6 Short-Lived Countries That Don't Exist Anymore

Rulers and nations have come and gone throughout history. Some of them have been important, leaving behind a legacy that affects us to this day; others, like the ones on this list, vanished almost as quickly as they started.


While details of this republic are sketchy, the story goes that in 1849, the town of Rough and Ready, California was founded by miners from Wisconsin who had come west hoping to get rich from the Gold Rush. But the next year, they found out that the American government wanted to tax their shiny finds, and they weren’t happy about it. So in April 1850, more than 10 years before the first state would secede and start the Civil War, the tiny town declared it was now a Great Republic. The miners elected a man named Colonel E. F. Brundage as their first president and even drew up a Constitution, in which they threatened to use force against the United States if they were not allowed to leave peacefully.

Fortunately, the military wasn’t needed. During that year’s July 4th celebrations, the saloon owners in nearby Nevada City refused to serve alcohol to Rough and Ready citizens on account of them being “foreigners.” Obviously this was much more distressing than having to pay taxes, and at a town meeting the residents voted to rejoin the United States immediately.


Theodor Stephan Freiherr von Neuhoff was an adventurer at heart. Born in 1694 to a German noble family, he joined both the French and Swedish armies, was involved in various international intrigues, and married a lady-in-waiting to the Spanish queen. But married life didn’t suit him, and not long after they were married, he abandoned his wife to wander around Europe some more.

In Genoa, he met a group of rebels and exiles from the island of Corsica, who were fighting the Genoese for control of their homeland. Despite having no military of his own, Theodor promised to help them if they made him king. Somehow he managed to borrow enough money to afford arms and ammunition, and the Kingdom of Corsica was born.

At first, King Theodore I and his rebels had some luck. He set up a court, started printing money, and knighted various family members. But soon his luck turned. With a price put on his head by the Genoese, the “king” ran for it after only eight months. He spent the rest of his life in and out of debtor’s prisons, until he signed over his theoretical rights to his kingdom to pay off his creditors. His gravestone’s epitaph points out the irony of his life with the lines: “Fate poured its lessons on his living head, bestowed a kingdom, and denied him bread.”


The first time Napoleon was beaten, everyone felt bad for him. He was, after all, a genius military commander. He needed to be punished, but there was no need to be vindictive.

So, according to the Treaty of Fontainebleau, while he was exiled to the tiny island of Elba off the Italian coast, he was allowed to be the non-hereditary monarch of that piece of land until he died. Sure, it was a big step down from Emperor of France, but it was still something. He could keep calling himself a king and ordering people around, plus he got two million francs a year. It was better than what most people had.

Amazingly, Napoleon wasn’t happy with his demotion and fled Elba for the mainland where he managed to revive his empire for 111 days (but which is known as the Hundred Days). His enemies weren’t thrilled about this and took back the title they had given him. Then Napoleon was defeated for real at Waterloo. This time there was no award for being a good loser. On St. Helena (another small island, but this time much further from the mainland) he was decidedly not in charge, with the governor of the island calling him “General Bonaparte” at all times.


The Mapuche, a group of indigenous inhabitants of the southern area of South America, were having trouble with Chile and Argentina trying to take their land away from them. Then, in 1860, a French lawyer and adventurer named Orélie-Antoine de Tounens was in the area and heard about the tribe’s issues. After he talked with the leaders, they decided to elect him king in the hopes it would give their claims more legitimacy in the other countries’ eyes.

Orélie-Antoine wasted no time in setting up a capital, designing a flag, and printing money. Unfortunately, the neighboring countries still refused to recognize the Mapuche state, and they arrested him. But Orélie-Antoine escaped, so he was captured again; the authorities decided he must be insane if he thought he was king of his own country, and they threw him in an asylum.

Eventually he got out and returned to France, but he never stopped trying to get his kingdom back. In fact, he selected a French champagne salesman as heir to his throne. The most recent monarch purchased the title for himself, and even managed to get it on his passport. But he died in 2014 and two different people are currently fighting for his (theoretical) throne.

5. REPUBLIC OF MARYLAND (1854 to 1857)

In the early 1800s, slaveholders and abolitionists found a common cause. Groups from both thought that free black people should go back to Africa, if for different reasons. The slaveholders thought free blacks would cause trouble and incite slave revolts. Abolitionists, on the other hand, worried about the discrimination they knew free blacks would face if they stayed in the United States. They thought it would be best if free blacks built a new home for themselves. So the two groups formed the American Colonization Society and started new countries on the west coast of Africa. Among its other goals, it hoped that its colony would also bring “civilization and the Gospel” to Africa.

Most free blacks had no intention of leaving the United States, since by that point their families had been there for generations, and they were as American as any white person. But thousands did go, and one of the colonies they went to was the Republic of Maryland. In 1836, the colony appointed its first black governor, John Brown Russwurm. For 20 years, things ran smoothly until, in 1854, the colony declared independence. Just two years later, they began to be attacked by local tribes for interfering with the slave trade and had to ask nearby Liberia for help, which led to them becoming part of that country.


In 1853, an American journalist named William Walker petitioned the Mexican government for a bit of land. He hoped to use the area to create a colony that would serve as a buffer between the United States and some Native American tribes. But Mexico wasn’t interested in handing over a chunk of their country.

This didn’t stop Walker. He went to San Francisco and started recruiting people to help him take the land by force. After just 45 men had signed up, he attacked the tiny capital of sparsely populated Baja California. He also claimed the neighboring area of Mexico, even though he never actually controlled it, and declared the whole thing the Republic of Sonora.

Fearful of retaliation by Mexico, attacked by Native Americans, and short on supplies, Walker’s men started deserting him. Soon he was back in San Francisco. Despite the fact that the city had been a big fan of the new Republic, selling bonds in its name and even raising its flag in some places, his actions had violated the peace treaty signed after the Mexican-American War.

Walker was put on trial for conducting an illegal war. But this was the period of Manifest Destiny, when people thought it was God’s will that the U.S. take all the land it wanted until it reached the Pacific. That’s probably why it took the jury just eight minutes to acquit Walker of all charges.

But Walker didn’t learn his lesson. Not long after he was acquitted, he headed off to Nicaragua, where he established a dictatorship that was recognized by American President Franklin Pierce. But soon, he alienated political allies, neighbors, and business interests, and eventually ended up in front of a firing squad.

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A Brief History of Time
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You may have heard that time is a social construct, but that doesn’t stop it from having consequences in the real world. If you show up to a party 10 minutes before it’s scheduled to start, you’ll likely be the first one there, and if you arrive to an interview 10 minutes late, you likely won’t get the job. But how did humanity agree on when and how to observe certain times of day?

In their new video, the It’s Okay to Be Smart team explains how humans “invented” the modern concept of time. The increments we use to measure time, like seconds, minutes, and hours, come from the ancient civilizations of the Egyptians and the Babylonians. Early clocks, like sundials and water clocks, were pretty crude, so people couldn’t pinpoint a time like noon down to the second even if they wanted to. But as clocks became more accurate, the problem wasn’t being unable to tell time accurately, but deciding which clocks qualified as “accurate” in the first place.

In 1884, President Chester A. Arthur organized the International Meridian Conference with the intention of deciding on a uniform definition of time to be followed around the world. The attendees ended up choosing the meridian running through Greenwich, England as the official Prime Meridian, and all clocks would be measured against the clock in the town’s observatory. Greenwich Mean Time is still used as the standard world time today.

Check out the full story below.

[h/t It’s Okay to Be Smart]

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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

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