15 Things You Might Not Know About Missouri

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1. Eight different states border Missouri. Name them correctly without a map to win ... our undying respect.

2. Missouri was named after a tribe of Sioux Indians called the Missouris. While often mistranslated as “muddy water,” the word actually means “town of the large canoes.”

3. To appeal to as many voters as possible, politicians sometimes pronounce "Missouri" two different ways—Missouree and Missouruh—in the same speech. At one time, pronunciation correlated with geography, with the -uh sound being more prevalent in rural areas. Now it's more of a generational difference.

4. Maybe we should call it the Read Me State. Famous Missourian writers include T.S. Eliot, Maya Angelou, Mark Twain, Tennessee Williams, and Sara Teasdale.

5. With more than 6,000 known caves, Missouri's also known as The Cave State.

6. Richland, Missouri, is the only city in the U.S. with a cave restaurant. (Don't worry: There aren't any bats.)

7. Harry Truman was the only U.S. President to hail from Missouri. After he left the White House in 1953, he and his wife Bess moved back to the Independence home they shared with his mother-in-law and lived off his $112.56 monthly Army pension.

8. The 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis introduced the masses to a number of new treats, including the waffle cone, cotton candy, iced tea, and Dr Pepper.

9. St. Louis hosted the 1904 Summer Olympics—the first Olympic Games ever held in the U.S.—at the same time as the World's Fair. It was complete chaos. Athletes competed for four and a half months with one event each day of the fair. But only 42 of the 91 events actually included competitors from other countries. The craziest part, though, was the marathon: Almost half of the runners got heat stroke, and the first-place winner cheated by hitching a car ride from mile nine to mile 19.

10. Another event that year: climbing a greased pole.

11. Missouri is one of 12 states with its own official horse. The Missouri Fox Trotter is a mid-sized muscular breed from the Ozarks that's popular on ranches.

12. Earthquakes aren't just for California. Four of the largest in North American history—up to a moment magnitude of 8.0—occurred from December 1811 to February 1812 in New Madrid, Missouri.

13. Missouri is also home to the most destructive tornado in U.S. history. The Tri-State tornado, which set down on March 18, 1925, killed 695 people, injured 2027 people, and demolished an estimated 15,000 homes throughout Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. Annapolis, Missouri, was 90 percent destroyed.

14. The first successful parachute jump from a moving plane was made above the Jefferson Barracks military post, near St. Louis, on March 1, 1912. U.S. Army Captain Albert Berry climbed to 1,500 feet in a Benoist aircraft before positioning himself on a trapeze bar attached to the front of the plane, his parachute stored in a conical pack attached to his harness, and jumped. Air & Space magazine reports Berry saying, upon landing, “Never again! I believe I turned five somersaults on my way down … My course downward … was like a crazy arrow.” Berry completed his second jump on March 10.

15. Aunt Jemima pancake flour was invented in St. Louis in 1889. It was the first ready-mix food to ever be sold commercially. Take that, Betty Crocker.

5 Controversial Facts About Melvil Dewey and the Dewey Decimal System

iStock/TerryJ
iStock/TerryJ

Melvil Dewey, the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System, was born on December 10, 1851. Among other things, Dewey was a self-proclaimed reformer, so when working for the Amherst College library in the 1870s, he began to reclassify the facility’s books and how they were organized.

Though the system has gone through plenty of changes over the years, it’s still in wide use all over the world today and forever changed how libraries categorize their books. It has also caused a handful of controversies. In honor of Dewey Decimal Day, we dug into the organizational system—and its creator’s—dark side.

1. Melvil Dewey co-founded the American Library Association, but was forced out because of offensive behavior.

Melvil Dewey was an extremely problematic figure, even in his time. Though he co-founded the American Library Association (ALA), his often-offensive behavior—particularly toward women—didn’t make him a lot of friends.

In Irrepressible Reformer: A Biography of Melvil Dewey, author Wayne A. Wiegand described Dewey’s “persistent inability to control himself around women” as his “old nemesis.” In 1905, Dewey and several fellow ALA members took a cruise to Alaska following a successful ALA conference, with the purpose of discussing the organization’s future. Four women who were part of the trip ended up publicly accusing Dewey of sexual harassment—a rarity for the time. Within a year, Dewey was forced to step down from his involvement with the organization he helped to create.

2. Dewey required applicants to his School of Library Economy to submit photos.


A History of the Adirondacks, by Alfred Lee Donaldson (1921) // Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In 1887, Dewey founded the School of Library Economy at Columbia College, where 90 percent of his students were female. It was long rumored that in addition to basic information like name, age, and educational background, Dewey required that prospective female students also submit their bust sizes. While this rumor was eventually proven to be false, Dewey did ask women to submit photos, often noting that “You cannot polish a pumpkin.”

3. A Howard University librarian reorganized Dewey's original system because of its racial bias.

Dewey’s personal biases spilled over into his creation, too, and it has taken sincere effort and work to right those wrongs. In the 1930s, Howard University librarian Dorothy Porter helped create a new system to undo the racist way Dewey’s system treated black writers. As Smithsonian reported:

All of the libraries that Porter consulted for guidance relied on the Dewey Decimal Classification. “Now in [that] system, they had one number—326—that meant slavery, and they had one other number—325, as I recall it—that meant colonization,” she explained in her oral history. In many “white libraries,” she continued, “every book, whether it was a book of poems by James Weldon Johnson, who everyone knew was a black poet, went under 325. And that was stupid to me.”

In addition to charges of racism, the DDS has also been accused of being homophobic. Early editions of the system classified books on or regarding LGBT issues under Abnormal Psychology, Perversion, Derangement, as a Social Problem, or even as Medical Disorders.

4. Its 'religion' section is skewed heavily toward Christianity.

The DDS section on religion starts at 200, and no other religion besides Christianity is covered until 290. Given that there are more than 4000 religions in the world, saving a mere 10 numbers for their classification doesn’t leave a lot of room for thorough coverage or exploration. Though some changes have been made as new editions of the system have been introduced, the process of restructuring the entire 200s is a project that has yet to be undertaken.

5. Critics of the system would prefer libraries take the Barnes & Noble approach.

The Dewey Decimal System is the most used library classification system, with the Chicago Tribune estimating that more than 200,000 libraries in 135 countries use it. But it’s far from a perfect system. As such, many libraries are experimenting with other organizational techniques, and many are dropping the DDS altogether.

The main complaint that public libraries have is that the Dewey Decimal System does not make reading exciting, and that there are other ways of categorizing and organizing books that are more like that of general bookstores. By doing away with the numbers (which are hard to remember for general library patrons), some libraries are classifying books simply by category and organizing by author—a system they've begun referring to as "Dewey-lite."

6 Fast Facts About Nelly Sachs

Central Press/Getty Images
Central Press/Getty Images

Today, on the 127th anniversary of her birth, a Google Doodle has been created in memory of writer Nelly Sachs, who died of colon cancer in 1970 at the age of 78. The German-Swedish poet and playwright wrote movingly about the horrors of the Holocaust, which she narrowly escaped by fleeing her home and starting a new life in a foreign land. Here are six things to know about Sachs.

1. She was born in Germany.

Sachs was born in Berlin on December 10, 1891. As the daughter of a wealthy manufacturer, she grew up in the city's affluent Tiergarten section. She studied dance and literature as a child, and also started writing romantic poems at age 17.

2. She almost ended up in a concentration camp.

Sachs's father died in 1930, but she and her mother Margarete stayed in Berlin. In 1940, the Gestapo interrogated the two women and tore apart their apartment. They were told they had a week to report to a concentration camp, so they decided to flee the country. Swedish novelist Selma Lagerlöf, with whom Nelly had corresponded for years, saved their lives by convincing the Swedish royal family to help the two women escape to Sweden.

3. She worked as a translator.

Once Nelly and her mother reached Stockholm, Sachs began learning Swedish and ultimately took up work as a translator. She translated poetry from Swedish to German and vice versa.

4. She was nearly 60 when she published her first book of poetry.

Sachs’s first volume of poetry, In den Wohnungen des Todes (In the Habitations of Death), was published in 1947. In this anthology as well as later poems, she used religious imagery to evoke the suffering of her time and the Jewish people.

5. She won the German Book Trade's Peace Prize.

In 1965, Sachs won the Peace Prize from the German Book Trade. She shared a message of forgiveness when she accepted the award from her compatriots. “In spite of all the horrors of the past, I believe in you,” she said.

6. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature on her 75th birthday.

Sachs and Israeli writer Shmuel Yosef Agnon were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966. According to The Nobel Prize’s website, Sachs was recognized "for her outstanding lyrical and dramatic writing, which interprets Israel's destiny with touching strength.”

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