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25 Things You Should Know About Columbus, Ohio

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Columbus, Ohio, America’s 15th-largest city, is a diverse town with funky festivals, die-hard sports fans, and a famously long-lived gorilla. Read on for more wacky facts about this capital city.

1) Forty-eight percent of Americans live within 600 miles of Columbus. Major cities like Atlanta, Chicago, and New York City are less than a day’s drive away.

2) When Ohio obtained its statehood in 1803, Columbus hadn’t been built yet. Chillicothe, a modest city on the Scioto River, was the original state capital. The seat of government temporarily moved to Zanesville in 1810 before Chillicothe regained its capital city status three years later.

3) In 1810, Ohio’s general assembly voted to choose a new, permanent capital. The lawmakers agreed that whichever locale they picked would have to lie within 40 miles of the state’s geographic center. Four businessmen from the small town of Franklinton offered 20 free acres of land. On February 14, 1812, this land was selected as the site of Ohio’s current state capital. Columbus would be incorporated in 1816.

4) Famous Columbusites include R.L. Stine, author of the bestselling Goosebumps novels, and celebrity chef Guy Fieri. His birth name was actually Ferry, an Americanized version of his grandparents' surname Fieri, which he adopted in 1995.

5) Columbus is an incubator for fast food empires. The very first Wendy’s restaurant opened on East Broad Street in November 1969. Today, the franchise is headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus.

6) Burger chain White Castle was founded in Wichita, Kansas, in 1921, but has been based in Columbus since 1933.

7) The Ohio state legislature picked the name Columbus for the still-unfinished capital on February 20, 1812. It had also considered a much duller alternative: Ohio City.

8) Columbus has had many aliases, including Cowtown and Cbus. Arch City, an 1890s nickname, stemmed from the city's construction of arches over key streets. The arches provided power to the city's new electric streetcars.

9) The Ohio Historical Center on Velma Avenue has a genuine two-headed calf, stuffed and mounted for display. The short-lived anomaly came into this world in 1941 in Brookeville, Ohio.

10) In 1861, Abraham Lincoln was visiting then-Governor William Dennison Jr. at the Ohio Statehouse when he learned that the Electoral College results were in and he’d been elected president.

11) Established in 1876, the North Market was originally located at the city’s public cemetery on Spruce Street. It has since moved into a multistory building. A favorite of both locals and visitors, the market houses more than 30 vendors selling prepared Midwestern and international foods, fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and beer.

12) After the National Hockey League awarded a franchise to Columbus on June 25, 1997, a region-wide “name the team” contest was held. Out of more than 14,000 entries, the Columbus Blue Jackets was picked. The name stems from the fact that, during the Civil War, Columbus manufactured thousands of blue uniforms for Union troops. Ohio also provided more soldiers to the Union forces than any other state.

13) At The Ohio State University (yes, “The” is part of its name), football is a really big deal, as are the Columbus-based school's homecoming festivities. In 1926, the student body elected Rosalind Morrison as homecoming queen, but there was evidence of voter fraud: Only 10,000 people were eligible to cast ballots, yet Morrison received 12,000 votes. So the homecoming crown went to her runner-up, Ms. Maudine Ormsby, a cow nominated by the College of Agriculture. Maudine attended the homecoming parade but missed the dance.

15) OSU graduate and Columbus resident Geraldine “Jerrie” Mock was the first woman to fly solo around the world. Her chosen ride was a single-engine Cessna named the "Spirit of Columbus," which took off on March 19, 1964 from the Port Columbus International Airport. Twenty-nine days later, 5000 admirers gathered to watch Mock’s triumphant return.

16) Every July (usually on the Fourth), Columbusites gather to promote “satire, liberty, and lunacy” at the annual Doo Dah Parade. Just about everybody can participate in this decidedly offbeat spectacle. One might see drummers wearing Easter Island heads, Rocky Horror cosplayers, or mustache-wearing cars. The undisputed highlight, however, has to be the Marching Fidels, a group of Castro impersonators who “recruit” spectators into the Cuban army.

17) Colo, at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, is the world’s oldest captive gorilla. Born on December 22, 1956, she was also the first gorilla to be bred in captivity. Her parents, Millie and Mac, were both wild-caught apes from French Cameroon who had been shipped to Columbus in 1951. Before this western lowland gorilla was known as Colo, a portmanteau of Columbus and Ohio, she was named Cuddles.

18) If you’re in Columbus during the warmer months, the Park of Roses is a must-see. This colorful, 13-acre garden within Whetstone Park contains more than 11,000 bushes representing 350 types of roses. Some varieties date back to the turn of the 20th century.

19) A bronze statue of action star and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is located downtown and celebrates his relationship to Ohio’s capital. In 1970, Schwarzenegger won a Columbus weight-lifting contest over several better-known athletes and told event organizer Jim Lorimer, “When I retire from bodybuilding, I’ll be back, and you and I will put together a major bodybuilding competition right here, every year.” They teamed up to create the Mr. Olympia contest (1975-1980); in 1989 Schwarzenegger launched the Arnold Sports Festival, one of the biggest fitness expos on earth, which takes place annually in Columbus.

20) At the turn of the 20th century, elementary schools in Ohio taught kindergarten through 10th grade and only 7 percent of Columbus students went on to get their high school diplomas. To increase the number of graduates, administrators opened America’s first middle school, Indianola Junior High School, in 1909, to teach 7th through 9th grades.

21) The suburb of Dublin is the home of 109 concrete ears of corn. In 1994, artist Michael Cochran built the sculptures to honor Ohio’s agricultural roots and arranged them in rows in a field. Each statue is 6 feet, 3 inches tall. Officially, this outdoor artistic display is known as Field of Corn (with Osage Oranges). Unofficially, it’s called Cornhenge.

22) The OSU Buckeyes play at legendary Ohio Stadium. Capable of seating 104,944 scarlet-clad fans, it's America’s fourth-largest on-campus college football facility. Since 1949, average home-game attendance has never fallen below fourth place in the national rankings.

23) So far, the United States has had 44 different presidents. Eight hailed from Ohio: William Henry Harrison, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft, and Warren G. Harding. Each of the Ohio Statehouse's hearing rooms [PDF] is named after one of them.

24) Columbus has a thriving LGBT community. According to a 2015 Gallup estimate, 4.3 percent of residents in the greater metro area identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. The Columbus Pride Parade has been around since 1981 and now ranks among the largest in the Midwest, attracting about 500,000 participants and spectators each year.

25) Neo-Impressionist painter Georges Seurat immortalized a group of French picnickers in his masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte—1884, the first work in which he used his new technique called Pointillism. Columbus, in turn, celebrates Seurat's figures in Topiary Park, where shrubberies have been trimmed into the shape of every person in the painting.

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13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
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Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.

1. NINA SIMONE WAS HER STAGE NAME.

The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2. SHE HAD HUMBLE BEGINNINGS.


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There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.

3. SHE WAS BOOK SMART...

Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.

4. ... WITH DEGREES TO PROVE IT.

Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

5. HER CAREER WAS ROOTED IN ACTIVISM.

A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

6. ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUS SONGS WAS BANNED.

Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.

7. SHE NEVER HAD A NUMBER ONE HIT.

Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.

8. SHE USED HER STYLE TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”

9. SHE HAD MANY HOMES.

New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.

10. SHE HAD A FAMOUS INNER CIRCLE.

During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

11. YOU CAN STILL VISIT SIMONE IN HER HOMETOWN.

Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.

12. YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HER MUSIC IN RECENT HITS.

Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.

13. HER MUSIC IS STILL BEING PERFORMED.

Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

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13 Secrets From the Guinness Archives
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Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Guinness has been a staple in Irish pubs for nearly 260 years. With so much history, it's no surprise that the Guinness Storehouse Archives—which are open to the public—are stuffed with intriguing artifacts that tell some pretty wild stories. Here are a few.

1. THE LEASE TO THE DUBLIN BREWERY WAS INTENDED TO LAST 9000 YEARS.

In 1759, founder Arthur Guinness signed a lease for a four-acre property at St. James’s Gate in Dublin. The lease required a down payment of £100, an annual rent of £45, and a term of 9000 years (not a typo). Such lengthy leases were relatively common back then: “At the time in Ireland, there was a lot of instability to do with land tenure,” explains Fergus Brady, Archives Manager at Guinness. Centuries earlier, the British had begun confiscating land from native Irish in an effort to build plantations, and extra-long leases were a means of avoiding this fate. As Brady explains, “You see these really long leases: 99-year or 999-year leases. It seemed to be a legal custom at the time that they used the number nine.”

2. ARTHUR GUINNESS WAS NOT AFRAID TO DEFEND HIS PROPERTY WITH A PICKAXE.

In 1775, the Dublin Corporation—that is, the city government—demanded that Arthur Guinness pay for the spring water flowing to his brewery. When Guinness argued that he was already paying for water rights through his 9000-year rental agreement, the Dublin Corporation sent a sheriff and a committee to his brewery to cut off the water supply. Guinness was livid. He seized a pickaxe and unleashed a torrent of obscenities so colorful that the Dublin Corporation’s goons eventually retreated.

3. GUINNESS ONCE DEPLOYED FIELD AGENTS TO CATCH COUNTERFEITERS.

Guinness Apology
Guinness Archive, Diageo Ireland

In the 19th century, there was no such thing as brand consistency. Guinness did not bottle its own beer; instead, it shipped the suds in wooden casks to publicans who supplied their own bottles and applied their own personalized labels. Occasionally, these publicans sold fake or adulterated Guinness. To prevent such sales, the company sent special agents called “travellers” into the field to collect beer samples, which it tested in a laboratory. “If a publican was found to be serving adulterated or counterfeit Guinness, they had to give a public apology in their local newspaper—and even the national newspapers,” archivist Jessica Handy says.

4. FOR 21 YEARS, THE COMPANY HIRED A GUY TO TRAVEL THE WORLD AND DRINK BEER.

In 1899, Guinness hired an American ex-brewer named Arthur T. Shand to be a “Guinness World Traveller.” It was arguably the coolest job in the world. For 21 years, Shand traveled the world taste-testing beer. According to Brady, “His job was to travel the world and taste Guinness, say whether it was good or bad, who our bottlers in the market were, who our major competition was, what kind of people were drinking our product.” Shand traveled to Australia and New Zealand, to Southeast Asia and Egypt. “He was sort of a Guinness sommelier,” Brady says.

5. THE COMPANY'S HARP LOGO CAUSED TROUBLE WITH THE IRISH GOVERNMENT.

The Celtic harp—based on the 14th century “Brian Boru Harp” preserved at Trinity College—became a trademarked Guinness logo in 1876. Forty-five years later, when Ireland gained independence from England, the Irish Free State decided to use the same Celtic harp as its official state emblem. This became awkward. Guinness owned the trademark, and the Irish government was forced to search for a workaround. You can find their solution on an Irish Euro coin. Look at the coin, and you’ll notice that the harp’s straight edge faces the right; meanwhile, the harp on a glass of Guinness shows the straight edge facing left [PDF].

6. GUINNESS REPORTEDLY SAVED LIVES ON THE BATTLEFIELD.

The old slogan “Guinness is good for you” sounds like a marketing gimmick, but it was born out of a genuine belief that the beer was, in fact, a restorative tonic. The health claim dates back to 1815, when an ailing cavalry officer wounded at the Battle of Waterloo reportedly credited Guinness for his recovery. For decades, the medical community widely claimed that the dark beer possessed real health benefits—and they weren’t necessarily wrong. “There was little safe drinking water at the time,” Handy says. “But with brewing, consumers knew they were getting a safe beverage.”

7. THE COMPANY CREATED A SPECIAL RECIPE FOR CONVALESCENTS.

A label for Guinness invalid stout
Guinness Archive, Diageo Ireland

From the 1880s to the 1920s, Guinness produced a special “Nourishing Export Stout”—a.k.a. “Invalid Stout”—that contained extra sugars, alcohol, and solids and came in cute one-third pint bottles. “It was very common practice for people to buy a couple bottles and keep them as a tonic, even if it was just a glass or half a glass,” Handy says. In fact, Guinness went as far as asking general practitioners for testimonials attesting to the beer’s medical benefits. According to Brady, “Many of them wrote back and said yes, we prescribe this for various ailments.” One doctor even claimed a pint was “as nourishing as a glass of milk.”

8. DOCTORS REGULARLY PRESCRIBED THE BEER TO NURSING MOTHERS.

From the 1880s to the 1930s, many physicians believed Guinness was an effective galactagogue—that is, a lactation aid. The company sent bottles to hospitals as well as wax cartons of yeast (which supposedly helped skin problems and migraines). Hundreds, possibly thousands, of doctors prescribed the beer for ailments such as influenza, insomnia, and anxiety, David Hughes writes in A Bottle of Guinness Please: The Colourful History of Guinness. According to Brady, the company was sending beer to hospitals as late as the 1970s.

9. THE COMPANY ONCE DROPPED 200,000 MESSAGES-IN-A-BOTTLE INTO THE OCEAN.

A Guinness message in a bottle
The message within every bottle dropped in the Atlantic Ocean in 1959.
Guinness Archive, Diageo Ireland

In 1954, Guinness dumped 50,000 messages-in-a-bottle in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. In 1959, they repeated the stunt again, with 38 ships dropping 150,000 bottles in the Atlantic. The first bottle was discovered in the Azores off Portugal just three months after the initial drop [PDF]. Since then, the bottles have turned up in California, New Zealand, and South Africa. Just last year, a bottle was discovered in Nova Scotia. (If you find one, you just might be offered a trip to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.)

10. THE PERSONNEL FILES IN THE GUINNESS ARCHIVES CONTAIN SOME DOOZIES.

The Guinness corporate archives are open to the public. According to Handy, “Some of the stories you get in there are amazing, because you get accident reports and you get crazy stories of people bouncing on bags of hops outside the brewery." This may sound less surprising considering that, back in the day, Guinness employees were given an allowance of two pints of beer every day [PDF].

11. A GUINNESS SCIENTIST MADE A STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT MARK IN THE FIELD OF STATISTICS.

If you’ve taken a statistics class, you might be familiar with the Student’s t-test or the t-statistic. (It’s a method of working with a small sample size when the standard deviation is unknown.) The t-test was first described by William S. Gosset, a brewer and statistician at Guinness who was attempting to analyze a small sample of malt extract. Gosset’s discovery not only helped Guinness create a more consistent-tasting beer, it would lay the bedrock for one of the most important concepts in statistics: statistical significance.

12. GUINNESS IS SO BIG IN AFRICA, IT LAUNCHED A SUCCESSFUL FEATURE-LENGTH FILM.

Guinness began exporting beer to Africa in 1827. In the 1960s, it opened a brewery in Nigeria—followed by Cameroon and Ghana. Today, there are reportedly more Guinness drinkers in Nigeria than there are in Ireland. “In Ireland, England, and the United States, everybody thinks that Guinness is synonymous with Ireland,” Brady says. “But in Nigeria, there’s a very very low conception of that.” The beer is such a cultural staple that a fictional character who advertised the product named Michael Power—a James Bond-like, crime-fighting journalist—became the star of a feature film in 2003 called Critical Assignment, which was a box office smash. (Of course, there’s some branding built into the script. As Brady explains, “There are definitely scenes where Michael Power is enjoying a pint of Guinness.”)

13. DISPENSING BEER WITH NITROGEN WAS ORIGINALLY CONSIDERED LAUGHABLE.

In the 1950s, Guinness scientist Michael Ash was tasked with solving the “draft problem.” At the time, dispensing a draft pint of Guinness was ridiculously complicated, and the company was losing market share to draft lagers in Britain that could be easily dispensed with CO2. “The stout was too lively to be dispensed with CO2 only,” Brady says. “Ash worked on the problem for four years, working long hours day or night, and became a bit of a recluse apparently. A lot of doubters at the brewery called the project ‘daft Guinness.’” But then Ash attempted dispensing the beer with plain air. It worked. The secret ingredient, Ash discovered, was nitrogen. The air we breathe is 78 percent nitrogen. Today, a Guinness draft contains 75 percent nitrogen. Not only did the discovery make dispensing the beer easier, it created a creamy mouthfeel that’s been the signature of Irish stouts since.

Full disclosure: Guinness paid for the author to attend an International Stout Day festival in 2017, which provided the opportunity to speak to their archivists.

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