The next time you light a match to ward off the Ghost of Chipotles Past, you should take a moment to thank John Walker. He's the English chemist who accidentally invented the friction match (presumably at a cost of one-and-a-half eyebrows). As the biggest contributor to fire technology since Oog Flintbasher, it's no surprise that his hometown, Stockton-on-Tees, is proud of his legacy. It's just the way they show that pride that needs some work ...
Science & Society Picture Library/GettyImages
This is him. No one in Stockton-on-Tees knows that.
Stockton's first attempt at a memorial was in 1893, when they installed a simple brass plaque describing Walker's achievement. Problem was, the plaque wrongly identified Walker as the inventor of the "Lucifer match," which was in fact the brand of matches that ripped off Walker's unpatented design and made a fortune from it.
In 1977, Stockton pulled together enough public donations to create a bust of Walker, because sometimes we prefer to remember our heroes without their weird-looking torsos and awkward legs.
Stockton Library Service
And from a nostril-only viewing angle.
This statue is now displayed proudly ... in a remote corner of the town's shopping mall. Why did it receive the "outdated soda machine" treatment? Because in the 1990s, it came to light that the statue depicted a completely different John Walker -- an actor who had never even visited Stockton, much less called it home. But hey, at least he didn't directly steal livelihood from the man. It's an improvement!
A Plaque "Accidentally" Honors MLK's Assassin On Martin Luther King Jr. Day
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In 2002, actor James Earl Jones was going to be honored with a special plaque at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in Lauderhill, Florida. The plaque-making job went to a Texas-based firm called Merit Industries -- a name you should note, because it's about to become painfully ironic.
The design specifications sent to Merit Industries featured photos of several influential African Americans alongside the text: "Thank you, James Earl Jones, for keeping the dream alive." Unfortunately, the final product had a bit of a typo ...
via Jet Magazine
"I have a nightmare!" -- Merit Industries PR Department
We're not sure how your fingers slip badly enough to enter "James Earl Jones" as "James Earl Ray." Perhaps Merit Industries generously employs the lobster-handed. Surely, it's a total coincidence that the man who killed Martin Luther King Jr. was also named James Earl Ray.
If you think we're just being snarky with this whole typo business -- because it clearly could not possibly be an actual typo -- think again! That's Merit Industries' official story: Vice President Herbert Miller says it was a spelling error made by an employee "who [doesn't even] speak English." You know how it is -- you hire a bunch of these minority types, and they go off accidentally changing a name in the one and only specific way that could honor a civil rights icon's murderer instead of the voice of Darth Vader. Happens all the time.
Jeff Silvers really hopes Hamburger Helper doesn't tweet about him when he's dead. Check out his blog at jeffsilvers.com.
For more questionable tributes, check out 8 Statues Of Famous People (That Look Absolutely Insane) and The 9 Most Baffling Monuments To Great People.
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