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Tag: odd history

FHF: The Beard Gap

Two beards have never competed for the office of the President. Pictured here is Rutherford Hayes, a bearded president who beat the clean-shaven Samuel Tilden (111-B-5739)

Two beards have never competed for the Presidency. Pictured here is Rutherford Hayes, a bearded President who beat the clean-shaven Samuel Tilden. (111-B-5739)




In the history of Presidential elections, there has never been a battle of the beards. Beards have challenged mustaches. Mustaches have challenged clean-shaven candidates. Clean-shaven candidates have challenged beards. But never in the history of our republic, have two bearded candidates duked it out on the campaign trail.

This is startling for many reasons. One, beards are awesome, and have experienced a sort of renaissance as of late. Two, statistically speaking, the beard is more “electable” than a baby face.

Look at the numbers. In Presidential elections, bearded candidates have only faced off (ha!) with clean-shaven candidates in five elections. In three of them—1868, 1872, and 1876—beards took the White House. That means the odds are with you if you run with a beard.

Year Victor Runner-up
1856 Clean-shaven Beards
1864 Beard Mustache
1868 Beard Clean-shaven
1872 Beard Clean-shaven
1876 Beard Clean-shaven
1880 Beard Mustache
1884 Mustache Beard
1888 Beard Mustache
1892 Mustache Beard
1908 Mustache Clean-shaven
1912 Clean-shaven Mustache
1916 Clean-shaven Beard
1944 Clean-shaven Mustache
1948 Clean-shaven Mustache



History buffs will be quick to point out that the 1876 beard win was something of a technicality. The oh-so-heavily bearded Rutherford Hayes lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote (Florida … [ Read all ]

Before Playboy, there was Flossie

A full-length cabinet photo of Miss Flossy Lee, Record Group 118 Records of the US Marshall

A full-length cabinet photo of Miss Flossy Lee, Record Group 118 Records of U.S. Attorneys, National Archives at Boston

Sixteen-year-old boys loved her. Parents of 16-year-old boys did not.

Yes, long before Hugh Hefner donned his trademark smoking jacket, before Larry Flynt shocked a nation with Hustler, there was Miss Flossie Lee. In the 1890s, the Augusta, Maine, entrepreneur ran Art Photo Co., a corporation that promised to send photos of “the best female models” for a buck. Purportedly, the photos of scantily clad women were intended for “art studies, and as models for the student in figure work, or the young artist who finds the living model a too expensive luxury. . .”  But what they really were was porn.

Judging from the documents at the National Archives at Boston, Miss Flossie Lee was the victim of her own success. She operated without any evident complaint in Maine, then she decided to go for the big time. “I am the acknowledged belle of my own city, and have beaux by the score,” she writes in an ad, “but wish to extend my acquaintance over the whole country.” The trouble was that shipping obscene material across state lines was a Federal offense.

Congressmen complained. The Assistant Attorney General was peppered with letters from the Post Office inquiring what sort of action could be taken against … [ Read all ]

Wine, for all your expeditionary needs

View of Mudros showing French wine store. In the background is the French hospital. Lemnos Island, Aegean Sea. Dardanelles Campaign, circa 1915. (165-BO-577)

View of Mudros showing French wine store. In the background is the French hospital. Lemnos Island, Aegean Sea. Dardanelles Campaign, circa 1915. (165-BO-577)

It’s been called the nectar of the gods, but it may soon be called the nectar of Starbucks. The giant coffee chain is now selling wine (and beer) in a few test stores in Seattle in an attempt to expand its brand image. Starbucks has long been known as the “third place”—not quite home, not quite work—where people can refuel for the remainder of the day with their caffeinated beverage. But wine, not coffee, has historically been the refuel drink of choice the world over.

A look at the thousands of digitized World War II escape and evasion files reveals that the first beverages downed pilots sipped was often wine to calm the nerves, not coffee to keep them alert.

Meriwether Lewis ordered 30 gallons of wine and six kegs of beer for his expedition of 33 explorers (NM-81-225)

Meriwether Lewis ordered 30 gallons of wine and six kegs of beer for his expedition of 33 explorers (NM-81-225)

When Meriwether Lewis was preparing for his expedition out west, he brought 30 gallons of wine, about a gallon of the good stuff for each passenger.

And as the above photo shows, the French were sure to pack plenty of wine with them when heading off to war. This photo from the Dardanelles campaign shows enough fermented grape juice to fuel the forces … [ Read all ]

Seward’s time-traveling folly

Treasury Warrant in the Amount of $7.2 Million for the Purchase of Alaska (ARC301667)

Treasury Warrant in the Amount of $7.2 Million for the Purchase of Alaska (ARC301667)

One hundred forty three years ago today, the people of Alaska went to bed under the Russian flag, and awoke under the Stars and Stripes. They also woke up eleven days in the future.

The purchase of Alaska was not an easy sell for anyone. Russia wanted to offload the frozen territory in the 1850s. They tried to start a bidding war between Great Britain and the US for its purchase, but Great Britain wasn’t very interested. Then the American Civil War broke out. Then Lincoln was assassinated and the notoriously unpopular Andrew Johnson assumed the presidency. The unfortunate task of convincing an angry Congress that Alaska was a steal at 2.3 cents an acre fell to Johnson’s Secretary of State William Seward (7.2 million total). Somehow Seward managed though, and on October 18, 1867, Russian General Lovell Rousseau handed over the territory to US General Jefferson Davis. Or was that October 7?

Among the overwhelming drama of the unpopular purchase–one newspaper referred to it as a “sucked orange,” another called the buy a “dark deed done in the night”–no one seemed to notice that Russia worked off the Julian calendar, and the US worked off the Gregorian. The result was time travel.

That night, the calendar was officially … [ Read all ]

Where was the Navy born?

Beverly, Massachusetts, birthplace of the American Navy? Courtesy Beverly Historic Society

Beverly, Massachusetts, birthplace of the American Navy? (Courtesy Beverly Historical Society)

Tomorrow there will be a spirited debate at the USS Constitution Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. The Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, will be there. So will senior archivist Trevor Plante. They are convening at the museum that honors the world’s oldest floating commissioned Navy vessel to settle once and for all a centuries-old debate: where was the Navy born?

We here at POH want your input. We’ve laid out the arguments for each town that claims it is the true birthplace of the Navy. We need you to read them and then cast your vote or add your two cents into the mix. You can either respond on our blog here, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter with the hash tag #navybirth.

Let the debate begin!

Sign advertising Whitehall, New York, as the "birthplace of the United States Navy" (Whitehall Chamber of Commerce)

Sign advertising Whitehall, New York, as the "birthplace of the United States Navy" (Whitehall Chamber of Commerce)

  • Machias, Maine, June 1775: two small sloops armed with woodsmen capture the Royal Navy schooner Margaretta.
  • Beverly, Massachusetts, September 1775: George Washington authorizes a ship, Hannah, to harass British supply ships.
  • Marblehead, Massachusetts, September 1775: The Hannah is outfitted with a Marblehead crew, and owned by a Marblehead resident.
  • Providence, Rhode Island, October 1775: The small state’s delegates are the first to propose a resolution to build and equip an
[ Read all ]