Wikimedia Commons/Evan-Amos/Stu pendousmat
Wikimedia Commons/Evan-Amos/Stu pendousmat

30 Things Turning 30 in 2015

Wikimedia Commons/Evan-Amos/Stu pendousmat
Wikimedia Commons/Evan-Amos/Stu pendousmat

While 1984 was iconic, 1985 was an even bigger year for pop culture. When we think of a song or a movie that exemplifies “the '80s,” it’s very likely from 1985. If you made a mix tape of '80s songs, it would have a ton of stuff from 1985 (“Summer of ’69,” anybody? “Voices Carry,” perhaps? “Everybody Wants To Rule The World"? Anything on Tom Waits's Rain Dogs? Or how about Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More"?)

Without further ado, here are 30 things turning 30 in 2015. If you were born in 1985, you're in good company.

1. Back to the Future

The highest-grossing film of 1985 featured Michael J. Fox as a teenager traveling ... wait for it ... 30 years back in time. Now that it's 30 years later, the film holds up, though doing the math makes us feel extremely old (today's 1985 is as distant in the past as 1985's 1955).

Despite the feeling-old issue, we're huge fans of BTTF, having briefly interviewed co-writer Bob Gale, dug up the blooper reel, made a BTTF quiz, and written a list almost as long as this one about the movie. It's also worth noting that Back to the Future II took place in 2015, so we can check in on how the movie future compares with reality.

Bonus: Back to the Future included a cameo appearance by Huey Lewis, plus his new song "The Power of Love," written for the film. It became the #1 song on several Billboard charts in 1985.

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2. New Coke

In the early 1980s, Pepsi ran a killer marketing blitz: The Pepsi Challenge. It was a simple blind taste-test of Pepsi versus Coke, and upstart Pepsi won more than half the time. (While opinions differ as to why Pepsi won so often, the simplest explanation may be that it tasted sweeter.) So Coke fired back by discontinuing its original formula and introducing "New Coke," a sweeter formulation. Everybody hated it, despite intense marketing.

New Coke was such a flop that "old Coke" was reintroduced three months later as "Coca-Cola Classic." Eventually "New Coke" turned into Coke II (no kidding), and remained on store shelves until 2002.

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3. "We are the World"

Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie co-wrote "We Are the World" and, along with Harry Belafonte and Ken Kragen, recruited a mega-supergroup dubbed USA for Africa to record it. The purpose of the song was to raise money for famine relief in Africa—particularly in Ethiopia, where a devastating famine was raging. The song was a massive hit, reaching quadruple Platinum status, winning various Grammies, and raising tens of millions of dollars for the relief effort.

The supergroup performing the song included luminaries like Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Tina Turner, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Dan Aykroyd(!), Bette Midler, the Pointer Sisters, the Jacksons, Smokey Robinson, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Geldof, Huey Lewis, you name it.

Bonus: There were also two major charity concerts in 1985: Live Aid, again focused on aid for the famine in Ethiopia (with two concerts held—one in London and one in Philadelphia); and Farm Aid, helping American farmers. Here's Queen performing at Live Aid:

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4. WrestleMania I

The first WrestleMania event was staged by the World Wrestling Federation on March 31, 1985 at Madison Square Garden. In the main event, wrestlers included Hulk Hogan and Mr. T versus "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and "Mr. Wonderful" (Paul Orndorff). WrestleMania set the template for American wrestling events for decades to come, and it's still running today. (Incidentally, Liberace made an appearance as a timekeeper and Muhammad Ali was a referee!)

That year, Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling appeared as a Saturday morning cartoon on CBS. Here's a taste of that amazingness:

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5. Pictionary

The party game Pictionary was designed by Robert Angel and released by Seattle Games in 1985. If you've been living under a rock for 30 years, the premise is simple: one player has to draw a picture, trying to get the other players to guess a common word, phrase, action, or personal/place/animal. It's a lot like charades, but with frenzied scribbling.

The game was later adapted into several TV game shows. Here's the pilot for the 1989 TV version of Pictionary:

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6. Discovery of the RMS Titanic Wreck

On April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sank; the wreck wouldn't be discovered until 1985, when Dr. Bob Ballard and Jean-Louis Michel led a massive expedition employing a high-tech remotely-operated deep-sea vehicle named Argo. The key tactic that enabled the 1985 expedition to succeed where previous efforts failed was the use of cameras rather than sonar; by watching images, scientists were able to see the debris field from the Titanic and eventually find the wreck (in several parts).

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7. "We Built This City," Voted the Worst Song of All Time

I'm just gonna come right out and say that "We Built This City" has a great beat, it's easy to dance to, and it's great workout music. This opinion may be colored by the fact that I only owned three tapes in 1985, and Starship's Knee Deep in the Hoopla was one of them (the other two were Michael Jackson's Thriller and Weird Al's In 3-D). Released in August 1985, "We Built This City" was the kind of rock song that appealed to music lovers of the time, but almost immediately felt dated.

My personal opinion aside, "We Built This City" was voted the worst record ever in a poll of critics. Lambasted by Blender editor Craig Marks for "the sheer dumbness of the lyrics," the song made news for being a real stinker. (A similar Rolling Stone poll reached the same conclusion in 2011.) For the record, it was nominated for a Grammy in 1986.

Good song, bad song, or worst song of all time? Watch the video above and decide.

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8. Guns N’ Roses, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Indigo Girls, Jane’s Addiction, Crowded House

A bunch of bands that would later become big deals (or at least moderate deals) formed in 1985. Probably the most notable is Guns N' Roses (yes, that's the official capitalization and punctuation), which formed in Los Angeles when the existing bands Hollywood Rose and L.A. Guns merged. After several major lineup changes (including the addition of Duff McKagan and Slash), the band was signed by Geffen Records in 1986 and released Appetite for Destruction in 1987. Today, the only remaining member from the original lineup is Axl Rose.

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9. The Nintendo Entertainment System (in the U.S.), Super Mario Bros., and Duck Hunt

Although the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) had existed in Japan as the Famicom since mid-1983, it only became available in the U.S. in late 1985 (and even then, it was only in New York City, the first of several test markets). The big innovations in the U.S. release were ROB (Robotic Operating Buddy), the Zapper light gun, and the release of Super Mario Bros., the game that made America fall in love with home video game consoles again. (In later U.S. releases, the famous SMB/Duck Hunt split cartridge gave us a second fun game, although that laughing dog was kind of a jerk.)

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10. Mask (the Movie) and M.A.S.K. (the TV Show)

On March 8, 1985, Mask hit theaters, based on the true story of "Rocky" Dennis, who suffered from craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, causing his face to appear like a mask. Starring Cher, Sam Elliott, and Eric Stoltz, the movie won an Oscar for Best Makeup.

On September 16, 1985, the cartoon M.A.S.K. hit TV screens, based on the overuse of backronyms. (The title stood for Mobile Armored Strike Kommand—the good guys—who were battling V.E.N.O.M., the Vicious Evil Network Of Mayhem.) The cartoon was mostly notable for being a mashup of G.I. Joe and Transformers, leading to endless toy merchandising opportunities.

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11. Discovery of the Hole in the Ozone Layer

In May 1985, scientists from the British Antarctic Survey announced that there was a large "hole" in the ozone layer over Antarctica. Technically, it was more of a major thinning, but the term "ozone hole" stuck. Scientists reported that this hole had opened every spring since the 1970s, and suggested that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), used in refrigerants and propellants (hello hairspray!) were causing it. The hole was a problem because it let extra UV radiation through the atmosphere.

Alarmed by this news, the world reacted, heavily regulating CFCs which ultimately reduced the ozone hole. (Some estimates say it could be gone entirely 50 years from now.)

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12. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

Brøderbund released the now-classic educational video game Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? in 1985. The game taught geography and basic research skills, while managing to actually be fun (see the play-through video above, while imagining you're a little kid in 1985). In the years following the initial 1985 release, the game was ported to tons of personal computer and game console platforms, including the NES, SNES, and various Sega consoles. It also continued the '80s trend of crazy backronyms, featuring the Villains' International League of Evil (V.I.L.E.).

If you're a fan, Wikipedia has an incredibly thorough list of the characters in the game (and subsequent adaptations, including later games and, of course, the TV game show).

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13. Madonna's Big Year

After releasing the album Like a Virgin in 1984, Madonna proceeded to blow up in 1985. She starred in the movie Desperately Seeking Susan (and appeared in Vision Quest!), released the hits "Crazy for You," "Into the Groove," and "Dress You Up" (among others), married Sean Penn, and started her first North American tour with the Beastie Boys as her opening act.

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14. Blockbuster Video

The first Blockbuster Video rental outlet opened in October 1985 in Dallas, Texas. The brand rapidly expanded, soon blanketing the U.S. and expanding its offerings to video games (including Nintendo cartridges) and eventually DVDs. At the height of its success, Blockbuster had over 9000 retail stores.

As home video offerings changed (hello, Netflix, cable, kiosks, and on-demand), Blockbuster declined. In 2010, it began the first of various bankruptcy filings. By January 2014, the last few hundred corporate-owned Blockbuster stores closed their doors, though a few franchises are still open.

Other notable businesses founded in 1985: Boston Market, Tommy Hilfiger, Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, and Enron.

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15. The First Smoking Ban in U.S. Restaurants

AIGA / Public Domain

Settle in, children, as I tell you what used to happen when you entered a restaurant. You'd be asked, "Smoking or non?" and you'd choose the section of the room in which you'd like to sit. In other words, half of pretty much all restaurants were filled with cigarette smoke. This was entirely normal and common until the first U.S. restaurant smoking ban went into effect in Aspen, Colorado in late 1985. Part of this progressive move can be attributed to then-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's Campaign for a Smoke-Free America; similar smoking bans were enacted throughout the '80s and '90s, becoming commonplace today.

And another historical tidbit: It wasn’t until 2000 that the government banned smoking on domestic flights.

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16. Calvin and Hobbes

On November 18, 1985, Bill Watterson's comic strip Calvin and Hobbes debuted. It ran for 10 years, following the adventures of Calvin, an imaginative kid, and his stuffed tiger Hobbes. The comic strip was an instant hit, and spread rapidly to hundreds of newspapers.

Calvin and Hobbes is notable mainly for its brilliant writing, focusing on the imagination of a little boy and his semi-imaginary friend. But it's also remarkable for its lack of merchandising. Although many books of Calvin and Hobbes collected comics have been made and sold, almost no licensed merchandise was created.

In 2013, the documentary Dear Mr. Watterson explored fan love for the strip (it's on Netflix). We also interviewed Watterson that year.

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17. Microsoft Windows 1.0

A year after Apple introduced the Macintosh, Microsoft shipped Windows 1.0, a graphical user interface that ran various DOS applications in crappy windows, alongside a handful of actual Windows-native applications (like Microsoft Paint, bundled with Windows 1.0). I actually ran Windows 1.0 on my PC, and it was painfully limited. On the bright side, it came with a game: Reversi. Steve Ballmer soon made a jokey promo video for Windows 1.0:

Also in 1985, Microsoft released its Excel spreadsheet package ... for the Mac. (Microsoft's Multiplan spreadsheet for PCs wasn't doing so well against competing spreadsheet software; eventually Excel took over, and made the leap to Windows.)

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18. The First Dot Com

On March 15, 1985, the first "dot com" domain name was registered. Symbolics.com was the new online home of Symbolics Inc., a computer company based in Massachusetts. By comparison, it took IBM more than a year to get around to registering IBM.com, but that was typical—having an Internet domain name in the mid-'80s was not exactly mission-critical. The .com top-level domain joined a handful of other TLDs including .edu, .gov, .mil, .net, .org, and .arpa. Of course, in the years since, .com has pretty much dominated the domain name world.

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19. Books: Contact, The Handmaid’s Tale, White Noise...

It was a good year for books: Carl Sagan's Contact was published, as was Don DeLillo's White Noise. Orson Scott Card released Ender's Game and Margaret Atwood gave us The Handmaid’s Tale. Other notables include Lonesome Dove, Blood Meridian, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, The Cider House Rules, Dogsong, The Polar Express, and Lake Wobegon Days. Many of 1985's biggest books were later (sometimes much later) adapted into movies.  

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20. The Brat Pack (First Seen in The Breakfast Club)

It's hard to pick a single movie that defined 1985 (and this list already devoted entries to Mask and Back to the Future, so you can tell we're not trying too hard to be exclusive). But among the '85 standouts is John Hughes's The Breakfast Club, which helped define the Brat Pack, a group of actors who appeared in tons of teen-centric films. The group included (at least) Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, and Ally Sheedy. A subset of these actors appeared in both The Breakfast Club (February 1985) and St. Elmo's Fire (June 1985).

Other notable movies from 1985: Brazil, The Black Cauldron, Clue, Fletch, The Goonies, The Color Purple, Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Out of Africa, Weird Science, Witness, Ladyhawke, Return to Oz, and Cocoon. It was a pretty sweet year for Stallone sequels too, with Rambo First Blood Part II and Rocky IV.

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21. Peak Levels of David Lee Roth in the Rockosphere

David Lee Roth left Van Halen on April Fool's Day in 1985, at the peak of the band's popularity (the previous year's album, 1984, had spawned the hits "Jump," "I'll Wait," "Panama," and "Hot for Teacher"). This moment marked Peak Roth, a cultural instant when David Lee Roth was as relevant and famous as he would ever be. He also released an EP of standards entitled Crazy from the Heat, including "California Girls" (complete with backing vocals by Beach Boy Carl Wilson!) and a medley of "Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody," both of which were hits. These days, David Lee Roth is back with Van Halen.

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22. The First Commercial AIDS Blood Test

In early 1985, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration licensed the first commercial blood test to detect HIV antibodies in blood. Blood banks immediately began screening blood donations using the test, at a cost of about $6 per test. That year also marked a series of major moments in the early story of AIDS: Larry Kramer's play The Normal Heart debuted Off-Broadway; Indiana teen Ryan White was barred from his middle school after contracting the disease from a blood transfusion; GLAAD was formed; and Rock Hudson died aged 59 from AIDS-related illnesses, bringing a very mainstream face to the disease.

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23. Anna Kendrick, Michael Phelps, Raven-Symoné...

By Alex Calderon (originally posted to Flickr as Raven Symone) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Lots of actors, entertainers, and sports stars were born in 1985. Doing this research, I found it surprising that all these people are the same age. See if you're similarly baffled. Here's a list:

Lily Allen

Reggie Bush

Colbie Caillat

Lana Del Rey

Zac Hanson (of the band Hanson)

Kris Humphries

Calvin Johnson

Carly Rae Jepsen

Anna Kendrick

Keira Knightley

Emily Kinney

Bruno Mars

Michael Phelps

Amanda Seyfried

Rooney Mara

Carey Mulligan

Jack Osbourne

Alison Pill

Cristiano Ronaldo

Raven-Symoné

See? Isn't it weird that Keira Knightley, Bruno Mars, Raven-Symoné, and Jack Osbourne are the same age?

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24. Thundercats! Jem! The Golden Girls!

Jem and her true identity Jerrica Benton / Wikimedia Commons

OK, so 1985 was the wellspring of awesome kids' TV, plus some grownup TV too. Here's a grab bag of shows that debuted in 1985:

Alfred Hitchcock Presents (The Reboot)

Amazing Stories

The Care Bears

Club MTV

EastEnders

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero

The Golden Girls

Growing Pains

It's Punky Brewster (not to be confused with the live-action Punky Brewster)

Jem

Larry King Live

MacGyver

Moonlighting

Mr. Belvedere

National Geographic Explorer

She-Ra: Princess of Power

Small Wonder

Star Wars: Droids

Star Wars: Ewoks

The Twilight Zone (the reboot)

Thundercats

We should also pour one (or two) out for The Dukes of Hazzard and The Jeffersons, both of which ended their runs in 1985.

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25. VH1, Nick at Nite, Elmo, and the First Letterman "Top 10 List"

VH1 premiered on New Year's Day, offering a slightly smoother/grown-up alternative to MTV (its first video was Marvin Gaye's awesome 1983 performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner," shown above). Nick at Nite debuted in July, showing reruns starting at 8pm, sharing the same station as Nickelodeon (the logic being that kids should be in bed by then, or at least not watching TV). Nick at Nite's plan was to create the first "oldies TV network" in the same vein as oldies radio. After years of trying to find a character (including talking with a hilariously gruff voice), in 1985 Elmo became the high pitched, hyper friendly red monster we know and love. And David Letterman aired his first "Top 10 List," with the subject: "Top Ten Words That Almost Rhyme With Peas," which you can watch below:

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26. Portlandia (Statue)

In Portland, Oregon, the statue Portlandia was installed on October 6, 1985, after being floated up the Willamette River on a barge. Sculpted by Raymond Kaskey, Portlandia is a 34-plus-foot copper statue of a woman holding a trident. Although it was obviously famous to Portland residents at the time, it became nationally notable when the TV show Portlandia borrowed its name and likeness (after negotiations with Kaskey).

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27. The WELL

The WELL (Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link—another backronym) is one of the original online communities. Founded by Stewart Brand and Larry Brilliant, it began as a BBS (Bulletin Board System) accessible via dialup modem, and evolved over the years as online services did. The WELL set the template for how people could interact online. There's a good summary above, and here's a much longer panel discussion covering topics including the WELL:

 

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28. Phil Collins, No Jacket Required

In 1985, Phil Collins released his most successful solo album, No Jacket Required. It became a Diamond record (more than 10 times Platinum) and won three Grammys, including Album of the Year. He performed tracks from the album at Live Aid that year. Here he is performing "Long Long Way to Go" with Sting at London's Live Aid:

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29. The First Million-Selling CD

Compact Discs became available in the early 1980s, but it took until 1985 for them to go mainstream. Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms sold a million copies on CD, outselling its vinyl release. This was likely due to it being an early DDD (all-digital) recording, intended for the relatively new CD format. My favorite song from the record? "Money for Nothing," of course:

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30. Studio Ghibli

Studio Ghibli was founded in June 1985 by directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki. It has created animated classic movies including Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Castle in the Sky, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo, and lots more. If you haven't seen a Studio Ghibli film, you're missing out; here's the trailer for My Neighbor Totoro, my favorite of theirs:

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Henry Guttmann, Getty Images
14 Facts About Mathew Brady
Henry Guttmann, Getty Images
Henry Guttmann, Getty Images

When you think of the Civil War, the images you think of are most likely the work of Mathew Brady and his associates. One of the most successful early photographers in American history, Brady was responsible for bringing images of the Civil War to a nation split in two—a project that would ultimately be his undoing. Here are some camera-ready facts about Mathew Brady.

1. HIS EARLY LIFE MIGHT BE AN INTENTIONAL MYSTERY.

Most details of Brady’s early life are unknown. He was born in either 1822 or 1823 to Andrew and Julia Brady, who were Irish. On pre-war census records and 1863 draft forms Brady stated that he was born in Ireland, but some historians speculate he changed his birthplace to Johnsburg, New York, after he became famous due to anti-Irish sentiment.

Brady had no children, and though he is believed to have married a woman named Julia Handy in 1851, there is no official record of the marriage.

2. HE TOOK PHOTOGRAPHY CLASSES FROM THE INVENTOR OF MORSE CODE.

When he was 16 or 17, Brady followed artist William Page to New York City after Page had given him some drawing lessons. But that potential career was derailed when he got work as a clerk in the A.T. Stewart department store [PDF] and began manufacturing leather (and sometimes paper) cases for local photographers, including Samuel F.B. Morse, the inventor of Morse Code.

Morse, who had learned the early photographic method of creating Daguerreotypes from Parisian inventor Louis Daguerre in 1839, brought the method back to the United States and opened a studio in 1840. Brady was one of his early students.

3. HE SET UP SHOP IN NEW YORK AND BECAME THE GO-TO PHOTOGRAPHER.

Brady eventually took what he learned from Morse and opened a daguerreotype portrait studio at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Street in New York in 1844, earning the nickname “Brady of Broadway.” His renown grew due to a mix of his knack for enticing celebrities to sit for his camera—James Knox Polk and a young Henry James (with his father, Henry James Sr.) both sat for him—as well as a flair for the dramatic: In 1856, he placed an ad in the New York Daily Tribune urging readers to sit for a portrait that warned, “You cannot tell how soon it may be too late.”

His rapidly-expanding operation forced him to open a branch of his studio at 625 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., in 1849, and then move his New York studio uptown to 785 Broadway in 1860.

4. HE ACHIEVED WORLDWIDE FAME.

In 1850, Brady published The Gallery of Illustrious Americans, a collection of lithographs based on his daguerreotypes of a dozen famous Americans (he had intended to do 24, but due to costs, that never happened). The volume, and a feature profile [PDF] in the inaugural 1851 issue of the Photographic Art-Journal that described Brady as the “fountain-head” of a new artistic movement, made him a celebrity even outside of America. “We are not aware that any man has devoted himself to [the Daguerreotype art] with so much earnestness, or expended upon its development so much time and expense," the profile opined. "He has merited the eminence he has acquired; for, from the time he first began to devote himself to it, he has adhered to his early purpose with the firmest resolution, and the most unyielding tenacity.” Later that year, at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London, Brady was awarded one of three gold medals for his daguerreotypes.

5. HE PHOTOGRAPHED EVERY PRESIDENT FROM JOHN QUINCY ADAMS TO WILLIAM MCKINLEY ... WITH ONE EXCEPTION.

The one that got away was William Henry Harrison—he died only a month after his inauguration in 1841.

6. ONE OF HIS PORTRAITS INTRODUCED HONEST ABE TO THE COUNTRY.

When Abraham Lincoln campaigned for president in 1860, he was dismissed as an odd-looking country bumpkin. But Brady’s stately portrait of the candidate, snapped after he addressed a Republican audience at Cooper Union in New York, effectively solidified Lincoln as a legitimate candidate in the minds of the American populace. (After he was elected, Lincoln supposedly told a friend, “Brady and the Cooper Union speech made me president.”) It was one of the first times such widespread campaign photography was used to support a presidential candidate.

7. HIS STUDIO’S WORK ENDED UP ON TWO VERSIONS OF THE $5 BILL.

A researcher holding one of America's most priceless negatives, the glass plate made by famous civil war photographer Mathew Brady of Abraham Lincoln in 1865 just before he was assassinated.
Three Lions, Getty Images

On February 9, 1864, Lincoln sat for a portrait session with Anthony Berger, the manager of Brady’s Washington studio. The session yielded both images of Lincoln that would go on the modern iterations of the $5 bill.

The first, from a three-quarter length portrait featuring Lincoln seated and facing right, was used on the bill design from 1914 to 2000. When U.S. currency was redesigned that year, government officials chose another image Berger took at Brady’s studio of Lincoln. This time, the president is seen facing left with his head turned more to the left.

According to Lincoln historian Lloyd Ostendorf, when the president was sitting for portraits, “Whenever Lincoln posed, a dark melancholy settled over his features. He put on what Mrs. Lincoln called his ‘photographer’s face.’ There is no camera study which shows him laughing, for such an attitude, unfortunately, was impossible when long exposures were required.”

8. OTHER PEOPLE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR SOME OF HIS BEST-KNOWN WORK.

At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Brady decided to use his many employees and his own money to attempt to make a complete photographic record of the conflict, dispatching 20 photographers to capture images in different war zones. Alexander Gardner and Timothy H. O’Sullivan were both in the field for Brady. Both of them eventually quit because Brady didn’t give individual credit.

Brady likely did take photos himself on battlefields like Bull Run and Gettysburg (although not necessarily during the actual battle). The photographer later boasted, “I had men in all parts of the army, like a rich newspaper.”

9. HE HAD BAD EYESIGHT.

Brady's eyes had plagued him since childhood—in his youth, he was reportedly nearly blind, and he wore thick, blue-tinted glasses as an adult. Brady's real reason for relying less and less on his own expertise might have been because of his failing eyesight, which had started to deteriorate in the 1850s.

10. HE HELPED REVOLUTIONIZE COMBAT PHOTOGRAPHY.

War photographer Mathew Brady's buggy was converted into a mobile darkroom and travelling studio, or, Whatizzit Wagon, during the American Civil War.
Mathew B Brady, Getty Images

The group of Brady photographers that scoured the American north and south to capture images of the Civil War traveled in what became known as “Whatizzit Wagons,” which were horse-drawn wagons filled with chemicals and mobile darkrooms so they could get close to battles and develop photographs as quickly as possible.

Brady’s 1862 New York gallery exhibit, "The Dead of Antietam,” featured then-unseen photographs of some of the 23,000 victims of the war’s bloodiest day, which shocked American society. “Brady has done something to bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war," a New York Times reviewer wrote. "If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our door-yards and along the streets, he has done something very like it.”

11. HE USED A FREEBIE TO CONVINCE GENERALS TO LET HIM PHOTOGRAPH THE WAR.

Brady and his associates couldn't just wander out onto the battlefield with cameras—the photographer needed to obtain permission. So he set up a portrait session with Winfield Scott, the Union general in charge of the Army. The story goes that as he photographed the general—who was posed shirtless as a Roman warrior—Brady laid out his plan to send his fleet of photographers to tell the visual story of the war unlike any previous attempts in history. Then the photographer gifted the general some ducks. Scott was finally convinced, and he approved Brady’s plan in a letter to General Irvin McDowell. (Scott's Roman warrior portrait is, unfortunately, now lost.)

12. HE WAS BLAMED FOR UNION BATTLE LOSSES.

Brady’s first foray into documenting the Civil War was the First Battle of Bull Run. Though he had approved of Brady's plan, General McDowell did not appreciate the photographers' presence during the battle.

Brady himself was supposedly near the front lines when the fighting began, and quickly became separated from his companions. During the battle, he was forced to take shelter in nearby woods, and slept there overnight on a bag of oats. He eventually met back up with the Army and made his way to Washington, where rumors swelled that his equipment caused a panic that was responsible for the Union’s defeat at the battle. “Some pretend, indeed, that it was the mysterious and formidable-looking instrument that produced the panic!” one observer noted. “The runaways, it is said, mistook it for the great steam gun discharging 500 balls a minute, and took to their heels when they got within its focus!”

13. HE DIDN’T JUST PHOTOGRAPH THE UNION SIDE.

Before, after, and occasionally during the Civil War, Brady and Co. also photographed members of the Confederate side, such as Jefferson Davis, P. G. T. Beauregard, Stonewall Jackson, Albert Pike, James Longstreet, James Henry Hammond, and Robert E. Lee after he returned to Richmond following his surrender at Appomattox Court House. “It was supposed that after his defeat it would be preposterous to ask him to sit,” Brady said later. “I thought that to be the time for the historical picture.”

14. HIS CIVIL WAR PHOTOS ALSO MADE HIM POOR.

Union troops with a field gun during the American Civil War.
Mathew Brady, Hulton Archive/Getty Images

“My wife and my most conservative friends had looked unfavorably upon this departure from commercial business to pictorial war correspondence,” Brady told an interviewer in 1891. Their instincts were right.

Brady invested nearly $100,000 of his own money in the Civil War project in hopes that the government would buy his photo record of the war after it was all said and done. But once the Union prevailed, a public reeling from years of grueling conflict showed no interest in Brady's grim photos.

After the financial panic of 1873 he declared bankruptcy, and he lost his New York studio. The War Department eventually bought over 6000 negatives from Brady’s collection—which are now housed in the National Archives—for only $2840 total.

Despite being responsible for some of the most iconic images of the era, Brady never regained his financial footing, and he died alone in New York Presbyterian Hospital in 1896 after being hit by a streetcar.

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General Mills
10 Winning Facts about Wheaties
General Mills
General Mills

Famous for its vivid orange boxes featuring star athletes and its classic "breakfast of champions" tagline, Wheaties might be the only cereal that's better known for its packaging than its taste. The whole wheat cereal has been around since the 1920s, becoming an icon not just of the breakfast aisle, but the sports and advertising worlds, too. Here are 10 winning facts about it.

1. IT WAS INVENTED BY ACCIDENT.

The Washburn Crosby Company wasn't initially in the cereal business. At the time, the Minnesota-based company—which became General Mills in 1928—primarily sold flour. But in 1921, the story goes, a dietitian in Minneapolis spilled bran gruel on a hot stove. The bran hardened into crispy, delicious flakes, and a new cereal was born. In 1924, the Washburn Crosby Company began selling a version of the flakes as a boxed cereal it called Washburn's Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes. A year later, after a company-wide contest, the company changed the name to Wheaties.

2. ITS JINGLE FEATURED A SINGING UNDERTAKER AND A COURT BAILIFF.

Wheaties sales were slow at first, but the Washburn Crosby Company already had a built-in advertising platform: It owned the Minneapolis radio station WCCO. Starting on December 24, 1926, the station began airing a jingle for the cereal sung by a barbershop quartet called the Wheaties Quartet. The foursome sang "Have You Tried Wheaties" live over the radio every week, earning $15 (about $200 today) per performance. In addition to their weekly singing gig, the men of the Wheaties Quartet all also had day jobs: One was an undertaker, one was a court bailiff, one worked in the grain industry, and one worked in printing. The ad campaign eventually went national, helping boost Wheaties sales across the country and becoming an advertising legend.

3. WHEATIES HAS BEEN TIED TO SPORTS SINCE ALMOST THE BEGINNING.

Carl Lewis signs a Wheaties box with his image on it for a young boy.
Track and field Olympic medalist Carl Lewis
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Wheaties has aligned itself with the sports world since its early days. In 1927, Wheaties bought ad space at Minneapolis's Nicollet Park, home to a minor league baseball team called the Millers, and in 1933, the cereal brand started sponsoring the team's game-day radio broadcasts on WCCO. Eventually, Wheaties baseball broadcasts expanded to 95 different radio stations, covering teams all over the country and further cementing its association with the sport. Since then, generations of endorsements from athletes of all stripes have helped sell consumers on the idea that eating Wheaties can make them strong and successful just like their favorite players. The branding association has been so successful that appearing on a Wheaties box has itself become a symbol of athletic achievement.

4. WHEATIES HELPED KICK-START RONALD REAGAN'S ACTING CAREER.

In the 1930s, a young sports broadcaster named Ronald Reagan was working at a radio station in Des Moines, Iowa, narrating Wheaties-sponsored Chicago Cubs and White Sox games. As part of this job, Reagan went to California to visit the Cubs' spring training camp in 1937. While he was there, he also did a screen test at Warner Bros. The studio ended up offering him a seven-year contract, and later that year, he appeared in his first starring role as a radio commentator in Love Is On The Air.

5. ATHLETES' PHOTOS DIDN'T ALWAYS APPEAR ON THE FRONT OF BOXES.

Three Wheaties boxes featuring Michael Phelps
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Although a Wheaties box wouldn't seem complete without an athlete's photo on it today, the cereal didn't always feature athletes front and center. In the early years, the boxes had photos of athletes like baseball legend Lou Gehrig (the first celebrity to be featured, in 1934) on the back or side panels of boxes. Athletes didn't start to appear on the front of the box until 1958, when the cereal featured Olympic pole vaulter Bob Richards.

6. THE FIRST WOMAN ON A WHEATIES BOX WAS A PILOT.

Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton became the first woman to appear on the front of a Wheaties box in 1984, but women did appear elsewhere on the box in the brand's early years. The first was pioneering aviator and stunt pilot Elinor Smith. Smith, whose picture graced the back of the box in 1934, set numerous world aviation records for endurance and altitude in the 1920s and 1930s.

7. IT USED TO HAVE A MASCOT.

Though we now associate Wheaties with athletes rather than an animal mascot, the cereal did have the latter during the 1950s. In an attempt to appeal to children, Wheaties adopted a puppet lion named Champy (short for "Champion") as the brand's mascot. Champy and his puppet friends sang about the benefits of Wheaties in commercials that ran during The Mickey Mouse Club, and kids could order their own Champy hand puppets for 50 cents (less than $5 today) if they mailed in Wheaties box tops.

8. MICHAEL JORDAN IS THE WHEATIES KING.

Of all the athletes who have graced the cover of a Wheaties box, basketball superstar Michael Jordan takes the cake for most appearances. He's been featured on the box 18 times, both alone and with the Chicago Bulls. He also served as a spokesperson for the cereal, appearing in numerous Wheaties commercials in the '80s and '90s.

9. FANS ONCE GOT THE CHANCE TO PICK A WHEATIES STAR.

MMA star Anthony Pettis on the front of a Wheaties box.
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The public hasn't often gotten a chance to weigh in on who will appear on the Wheaties box. But in 2014, Wheaties customers got to decide for the first time which athlete would be featured nationally. Called the Wheaties NEXT Challenge, the contest allowed people to vote for the next Wheaties Champion by logging their workouts on an app platform called MapMyFitness. Every workout of 30 minutes or more counted as one vote. Participants could choose between Paralympic sprinter Blake Leeper, motocross rider Ryan Dungey, mixed-martial-artist Anthony Pettis, lacrosse player Rob Pannell, or soccer player Christen Press. Pettis won, becoming the first MMA fighter to appear on the box in early 2015.

10. THERE WERE SEVERAL SPINOFFS THAT DIDN'T CATCH ON.

Three different Wheaties boxes featuring Tiger Woods sitting together on a table
Tiger Woods's Wheaties covers, 1998
Getty Images

Faced with declining sales, Wheaties introduced several spinoff cereals during the 1990s and early 2000s, including Honey Frosted Wheaties, Crispy Wheaties 'n Raisins, and Wheaties Energy Crunch. None of them sold very well, and they were all discontinued after a few years. The brand kept trying to expand its offerings, though. In 2009, General Mills introduced Wheaties Fuel, a version of the cereal it claimed was more tailored to men's dietary needs. Wheaties Fuel had more vitamin E and—unlike the original—no folic acid, which is commonly associated with women's prenatal supplements. Men didn't love Wheaties Fuel, though, and it was eventually discontinued too. Now, only the original "breakfast of champions" remains.

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