Space On Your Plate

HOW ASTRO EATING LAUNCHED 3 FOOD FADS

Things were supposed be so different by now. Futurists predicted that by the 21st Century we’d travel in helicopter cars, vacation on Mars and wear those nifty space jumpsuits.

It didn’t turn out that way.

One thing they especially got wrong was food. Yet Americans’ fascination with the early Space Age did send folks over the Moon for several astronaut-related products.

Time to revisit three food fads from a future that wasn’t. Continue reading

President for Six Minutes

THE VEEP WHO BRIEFLY OUTRANKED HIS BOSS

History surrenders this secret grudgingly: several men technically were president, but aren’t considered Presidents of the United States. You have to look hard to find them, but they’re there.

For example, George H. W. Bush was Acting President for almost eight hours in 1985 while Ronald Reagan had colon surgery. Dick Cheney did likewise in 2002 and 2007 when boss George W. Bush was anesthetized for colonoscopies.

Then there was David Rice Atchison who may, or may not, have been president for one day in 1849. (Read here and decide for yourself.)

But here’s the most overlooked incident of all. Continue reading

Tyrant of the White House Kitchen

SHE MADE THE PRESIDENT’S MEALS MISERABLE

(White House photo by Paul Morse)

Imagine a formal White House meal. Glistening silver, glittering china and crystal. And the food! I was a guest of the first President Bush at a luncheon in 1991. The chow there is good. Trust me.

Except for once during the 20th Century, when the woman charged with feeding the president served meals that were so bad guests cringed. That hottest ticket in Washington, an invitation to dine with the president, was something to dread. “Eat before you go to the White House” was the rule.

Incredibly, the man who brought down Hitler and Mussolini was powerless to do anything about the dictator under his own roof.

Meet the Tyrant of the White House Kitchen.

Continue reading

Maud’s Boy

The Movie Star Who Wasn’t the Gerber Baby

You’ve seen that face for years. An adorable baby, all innocence and wide-eyed wonder. I first noticed it as a child when my mother fed my hungry infant sisters.

It’s the Gerber Baby, one of the most widely recognized logos in advertising history. For decades an urban myth claimed the image was drawn from a real-life baby who grew up to become a famous movie star. Problem was, it didn’t happen that way. (Though there is a tiny grain of truth in the story.)

Blame the misunderstanding on Maud’s boy.

Continue reading

How We Got Guam

IT’S EASY TO WIN WHEN THE ENEMY DOESN’T KNOW THERE’S A WAR

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USS CharlestonAdmit it: you’ve never stopped to wonder how the United States gained the Pacific island of Guam, have you? There’s no reason to. It doesn’t come up in dinner party conversations. And they certainly didn’t teach it in school.

Guam wasn’t seized in some great battle or handed over through diplomatic negotiation. The reason we acquired it was simple: bureaucratic bungling. As they said in the movie Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is failure to communicate.” Here’s how it went down. Continue reading

The Original Fake News

A Reporter’s Goof Made Americans Party Like Crazy

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Roy-NY JournalWe’re hearing much these days about fake news. Don’t worry – I’m not touching that discussion with the proverbial 10-foot pole.

But fake news isn’t new. A century ago one incident of it drove America into a frenzied celebration. The problem was, it wasn’t factual. Here’s how it happened. Continue reading

5 Fun President Day Facts

FORGOTTEN TRIVIA FROM FIVE CHIEF EXECUTIVES
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RushmoreHappy Presidents’ Day. Or President’s Day. Or Washington’s & Lincoln’s Birthday. Take your pick. This holiday is known by all those names, depending on your state.

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

Lulu’s Lost Legacy

FORGOTTEN QUEEN OF THE WILD WEST SHOWS

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Lulu-Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show posterIt was a simple idea: if Americans couldn’t travel to see the West for themselves, the West would come to them.

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.

Lulu-girl rider posterImitation, they say, is the most sincere form of flattery. And Buffalo Bill’s show had many imitators. Some very good, like Pawnee Bill’s West West. And many that were not so good.

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

Abraham Lincoln II

THE GRANDSON THE PRESIDENT NEVER MET

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Jack-LincolnIf you’ve ever held a penny, memorized the Gettysburg Address in school or visited that big marble memorial in Washington, you’ve heard of Abraham Lincoln.

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

The Strange Afterlife of Elmer McCurdy

FROM BUMBLING CRIMINAL TO TRAVELING CORPSE

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Elmer-faceSometimes bizarre things happen to bizarre people.

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