Tuesday, August 14, 2012

So You Think You Know American History?

            Did you know that George Washington wasn’t the first person to hold the office of President of the United States of America?  It’s true.  You see, Washington was elected under the Constitution, which wasn’t ratified until 1789.  Between 1781 and 1789, the government operated under the Articles of Confederation, under which a president was appointed for a single one-year term.  There were seven presidents appointed this way, the first of which was a man named John Hanson.  Not only was none of this mentioned in my American History class, but the textbook (which focused on American history from colonial times through the Civil War) never even mentioned the name John Hanson.  Not once in the entire textbook. 

            In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, there was a horticulturist named John Chapman.  He was an early conservationist, vegetarian, and Swedenborgian missionary.  Also a businessman, he planted nurseries on what was then the frontier, which, due to complexities in claim-staking law, was a big help to homesteaders.  If you were to picture John Chapman, all you’d see is an oddly dressed man dropping apple seeds into the dirt behind him as he walked.  That’s all anyone cares to remember about him.

            Thomas Nast, a political cartoonist, created the Republican Elephant.  He did not, as many believe, create the Democratic Donkey, although his use of it did make it popular.  The modern image of Santa Claus was also created by Nast, despite what you’ve heard about Coca-Cola advertising campaigns.  Although, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was created as part of an advertising campaign for Montgomery Ward. 

            When everyone sings “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch, they are only singing the chorus.  There are two more verses.  The tune to the Star Spangled Banner is that of  “The Anacreontic Song,” a popular drinking song developed by the Anacreon Club, a gentlemen’s club devoted to music.  The Star Spangled Banner has five verses, and includes the lines:

                        Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
                        No refuge could save the hireling and slave
                        From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave

            What you don’t know is often far more interesting than what you think you do.  There’s a reason people say ‘The truth is stranger than fiction.’

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