Welcome to Fun Facts About the 50 States, where – week by week – I’ll be taking you on a tour around this great nation of ours, providing you with interesting, yet completely useless and probably untrue, information about each of the 50 states.
This week, we’re taking a trip to the state that habitually refers to Canada as “our neighbor to the west” – New York. So let’s get started…
* New York became the 11th state on July 26th, 1788 and was originally called New Amsterdam. Before the final name change, it was variously known as Not New Jersey, Whaddyalookinat, and Hookerland.
* New York City’s most famous landmark, the Statue of Liberty, is constructed out of copper and eventually turned green due to pollution from coal burning factories. If you scraped off the corrosion, you’d find that the statue was actually pink, completely naked, and originally titled “The Statue of Yowza!”
* Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, New York, was orginally founded as a women’s college in 1861. Its motto is “Where women go to feel smart between evenings of drunken table dancing”.
* The 1969, the Woodstock Music Festival was held on Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York. It reportedly took Mr. Yasgur over 2 years to get that hippie smell out of his manure pit.
* Dairy farming is New York’s #1 agricultural activity. The state’s 18,000 dairy farms have a milk-producing capacity nearly that of Dolly Parton.
* In 1807, the world’s first steamboat, the Clermont, made its maiden voyage between New York City and Albany. It was during this trip that the phrase “are we there, yet?” was first coined.
* The state tree of New York is the billboard
* In 1899, the Kosher wine industry was started by Sam Shapiro in New York City. Before that, Jews drank nothing but the fermented blood of Palestinian babies. Or so I’ve heard.
* New York City has 722 miles of subway track. Most of it heavily stained with wino vomit.
* “Wizard of Oz” author L. Frank Baum was born in Chittenago, New York. His famous tale was loosely based on the lives of Al and Tipper Gore, as most great American stories are.
* The New York Post – founded in 1803 by Alexander Hamilton – is America’s oldest continually-published newspaper. Its first headline was “Jefferson Has No Exit Strategy For Barbary Coast Pirate Quagmire”.
* John Babcock of New York City invented the stationary rowing machine in 1869 as a less-smelly alternative to the then-popular exercise fad of riding a dead horse.
* The first railroad in America ran the 11 miles between Albany and Schenectady, NY. The slow, primitive train ride carried few passengers, since riding a dead horse between the towns was nearly as fast.
* New York City was the first capital of the United States. George Washington took his oath of office there in 1789, beginning the city’s long and cherished tradition of gullibly trusting lying politicians.
* Every November, New York City’s Empire State Building plays host to the Boy Scouts’ annual Urban Camp-out, allowing scouts to earn the elusive Drunk Rolling and Crack Procurement merit badges.
* During the war of 1812, meatpacker Sam Wilson of Troy, New York, stamped “U.S. Beef” on the products he sent to the troops. This was popularly interpreted as – and began the legend of – Uncle Sam, although the letters actually stood for “urine soaked”.
* Don’t make that face at me. Urine contains a plethora of natural preservatives.
* Actor Humphrey Bogart was born in New York City in 1899. Little known fact – in the movie “Casablanca”, he never said “Play it again, Sam.” What he actually said was “AOL sends spam”, one of the most prescient lines in cinematic history.
* Jell-O was invented in Rochester, New York in 1897. Mostly as a way to help dispose of the mountains of dead horses that people didn’t ride any more.
* Marshmallows were also invented in Rochester. They stopped being manufactured there in 1984 after the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man destroyed the city.
* For obvious reasons, bumper-to-bumper warranties for cars sold in New York City do NOT cover the horn.
* Gennaro Lombardi opened America’s first pizzeria in New York City in 1895. Slices of the original pie are still being sold there today, or at least that’s what it tastes like.
* Locals don’t complain about it, though, since New Yorkers wouldn’t know good pizza if it jumped up and stuffed their noses full of pepperoni.
* On July 28th, 1945, a B-25 bomber crashed into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building. The pilot wasn’t Muslim, just really stupid, which isn’t technically the same thing.
* Joseph C. Gayetty of New York City introduced toilet paper to the world in 1857, causing sales of The New York Times to plummet.
* Camera inventor George Eastman was born in Waterville, NY in 1854. His device was second only to the creation of the internet in revolutionizing the pornography industry.
* New York was the first state to require license plates on automobiles, which featured the motto, “Get out of my way, jackass!”
* Famed for his numerous, heartwarming Saturday Evening Post covers, painter Norman Rockwell was born in New York City. The secret to his technique was looking out the window of his Hell’s Kitchen apartment and then painting the exact opposite of what he saw.
* New York City is world-famous for its cultural diversity. While walking even a single block, a tourist can expect to be cursed at in over 40 different languages.
* Contrary to the popular myth, local Indians did NOT sell the island of Manhattan for $24 worth of beads and trinkets. It was actually lost during an inexplicable run of bad luck at a Coney Island sidewalk game of 3-Card-Monte.
That wraps up the New York edition of Fun Facts About the 50 States. Next week we’ll be stuck to the floor by the tar on our heels as we visit North Carolina.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go earn some merit badges.
[The complete e-book version of “Fun Facts About the 50 States” is now available at Amazon.com. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download free Kindle apps for your web browser, smartphone, computer, or tablet from Amazon.com]