Quirky Facts About Every U.S. President

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Quirky Facts About Every U.S. President

A president is expected to be strong, serious, noble, and deliberate. But that doesn't mean there's no room for quirkiness. All throughout American history, presidents have had unexpected habits and occasional eccentric behavior. Take William Henry Harrison, the 9th president, who kept a pet goat in the White House. And although there may not seem to be many similarities between presidents and Las Vegas stand-up comedians, Ronald Reagan, the 40th president, has been both.

America's Film History Is Stored In a Cold War Bunker

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America's Film History Is Stored In a Cold War Bunker

The U.S. Library of Congress in Washington D.C. is home to more than 160 million books, recordings, photos, manuscripts, and other important pieces of American cultural history. But not everything is kept within those walls. 75 miles to the southwest near the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is the Packard Campus of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center, a 415,000 square-foot (38,555 square-meter) facility that houses 140,000 reels of film. Those reels include classics such as Casablanca, flops such as Gigli, and even nitrate film—an old medium that's kept in its own vaults because it's highly flammable. In fact, all of the center's 6.3 million collection items are well protected, since the Packard Campus was once a nuclear bunker.

Yankee Doodle: How Colonial Americans Embraced a British Insult

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Yankee Doodle: How Colonial Americans Embraced a British Insult

Even if "Yankee Doodle" is a little nonsensical, modern Americans consider it a proudly patriotic song. But the ditty actually began as a song that British soldiers sang to mock colonial Americans. Before the American Revolution, it was common for young British men to leave home and travel around Europe, picking up new fashions and trendy mannerisms along the way. They returned wearing ostentatious clothing and raving about the things they'd encountered, such as the exotic Italian pasta known as macaroni. As a result, "macaroni" is exactly what others called these 18th-century hipsters. So when a Yankee doodle -- literally, an American simpleton -- stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni, he was doing two things that deserved ridicule: thinking he could be as stylish as British macaroni by putting a feather in his hat, and wanting to be like British macaroni in the first place. The British efforts backfired when American soldiers adopted the song as their own, adding extra verses about the glory of the Continental Army. "Yankee Doodle" still kept its reference to ostentatious fashion, however, and the shortened form of "dood" became synonymous with "dandy." It later came to refer to clueless city dwellers who went to "dude ranches," and finally came to simply be slang for "man" or "person."

02:25

from Vox

Key Facts to Know

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    The word "macaroni" in the song "Yankee Doodle Dandy" was originally a British insult toward Americans. 0:05

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    "Macaroni" was once a catch-all term that described the pretentious elites of 18th century England. 0:29

Why The U.S. Bellamy Salute Was Problematic

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Why The U.S. Bellamy Salute Was Problematic

The Bellamy salute was named after Francis J. Bellamy, the author of the Pledge of Allegiance. However, anyone can see the trouble this salute may have caused in the WWII era. The similarities between the Bellamy salute and Hitler's salute drew commentary as early as the mid-1930s. Congress feared footage of the Bellamy salute could be used by Nazis as propaganda: "the photos could be mischaracterized as proof that Americans were expressing support for the ideologies of Hitler and Mussolini."

01:14

Key Facts to Know

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    The original salute to the American flag was the Bellamy salute, which looked similar to the Nazi salute. 0:04

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    Frances Bellamy is author of the Pledge of Allegiance. 0:17

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    Due to controversy over the Bellamy salute, placing the hand over the heart took place as the gesture to perform during the Pledge of Allegiance. 0:21

The Forgotten History of The Black Cowboy

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The Forgotten History of The Black Cowboy

Despite what Hollywood portrays, an estimated one in four Texan cowboys of the 1800s were black, and even more were Mexican. Contemporary records are rare, but the American West was traversed by an assortment of black, white, Mexican and Native American cowhands. The term "cowboy" is widely thought to have began as a derogatory term strictly for black cowhands.

02:46

from PBSAmerica

Key Facts to Know

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    The original term "cowboy" was a derogatory term for black cowhands. 1:46

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    When the term "cowboy" started gaining popularity, white men started called themselves cowboys as well. 2:17

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    It may be because of how well the original cowboys did their jobs that made it an honor to be called a "cowboy." 2:31