The Real Reason the Hatfields and McCoys Started Feuding

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In the late 19th century, the Hatfields and McCoys were locked in a bloody, decades-long feud. The battle between the clans has been pop culture fodder since at least 1923, when Buster Keaton parodied the situation in his movie Our Hospitality

But the event that launched the now-infamous conflict—which claimed the lives of 13 family members—has taken a backseat to the fact of its impressive longevity. What caused the bad blood in the first place?

A pig. Well, that’s how one of the stories goes, anyway. In 1878, Randolph McCoy accused Floyd Hatfield of stealing one of his hogs. The matter went to trial, with the star testimony coming from Bill Staton, a McCoy who married a Hatfield. Staton sided with Hatfield, and was later shot dead by Sam McCoy.

Adding fuel to the fire was the short-lived romance between Johnse Hatfield and Roseanna McCoy. After she became pregnant, McCoy moved in with the Hatfields, infuriating her family. But Romeo and Juliet they were not. Several months into the pregnancy, Johnse decided to move on with another McCoy—Nancy, Roseanna's cousin. Roseanna and Johnse's daughter died of the measles when she was 8 months old.

In 1882, three McCoys got into an election day fight with two Hatfields, which resulted in Ellison Hatfield being stabbed 26 times and shot in the back. Despite his horrific injuries, Hatfield didn’t immediately perish. Devil Anse, the head of the Hatfield clan and Ellison’s brother, vowed that he would not seek retaliation if his brother lived. When Ellison died three days later, Devil Anse found the three McCoy brothers who were responsible, dragged them into the woods, then blindfolded and shot them.

In 1888, the Hatfields struck again, ambushing the McCoy homestead and lighting it on fire in what became known as "The New Year's Day Massacre." Two were killed, including Alifair, a McCoy daughter who was caught in the crossfire. Her mother, Sarah, was badly beaten when she tried to help her dying daughter.

Ellison Mounts was hanged for Alifair’s death, and the feud seemed to settle down after that. But by the time all was said and done, at least 13 Hatfields and McCoys had died—all over a pig, it seems. Still, some historians believe that the hog was just a scapegoat. The real source of the ire, they say, was the Hatfields' Confederate leanings. (The McCoys considered themselves Unionists.)

A century later, the vendetta continued—sort of—in front of a live studio audience. For a 1979 Family Feud special, producers thought it would be funny to “litter the stage with bodies”—the Hatfield and McCoy teams received one appropriately attired mannequin for every match they won.

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College Board Wants to Erase Thousands of Years From AP World History, and Teachers Aren't Happy
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iStock

One would be forgiven for thinking that the Ides of March are upon us, because Julius Caesar is being taken out once again—this time from the Advanced Placement World History exam. The College Board in charge of the AP program is planning to remove the Roman leader, and every other historical figure who lived and died prior to 1450, from high school students’ tests, The New York Times reports.

The nonprofit board recently announced that it would revise the test, beginning in 2019, to make it more manageable for teachers and students alike. The current exam covers over 10,000 years of world history, and according to the board, “no other AP course requires such an expanse of content to be covered over a single school year.”

As an alternative, the board suggested that schools offer two separate year-long courses to cover the entirety of world history, including a Pre-AP World History and Geography class focusing on the Ancient Period (before 600 BCE) up through the Postclassical Period (ending around 1450). However, as Politico points out, a pre-course for which the College Board would charge a fee "isn’t likely to be picked up by cash-strapped public schools," and high school students wouldn't be as inclined to take the pre-AP course since there would be no exam or college credit for it.

Many teachers and historians are pushing back against the proposed changes and asking the board to leave the course untouched. Much of the controversy surrounds the 1450 start date and the fact that no pre-colonial history would be tested.

“They couldn’t have picked a more Eurocentric date,” Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, who previously helped develop AP History exams and courses, told The New York Times. “If you start in 1450, the first thing you’ll talk about in terms of Africa is the slave trade. The first thing you’ll talk about in terms of the Americas is people dying from smallpox and other things. It’s not a start date that encourages looking at the agency and creativity of people outside Europe.”

A group of teachers who attended an AP open forum in Salt Lake City also protested the changes. One Michigan educator, Tyler George, told Politico, “Students need to understand that there was a beautiful, vast, and engaging world before Europeans ‘discovered’ it.”

The board is now reportedly reconsidering its decision and may push the start date of the course back some several hundred years. Their decision will be announced in July.

[h/t The New York Times]

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Nate D. Sanders Auctions
Sylvia Plath's Pulitzer Prize in Poetry Is Up for Auction
Nate D. Sanders Auctions
Nate D. Sanders Auctions

A Pulitzer Prize in Poetry that was awarded posthumously to Sylvia Plath in 1982 for her book The Collected Poems will be auctioned on June 28. The Los Angeles-based Nate D. Sanders Auctions says bidding for the literary document will start at $40,000.

The complete book of Plath’s poetry was published in 1981—18 years after her death—and was edited by her husband, fellow poet Ted Hughes. The Pulitzer Prize was presented to Hughes on Plath’s behalf, and one of two telegrams sent by Pulitzer President Michael Sovern to Hughes read, “We’ve just heard that the Collected Plath has won the Pulitzer Prize. Congratulations to you for making it possible.” The telegrams will also be included in the lot, in addition to an official congratulatory letter from Sovern.

The Pultizer’s jury report from 1982 called The Collected Poems an “extraordinary literary event.” It went on to write, “Plath won no major prizes in her lifetime, and most of her work has been posthumously published … The combination of metaphorical brilliance with an effortless formal structure makes this a striking volume.”

Ted Hughes penned an introduction to the poetry collection describing how Plath had “never scrapped any of her poetic efforts,” even if they weren’t all masterpieces. He wrote:

“Her attitude to her verse was artisan-like: if she couldn’t get a table out of the material, she was quite happy to get a chair, or even a toy. The end product for her was not so much a successful poem, as something that had temporarily exhausted her ingenuity. So this book contains not merely what verse she saved, but—after 1956—all she wrote.”

Also up for auction is Plath’s Massachusetts driver’s license from 1958, at which time she went by the name Sylvia P. Hughes. Bidding for the license will begin at $8000.

Plath's driver's license
Nate D. Sanders Auctions

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