5 Forgotten Founding Fathers

There were 56 men who put quill to parchment during the Summer of Independence in 1776. Most of the signers would be unrecognized today, even if they turned up on Dancing with the Stars. In their time, they were colorful men, prominent patriots and leaders of their colonies. So this Independence Day weekend, let us reacquaint ourselves with five of these forgotten Founding Fathers.

Carter Braxton—Virginia (1736-1797)
One of the few signers from Virginia whose name wasn't Jefferson or Lee, Carter Braxton nevertheless belonged to the colony's plantation-owning aristocracy.

He sired 18 children—surely qualifying him as a founding father by anyone's standards. His first wife, who brought him a small fortune that augmented his own, died in childbirth two years after their marriage. His second wife went on to give birth to their last 16 offspring, and outlived her virile husband by 17 years.

In 1761, the same year his second marriage began, Braxton, then 25, was elected to the House of Burgesses for King William County, in southeast Virginia. By the spring of 1775, tensions with the British were running high. The day after shots were fired in anger at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, the British colonial governor of Virginia seized the gunpowder stored in Williamsburg. Local militias were itching to fight to retrieve the powder. Cooler heads "“ among them Braxton's and George Washington's "“ convinced most of the militiamen to stand down. Still, one militia, led by Patrick Henry, threatened to retaliate unless the British returned the gunpowder or paid for it.

Braxton intervened. He set up a meeting with the king's receiver-general, who happened to be Braxton's father-in-law. Braxton convinced him to pay for the gunpowder. Revolution in Virginia was saved for another day.

In early 1776, Braxton went to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia to fill the seat of a Virginia delegate who had died. Historical sources disagree about Braxton's initial position on independence, but in the end he signed on. His is the final name in the Virginia delegation, the bottom-most name on the entire parchment.

Button Gwinnett—Georgia (1732 or 1735-1777)
Even by the standards of the revolutionary period, Georgia's Button Gwinnett practiced X-treme politics. He was born in England and arrived in Savannah in 1765, when the colony of Georgia was just 33 years old. He bought land for a plantation, but failed as a gentleman farmer.

Where Carter Braxton was moderate and conciliatory, Gwinnett was incendiary. As the split with Britain widened, he became a leader of Georgia's radical faction of patriots. In 1776, he was elected to the Continental Congress. His signature on the Declaration of Independence is the first of Georgia's three-man delegation, at the far left of the document.

Back home in 1777, Gwinnett participated in the convention that drew up Georgia's first state constitution. He also sought the leadership of the Georgia militia, a position that went to Col. Lachlan McIntosh, a prominent member of a rival political faction.

Gwinnett's "ambition was disappointed," the Rev. Charles A. Goodrich wrote in Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence (1856), "and being naturally hasty in his temper, and in his conclusions, he seems, from this time, to have regarded Colonel McIntosh as a personal enemy."

After the president of Georgia's Committee of Safety (the state's executive council) died, Gwinnett was appointed to finish his term. The only vote opposing Gwinnett's candidacy was cast by George McIntosh—Lachlan's brother. As council president Gwinnett was Georgia's commander-in-chief, and he proposed an attack on British East Florida to secure Georgia's southern border.

The McIntosh brothers and their circle condemned the plan as politically motivated. Gwinnett had George McIntosh arrested for treason. Amid the power struggle between Gwinnett and Lachlan McIntosh, the Florida expedition failed, and when a new legislature convened, it declined to elect Gwinnett governor. It also cleared Gwinnett of charges of wrongdoing in the Florida debacle. This gwinnett.jpginfuriated Lachlan McIntosh, who denounced his rival publicly. Gwinnett, following the script of the times, sought satisfaction from McIntosh's attack on the field of honor.

"They fought [with pistols] at the distance of only 12 feet," the Rev. Goodrich wrote. "Both were severely wounded. The wound of Mr. Gwinnett proved mortal; and on the 27th of May, 1777, in the forty-fifth year of his age, he expired."

Gwinnett's name lives on in suburban Gwinnett County, northeast of Atlanta, and in the value placed by collectors on his signature, the rarest of the Founding Fathers.

Robert Treat Paine—Massachusetts (1731-1814)
During two trials in 1770, as John Adams argued for the defense of the British soldiers who carried out the Boston Massacre, the man who faced him as prosecutor was friend and fellow Harvard graduate Robert Treat Paine. Adams proved to have the superior courtroom strategy. Juries acquitted the British commander and six soldiers for the murder of five Americans. Two other soldiers were found guilty of manslaughter, punished and released.

Adams described Paine as conceited, but enjoyed his quick wit, and he was elected to the Massachusetts colonial assembly the same year as the trial. Paine was chosen a delegate to the first and second Continental Congresses, where he acquired the nickname "Objection Maker" as independence from Britain was being argued. "He seldom proposed anything, but opposed nearly every measure that was proposed by other people..." said Benjamin Rush, a semi-forgotten Founding Father from Pennsylvania.

Nevertheless, Paine signed the declaration "“ one of five Massachusetts men to do so. He went on to become the new state's attorney general, served on the committee that drafted the Massachusetts constitution, and was a founding member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston. In 1796, he accepted a seat on the Massachusetts Supreme Court, where he served until increasing deafness and poor health forced his resignation in 1804.

"It would divert you to witness conversation between my ancient friend and colleague Robert T. Paine and me," an elderly John Adams wrote in 1811. "He is above 80. I cannot speak and he cannot hear. Yet we converse."

Edward Rutledge—South Carolina (1749-1800)
In 1774, just a year after returning to his native Charleston upon completing his legal studies in England, Edward Rutledge was elected to the Continental Congress. Two years later, at age 26, he was the youngest man to sign the Declaration of Independence. (Benjamin Franklin, at 70, was the oldest.)

rutledge.jpgEdward and his elder brother John were both central figures in South Carolina politics and the fight for independence "“ John gave up his seat in Congress before independence was declared to help rewrite South Carolina's constitution "“ thus missing the chance to have his own section in this article.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Edward was working to delay the moment independence was declared. "Rutledge firmly believed that the Colonies should first confederate and nurture foreign alliances to strengthen themselves for the perilous step they were about to take," according to a biography published by the National Park Service.

In a vote on independence on July 1, Rutledge led the South Carolina delegation in opposing a break with Britain. Nine of the 13 colonies were in favor, so Rutledge proposed another vote the next day. On July 2, South Carolina sided with the majority for independence.

By the end of August, the British had occupied Long Island and were poised to conquer New York City. Admiral Lord Richard Howe sent out peace feelers, and Rutledge was chosen, along with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, to meet with the British commander. The discussion ended without positive results.

Rutledge spent the war years in political and military activities in South Carolina. As a militia captain, he was captured by the British when they conquered Charleston in 1780. Rutledge spent a year in prison, until he was released in a prisoner swap.

He served in the state legislature in 1782-1798. During this period, the legislature appointed him a presidential elector three times. His flourishing law practice and investments in plantations expanded his wealth.

By the time he was elected governor, in 1798, his health was failing. He died in early 1800, at age 50. Elder brother John died the same year.

William Whipple—New Hampshire (1730-1785)
Born in Kittery, Maine, William Whipple shipped out to sea early as a cabin boy. By the time he retired from the mariner's life, around the age of 30, he had captained ships and was a wealthy man. He settled in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and went into business as a merchant with his brother.

By 1775, his fortune secure, Whipple had the wherewithal and local standing to be elected to statewide offices and then to the Continental Congress. He was the second of three New Hampshire men to sign the Declaration of Independence. The first "“ fans of TV's West Wing will appreciate "“ was Josiah Bartlett (although the eponymous fictional president had only one "t" in his last name).

Whipple's sea-toughened revolutionary activities were just beginning. In 1777, he became brigadier general of the New Hampshire militia. That autumn, he was a commander in the American campaign against the British that led to Gen. John Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga, in New York's Hudson River Valley. The American victory prevented the British from severing New England from the rest of the country. And it demonstrated that the Americans could defeat the British on their own.

Throughout the campaign, Whipple was attended by a slave named Prince. It is believed Prince is the black oarsman depicted in the famous Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze painting George Washington Crossing the Delaware, although it's doubtful Prince actually was at the crossing.

In 1780, Whipple was elected to the New Hampshire General Assembly, and in 1782 was made a judge of the state Supreme Court. By then he was suffering from heart failure, and he once fainted on his horse while riding his circuit.

In 1875, the New Hampshire Patriot summed up his legacy this way: "If not a star of the first magnitude"¦the life of Whipple yet emitted a clear and steady effulgence, which sided in conducting the people in to the goal of independence."

David Holzel is a freelance writer outside Washington, DC. He likes to think his Franklin Pierce Pages emits a steady effulgence.
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Michael Campanella/Getty Images
10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
Michael Campanella/Getty Images
Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios

"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole

How Apple's '1984' Super Bowl Ad Was Almost Canceled

More than 30 years ago, Apple defined the Super Bowl commercial as a cultural phenomenon. Prior to Super Bowl XVIII, nobody watched the game "just for the commercials"—but one epic TV spot, directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott, changed all that. Read on for the inside story of the commercial that rocked the world of advertising, even though Apple's Board of Directors didn't want to run it at all.


If you haven't seen it, here's a fuzzy YouTube version:

"WHY 1984 WON'T BE LIKE 1984"

The tagline "Why 1984 Won't Be Like '1984'" references George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984, which envisioned a dystopian future, controlled by a televised "Big Brother." The tagline was written by Brent Thomas and Steve Hayden of the ad firm Chiat\Day in 1982, and the pair tried to sell it to various companies (including Apple, for the Apple II computer) but were turned down repeatedly. When Steve Jobs heard the pitch in 1983, he was sold—he saw the Macintosh as a "revolutionary" product, and wanted advertising to match. Jobs saw IBM as Big Brother, and wanted to position Apple as the world's last chance to escape IBM's domination of the personal computer industry. The Mac was scheduled to launch in late January of 1984, a week after the Super Bowl. IBM already held the nickname "Big Blue," so the parallels, at least to Jobs, were too delicious to miss.

Thomas and Hayden wrote up the story of the ad: we see a world of mind-controlled, shuffling men all in gray, staring at a video screen showing the face of Big Brother droning on about "information purification directives." A lone woman clad in vibrant red shorts and a white tank-top (bearing a Mac logo) runs from riot police, dashing up an aisle towards Big Brother. Just before being snatched by the police, she flings a sledgehammer at Big Brother's screen, smashing him just after he intones "We shall prevail!" Big Brother's destruction frees the minds of the throng, who quite literally see the light, flooding their faces now that the screen is gone. A mere eight seconds before the one-minute ad concludes, a narrator briefly mentions the word "Macintosh," in a restatement of that original tagline: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" An Apple logo is shown, and then we're out—back to the game.

In 1983, in a presentation about the Mac, Jobs introduced the ad to a cheering audience of Apple employees:

"... It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?"

After seeing the ad for the first time, the Apple audience totally freaked out (jump to about the 5-minute mark to witness the riotous cheering).


Chiat\Day hired Ridley Scott, whose 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner had the dystopian tone they were looking for (and Alien wasn't so bad either). Scott filmed the ad in London, using actual skinheads playing the mute bald men—they were paid $125 a day to sit and stare at Big Brother; those who still had hair were paid to shave their heads for the shoot. Anya Major, a discus thrower and actress, was cast as the woman with the sledgehammer largely because she was actually capable of wielding the thing.

Mac programmer Andy Hertzfeld wrote an Apple II program "to flash impressive looking numbers and graphs on [Big Brother's] screen," but it's unclear whether his program was used for the final film. The ad cost a shocking $900,000 to film, plus Apple booked two premium slots during the Super Bowl to air it—carrying an airtime cost of more than $1 million.


Although Jobs and his marketing team (plus the assembled throng at his 1983 internal presentation) loved the ad, Apple's Board of Directors hated it. After seeing the ad for the first time, board member Mike Markkula suggested that Chiat\Day be fired, and the remainder of the board were similarly unimpressed. Then-CEO John Sculley recalled the reaction after the ad was screened for the group: "The others just looked at each other, dazed expressions on their faces ... Most of them felt it was the worst commercial they had ever seen. Not a single outside board member liked it." Sculley instructed Chiat\Day to sell off the Super Bowl airtime they had purchased, but Chiat\Day principal Jay Chiat quietly resisted. Chiat had purchased two slots—a 60-second slot in the third quarter to show the full ad, plus a 30-second slot later on to repeat an edited-down version. Chiat sold only the 30-second slot and claimed it was too late to sell the longer one. By disobeying his client's instructions, Chiat cemented Apple's place in advertising history.

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak heard that the ad was in trouble, he offered to pony up half the airtime costs himself, saying, "I asked how much it was going to cost, and [Steve Jobs] told me $800,000. I said, 'Well, I'll pay half of it if you will.' I figured it was a problem with the company justifying the expenditure. I thought an ad that was so great a piece of science fiction should have its chance to be seen."

But Woz didn't have to shell out the money; the executive team finally decided to run a 100-day advertising extravaganza for the Mac's launch, starting with the Super Bowl ad—after all, they had already paid to shoot it and were stuck with the airtime.

1984 - Big Brother


When the ad aired, controversy erupted—viewers either loved or hated the ad, and it spurred a wave of media coverage that involved news shows replaying the ad as part of covering it, leading to estimates of an additional $5 million in "free" airtime for the ad. All three national networks, plus countless local markets, ran news stories about the ad. "1984" become a cultural event, and served as a blueprint for future Apple product launches. The marketing logic was brilliantly simple: create an ad campaign that sparked controversy (for example, by insinuating that IBM was like Big Brother), and the media will cover your launch for free, amplifying the message.

The full ad famously ran once during the Super Bowl XVIII (on January 22, 1984), but it also ran the month prior—on December 31, 1983, TV station operator Tom Frank ran the ad on KMVT at the last possible time slot before midnight, in order to qualify for 1983's advertising awards.* (Any awards the ad won would mean more media coverage.) Apple paid to screen the ad in movie theaters before movie trailers, further heightening anticipation for the Mac launch. In addition to all that, the 30-second version was aired across the country after its debut on the Super Bowl.

Chiat\Day adman Steve Hayden recalled: "We ran a 30- second version of '1984' in the top 10 U.S. markets, plus, in an admittedly childish move, in an 11th market—Boca Raton, Florida, headquarters for IBM's PC division." Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld ended his remembrance of the ad by saying:

"A week after the Macintosh launch, Apple held its January board meeting. The Macintosh executive staff was invited to attend, not knowing what to expect. When the Mac people entered the room, everyone on the board rose and gave them a standing ovation, acknowledging that they were wrong about the commercial and congratulating the team for pulling off a fantastic launch.

Chiat\Day wanted the commercial to qualify for upcoming advertising awards, so they ran it once at 1 AM at a small television station in Twin Falls, Idaho, KMVT, on December 15, 1983 [incorrect; see below for an update on this -ed]. And sure enough it won just about every possible award, including best commercial of the decade. Twenty years later it's considered one of the most memorable television commercials ever made."


A year later, Apple again employed Chiat\Day to make a blockbuster ad for their Macintosh Office product line, which was basically a file server, networking gear, and a laser printer. Directed by Ridley Scott's brother Tony, the new ad was called "Lemmings," and featured blindfolded businesspeople whistling an out-of-tune version of Snow White's "Heigh-Ho" as they followed each other off a cliff (referencing the myth of lemming suicide).

Jobs and Sculley didn't like the ad, but Chiat\Day convinced them to run it, pointing out that the board hadn't liked the last ad either. But unlike the rousing, empowering message of the "1984" ad, "Lemmings" directly insulted business customers who had already bought IBM computers. It was also weirdly boring—when it was aired at the Super Bowl (with Jobs and Sculley in attendance), nobody really reacted. The ad was a flop, and Apple even proposed running a printed apology in The Wall Street Journal. Jay Chiat shot back, saying that if Apple apologized, Chiat would buy an ad on the next page, apologizing for the apology. It was a mess:


In 2004, the ad was updated for the launch of the iPod. The only change was that the woman with the hammer was now listening to an iPod, which remained clipped to her belt as she ran. You can watch that version too:


Chiat\Day adman Lee Clow gave an interview about the ad, covering some of this material.

Check out Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld's excellent first-person account of the ad. A similar account (but with more from Jobs's point of view) can found in the Steve Jobs biography, and an even more in-depth account is in The Mac Bathroom Reader. The Mac Bathroom Reader is out of print; you can read an excerpt online, including QuickTime movies of the two versions of the ad, plus a behind-the-scenes video. Finally, you might enjoy this 2004 USA Today article about the ad, pointing out that ads for other computers (including Atari, Radio Shack, and IBM's new PCjr) also ran during that Super Bowl.

* = A Note on the Airing in 1983

Update: Thanks to Tom Frank for writing in to correct my earlier mis-statement about the first air date of this commercial. As you can see in his comment below, Hertzfeld's comments above (and the dates cited in other accounts I've seen) are incorrect. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Frank, in which we discuss what it was like running both "1984" and "Lemmings" before they were on the Super Bowl!

Update 2: You can read the story behind this post in Chris's book The Blogger Abides.

This post originally appeared in 2012.


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