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To Cindy McCain (and anyone who thinks this is the "dirtiest campaign in American history")

While we hesitate to get political at mental_floss, we relish the opportunity to get historical. Yesterday, it was reported that Cindy McCain accused Sen. Barack Obama of waging "the dirtiest campaign in American history." There's no doubt that the mudslinging has certainly escalated in the last few weeks, but we're not certain that this campaign is that much harsher than any one in the past (in fact, it seems downright tamer!). Here are some highlights from Jenny Drapkin's cover story on presidential campaigns that might change Cindy's opinion, starting with Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson Hires a Hatchet Man

"... Jefferson's camp accused President Adams of having a "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman." In return, Adams' men called Vice President Jefferson 'a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.' As the slurs piled on, Adams was labeled a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal, and a tyrant, while Jefferson was branded a weakling, an atheist, a libertine, and a coward."

Thankfully, the words "half-breed" and "hermaphroditical character" haven't come up in this election cycle. More disturbing campaigning after the jump.

LBJ Links Goldwater to the Klan

"...the Daisy Spot, arguably the most effective political ad of all time. Although it aired only once during the 1964 campaign, many historians agree that it was responsible for keeping Lyndon Johnson in office, while insinuating that his Republican opponent, Barry Goldwater, was a trigger-happy extremist. Although Johnson publicly decried the unfairness of the Daisy Spot, it was actually part of a secret ad campaign he orchestrated, the first of its kind to appear on television. In fact, he thought the ad was hilarious and was disappointed when his advisors told him only to air it once. That didn't stop the Johnson team from releasing other wildly manipulative commercials, however. One of them showed a Klansman burning a cross and then featured a Klan member saying, 'I like Barry Goldwater. He needs our help.' In the end, Johnson won all but six states, securing one of the biggest victories the nation had ever seen. From the Wildest Rides to the White House cover story, available here.

Hayes vs. Tilden: The Most Egregious Election in American History

"...in 1876, both the Republican candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes, and his opponent Samuel Tilden expected that Tilden—the Democrat—would win. In fact, as the sun set on the eve of the election, both men went to bed believing that Tilden had carried the day. Little did they know that in middle of the night, party operatives would be busy making sure that every vote did not count." More here.

Dick Tuck: The Democratic Mole who Undermined Nixon

"...during a whistle-stop train tour on the same campaign, Tuck disguised himself as a conductor and ordered Nixon's train to pull away from the station just as Nixon had begun a speech to the crowd. When Nixon ran for President in 1968, Tuck hired pregnant women to show up at his rallies wearing T-shirts that read 'Nixon's the One.'" More here.

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Animals
Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London
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Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


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Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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