Sunday, April 20, 2014
By ROD HARMON Deputy Managing Editor
Welcome to another special issue of GO. This week, we present our picks for the top 10 must-attend festivals of the summer. Delve into it, and let us know what you think. Let the discussion begin!
If you're looking for things to do today, the Fourth of July, we covered most of that ground last week to give people more time to plan their Independence Day activities. If you missed it, you can find information about Portland's "Stars and Stripes Spectacular" in the middle of this week's issue, along with a list of other fireworks displays around Maine (the same list can be found online). Our event listings provide plenty of other entertainment options as well.
Even if you've already made your July 4 plans, it's never too late to impress friends and family with your knowledge of U.S. trivia. Here are some nuggets to get you started:
• George Washington died of a strep throat. More specifically, he died after he was bled by doctors in an attempt to cure the strep throat -- at least half of his total blood content was removed in just a few hours. Unfortunately for our first commander in chief, bloodletting was still a common practice in the late 18th century.
• Washington was not the first president of the United States. That distinction belongs to John Hanson, who served for one year beginning in 1782. In fact, there were a total of eight presidents before Washington -- including John Hancock -- but as George was the first president elected after the adoption of the Constitution and his predecessors were mainly figureheads with little power, he's considered historically to be the first leader of our country.
• Remember those history books that showed Benjamin Franklin flying a kite with a key attached to the tail during a lightning storm? Yeah, that probably never happened. While Franklin conducted plenty of experiments with electricity, modern experts say if lightning had indeed struck the kite/key combination, the electrical jolt would have been enough to incinerate 'ol Ben. The more likely scenario: Franklin made it up.
• Although it inspired "The Star-Spangled Banner," the War of 1812 was not a clear victory for the U.S. Most historians agree that it actually ended in a stalemate, and some believe that the British won the war because the U.S. failed to win any Canadian territory.
• If you think the current political discord in Congress is nasty, consider this: In 1856, Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts was nearly beaten to death with a cane by Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina -- on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Brooks was angered by an anti-slavery speech that Sumner had given, but decided to give a physical rather than verbal rebuttal.
If that seems incredible by today's standards, get a load of this: Not only did Brooks avoid jail time for the assault, he was re-elected later that year. (He died from croup before he could begin a new term.) The cane used in the assault is on display at the Old Statehouse in Boston.
• While the stories of John F. Kennedy's peccadilloes are the stuff of legend, he had nothing on his successor when it came to crude behavior. Lyndon Johnson skinny-dipped in the White House pool, conducted high-level meetings while he sat on the toilet, and once urinated on a Secret Service agent just because he felt like it.
• Speaking of Secret Service agents, President Gerald Ford -- who wasn't exactly known for being a graceful man -- would often fart and blame it on his agents. Being good agents, they refrained from invoking the "he who smelt it, dealt it" rule.
And with that, I leave you with this: Happy Fourth of July!
Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or at: