A Brief History of ‘God Bless America’

In 1918, Jewish immigrant Irving Berlin was serving the U.S. Army at Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York when he started composing a Ziegfeld Follies-style revue for the soldiers. For its finale, he penned a little diddy called “God Bless America.”

Berlin didn’t end up using tune, and didn’t think of it much again until about two decades later. With World War II looming, the songwriter wanted to pen an anthem rallying for harmony. “I’d like to write a great peace song,” he said, “but it’s hard to do, because you have trouble dramatizing peace.”

He dug up his discarded musical number from the WWI revue, and Kate Smith ultimately debuted the revised version on her radio show on Armistice Day in 1938. She reportedly said: “As I stand before the microphone and sing it with all my heart, I’ll be thinking of our veterans and I’ll be praying with every breath I draw that we shall never have another war.”

The new song had a few modifications. Among other things, to avoid any confusion regarding politics, Berlin changed the phrase “to the right” to “through the light” by the time the sheet music was published. The song was a fast sensation. It was featured a few years later in 1943’s This is the Army (appropriately starring Ronald Reagan), which is where the above clip comes from.

Smith and Berlin would later squabble over proprietorship, foreshadowing a bit of the kind of contention the song would continue to engender for many years to come. It’s seen a complicated history, and the phrase itself occupies a strange place in the American zeitgeist. And while those in the political landscape argue over its meaning and ownership, it’s technically the property of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of New York City. Berlin established the God Bless America Fund in 1940, and its royalties go directly to the young adult organizations. An estimated $10 million in profits have gone to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the decades since.

Image credit: YouTube

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Afternoon Map
The Most Popular Infomercial Product in Each State

You don't have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling to discover the most popular infomercial product in each state: AT&T retailer All Home Connections is giving that information away for free via a handy map.

The map was compiled by cross-referencing the top-grossing infomercial products of all time with Google Trends search interest from the past calendar year. So, which crazy products do people order most from their TVs?

Folks in Arizona know that it's too hot there to wear layers; that's why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware's priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you're watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you're probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. 

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it's Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.

Peep the full map above, or check out the full study from All Home Connections here.

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Design
A Florida Brewery Created Edible Six-Pack Rings to Protect Marine Animals

For tiny scraps of plastic, six-pack rings can pose a huge threat to marine life. Small enough and ubiquitous enough that they’re easy to discard and forget about, the little plastic webs all too often make their way to the ocean, where animals can ingest or become trapped in them. In order to combat that problem, Florida-based Saltwater Brewery has created what they say is the world’s first fully biodegradable, compostable, edible six-pack rings.

The edible rings are made of barley and wheat and are, if not necessarily tasty, at least safe for animals and humans to ingest. Saltwater Brewery started packaging their beers with the edible six-pack rings in 2016. They charge slightly more for their brews to offset the cost of the rings' production. They hope that customers will be willing to pay a bit more for the environmentally friendly beers and are encouraging other companies to adopt the edible six-pack rings in order to lower manufacturing prices and save more animals.

As Saltwater Brewery president Chris Gove says in the video above: “We want to influence the big guys and kind of inspire them to also get on board.”

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