Category Archives: 19th Century Factoids

What was life like in the 1800s? Well, pretty shitty for about 99.99% of Americans. But we still managed to find ways to make it interesting at the very least.

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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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 Great Moon Hoax of 1835

The Eggnog Riot Happened, And Was Absurd

“Ain’t no party like a West Point party ‘cause a West Point party’s got drunks.”

~Jefferson Davis

eggnog riot

As long as there has been Christmas, there have been Christmas parties.  And as long as there have been Christmas parties, there have been Christmas parties where you wake up the next morning thinking ugh, what have I done?  But we can say with relative certainty that even your worst drunken office shenanigans paled in comparison to what happened at the United States military Academy in West Point on 1826 because, as much as you shouldn’t have made out with your office’s married secretary, at least you never had a Christmas party go so bad it caused a fucking mutinous riot.  Let’s talk history, people.

The Eggnog Riot Happened, And Was Absurd

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The Medal of Honor from 1871-1917: The Military Honor America Couldn’t Seem To Give Away Fast Enough

“No, seriously, you have to stop printing these like Thin Mints.  What’s it gonna take, an actual major war to make you chill?”

~Smedley Butler, trying to turn down a Medal of Honor in the early 20th century

medal of honor

We’re going to start this one off with a disclaimer—any claims we make regarding the Medal of Honor is a reflection of how politicians and military leaders handed out the honor before we really had any intense modern wars under our belt.  Our servicemen that fought in the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, or the many other excursions where they have put their lives on the line for their brothers and for their country have paid dearly for our benefit, and every single recipient of the Medal of Honor can, at worst, be called a hero (at best they can be called “basically Batman, if Batman could get free beer and deserved gratitude sex whenever they want”).

Even when we make fun of the skirmishes that resulted in Medals of honor being handed out during the time period of 1869 (when we had kind of forgotten what the Civil War was like) to 1917 (when we started World War I and realized, holy shit, this shit is super intense), we’re acknowledging that the soldiers who were awarded did show valor and a love of this country.  They just happened to get an award that was handed out to pretty much anyone who asked for it up until recently.  Let’s put it this way—Congress gave out 1522 Medal of Honors in the Civil War, of which 32 were posthumous.  Now, the American Civil War was a bloody and bitterly fought war, but when you consider the fact that we awarded only 464 during the entirety of World War II (266 posthumously by the way), or that we’ve only given out 16 (7 of which were to fallen soldiers) of these awards in the Afghanistan and Iraqi War combined, you can see how we’ve increasingly made the honor harder and harder to get.  The Congressional Medal of Honor, as we know it know, is the most prestigious and rare award for those who have gone above and beyond their duty to keep freedom within these borders—for those of you with a loose idea of what military action generally means, this is the award a soldier gets when doing something so brave and so intense that, if you saw it in a movie, you’d respond, “Oh, come on, the director’s really taking some liberties with this battle to make it seem more exciting.”

So currently, yes, the Medal of Honor is given out only in the most extraordinary and harrowing cases , but during the time period between the end of the Civil War and start of World War I?  Well, at that point it was more…

The Medal of Honor from 1871-1917: The Military Honor America Couldn’t Seem To Give Away Fast Enough

 more medals of honor

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Elm Farm Ollie: America’s Flying Milking Cow

“What’s the use of flying if you can’t even milk a cow on a plane?”

What?  Bob, are you having a stroke?

“Blast the monkey jam, Betty!”

~Transcript from 1930 International Air Exposition planning meeting

ollie the flying cow

You are blessed to live in a time where it’s actively difficult to be truly bored.  No, we know that any combination of events, from work meetings to being stuck in traffic can leave you “bored” but none of you have experience real boredom, in the same way that you’ve been hungry before but not actively starving.  We have the internet to distract us, we carry tiny computers in our pockets that can call people and play stupid but additive games, and apparently radio and television are things that people still kind of use when they don’t want to pay for premium Spotify accounts or Netflix.

We point this out because in the early 1900’s, that was not the case at all.  The human mind needs to be distracted, and when all you have is books and a lot of public shaming regarding masturbation, you’re going to seek out some pretty desperate ways to entertain yourself.  That’s as close to a segue as we’re going to get so we’ll just go ahead and tell you what this article is going to be about.

This is about the first time a cow was ever milked mid-air.

[awkward pause]

[howling wind]

America was a lot easier entertained in 1930, okay guys?  Let’s dive into this.

Elm Farm Ollie:  America’s Flying Milking Cow

 elm farm ollie

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The Toledo War: That One Time We Had States Go to War and Shoot at Each Other or Something

“No no no I want it I WANT IT!”

~Michigan and Ohio representatives

toledo strip

While we spend most of our time fixating on our general awesomeness, Americans often forget that we are one of the most diverse countries in the world, both ethnically and ideologically.  When you take a moment and consider the vast differences in language and  culture in Europe, it’s not surprising that individual states in America, which could fit most of Europe within its borders, might have some different views than their neighbors.  It’s why people from Massachusetts give New Yorkers a hard time, why most sports rivalries exist, and why if you put a Californian in a room with a Texan for thirty minutes, neither will emerge alive, sort of like putting two Siamese fighting fish in the same tank.

Now, we tend to dismiss rivalries between states because, in the grand scheme of thing, they’re just little local quirks of a particular part of the nation.  Take Michigan and Ohio, for example.  Those of you who follow College Football (read as: actual Americans) know that the University of Michigan and THE (ugh) Ohio State University have an institutionalized hatred for each other that most people reserve for the producers of the Twilight franchise.  If you met someone from Michigan or Ohio, you make some joke at the other state’s expense, and they’d roll their eyes and go, “Ugh, yeah, fuck those guys.”  That’s just how Americans identify with their local community, and it’s all in good fun.  Naturally, we try not to take this too far into “irrational grudges” territory, because that’s just counterproductive.  Ha, it’s not like we’ve ever had states go to war and shoot at each other or anything.

Oh wait, what’s that?  What are you doing, article title?

The Toledo War:  That One Time We Had States Go to War and Shoot at Each Other or Something

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The Fenian Brotherhood: Invading Canada, From America, For Ireland

“Ha ha, guys, what are you doing?  Come on, stop that.”

~American and Canadian Forces, 1866

fenian

For years, we’ve treated Canada like our polite, little brother to the North.  They’re friendly, they send over some comedians we like, and excluding the time they killed the Baldwin family in the South Park movie, they’ve been an adequate ally and neighbor.  We tend to forget that they’re technically still a Commonwealth of England, with the Queen on their currency and everything, but we don’t really care about that, since we’ve not really had a beef with England since they burned down our White House and we were forced to replace it with a much more kickass presidential residence.

Now, while Canada has never really done anything wrong by us, England does have its fair share of people pissed off at them.  Like, say, the Irish.  Oh yeah, the Irish have a very sticky history with England and, well, there’s no nuanced way to say this so we’ll just spit it out—a bunch of Irish Americans invaded Canada as a “fuck you” to England, which is just about the closest we as a nation has come to invading Canada since the early 1800s.  So that’s a thing, a thing that happened, in history.  Let’s talk about it.

That One Time the Fenian Brotherhood Kept Invading Canada From America

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