One-Night Stands with American History (Revised and Updated Edition): Odd, Amusing, and Little-Known Incidents

One-Night Stands with American History (Revised and Updated Edition): Odd, Amusing, and Little-Known Incidents

by Richard Shenkman, Kurt Reiger


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One-Night Stands with American History (Revised and Updated Edition): Odd, Amusing, and Little-Known Incidents by Richard Shenkman, Kurt Reiger

Respect yourself in the morning — read One-Night Stands with American History!

This collection of little-known facts and anecdotes is American history with the boring parts left out. Richard Shenkman and Kurt Reiger have uncovered numerous stories about hoaxes, inventions, secrets, and rare incidents — many involving the most famous and powerful people in America.

  • President U. S. Grant was arrested for speeding in his horse carriage.
  • J. Edgar Hoover refused to allow people to walk on his shadow.
  • France shipped Louisiana twenty-five prostitutes because women were in short supply in 1721.
  • H. L. Hunt won his first oil well in a game of five-card stud.

Even historians find that One-Night Stands with American History features fascinating stories they never knew. Now updated with facts and anecdotes from the last twenty years, this volume is a treasure trove of remarkable stories that will startle, entertain, and inform you. And the best part is that they're all true!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060538200
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/05/2003
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 663,272
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.92(h) x 0.76(d)

About the Author

Richard Shenkman is an associate professor of history at George Mason University and the New York Times bestselling author of six history books, including Presidential Ambition; Legends, Lies & Cherished Myths of World History; and Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth About the American Voter. The editor and founder of George Mason University's History News Network website, he can be seen regularly on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC.

Kurt Reiger recieved his B.A. in American History from Vanderbilt University. Born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, he also holds an M.B.A. degree from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Read an Excerpt

One-Night Stands with American History (Revised and Updated Edition)

Odd, Amusing, and Little-Known Incidents
By Richard Shenkman

Harper Collins Publishers

Copyright © 2003 Richard Shenkman All right reserved. ISBN: 0060538201

Chapter One


Puritanism: "The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy."

- H.L. Mencken

Scrapbook of the Times

  • In 1631, Massachusetts Bay outlawed chimneys made of wood after major fires ravaged several towns.
  • Concerned about the fluctuating value of money, Willem Kiefft, deputy-general of New Amsterdam, issued an order in the 1640s that wampum be strung tightly together. Loose wampum had created problems of exchange and led to an increase in bartering.
  • The first income tax in American history was imposed in 1643 by the colonists of New Plymouth, Massachusetts.
  • Wall Street received its name in 1644, when New York City built a wall around lower Manhattan to protect cattle from marauding Indians.
  • The first person convicted and executed in America for witchcraft was Margaret James of Charlestown, Massachusetts. She was executed on June 15, 1648, almost fifty years before the notorious trials at Salem.
  • When inflation became a major problem in the 1650s in New Amsterdam, Peter Stuyvesant, head of the colony, imposed price controls -at first just on bread, brandy, and wine, and later on shoes, stockings, soap, salad oil, candles, vinegar, and nails.
  • The first Bible was printed in America in 1661 - in the Algonquin language, a language that no one today can read.
  • In the seventeenth century New Englanders spoke with a Southern accent. The Southern accent was a survival from old England and predominated in America until the eighteenth century, when Yankees began speaking with the familiar twang.
  • For wearing silk clothes, which were above their station, thirty young men were arrested in 1675 in New England. Thirty-eight women were arrested for the same offense in Connecticut.
  • To celebrate the end of King Philip's War, the worst Indian war in their history, New England colonists, on August 17, 1676, placed the head of the man who started it, Chief Meta-comet, on a pole outside the gates of Plymouth. The head remained there for twenty-five years.
  • The rhymes of Mother Goose, a real person, were first published in 1719 under the title Songs for the Nursery; or, Mother Goose's Melodies for Children. Her son-in-law, a printer, who was annoyed by the rhymes Mother Goose sang to his baby, published them in an attempt to embarrass her.
  • Women were in such short supply in Louisiana in 1721 that the government of France shipped twenty-five prostitutes to the colony. By this action the government hoped to lure Canadian settlers away from Indian mistresses.
  • Angered by the poor quality of dormitory food, students at Harvard College rebelled in 1766. The administration responded by suspending half the student body.

Columbus's Secret Log

On September 9, 1492, as the last land dropped below the horizon, Christopher Columbus began keeping two logs. One log, which he kept secret, was a true reckoning of his course and distance. The other was a falsified account of the ship's location written so the crew would not be frightened at sailing so far from land. Yet as fate would have it, Columbus overestimated his distance by 9 percent in his private log, placing his discovery much farther west than it actually was. The false log, however, contained no such "error." Columbus had given his sailors a record that was, for all practical purposes, virtually correct.

Tobacco: Sixteenth-Century Panacea

A relationship between smoking and health was recognized soon after the introduction of tobacco to Europeans. In 1588, Thomas Hariot published A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, in which he described the new product to the Old World. "It openeth all the pores and passages of the body," he wrote. Users "are notably [preserved] in health, and know not many greevous diseases wherewithall wee in England are oftentimes afflicted."

A Naming in the New World

Plymouth, Massachusetts, was named by the Pilgrims in 1620 because the Mayflower had sailed from Plymouth, England. It sounds logical and is believed by most people, but it isn't true. In 1614, Captain John Smith sailed from Jamestown, Virginia, on his first exploring mission to the northeast. He returned with a map cluttered with "barbarous" names representing Indian villages. Smith showed the map to Prince Charles and asked His Royal Highness to provide good English names in place of the Indian ones. Prince Charles obliged, and changed the Indian name of Accomack to Plymouth, years before any white man ever settled there.

The Pilgrims Didn't Land on the Rock

The belief that the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock rests solely on the recollection of a ninety-five-year-old man 120 years after the event. In 1741, Elder Thomas Faunce told a crowd that his father, who arrived in America three years after the Mayflower, had once pointed out to him the rock as the place where the Pilgrims had landed. There is no other evidence for the tradition. Besides, the Harvard historian Edward Channing proved that the ship never could have landed at the rock given the direction of the current.

Reds in Plymouth

When the Pilgrims arrived in America in 1620, they immediately committed an un-American act - at least, one that would be so viewed later on. Desiring to create a just and equal society, they established a communist economy. The early colonists remained committed to communism for several years, until they finally decided that it was inefficient. Their switch to capitalism was a defeat of sorts, since it implied the inability of men to work hard for the common good without individual incentive.


Excerpted from One-Night Stands with American History (Revised and Updated Edition) by Richard Shenkman
Copyright © 2003 by Richard Shenkman
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

Inventing a Country17
Old Hickory to Old Rough-and-Ready54
Billy Yank and Johnny Reb83
The Great Barbecue138
The Full Dinner Pail, the Bull Moose, and the Great War180
Era of the Pumpkin Coach225
War on Depression, War on Europe240
From Doo-wop to Disco257
Since Watergate291

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3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
clejtd More than 1 year ago
Twenty days.  That's how long it took me to read this book.  Twenty days. I’m not sure exactly what happened.  At first, it felt like the pages were whizzing on by! After the first 25 pages, I posted this update on Goodreads:  Woo! Just the break I need from that whip slinging Goodreads Challenge! So far the quick little historical snippets are funny and refreshing! Days later I was up to page 70 and posted this:  Love the bit about ill-behaved children could be executed for outburst against their parents. Talk about discipline! Then, much like a captain’s log of a boat long lost at sea, the updates stopped.  Ten days and forty pages later, this was the last update anyone heard from this sailor:  I seemed to hit a reading wall. Is it the changing weather? Is it daylight’s saving time? Surely it can’t be this book. Yesterday, I finally finished it and felt a bit of guilt in regards to how relieved I was.  The facts are:  This book has many historical details that will make you laugh, gasp and shake your head.  However, after a while, it does take on the feeling of a one night stand.  There’s no commitment.  You could drop it and leave it and never look back.  Dust yourself off and move on to the next new thing.  I think that was my hang up.  There was no character that I could see from beginning to end. For an added bonus, Goodreads started rubbing it in my face that I was officially two books behind! I think a more appropriate use for this book for me would be during a power outage and I totally mean that as I compliment.  During the twenty days of reading, I would often read parts aloud to the beau.  I think I will keep it around for that purpose.  It’s just the short bits of entertainment you need until the lights com back on.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is good for those who view history as a dull, lifeless subject. The format is presented as quick snipets spanning from the early Colonial period to present day. The majority of the work concerns American presidents, which can, as a subject, get tedious at times. I also think one should have a good grasp of American history to understand the full meaning of some of the stories. I enjoyed this book as a fun read, history fluff to read on the beach or on vacation. This book could also be used in the high school classroom as a source to help spice up what's viewed as a boring subject.