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Chloe Effron

25 Intriguing Facts About Ohio

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

Was Ohio really the the "birthplace of aviation"? How did Dr. Seuss insult Lake Erie? And what, exactly, is a buckeye? Here are the answers to these and more of your burning questions about Ohio.

1. Ohio is known as “The Mother of Presidents” due to its knack for producing POTUSes: seven of our 43 presidents have hailed from there. For those playing along at home, that would be Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft, and Warren G. Harding. William Henry Harrison was born in Virginia but settled in Ohio.

2. While we’re talking about William McKinley, let’s discuss the state flower of Ohio. It was well-known that the 25th president liked to keep a red carnation in his lapel—in fact, he gave one away to a little girl just minutes before he was shot in 1901. To honor the assassinated president, Ohio later voted to make McKinley’s iconic scarlet carnation the official state flower.

3. At 900 pounds, the massive poplar tree drumsticks that honor Warren, Ohio's own Dave Grohl are the biggest in the world. After the city dedicated the drumsticks in 2012, Grohl tweeted his thanks: “To the wonderful city of Warren, from the bottom of my heart I'd like to thank you all so much ... For the childhood memories. For my family. For my very own alley. For the world's largest drumsticks! And for all of your support ... But most of all for being such a great community. One that makes me proud to say ... I am from Warren, Ohio!"

4. After seeing a pill-making machine quickly pop out pellets, Ohio candymaker Clarence Crane realized he could make mints with it the same way. The machine happened to have a defect that punched a hole in the middle of the round, but Crane capitalized on that fact by naming his new mints “Life Savers.” He sold his invention for just $2900 in 1913. Crane, by the way, was the father of famous poet Hart Crane.

5. Kelleys Island, located in the middle of Lake Erie, is where you’ll find Glacial Grooves State Memorial—the largest easily accessible set of glacial grooves anywhere in the world. The grooves are the result of glacier movement that dates back to the Pleistocene era; the largest one is 400 feet long, 35 feet wide, and up to 10 feet deep.

6. Joining the likes of Loch Ness and Lake Champlain, Ohio has its own lake monster. “Bessie” was allegedly sighted several times in the 1980s and 1990s, with one family reporting that the serpent-like creature was up to 35 feet long. But if we’ve yet to find definitive proof of Nessie, proving that Bessie exists will be even harder—Lake Erie is more than 10 times as long as Loch Ness. Regardless, Ohio seems to have embraced its cryptid: The professional American League hockey team in Cleveland is called the Lake Erie Monsters.

7. Speaking of Lake Erie, it made it into—and out of—a Dr. Seuss book. Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, once referenced how dirty the body of water was. In early editions of The Lorax, Seuss addressed the plight of the “Humming-Fish,” saying, “They’ll walk on their fins and get woefully weary in search of some water that isn’t so smeary. I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie.” Conditions in the lake had improved by the 1980s, so employees at Ohio Sea Grant put in a request to Seuss to change his prose on that particular page. He complied.

8. The state flag of Ohio is unique in a particular way—it’s the only flag out of all 50 states' that isn’t rectangular. It’s believed that designer John Eisenmann may have been inspired by the shape of a pennant carried by the U.S. Cavalry. In addition to its unusual shape, there’s also quite a bit of symbolism in the flag. The red circle represents the buckeye, while the white ring around it is an “O” for “Ohio.” The triangles are meant to symbolize the state’s hills and valleys. The 17 stars remind us that Ohio was the 17th state to join the Union.

9. Presidents aren’t the only thing Ohio is good at creating. As of 2013, 25 NASA astronauts were from the state. Astronauts from Ohio have been the first to walk on the moon (Neil Armstrong), the first to orbit the Earth (John Glenn), the first woman to walk in space (Kathryn D. Sullivan), and the first to take a spacewalk from the International Space Station (Michael L. Gernhardt), among other illustrious achievements.

10. If just watching 24 hours of A Christmas Story isn’t enough for you, you can visit the Parkers' house and gaze upon Ralphie’s Red Ryder for yourself. The house where the movie was filmed in Cleveland is now a museum filled with authentic props such as the family car and Randy’s immobilizing snowsuit. Here's hoping you don't run into the Bumpus hounds.

Stacy Conradt

11. Ohio is one of the country’s leading producers of tomato juice, and is one of America's top producers of the juicy red fruits. (And now you know why tomato juice is the official state beverage.)

12. Columbus is home to an 8-foot, 600-lb, bronze statue of mostly-naked Arnold Schwarzenegger. But there’s a good reason for it. The depiction of Arnie from his bodybuilding days is an acknowledgement of the Arnold Sports Festival, an athletic and sports competition he started in 1989 with sports promoter and Columbus native Jim Lorimer.

13. Newark, Ohio, is probably the only place in the world where hundreds of people work in a basket.

Stacy Conradt

The Longaberger basket company headquarters is world-renowned for its distinct shape. The massive “Medium Market Basket” stands 7 stories tall and covers about 180,000 square feet, with handles that weigh more than 150 tons.

14. Thanks to the Wright Brothers, Ohio claims to be the "birthplace of aviation." But that claim is disputed by two other states. Contender #1: North Carolina. Although the Wright Brothers were from Dayton, Ohio, and made many prototypes in their bicycle shop on the west side of town, the famous Kitty Hawk flight took place in North Carolina. In 2003, however, Congress officially ruled that Ohio was the birthplace of flight, not NC. Then, in 2015, Contender #2 popped up. Connecticut lawmakers have recently argued that one of their own, Gustave Whitehead, beat the Wright Brothers to a successful flight by more than two years. Nothing has yet been resolved, but Ohio State Representative Rick Perales has asked his state to officially repudiate Connecticut’s claim.

15. The One and Only Presidential Museum in Williamsfield, Ohio (yes, that's its real name) contends that there were at least eight presidents before George Washington, and it’s the only museum in the U.S. that recognizes those pre-Washington leaders. (This may be a matter of semantics: there were other presidents, but they weren’t Presidents of the United States.)

16. Professional baseball was born in Cincinnati. Prior to 1869, baseball was mostly a game for amateurs. There were a handful of men who made a living playing the sport, but for the most part, it was strictly a fun side gig. Then the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings came along with their all-star starting lineup—all nine men were paid professionals. Their expertise certainly showed. The team embarked upon a road trip later that year where they played against any town willing to put a team together. The Red Stockings won all 57 games.

17. Cleveland may seem like a strange place for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but it makes more sense than most people probably realize. Alan Freed, a disc jockey at Cleveland’s WJW station, coined the term “rock and roll” on his radio show and was also instrumental in introducing a larger audience to rhythm and blues. New York City was also in the running, but in the end, Cleveland lobbied harder (and ponied up $65 million in public funding).

Stacy Conradt


18. You may have noticed that when people talk about the state university in Columbus, they often refer to it as THE Ohio State University. That particular “The” has existed since 1878, when the university switched its name from the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College. Although the “The” has always been there, university officials started placing an emphasis on it in 1986 to distinguish it from the other OSUs: Oregon State and Oklahoma State.

19. The first-ever police car was used in Akron, Ohio, in 1899—and it was an electric car, at that. The patrol wagon could travel about 30 miles on one charge and could reach speeds up to a whopping 18 mph. Its first assignment? To pick up a drunk guy.

20. The state of Ohio is chock-full of Aesculus trees, a genus that grows very large seed nuts. Native Americans noticed that the nuts resembled the brown, large shape of deer eyes, which is why Ohio is now known as the Buckeye State.

21. The Pennsylvania Dutch get all of the glory, but Ohio actually has the largest Amish population in the U.S. In fact, one expert believes that Ohio’s Holmes County will become the first majority Amish county in the U.S. within 10 to 15 years.

22. If you’re a fan of popcorn, you’re a fan of Ohio. The state is one of the top producers of popcorn in the U.S., which they celebrate every September at the world’s largest popcorn festival in Marion, Ohio.

23. Marion has another claim to fame: It’s where Ohio’s official state groundhog resides. Meet Buckeye Chuck, Ohio’s answer to Punxsutawney Phil. Chuck has been prognosticating since the 1970s, and has lately developed a penchant for predicting an early spring.

24. Metropolis, Illinois, may have the giant statue, but Superman was actually born in the Glenville neighborhood on the east side of Cleveland. That’s where two high school kids named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created the first-ever Superman comic strips. They later sold the rights to DC Comics for just $130.

25. You’ve heard of New York-style pizza and Chicago-style pizza. But how about Ohio Valley- or Steubenville-style pizza? While the biggest argument in NY vs Chicago pie is in the crust, the Steubenville difference lies in the cheese. Instead of layering it on and then baking, like the vast majority of pizzerias do, bakers of Steubenville-style pizzas toss the cheese on after the pie exits the oven. According to one pizzeria owner, this method better preserves the flavor of the cheese.

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The Origins of 5 International Food Staples

Food is more than fuel. Cuisine and culture are so thoroughly intertwined that many people automatically equate tomatoes with Italy and potatoes with Ireland. Yet a thousand years ago those dietary staples were unheard of in Europe. How did they get to be so ubiquitous there—and beyond?

1. TOMATOES

For years, the wonderful fruit that’s now synonymous with Italy was mostly ignored there. Native to South America and likely cultivated in Central America, tomatoes were introduced to Italy by Spanish explorers during the 1500s. Shortly thereafter, widespread misconceptions about the newcomers took root. In part due to their watery complexion, it was inaccurately thought that eating tomatoes could cause severe digestive problems. Before the 18th century, the plants were mainly cultivated for ornamental purposes. Tomato-based sauce recipes wouldn’t start appearing in present-day Italy until 1692 (although even those recipes were more like a salsa or relish than a sauce). Over the next 150 years, tomato products slowly spread throughout the peninsula, thanks in no small part to the agreeable Mediterranean climate. By 1773, some cooks had taken to stuffing tomatoes with rice or veal. In Naples, the fruits were sometimes chopped up and placed onto flatbread—the beginnings of modern pizza. But what turned the humble tomato into a national icon was the canning industry. Within Italy’s borders, this business took off in a big way during the mid-to-late 19th century. Because tomatoes do well stored inside metal containers, canning companies dramatically drove up the demand. The popularity of canned tomatoes was later solidified by immigrants who came to the United States from Italy during the early 20th century: Longing for Mediterranean ingredients, transplanted families created a huge market for Italian-grown tomatoes in the US.

2. CURRY

Bowl of chicken curry with a spoon in it

An international favorite, curry is beloved in both India and the British Isles, not to mention the United States. And it turns out humans may have been enjoying the stuff for a very, very long time. The word “curry” was coined by European colonists and is something of an umbrella term. In Tamil, a language primarily found in India and Sri Lanka, “kari” means “sauce.” When Europeans started traveling to India, the term was eventually modified into “curry,” which came to designate any number of spicy foods with South or Southeast Asian origins. Nonetheless, a great number of curry dishes share two popular components: turmeric and ginger. In 2012, traces of both were discovered inside residue caked onto pots and human teeth at a 4500-year-old archaeological site in northern India. And where there’s curry, there’s usually garlic: A carbonized clove of this plant was also spotted nearby. “We don’t know they were putting all of them together in a dish, but we know that they were eating them at least individually,” Steve Weber, one of the archaeologists who helped make this astonishing find, told The Columbian. He and his colleagues have tentatively described their discovery as "proto-curry."

3. THE BAGUETTE

Several baguettes

A quintessential Gallic food, baguettes are adored throughout France, where residents gobble up an estimated 10 billion every year. The name of the iconic bread ultimately comes from the Latin word for stick, baculum, and references its long, slender form. How the baguette got that signature shape is a mystery. One popular yarn credits Napoleon Bonaparte: Supposedly, the military leader asked French bakers to devise a new type of skinny bread loaf that could be comfortably tucked into his soldiers’ pockets. Another origin story involves the Paris metro, built in the 19th century by a team of around 3500 workers who were apparently sometimes prone to violence during meal times. It’s been theorized that the metro foremen tried to de-escalate the situation by introducing bread that could be broken into pieces by hand—thereby eliminating the need for laborers to carry knives. Alas, neither story is supported by much in the way of historical evidence. Still, it’s clear that lengthy bread is nothing new in France: Six-foot loaves were a common sight in the mid-1800s. The baguette as we know it today, however, didn’t spring into existence until the early 20th century. The modern loaf is noted for its crispy golden crust and white, puffy center—both traits made possible by the advent of steam-based ovens, which first arrived on France’s culinary scene in the 1920s.

4. POTATOES

Bowl of red, white, and black potatoes on wooden table

Historical records show that potatoes reached Ireland by the year 1600. Nobody knows who first introduced them; the list of potential candidates includes everyone from Sir Walter Raleigh to the Spanish Armada. Regardless, Ireland turned out to be a perfect habitat for the tubers, which hail from the misty slopes of the Andes Mountains in South America. Half a world away, Ireland’s rich soils and rainy climate provided similar conditions—and potatoes thrived there. They also became indispensable. For millennia, the Irish diet had mainly consisted of dairy products, pig meats, and grains, none of which were easy for poor farmers to raise. Potatoes, on the other hand, were inexpensive, easy to grow, required fairly little space, and yielded an abundance of filling carbs. Soon enough, the average Irish peasant was subsisting almost entirely on potatoes, and the magical plant is credited with almost single-handedly triggering an Irish population boom. In 1590, only around 1 million people lived on the island; by 1840, that number had skyrocketed to 8.2 million. Unfortunately, this near-total reliance on potatoes would have dire consequences for the Irish people. In 1845, a disease caused by fungus-like organisms killed off somewhere between one-third and one-half of the country’s potatoes. Roughly a million people died as a result, and almost twice as many left Ireland in a desperate mass exodus. Yet potatoes remained a cornerstone of the Irish diet after the famine ended; in 1899, one magazine reported that citizens were eating an average of four pounds’ worth of them every day. Expatriates also brought their love of potatoes with them to other countries, including the U.S. But by then, the Yanks had already developed a taste for the crop: The oldest record of a permanent potato patch on American soil dates back to 1719. That year, a group of farmers—most likely Scots-Irish immigrants—planted one in the vicinity of modern-day Derry, New Hampshire. From these humble origins, the potato steadily rose in popularity, and by 1796, American cookbooks were praising its “universal use, profit, and easy acquirement.”

5. CORN

Corn growing in a field

In the 1930s, geneticist George W. Beadle exposed a vital clue about how corn—also known as maize—came into existence. A future Nobel Prize winner, Beadle demonstrated that the chromosomes found in everyday corn bear a striking resemblance to those of a Mexican grass called teosinte. At first glance, teosinte may not look very corn-like. Although it does have kernels, these are few in number and encased in tough shells that can easily chip a human tooth. Nonetheless, years of work allowed Beadle to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that corn was descended from teosinte. Today, genetic and archaeological data suggests that humans began the slow process of converting this grass into corn around 8700 years ago in southwestern Mexico. If you're wondering why early farmers showed any interest in cultivating teosinte to begin with, while the plant is fairly unappetizing in its natural state, it does have a few key attributes. One of these is the ability to produce popcorn: If held over an open fire, the kernels will “pop” just as our favorite movie theater treat does today. It might have been this very quality that inspired ancient horticulturalists to tinker around with teosinte—and eventually turn it into corn

BONUS: TEA

Person sitting cross-legged holding a cup of green tea

The United Kingdom’s ongoing love affair with this hot drink began somewhat recently. Tea—which is probably of Chinese origin—didn’t appear in Britain until the 1600s. Initially, the beverage was seen as an exotic curiosity with possible health benefits. Shipping costs and tariffs put a hefty price tag on tea, rendering it quite inaccessible to the lower classes. Even within England’s most affluent circles, tea didn’t really catch on until King Charles II married Princess Catherine of Braganza. By the time they tied the knot in 1662, tea-drinking was an established pastime among the elite in her native Portugal. Once Catherine was crowned Queen, tea became all the rage in her husband’s royal court. From there, its popularity slowly grew over several centuries and eventually transcended socioeconomic class. At present, the average Brit drinks an estimated three and a half cups of tea every day.

All photos courtesy of iStock.

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12 Pieces of 100-Year-Old Advice for Dealing With Your In-Laws
Hulton Archive // Getty Images
Hulton Archive // Getty Images

The familial friction between in-laws has been a subject for family counselors, folklorists, comedians, and greeting card writers for generations—and getting along with in-laws isn't getting any easier. Here are some pieces of "old tyme" advice—some solid, some dubious, some just plain ridiculous—about making nice with your new family.

1. ALWAYS VOTE THE SAME WAY AS YOUR FATHER-IN-LAW (EVEN IF YOU DISAGREE).

It's never too soon to start sowing the seeds for harmony with potential in-laws. An 1896 issue of one Alabama newspaper offered some advice to men who were courting, and alongside tips like “Don’t tell her you’re wealthy. She may wonder why you are not more liberal,” it gave some advice for dealing with prospective in-laws: “Always vote the same ticket her father does,” the paper advised, and “Don’t give your prospective father-in-law any advice unless he asks for it.”

2. MAKE AN EFFORT TO BE ATTRACTIVE TO YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW.

According to an 1886 issue of Switchmen’s Journal, “A greybeard once remarked that it would save half the family squabbles of a generation if young wives would bestow a modicum of the pains they once took to please their lovers in trying to be attractive to their mothers-in-law.”

3. KEEP YOUR OPINIONS TO YOURSELF.

In 1901, a Wisconsin newspaper published an article criticizing the 19th century trend of criticizing mothers-in-law (a "trend" which continues through to today):

“There has been a foolish fashion in vogue in the century just closed which shuts out all sympathy for mothers-in-law. The world is never weary of listening to the praises of mothers ... Can it be that a person who is capable of so much heroic unselfishness will do nothing worthy of gratitude for those who are dearest and nearest to her own children?”

Still, the piece closed with some advice for the women it was defending: “The wise mother-in-law gives advice sparingly and tries to help without seeming to help. She leaves the daughter to settle her own problems. She is the ever-blessed grandmother of the German fairy tales, ready to knit in the corner and tell folk stories to the grandchildren.”

4. IF RECEIVING ADVICE, JUST LISTEN AND SMILE. EVEN IF IT PAINS YOU.

Have an in-law who can't stop advising you on what to do? According to an 1859 issue of The American Freemason, you'll just have to grin and bear it: “If the daughter-in-law has any right feeling, she will always listen patiently, and be grateful and yielding to the utmost of her power.”

Advice columnist Dorothy Dix seemed to believe that it would be wise to heed an in-law's advice at least some of the time. Near the end of World War II, Dix received a letter from a mother-in-law asking what to do with her daughter-in-law, who had constantly shunned her advice and now wanted to move in with her. Dix wrote back, “Many a daughter-in-law who has ignored her husband’s mother is sending out an SOS call for help in these servantless days,” and advised the mother-in-law against agreeing to the arrangement.

5. STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN. AND CLOSETS. AND CUPBOARDS.

An 1881 article titled "Concerning the Interference of the Father-in-Law and Mother-in-Law in Domestic Affairs," which appeared in the Rural New Yorker, had a great deal of advice for the father-in-law:

“He will please to keep out of the kitchen just as much as he possibly can. He will not poke his nose into closets or cupboards, parley with the domestics, investigate the condition of the swill barrel, the ash barrel, the coal bin, worry himself about the kerosene or gas bills, or make purchases of provisions for the family under the pretence that he can buy more cheaply than the mistress of the house; let him do none of these things unless especially commissioned so to do by the mistress of the house.”

The article further advises that if a father-in-law "thinks that the daughter-in-law or son-in-law is wasteful, improvident or a bad manager, the best thing for him to do, decidedly, is to keep his thought to himself, for in all probability things are better managed and better taken care of by the second generation than they were by the first. And even if they are not, it is far better to pass the matter over in silence than to comment upon the same, and thereby engender bad feelings.”

6. NEVER COHABITATE.

While there is frequent discussion about how to achieve happiness with the in-laws in advice columns and magazines, rarely does this advice come from a judge. In 1914, after a young couple was married, they quickly ran into issues. “The wife said she was driven from the house by her mother-in-law,” a newspaper reported, “and the husband said he was afraid to live with his wife’s people because of the threatening attitude of her father on the day of the wedding.” It got so bad that the husband was brought up on charges of desertion. But Judge Strauss gave the couple some advice:

“[Your parents] must exercise no influence over you now except a peaceful influence. You must establish a home of your own. Even two rooms will be a start and lay up a store of happiness for you.”

According to the paper, they agreed to go off and rent a few rooms.

Dix agreed that living with in-laws was asking for trouble. In 1919, she wrote that, “In all good truth there is no other danger to a home greater than having a mother-in-law in it.”

7. COURT YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW.

The year 1914 wasn’t the first time a judge handed down advice regarding a mother-in-law from the bench. According to The New York Times, in 1899 Magistrate Olmsted suggested to a husband that “you should have courted your mother-in-law and then you would not have any trouble ... I courted my mother-in-law and my home life is very, very happy.”

8. THINK OF YOUR IN-LAWS AS YOUR "IN LOVES."

Don't think of your in-laws as in-laws; think of them as your family. In 1894, an article in The Ladies’ Home Journal proclaimed, “I will not call her your mother-in-law. I like to think that she is your mother in love. She is your husband’s mother, and therefore yours, for his people have become your people.”

Helen Marshall North, writing in The Home-Maker: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine four years earlier, agreed: “No man, young or old, who smartly and in public, jests about his mother-in-law, can lay the slightest claim to good breeding. In the first place, if he has proper affection for his wife, that affection includes, to some extent at least, the mother who gave her birth ... the man of fine thought and gentle breeding sees his own mother in the new mother, and treats her with the same deference, and, if necessary, with the same forbearance which he gladly yields his own.”

9. BE THANKFUL YOU HAVE A MOTHER-IN-LAW ... OR DON'T.

Historical advice columns had two very different views on this: A 1901 Raleigh newspaper proclaimed, “Adam’s [of Adam and Eve] troubles may have been due to the fact that he had no mother-in-law to give advice,” while an earlier Yuma paper declared, “Our own Washington had no mother-in-law, hence America is a free nation.”

10. DON'T BE PICKY WHEN IT COMES TO CHOOSING A WIFE; CHOOSE A MOTHER-IN-LAW INSTEAD.

By today's standards, the advice from an 1868 article in The Round Table is incredibly sexist and offensive. Claiming that "one wife is, after all, pretty much the same as another," and that "the majority of women are married at an age when their characters are still mobile and plastic, and can be shaped in the mould of their husband's will," the magazine advised, “Don’t waste any time in the selection of the particular victim who is to be shackled to you in your desolate march from the pleasant places of bachelorhood into the hopeless Siberia of matrimony ... In other words ... never mind about choosing a wife; the main thing is to choose a proper mother-in-law,” because "who ever dreamt of moulding a mother-in-law? That terrible, mysterious power behind the throne, the domestic Sphynx, the Gorgon of the household, the awful presence which every husband shudders when he names?"

11. KEEP THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE.

As an 1894 Good Housekeeping article reminded readers:

“Young man! your wife’s mother, your redoubtable mother-in-law, is as good as your wife is and as good as your mother is; and who is your precious wife's mother-in-law? And you, venerable mother-in-law, may perhaps profitably bear in mind that the husband your daughter has chosen with your sanction is not a worse man naturally than your husband who used to dislike your mother as much as your daughter’s husband dislikes you, or as much as you once disliked your husband’s mother.”

12. IF ALL ELSE FAILS, MARRY AN ORPHAN.

If all else fails, The Round Table noted that “there is one rule which will be found in all cases absolutely certain and satisfactory, and that is to marry an orphan; though even then a grandmother-in-law might turn up sufficiently vigorous to make a formidable substitute.”

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