25 Things You Might Not Know About Boston


Want to show off your wicked Boston smarts? Here’s everything you need to know about Beantown.

1. Like plenty of old American cities, Boston is named after a (relatively smaller) town in England.

2. Ray Flynn was Boston’s mayor in the 1980s, but he may have never gotten the gig if he hadn’t been cut by the Boston Celtics in 1963!

3. The John Hancock Tower is the city’s tallest building, but more impressively, it’s also the site of the world record for catching grapes.

4. Paul Tavilla gulped a grape dropped from 788 feet!

5. The first American lighthouse wasn’t built in Maine, Cape Cod, or Nantucket, but right in Boston Harbor.

6. Boston Common was declared America’s first public park in 1634.

7. Boston University Bridge is said to be the “only place in the world where a boat can sail under a train passing under a car driving under an airplane.”

8. Ready for Happy Hour? So is everyone else. It’s against the law to refer any part of the day as “Happy Hour.”

9. Happy Hour is in good company. From 1659 to 1681, it was against the law to celebrate Christmas in Boston. The Pilgrims thought the holiday had been corrupted.

10. The largest art heist in history occurred in Boston when 13 items worth about $300 million were stolen from the Gardner Museum.

11. How’d the crooks sneak in? By dressing up as police officers.

12. Speaking of big crimes, in 1950, thieves robbed the Brinks headquarters and made off with $2.7 million. That’s about $26 million in today’s dough.

13. The Fig Newton is named after the Boston suburb of Newton.

14. Boston was also home to some of the country’s earliest lotteries. John Hancock himself organized a lottery to help restore Faneuil Hall following a fire.

15. The famous statue in Harvard Yard? It’s not John Harvard. No one knows what Harvard looked like, so a student named Sherman Hoar sat in for the sculpture.

16. Don’t even try painting your shed Fenway Green. The Red Sox have patented the shade.

17. Don’t be fooled by the famous Citgo Sign outside Fenway Park, either. The closest Citgo is nearly 2 miles away.

18. During the Boston Tea Party, protestors dumped more than 92,000 pounds of tea into Boston Harbor. That’s enough to fill 18.5 million teabags!

19. George Washington was no fan of the demonstration. He disapproved of “their conduct in destroying the Tea.”

20. The Boston Tea Party wasn’t an isolated event, either. Three months after the first shindig, 60 men boarded the ship Fortune and dumped 30 more chests of tea.

21. In 1919, a tank holding 2.3 million gallons of molasses exploded, sending a 15-foot wave through the streets and killing 21 people.

22. Before he became a famed master of suspense and horror, Edgar Allan Poe signed his first published work, Tamerlane, with the name “A Bostonian.”

23. Thanks to Poe’s anonymity on the cover, copies of Tamerlane are insanely valuable. One of the few surviving copies fetched nearly $200,000 at auction in 1988.

24. You’d think the Ponzi scheme was a Wall Street invention, but Charles Ponzi actually worked on Hanover Street in Boston.

25. In the 19th century, it was supposedly illegal to take a bath in Boston without a prescription.

All images courtesy of Getty Images.

25 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Portland
Sure, you know about the craft beer, the fancy coffee, and all those awesome food carts. Here are some nuggets about the Rose City maybe you might not have known. 1. Portland’s name was decided by a coin flip. 2. That’s because Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove wanted to name the area after their hometowns. (Had it gone the other way, it would be called “Boston.”) 3. The “Portland Penny” the two men flipped is still on display at the Oregon History Center. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"content_full_width","fid":"194109","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"417","title":"","width":"620"}}]]
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
4. Lovejoy and Pettygrove were probably onto something with their decision to rename the city. Before their coin flip, the settlement was known simply as “The Clearing.” 5. Portland is one of two U.S. cities that has a dormant volcano—Mount Tabor—within its city limits. 6. Portland has more microbrews and brewpubs than any other U.S. city. 7. It also has the most movie theaters and restaurants per capita. 8. Don’t you dare try pumping your own gas there. It’s a $500 fine. 9. But there’s a good chance gas won’t be an issue. Portland has more bicyclists per capita than any other U.S. city. 10. Portland elected the city's first female mayor, Dorothy McCullough Lee, in 1949. 11. She banned pinball machines. 12. Portland is home to the world’s smallest park, Mill Ends Park. 13. It’s about two feet across, or 452 square inches 14. You’ll need an alarm clock like everybody else in Portland, because it’s illegal to own a rooster for “private use.” 15. The city lacks poetic nicknames. It’s been affectionately called “Puddletown” and “Stumptown.” [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"content_full_width","fid":"194111","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"417","title":"","width":"620"}}]]
16. That’s because, in its early days, Portland grew so quickly that tree stumps were left in the middle of the roads. 17. They left some trees, however. The city’s Forest Park is the largest natural urban wilderness in the country. 18. Portland’s streets and sidewalks still feature horse rings—iron or brass installations anchored to provide a place for tethering your horse. 19. The first wiki website was created in Portland in 1994. 20. Portland’s first pro hockey team’s name? The fearsome “Rosebuds.” 21. Portland’s massive rose garden was built during World War I, just in case bombs destroyed all of Europe’s rosebushes. 22. Water fountains, called Benson Bubblers, were installed in front of pubs years ago to keep people from drinking during work hours. It saved many lumberjacks from tipsy ax accidents. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"content_full_width","fid":"194112","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"417","title":"","width":"620"}}]] 23. Speaking of pubs, Portland is one of the few places outside of France where it’s okay to take your dog inside a tavern. 24. Portland’s annual naked bike ride draws nearly 13,000 riders. 25. If any of that sounds strange, consider that the city’s unofficial slogan is “Keep Portland Weird.” But according to City Vitals Weirdness index, it ranks only eleventh.
25 Things You Might Not Know About Atlanta

Think you know everything about the City in a Forest?

1. Atlanta was originally named Terminus and Marthasville (the latter for Governor Wilson Lumpkin’s daughter.)

2. The city got its current name from railroad engineer J. Edgar Thompson. It’s thought to be a shortened version of “Atlantica-Pacifica.”

3. Your GPS might be confused if you punch in “Peachtree” as your destination. There are over 55 streets with the name.

4. And it's possible none of them are named for an actual peach tree. Historians suggest they're named after the Native American village of “Standing Pitch Tree.” The pronunciation corrupted over the years.

5. Atlanta was the only city in North American destroyed as an act of war. (General Sherman burnt it to the ground.)

6. Only 400 buildings survived.

7. That’s why the city’s symbol is a phoenix.

8. Lots of airports claim to be the world’s busiest. But Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport truly is the world’s busiest airport.

9. Why? Because Atlanta is a perfect location. It’s just a three hour flight from many major American cities.

10. The terminal is as big as 45 football fields!

11. Atlanta is Georgia’s fifth capital. Savannah, Augusta, Louisville, and Milledgeville boasted the title earlier.

12. The Georgia State Capitol building is gilded with 43 ounces of locally-mined gold.

13. The Continental Divide out west gets all the love, but Atlanta is home to the Eastern Continental Divide, which separates water draining into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic.

14. One of the largest Hindu temples outside of India is located in the Atlanta metro area.

15. It was once illegal to put an ice cream cone in your back pocket in Atlanta.

16. Atlanta also outlawed tying a giraffe to a telephone pole.

17. Want to ride your bike to Alabama? The Silver Comet Trail starting in Smyrna will get you there.

18. In 1996, Terry Hitchcock ran from Minneapolis to Atlanta in just 75 days. He covered over 2100 miles!

19. Stone Mountain outside Atlanta is one of the largest blocks of exposed granite in the world.

20. Stone Mountain’s etching of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis is the largest bas relief in the world, too!

21. Atlanta had some tough competition when it nabbed the 1996 Olympics hosting duty. The city beat out Athens, Toronto, Melbourne, Manchester, and Belgrade for the spot.

22. The fastest baseball game in history happened in Atlanta, when the Mobile Sea Gulls beat the Atlanta Crackers 2-1 in just 32 minutes.

23. Atlanta also played host to the greatest rout in football history—a 1916 contest in which Georgia Tech blew out tiny Cumberland College 222-0.

24. When pro football moved to Atlanta, the owners considered over 500 names. A schoolteacher came up with the Falcons nickname, a bird she endorsed because it was “proud and dignified, with great courage and fight.”

25. Why did Atlanta resident Margaret Mitchell write Gone with the Wind? Because an ankle injury kept her from walking and she was really, really bored.

All images courtesy of Getty Images 


More from mental floss studios