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.

Six Constitutional Amendments That Were Nearly Ratified (And Four that Still Could be)

“Hmm, a constitutional amendment against child labor? Seems a bit radical for my tastes.”

~Voters in the 1920s, apparently

constitution

The United States Constitution defines this nation more than any single document, and as a result it’s also a thing that a lot of people get really mad about sometimes, and that very few people have probably actually read all the way through. And really, what’s more American than getting pissed off about strongly defined positions you have based on nothing more than a few tidbits of information and a gut feeling? That said, it is an incredibly historically significant document, probably the most impactful pieces of government writing since, um, what, the Magna Carta? We really don’t know or care about government writing that isn’t the US Constitution, which we assure you we have not even tried to read.

Now, the most important part of the Constitution is the fact that it’s not set in stone—it can be changed. You know, that whole Amendments thing? It’s easy to forget that we can actually do that—go into our founding document and say, “You know, we don’t like this anymore, let’s change that part,” because even though we have submitted over 11,000 proposed Amendments since the founding of the nation (seriously), very few ever come close to even become a real thing. Sure, the ten year span from 1960 to 1971 saw a bunch of quick passing Amendments become a reality (The 23rd let’s Washington D.C. have Electoral College votes, the 24th has something to do with poll taxes and voting rights, the 25th solidifies presidential succession, and the 26th was arguably the most monumental, lowering the voting age to 18) but since then we’ve only had one Amendment come through, the 27th, which was originally proposed in 1789 and didn’t get ratified until 1992.

But since 1992? No amendments have really gotten close. Sometimes an Amendment will get vote on, but it’s almost always dead on arrival. In fact, it’s pretty difficult to get traction an any changes to the supreme law of our nation. For example, we almost got rid of the Electoral College in 1970. We were extremely close. It passed Congress, and it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the only reason it didn’t pass into law because the Senate filibustered it, so it never came to vote. Which made us think—are there any Amendments that actually passed, but were never ratified by states? The answer is not only yes, it’s yes to six different Amendments. And four of them could still be passed today! Which seems weird, right?

Anyway, let’s simplify legislation in a way to make any lawyer worth their salt piss themselves out of pure rage, and talk about…

Six Constitutional Amendments That Were Nearly Ratified (And Four that Still Could be)

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Teddy Roosevelt Wanted To Hunt the Snallygaster, America’s Mythical Dragon-Bird

“What’s that? A new animal I can kill? I’m IN!”

~Teddy Roosevelt

snallygaster

Compared to other, older nations, America doesn’t really have a lot in the way of monsters in our folklore. Sure, we’ve got Bigfoot, and we guess there’s the jackalope, but compared to the sheer volume of mythical creatures in stories around the world, America’s got relatively few entries in that particular genre. This isn’t too surprising—outside of Native Americans, most Americans haven’t been on this continent long enough to really nurture any good folklore. Hell, the first reported sighting of the Loch Ness Monster was 1500 years ago—considering that, it makes sense that we’ve only got a handful of random monster sightings in our history.

While the relative scarcity of American “strange monsters” doesn’t really shock us, the relative obscurity of the Snallygaster does. Because with so few things going bump in the night in America, how is everyone focusing their attention on finding some big hairy forest ape when there’s supposedly a dragon-like beast hanging around Maryland and Washington D.C.? Well Teddy Roosevelt apparently asked that very question.

Let’s talk about America’s least-talked about mythical monster then, shall we?

Teddy Roosevelt Wanted To Hunt the Snallygaster, America’s Mythical Dragon-Bird

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8 Craziest Detective Novels (Featuring Celebrity Sleuths)

“So anyway, after my divorce, everyone said I should have a hobby. Until I told them that I was planning to write a mystery novel where Alf solves crimes.”

~Some of These Writers, Basically

detectives

Mystery novels serve many important functions in American society. They’re read on our sandy beaches, they’re packed and probably not read on our family vacations, and they’re an easy way for lazy screenwriters to fast track a screenplay in Hollywood. We, as a nation, love a good mystery, be it the deductive sleuthing of Sherlock Holmes, or trying to figure out why there are used condoms in the bathroom garbage can when you and your wife have been trying for kids the last three months. If that sentence took a shocking turn, that wasn’t this feature’s writer oversharing about his debilitating divorce, it was a twist that you didn’t see coming!

Americans love mystery novels because they’re light, easy to read, enjoyable, and there’s something genuinely exciting about finding yourself shocked by an outcome you never saw coming. Which is why it is such a popular genre for not only American readers, but for American writers. We don’t have the numbers to back this up, because it’s not like we make enough money on this site to hire an actual research team, but every year roughly 900,000 mystery novels are written by recently retired business men and women who have not yet decided to take up fishing.

And sure, every once and a while we’ll get a Gone Girl out of this slurry of mid-life crises, but more often than not we’ll get someone that just goes, “Okay so it’s a mystery, but like, what if the detective was David Duchovny?”

Which, duh, if Duchovny was the detective it would have to feature aliens. Actually, there’s some nuggets there, we could make that work. So while we work on our masterpiece Murder on the X-Files Set, here’s a list of eight detective novels that have actually been published where the detectives are fictionalized versions of real-life people.

8 Craziest Detective Novels (Featuring Celebrity Sleuths)

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The Ipswich Witchcraft Trial, a.k.a. Holy Shit, We Had a Witchcraft Trial 141 Years Ago?

“Listen, we know we’re still backwards as shit right now, but we’re not ‘Witch Trials Are a Normal Thing’ Backwards, Yeesh.”

~The Year 1878

witch trial

The Salem witch trials hold a place of particular infamy in American history, a stark reminder of both the complications of our Puritan foundation as well as the sins of our hysterical forbearers. From 1692 to 1693, over 200 people were accused of witchcraft crimes, leading to the death of 25 innocent people whose only crime was “did something to piss off an asshole at some point.” But we still try to separate ourselves from these events. It was before America was America, we rationalize. It was over three hundred years ago, we say. But while the trials of Salem remain in the forefront of the American zeitgeist, we forget that there were dozens of other similar, though less widespread, witchcraft trials throughout the years. And they went on much longer than you’d think.

How late? Try the late 1800s.

Here’s the story of America’s (hopefully, but who knows the way things are going nowadays) last witchcraft trial.

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We Can Finally Visit Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park

“It’s heads. Oh thank God.”

~50% of Buckhorn Voters

buckhorn

Sometimes, Democracy doesn’t work quite the way we want it to. It’s both one of the greatest, and most frustrating, aspects of the system. Democracy doesn’t always get it “right” but, at the very least, it allows us to eventually correct our mistakes. Case in point—alcohol. As much as we drink to forget, a generation of Americans couldn’t legally buy booze for thirteen years, despite the fact that we’re pretty sure the best parts of the Constitution were written when James Madison was half in the bag. But we also eventually came to our senses, and now you can drink in most places except for random pockets of the country that we’d never want to ever go to. That’s why, after 2018 elections, we are proud to announce that, at long last…

We Can Finally Visit Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park

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The History of All Six Desks Ever Used in the Oval Office

“Fuck you I want my own goddamn desk.”

~Lyndon B. Johnson

white house desk

Years ago, in the infancy of our existence as a website, we wrote about The White House, because what is more American than having our President live a mansion where he can get his work done while having a cheeseburger sent to his room at 3AM as he drunkenly calls the President of Greece to tell him that Ouzo sucks? But we didn’t really devote a lot of time to the actual Oval Office, where shit gets done.  And when we think of the one defining feature of the Oval Office (other than the shape, smartass), we think of the desk where the President sits and, we can say this with absolute certainty, farts at least a few times a day.

The President’s desk is ornate, and “presidential” and, somewhat shockingly, usually shared. In fact, in the whole history of the White House, there have only been six desks used in the Oval Office, many shared by Presidents with very different ideologies who somehow have managed to avoid carving dicks in the wood as a gift to their successors. We’re amazed they had the restraint. We wouldn’t have. If we had to give our desk to the guy replacing us, it’d be dick central. You couldn’t find a spot on the thing that didn’t have dicks.

This article is not going to be about dicks carved into White House furniture. It is, however about…

The History of All Six Desks Ever Used in the Oval Office

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Jackie Mitchell: The Seventeen-Year-Old Girl Who (Probably Legitimately) (Shut Up Let Us Have This) Struck Out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig

“Why, hell, they were trying, damn right. Hell, better hitters than them couldn’t hit me. Why should they’ve been any different?”

~Jackie Mitchell, Throwing Shade at Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig

jackie mitchell

In every way, outside of the action on the field for like 95% of games, baseball is the most exciting American sport. Well, that might not be true, but the history of baseball is definitely more fascinating than the history of any other sport. At least it’s fascinating to us. We’ve got an entire section of all the crazy hijinks that happened in early American baseball history. So why did it take us this long to talk about the teenage girl that struck out two of the best batters of all time? Well, because it happened forever ago, sorry, we’re not all-knowing wizards with encyclopedic knowledge of every single instance of American lore, or at least we recognize that we aren’t when we’re mostly sober.

But yes! Jackie Mitchell, when she was just seventeen years of age, somehow managed to strike out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. That’s a thing that happened. And we’re going to have to talk about it.

Jackie Mitchell: The Seventeen-Year-Old Girl Who (Probably Legitimately) (Shut Up Let Us Have This) Struck Out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig

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The (Complicated) American History of Mac and Cheese

“This is as delicious as it is problematic.”

~Historians Eating Mac and Cheese

mac and cheese

Mac and cheese. Macaroni and cheese. Mac dog and the cheeser. Two of these are socially recognized and accepted terms for the classic, theoretically simple dish that combines cooked macaroni with a cheese sauce to create an addictive meal. Mac and cheese has recently seen a surge in respectability, as the blue box dinners of our childhood have been replaced by high end ingredients such as truffles, lobster, or whatever the fuck this is. But before it was a fancy source of carbs, even before it was the only thing you’d eat as a kid, mac and cheese was a high end dish eaten elusively by the wealthy during the formative years of our nation. It’s history is complicated, as is just about everything from the 18th century, but it at least offers a glimpse into the lives of our founding fathers.

So we’re going to dumb it down as much as possible and toss in swears and bad jokes to kind of skirt around the whole “slavery” thing when we tell you about…

The (Complicated) American History of Mac and Cheese

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An Incomplete List of Every Strange, Surprising, or Altogether Weird Names on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Part 2- Much, Much, Much Less Famous, but Equally Confusing Entries)

“What do you mean no one knows who I am anymore? I got a star on the Walk of Fame, dammit!”

~Wesley Ruggles

holly wood star

Last week, we posted an article about famous celebrities who have a star on the Walk of Fame that maybe, just maybe, proved that getting a star has less to do with your achievements and more to do with your willingness to find someone to spend $40,000 on the damn thing. But despite the amount of shit we gave Bobby Flay for his Hollywood star, all the people included in our first article were at least some amount of famous to today’s culture.

But Hollywood has been around for a while, and let’s just say that not all the stars on the Walk of Fame have aged particularly gracefully. So for our second Hollywood Walk of Fame article, we will focus on people who, sure, may have been big deals a half century ago, but now simply elicit blank stares of, “…Who?” when we come across their name today. Consider this, we don’t know, a history lesson or something.

An Incomplete List of Every Strange, Surprising, or Altogether Weird Names on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Part 2- Much, Much, Much Less Famous, but Equally Confusing Entries)

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The Original Little Rascals Cast Was Probably Cursed?

“Okay guys, I don’t know who decided to write this article, but I’ve doubled our whiskey rations for it. Things are about to get bleak.”

~AFFotD Editor-in-Chief, Johnny Roosevelt

 little rascals

Our Gang helped define an entire era of early Hollywood entertainment. From 1922 through 1944, the franchise, which you may know better as The Little Rascals, put out 220 short films and one film, featuring 41 child actors during that span. They remain such an important cultural touchstone that we even decided to revisit the characters in a 1994 motion picture (which, like, did only okay). But when we started looking into the actors who played iconic characters such as Spanky and Buckwheat and Alfalfa, we discovered something a little…perturbing.

That cast is haunted, guys.

Sure, snopes has weighed in on this to preemptively tell us we’re wrong. But we’re not. To prove so, we’re going to talk about the early, non-natural demises of original cast members in what promises to be our most depressing article yet. We excluded things like overdoses and people who got heart attacks in their 50s because, well, we just don’t want to write a bunch of jokes about that kind of stuff today.

But we’ll leave it to you once you’ve seen the evidence. Was the original Little Rascals cast cursed?

(Yes they fucking were.)

The Original Little Rascals Cast Was Probably Cursed?

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