Galactic Dibs

On New Year’s Day, 1949, James Mangan went to the Cook County recorder of deeds and registered his own country. The Nation of Celestia, he said, encompassed all of outer space. He was claiming it, as “founder and first representative,” to prevent anyone else from establishing political hegemony there.

Mangan wasn’t shy about it, either. Later that year he informed the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations that he was banning atmospheric nuclear tests, and he sent angry letters to the Americans and the Soviets when their space flights infringed on his “territory.” He even briefly got the U.N. to add the Celestian flag to those of its member nations.

Still, the idea never caught on, it largely died with its founder. All that’s left are some stamps, coins (“celestons”), and the titles Mangan gave to his grandsons: Glen Stump, “Duke of Selenia,” Dean Stump, “Duke of Mars,” and Todd Stump, “Duke of the Milky Way.”

Space to Let

Times are hard everywhere, but shed a tear for the Kongo Gumi Company of Osaka, Japan. When it closed its doors in January, the construction firm had been operating continuously for 1,400 years. The family business built its first temple in the year 578 and could trace its leadership through 39 generations.

“Tub of Blood Bunch”

Colorful New York gang names, 1825-1920:

  • Baxter Street Dudes
  • Car Barn Gang
  • Corcoran’s Roosters
  • Crazy Butch Gang
  • Daybreak Boys
  • Forty Little Thieves
  • Gas House Gang
  • Gopher Gang
  • Hudson Dusters
  • Humpty Jackson Gang
  • Italian Dave Gang
  • Mandelbaum Gang
  • Squab Wheelman Gang
  • Yakey Yakes

Slobbery Jim of the Daybreak Boys cut Patsy the Barber’s throat in a fight over 12 cents in 1853. He later rose to the rank of captain in the Confederate army.


American superstitions, collected by folklorist Fanny Bergen in 1896:

  • If you sneeze at table with the mouth full, an acquaintance will die soon. (Virginia)
  • If your shoe comes untied, your sweetheart is talking about you. (Alabama)
  • To go back into the house for something after starting on a journey is unpropitious. To have it brought out is all right. (Iowa)
  • To dream of bread is good luck. (Boston)
  • If you drop the tea-towel, it is a sign of company. (Pennsylvania)
  • Pass a baby through a window and it will never grow. (South Carolina)
  • Dimple in chin, devil within. (Maryland)
  • If you are a bridesmaid three times you will never stand in the middle. (New York)


Beware of that man,
Be he friend or brother,
Whose hair is one color
And moustache another.

(Portland, Maine)

Let This Be a Lesson

Martin Kallikak was a youthful soldier in the Revolutionary War. At a tavern frequented by the militia he met a feeble-minded girl by whom he became the father of a feeble-minded son. In 1912 there were 480 known direct descendants of this temporary union. It is known that 36 of these were illegitimates; that 33 were sexually immoral; that 24 were confirmed alcoholics; and that 8 kept houses of ill-fame. The explanation of so much immorality will be obvious when it is stated that of the 480 descendants 143 were known to be feeble-minded, and that many of the others were of questionable mentality.

A few years after returning from the war this same Martin Kallikak married a respectable girl of good family. From this union 496 individuals have been traced in direct descent, and in this branch of the family there were no illegitimate children, no immoral women, and only one man who was sexually loose. There were no criminals, no keepers of houses of ill-fame, and only two confirmed alcoholics. Again the explanation is clear when it is stated that this branch of the family did not contain a single feeble-minded individual. It was made up of doctors, lawyers, judges, educators, traders, and landholders.

— From Mental Defectives and Sexual Offenders, report of a committee appointed by New Zealand’s minister of health, 1925

Notice Anything?

Countries with highest suicide rates (totals per 100,000 people per year, as of June 2006):

  1. Lithuania: 42.1
  2. Russian Federation: 38.7
  3. Belarus: 35.1
  4. Kazakhstan: 28.8
  5. Slovenia: 28.1
  6. Hungary: 27.7
  7. Estonia: 27.3
  8. Ukraine: 26.1
  9. Latvia: 26.0
  10. Japan: 23.8

The U.S. is ranked number 45.

Apple Piety

Religious demographics of the United States Senate:

  • Jews make up 11% of the Senate and 1.4% of the U.S. population.
  • Episcopalians make up 10% of the Senate and 1.8% of the population.
  • Presbyterians make up 15% of the Senate and 2.8% of the population.
  • Latter-Day Saints make up 5% of the Senate and 1.4% of the population.
  • Methodists make up 11% of the Senate and 7.2% of the population.
  • Catholics make up 24% of the Senate and 25.9% of the population.
  • Lutherans make up 3% of the Senate and 4.6% of the population.
  • Baptists make up 7% of the Senate and 17.2% of the population.

Non-religious or religiously unspecified people make up 15% of the U.S. population … but there’s no sign of them in the Senate.

Ironic Post-Ironic Irony

In 1998, University of Iowa communications professor Kembrew McLeod trademarked the phrase “Freedom of Expression.” Then he sent AT&T a cease-and-desist letter because they were using his phrase in an advertising campaign.

He said he knew he was overreaching, but “I do want to register my genuine protest that a big company that really doesn’t represent freedom of expression is trying to appropriate this phrase.”