In 1923, stable hand Frank Hayes somehow convinced one of the owners to let him ride at Belmont Park. To everyone’s amazement, he and the horse, Sweet Kiss, won. Unfortunately, Hayes didn’t live to see it. He died mid-ride from a heart attack, though his body somehow stayed upright through the finish.
Photos of President Reagan With Various Celebrities, Volume XIV
President Reagan attending the Bob Hope Salute to the United States Air Force 40th Anniversary celebration with Kirk Cameron, Phyllis Diller, Lucille Ball and Emmanuel Lewis at Pope Air Force base in Fayetteville, North Carolina. 5/10/87.
Shortly after Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine breakthrough, legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow sat down with the scientist for an interview. At one point, Murrow asked Salk who owned the patent on the vaccine, and Salk responded with one of the most famous quotes of his career: “Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”
Salk wasn’t just being generous with his answer; he was also being humble. In his book Polio: An American Story, David M. Oshinsky writes a more complete look at the issue. According to his account, the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis and the University of Pittsburgh (where he conducted his work) had taken a long look at patenting the vaccine, but Salk’s objections were a major reason why the institutions eventually backed down.
When Larry King was still fairly new to Miami in 1958, he got into a little fender-bender. While that fact is unremarkable, the other motorist in the accident was an up-and-coming politician: Senator John F. Kennedy. According to King, Kennedy angrily asked him, “Early Sunday morning, no traffic, not a cloud in the sky, I’m parked — how could you run into me?”
In King’s autobiography, he wrote about how flummoxed Kennedy was over the accident before showing a more charitable side of the future president. “Eventually he calmed down, and he said he’d forget the whole thing if we just promised to vote for him when he ran for president. We did, and he drove away—though not before saying, ‘Stay waaay behind me.’”
In 1977, Bill Cosby earned his doctorate in education from UMass. His dissertation was titled, An Integration of the Visual Media via “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” Into the Elementary School Curriculum as a Teaching Aid and Vehicle to Achieve Increased Learning.
The voice of Shredder in the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon was James Avery, better known as Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Uncle Phil has actually displayed his booming voice in quite a few animated shows, including voicing the late Junkyard Dog in Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling. (In that cartoon, Brad Garrett played Hulk Hogan.)
We Concede You've Never Wondered, But It's Kind of Interesting: Why Is the Macy's Logo a Red Star?
Rowland Hussey Macy played more of an active role in designing his company’s logo than most founders do. Before Macy, a Nantucket native, got into the dry goods business, he worked on a whaling ship that sailed off of the island. At some point during his whaling days, Macy got a red star tattooed on his hand, and the star later became his store’s logo when he opened his first New York shop in 1858.
The famous store was actually Macy’s fifth attempt at opening a shop after four failed tries near his Massachusetts home, and Macy’s shop only took in $11.06 on the day it opened its doors. However, by the end of his first year, Macy had pulled in over $90,000 and was firmly established as a popular New York shopping destination.
How (A Different) Booth Saved (A Different) Lincoln
In 1863 or 1864, young Robert Lincoln was traveling by train from New York to Washington during a break from his studies at Harvard. He hopped off the train during a stop at Jersey City, only to find himself on an extremely crowded platform. To be polite, Lincoln stepped back to wait his turn to walk across, his back pressed to one of the train’s cars. This situation probably seemed harmless enough until the train started moving, which whipped Lincoln around and dropped him into the space between the platform and train, an incredibly dangerous place to be.
Lincoln probably would have been dead meat if a stranger hadn’t yanked him out of the hole by his collar. That stranger? None other than Edwin Booth, one of the most celebrated actors of the 19th century and brother of eventual Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth.
Lincoln immediately recognized the famous thespian – this was sort of like if George Clooney pulled you from a burning car today – and thanked him effusively. The actor had no idea whose life he had saved until he received a letter commending him for his bravery in saving the President’s son a few months later.
In 1995, a Miami-area Wal-Mart pulled this shirt from its racks after consumer complaints. The shirt, which featured the character Margaret from Dennis the Menace, ran afoul of “the company’s family values,” so it went back to the stock rooms. Eventually more reasonable, non-Stone Age heads prevailed, and the shirt made it back onto the shelves after three months in limbo.
70 Years Ago Today: The Nazis Invaded the Soviet Union
In preparation for Operation Barbarossa, the German military stockpiled 91,000 tons of ammunition, half a million tons of fuel (40% of all fuel available to Germany at the time), and 600,000 trucks and 750,000 horses to carry supplies.
The Drunk-O-Meter: A Cash Cow for Indiana University
Sure, as a product name, “Drunk-O-Meter” doesn’t have quite the same understated seriousness of “breathalyzer,” but the Drunk-O-Meter did the same job. In 1931 Indiana University professor Rolla N. Harger created the Drunk-O-Meter as a device to test the sobriety of drivers. Suspected tipplers breathed into a special balloon, and Harger’s device got a reading on how much they’d had to drink. By 1936, Harger had patented his creation, and he eventually signed the invention over to Indiana University. The school’s website describes the gift as a “surprise moneymaker.”
Later in life, razor mogul King Camp Gillette became a strong proponent of utopian socialism. He planned a community in Arizona in which engineers would rationally orchestrate all activity. Gillette even offered Teddy Roosevelt $1 million to serve as president of this planned utopia in 1910, but Roosevelt declined.
As I’ve said before, the asymptotic high five is the closest thing mental_floss has to a secret handshake. Choreographed by Senior Editor Jenny Drapkin, it’s fun and nerdy and allows us to greet each other when we’re sick.
Readers Kerri and Paul were kind enough to demonstrate it. With a graph and everything! Consider adding this to your high-five arsenal.
Only in America can a little boy grow up to be a good Jew and a good Vulcan. Star Trek’s famous hand salute—the V formed between the ring finger and middle finger—actually comes from an ancient Jewish gesture of blessing called the kohane. But the story of how the two are linked goes back to a young Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock in the original TV series.
While attending Orthodox services as child, Nimoy was fascinated by the kohane; not just because it was only performed on certain holy days, but also because it was only performed by a select group of people. Use of the gesture was restricted to the Kohanim, decedents of Jewish priests who’d served in the Temple of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. The congregation wasn’t even supposed to look at the blessed gesture during the ceremony, but the curious young Nimoy couldn’t resist taking a peek.
Decades later, on the set of Star Trek, Nimoy was trying to improvise a special Vulcan greeting when he remembered the power of the kohane. Instead of using the two-handed gesture (both hands are linked at the thumb to replicate the Hebrew letter “shim”), he simplified it to one. The only problem? Actress Celia Lovsky, who was supposed to return Spock’s greeting, couldn’t get her fingers to split the way Nimoy’s could. Luckily, with a few creative camera shots, the scene went off without a hitch. The Vulcan salute has lived long and prospered ever since.
Ah, bacon. For years, we’ve devoured it in all its crispy glory without worrying about the side effects. But now, scientists at Newcastle University’s Centre for Life have given us a new reason to gorge on the stuff. They say that when it comes to hangovers, bacon is a miracle drug. In fact, the study found that bacon is most effective when united with bread in sandwich form. The protein in bacon supplies the body with amino acids, which the brain needs to restore the neurotransmitters damaged by alcohol. Meanwhile, the bread’s carbohydrates give the body energy to get up and go. Now if only sausage could delete all of those text messages you sent last night.
In 1868, Maria Ann Sherwood Smith found something odd in her apple orchard. Smith, who had immigrated to Australia from England, had a strange new type of apple growing near her creek bed. She thought that the apple might have been a mutation of a French crab apple that was popular Down Under, and she thought it was tasty enough to share it with neighbors.
Although she died just two years later, “Granny” Smith’s name is still on the tip of everyone’s tongue when pie-baking season rolls around.
Butter was big business, and the notion that a cheaper substitute, even one made in part with milk, might storm the market terrified dairy farmers. They didn’t take the threat lying down, though, and convinced legislators to tax margarine at a rate of two cents per pound—no small sum in the late 19th century. Dairy farmers also successfully lobbied for restrictions that banned the use of yellow dyes to make margarine look more appetizing. By 1900, artificially colored butter was contraband in 30 U.S. states.
Several states took even more extreme measures to turn consumers away from margarine—they required the product to be dyed an unappealing pink color.
One afternoon in 1972, friends Jack Northrup and Jack Bishop were having lunch at their local drugstore in Olney, Texas, when they realized that the strangers next to them were eavesdropping. The pair, both amputees, had a reputation for mischief. Rather than get upset, the “One-Armed Jacks” decided to have some fun.
Northrup and Bishop began talking loudly about their hunting adventures with pump-action shotguns and bolt-action rifles—firearms that would be nearly impossible to operate without two arms. They cracked each other up with the stunt, but they also decided, heck, why not turn the joke into a reality? That year, they sponsored the first ever One-Arm Dove Hunt, which drew six amputee hunters to the field.
The Jacks have sponsored an annual shoot ever since, and the One-Arm Dove Hunt now brings in close to 100 amputees each year. Participants shoot skeet, golf, play pool, and, of course, hunt doves (though they usually miss). The two Jacks also spice up the proceedings with their unique brand of humor. During the cow chip-throwing competition, they sit on toilets and act as targets. For breakfast, they charge diners “10 cents a finger.” They may be missing arms, but their funny bones are still intact.