America has some national symbols that have just stood the test of time. From apple pie and baseball, to their various big-name politicians, the United States of America continues to be a huge superpower in the world. People all around the world look to America to help them out, protect its citizens, and model the best practices for democracy and peace. Though, we all know that in reality, that is all easier said than done. There have been plenty of instances in which America did not live up to its promises or potential, yet people continue to flock to this country in hopes of a better life. The American Dream seems to still exist, at least in some people’s hearts and minds.
Therefore, we are going to take a look at some of the most notable things that people in and out of the United States think about America. And then we are going to throw you for a loop because this is our list of 20 Fascinating Things About America You Didn’t Know. From the inside scoop about this country’s famous Presidents, to the national symbols that have become huge elements of patriotism, we are going to take a closer look at the facts. You may be surprised by the real stories behind the country’s leaders and traditions. For example, did you know that Uncle Sam was a real guy? And Captain America is not all that American.
Let’s get started and share even more with you. Enjoy our list and impress your friends with your new American knowledge!
20. Ben Franklin Invented Swimming Fins
Yes, we know that Benjamin Franklin was super-duper smart and he was the creator of so many awesome things. We can thank him for libraries, Benjamin stoves, the lightning rod, and much more. Yet we do not often hear about one of his coolest inventions: swimming fins! Apparently young Ben liked to swim around, and what better way to ensure safety in the water than with some flippers on your feet? Now whenever you go scuba diving or snorkeling, just remember that you can thank Benjamin Franklin for those aquatic accessories. Just do not use a lightning rod anywhere near the water!
19. People Live in the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is utterly breathtaking to take in. It truly is a must-see for everyone, regardless of whether or not you are American. This colossal natural wonder can be explored on foot, but you can also take a donkey on a trek around the canyon. If you go all the way down to the bottom, you will find that there are still Native American tribes that live there. The Grand Canyon’s southern rim is home to a Native American Indian reservation, featuring the Havasupai, Hualapai, Navajo, and Hopi. These are some of the oldest surviving tribes in the country and they hold annual festivals and events throughout the year.
18. The U.S. Air Force is the Largest in the World
In fact, it’s the largest military group in the world! With a total aircraft count of 3,318, the United States Air Force is just filled to the brim with combat equipment and personnel. The next-largest air force in the world belongs to Russia, and they only have a measly 1,900 pieces of aircraft. Hah! As for the U.S. Air Force, they boast impressive machines such as the F-16 Fighting Falcons, F-22 Raptors, and the Lockheed AC-130s. The latter aircraft is an elite piece of equipment and is only allowed to be maneuvered by upper-tier officials.
17. A Long-Standing Tradition
America has not had a President that didn’t identify as Republican or Democrat since the year 1853, when Millard Fillmore was elected President. The political parties of the United States seem to be more about popularity than actual policy nowadays, but it is still a tough point of contention for many people. With the current 2016 Presidential race totally underway, people are waiting with bated breath to see who will become the candidates for Pres. Currently, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton are in the lead. What does all this mean for the United States? We shudder to think.
16. George Washington Loved Alcohol
Yeah, we often think of George Washington as a very noble man who “couldn’t tell a lie.” Well, that quote is actually a lie in itself, but apparently there are some other things we did not know about the United States’ first President. Washington sure did love his alcohol, and he spent a pretty penny on drinks on a regular basis. According to historians, Washington would shell out about 7% of his income on booze for himself (and maybe his buddies.) I wonder what Martha Washington thought about all of this? At least George still made a big enough impression to be on the dollar bill!
15. The Bald Eagle Screech is a Sham
The Bald Eagle screech is supposed to be one of the great symbols of American patriotism. After all, the bald eagle is the national bird, and it is a physical and natural representation of power, might, and majesty. Well, as it turns out, the sound of the iconic Bald Eagle screech is actually a red-tailed hawk. Yep, it turns out that Bald Eagles don’t even screech. So we aren’t sure where exactly this age-old tradition came from, but it continues to be one of the national treasures of the United States. Much like George Washington and the cherry tree, the American life is a sham!
14. Abe Lincoln was a Wrestler
It turns out that Abe was not just honest, but he was a fierce competitor. The 14th President of the United States used to kill it in wrestling matches. He is even in the Wrestling Hall of Fame. He participated in some 300 matches when he was a robust 20-something-year-old. In fact, during one of his wrestling matches, he was super ticked off that his opponent was trying cheat (he is Honest Abe, remember?), so that only motivated him more and he ended up kicking the guy’s butt! Really, Abraham Lincoln was awesome; the United States needs more leaders like him.
13. Uncle Sam was Actually Real
He is named after Samuel Wilson, a guy who worked at a meat-packing plant in New York. How American is that? During the War of 1812, Wilson served as the northern army’s meat inspector and was nicknamed Uncle Sam for his loyalty and friendliness. The name evidently stuck, and the moniker Uncle Sam was attached to a cartoon illustration of an old guy with a top hat and a beard. We can find Uncle Sam plastered around campaigns and propaganda in the United States even today. Little did we know that the guy was based off of a real dude!
12. Howard Taft’s Contribution to Baseball
Baseball is one of the most American things ever. Slightly out-of-shape guys plodding around on a field, how America… Anyway, one of the United States’ Presidents is said to have invented the now-famous 7th-inning stretch…maybe. The story says that Howard Taft (who was a big dude) had to get up and soothe his large body after sitting in a wooden chair for so long. You know those baseball games just drag on and on. Well, Taft was rising up to stretch during the 7th inning, and the name just stuck. Taft was also the first President to throw the first pitch at a ball game!
11. The Mall of America’s Dirty Little Secret
The Mall of America is run by Canucks! That’s right, the Edmonton-based Triple Five Group owns the Mall of America, which is located in Minnesota (on the border between the United States and Canada.) The Mall of America is quite a wonderful sight to behold; it is like a wonderland! It has multiple levels, an amusement park, and so much more. People from all over the country (and even the world) yearn to travel to Minnesota and explore the Mall of America. Now that we know that it’s run by Canadians…well, we aren’t sure how we feel about that.
10. Independence Day Should be July 2nd
That is the actual date when the Declaration of Independence was approved. Besides, it didn’t even get all of its signatures until some time in August. So why do Americans celebrate their Independence Day on July 4th? Well, that is the date when Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence. The reality is that Americans could celebrate true independence on July 2nd, or 4th, or even in the day dogs of August. All of those would be as correct as any. That being said, we guess there is no going back now as the United States has been celebrating on July 4th since 1776!
9. U.S. Presidents Love to Skinny Dip
Teddy Roosevelt, John Quincy Adams, and John F. Kennedy were known to swim around in the buff. Roosevelt and Adams would even jump into the Potomac River without their clothes on. Talk about dirty office politics! The Potomac River is one of the most iconic bodies of water in the United States; running through Washington, D.C. and flowing on for 405 miles. It has been a mainstay and a favorite relaxation spot for Presidents and citizens alike. Now that we know it has been contaminated with old guys’ nudity…yuck. We wouldn’t recommend swimming in the Potomac River anyway.
8. The Statue of Liberty is Full of Foreign Influence
First of all, it was designed and built by French guys, including Gustave Eiffel and Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. The Statue was actually a gift to the United States from France in 1886. Secondly, the Statue of Liberty is modeled after Greek idealism, with bodily proportions and features that fit the ideal in Grecian sculpture. That means that the Statue was built with a Morton’s Toe (a second toe that is longer than the big toe.) Despite all of the foreign influences, the Statue of Liberty continues to be one of the most American symbols in the history of the United States.
7. Sweet Traditions
Do you think that all of America’s politicians are frumps and bores? Well consider this! The United States Senate keeps a drawer full of candy in one of their desks. It’s a tradition and it’s been going on since 1968, so they are not going to stop now! Right now, the desk belongs to Republican Senator Mark Kirk, but the behavior began with George Murphy, a California Senator with a sweet tooth. Even though folks in the Senate are not technically supposed to eat during a session, the candy-filled desk has continued for decades and everyone is strangely okay with it.
6. It’s Literally Harry “S” Truman
The poor guy didn’t even have a middle name! Sure, the “S” makes Truman’s name sound so much more official and important, but we actually feel kind of sorry for him. His parents seriously could not think of a decent middle name for their child? We also find it interesting that Harry Truman kept the “S” and did not decide to create his own middle name once he got older. He could have chosen all sorts of wonder monikers…Sebastian, Sergio, Spencer, Oh well. When you get a President who was born and raised in Missouri, that’s what you can expect.
5. The Pledge of Allegiance had Humble Beginnings
Children in the United States end up having the Pledge of Allegiance drilled into their brains from a young age, as they have to recite it every single morning in class. Yet the iconic recitation had an interestingly hum-drum start. It was merely a pledge written by a writer for the magazine The Youth’s Companion. Readers loved it so much that it was adopted into schools and other public functions. Now the Pledge of Allegiance is as patriotic as the Star-Spangled Banner and “My Country Tis of Thee.” On another note, the Pledge was initially modelled after the Roman style but after European dictators adopted it, the U.S. dropped the style.
4. Sorry, Ohio
Ohio deserves a sincere apology because they were totally snubbed until 1953, when they finally became an official addition to the country. You see, President Thomas Jefferson had approved of Ohio becoming a territory. This was back in 1803, in which Ohio’s boundaries and constitution was formalized. But decades later, Ohio was still not an official and formal state. Finally, Ohio Congressman George H. Bender had to let Congress know that hey, his state needed formal recognition of statehood! So about 100 years after Ohio was recognized as a United States territory, it was formally welcomed into the Union. Better late than never, right?
3. American Football is as Boring as You Think
Sorry football fans, but the average NFL game only has about 10 minutes of actual televised football playing. The rest is full of ref calls, instant replays, and blah, blah, blah. So if you are an American and you sincerely dislike your country’s version of football, then you are totally forgiven. It turns out that you really are not missing out on much. Just turn on any football game (college or professional,) and you will see a lot of big hefty guys just standing around. Someone blows a whistle, the guys run into each other, some fall down, and the whistle blows again. Repeat for 3 hours.
2. Captain America Isn’t American
Well, at least, he is not totally American. Captain America may be super popular in the United States, and he is even part of the famous Avengers superhero crew, but he is actually a first-generation immigrant from Ireland. Seriously! He first appeared in comic books in the United States in 1941, and was often depicted as a tough competitor who battled against the Axis Powers in World War II. Now, he is the 2nd-most popular Avenger and is starring in his latest feature-length film called Captain America: Civil War. Since this guy is basically the best super-soldier around, we can forgive his ancestry.
1. Lyndon B. Johnson was a Pimp
Trying to outdo John F. Kennedy (who was already considered a heartthrob President,) Lyndon B. Johnson was said to have several mistresses and a nasty habit of exposing himself on the job. Ew. One of LBJ’s most famous mistresses was a Miss Madeleine Duncan Brown, who was seen canoodling with Johnson for years. Despite his tendencies to flirt around with other women, Lyndon B. Johnson was a huge proponent for social justice and reform. He signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, revamped The Great Society, and pushed for the Voting Rights Act. With the way the current Presidential election is going, plenty of Americans would probably be just fine with having someone like LBJ back in office.