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joevare, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

15 Manufacturing Capitals You Might Not Know

joevare, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
joevare, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Plenty of places claim to be the capital of a particular product. Fun facts like these are usually mentioned casually, relegated to party banter and candy wrappers, but these capitals are often taken seriously by their residents, and it turns out, folks really do derive real pride from living in a town where a thing just happens to be produced—as though they were personally, intrinsically connected to umbrellas or false teeth.

With unofficial capitals like these, the criteria isn’t always consistent. Sometimes a town calls itself a “world capital” because it’s been proven as the greatest producer of that thing; other times, it's based on boasting. But whatever the back story, by and large, these monikers seem like they’re planning on sticking around. Here are some favorites.

1. MORTON, ILLINOIS // PUMPKINS

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If ever you buy a can of pumpkin, it’s almost certainly going to be made by Libby, and Libby’s canning plant is in Morton, Illinois, which styles itself the Pumpkin Capital of the World. Owned by Nestlé, the plant is surrounded by pumpkin fields in all directions and produces 82 percent of the world’s canned pumpkin supply. As such, Morton holds a pumpkin festival each year, replete with pneumatic pumpkin catapults.

2. LACROSSE, KANSAS // BARBED WIRE

Since the 1960s, LaCrosse, Kansas, has proclaimed itself the world’s barbed wire capital, beginning with a collection of 40 barbed wire fences at a small local museum. The Antique Barbed Wire Society was born soon after, and today, more than 2400 different kinds of “the devil’s rope” are on display in the surprisingly-large-for-what-it-is Kansas Barbed Wire Museum. LaCrosse is also the site of the annual Antique Barbed Wire Swap & Sell Festival, which began there in 1967.

3. SCHAAN, LIECHTENSTEIN // FALSE TEETH

Liechtenstein’s largest city, Schaan, may not be the tiny principality’s capital (that honor belongs to Vaduz), but it can still glory in its status as the world’s capital of false teeth. It’s all thanks to hometown denture company Ivoclar Vivadent, which manufactures 60 million teeth in 10,000 different shapes and sizes, accounting for 40 percent of the dentures sold in Europe and 20 percent sold worldwide. One reason for its recent success, the company claims, is its products’ popularity with Bollywood actors in India.

4. KUROBE, JAPAN // ZIPPERS

Kurobe, Japan, is often cited as the zipper capital of the world, with the industry being almost completely monopolized by the city's YKK Group. There are a few small-time zipper competitors in China, but YKK is hardcore about zipper quality—smelting its own brass, producing its own polyester, and even making its own shipping boxes—and the apparel industry overwhelmingly trusts YKK’s zippers over none other.

5. QIAOTOU, CHINA // BUTTONS

If you’re the old-fashioned type who prefers to fasten her clothes the pre-Victorian way, you can zip on over to the small town of Qiaotou, China, which turns out 60 percent of the world’s buttons. There, in the Button Capital of the World, you’ll find more than 200 button factories and 1300 button shops, offering 10,000 different kinds of buttons for sale. (Qiaotou is also a player in the zipper industry, although it can’t touch Kurobe’s zipper output.)

6. DALTON, GEORGIA // CARPET

You may not spend much time thinking about where your carpet was made, but it’s a source of serious pride for the citizens of Dalton, Georgia, where a whopping 85 percent of U.S. carpets (and probably yours) come from. The town became the world’s carpet capital thanks to Catherine Evans Whitener, a resident who originally made tufted bedspreads in the late 19th and early 20th century. In 1917, she and family members founded Evans Manufacturing, which eventually used its tufting machinery first to make throw rugs and later to transition into the carpet industry.

7. EAST HAMPTON, CONNECTICUT // WITCH HAZEL

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Almost every drop of witch hazel in the United States is cut, processed, and bottled in East Hampton, Connecticut, or within a few miles of it, making the town the country’s witch hazel capital. Although witch hazel is found naturally in a few other places, eastern Connecticut is the place where the plant, also known as Hamemelis virginiana, grows most densely. East Hampton’s American Distilling, the world’s largest producer of the astringent, is the source for countless cosmetics, hair care, and pharmaceutical companies, including Estée Lauder, Neutrogena, and Revlon.

8. CREMONA, ITALY // VIOLINS

Cremona, Italy, has been the world capital of violin-making since the mid-16th century, starting with the luthiers of the city’s Amati family, who are purported to be the very inventors of the instrument, and later those of Andrea Guarneri and Antonio Stradivari, among others. Today, it’s the home of the yearly Stradivari Festival, which is hosted by the open-year-round Museo del Violino, also located in Cremona.

9. ANTWERP, BELGIUM AND KIMBERLEY, SOUTH AFRICA // DIAMONDS

If you want to talk diamonds, most people would call Antwerp, Belgium, the world capital without hesitation—and it’s true that 80% of the world’s diamonds are cut there, and that more than half of the diamonds sold worldwide will pass though the city’s 4-block diamond district at some point. But if we’re talking about origins, that distinction goes easily to Kimberley, South Africa, the seat of the De Beers diamond empire, which at one time ran five separate mines in the town, including the now-closed Big Hole. Both cities style themselves as “The Diamond Capital of the World.”

10. UNION CITY, NEW JERSEY // EMBROIDERY

When passing through Union City, New Jersey, keep an eye out for the huge sign hanging from an overpass on NJ-495 reading, “Welcome to North New Jersey: Embroidery Capital of the World Since 1872.” Once home to over 40 lace and garment factories, Union City doesn’t have too many today; the embroidery industry is now mechanized and mostly dominated by various Chinese factories. But the town holds on to its rep, not just through its highway sign: In 2014, Embroidery Plaza was dedicated at New York Avenue & 30th Street, to commemorate the town’s historic past.

11. TOLEDO, OHIO // GLASS

Although its industry has similarly diminished, Toledo, Ohio, is still proud to be the Glass Capital of the World. Even without the many glass factories it once boasted, the city maintains its title via its 7400-square-foot Glass Pavilion, part of the Toledo Museum of Art. It also used to celebrate an annual Glass Day, and the mayor still occasionally gives out giant glass keys to local leaders.

12. AKRON, OHIO // RUBBER

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Meanwhile, nearby Akron, Ohio, has long been known as the rubber capital of the world, especially in the form of tires. Goodyear Tire & Rubber got its start there, as did Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, along with two smaller competitors, BF Goodrich and General Tire and Rubber. There was a time when so many rubber factories operated in Akron that you could smell the rubber in the air permeating the city. There’s even a path paved with rubber in the Cascade Locks area. These days, the rubber plants themselves are mostly gone, but several tire companies still have their headquarters in Akron, including Goodyear, so a slight nickname update might be in order.

13. SONGXIA, CHINA // UMBRELLAS

Several cities have vied to be the umbrella capital of the world, including Taipei and Baltimore, but Songxia, China, is the current front-runner in the umbrella department, and for good reason. More than 1000 factories make bumbershoots in Songxia, turning out approximately half a billion umbrellas yearly, or 30% of China’s production. Located about two hours south of Shanghai, Songxia’s factories don’t just make rain umbrellas, though—the city maintains its title as world capital by also producing golf umbrellas, beach umbrellas, promotional umbrellas, kids’ umbrellas, wedding umbrellas, and more. You dream it; they’ll umbrella it.

14. BALTIMORE // CRAB CAKES

Pity poor Baltimore, which seems to be the capital of being the former capital of things. Not only has it been eclipsed by Songxia as the world’s umbrella capital, it’s also been forced to relinquish its claims to being the capital of both men’s straw hats, when hat-wearing was abandoned by Americans in general in the 1960s, and Ouija boards, when Parker Brothers bought the rights to the Baltimore invention in 1966 and moved the operations to Salem, Massachusetts. The city still reigns supreme as the crab cake capital of the world, though, which isn’t anything to sniff at.

15. CALIFORNIA // CAPITAL OF FOOD CAPITALS

If all of California were a city, it would be the capital of food capitals, with at least a dozen cities representing as the HQs of various produce. The city of Gilroy, thanks to powerhouse Christopher Ranch, is famous around the world for its garlic crop as well as its annual Gilroy Garlic Festival. Meanwhile, the city of Chico is known for its almonds; the most asparagus in the country grows in Isleton; artichokes are found in Castroville; and nearby Watsonville produces the most strawberries. The list goes on: avocados in Fallbrook, blackberries in McCloud, broccoli in Greenfield, lettuce in Salinas, dates in Indio, and lima beans in Oxnard. 

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15 Heartwarming Facts About Mister Rogers
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Though Mister Rogers' Neighborhood premiered 50 years ago, Fred Rogers remains an icon of kindness for the ages. An innovator of children’s television, his salt-of-the-earth demeanor and genuinely gentle nature taught a generation of kids the value of kindness. In celebration of the groundbreaking children's series' 50th anniversary, here are 15 things you might not have known about everyone’s favorite “neighbor.”

1. HE WAS BULLIED AS A CHILD.

According to Benjamin Wagner, who directed the 2010 documentary Mister Rogers & Me—and was, in fact, Rogers’s neighbor on Nantucket—Rogers was overweight and shy as a child, and often taunted by his classmates when he walked home from school. “I used to cry to myself when I was alone,” Rogers said. “And I would cry through my fingers and make up songs on the piano.” It was this experience that led Rogers to want to look below the surface of everyone he met to what he called the “essential invisible” within them.

2. HE WAS AN ORDAINED MINISTER.

Rogers was an ordained minister and, as such, a man of tremendous faith who preached tolerance wherever he went. When Amy Melder, a six-year-old Christian viewer, sent Rogers a drawing she made for him with a letter that promised “he was going to heaven,” Rogers wrote back to his young fan:

“You told me that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. It means a lot to me to know that. And, I appreciated the scripture verse that you sent. I am an ordained Presbyterian minister, and I want you to know that Jesus is important to me, too. I hope that God’s love and peace come through my work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

3. HE RESPONDED TO ALL HIS FAN MAIL.

Responding to fan mail was part of Rogers’s very regimented daily routine, which began at 5 a.m. with a prayer and included time for studying, writing, making phone calls, swimming, weighing himself, and responding to every fan who had taken the time to reach out to him.

“He respected the kids who wrote [those letters],” Heather Arnet, an assistant on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005. “He never thought about throwing out a drawing or letter. They were sacred."

According to Arnet, the fan mail he received wasn’t just a bunch of young kids gushing to their idol. Kids would tell Rogers about a pet or family member who died, or other issues with which they were grappling. “No child ever received a form letter from Mister Rogers," Arnet said, noting that he received between 50 and 100 letters per day.

4. ANIMALS LOVED HIM AS MUCH AS PEOPLE DID.

It wasn’t just kids and their parents who loved Mister Rogers. Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who understands 2000 English words and can also converse in American Sign Language, was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watcher, too. When Rogers visited her, she immediately gave him a hug—and took his shoes off.

5. HE WAS AN ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIAN.

Though Rogers began his education in the Ivy League, at Dartmouth, he transferred to Rollins College following his freshman year in order to pursue a degree in music (he graduated Magna cum laude). In addition to being a talented piano player, he was also a wonderful songwriter and wrote all the songs for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood—plus hundreds more.

6. HIS INTEREST IN TELEVISION WAS BORN OUT OF A DISDAIN FOR THE MEDIUM.

Rogers’s decision to enter into the television world wasn’t out of a passion for the medium—far from it. "When I first saw children's television, I thought it was perfectly horrible," Rogers told Pittsburgh Magazine. "And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous medium to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."

7. KIDS WHO WATCHED MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD RETAINED MORE THAN THOSE WHO WATCHED SESAME STREET.

A Yale study pitted fans of Sesame Street against Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watchers and found that kids who watched Mister Rogers tended to remember more of the story lines, and had a much higher “tolerance of delay,” meaning they were more patient.

8. ROGERS’S MOM KNIT ALL OF HIS SWEATERS.

If watching an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood gives you sweater envy, we’ve got bad news: You’d never be able to find his sweaters in a store. All of those comfy-looking cardigans were knitted by Fred’s mom, Nancy. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Rogers explained how his mother would knit sweaters for all of her loved ones every year as Christmas gifts. “And so until she died, those zippered sweaters I wear on the Neighborhood were all made by my mother,” he explained.

9. HE WAS COLORBLIND.

Those brightly colored sweaters were a trademark of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but the colorblind host might not have always noticed. In a 2003 article, just a few days after his passing, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that:

Among the forgotten details about Fred Rogers is that he was so colorblind he could not distinguish between tomato soup and pea soup.

He liked both, but at lunch one day 50 years ago, he asked his television partner Josie Carey to taste it for him and tell him which it was.

Why did he need her to do this, Carey asked him. Rogers liked both, so why not just dip in?

"If it's tomato soup, I'll put sugar in it," he told her.

10. HE WORE SNEAKERS AS A PRODUCTION CONSIDERATION.

According to Wagner, Rogers’s decision to change into sneakers for each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was about production, not comfort. “His trademark sneakers were born when he found them to be quieter than his dress shoes as he moved about the set,” wrote Wagner.

11. MICHAEL KEATON GOT HIS START ON THE SHOW.

Oscar-nominated actor Michael Keaton's first job was as a stagehand on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, manning Picture, Picture, and appearing as Purple Panda.

12. ROGERS GAVE GEORGE ROMERO HIS FIRST PAYING GIG, TOO.

It's hard to imagine a gentle, soft-spoken, children's education advocate like Rogers sitting down to enjoy a gory, violent zombie movie like Dawn of the Dead, but it actually aligns perfectly with Rogers's brand of thoughtfulness. He checked out the horror flick to show his support for then-up-and-coming filmmaker George Romero, whose first paying job was with everyone's favorite neighbor.

“Fred was the first guy who trusted me enough to hire me to actually shoot film,” Romero said. As a young man just out of college, Romero honed his filmmaking skills making a series of short segments for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, creating a dozen or so titles such as “How Lightbulbs Are Made” and “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy.” The zombie king, who passed away in 2017, considered the latter his first big production, shot in a working hospital: “I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made. What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.”

13. ROGERS HELPED SAVE PUBLIC TELEVISION.

In 1969, Rogers—who was relatively unknown at the time—went before the Senate to plead for a $20 million grant for public broadcasting, which had been proposed by President Johnson but was in danger of being sliced in half by Richard Nixon. His passionate plea about how television had the potential to turn kids into productive citizens worked; instead of cutting the budget, funding for public TV increased from $9 million to $22 million.

14. HE ALSO SAVED THE VCR.

Years later, Rogers also managed to convince the Supreme Court that using VCRs to record TV shows at home shouldn’t be considered a form of copyright infringement (which was the argument of some in this contentious debate). Rogers argued that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family. Again, he was convincing.

15. ONE OF HIS SWEATERS WAS DONATED TO THE SMITHSONIAN.

In 1984, Rogers donated one of his iconic sweaters to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

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Art
5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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