Category Archives: Obscure American History

America’s only been around for a hundred years or so (we’re bad at counting) but in that time it’s managed to accomplish an incredible amount of amazing feats. We’ve also done a lot of weird shit. Here’s where you can find your most obscure moments in the history of our fine nation.

The House of David: The Religious Commune That Took Baseball By Storm

“Let me write an article or I’ll kill your family.”

~Cal Van Buren

It’s widely believed that in order to become a writer for America Fun Fact of the Day, you must first survive the whiskey challenge (drink a bunch of whiskey), then the hot dog challenge (eat a bunch of hot dogs), then the murder someone without asking questions challenge (RIP Dan Bilzerian).

And that’s pretty much true. But our latest writer to pass that test is our newest editor, Cal Van Buren, who decided to tell you about the House of David.  We’ll let Cal take it from here as he tells you about the crazy religious communes, baseball, and hair hair HAIR.  Enjoy.

The House of David: The Religious Commune That Took Baseball By Storm

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Ranking the Ridiculous Food Items That Might Be Added to the 2017 Menu of the West Michigan Whitecaps Class A Baseball Team

“We will let you choose what gives you your next heart attack.”

~The Western Michigan Whitecaps’ Food Director

whitecaps

We’ve talked about Minor League Baseball before—specifically, how the menus at Minor League Baseball stadiums tend to be what you might call “eccentric” if you weren’t allowed to use the term “batshit fucking insane what, really, WHAT!?” among polite company.  It makes sense—there’s not necessarily a lot of star power in most minor league games, so owners try to bring in fans with fun gimmicks, which can include wrapping a cheese filled bratwurst with sausage, then bacon, and frying the fucker.  That wasn’t just us making up some random over the top example, that fucking exists.

Which brings us to the Western Michigan Whitecaps, a Single-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers who play, and stay with us because this is confusing, at the Fifth Third Ballpark in the Grand Rapids suburb of Comstock Park.  Yes, we know, our heads hurt too.  Anyway, they take the tradition of “let’s serve crazy shit to fans” to the next level, and since 2009 they have provided fans with a series of food options that they can vote for, with the winner being sold in the stadium for the next season.

Now if you plan on voting, you can do so here, but you don’t want to make this decision uninformed.  So we’re going to go through each potential menu item, giving you a systematic breakdown of each insane item, before telling you what the best option is.  Ready?  Here we go!

Ranking the Ridiculous Food Items That Might Be Added to the 2017 Menu of the West Michigan Whitecaps Class A Baseball Team

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The Beautiful Mess That Was The 1925 NFL Season

“Um, we still don’t really know how championships should work?”

~1925 NFL Officials

 1925-trophy

As we’ve discussed previously, when the NFL was getting off the ground, things were patently ridiculous.  That’s not too surprising—frankly, the early days of any professional sports league looks silly in retrospect.  By the sixth season of the league’s existence, things were starting to settle somewhat, but clearly they still had some growing pains.  In fact, 1925 might very well be the most absurd season in NFL history.  And no matter what you thought of last week’s Super Bowl (WHY DIDN’T YOU RUN THE BALL MORE ATLANTA), at least you know that the Patriots are the top team in the league this year (SHUT UP BOSTON FANS).  1925 did not have that luxury.  Let’s take a dive, shall we.

The Beautiful Mess That Was The 1925 NFL Season

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The First Season of the NFL was Ridiculous

“You can’t both be called the Tigers.  Or you can.  Whatever.  We’re kind of making this up as we go along.”

~Jim Thorpe, the first president of the NFL

football

The NFL is part of our nation’s DNA, exhibiting everything we stand for.  Teamwork.  Perseverance.  Struggle.  Old white men punishing people when they dance too much in celebration.  A shocking inability to properly handle domestic abuse.  And, of course, Tom Brady’s cleft chin.  Imagining America without football is almost impossible.  What would we do with our winter Sundays?  Football is in the bible, you guys.  “On the seventh day, the Lord kicked back a 12 pack on his recliner and watched NFL Red Zone with a close eye on his fantasy team.”

We think.  Listen, just like most Americans, we like to use the bible to make our point, despite not having really “read it.”  But we digress.

The point is, as much as we assume that football has always been with us, there was a time when the league was brand new and very, very ridiculous.  So let’s hop in a time machine of words and go back to 1920, where the first season of a National Football League took place.  It was sloppy as hell.

The First Season of the NFL was Ridiculous

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Ray Caldwell: The Alcoholic Lightning Rod of Major League Baseball

“*gets hit by lightning*  *chugs a beer*  Don’t worry guys, I’m good.”

~Ray Caldwell

ray-caldwell

Most history curriculums are pretty bad at telling us about the crazy things that have actually happened in the world, if you think about it.  Sure, McCarthyism during the Cold War is “something we should know” but how come no one talks about the time we tried to build a military base on the moon in 1959?  Hell, even when history tries to get edgy (like, for instance, the existence of Teddy Roosevelt) it somehow manages to leave out some of the best parts (like how his daughter was a pet-snake keeping badass).  This goes double for history.  We know about Babe Ruth and his philandering, boozy ways, but we don’t know about the pure insanity that was Charlie Sweeney.  Likewise, everyone and their mother knows at least the name “Cy Young” when it comes to pitchers, but was Cy Young an alcoholic who once was struck by lightning during a game that he stayed in and finished?  We didn’t think so.

So we here at America Fun Fact of the Day have decided to do history a favor and help them spice things up a bit by telling you a little bit about Ray Caldwell, one of the most badass pitchers to ever play professional baseball, and one of the few people who can give Charlie Sweeney a run for his money.

Ray Caldwell: The Alcoholic Lightning Rod of Major League Baseball

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The 5 Best Presidential Pets in American History

“Squack, I’ll keep whatever pet I goddamn well please, squack.”

~Andrew Jackson’s Pet Parrot

Horse

It’s almost an unwritten rule that America’s President take care of a pet during their stay in the White House, even if the only reason is that having a pet is a good way to make the man with more power than anyone else in the free world just a tad bit more relatable.  And also because pets are adorable.  Currently, the White House is home to two Portuguese Water Dogs, and dogs and cats are pretty typical presidential pets because they’re pretty typical regular pets.  But that’s not always the case.  Throughout our nation’s histories, some presidents have decided, “I’m the President, goddamn it, I can choose any pet I want” before taking care of the best and most insane pets ever.

Here are five times that American Presidents thought a bit outside the box when it came to pets.

The 5 Best Presidential Pets in American History

yooooo

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6 of the Goofiest American Names From the 19th Century

“It’s like an entire century decided to find a name funnier than Seymour Butts.”

~American Historians Looking at Goofy American Names

pete la cock

In the past, when we spent time looking into baseball players of the 19th century to find some really goofy name, it was primarily to talk about how silly, yet delightful, the Wild Wild West days of early Major League Baseball truly was.  But the more we thought about it, the more we wondered—what if it wasn’t just baseball players that had strange, laughable names back then?  What if the era was responsible for ridiculous names more than just the sport of baseball?  It seemed plausible, and so we did a little digging (read as—we found a list on tumblr and did some googling to make sure the names weren’t just made up).  And because very little gives us more joy in life than making fun of people whose parents really should not have tried to get “creative” coming up with a word to describe a human for their whole fucking life, we’re going to make fun of some names that are goofier than your name.

Except for you, Brandalynn.  Your name is white trash garbage.

6 of the Goofiest American Names From the 19th Century

fucking brandalynn

Oh for fuck’s sake, it’s a gender neutral name too?

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The Bermuda Gunpowder Plot

“Well, we’re not NOT stealing gunpowder.”

~Colonel Henry Tucker

bermuda stamp

Bermuda is a small island nation some 600 miles off the coast of North Carolina  primarily known for the fact that planes and boats historically like to disappear around it.  But, it also has impacted history with America more than just being responsible for the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly (that was a Bermuda Triangle thing, right?).  Bermuda was colonized with the British around the same time we were, and while they’re still technically a British Overseas Territory, they have a shared history with America, and have even been known to help us out on occasion.

One such occasion was the Bermuda Gunpowder Plot of 1775, where America’s young revolution was aided by some Bermudians who decided to shout, “Fuck you, dad” to all of the United Kingdom.

The Bermuda Gunpowder Plot

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The Dole Air Race: Crash and Burn, Repeat

“*crashes and dies horribly*”

~The average airplane pilot in the 1920s

crashed plane

On the grand scale of human endeavors, we as a species have only recently mastered the art of flight.  We’ve been able to stay in the air in a contraption of our own design for only a little over 100 years at this point, and we’re still trying to work out the kinks (consider- Spirit Airlines).  But in the early days of flight, we really had no clue what the hell we were doing.  Like, at all.  Flying was something done by a very select group of crazy people with a death wish—listen, Amelia Earhart was a pioneer and an inspiration and blah blah blah, but it’s safe to say that part of her legacy comes from the fact that she partook in a profession that all but guaranteed that we’d never got to see what she looked like as an old lady.  The fact that Charles Lindbergh lived to be 72 is almost as shocking as the fact that he had a secret Nazi family.

The early days in aviation were filled with daring attempts to do something that had never been done before using planes that were made out of balsa wood, fabric, and a lot of praying.  The ambition often exceeded the technology, and when we weren’t trying to milk sky cows, we were trying to fly to parts of the world that we had no right trying to fly to.

Which sets the scene for 1927, when James D. Dole, the “he actually was called this” Pineapple King, decided he would sponsor an air race from Oakland to Hawaii, a trip that had never been successfully flown before.  The Dole Air Race that followed would end up going down in history as one of America’s finest and most tragic moments of “What the fuck did you think would happen?”  Just always remember- the reason you are alive today is that your great-grandparents did not try to fly airplanes in 1927.

The Dole Air Race:  Crash and Burn, Repeat

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Project Horizon: The Time We Tried To Build A Military Base On The Moon

“A Realistic Objective.”

~An Actual Section of a 1959 Proposal To Establish A Permanent Moon Base by 1966.

project horizon

The Space Race was definitely one of the coolest and silliest parts of the entire Cold War.  Two Superpowers were tossing around ungodly sums of money to try to make the other nation look stupid due to not being as good at making really cool toys, but it was dealt with an honest-to-God level of severity that equated “Russia going to the moon before we do” as being probably an inevitable lead up to complete nuclear annihilation.  Baby Boomers get a lot of (mostly deserved) flack for constantly complaining about how Millennials, and pretty much every younger generation, had it so much easier than they did and they take things for granted, but we’ll give them this—if we spent our entire childhoods with nuclear weapons literally pointed at our homes so often that we became this numb to the destruction of society, we’d probably feel it was within our rights to complain about how much people use smartphones now, too.

Anyway, when we talk about the existentially terrifying realities of the Cold War, the space race at least feels kind of innocent and, well, awesome.  Sure, a lot of it has to do with the fact that we won (USA! USA!) but also because it was about science for the sake of invention, and not finding new, horrific ways to nuke each other into the stone age.  The two most powerful economies at the time spent decades funneling obscene amounts of money into discovering more about our universe, and even when that didn’t always end up as incredible achievements in space travel such as these bad boys, it still resulted in us exploring every planet of the galaxy while accidentally coming up with some useful technology that we use to this day like laptops, dustbusters, and whatever technologies are on the second page of the article we just linked (we were too lazy to get past the first page).

That is to say, the Space Race represented American (and, ugh, occasionally Russian) ingenuity and a passion for discovery that transcended the whole, “Holy shit, we as a species survived more than five years of Lyndon B. Johnson having the ability to nuke the entire planet” scariness of that era.  But the space race wasn’t all about peacefully sticking a middle finger in Communist Russia’s face by planting a flag on the moon and shouting, “FIRST!”  We also had some sinister, if not very realistic, plans on using space for our military advantage.  Like the time we tried to build a military base on the moon.

Project Horizon: The Time We Tried To Build A Military Base On The Moon

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