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 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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Unsung Heroes: The Budweiser Beer Strike of 1976

“Wait, without Budweiser, that means I’ll have to drink a better beer, which is literally any other beer.”

~America in 1976

budweiser

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

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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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