Grover Cleveland’s Strange Wish

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It’s a common desire. Many parents secretly hope their child grows up to become President of the United States. The odds are long; but it never hurts to dream, right?

However one day back in the spring of 1887, a man who actually had the job made a very strange wish … and he had no idea what Fate had in store for the child he wished it upon. Continue reading

The Pig War: How a Hungry Swine (Almost) Caused An Armed Conflict

PigOver the years, America has gone to war for a variety of reasons. The Revolution was about winning independence. In the War Between the States, it was ending slavery or defending state’s rights, depending on your point of view. World War I was “making the world safe for democracy,” and World War II was triumphing over some truly Bad Guys.

But never in our nation’s 239 year history have we ever gone to war over an animal.

Yet we came frighteningly close to a trans-Atlantic conflict over one in 1859. Continue reading

The Sad, Star-Crossed Love of Stanny & Sara


Some loves are doomed from the very start. The attraction, the desire, the passion are deeply genuine and sincere. But people, timing and events conspire to make it a stillborn love, forced to remain forever buried within the star-crossed lovers’ memories.

The amazing part of the story I’m about to share is what happened to this couple after they parted. (Spoiler alert: be sure to read all the way to the end for a surprise twist you won’t see coming.) With that, let’s jump into the Wayback Machine and return to 1876. Continue reading

When the Army Took Back the Congressional Medal of Honor


Displaying heroism worthy of receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor is hard. Having that distinction taken away from you is even harder.

Believe it or not, nearly 100 years ago the U.S. Army told almost 1,000 aging veterans they weren’t qualified for our nation’s highest military honor, which they had been presented decades before. It’s a sad, sad story. Continue reading

Mon Dieu! The real story behind Napoleon’s famous pose

Napoleon - Famous image

When you hear the name Napoleon Bonaparte, what comes to mind?

French guy. Funny hat. Josephine. Short. Hand-in-coat.

Napoleon is one of the most iconic figures in the world, right up there with Ronald McDonald and that annoying 1970s Smile face. He was a personality so large, he’s known by one name, like Cher and Madonna (proof you’ve really hit the big time).

Yet despite his continued superstar status almost 200 years after his death, nearly everything we associate with him is wrong. Continue reading

Chewing Gum’s Sticky Secret


Several weeks ago, I wrote about Mexican dictator Santa Anna’s connection to the guy who invented chewing gum. Believe it or not, several readers messaged me, asking to learn more. So here goes.

It turns out chewing gum has a complex history. I’ve been popping the stuff into my mouth since Kennedy was president, and yet I only recently learned the tale I’m about to share with you. I promise this: if you read all the way to the end, there’s a surprise twist to one of gum’s early pioneers that you won’t see coming.

With that disclaimer, sit back, pick your favorite flavor and chomp away as we unwrap an interesting legacy. Continue reading

A White House Séance & A President’s Sad Secret

Pierce-CUHistorians loving ranking presidents by their performance. You’ve seen the lists. There are the Greats (Messrs. Washington, Lincoln, et al). There are the Near Greats, and the Average or Mediocre ones. Scholars have a field day pigeonholing a particular president in this category or that.

Then there is the bottom of the barrel. The washouts. The Failures. There’s little arguing over the Worst of the Worst. Grant, Harding, and my personal pick for All-Time Worst President, James Buchanan. (When it comes to being lousy at the job, you can’t beat standing by helplessly as your country splits in two and slides into civil war.)

Another name always makes the Failure list. And maybe he deserves to be there. But after you’ve heard the story of the secret pain that haunted him during his time in the White House, you’ll probably look at him in a new light and, at the very least, pity him. Continue reading

Was He President for One Day?

atchison-CU photo

What would you do if you could be President of the United States for one day?

My answer has changed over the years. When I was a boy it was, “Fill the White House with root beer floats and drink as many as I want!” During my college days it was, “Create a National Bikini Modeling Competition with the president as judge!” Nowadays it’s just, “Make sure there’s something left in Social Security’s bank account when I reach 65.” Funny how your dreams downsize with time. But I digress. Continue reading

The Pastry War (or) How We Wound Up With Santa Anna’s Leg



History is filled with incidents that are so odd, they strain believability. Take John Adams and Thomas Jefferson dying on the very same day. (July 4, 1826 – which happened to be the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which also carried both men’s signature. How do you explain that? I can’t.)

For sheer weirdness, though, nothing compares to the time when France and Mexico fought the Pastry War, Santa Anna lost a leg, and we (the U.S.) wound up with it. Don’t worry – I can explain everything. So sit back and enjoy the strangest tale you’ll ever hear. Continue reading