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30 Things Turning 30 in 2017

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If you were born in 1987, you're in good company! Here's our annual list celebrating 30 things (products, companies, TV shows, books, heck—even people!) turning 30 this year.

1. CHERRY GARCIA

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Ben & Jerry's introduced the flavor Cherry Garcia on February 15, 1987. Honoring the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, the flavor was originally suggested by Jane Williamson, a fan. She had contacted the company several times with the idea, and her suggestion turned into a hit. The company thanked her with a year's supply of Ben & Jerry's.

2. THE PRINCESS BRIDE

The Princess Bride hit theaters on September 25, 1987, and became an instant classic. Featuring the Cliffs of Insanity, the Pit of Despair, and Rodents of Unusual Size, the film struck a chord with lovers of adventure, romance, and fantasy. It also gave us a terrific revenge tale, as Mandy Patinkin's character says: "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

If you're a super-fan, there's an entire website devoted to the movie. (We have our own facts about the movie here). They also sell "tweasure." And if you haven't read it, William Goldman's original book—published way back in 1973—is inconceivably good.

3. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA (IN THE U.S.)

As with many Nintendo games, The Legend of Zelda has multiple birthdays. It was first released in Japan in 1986, but had its U.S. debut on August 22, 1987 in a signature gold-colored cartridge including a special battery pack to keep saved game data. Meanwhile, Japanese players had been enjoying Zelda II: The Adventure of Link since January 14, 1987.

In the three decades since Zelda reached America, more than a dozen sequels have emerged. It remains one of Nintendo's most popular franchises. The latest installment, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, is slated for release this year.

4. PANERA BREAD

In 1987, the first St. Louis Break Company opened in Kirkwood, Missouri. It would go on to expand to several more locations before attracting the attention of Au Bon Pain, which was trying to enter the suburban market. By the late '90s, the chain was renamed to its current Panera Bread. The name "Panera" is derived from the Latin for, effectively, "breadbasket." The chain features soups, salads, and sandwiches in addition to typical bakery fare.

The company now has over 2000 locations, and in the mid-2000s gained fame for its free Wi-Fi. These days, your free Wi-Fi time may be capped at 30 minutes.

5. U2'S THE JOSHUA TREE

On March 9, 1987, U2 released their epic album The Joshua Tree, featuring smash hit singles "With or Without You," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," and "Where the Streets Have No Name." The supporting tour was suitably epic, and during the tour they shot scenes for the upcoming album and film Rattle and HumThe Joshua Tree was U2's first album to reach No. 1 in the U.S.

Other big music releases in 1987 include Michael Jackson's Bad; George Michael's solo debut, Faith; The Cure's Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me; Aerosmith's Permanent Vacation; Fleetwood Mac's Tango in the Night; Def Leppard's Hysteria; and Guns N’ Roses's seminal Appetite for Destruction.

6. FULL HOUSE

The quintessential American '80s sitcom Full House premiered on September 22, 1987. It had a slightly grim premise under its wacky surface: After the death of anchorman Danny Tanner's wife, he pulls his best friend and his brother-in-law into his San Francisco home to help care for his three daughters. Fortunately, hilarity ensued, and we all learned catch phrases like Dave Coulier's "Cut—it—out," the Olsen twins' "Aw, nuts!" and Jodie Sweetin's "How rude!"

Today, the web is full of fan sites and even a podcast. Netflix launched the spinoff series Fuller House in 2016, featuring an all-grown-up Candace Cameron Bure as D.J. Tanner-Fuller. Fuller. Get it? Huh? Oh well. Watch the hair!

7. THE SIMPSONS (ON THE TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW)

Before The Simpsons had their own show, they appeared in animated shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show. The first short appeared on April 19, 1987. Entitled "Good Night," it showed Bart, Lisa, and Maggie going through their bedtime routines, inadvertently becoming terrified by their clueless parents' comments.

Looking back at the animated shorts, most of the show's DNA is already in place. Although the art is crude and some of the characters aren't full developed, the core dynamics are there—even including Itchy and Scratchy!

8. PRESIDENT REAGAN'S "TEAR DOWN THIS WALL" SPEECH

On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan visited West Berlin to deliver a speech. Standing by the Brandenburg Gate, he exhorted Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "Tear down this wall!" At the time, the Berlin Wall was just over 25 years old. It would begin to fall in late 1989. While the president's speech didn't cause the fall by itself, it sure felt like a big factor at the time. President Reagan said, in part:

There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

The speech touched on a variety of other issues as well, including President Reagan's desire to limit nuclear weapons proliferation. At one point he called for the Soviets and the U.S. to "[eliminate], for the first time, an entire class of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth."

You can watch the entire speech courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, or check out the money quote in the YouTube clip embedded above.

9. BLACK MONDAY

Monday, October 19, 1987 was a rough day. Stock markets crashed worldwide, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 22 percent of its value in one day. In previous months, the Dow had soared more than 44 percent over the previous year's close. Starting in mid-October, the Dow was hit by a series of major losses, culminating in the crash of Black Monday (which is, incidentally, known as Black Tuesday in Australia and New Zealand, due to time zone differences).

While Black Monday brought us the biggest one-day drop in the history of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the market recovered quickly. Over half the losses were regained in just two days of trading. Then, early in 1989, the Dow surpassed its previous high. The most notable effect of the crash was the creation of tools to temporarily halt trading (seen as a hedge against computer-trading programs running amok) to reduce volatility.

10. CANADA'S LOONIE

In June 1987, Canada introduced a new $1 coin to replace paper $1 notes. The coin featured the image of a loon, and the coin quickly earned the nickname "loonie." (Over the years, various non-loon versions have been minted; the Royal Canadian Mint maintains a nice list.)

In 1996, the Canadian $2 coin debuted. Predictably, it became known as the "toonie."

11. STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION

Star Trek fans rejoiced when Star Trek: The Next Generation aired on September 28, 1987. The original series had stopped producing episodes in 1969, though TV syndication, new movies, and fan conventions kept the series alive in the pop culture landscape.

Helmed by Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, TNG followed a later iteration of the starship Enterprise on a "continuing mission" of exploration. It was set a hundred years after the original show, and Roddenberry had some odd rules of play. He suggested that conflict among members of the crew would not exist in this new future, which led to awkward plots in the first few years of the show. (This lack of internal conflict required external forces to emerge, constantly, to create conflict.)

TNG was the background TV of many '90s kids' childhoods, as hour-long episodes ran in reruns after school. The show ran for seven seasons and produced a staggering 178 individual episodes. It still runs in syndication today, and we write about it often.

12. DIRTY DANCING

Released on August 21, 1987, Dirty Dancing was a massive hit. Featuring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze in period drama, the movie took us all the way back to 1963. (That's a gap of 24 years. If we made a modern Dirty Dancing with the same time gap, it would be set in the good old days of 1993.) As Grey's character "Baby" unleashes her inner dancer, Swayze's "Johnny" taught America to love dancing again. Dirty Dancing won one Academy Award, for Best Original Song: "(I've Had) The Time of My Life." That song also picked up a Golden Globe and a Grammy.

Just remember: "Nobody puts Baby in a corner."

13. BABY JESSICA'S RESCUE

On October 14, 1987, 18-month-old "Baby Jessica" McClure fell down a well in her aunt's back yard. The well shaft was just 8 inches in diameter, and Baby Jessica was stuck 22 feet underground.

For the next 58 hours, TV viewers were glued to CNN TV coverage as rescuers worked to save Baby Jessica's life. They drilled a much wider hole parallel to the well, then tunneled from the larger hole to the smaller well shaft. While this went on, rescuers added oxygen to Baby Jessica's well shaft, hoping to keep her breathing. Adults spoke to her, singing songs and trying to stay in contact.

On October 16, 1987, the rescue was successful—and it was televised. Baby Jessica was safe, and she went on to live a normal life. Local news photographer Scott Shaw snapped a photo of her rescue that won a Pulitzer Prize.

14. THE MAX HEADROOM INCIDENT

On the evening of November 22, 1987, Chicago-area TV viewers saw something unexpected. A news broadcast on WGN was interrupted for just under 30 seconds by a guy wearing a Max Headroom mask. The audio didn't work, and the station successfully cut the pirate out quickly.

The TV pirate struck again that night during an episode of Dr. Who on WTTW. The show was interrupted for about 90 seconds when the faux Max Headroom cut into the signal and spoke in heavily distorted seeming non-sequiturs, ultimately showing himself being spanked by a fly swatter. The incident remains a mystery, as the perpetrator has never been identified or caught.

(For our younger readers, check out this article for an explanation of who or what Max Headroom was.)

15. PROZAC

In December 1987, the FDA approved Prozac, a prescription antidepressant known generically as Fluoxetine. The drug was a blockbuster hit, soon becoming a multibillion-dollar-a-year business for drugmaker Eli Lilly.

Prozac was also a cultural milestone, leading to a series of books about depression and medication, including Prozac Nation, Prozac Diary, and Listening to Prozac. Prozac quickly became synonymous with antidepressant drugs in general, and remains a true icon of the 1980s.

16. MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN

When Fox launched in late 1986, it went head to head with the Big Three TV companies: ABC, CBS, and NBC. Fox was looking to join that lineup, and it quickly cemented itself as a player with a series of popular shows, including The Tracey Ullman Show, 21 Jump Street, and the instant classic Married... With Children.

The show focused initially on Al Bundy (Ed O'Neill), a dimwitted women's shoe salesman with a feisty family. It launched on April 5, 1987 and ran for just over a decade, earning modest ratings for the channel as part of its Sunday night lineup (which would later be anchored by The Simpsons).

17. MICHAEL JORDAN'S 58-POINT GAME

On February 26, 1987, Michael Jordan set a Chicago record by scoring 58 points in a regular-season game. He led the Bulls to beat the Nets 128-113. He voluntarily stopped playing after setting the record, and told The New York Times:

"I knew the fans wanted me to get 60, then 63, and maybe 70. But the bottom line is, that by scoring more points I'll always have to shoot for more and more, and there's a lot more to the game."

Jordan had previously set a playoff game record in May 1986, scoring 63 points against the Celtics. His records are so numerous that Wikipedia has a long article devoted solely to his achievements.

18. LARRY BIRD'S 59-BASKET FREE THROW STREAK

Larry Bird had a habit of making free throws. In 1987, he went on a 59-basket streak from November 9 through December 4. Two years later, he went on a 71-basket streak, though even that one fell short of Calvin Murphy's 78-basket streak in 1981. (All of these records have since been broken.) But hey, it wouldn't be 1987 basketball without mildly dissing Larry Bird, right?

19. BOMBAY SAPPHIRE GIN

Although the bottle makes Bombay Sapphire look centuries old, it was first introduced in 1987. Designed to be a "luxury gin" akin to how Absolut was considered a "luxury vodka," Bombay Sapphire took the existing Bombay line and elevated it, going back to Bombay's famous 1761 recipe ... and adding a dash of new botanical ingredients.

20. ROBOCOP

Paul Verhoeven brought us his dystopian RoboCop on July 17, 1987. Featuring Peter Weller as the title character, the film shows us what happens when a private corporation takes over the Detroit Police Department ... and starts staffing it with cyborgs. What could possibly go wrong?

Fun fact: In the movie, the 1986 model Ford Taurus appears as a futuristic police cruiser—because that design was actually pretty sleek for its time! Various Ford models were also used in the sequels and reboot. "Your move, creep."

21. MACINTOSH SE

The Macintosh SE came out in on March 2, 1987, and it would set you back $2899 with two floppy drives—or $3899 with a 20 megabyte hard drive. Yikes.

Refining the design used in the original 1984 Mac and the Macintosh Plus, the SE ran at a decidedly non-blistering 8 MHz, but it could support up to 4 megabytes of RAM, and it became a common machine in computer labs across the U.S. Because it allowed for an internal hard drive and also had a built-in expansion slot, the SE was more expandable than previous Macs, which helped it hang on for more than two years.

22. CONGRESSIONAL BAN ON INFLIGHT SMOKING

On July 26, 1987, the U.S. Congress mandated a ban on inflight smoking for flights of two hours or less. The ban went into effect in 1988, and was eventually broadened. Interestingly, regulations still mandate the presence of ashtrays in airplane lavatories.

(Incidentally, starting on April 26, 1987, Air Canada started experimenting with its own smoking bans.)

23. AZT

On March 19, 1987, the FDA approved a drug called azidothymidine for treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS infection. Because the drug's name was such a mouthful, everybody called it "AZT" from the start. It was the first-ever drug approved for treating HIV/AIDS, and its approval came in record time, after only a single 19-week trial on humans.

While AZT was the first effective medication for some cases to fight HIV/AIDS, it was only the first step. Over the coming decades, scientists added medications and refined dosages, arriving at modern treatments. But in 1987, AZT was the only medical hope for patients with HIV/AIDS.

24. "THE DRIVE" (JOHN ELWAY'S BIG WIN)

On January 11, 1987, the Denver Broncos made a legendary comeback known as "The Drive." Playing against the Cleveland Browns, the Broncos were down 20-13 with 5:32 left on the clock. Quarterback John Elway took over, and led his team on a 98-yard drive in just over five minutes. That left the game tied with 0:37 on the clock, and Elway's Broncos proceeded to win the game in overtime with a field goal.

That win allowed the Broncos to advance to Super Bowl XXI, which they lost to New York Giants. But still, The Drive is what football fans look to as a textbook example of a last-minute rally.

25. WINDOWS 2.0

Microsoft released Windows 2.0 on December 9, 1987. It was a transitional operating system, bridging the gap between the (borderline unusable) Windows 1.0 and the very successful Windows 3.0.

The banner features of Windows 2 were overlapping, freely resizable windows (previously, windows had to be "tiled" and couldn't overlap). Aside from the slightly improved user interface, Microsoft Word and Excel both arrived for Windows 2.0, and it also included a slightly updated version of the game Reversi!

Apple sued Microsoft in March 1988 over the graphical user interface in Windows 2.0. Microsoft won. Apple appealed repeatedly, attempting to get the case before the Supreme Court, which declined to hear it. Tensions between Microsoft and Apple remained high until 1997, when Microsoft invested in Apple and the companies' CEOs buried the hatchet.

26. STEPHEN KING'S MISERY

On June 8, 1987, readers got a taste of the horrors of writing. In Stephen King's novel Misery, a famous writer is rescued from a car crash by a super-fan, but finds that his recuperation is not as pleasant as he'd hoped.

King mentions Misery in his 2000 book On Writing, saying that the story came to him while he slept on a 1984 flight from New York to London. When he woke up, he wrote the following fever-dream ramble on a cocktail napkin:

She speaks earnestly but never quite makes eye contact. A big woman and solid all through; she is an absence of hiatus. (Whatever that means; remember, I had just woken up.) “I wasn’t trying to be funny in a mean way when I named my pig Misery, no sir. Please don’t think that. No, I named her in the spirit of fan love, which is the purest love there is. You should be flattered.”

Upon arriving at his hotel in London, King proceeded to write more than a dozen pages of the story, longhand, on what was formerly Rudyard Kipling's desk.

Misery was made into a movie in 1990. Kathy Bates played Annie, the super-fan, and she won an Oscar for Best Actress for that performance.

27. RANDY SHILTS'S AND THE BAND PLAYED ON

Randy Shilts was a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle. In 1987 he published the bestseller And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, exploring the history of the HIV/AIDS crisis in America, with a focus on how leaders reacted to the crisis. Shilts himself died of complications from AIDS in 1994.

And the Band Played On has been in the news lately; the book mentions Gaetan Dugas as "Patient Zero" and describes his international travel and promiscuity as vectors for virus transmission. Shilts wrote, "Whether Gaetan Dugas actually was the person who brought AIDS to North America remains a question of debate and is ultimately unanswerable." In 2016, scientists published a study in the journal Nature proving that Dugas was not the first vector in North America.

And the Band Played On was adapted into a movie in 1993, starring Matthew Modine, Alan Alda, Ian McKellan, Glenne Headly, and a stunning list of other major stars.

28. KENDRICK LAMAR, KESHA, RONDA ROUSEY, EVAN RACHEL WOOD, ZAC EFRON ...

Plenty of actors, musicians, and athletes were born in 1987. Here are just a few:

Ronda Rousey - February 1

Ellen Page - February 21

Kesha - March 1

(Lil') Bow Wow - March 9

Mackenzie Davis - April 1

Kendrick Lamar - June 17

Lionel Messi - June 24

Blake Lively - August 25

Evan Rachel Wood - September 7

Wiz Khalifa - September 8

Tom Felton - September 22

Hilary Duff - September 28

Zac Efron - October 18

29. FINAL FANTASY

The epic Final Fantasy game franchise began on December 18, 1987, when the first version of the game was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Designed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the title's adjective "final" referred to the fact that if the game didn't work out, Sakaguchi was in serious trouble. He told Famitsu:

"The name ‘Final Fantasy’ was a display of my feeling that if this didn’t sell, I was going to quit the games industry and go back to university. I’d have had to repeat a year, so I wouldn’t have had any friends—it really was a ‘final’ situation."

Although this series of events has been disputed, FF was a hit, and it has gone on to spawn endless sequels and spinoffs. (The most recent is Final Fantasy XV, released in late 2016.)

30. thirtysomething

Unless you're at least 35, you probably won't recognize the TV show thirtysomething. It was a drama launched in September 1987, featuring Baby Boomers then in their mid-thirties, struggling with adulthood and parenthood in Philadelphia.

The term "thirty-something" became part of the popular lexicon, and was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 1993. The term refers broadly to people in their 30s, but more specifically to the generation of baby boomers who hit their 30s during the 1980s.

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13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
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Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.

1. NINA SIMONE WAS HER STAGE NAME.

The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2. SHE HAD HUMBLE BEGINNINGS.


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There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.

3. SHE WAS BOOK SMART...

Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.

4. ... WITH DEGREES TO PROVE IT.

Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

5. HER CAREER WAS ROOTED IN ACTIVISM.

A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

6. ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUS SONGS WAS BANNED.

Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.

7. SHE NEVER HAD A NUMBER ONE HIT.

Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.

8. SHE USED HER STYLE TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”

9. SHE HAD MANY HOMES.

New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.

10. SHE HAD A FAMOUS INNER CIRCLE.

During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

11. YOU CAN STILL VISIT SIMONE IN HER HOMETOWN.

Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.

12. YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HER MUSIC IN RECENT HITS.

Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.

13. HER MUSIC IS STILL BEING PERFORMED.

Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

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13 Secrets From the Guinness Archives
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Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Guinness has been a staple in Irish pubs for nearly 260 years. With so much history, it's no surprise that the Guinness Storehouse Archives—which are open to the public—are stuffed with intriguing artifacts that tell some pretty wild stories. Here are a few.

1. THE LEASE TO THE DUBLIN BREWERY WAS INTENDED TO LAST 9000 YEARS.

In 1759, founder Arthur Guinness signed a lease for a four-acre property at St. James’s Gate in Dublin. The lease required a down payment of £100, an annual rent of £45, and a term of 9000 years (not a typo). Such lengthy leases were relatively common back then: “At the time in Ireland, there was a lot of instability to do with land tenure,” explains Fergus Brady, Archives Manager at Guinness. Centuries earlier, the British had begun confiscating land from native Irish in an effort to build plantations, and extra-long leases were a means of avoiding this fate. As Brady explains, “You see these really long leases: 99-year or 999-year leases. It seemed to be a legal custom at the time that they used the number nine.”

2. ARTHUR GUINNESS WAS NOT AFRAID TO DEFEND HIS PROPERTY WITH A PICKAXE.

In 1775, the Dublin Corporation—that is, the city government—demanded that Arthur Guinness pay for the spring water flowing to his brewery. When Guinness argued that he was already paying for water rights through his 9000-year rental agreement, the Dublin Corporation sent a sheriff and a committee to his brewery to cut off the water supply. Guinness was livid. He seized a pickaxe and unleashed a torrent of obscenities so colorful that the Dublin Corporation’s goons eventually retreated.

3. GUINNESS ONCE DEPLOYED FIELD AGENTS TO CATCH COUNTERFEITERS.

Guinness Apology
Guinness Archive, Diageo Ireland

In the 19th century, there was no such thing as brand consistency. Guinness did not bottle its own beer; instead, it shipped the suds in wooden casks to publicans who supplied their own bottles and applied their own personalized labels. Occasionally, these publicans sold fake or adulterated Guinness. To prevent such sales, the company sent special agents called “travellers” into the field to collect beer samples, which it tested in a laboratory. “If a publican was found to be serving adulterated or counterfeit Guinness, they had to give a public apology in their local newspaper—and even the national newspapers,” archivist Jessica Handy says.

4. FOR 21 YEARS, THE COMPANY HIRED A GUY TO TRAVEL THE WORLD AND DRINK BEER.

In 1899, Guinness hired an American ex-brewer named Arthur T. Shand to be a “Guinness World Traveller.” It was arguably the coolest job in the world. For 21 years, Shand traveled the world taste-testing beer. According to Brady, “His job was to travel the world and taste Guinness, say whether it was good or bad, who our bottlers in the market were, who our major competition was, what kind of people were drinking our product.” Shand traveled to Australia and New Zealand, to Southeast Asia and Egypt. “He was sort of a Guinness sommelier,” Brady says.

5. THE COMPANY'S HARP LOGO CAUSED TROUBLE WITH THE IRISH GOVERNMENT.

The Celtic harp—based on the 14th century “Brian Boru Harp” preserved at Trinity College—became a trademarked Guinness logo in 1876. Forty-five years later, when Ireland gained independence from England, the Irish Free State decided to use the same Celtic harp as its official state emblem. This became awkward. Guinness owned the trademark, and the Irish government was forced to search for a workaround. You can find their solution on an Irish Euro coin. Look at the coin, and you’ll notice that the harp’s straight edge faces the right; meanwhile, the harp on a glass of Guinness shows the straight edge facing left [PDF].

6. GUINNESS REPORTEDLY SAVED LIVES ON THE BATTLEFIELD.

The old slogan “Guinness is good for you” sounds like a marketing gimmick, but it was born out of a genuine belief that the beer was, in fact, a restorative tonic. The health claim dates back to 1815, when an ailing cavalry officer wounded at the Battle of Waterloo reportedly credited Guinness for his recovery. For decades, the medical community widely claimed that the dark beer possessed real health benefits—and they weren’t necessarily wrong. “There was little safe drinking water at the time,” Handy says. “But with brewing, consumers knew they were getting a safe beverage.”

7. THE COMPANY CREATED A SPECIAL RECIPE FOR CONVALESCENTS.

A label for Guinness invalid stout
Guinness Archive, Diageo Ireland

From the 1880s to the 1920s, Guinness produced a special “Nourishing Export Stout”—a.k.a. “Invalid Stout”—that contained extra sugars, alcohol, and solids and came in cute one-third pint bottles. “It was very common practice for people to buy a couple bottles and keep them as a tonic, even if it was just a glass or half a glass,” Handy says. In fact, Guinness went as far as asking general practitioners for testimonials attesting to the beer’s medical benefits. According to Brady, “Many of them wrote back and said yes, we prescribe this for various ailments.” One doctor even claimed a pint was “as nourishing as a glass of milk.”

8. DOCTORS REGULARLY PRESCRIBED THE BEER TO NURSING MOTHERS.

From the 1880s to the 1930s, many physicians believed Guinness was an effective galactagogue—that is, a lactation aid. The company sent bottles to hospitals as well as wax cartons of yeast (which supposedly helped skin problems and migraines). Hundreds, possibly thousands, of doctors prescribed the beer for ailments such as influenza, insomnia, and anxiety, David Hughes writes in A Bottle of Guinness Please: The Colourful History of Guinness. According to Brady, the company was sending beer to hospitals as late as the 1970s.

9. THE COMPANY ONCE DROPPED 200,000 MESSAGES-IN-A-BOTTLE INTO THE OCEAN.

A Guinness message in a bottle
The message within every bottle dropped in the Atlantic Ocean in 1959.
Guinness Archive, Diageo Ireland

In 1954, Guinness dumped 50,000 messages-in-a-bottle in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. In 1959, they repeated the stunt again, with 38 ships dropping 150,000 bottles in the Atlantic. The first bottle was discovered in the Azores off Portugal just three months after the initial drop [PDF]. Since then, the bottles have turned up in California, New Zealand, and South Africa. Just last year, a bottle was discovered in Nova Scotia. (If you find one, you just might be offered a trip to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.)

10. THE PERSONNEL FILES IN THE GUINNESS ARCHIVES CONTAIN SOME DOOZIES.

The Guinness corporate archives are open to the public. According to Handy, “Some of the stories you get in there are amazing, because you get accident reports and you get crazy stories of people bouncing on bags of hops outside the brewery." This may sound less surprising considering that, back in the day, Guinness employees were given an allowance of two pints of beer every day [PDF].

11. A GUINNESS SCIENTIST MADE A STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT MARK IN THE FIELD OF STATISTICS.

If you’ve taken a statistics class, you might be familiar with the Student’s t-test or the t-statistic. (It’s a method of working with a small sample size when the standard deviation is unknown.) The t-test was first described by William S. Gosset, a brewer and statistician at Guinness who was attempting to analyze a small sample of malt extract. Gosset’s discovery not only helped Guinness create a more consistent-tasting beer, it would lay the bedrock for one of the most important concepts in statistics: statistical significance.

12. GUINNESS IS SO BIG IN AFRICA, IT LAUNCHED A SUCCESSFUL FEATURE-LENGTH FILM.

Guinness began exporting beer to Africa in 1827. In the 1960s, it opened a brewery in Nigeria—followed by Cameroon and Ghana. Today, there are reportedly more Guinness drinkers in Nigeria than there are in Ireland. “In Ireland, England, and the United States, everybody thinks that Guinness is synonymous with Ireland,” Brady says. “But in Nigeria, there’s a very very low conception of that.” The beer is such a cultural staple that a fictional character who advertised the product named Michael Power—a James Bond-like, crime-fighting journalist—became the star of a feature film in 2003 called Critical Assignment, which was a box office smash. (Of course, there’s some branding built into the script. As Brady explains, “There are definitely scenes where Michael Power is enjoying a pint of Guinness.”)

13. DISPENSING BEER WITH NITROGEN WAS ORIGINALLY CONSIDERED LAUGHABLE.

In the 1950s, Guinness scientist Michael Ash was tasked with solving the “draft problem.” At the time, dispensing a draft pint of Guinness was ridiculously complicated, and the company was losing market share to draft lagers in Britain that could be easily dispensed with CO2. “The stout was too lively to be dispensed with CO2 only,” Brady says. “Ash worked on the problem for four years, working long hours day or night, and became a bit of a recluse apparently. A lot of doubters at the brewery called the project ‘daft Guinness.’” But then Ash attempted dispensing the beer with plain air. It worked. The secret ingredient, Ash discovered, was nitrogen. The air we breathe is 78 percent nitrogen. Today, a Guinness draft contains 75 percent nitrogen. Not only did the discovery make dispensing the beer easier, it created a creamy mouthfeel that’s been the signature of Irish stouts since.

Full disclosure: Guinness paid for the author to attend an International Stout Day festival in 2017, which provided the opportunity to speak to their archivists.

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