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 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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The History of the Senior Professional Baseball Association

“Even to make love, you need experience.”

~Pedro Ramos, 54-year-old pitcher for the Senior Professional Baseball Association.  Seriously.

legends baseball

As a nation, we have more options for live sporting events then we know what to do with.  Between high school, college, and professional levels of football, baseball, basketball, and sure, hockey, Americans could conceivably see a live sporting event every single day of the year without even having to consider lowering themselves to watch a Major League Soccer match.  But with so many games at our disposal, we’ve reached a bit of a saturation point, and trying to add another league to the market is practically impossible.  Remember the XFL?  A multi-millionaire tried to make a new football league, and even with a player named “He Hate Me” basically got laughed out of existence in less than a year.

It’s hard to start a sporting league now and really get enough interest to keep it in existence.  Never was that more obvious than in 1989 when real-estate millionaire Jim Morley decided to start the Senior Professional Baseball Association.  What’s the SPBA, you ask?  Well, unfortunately for those of us that have to type it out, they didn’t call it that.  It went by “The Senior League.”  But the Senior League was a short lived (it lasted one-and-a-half seasons) winter professional baseball league that took place entirely in Florida with players who had to be older than 35 (except the catchers, who could be 32).  And it is probably one of the most delightfully batshit leagues to have ever been played in these United States.  So let’s go on a history lesson, shall we?

The History of the Senior Professional Baseball Association

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5 Super Bowl Halftime Performances That Have Aged Horribly

“Oh thank God, now I can go to the bathroom.”

~Super Bowl viewers during the halftime show

black eyed peas super bowl

Hey!  The Super Bowl is just a few days away!  It’s the one time of the year where you absolutely know, unequivocally, that you’re going to be suffering at work the following Monday, and you know it’ll be absolutely worth it.  Super Bowl Sunday is a day filled with the beer and snacks and a statistically-probably-underwhelming football game, and it’s the closest to a live national spectacle as you can find in this fine nation.  Everyone watches the Super Bowl, everyone has stronger than necessary opinions about the importance or unimportance of Super Bowl commercials, and everyone wishes that the party they were at had 30 bathrooms once the Super Bowl Halftime show begins, because the only person who actually gives a shit about the Super Bowl Halftime show is your friend’s girlfriend that no one in your group of friends really likes, who is really into Katy Perry to the point that it’s kind of uncomfortable.

Otherwise, the Halftime Show is an extremely expensive spectacle that’s just a waste of fucking time.  The phenomenon of people looking for something more interesting to watch during Halftime directly contributed to the existence of both the Puppy Bowl and a women-in-lingerie football league that still exists to this day.  However, the Halftime Show does serve as an interesting indicator of our nation’s culture.  Like, in the mid 00’s we were terrified of breasts on live television, so we went with safe performances by old rockers in their 50s and 60s.  Last year, we were way into uncoordinated sharks, apparently.  There are a lot of memorable Super Bowl Halftime performances.  And there are also the Black Eyed Peas, but we managed to get drunk enough by halftime that year that we blissfully have no memory of it.

What we’re trying to say is that Super Bowl Halftime Shows are very much a product of their times.  Sometimes that can prove to be ageless, like Michael Jackson destroying the Rose Bowl at the peak of his stardom.  And sometimes…well, sometimes you get…

5 Super Bowl Halftime Performances That Have Aged Horribly

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The National League Blacklisting of 1881

“Listen, we’re just sort of winging this as we go along.”

~1800s Major League Baseball Commissioners

hubert

We’ve been talking a lot about baseball in the past several months, which comes as a bit of a surprise considering that the sport is a topic we have very rarely discussed over the past four years.  Yes, it’s America’s Pastime, but it’s also kind of boring from an outside perspective.  But we stumbled upon something when looking up the silliest Major League Baseball team names that we could find during their early years—before baseball was a bankable commodity, they pretty much let anyone pick up a bat and play for (not much) money.  That led to crazy ballplayers, goofy names, and that one time where a guy got paid a full professional baseball salary to show up to an empty stadium every day and play himself in a disbanded league.

Baseball during the 19th, and somewhat during the start of the 20th, century was at times hilariously inept, completely marginalized, and interesting as fuck.  So we’re going to look into our high tech time machine (read as: Googling shit while drunk) to bring you another chapter from the early annals of America’s most interesting sport that involves players standing still for the majority of each game.

The National League Blacklisting of 1881

 chicagos 1881 Continue reading