Myth Trivia: FDR, quirky geography and Indian Summer

This week: A grab bag of interesting tidbits ranging from FDR, Eddie Cantor and U.S. coins to strange geographical facts and the lowdown on the secret origins of Indian Summer.

FDR U.S. dime, obverse. (U.S. government image, via Wikipedia entry on the dime)

CHARLOTTE, N.C., January 11, 2017 – Nothing special about the trivia for today, just some interesting tidbits we picked up along the way.

1 — FDR and a famous foundation: This is one of those stories that you’d think everybody should know and nobody does know. Though he often tried to conceal the fact he was often confined to a wheelchair, President Franklin Roosevelt founded the Foundation for Infantile Paralysis in 1938 to raise funds for polio research.

The movement was spearheaded by entertainer Eddie Cantor, who popularized the name “March of Dimes” by making a request that everyone mail in ten cents for research.

Winged Mercury graced the U.S. dimes that flew out of pockets prior to the FDR version of the coin. (Public domain, U.S. government image, via Wikipedia entry on the U.S. dime)

Seven years later, following Roosevelt’s death in 1945, the president’s image was placed on the U.S. dime coin, replacing the mythological figure adorning the previous Mercury dime in tribute to FDR’s material contribution to the March of Dimes cause.

It wasn’t until after the administration of Ronald Reagan that a movement began by Republicans to put Reagan’s likeness on the ten cent coin instead of FDR’s. The project was short-lived, however, due to massive opposition, including that of Nancy Reagan, who believed the icon of Roosevelt was fine remaining exactly where it is.

We cannot confirm that this was also the origin of the phrase “being able to stop on a dime,” but that is doubtful.

2 — More geographical quirks: Sometimes we forget that South America is actually not just south but also east of North America. In that sense, certain geographical trivia only seems strange until you get your bearings.

Thus you might find it interesting that New York City is actually west of Lima, Peru and that Jacksonville, Florida is further west than the entire mainland of South America. By the same token, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is further west than the westernmost point of South America.

Heading to the left side of the map of the United States, you might find it interesting that Honolulu, Hawaii is actually south of Havana, Cuba.

Even stranger, and more jaw dropping, is the fact that Alaska’s Near Islands in the Aleutians are nearer to Tokyo, Japan than they are to their own state capital of Juneau.

Finally, thanks to the Gulf of Finland, Talinn, Estonia, which is that small nation’s capital, is just 49 miles from Finland. Yet the two countries have no common land border.

3 — In the good old Indian Summertime: The snows of winter are upon us, leaving the fall color season far behind as nothing more than a mere memory. But, when it comes to that welcome burst of autumn warmth even in the midst of the annual temperature decline, the question remains: “Why do they call it Indian Summer?”

The answer: Nobody really seems to know for sure. But in 1778, St. John de Creyecoeur, a French-American farmer wrote,

“Sometimes the rain is followed by an interval of calm and warmth which is called the Indian Summer; its characteristics are a tranquil atmosphere and general smokiness.”

Wikipedia describes this “interval” as “a meteorological phenomenon that occurs in autumn, in the Northern Hemisphere. It is characterized by a period of sunny, warm weather, after the leaves have turned following an onset of frost, but before the first snowfall.”

Here are a few other perspectives:

  • When European settlers first arrived on these shores, Native Americans were the first to point out the pattern.
  • The haziness of the Indian Summer weather was caused by prairie fires deliberately set by Native American tribes.
  • It was the period when Native American peoples harvested their crops.
  • It relates to the marine shipping trade in the Indian Ocean. Trading ships used this good weather period to travel to the Indian Ocean. Several ships actually had an “I.S.” mark placed on their hulls at the load level thought to be safe during the Indian Summer.

Take your pick. But be sure to do it before the term “Indian Summer” becomes offensive and, therefore, politically incorrect.

Contact Bob at Google+

Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News

Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod

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