1. Santa Claus wears a red and white outfit today because of a Coca-Cola campaign in the late 1920s that had him dressed in their corporate colors. Previously, he dressed in hunter green and was not so fat.
2. American women shave their armpits because Schick Razor had an excess 17,000,000 blades after WW1 ended, made for the Army, that they did not want to dispose of, so they started a campaign aimed at women with the goal of eliminating their excess blades. The slogan was “Be as smooth as French women” who of course did not shave at all. Their surprise was complete when women went wild for shaving and it spurred an entire industry.
3. American radio stations are considered ships. When wireless radio first started out it was made for ships and under the control of the US Navy. When the first shore stations began operating the Navy didn’t quite know what to do with them so they gave them the four letter designation reserved for ships. When the FCC took over the bureaucracy was well-established and so it was kept in place.
4. The Wright Brother’s aircraft was offered to the Smithsonian by Orville Wright, but they refused it because they said it was not the first airplane. So the Wright’s gave it to a museum in England where it say until 1947 when the Smithsonian begged the family to give it to them instead, which they did, with the proviso that they maintain always that it was the first successful human powered aircraft. It is not. A Connecticut inventor beat the Wrights by 3 years though his designs went nowhere and added nothing to modern aviation. The Smithsonian, while acknowledging this is true, is legally obligated to say the Wright Brother’s aircraft was the first plane though they know it is not.
5. Until 800AD or so books were written in one long sentence with no punctuation or even spaces between words. At that time Alcuin of York, widely regarded as the smartest man in the world, invented the spaces, capitalization, punctuation, page numbers and all the things we take for granted today.
6. A disgruntled US naval officer almost blew up the entire US cabinet, including the President of the US, because he was jealous of another man, John Ericcson, one of the greatest engineers in history. Ericcson had invented a particularly lethal naval gun that required steel reinforcing bands to keep it from exploding when it went off, but this officer wanted the contract so he made a lighter, cheaper gun with no bands and said it was better. For the trials the entire US cabinet joined the exercise along with the President, John Tyler, in 1847 on the USS Princeton, the most advanced warship in the world, powered by steam and also using another John Ericcson invention, the propellor. After lunch the Cabinet went on deck to see the gun tested but Tyler stayed below to eat a second helping. When the gun was fired, it exploded, killing Tyler’s wife, the VP of the US and a bunch of other dignitaries.
7. The oldest continuously operating factory in the entire world is located in Arlington, Massachusetts, USA, where the Schwamb Mill, made in the early 1600s continues to make oval frames to this day using much of the same equipment. The lathes, saws, and so on are all run by belts from the ceiling and until the 1980s steam power was used, and until the 1940s, the mill was run by a waterwheel. Every US President’s portrait in the White House is encased in an oval frame from the Old Schwamb Mill.
8. When the Titanic sank it was flying the American flag, even though it was a British ship. This is because JP Morgan purchased the White Star Line and the Titanic shortly before it sailed.
9. During the First World War the US paid the Germans a royalty for each Springfield rifle made by the US because a court ruled in 1905 that the new American rifle was a direct copy of the German KAR 98, made in 1898 and the best rifle in the world at the time. Even though the Americans were at war with the Germans they paid them for each rifle.
10. In the 1930s the American Republican Party was so incensed with Franklin Roosevelt that they planned an armed overthrow of the US government and recruited Marine General Smedley Butler to lead the military against the US government and be the titular head of the new government. Butler was a highly decorated war hero, two Medals of Honor, and an ardent Republican but he was disgusted by his party’s treason so he became an informer and the coup was blocked.
God I love this sort of thing.