Expect the Unexpected

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Fourth of July Trivia

Did you know Connecticut was home to the Battle of the Frogs?

Did you know Connecticut was home to the Battle of the Frogs?

Happy Birthday America. Tomorrow, at your family’s annual cookout or barbecue you can amaze everyone, and maybe win a few bets, by reeling off some little known past and present facts about the 13 original colonies.

French Monaco

French Monaco

Heck, after a few drinks (make mine a French Monaco Cocktail please), you might even be lucky enough to remember which states were the original 13.

Thanks to Roger Sachar at Brainscape, here is an arsenal of offbeat facts about the first 13 states. And no, Florida was not one of them.

1. Delaware had a faceless founding father. Delaware’s state quarter features a picture of founding father Caesar Rodney, even though historians don’t know what Rodney looked like. Rodney had a severe form of facial cancer, always kept his face covered with a green cloth, and never had his portrait painted. That didn’t stop him from making an epic 80-mile ride on horseback in 1776, just in time to sign the Declaration of Independence.

Yep, it's a shoe. Now where's the old woman?

Yep, it’s a shoe. Now where’s the old woman?

2. Pennsylvania is home to a giant shoe that was once home to many. In 1948, self-proclaimed “Shoe Wizard” Mahlon Haines built a gigantic shoe in which he let elderly couples stay. It had three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen, and the couples were treated to a maid, cook, chauffeur and automobile – all on Haines’ dime. The shoe remains open for tours to this day in Hellam, Pennsylvania, and now houses an ice cream shop.

3. In New Jersey full-service gas stations aren’t an option. New Jersey bans patrons from pumping their own gas. Out of concerns that pumping your own fuel was dangerous, the state began requiring gas station attendants to do it for you in 1949. THIS IS THE ONE THING I LOVE ABOUT NEW JERSEY. Oops, blame that rude comment on the French Monaco.

The Frog Bridge in Willimantic, Conn.

The Frog Bridge in Willimantic, Conn.

4. Georgia is the Peanut State. Ok, it’s actually known as the “Peach State,” but peaches aren’t Georgia’s only prominent produce. The state is also well known for its pecans and peanuts. In fact, former President Jimmy Carter, a proud Georgian, was once a peanut farmer.

5. Connecticut was home to the Battle of the Frogs. One hot summer night during a terrible drought in 1758, a cacophony woke the residents of Windham, Connecticut (now part of Willimantic). In a panic because they believed they were under attack from Indians, the citizens armed themselves and headed toward the commotion to discover terrible carnage – except the damage wasn’t human. Thousands of frogs had fought to the death over the last bit of water in the town pond.

6. Massachusetts is chock full of firsts, from the first volleyball game in 1895 to the first Dunkin’ Donuts in 1950. Check out some other Massachusetts firsts:
• First Thanksgiving: 1621
• First Public Park: Boston Commons, 1634
• First University: Harvard, 1636
• First Public Library: Boston, 1653
• First Revolutionary War Battle: Lexington, 1775
• First Black Church: Boston, 1806
• First Railroad: Quincy, 1826
• First Typewriter: Worcester, 1850
• First Christmas Card: Boston, 1875
• First Telephone: Boston, 1876
• First Basketball Game: Springfield, 1891
• First Subway: Boston, 1898
• First Automatic Digital Computer: Boston, 1947.

7. Maryland pulled one over on the Redcoats. During the War of 1812, residents of Saint Michaels, Maryland fooled British artillerymen by hoisting lamps onto ships’ masts and the tops of trees. Only one house (known as the Cannonball House) was struck, as the height of the lights caused British cannonballs to overshoot the town.

8. You can get sued for breaking off an engagement in South Carolina. Breach of Promise to Marry suits used to be commonplace in the U.S., but many states began to bar them in 1930. South Carolina is one of the few states that still allows them, and you can be sued for breaking off an engagement there to this day.

9. New Hampshire law requires its presidential primary be held seven days before any similar event in any other state. Out of all the 50 states, New Hampshire has the first presidential primary each election cycle.

One of Stonewall Jackson's tombstones.

One of Stonewall Jackson’s tombstones.

10. Virginia – where Stonewall Jackson rests in pieces. Legendary Confederate general Thomas “Stonewall”Jackson’s arm was given a proper burial, complete with a headstone, after he lost it due to friendly fire in the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863. Jackson was later carried to a plantation where he eventually died of pneumonia. He too was given a proper burial, some 150 miles away from his arm.



11. New York’s Empire State Building was designed for docking blimps. The architects who designed one of the most iconic buildings in the world actually envisioned blimps would anchor to the spire and passengers could descend via gangplank to the 102nd floor. Then the Hindenburg exploded, and blimps were relegated to providing aerial coverage of football games.

12. North Carolina was the site of the nation’s most impressive disappearing act. In 1587, a group of English founded a colony at Roanoke Island off the North Carolina coast. Three years later, their countrymen came for a visit only to find the settlement had completely vanished. The cabins were gone, the livestock disappeared, and the only thing that remained was the word “Croaton” carved on a post and “Cro” carved on a tree. The “Lost Colony” was never found.

13. Rhode Island – World Series champs! Well, not exactly, but they did have a Major League Baseball team that won a championship in 1884 akin to the modern day World Series. The Providence Grays played in the National League and featured star pitcher Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn. Old Hoss won 59 games in 1884 – a record that will never be broken.


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