Officially, Uncle Sam calls it Washington’s Birthday (according to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968) with its observance mandated for the third Monday in February. But Washington’s actual birthday is February 22, which never falls on the third Monday. Since it’s ridiculous to celebrate George’s birthday before the fact, and since Nancy Lincoln conveniently delivered Abraham on February 12, Americans gloss over this minor inconsistency by splitting the difference and saying the holiday celebrates all presidents. (Much the same way your parents told you, “Every day is Children’s Day.”) Continue reading
FORGOTTEN QUEEN OF THE WILD WEST SHOWS
So for 30 years from 1883 to 1913, the region was celebrated in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. It combined the breathtaking spectacles of a circus with a Smithsonian-level dedication to preserving the West’s unique legacy. My Grandfather Powell told me about seeing Buffalo Bill and his show as a boy in 1910.
With that entertainment form largely forgotten today, it’s no surprise that people also forgot the important role women played in those shows. Continue reading
THE GRANDSON THE PRESIDENT NEVER MET
But you’ve probably never heard of Abraham Lincoln II. Since we honor our presidents in February, this is the perfect time to introduce you to the grandson Abe Lincoln never met. Continue reading
FROM BUMBLING CRIMINAL TO TRAVELING CORPSE
Our subject spent 31 years in failure until blundering to his bloody demise. Yet it took a hit TV show to eventually bring him to his eternal rest an incredible 66 years later.
This is the story of the strange afterlife of Elmer McCurdy. Continue reading
WHY A PRESIDENT TRIED TO KEEP THEM FROM MARRYING
That includes first lady Melania Trump, the former model who was born and raised in the former Yugoslavia (now Slovenia).
Believe it or not, she isn’t America’s first foreign-born first lady. Another woman claimed that distinction 192 years earlier.
This is her story. Continue reading
LOVE ROLLED IN ON STEEL RAILS
Yet for 75 years a much different type of westward movement relocated nearly half a million people in new homes far away.
This is the story of the Orphan Trains. Continue reading
THE MADE-UP PREGNANCY THAT CAUSED REAL HEADACHES FOR BRITAIN’S QUEEN
Palace intrigue and backstabbing …
A headstrong monarch scorched by public fury …
Sounds like business as usual at Buckingham Palace, doesn’t it?
But you won’t find this story in Fleet Street tabloids. It happened 178 years ago, it ruined an innocent woman’s good name, and it taught a young royal a lesson she never forgot. Here’s how it all went down. Continue reading
HOW A BELOVED FIRST FAMILY PET ALMOST BECAME HAMBURGER
For two years in the early 20th century, the Washington press corps was fascinated by a White House resident. They hung on every development, reported every coming and going, and even vied for exclusive interviews.
It wasn’t the president, nor the first lady, or even one of their children. It was a 1,500 pound member of the president’s extended family who stole America’s heart.
She was Pauline Wayne, a Holstein cow who captured the media’s fancy in a way no other presidential animal has before or since. Yet at the height of her fame, she came dangerously close to an unplanned trip to the slaughterhouse. Here’s how it happened. Continue reading
The Lovable Mutt That Made America Proud
A while back, I told you the tale of the real-life pooch who popularized the famous saying “a dog is man’s best friend.” (Click here to read it.) Turns out a dog is a good comrade to have at your side in the thick of battle, too. Continue reading
HOW A DYING WIFE & TODDLER DAUGHTER GAVE US RUDOLPH
But how did that red-nosed misfit become a key character in Yuletide celebrations? He wasn’t one of the original eight tiny reindeer after all. Just who gave him to us?
Would you believe it was a Jewish man with a dying wife who had a little daughter and worked for a big company?
Grab a cup of eggnog, sit back by the fire and get ready to learn how circumstances combined to create a Christmas classic. Continue reading