CLOSE
Original image

The Original Locations of 30 Famous Food Chains

Original image

Fensterbme/Wikimedia Commons

Ever wonder where your favorite fast food chain first popped up? Look no further.

1. McDonald’s (1398 North E Street, San Bernardino, California)

In 1940, Maurice and Richard McDonald moved their father’s food stand “The Airdrome” from Monrovia to San Bernardino and renamed it “McDonald’s Bar-B-Q.” It functioned as a carhop drive-in until 1948, when the brothers restructured the business to focus on burgers and fries and changed the name to “McDonald’s.” While the North E Street location is no longer a functioning Mickey Ds, the building’s current owner, Juan Pollo Restaurants, utilizes the space as both their corporate headquarters and an unofficial McDonald’s Museum. The oldest operating McDonald’s restaurant is in Downey, California.

2. Pizza Hut (503 South Bluff St, Wichita, Kansas)

Sanjay Acharya/Wikimedia Commons

The first Pizza Hut was opened in 1958 by brothers Dan and Frank Carney in their hometown of Wichita, Kansas. The two knew they wanted to have “Pizza” in their new establishment’s name, but didn’t decide on “Hut” until they discovered the building’s sign only had room for nine letters and that the structure itself looked like a hut. In 1986, the original hut was moved to the campus of Wichita State University—the Carney brothers' alma mater—where it is used by the International Business Student Association as a meeting place.

3. T.G.I. Friday’s (1152 1st Ave, New York, New York)

Looking for a place to meet people—especially the eligible women he noticed in his Manhattan neighborhood—Alan Stillman took the initiative and founded a bar and restaurant. Before it opened in 1965, “singles bars" were a rarity. Friday’s is even credited as being one of the first bars to use “ladies night” as a promotion. The original T.G.I. Friday’s closed in 1994 and is now Baker Street Pub & Grill.

4. Waffle House (2719 East College Avenue, Decatur, Georgia)

Joe Rogers Sr. and Tom Forkner opened the first Waffle House in 1955 and remain involved with the company to this day. The original location is now the Waffle House Museum, where you can make your own waffles in its unchanged interior.

5. Dunkin’ Donuts (543 Southern Artery, Quincy, Massachusetts)

Victorgrigas/Wikimedia Commons

Before America was running on Dunkin’, it was a simple donut shop on Southern Artery—yes, like the heart—in Quincy, Massachusetts. The location opened in 1948 under the name Open Kettle, then a year later it became Kettle Donuts, then a year after that it finally became Dunkin’ Donuts. While the building has been remodeled over the years, it still maintains the original aesthetic.

6. Starbucks (2000 Western Ave, Seattle, Washington)

Postdlf/Wikimedia Commons

The original Starbucks store began selling coffee beans and equipment from its 2000 Western Ave location in 1971, but by 1976, their building was to be demolished and they had to find a new place. In 1977, they opened the “1st and Pike” cafe, located at the mouth of the historic Pike Place Market, and the rest is highly-caffeinated history.

7. Chipotle Mexican Grill (1644 E Evans Ave, Denver, Colorado)

When founder Steve Ells opened the first Chipotle Mexican Grill just down the road from the University of Denver, he and his father figured that it would have to sell 107 burritos a day to be profitable. In a month’s time, the store was selling over ten times that amount. You can still get a Chipotle burrito from its original location.

8. Nathan’s Famous (1310 Surf Ave, Brooklyn, New York)

Wikimedia Commons

What began as a Coney Island hot dog stand in 1916 ... remains a Coney Island hot dog stand. Sure, in the years since Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker used his life’s savings of $300 to begin selling franks made with his wife Ida’s recipe to hungry Brooklynites, Nathan’s Famous has become a national chain with over 40,000 outlets. But for the Surf Avenue stand, little has changed in its physical appearance (which probably can't be said about most of those training for Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, an annual competition held at the original location).

9. Wendy’s (257 E Broad St, Columbus, Ohio)

Fensterbme/Wikimedia Commons

Though Wendy’s closed its original restaurant in 2007, the spirit of the company’s first restaurant still lives on—in their flagship store in Dublin, Ohio, which boasts an entire “community room” full of company history and memorabilia. Some historians, such as Yelp user Jeffrey H., still found the original location’s shutdown to be tragic, calling the day it closed its doors “one of America’s darkest.”

10. Hooters (2800 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd, Clearwater, Florida)

Original Hooters

In 1983, six businessmen got together and changed the face (ahem) of chain restaurant history when they opened a “delightfully tacky, yet unrefined” dining establishment by the name of Hooters. Thanks to the “Hooters Six”—as they are referred to in the “Saga” section of the restaurant’s website—never again would someone have to suffer through ordering food and beverages from a person wearing actual pants. While it has been subject to extensive remodeling projects, the original Hooters is still home to their trademark hospitality, wings, and weird uncle smell.

11. Blimpie (110 Washington St, Hoboken, New Jersey)

Hoboken Sandwich

In 1964, three former high school classmates opened up the first Blimpie sandwich shop in Hoboken, New Jersey. One of the founders, Tony Conza, came up with the name after searching the dictionary for an alternative to sub and hoagie and coming across the word blimp, which he felt would sound enough like a sandwich with “ie” at the end of it. The original Blimpie is still functioning, so come on down—and, for the love of all that is piled on top of a hero, don’t mention Jared.

12. Taco Bell (7112 Firestone Blvd, Downey, California)

Downey Daily

The building that was once the very first Taco Bell is now home to an unaffiliated Mexican takeout place, but if you “Yo quiero Taco Bell” and only Taco Bell, don’t worry—there’s one right across the street. There aren’t many places where one can enjoy a Fourth Meal and admire history at the same time.

13. Burger King (7146 Beach Blvd, Jacksonville, Florida)

Forgotten Advertisements

Originally called Insta-Burger, the first Burger King was founded by Keith J. Kramer and his wife’s uncle-in-law Matthew Burns in Jacksonville, Florida. With the help of their “Insta-Broilers”— ovens capable of cooking 400 burgers per hour—the two went on to open multiple Insta-Burger restaurants and become a franchise. In 1959, Kramer and Burns sold the company to Insta-Burger franchisees James McLamore and David R. Edgerton, who changed the name to Burger King. A place called Stan’s Sandwich now operates out of the original location.

14. Sbarro’s (1701 65th St, Brooklyn, New York)

It may be difficult to imagine a Sbarro’s that isn’t steps away from a Spencer’s Gifts, but the pizza chain began as a salumeria (or Italian grocery store) in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1956. The original Sbarro’s, where Gennaro and “Mama” Carmela set up shop after emigrating from Naples, is now a Japanese restaurant. You can still put the old adage about there being no such thing as bad pizza to the test at Kings Plaza Shopping Center, where they opened their first mall-based location in 1970.

15. White Castle (NW corner of First and Main St, Wichita, Kansas)

Where the first White Castle opened in 1921 now stands a multi-tiered parking garage. Today, the closest place to that original location to grab a case of sliders is all the way in St. Louis. Though seemingly content with depriving the people of Kansas, White Castle didn't forget where it came from: In 2011, the company celebrated its 90th birthday by making a special one-day only return to Wichita to grill up burgers as a fundraiser for the Kansas Food Bank.

16. Sonic (215 N Main St — Stillwater, Oklahoma)

After discovering that his burger joint’s name was already trademarked, Top Hat Drive-In owner Troy N. Smith Sr. renamed his Oklahoma chain "Sonic Drive-In" in 1959. Though it was not the original Top Hat location, the first Sonic sign arrived at the Stillwater restaurant and that’s where it remains today. The service might not actually be “with the speed of sound,” as the sign states, but you can drown that disappointment in half-price drinks and slushes from 2 to 4 PM each day.

17. Kentucky Fried Chicken (3890 S. State Street — Salt Lake City, Utah)

Wikimedia Commons

Colonel Harland Sanders began selling fried chicken made with his secret recipe from a roadside restaurant in Corbin, Kentucky during the Great Depression. It wasn’t until 1952, however, that Sanders opened the first Kentucky Fried Chicken in Utah. The Salt Lake City location is still a KFC and boasts a display showcasing one of the Colonel’s trademark white suits and a statue of him and Dave Thomas, an early franchise owner who came up with the “rotating bucket” sign (and founded his own fast food chain, Wendy’s).

18. Panda Express (3214 Glendale Galleria — Glendale, California)

Hawaiian location via Wikimedia Commons

In 1973, Chinese immigrants Andrew Cherng and his father Ming Tsai Cherng opened the Panda Inn restaurant in Pasadena, California. After ten years of providing the Los Angeles area with upscale sit-down meals, management for the Glendale Galleria asked the Cherngs to consider creating a fast-food version of their restaurant. They agreed, and now no trip to the mall is complete without a delicious free sample of unidentifiable goodness.

19. Subway (North End — Bridgeport, Connecticut)

Looking for a way to pay for college, 17-year-old Fred DeLuca borrowed $1000 from Dr. Peter Buck and opened Pete’s Super Submarines in Bridgeport, Connecticut. By 1968, just three years after the restaurant’s inception, the two added four shops and shortened the name to Subway. DeLuca never became the doctor he set out to be, but he did receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Bridgeport in 2002. The original Subway is no longer there, but those looking to “Eat Fresh” have over 40,000 other locations to choose from.

20. Little Caesars (32594 Cherry Hill Rd — Garden City, Michigan)

Yelp

In 1959, brothers Mike and Marshall Ilitch opened the first Little Caesars in a Garden City, Michigan strip mall. Mike wanted to call it "Pizza Cheap," but Marshall (and good sense) won out with Little Caesar’s Pizza Treat. While the name was shortened, the demand for their “Pizza! Pizza!” has stayed strong. In 2008, Little Caesars filled an order from the VF Corporation for 13,386 pizzas. You can still pick up a “Hot-n-Ready” ‘za from the original location, but as one Yelp-user remarked, “It should be ‘hot and ready in 8 minutes.’" Et tu, Dave K?

21. Jamba Juice (17 Chorro Street, Suite C — San Luis Obispo, California)

Yelp

Jamba Juice began as Juice Club in 1990 when Kirk Perron opened his first storefront in San Luis Obispo, California. In 1995, the name was changed to Jamba Juice and four years later the company went national with its acquisition of Zuka Juice, Inc. The first Jamba Juice is still up and running, in case you feel like a smoothie and some history next time you’re in San Luis Obispo.

22. In-N-Out (The intersection of Interstate 10 and Francisquito Avenue — Baldwin Park, California)

Wikimedia Commons

The first In-N-Out was built in 1948 when Harry and Esther Snyder set out to "Give customers the freshest, highest quality foods you can buy and provide them with friendly service in a sparkling clean environment." The original location was demolished so Interstate 10 could be built, so you'll have to get your "animal style" fix at another location.

23. Tim Hortons (65 Ottawa Street N. — Hamilton, Ontario, Canada)

Google Maps

The first Tim Hortons was founded under the name Tim Horton Donuts in 1964. The owner, a professional hockey player, was a member of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite being an active athlete, Horton was able to juggle both careers thanks to his business partner Ron Joyce, a former Hamilton police constable. Tim Horton Donuts was eventually shortened to "Tim Horton's," which was eventually further truncated to "Tim Hortons" to maintain uniformity in the name of all their locations while also complying with the language laws of Quebec. The original location still operates as a Tim Hortons, but Ottawa Street N is now honorarily named "Tim Hortons Way." Also: Tim Horton originally sold hamburgers.

24. Five Guys (3235 Columbia Pike — Arlington, Va)

Later Virginia location, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1986, Jerry and Janie Murrell, along with four other guys (their sons), founded Five Guys. The couple had advised the boys to “start a business or go to college.” The first restaurant was located in the Westmont Shopping Center—which was also home to Brenner’s Bakery, where the Murrells originally got their rolls. Five Guys no longer calls the Arlington, Virginia shopping center home, but they maintain a strong presence in Northern Virginia, where the first five Five Guys were opened.

25. Dairy Queen (501 N. Chicago Street — Joliet, Illinois)

Two years after they invented the revolutionary formula for soft-serve ice cream in 1938, father and son duo John Fremont “Grandpa” and Bradley McCullough opened the very first Dairy Queen along with a former customer, Sheb Noble. The three knew they were onto something when the ice cream store sold over 1600 servings of the McCullough’s new treat in just two hours.

26. Jack In The Box (6270 El Cajon Boulevard — San Diego, California)

Jack in the Box

Robert O. Peterson opened the first Jack in the Box in 1951 when he converted his existing drive-in restaurant into a drive-thru. With its two-way intercom and pickup window, Jack in the Box made fast food even faster. Where the first Jack in the Box once stood is now Platt College San Diego. The private for-profit college does not have a mascot or an athletic program to go with it, but perhaps they can adopt the terrifying clown that once sat atop the location.

27. Benihana (47 W. 56th Street — New York, New York)

Wikimedia Commons 

In 1964, 25-year-old Hiroaki “Rocky” Aoki took the money he made driving an ice cream truck in Harlem and opened the first Benihana. New Yorkers were initially wary of dining at the hibachi restaurant, but after it received positive reviews, people were much more open to the idea of sitting near a hot surface with strangers while their chef threw their food around. The Beatles, Muhammad Ali, and other notables have dined at the original location, which is still in business today.

28. Carrabba’s Italian Grill (3115 Kirby Drive — Houston, Texas)

Google Maps

Johnny Carrabba and his uncle Damian Mandola opened the first Carrabba’s Italian Grill in 1986. As they claim on their website, they’re not real chefs, but rather “real eaters,” and their restaurant was such a success that another location opened in Houston soon after. By 1993, Carrabba and Mandola were in a joint venture with Outback Steakhouse, Inc. (now Bloomin’ Brands) and two years after that, Outback Steakhouse, Inc. purchased the rights to develop the chain nationwide. The first (and second) Carrabba’s are still owned and operated by the Carrabba family.

29. Chick-fil-A (2841 Greenbriar Parkway SW — Atlanta, Georgia)

Yelp

The first Chick-fil-A opened in Atlanta’s Greenbriar Mall in 1967, six years after S. Truett Cathy, the chain’s Chairman and CEO, invented the chicken sandwich while working at Dwarf House, his Hapeville, Georgia restaurant. At first, Cathy referred to his burger alternative as a “chicken steak” sandwich, but ended up replacing “steak” with “fillet,” a word he found more appealing. Both the original Chick-fil-A and Dwarf House restaurants are still open for business—unless, of course, it’s a Sunday.

30. Fuddruckers (8602 Botts Lane — San Antonio, Texas)

Google Maps

Philip J. Romano—the father of Romano’s Macaroni Grill—founded Fuddruckers in 1979 because he believed, “the world needed a better hamburger.” The restaurant began as Freddie Fuddruckers, and it opened in a former bank.

Original image
General Photographic Agency/Getty Images
arrow
entertainment
10 Witty Facts About The Marx Brothers
Original image
General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

Talented as individuals and magnificent as a team, the Marx Brothers conquered every medium from the vaudeville stage to the silver screen. Today, we’re tipping our hats (and tooting our horns) to Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, and Gummo—on the 50th anniversary of Groucho's passing.

1. A RUNAWAY MULE INSPIRED THEM TO TAKE A STAB AT COMEDY.

Julius, Milton, and Arthur Marx originally aspired to be professional singers. In 1907, the boys joined a group called “The Three Nightingales.” Managed by their mother, Minnie, the ensemble performed covers of popular songs in theaters all over the country. As Nightingales, the brothers enjoyed some moderate success, but they might never have found their true calling if it weren’t for an unruly equid. During a 1907 gig at the Nacogdoches Opera House in East Texas, someone interrupted the performance by barging in and shouting “Mule’s loose!” Immediately, the crowd raced out to watch the newly-liberated animal. Back inside, Julius seethed. Furious at having lost the spotlight, he skewered his audience upon their return. “The jackass is the finest flower of Tex-ass!” he shouted, among many other ad-libbed jabs. Rather than boo, the patrons roared with laughter. Word of his wit soon spread and demand for these Marx brothers grew.

2. THEY RECEIVED THEIR STAGE NAMES DURING A POKER GAME.

In May of 1914, the five Marxes were playing cards with standup comedian Art Fisher. Inspired by a popular comic strip character known as “Sherlocko the Monk,” he decided that the boys could use some new nicknames. Leonard’s was a no-brainer. Given his girl-crazy, “chick-chasing” lifestyle, Fisher dubbed him “Chicko” (later, this was shortened to “Chico”). Arthur loved playing the harp and thus became “Harpo.” An affinity for soft gumshoes earned Milton the alias “Gummo.” Finally, Julius was both cynical and often seen wearing a “grouch bag”—wherein he’d store small objects like marbles and candy—around his neck. Thus, “Groucho” was born. For the record, nobody knows how Herbert Marx came to be known as “Zeppo.”

3. GROUCHO WORE HIS TRADEMARK GREASEPAINT MUSTACHE BECAUSE HE HATED MORE REALISTIC MODELS.

Michael Ochs Archives/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Phony, glue-on facial hair can be a pain to remove and reapply, so Groucho would simply paint a ‘stache and some exaggerated eyebrows onto his face. However, the mustache he later rocked as the host of his famous quiz show You Bet Your Life was 100 percent real.

4. HARPO WAS A SELF-TAUGHT HARPIST.

Without any formal training (or the ability to read sheet music), the second-oldest Marx brother developed a unique style that he never stopped improving upon. “Dad really loved playing the harp, and he did it constantly,” his son, Bill Marx, wrote. “Maybe the first multi-tasker ever, he even had a harp in the bathroom so he could play when he sat on the toilet!”

5. THE VERY FIRST MARX BROTHERS MOVIE WAS NEVER RELEASED.

Financed by Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, and a handful of other investors, Humor Risk was filmed in 1921. Accounts differ, but most scholars agree that the silent picture—which would have served as the family’s cinematic debut—never saw completion. Despite this, an early screening of the work-in-progress was reportedly held in the Bronx. When Humor Risk failed to impress there, production halted. By Marx Brothers standards, it would’ve been an unusual flick, with Harpo playing a heroic detective opposite a villainous Groucho character.

6. GUMMO AND ZEPPO BECAME TALENT AGENTS.

World War I forced Gummo to quit the stage. Following his return, the veteran decided that performing was no longer for him and instead started a raincoat business. Zeppo—the youngest brother—then assumed Gummo’s role as the troupe’s straight-talking foil. A brilliant businessman, Zeppo eventually break away to found the talent agency Zeppo Marx Inc., which grew into Hollywood’s third-largest, representing superstars like Clark Gable, Lucille Ball, and—of course—the other three Marx Brothers. Gummo, who joined the company in 1935, was charged with handling Groucho, Harpo, and Chico’s needs.

7. CHICO ONCE LAUNCHED A BIG BAND GROUP.

Chico took advantage of an extended break between Marx brothers movies to realize a lifelong dream. A few months before The Big Store hit cinemas in 1941, he co-founded the Chico Marx Orchestra: a swinging jazz band that lasted until July of 1943. Short-lived as the group was, however, it still managed to recruit some amazing talent—including singer/composer Mel Tormé, who would go on to help write the “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” in 1945.

8. THEY TESTED OUT NEW MATERIAL FOR A NIGHT AT THE OPERA IN FRONT OF LIVE AUDIENCES.

With the script still being drafted, MGM made the inspired choice to let the brothers perform key scenes in such places as Seattle, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. Once a given joke was made, the Marxes meticulously timed the ensuing laughter, which let them know exactly how much silence to leave after repeating the gag on film. According to Harpo, this had the added benefit of shortening A Night at the Opera’s production period. “We didn’t have to rehearse,” he explained. “[We just] got onto the set and let the cameras roll.”

9. GROUCHO TEMPORARILY HOSTED THE TONIGHT SHOW.

Jack Paar bid the job farewell on March 29, 1962. Months before their star’s departure, NBC offered Paar’s Tonight Show seat to Groucho, who had established himself as a razor-sharp, well-liked host during You Bet Your Life’s 14-year run. Though Marx turned the network down, he later served as a guest host for two weeks while Johnny Carson prepared to take over the gig. When Carson finally made his Tonight Show debut on October 1, it was Groucho who introduced him.

10. SPY MAGAZINE USED A MARX BROTHERS MOVIE TO PRANK U.S. CONGRESSMEN.

Duck Soup takes place in Freedonia, a fictional country over which the eccentric Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) presides. In 1993, 60 years after the movie’s release, this imaginary nation made headlines by embarrassing some real-life politicians. Staffers from Spy got in touch with around 20 freshmen in the House of Representatives, asking some variation on the question “Do you approve of what we’re doing to stop ethnic cleansing in Freedonia?” A few lawmakers took the bait. Representative Corrine Brown (D-Florida) professed to approve of America’s presence in Freedonia, saying “I think all of those situations are very, very sad, and I just think we need to take action to assist the people.” Across the aisle, Steve Buyer (R-Indiana) concurred. “Yeah,” he said, “it’s a different situation than the Middle East.”

Original image
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
arrow
Lists
12 Facts About the Smithsonian's Collections
Original image
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

With 19 museums spread along the East Coast, the Smithsonian Institution has become the country’s richest repository of American history. From culture to science, zoos to space exploration, the federally-backed archive has spent nearly 200 years preserving and educating. Check out some facts on its history, how a new species of dolphin was found hiding in its archives, and how the founder eventually became part of the collection.

1. ITS FOUNDER NEVER SET FOOT IN THE STATES.

Wealthy British globe-trotter James Smithson (1765-1829) had acquired an estate worth roughly $500,000 at the time of his death and ordered that all of his assets be inherited by his nephew, Henry James Dickinson. There was one twist: The estate was to be turned over to the United States in the event Dickinson died without an heir of his own so the country could build a hub for the “increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Henry, then 18, died just six years later, and so President James Polk signed the act approving the Smithsonian Institution into law in 1846. Curiously, Smithson had never even visited the U.S. Why leave such a legacy to a foreign nation? Smithson never commented on his decision, leaving people to guess that it was either because he was impressed by democracy or because he wanted to enrich a country that, at the time, had only a few educational hubs.

2. NO ONE WAS REALLY SURE WHAT SMITHSON WANTED.

A portrait of James Smithson

“Increase and diffusion of knowledge” can be interpreted pretty broadly, and it took the United States a long time—roughly 10 years—before anyone could agree on what to do with Smithson’s gift. Educators, politicians, and civilians all had a unique notion of how to spend his fortune, including opening a university, a library, or an observatory. Ultimately, the Smithsonian Institution was a compromise, involving many of these ideas. By 1855, construction on the main building was complete at the National Mall in Washington; it was designated as a National Museum in 1858 [PDF].

3. THEY HAD TO HIDE THEIR COLLECTION FROM AXIS FORCES.

At the height of U.S. involvement in World War II, museum curators knew that Axis forces would have designs on destroying the vibrant culture housed at the museum’s main location at the National Mall. To protect these irreplaceable items, the Smithsonian arranged to have them shipped to an undisclosed location—now known to be near Luray, Virginia—and stored in a climate-controlled warehouse. They didn’t return until 1944.

4. SMOKEY BEAR LIVED AT THEIR ZOO.

Smokey Bear takes a bath at the National Zoo

Yes, that Smokey Bear. (And there’s no “the” in his name.) In 1950, a bear cub that survived a raging forest fire in Capitan, New Mexico, was adopted by the U.S. Forest Service and named Smokey after the popular ad campaign mascot of the era. As a living symbol of the effort, he spent his remaining 26 years at the National Zoo, a constant recipient of visitor attention and hundreds of jars of honey.

5. THEY DISPLAY JUST ONE PERCENT OF THEIR COLLECTION.

In order to execute Smithson’s mission statement, the Smithsonian has had to morph into the greatest display of hoarding the world has ever seen. All told, the Institution’s various artifacts, specimens, and other arcana is believed to number in the neighborhood of 137 million, with an official museum estimate of 154 million. Just 1 percent of that is available for viewing at any given time.

6. ONE CATEGORY IS USUALLY OFF-LIMITS FOR VIEWING.

17th century human remains found in Jamestown, Virginia

Evolving public attitudes over the decades have prompted the Smithsonian to be very wary of displaying human remains. While they’ve collected everything from shrunken heads to the “soap man”—a corpse whose body turned to a soap-like substance thanks to a chemical reaction to soil—most of it remains out of public view.

7. AN EXHIBIT ON NUCLEAR WAR STIRRED CONTROVERSY.

For a planned exhibit of the Enola Gay, the bomber plane that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima during World War II, museum organizers drew criticism in 1994 for presenting material that some veterans groups and members of Congress felt was politically charged. The museum agreed to omit text near the display that some felt dwelled on the horrific effects of the bomb, as well as references estimating the U.S. and rival casualties that might have been suffered if the bomb had not been deployed.

8. THE WEIRDEST ITEM THEY’VE CATALOGED IS A CRAPPY VIDEO GAME.

The box art for the Atari 2600 game E.T.

Amidst many internet lists of strange Smithsonian catalog items—taxidermied animals, beards, and other miscellanea—nothing seems more incongruous than the 2014 inclusion of a 1982 Atari video game based on E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Renowned for being produced quickly and for helping to fuel the video game crash of the early 1980s, supplies of the cartridge were buried in a New Mexico landfill and only recently excavated. One went into the museum's archives.

9. THEY TURNED DOWN JIMMY DURANTE’S NOSE.

In the 1950s, actor and comedian Jimmy Durante was easily identified by his bulbous nose, a three-inch-long (from bridge to tip) feature that led to his nickname, “the Great Schnozzola.” Sensing a publicity opportunity, Durante’s management arranged for a makeup artist to create a plaster cast of Durante’s nose and offer it up to the Smithsonian as a piece of Americana. Frank Setzler, the museum’s head of anthropology was unimpressed. “Heavens, no,” he was quoted as saying. “Who would want that? The only place we could use it would be in the elephant display.”

10. AN UNDISCOVERED SPECIES OF DOLPHIN WAS LURKING IN THEIR INVENTORY.

A dolphin skull from a recently-discovered species

With so many specimens, the bowels of the Smithsonian almost certainly harbor secrets that can surprise even scientists. In 2016, two researchers in search of fossilized marine mammals stumbled across the skull of a 25-million-year-old river dolphin they named Arktocara yakataga. Said to have been found in Alaska, the dolphin may have dwelled in the Arctic. It was estimated that the skull—plucked from obscurity because one of the researchers found it “cute”—sat on the shelf for 50 years before being identified.

11. THEY’RE COMMITTED TO PRESERVING DOROTHY’S SLIPPERS.

Possibly the most iconic pair of footwear in pop culture, Dorothy’s ruby slippers from the 1939 film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz have become a Smithsonian trademark. In 2016, the Institution successfully raised over $300,000 on Kickstarter to build a state-of-the-art preservation case to protect the kicks from deterioration. While star Judy Garland wore several pairs during filming and the Smithsonian’s are mismatched, it’s clear that visitors want to keep them in condition for any future travels along the yellow brick road.

12. SMITHSON EVENTUALLY BECAME PART OF THE COLLECTION.

James Smithson's final resting place within the walls of the Smithsonian

In 1904, some 75 years after his death in Italy, Smithson’s remains were about to be disturbed. U.S. Smithsonian officials were alerted that his grave site would be displaced because of a nearby stone quarry expansion. The Institution took the opportunity to have his casket shipped to America so he could be interred at the site of his legacy—the Smithsonian itself. Escorted by Alexander Graham Bell, the casket traveled 14 days by sea. The body was entombed and topped off by a marker in the Smithsonian, where it remains viewable by the general public.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios