the letter and didn’t care. It wasn’t until late July of that same year when he found out exactly what the letter was about.
Taylor became a hero due to the Mexican-American warm and got mail from many people, he was thought highly of, but he always returned the mail unopened. Taylor went on to become president and was the last Whig elected.
The Ride Of Your Life
Paul Revere and the infamous horse ride to warn settlers the British were coming. An amazing tale of courage handed down through the years.
But Revere only rode 19 miles before he was captured. So why do we remember him and not the real hero who rode 235 miles, Israel Bissell. Wait—Bissell you think? He was 23 and rode four days from Boston to Philadelphia warning settlers that the British were coming, shouting, “To arms, to arms! The war has begun!” Bissell was so underappreciated for his bravery, that in several historical documents he was listed as “Trail”—not Israel Bissell.
On a side note: Until 1900, the state of Rhode island had two capitols, one in Providence, the other in Newport.
Weird History: 9
Grant Your Wishes
A lot of Republicans charged President John Fitzgerald Kennedy with nepotism when he asked his brother, Bobby, to serve as Attorney General.
The king of keeping it in the family was President Ulysses S. Grant who placed his father on the payroll as postmaster of Covington, Kentucky. His wife’s brother-in-law James Casey was appointed Collector of Customs to the Port of New Orleans; another brother-in-law served as an appraiser of customs in San Francisco, his cousin Silas Hudson was named a minister to Guatemala, and another brother-in-law was minister to Denmark. In all, nearly forty people associated with Grant, including thirteen relatives, benefited from “Grantism.”
Without saying Trump’s name, because I just would never say Trump—like why would I even bring Trump’s name into this? But there is a parallel here, wouldn’t you think?
On a side note: In 1908, the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, Charles Joseph Bonaparte, created the Bureau of Investigation, which later was known as the FBI.
Weird History: 10
A Graham Of Goodness
Presbyterian minister Reverend Sylvester Graham developed the graham cracker in Bound Brook, New Jersey in 1822, but it wasn’t to complete the recipe for S’mores. It was created so people wouldn’t want “s’more” of anything—especially sex.
Graham believed his cracker, along with bland foods and a strict vegetarian diet, could cure not just alcoholism but more important, sexual urges, which he believed to be a source of many maladies,
Graham’s belief that eating pure foods created a purity of mind, body, and spirit influenced people, including Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the inventor of the corn flakes cereal.
On a side note: In 1871, Tucson, Arizona, was at the heart of the Wild West, and boasted 3,000 people, two doctors, a newspaper, a brewery, and several salons, but just one bathtub. That may explain why there were so many gun duels on the street.