5 Seemingly Harmless Groups That Wield Terrifying Power

#2. The Ice Lobby That Caused a 60-Year Setback in Air Conditioning Technology

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The man who first thought up the concept of an air conditioner was a doctor by the name of John Gorrie, who felt that keeping his patients cool would likely help them recover. Or at the very least, it would remove one unpleasant descriptor from the term "dying, diseased, and sweaty." At first, Gorrie just used ice to cool his patients' rooms, but he eventually patented something more akin to a combination refrigerator/air conditioning unit in 1851.

John Gorrie
Perfect for corpses and cold cuts.

But you'll notice we said "first thought up the concept" -- not "invented." It wasn't until 1913 that Fred W. Wolf Jr. perfected the first truly viable unit for the consumer market.

So why the 60-year gap? Because there were some very powerful businessmen in Gorrie's time who made a whole lot of money selling ice. Yes, ice vendors were not always relegated to the moldy machine outside of a Safeway. Back in the day, Big Ice was a powerful entity, and the presumably mustachioed and monocled gentlemen who ran it built their vast fortunes by chopping ice out of frozen bodies of water and shipping it across the country so that people could shove it in their Flintstonian iceboxes. Big Ice wielded so much influence and lobbied so hard against Gorrie that they prevented him from getting his funding by making something as fundamental as "a machine that cools your house and/or food" seem frivolous and irrelevant. Gorrie died penniless at the ripe old age of 52 -- just four short years after filing his patent.

The true meaning of his final words remains a mystery.

Now, we're not saying Big Ice had him whacked or anything, but think of the potential puns -- "put him on ice," "tell him to chill out," "cool his jets" -- how could they resist?

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"Oooh, 'Now is the winter of your death content.' I should be writing these down ..."

#1. The Butter Barons Who Ruled America's Arteries With an Iron Fist

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Nothing can replace butter. Many have tried for that salty, lardy throne ... and many now lay broken, beaten, bested, and basted at butter's feet.

Margarine was the first to try. It came along way back in the 1800s, when Napoleon III offered a prize to whoever could make an artificial version of butter -- something France could mass produce for the army and the poor. While margarine, the pretender, can never replace the taste or texture of normal butter, it does have its benefits. It's better for you than butter. It's cheaper than butter. When you pull it out of the fridge, it doesn't take the form of an unyielding brick that shreds your toast into bready confetti. So why did it take so long to catch on in America?

Three words: the butter barons.

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They greased palms everywhere.

We know, they sound like one of those crappy supervillain teams from an old episode of Super Friends, but we're not making that up. There really were sinister butter-themed villains with a vise grip on America's arteries. See, butter producers knew that margarine could sink them -- at least among the poor of pocket and palate -- so they went straight to Congress, screeching that margarine deprives us of "life promoting vitamins ... without which human infants cannot continue to live." Obviously, that's ridiculous -- nobody is dying in Somalia from a lack of vitamin butter. But sure enough, the Margarine Act of 1886 came along, taxing margarine and forcing producers to pay for expensive licenses.

But that wasn't good enough for the barons. Butter's biggest advantage over margarine is apparently its healthy(?) yellow hue, while pure margarine is a sickly, unappealing white. So the barons got states to ban colored margarine, calling it a clear attempt at fraud. All this, despite the fact that they had already made it a crime to pass margarine off as butter. That's right: Margarine smugglers (and we just want to pause here and reinforce the fact that butter-like spread had a criminal underworld at some point), if caught, would end up in federal prison for crimes against butter.

"If you like providing things that are easily spreadable, you'll love where you're going."

Even crazier? Laws preventing substituting margarine for butter were still on the books as late as 2011. But those were rare holdouts (Wisconsin, obviously): Butter's brutal rule finally halted during World War II, when dairy shortages temporarily left margarine as the only option. Once the war was over, people realized, "Hey, it may not melt over popcorn so good, but this margarine stuff didn't actually kill any of my children -- maybe it ain't so bad!" The newly successful margarineers (what? The butter barons got cool nicknames) suddenly had the money to advertise their health and cost benefits, and the black market for toast spreads, tragically, collapsed.

And now "margarine smugglers" is nothing more than a pretty sweet name for a band.

Read more from Yosomono on Gaijinass.com and find out how he's planning to take over Japan. Menezes is a writer and layout editor here at Cracked. Follow him on Twitter.

Related Reading: Welcome to the shocking world of real conspiracies, there are plenty more where those came from. We recommend reading up on the Business Plot- the attempted fascist takeover of the United States during World War 2. Ever read a report by the Center for Consumer Freedom? Well it turns out they're just paid shills for the junk food industry. Need more conspiracies? Click this link and strap on your tinfoil hat.

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