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8 Secessionist Movements in American History

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We all know about the Confederate states leaving the Union. But that was far from the only secessionist movement in American history. Here are some rebellious regions you won't find in too many history books.

1. The Kingdom of Beaver Island

Strang.jpgBeaver Island, a small island in Lake Michigan, became the home of Mormon leader James Strang and his followers—called Strangites—in 1848. Two years later, Strang declared himself king of the church—complete with crown, scepter, robe, and a harem of 15 wives. However, most of the island's inhabitants were his followers, so he essentially became King of Beaver Island. The power got to his head, and he began forcing his rule onto the non-believers, causing some violence between the two factions. In 1856, the USS Michigan pulled into the harbor and invited Strang aboard. As he was walking towards the ship, he was shot in the back by disgruntled followers, who then ran up the gangplank and escaped. Adding to the mysterious circumstances, the assassins were set ashore on nearby Mackinac Island and never charged for their crime. Shortly after the assassination, angry mobs from surrounding islands eventually forced the Strangites from their homes, thus ending the short-lived Kingdom of Beaver Island.

2. The State of Superior

Concern over a perceived lack of interest from the Michigan state government, the people of the Upper Peninsula (U.P.), affectionately known as "Yoopers," have been trying to secede and form the State of Superior since as far back as 1897. The movement gained momentum after 1957 when a bridge connecting the U.P. region to Lower Michigan made it easier for southern "Trolls" (people who live "below the bridge") and Yoopers to mingle. This animosity continued into the mid-1980s, when 20,000 signatures were collected and submitted to the state for a secession request. However, the number was shy of the 36,000 required, and the request subsequently denied. The secessionist drive lives on today, as numerous grassroots organizations are trying to muster support for another official attempt at an independent U.P. Until that day comes, though, the Yoopers and Trolls will just have to try to get along.

3. The Great Republic of Rough and Ready

rough-and-ready-flag.jpgRough and Ready, California, was a mining town founded in 1849 by the Rough and Ready Company of Wisconsin. As the town's population rapidly exploded to 3,000, lawlessness was on the rise—and the U.S. government was not much help squelching the rampant crime. Additionally, a new federal tax on mining operations added fuel to the region's civil unrest. Seeing little support from Washington, on April 7, 1850, the townspeople voted to secede from the Union.

But just three months later, as the Fourth of July approached, The Great Republic of Rough and Ready wanted to have a celebration (which seems odd considering they were no longer, technically, Americans). When nearby Nevada City wouldn't sell liquor to "foreign miners," it was decided that maybe America wasn't so bad after all. The townspeople voted themselves back into the Union on the very same day and the party went off as planned.

4. The Conch Republic

conch-flag.jpgIn the early-1980s, the U.S. Border Patrol set up a checkpoint at the entrance to the Florida Keys in an effort to stop illegal drugs and immigrants. The time to check everyone's identification at the checkpoint resulted in a 20-mile traffic jam that turned tourists away, thus damaging the economy in the Keys. After numerous legal attempts to have the checkpoint removed, on April 23, 1982, Key West mayor Dennis Wardlow declared the Florida Keys were seceding from the Union.

Moments later, now-Prime Minister Wardlow symbolically declared war on the U.S. by breaking a stale piece of Cuban bread over the head of a man dressed in a U.S. Navy uniform. One minute later, Wardlow turned to the Admiral in charge of the U.S. Naval Base at Key West and surrendered, thus ending the Conch Republic's Civil Rebellion. He then immediately asked for $1 billion in federal aid to help rebuild his war-torn nation's economy. While officially the Republic conch-coins.jpgonly existed for one minute, the tongue-in-cheek spirit of the rebellion lives on. Today you can buy Conch Republic citizen and diplomatic passports (both of which have been used for international travel, though they are not intended to be official documents) and even an official flag of the republic (complete with the awesome motto, "We seceded where others failed"). The community has even minted a series of limited edition one-conch dollar coins that can be used as legal tender while in the Keys.

5. The State of Absaroka

Feeling that the Democratic southern half of Wyoming was not working in conjunction with the rest of the state, a secessionist movement was launched by northern Republicans in 1939 to create a new state that would better serve its more conservative population. This state, Absaroka—so named after the nearby mountain range—was to be made up of northern Wyoming, southeast Montana, and the western region of South Dakota. While the secessionist movement was never very large or pursued through legal channels, that didn't stop A. R. Swickard, the street commissioner of Sheridan, WY, from appointing himself governor of the "state."

MissAbsaroka1939.jpg

The movement went so far as to press Absaroka license plates and crown a Miss Absaroka beauty queen. Absaroka could even brag about a visit from a foreign dignitary, King Haakon VII of Norway (though he was officially visiting Wyoming and just happened to be in Absaroka).

Despite all of the hoopla, the state never came to be, and now, so many years later, the intent of the secessionist movement is in question. Some believe there was a genuine attempt to create a new state, while others say it was just a fun way for cowboys to distract themselves during tough economic times.

6. The State of Jefferson

jefferson-flag.jpgNorthern California and southern Oregon have been trying to merge since 1852. The attempts have been met with mixed results, though the "State of Jefferson" movement of 1941 came closest to making it happen. The region felt it was being ignored by their respective state legislatures, so in response the people created the "State of Jefferson Citizen's Committee" to explore the possibilities of secession. The group began stopping cars on Highway 99 to hand out the state's "Proclamation of Independence," a pamphlet outlining the grievances they held and the solutions they proposed. To help rally their cause, they developed a state flag made up of a gold miner's pan with two black X's inside, representing the double-cross they felt the Oregon and California state governments had pulled.

On December 4, 1941, Judge John Childs was elected governor of Jefferson in the state's temporary capital of Yreka, CA. The event was filmed by numerous newsreel companies who were set to air the footage during the week of December 8th. History had other plans, as the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor the day before the big premiere. Driven by a sense of national obligation, the Jefferson secession was put aside and never really regained momentum. While the official movement might have died out, the residents of this region still hold the concept in their hearts, with many identifying themselves even today as the population of the great state of Jefferson.

7. The McDonald Territory

Noel, Missouri, located in McDonald County in the far southwest corner of the Show Me State, has been a popular tourist destination for many years. Therefore, when the Missouri State Highway Commission left Noel off their annual "Family Vacationland" map in 1961, the region was not happy pleased. To display their dissatisfaction, McDonald County drew up papers of secession and presented them to the state legislature, declaring itself the independent McDonald Territory. The county went so far as to elect officials, form a territorial militia, and even printed up visas that were issued to visitors so they could travel throughout the territory.

mcdonald-stamp.jpgPerhaps the most lasting impression were the thousands of McDonald Territory stamps that were printed and sold throughout the area. While most agree that the secession was done purely for publicity, the state of Missouri wasn't necessarily happy about the type of publicity it was garnering. So in order to end this mock rebellion, the state declared that state employee retirement pension payments would be suspended for McDonald County, all current state employees would be fired, and all state funding would be withheld. Needless to say, McDonald Territory surrendered and returned to being simply McDonald County, Missouri, once again.

And here's one more secessionist movement recently covered here on the _floss:

8. Alaska

For decades, a well-organized separatist movement has campaigned to turn America's largest state into its own nation. The bitterness dates back to 1958, when Alaska's citizens were given a simple yes-or-no vote on statehood. Many Alaskans felt they were denied more options on the issue, prompting a land developer named Joe Vogler to organize a re-vote that would offer Alaskans four possibilities—remain a territory, become a state, take commonwealth status, or become a separate nation.

AIP.jpgUsing the vote as his platform, Vogler ran for governor in 1974—and soon made a habit of it. With colorful slogans such as, "I'm an Alaskan, not an American. I've got no use for America or her damned institutions," Vogler spearheaded the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP), and his campaign has twice topped 5 percent of the vote. More surprisingly, former U.S. interior secretary Wally Hickel got elected governor on the AIP ticket in 1990. Unfortunately for the party, Hickel only ran on the ticket because he lost the Republican primary. Never a supporter of the plebiscite idea, Hickel left the AIP and rejoined the Republicans in 1994.


Today, the AIP continues to draw about 4 percent of voters statewide. And in 2006, Alaska took part in the first-ever North American Secessionist Convention, joining other groups from Vermont, Hawaii, and the South. As for Vogler, he was murdered in 1993—reportedly the result of an argument over a business deal. On a brighter note, honoring his wish to never be buried in U.S. soil, Vogler was laid to rest in Canada's Yukon Territory.

"“Jeff Fleischer (From '9 Modern-Day Independence Movements')

Rob Lammle is probably the only cartographer you'll ever meet who has an English degree. Read more on his own site, spacemonkeyx.com.

See also...

The Map With Only 38 States
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The Confederacy's Plan to Conquer Latin America

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The Tone-Deaf Man Who Invented Karaoke
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7 Crafty Zoo Escapes
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Money for (Almost) Nothing: Big Paychecks for Little Work
*
Forgotten American Border Disputes
*
The George Costanza Candy Identification Quiz

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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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.

THE AD

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).

SKINHEADS, A DISCUS THROWER, AND A SCI-FI DIRECTOR

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.

WHAT EXECUTIVES AT APPLE THOUGHT

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

WHAT EVERYBODY ELSE THOUGHT

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."

THE AWFUL 1985 FOLLOW-UP

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:

20-YEAR ANNIVERSARY

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:

FURTHER READING

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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