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.

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 Mac and cheese has recently seen a surge in respectability, as the blue box dinners of our childhood have been replaced by high end ingredients such as truffles, lobster, or whatever the fuck this is.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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Chang and Eng Bunker Were America’s Original Siamese Twins

“But how did they…you know…”

Trust Us, We’ve Been Wondering the Same Thing, All We’ve Got Are Theories at This Point

chang and eng

We as a species have been making humans for long enough that we’ve mostly got the kinks worked out. Two people get sweaty together, nine months later a new person comes out, and typically that person has a set number of fingers, toes and, like, bones.  Listen we’re not biologists or whatever, but you get the point.  However, sometimes that whole process doesn’t exactly work out as intended, which is what happened to Chang and Eng Bunker, two Thai-Americans born in the early 19th century.  Specifically, their number of fingers, toes and, like, bones…well, sort of doubled. Yes, as you’ve probably figured out from the picture just above this inelegant paragraph, Chang and Eng Bunker were conjoined twins.  Actually, they’re kind of the reason why conjoined twins are called Siamese twins, and will be about 75% of the time no matter how angry you get about it online. Despite being born in a time and place with the odds stacked against them in the most impressive way possible, they actually ended up living a full and American life.  They pretty much represented the American Dream (okay but with more slave owning, *cringe*).

Here’s their story.

Chang and Eng Bunker Were America’s Original Siamese Twins

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Victoria Woodhull, the First-Ever Woman Presidential Nominee, Was Kind of Badass

“Sure, this thing says I can’t vote, but where does it say I can’t just be president, then, huh?”

~Victoria Woodhull

victora woodhall

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

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The Brief Existence of Franklin, America’s Craziest State

“Fine, if you won’t let us be a state, we’ll do our own thing.”

~Citizens of Franklin       

franklin map

Americans (ourselves absolutely included) are garbage at geography.  Our hypothesis for this is that we’ve had to learn the name and (relative) location of 50 states, and that’s just a lot of names and places to process.  America’s pretty big, you know.  People from other countries should learn to give us a break.  But this is not an article about geography (thank God), but rather, about how we very nearly had 51 states that we would have been forced to memorize in grade school.

This is the story of Franklin, the almost-14th state of the United States of America, who paid government officials in deer pelts.

The Brief Existence of Franklin, America’s Craziest State

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The Crash at Crush: That One Time We Established a City So We Could Smash Two Trains Together

“Smashy Smashy”

~William George Crush

crush

The only person who loves staging a pointless, violent spectacle out of sheer boredom more than an American is an American in the 19th century.  We’re talking about a population that actually gathered around to look at re-assembled trees for entertainment.  They probably needed the Internet more than any other population in American history.  You know how bad it was back then?  Someone said, “Let’s set up a fake city just so we can crash to trains into each other really fast and invite everyone to watch it” and 40,000 people said, “That is badass!”

Actually, come to think of it, that is pretty badass.  Well, until everything exploded.  We’ll get to that in a bit.

The Crash At Crush: That One Time We Established a City So We Could Smash Two Trains Together

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The 1913 Indianapolis 500 (Was Drunk and on Fire)

“What, you mean you DON’T race drunk on champagne in cars on fire anymore?”

~1913 Drivers

indy 500 1913

The Indianapolis 500, a Triple Crown of Motorsport race, stands as one of America’s oldest and most prestigious opportunities for people to drive cars really fast in a circle for a few hours.  As dangerous as braving breakneck speeds for the chance at a large payday can be for drivers, when the race was first run in 1911, early car technology made it an even crazier proposition.  Automobiles were relatively new in the early 20th century, and things like “seatbelts” or “anything to give off the semblance of safety” were laughably foreign concepts.

For the first two years of its existence, the Indianapolis 500 was only driven by Americans, and won by Americans, which we here at American Fun Fact of the Day generally approve of.  But we’re here to talk about the 1913 Indy 500, because even though it was won by a French person (booo) it featured fires, booze, and broken limbs, which pretty much describes our typical Staff holiday party.  So strap in (because the drivers of this race couldn’t) and open a bottle of champagne (which the drivers of this race could) and get ready to take in some American history.

The 1913 Indianapolis 500 (Was Drunk and on Fire)

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The History of The Adventures of MC Skat Kat and the Stray Mob

“Hahaha, the late 80s and early 90s were a MESS.”

~AFFotD’s Historian

mc skat cat

Everyone loved the 1989 music video for Opposites Attract when it came out, even though it has aged about as gracefully as Laura Flynn Boyle.  For those of you too young to remember the music video’s popularity (or those of you too wired on cocaine to remember those years), it was a duet between Paula Abdul and a cartoon cat named “MC Skat Kat” voiced by “The Wild Pair.”  As with most things that happened between 1988 and 1992, we have to go out of our way to confirm that, yes, this was a thing that actually happened, and no, we’re not making this up.  Our staff has long since drunk away any semblance of creativity, so trust us, making up something this comically stupid is beyond us.

The song shot up to #1 on the charts, and because music executives are as [redacted] as they are [redacted again, seriously they’ve threatened to sue us if we publish this analogy] they decided they were going to cash in (or should we say kash in) on the popularity of this groovy hip hop kat who raps about staying out and partying by giving him his own album.

So in 1991, the same year that N.W.A. disbanded, the album The Adventures of MC Skat Kat and the Stray Mob was released on Virgin Records.  It was produced by Paula Abdul, had a comically “this is how the young kids talk nowadays right?” press release attached to it, and it is awful.

Let’s talk about it.

The History of The Adventures of MC Skat Kat and the Stray Mob

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