21 Facts About America The Weird
This week started with the Fourth of July, so we've been thinking a lot about Independence Day, both the holiday and the movie. About a lot of American movies actually, but also a lot of American history.
America started with people wanting to rule themselves, and continued with people randomly declaring their own countries. We've had the Wild West and the Great Depression and more than one presumed apocalypse. We've had strange presidents, both real and fictional, and the land keeps trying to kill us, but it's still pretty fun.
Here's a look back at the facts we learned this week. The links all lead to full articles with much more info, so click every one that interests you, or you will be exiled to outer space.
1. In 1844, Americans sold all of their stuff because Jesus was coming back.
At least, people thought Jesus was coming back, based on one preacher's prediction. Jesus' failure to return is known as The Great Disappointment.
2. Pretty much everything we know about cowboys is a lie.
Tombstone had stricter gun control in 1881 during the OK Corral fight than it does today.
3. Teddy Roosevelt liked to walk around on stilts.
He had to warn his son, though, not to walk on stilts through the White House flower beds.
4. A president died eating a Fourth of July dessert.
Zachary Taylor ate cherries and iced milk, then stomach pains set in, and he died days later. Still worth it.
5. Independence Day got its title and theme to screw another movie over.
They were just going to call it Doomsday and have no patriotism theme, but they advanced the release date and centered the film on July 4 to beat Mars Attacks.
6. Independence Day looks so good because they blew up real models.
7. One weird guy tried to set up an independent nation in one corner of Florida.
He declared himself Director-General of the Creek Nation. No Creek people asked for this.
8. America's first World's Fair was so popular, one-quarter of everyone in the country came by.
10 million people attended, and this was all the way in 1876.
9. More Revolutionary War people died on New York prison ships than in battle.
In fact, more than twice as many people died this way, as prisoners-of-war, than in combat.
10. A Civil War cannonball killed a guy (in 2008).
He used a drill to clean gunk off the ball, and a spark set the fuse alight and blew him up.
11. A disproportionate number of astronauts were boy scouts or girl scouts.
11 out of 12 people to walk on the Moon were scouts as kids, and even when you look at astronauts overall, the figure's around 2 out of 3.
12. "You're gonna need a bigger boat" was an inside joke, about the Jaws production.
13. 24 features 11 different presidents during its run.
The timeline is impossible to keep straight, and only one of these presidents (David Palmer, the guy Jack has to save right at the start of the series) presides for a full term.
14. US national parks had to change their rules about bears when grizzlies finally killed two people in one night.
The attacks were unrelated and miles apart, though the victims both happened to be 19-year-old blonde women.
15. A thief robbed George Washington's grave (and grabbed the wrong skull).
The estate fired a gardener, and he tried to steal the president's skull out of revenge.
16. Spam debuted during the Great Depression.
It's hard to imagine the meat product being a success if people got their first taste of it during less desperate times.
17. In 1941, comic fans read of a hero named Fighting Yank.
18. The first native the Pilgrims met asked 'Where's the beer?'
He said this in English, having already learned the language from previous English settlers.
19. Pabst Blue Ribbon has unveiled the world's largest pack of beer, containing 1,844 cans.
It costs $850, which is probably $850 too much.
20. Downtown Seattle was built on top of the original city.
Literally on top—20 feet up, while the original city remains visible underground.
21. In 1910, Americans thought Halley's comet was a doomsday event.
Thanks to an astronomer's claims being taken out of context, people feared the comet would surround us with poison gas. They took (questionable) precautions accordingly.