Elvis Had a Twin
Most people consider Elvis exceptional, unique, and one-of-a-kind. Yet, Elvis had a twin brother (Jesse Garon) who died at birth. What would the world have been like with both Elvis and his twin? Would Jesse have been anything like his brother? We are left only to wonder.
Gerald Ford's Real Name
Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the United States, was known for most of his life as Gerald "Jerry" Ford. However, Ford was not born with this name. Gerald Ford was born in 1913 as Leslie King Jr., named after his father. Unfortunately, his biological father was abusive and so his mother divorced Leslie King Sr. shortly after Ford's birth. Two years later, Ford's mother met and married Gerald Ford Sr. and Ford's family began to call him Gerald Ford Jr. rather than Leslie King Jr. Although from about age two Ford was known as Gerald Ford Jr., the name change was not made official until December 3, 1935, when Ford was 22 years old.
Personally, I haven't played the game of tug-of-war since I was in elementary school. Five students holding one end of a long rope and another five holding the other end. I'd like to proudly say that my team won, but I have distant memories of being dragged over the muddy center line. Today, tug-of-war is a game that most adults relegate to those still in their youth, but did you know that tug-of-war used to be an official Olympic Games event? Since tug-of-war has been a game played by adults for centuries, it became an official event at the second modern Olympic Games in 1900. However, it's time as an official Olympic event was short-lived and it was last played at the Olympics at the 1920 Games. Tug-of-war was not the only event to be added and then later removed from the Olympic Games; golf, lacrosse, rugby, and polo also shared its fate.
Most toys are just fads that last for a few years and then go out of style. However, the Slinky toy has been a favorite since it first hit shelves in 1945. The advertising jingle ("It's Slinky, it's Slinky, for fun it's a wonderful toy. It's fun for a girl and a boy.") still resonates among young and old alike. But how did this simple and yet incredibly fun toy get its beginning? It all started one day in 1943 when engineer Richard James dropped a tension spring on the ground and saw how it moved. Thinking he might be on to something a bit more fun and universal than a tension spring, he took the spring home to his wife, Betty, and the two of them tried to come up with a name for this potential toy. After searching and searching, Betty found the word "slinky" in the dictionary which meant sinuous and stealthy. And since then, stairs have never been left alone.
On February 9, 1960, the very first star was awarded to actress Joanne Woodward. Within a year and half, over 1,500 of the stars were filled with names. Currently, over 2,300 of the stars have been awarded and two new stars are awarded each month.
Hoffa's Middle Name
Jimmy Hoffa, president of the Teamsters a labor union from 1957 until 1971, is best known in popular culture for his mysterious disappearance and presumed death in 1975. It's ironic, perhaps, that Hoffa's middle name was Riddle.
The First Star on the Walk of Fame
Designed by artist Oliver Weismuller, the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California consists of 2,500 stars embedded into the sidewalks along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. Stars honored on the Walk of Fame must have made professional accomplishments in one of five categories: motion pictures, television, recording, live theater, or radio. (Under the name on each honoree, an icon depicts the category for which the star was awarded.)
WWII and M&M's
After Forrest Mars, Sr. witnessed soldiers eating bite-sized chocolates covered in a sugar coating during the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s, he brought the idea back to the United States and started manufacturing his own version, called M&M's. In 1941, M&M's were included in U.S. soldiers' rations during World War II because they "melt in your mouth, not in your hands" (the tagline didn't actually appear until 1954). Good in nearly any environment, including hot summers, M&M's became very popular. The little candies were sold in tubes until 1948, when the packaging changed to the brown bag that we still see today. The imprint of an "M" on the candies first occurred in 1950.
Ford Pardoned Lee
On August 5, 1975, President Gerald Ford pardoned General Robert E. Lee and restored his full rights of citizenship. After the American Civil War, General Lee believed that it was everyone's duty to work together to reestablish peace and harmony between the North and South. Lee wanted to set the example and petitioned then-President Andrew Johnson to reinstate his citizenship. Because of a clerical error, Lee's Oath of Allegiance (part of the citizenship requirement) was lost, so his application did not go through before his death. In 1970, Lee's Oath of Allegiance was found among other papers in the National Archives. When President Ford signed the bill that restored Lee's citizenship in 1975, Ford stated, "General Lee's character has been an example to succeeding generations, making the restoration of his citizenship an event in which every American can take pride."
Barbie's Full Name
The Barbie doll, which first appeared on the world-stage in 1959, was invented by Ruth Handler (co-founder of Mattel) after she realized that her daughter liked to play with paper dolls that resembled grown-ups. Handler suggested making a three-dimensional doll that looked like an adult rather than a child. The doll was named after Handler's daughter, Barbara, and is still produced by Mattel. The doll's full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts.
The First Barcode
The first item sold after being scanned with a UPC barcode was a 10-pack of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit Gum. The sale occured at 8:01 a.m. on June 26, 1974 at the Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio. The gum is now on display at the Smithsonian American History Museum in Washington D.C.
Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, dictator for nearly a quarter century and infamous for his use of police terror and the frequent mass murders of his own people, was Time's "Man of the Year" in 1939 and 1942.
Einstein Designed a Refrigerator
Twenty-one years after writing his theory of relativity, Albert Einstein invented a refrigerator that operated on alcohol gas. The refrigerator was patented in 1926 but never went into production because new technology made it unnecessary. Einstein invented the refrigerator because he read about a family that was poisoned by a sulphur dioxide-emitting refrigerator.
A Renamed Russian City
Did you know that in 1914, at the beginning of World War I, Russia renamed its capital city St. Petersburg to Petrograd because they thought the name sounded too German? This same city changed name again only ten years later when it was renamed Leningrad after the Russian Revolution. In 1991, the city regained its original name of St. Petersburg.
The Tiny Tub
U.S. President William Howard Taft, who weighed over 300 pounds, often got stuck in the White House's bathtub. To remedy this problem, Taft ordered a new one. The new bathtub was large enough to hold four grown men!