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The Top-Secret Inauguration of Rutherford B. Hayes

When President-Elect Rutherford B. Hayes raised his hand and took the oath of office on the East Portico of the Capitol on March 5, 1877, his supporters breathed a sigh of relief. The ceremony marked the end of a lengthy, acrimonious debate between his Republicans and the Democrats over the results of the previous year’s election. Some even believed the tension might threaten to spill over into another Civil War.

Democratic nominee Samuel Tilden had earned the popular vote, and 184 of the 185 votes he needed in the Electoral College. But allegations surfaced that Tilden’s seeming victory was thanks, in part, to voter intimidation and fraud in key states like Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina. A special Congressional committee was formed to sift through the paper trail, leaving the outcome in doubt for months.

Hayes being sworn in ended all speculation. But only a handful of people observing the ceremony knew that the celebration taking place that Monday was merely for show: Hayes had been sworn in during a secret ceremony two days earlier, in the presence of outgoing president Ulysses S. Grant. And history still isn’t quite sure why.

In the years following the Civil War, Reconstruction and bitter feelings had created a state of discontent. For the 1876 election, both of the major political parties knew the country would be looking for a president who was tempered in his actions.

The Democrats sided with Samuel Tilden, who made his name as governor of New York by breaking up a corrupt political scene headed by “Boss” Tweed; Republicans backed Rutherford B. Hayes, a Civil War veteran and Ohio governor who was so moderate in every aspect of his life—he abstained from alcohol—that it would be virtually impossible for him to stir up any radical opposition.

Political pundits who predicted a tight race weren’t disappointed. As the results began trickling in on November 7, 1876, Democrats crowned Tilden as the victor, with a winning popular vote margin of 250,000. But four states—Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Oregon—quickly became areas of contention. Democrats were plagued by allegations of intimidating newly empowered black voters to side with Tilden in three of those key territories; Democrats accused Republicans of foul play in Oregon.

Hayes needed 185 electoral votes. He had 184 to Hayes’s 165. Twenty electoral votes were in doubt. As the weeks went by, no one knew who the President-Elect was.

To break the logjam, Congress appointed a special Electoral Commission to investigate the results. Five Republican Congressmen joined five Democrats and five Supreme Court justices. It took them until February 1877 to come to a majority vote of 8-7 in favor of Hayes. He was President-Elect by one commission vote, possibly the narrowest margin of victory in any presidential election.

That decision did little to soothe the Democrats, who were incensed that their idea of the rightful winner was being denied his seat in the Oval Office. Extensive filibustering took place in the House that delayed acknowledgment of the commission’s decision. Rumors began to swirl that Tilden’s more ardent supporters might show up to Washington armed, with an eye on kidnapping Hayes so Tilden would be invited to take his place. One irate Tilden supporter shot a bullet into the window of Hayes’s home.

As Hayes and his wife, Lucy, began making the trip from Ohio to Washington, they had no idea if he was actually president. They were still traveling when they got the official announcement, which was made on March 2. The Democrats had finally ceded their point, albeit with concessions: They’d gain a Democrat postmaster general, as well as the removal of federal troops from government buildings, effectively ending Reconstruction.

When Hayes arrived in Washington on March 3, he was invited to dinner by outgoing president Ulysses S. Grant. At some point during the evening, Grant took Hayes to the Red Room in the White House and stood nearby as Supreme Court Justice Morrison B. White administered the oath of office. After the kidnapping rumors and the Democratic response, Grant may have desired a private and controlled inauguration that couldn’t be disrupted.

The two returned to dinner, their guests unaware of what had just taken place. As a result, March 3 was a day when the country had two commanders-in-chief.

The (second) Hayes inauguration. Senate.gov

Hayes had his official ceremony two days later. With Democrats appeased by the concessions, there were no disruptions. Still, Grant walked Hayes to the podium, protective of the President-Elect until his last moments as president were completed.

The U.S. Senate’s official reason for Hayes being sworn in early cites the calendar as the main issue. Inauguration day fell on a Sunday that year, and the Constitution contains no explicit protocol for what to do. To not swear in Hayes on Sunday and wait until Monday would technically mean the country would be without a president for a day. Dwight Eisenhower took similar dual oaths in 1957 for that reason.

But few elections had been as hotly contested as Hayes vs. Tilden, with the scars of the war still fresh. Grant may have seen potential for Democrats to disrupt the ceremony to the point where he felt it best to make Hayes’s appointment official as soon as possible. To delay might have meant Grant’s exit on March 4 would leave a void in office.

In the end, Hayes was as advertised, almost demure in his service—he and his wife even banned alcohol from the White House—and exited in 1881 just as quietly as he had come in.

It would’ve taken a true political historian to notice that his March 5 inauguration was a duplicate, but there was one clue for the observant. When Hayes arrived at the East Portico to be sworn in, he was sitting on the right of his carriage, a spot that was always reserved for just one person: the President of the United States.

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How Cambodian Refugees Started the Pink Doughnut Box Trend
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Like the red-and-green cardboard pizza boxes or white Chinese takeout containers, many doughnut boxes share a certain look regardless of where you buy them. This is especially true in Southern California: Order a dozen crullers from one of the region's many independently-run doughnut shops and you’ll likely receive them in a glossy pink box. According to Great Big Story, this trend can be traced back to an influential immigrant business owner.

In the 1970s, Ted Ngoy moved to Southern California as a refugee from Cambodia. Much of Los Angeles's current doughnut scene is thanks to him: He opened dozens of doughnut shops of his own and helped fellow Cambodian refugees in the area get started in the business. Along with passing down entrepreneurial advice, he also inspired them to choose the light pink boxes that he used in his stores. As Ngoy recalled years later, either he or his business partner, Ning Yen, started the trend after asking their supplier for a cheaper alternative to the traditional white boxes. The company was able to offer them pink boxes at a discount. Because red is considered a lucky color in many Asian cultures, the distinctive shade stuck.

Today, many doughnut places in L.A. County are still owned by Cambodian-American immigrants and their families, and they still use the same old-school packaging Ngoy and his partner popularized 40 years ago.

You can get the full origin story in the video below.

[h/t Great Big Story]

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Pop Culture
Fumbled: The Story of the United States Football League
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davi_deste via eBay

There were supposed to be 44 players marching to the field when the visiting Los Angeles Express played their final regular season game against the Orlando Renegades in June 1985.

Thirty-six of them showed up. The team couldn’t afford more.

“We didn’t even have money for tape,” Express quarterback Steve Young said in 1986. “Or ice.” The squad was so poor that Young played fullback during the game. They only had one, and he was injured.

Other teams had ridden school buses to practice, driven three hours for “home games,” or shared dressing room space with the local rodeo. In August 1986, the cash-strapped United States Football League called off the coming season. The league itself would soon vaporize entirely after gambling its future on an antitrust lawsuit against the National Football League. The USFL argued the NFL was monopolizing television time; the NFL countered that the USFL—once seen as a promising upstart—was being victimized by its own reckless expansion and the wild spending of team owners like Donald Trump.

They were both right.

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Spring football. That was David Dixon’s pitch. The New Orleans businessman and football advocate—he helped get the Saints in his state—was a fan of college ball and noticed that spring scrimmages at Tulane University led to a little more excitement in the air. With a fiscally responsible salary cap in place and a 12-team roster, he figured his idea could be profitable. Market research agreed: a hired broadcast research firm asserted 76 percent of fans would watch what Dixon had planned.

He had no intention of grappling with the NFL for viewers. That league’s season aired from September through January, leaving a football drought March through July. And in 1982, a players’ strike led to a shortened NFL season, making the idea of an alternative even more appealing to networks. Along with investors for each team region, Dixon got ABC and the recently-formed ESPN signed to broadcast deals worth a combined $35 million over two years.

When the Chicago Blitz faced the Washington Federals on the USFL’s opening day March 6, 1983, over 39,000 fans braved rain at RFK Stadium in Washington to see it. The Federals lost 28-7, foreshadowing their overall performance as one of the league’s worst. Owner Berl Bernhard would later complain the team played like “untrained gerbils.”

Anything more coordinated might have been too expensive. The USFL had instituted a strict $1.8 million salary cap that first year to avoid franchise overspending, but there were allowances made so each team could grab one or two standout rookies. In 1983, the big acquisition was Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, who opted out of his senior year at Georgia to turn pro. Walker signed with the New Jersey Generals in a three-year, $5 million deal.

Jim Kelly and Steve Young followed. Stan White left the Detroit Lions. Marcus Dupree left college. The rosters were built up from scratch using NFL cast-offs or prospects from nearby colleges, where teams had rights to “territorial” drafts.

To draw a line in the sand, the USFL had advertising play up the differences between the NFL’s product and their own. Their slogan, “When Football Was Fun,” was a swipe at the NFL’s increasingly draconian rules regarding players having any personality. They also advised teams to run a series of marketable halftime attractions. The Denver Gold once offered a money-back guarantee for attendees who weren’t satisfied. During one Houston Gamblers game, boxer George Foreman officiated a wedding. Cars were given away at Tampa Bay Bandits games. The NFL, the upstart argued, stood for the No Fun League.

For a while, it appeared to be working. The Panthers, which had invaded the city occupied by the Detroit Lions, averaged 60,000 fans per game, higher than their NFL counterparts. ABC was pleased with steady ratings. The league was still conservative in their spending.

That would change—many would argue for the worse—with the arrival of Donald Trump.

Despite Walker’s abilities on the field, his New Jersey Generals ended the inaugural 1983 season at 6-12, one of the worst records in the league. The excitement having worn off, owner J. Walter Duncan decided to sell the team to real estate investor Trump for a reported $5-9 million.

A fixture of New York media who was putting the finishing touches on Trump Tower, Trump introduced two extremes to the USFL. His presence gave the league far more press attention than it had ever received, but his bombastic approach to business guaranteed he wouldn’t be satisfied with an informal salary cap. Trump spent and spent some more, recruiting players to improve the Generals. Another Heisman winner, quarterback Doug Flutie, was signed to a five-year, $7 million contract, the largest in pro football at the time. Trump even pursued Lawrence Taylor, then a player for the New York Giants, who signed a contract saying that, after his Giants contract expired, he’d join Trump’s team. The Giants wound up buying out the Taylor/Trump contract for $750,000 and quadrupled Taylor’s salary, and Trump wound up with pages of publicity.

Trump’s approach was effective: the Generals improved to 14-4 in their sophomore season. But it also had a domino effect. In order to compete with the elevated bar of talent, other team owners began spending more, too. In a race to defray costs, the USFL approved six expansion teams that paid a buy-in of $6 million each to the league.

It did little to patch the seams. Teams were so cash-strapped that simple amenities became luxuries. The Michigan Panthers dined on burnt spaghetti and took yellow school buses to training camp; players would race to cash checks knowing the last in line stood a chance of having one bounce. When losses became too great, teams began to merge with one another: The Washington Federals became the Orlando Renegades. By the 1985 season, the USFL was down to 14 teams. And because the ABC contract required the league to have teams in certain top TV markets, ABC started withholding checks.

Trump was unmoved. Since taking over the Generals, he had been petitioning behind the scenes for the other owners to pursue a shift to a fall season, where they would compete with the NFL head on. A few owners countered that fans had already voiced their preference for a spring schedule. Some thought it would be tantamount to league suicide.

Trump continued to push. By the end of the 1984 season, he had swayed opinion enough for the USFL to plan on one final spring block in 1985 before making the move to fall in 1986.

In order to make that transition, they would have to win a massive lawsuit against the NFL.

In the mid-1980s, three major networks meant that three major broadcast contracts would be up for grabs—and the NFL owned all three. To Trump and the USFL, this constituted a monopoly. They filed suit in October 1984. By the time it went to trial in May 1986, the league had shrunk from 18 teams to 14, hadn’t hosted a game since July 1985, kept only threadbare rosters, and was losing what existing television deals it had by migrating to smaller markets (a major part of the NFL’s case was that the real reason for the lawsuit, and the moves to smaller markets, was to make the league an attractive takeover prospect for the NFL). The ruling—which could have forced the NFL to drop one of the three network deals—would effectively become the deciding factor of whether the USFL would continue operations.

They came close. A New York jury deliberated for 31 hours over five days. After the verdict, jurors told press that half believed the NFL was guilty of being a monopoly and were prepared to offer the USFL up to $300 million in damages; the other half thought the USFL had been crippled by its own irresponsible expansion efforts. Neither side would budge.

To avoid a hung jury, it was decided they would find in favor of the USFL but only award damages in the amount of $1. One juror told the Los Angeles Times that she thought it would be an indication for the judge to calculate proper damages.

He didn’t. The USFL was awarded treble damages for $3 in total, an amount that grew slightly with interest after time for appeal. The NFL sent them a payment of $3.76. (Less famously, the NFL was also ordered to pay $5.5 million in legal fees.)

Rudy Shiffer, vice-president of the Memphis Showboats, summed up the USFL's fate shortly after the ruling was handed down. “We’re dead,” he said.

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