“Sure, this thing says I can’t vote, but where does it say I can’t just be president, then, huh?”
There are two kinds of historical figures in America; the ones we learn about at an early age in school, and the equally badass ones who just sort of linger in obscurity for a while until someone decides to write a movie about them. The latest figure in that latter category, based on the fact that Brie Larson is signed on to play her in a currently under-development movie from Amazon Studios, is Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president of the United States of America. Oh, no, she didn’t come close to winning, obviously, but she still stands as an impressive, and pretty quirky, American hero that might as well be saluted in these hallowed, beer-splattered halls. So here we go.
Victoria Woodhull, the First-Ever Woman Presidential Nominee, Was Kind of Badass
“Wait, without Budweiser, that means I’ll have to drink a better beer, which is literally any other beer.”
~America in 1976
Even when we’re screeching harpies hating on everything you love (which, apparently, solely consists of fucking ALDI, you goddamn lunatics of the internet) we are at least aware of the hatred we’re spewing. For example—many Americans like Budweiser. Like, they buy it, and drink it, and describe the flavor as something better than “remember that kid who would always sit alone and chew grass during recess? We’re pretty sure he’s now the brewmaster for Anheuser-Busch” and that’s fine. Let your freak flag fly, enjoy getting full before getting drunk and, we don’t know, unironically wearing trucker hats, it’s your life and do what makes you happy. We’re putting that out there because, invariably, every time we talk about Budweiser (which fucking sucks) an army of mouth breathers flock to the comments section to respond to our (correct) point (that Budweiser is trash). They say things like “Hey! Asshole! I like Budweiser!” (literally the only valid argument you have) or “Listen Mr. Fancy Beers, go back to your IPAs and your porters or whatever” (which inevitably is brought up in the articles where we never once mention IPAs or porters).
So, we know two things here. First of all, we know that we have a fun fact that most of you are unaware of. And secondly, we know that many of you will be absolutely fucking livid at the tone we take to tell you about it (that tone being “Budweiser is like if someone drank gutter water and thought ‘if only this could get me a slight buzz’”) (which is the correct tone). And we say bring it on. Budweiser is trash, no one should drink it, and for a brief moment in 1976, a group of Teamsters actually managed to make that happen. This is their story.
Unsung Heroes: The Budweiser Beer Strike of 1976
“Holy shit, I can’t believe I got killed by Uncle Fester.”
~An Actual Murderer
“Actors aren’t as tough as they used to be” sounds like a sentence you’d hear an angry old man shouting from his porch, possibly to children gliding down the sidewalk on Heelys. But there is some truth to it. Sure, a lot might have to do with the times we live in, but it’s easy to forget that Hollywood wasn’t always full of glamour and George Clooneys. The Golden Age of Hollywood was pretty much fueled by animal deaths on set and carefully regimented drug cocktails forced upon strung out teenage actresses off it, and if you managed to pull through that minefield relatively successful and sane, then you had to be made of some pretty solid stuff.
We mention that because while we (correctly) look back at groundbreaking actors such as Charlie Chaplin, John Wayne, and Humphrey Bogart as visionaries and badasses, there’s one actor who probably was the toughest son of a bitch to step in front of a camera (yes, we know that list includes Danny Trejo) if for no other reason than the fact that his childhood, we’re pretty sure, was haunted. Which probably helped him prepare for the role of Uncle Fester.
Yes, we’re going to talk about Jackie Coogan, who could totally beat you up.
Jackie Coogan: Uncle Fester Was Kind of a Badass
“Wait. His name was Alfred Mosher Butts? Are you sure? This wasn’t someone on staff fucking with Wikipedia again, was it?”
~AFFotD’s Fact Checking Team
We’ve all at one time or another played Scrabble—statistically, it’s in 1/3 of every American household, and 95% of every American grandparent household. If you haven’t played it before, you’re probably not reading this article, due to your severe and truly heartbreaking illiteracy, but on the off chance that someone told you how to use those programs that read websites out loud for blind people, we’ll throw you a bone. Scrabble is a classic American game where you form words on a grid to get points. If you said, “Oh, just like Words With Friends?” hello readers who were born after 9/11. But yes, it’s what Words With Friends ripped off. It’s a simple, yet enjoyable, game that stupid people absolutely despise for obvious reasons.
But it is an American invention. And not only that, it was invented by a man that we can’t believe isn’t better known in society. Partly because he invented an iconic game enjoyed by millions, if not billions. But also because his name was Alfred Mosher Butts! We are children, but we don’t care, we will always find that funny. So let’s talk about him!
The Inventor of Scrabble Was Actually Named Alfred Mosher Butts
Why do people keep asking me about green eggs and ham, dammit?”
America is a young enough nation that history can pretty accurately tell us about our founders, with some embellishment and omissions because if we’re being honest and cynical enough we can admit that history writers used to pretty much be the old time equivalent of PR agents. But we know a lot about the lives of the people that helped create this nation. We know about George Washington’s wooden teeth (which is a myth), we know that Benjamin Franklin flew a kite with a key on it to discover electricity (which was also probably a myth) and we know about Paul Revere riding through the streets warning “The British are coming” (also bullshit). Okay, so these are some bad examples. But the point is, the people that represent America, people like Washington, Jefferson, and Monroe, are at least historical figures that we know a decent amount about.
Which is why it’s interesting that we don’t often talk about Uncle Sam, the finger-pointing goateed patriot who is basically timeshares with bald eagles to be America’s mascot. That’s because we just assume he was an invention created to get people to support various war efforts. But most of us don’t really think much about his actual origin. Sure, you might point to Columbia or Brother Jonathan as examples of America-personifying precursors, but you’d have to be a very specific type of person to both know about those examples and want to nerd out over it. But for the rest of us, not only does Uncle Sam have a relatively rich history, but he’s actually based on a real person. So let’s talk about Samuel Wilson, the man who actually was Uncle Sam. Well, at least officially.
Samuel Wilson- The Man Who Was (More or Less) Uncle Sam
“It’s the greatest invention since sliced bread.”
~Literally every single salesperson you have ever met, every goddamn one
We take a lot of the simple things in our lives for granted. That’s just human nature—if something doesn’t look difficult, or inherently present itself as some technological triumph, we tend to assume that these have always existed. We can marvel at the technology behind, say, a smart phone, but overlook the fact that the first calculator was made in 1959, looked like this, and was able to compute less than your smart phone’s calculator app.
We’re going about this in a roundabout way, but the moral here is that many assume sliced bread has been around since, oh, roughly the same time as bread and knives co-existed, when in reality it’s a 20th century phenomenon. Yes, sliced bread was first packaged and sold in 1928, and it is an American invention. Specifically, by an enterprising Midwesterner who devoted over ten years of his life to designing and perfecting a machine to slice whole loaves of bread at once to ensure that we would forever be able to take an arduous step out of the process of making toast and sandwiches. That man, nay, that hero, was Otto Frederick Rohwedder, and this is his story.
Otto Frederick Rohwedder and the Invention of Sliced Bread
“Never con an honest John.”
~Soapy Smith (attributed)
Con artists are the criminals we hate that we love because deep down we respect them. Their biggest crimes involve outsmarting someone looking to screw them over in the first place, so it comes with a healthy sense of schadenfreude. When you rob someone, you’re forcibly stealing from them, taking what is theirs that they earned. But when you con a mark, you are letting them give you money because you’ve caught them in their greed and have found a way to take advantage of that.
Now, we’ve previously talked about cons, swindles, scams, hustles, bunkos, or what have you (we can go on all day- flimflams, gaffles, bamboozles, okay we’re done) but we’ve never really talked about the perpetrators of these crimes because, well, most of our examples of con artists come from watching movies like The Sting or, if you’re in a pinch, Matchstick Men. But that was before we heard about Soapy Smith, the 19th century con man, gambler, and crime boss with a funny name who essentially ran Denver, Creede, Colorado, and Skagway, Alaska during various periods of time and who is so respected that even today people gather for a wake in his honor on the anniversary of his death. So why not give this man a fun fact? After all, criminals are Americans too! No seriously, lots of us are criminals! Half of our staff are felons who aren’t allowed to vote!
Soapy Smith: America’s Con Artist
Posted in American Heroes, The Best of the Rest
Tagged America, con artist, con man, conning, Creede Colorado, Denver, Jeff Smith's Parlor, Klondike, Poker, Prize Package Soap Racket, shell game, Skagway, Soapy Smith, Three Card Monte, Yukon Trail
“Wait, who’s our president? What?”
~Residents of Nicaragua in the 1850s
Not all Americans were heroes, and not all Americans who did things that initially come off as badass were actually badass. What we’re trying to say is, there’s a lot of Manifest Destiny stuff that went down in the 1800s that doesn’t exactly sit well with history that many of us might not be aware of, but it is possible to at least talk about the impressive brazenness behind certain actions without condoning them.
For example—did you know that an American was briefly president of Nicaragua for about a year in the 1850s? That’s pretty interesting, isn’t it? Oh, what’s that? Uh, why did that happen? Oh, well….heeeeeee sort of wanted to take over most of Central America and turn it into a slave state affiliated with the American South. So. Yeah. Not the greatest reason. But still, interesting! Let’s talk about it!
William Walker: Not THAT Kind of Filibuster
Posted in The Best of the Rest, The Rest of Them
Tagged America, Central America, Costa Rica, Filibuster, jingoism, Manifest Destiny, Mexico, Neutrality Act of 1794, Nicaragua, Sonora, William Walker
“Why I oughta!”
Most of America (and, let’s be honest, statistically all of America’s men) love The Three Stooges and have for as long as “pointless violence without consequence” has been inexplicably hilarious for about 65% of the population. The vaudeville slapstick act was around from 1930 to 1975, though they’re best remembered for their now-syndicated short films featuring Larry, Moe and Curly from 1934 to 1947 (as well as the Larry, Moe and Shemp films that ran from 1947 to 1956 that we were always secretly disappointed to watch when they came on). Oh, there also was that Farrelly brothers movie version, which, um, well let’s just pretend that didn’t happen.
Many American childhoods have been spent watching three grown men beating on each other for no particular reason apart from “you said something dumb” or “you just asked me to hit your fist, which I will do, even though it will cause that fist to windmill around and bonk me on the head.” And while we have every right to celebrate them for all that they have done, including but not limited to filming the funniest use of eye gouging on film (followed in a distant, distant, distant second place by Game of Thrones), today we’re going to recognize that some of their films, largely through fault of their titles, and largely through the fact that these were being churned out with no regard for “a story that makes sense”, have aged somewhat awkwardly. Admittedly, no one remembers the names of any Three Stooges short, or even the plot of any individual one—our collective understanding of The Stooges begins and ends at “Moe is the boss, Curly makes the funny noises, and we guess Larry does stuff too sometimes.” That said, while thin in premise and generally serving as lazy ways to justify twenty minutes of the Stooges beating the shit out of each other, when you actually sit down and read the titles out loud, or simply stumble through a plot synopsis, a reader in 2015 might awkwardly tug at their collar and make a noise not much different than one Curly would make. So, we decided to look through the 190 shorts they managed to make in their career and cherry pick ones that we found to be especially uncomfortable-slash-hilarious. We’ve naturally listed them below for your reading pleasure.
The Most Awkward Three Stooges Films
Posted in American Heroes, Strange America, The Best of the Rest
Tagged America, Boobs in Arms, Curly, I'll Never Heil Again, Larry, Moe, Shemp Is Here Too We Guess, The Stooges, The Three Stooges, Three Little Pigskins, Three Stooges, Violent is the word for Curly, Women Haters
“Wait, you mean life ISN’T supposed to be like a Michael Bay film?”
On April 5th, 1970, two career criminals named Bobby Davis and Jack Twinning were planning on using explosives to rob an armored car in California, since action movies had yet to catch up to real life at this point. On the way to steal these explosives, Davis decided to performed an ill-advised U-turn, cutting off a military serviceman who he then threatened by brandishing a gun before fleeing when the serviceman told him that officers from the California Highway Patrol were in the area. They weren’t, but they would be, since the serviceman immediately went to a payphone (before cell phones we used to call people by, you know what, no time to explain, just roll with it) to actually get the police there to track down the crazy dude brandishing a gun on the highway. This little bit of road rage eventually lead to the Newhall massacre, a tragic event that took the lives of four young CHP officers, which at the time was the deadliest day in the history of California law enforcement, and lead to drastic overhauls in the way police officers are kept safe in this country.
We could talk about the Newhall massacre specifically, because it’s a very intense story, but it’s also a bummer to focus in on that, so instead we’re going to take a moment to tell you about the Newhall massacre through the eyes of Gary Kness, the 31-year-old former Marine who happened to drive past the shootout and think, “You know what, this is something I should probably stick my nose in.” While it was a day that was filled with tremendous sacrifice (God, we’re going to have a hard time tossing in jokes about this without feeling like dicks) Gary Kness proves the American spirit of just, straight up not giving a fuck when it comes to putting punks in their damn place.
So with a lot of hemming and hawing, we present to you…
Gary Kness: The Ultimate Badass Bystander