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Life at Home
10 May Fun Facts You Might Not Know

There are a lot of things going on in May. In the first five days alone, we can celebrate May Day, National Brother and Sisters Day, Paranormal Day, Star Wars Day and Cinco de Mayo. May is also Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Jewish American Heritage Month. We managed to narrow our list down to 10 facts about May.

A GREAT ISLAND KING

At one time, the islands of Hawaii were each ruled by their own chief. Kamehameha I was on a quest to unify Hawaii and in May of 1795, his army landed on the shores of O’ahu and thus began the Battle of Nu’uanu.

Kamehameha’s forces won the battle; one of the many instances leading to his nickname Kamehameha the Great. He united the islands and subsequently became the founder and first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

FROM BOX OFFICE FLOP TO CINEMATIC MASTERPIECE

Famed actor and director Orson Welles may have gotten his start on Broadway and the radio however, his most notable work was in film. One famous film gained Welles the ire of many media powerhouses.

His first feature film, Citizen Kane, under performed at the box office after Hollywood gossip got around that the film was based on the life of newspaper publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. Hearst himself is said to have lobbied against Welles and his film.

Due to the controversy, Citizen Kane premiered May 1, 1941, on a smaller-than-planned scale at the RKO Palace Theater. While the movie was nominated for nine Academy Awards, Welles was booed at the ceremony. However, he would get the last laugh as Citizen Kane has since been called “the greatest movie of all time.”

ONE MAN, MANY INVENTIONS

One of the United States’ greatest inventors was actually born in Canada. On May 2, 1844, Elijah McCoy was born in Colchester, Ontario, Canada. At 15, McCoy was sent to Scotland where he was certified as a mechanical engineer.

McCoy held more than 50 U.S. patents, many of which were for improvements upon the lubrication of steam engines. One of his inventions was an automatic lubricator to oil the steam engines of trains and ships.

THEY CALL HER “MISS UNSINKABLE”

I don’t know about you, but I only need to be on one sinking ship to cling to the shore for the rest of my life. The same cannot be said for Violet Jessop, or “Miss Unsinkable,” who passed away May 5, 1971 of heart failure.

Jessop was a stewardess for the White Star Line aboard the RMS Olympic when it struck the HMS Hawke—a British warship—on September 20, 1911. Luckily, the ship made it to port without sinking. Undeterred, Jessop joined the crew of the RMS Titanic. On April 14, 1912, she helped non-English speaking passengers before eventually making it into a lifeboat herself.

While working for the British Red Cross in 1916, Jessop was a stewardess on the HMHS Britannic when an unexpected explosion caused the vessel to sink November 21. She continued to work as a stewardess until she retired in 1950.

YOU SAY “FRUIT,” THE SUPREME COURT SAYS “VEGETABLE”

Tomayto, tomahto is an age-old argument, usually followed by the debate over whether it is a fruit or a vegetable. If you are ever in the mood to win that argument, you can cite the U.S. Supreme Court.

On May 10, 1893, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down their ruling in the Nix v. Hedden case to determine if tomatoes were a vegetable or fruit as per the Tariff Act of March 3, 1883. This particular Act stated that a tax was required to be paid on imported vegetables but not fruit.

John Nix was one of the largest produce sellers in New York City, and one of the first to import fruit. Edward Hedden was Collector of the Port of New York who collected import duties at the time. Nix took Hedden to court in an attempt to recover the duties he begrudgingly paid. Much to Nix’s chagrin, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hedden, stating that as far as customs regulations are concerned, the tomato shall be classified as a vegetable based on how it is used.

“DEAN UNIVERSITY OF THE AMERICAS”

Do you know where the oldest school in the Americas is? While Harvard University is the oldest university in the United States (est. 1636), it is not the oldest university in the Americas. That honor goes to the National University of San Marcos.

Charles I of Spain signed a royal decree to charter the National University of San Marcos (Spanish: Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, UNMSN) on May 12, 1551. The university, established in Lima, Peru, is a public research university with more than 60 academic-professional schools. As the oldest continuous university in the Americas, it has earned the nickname “Dean University of the Americas.”

THE FIRST BUT NOT THE LAST

Magnus Hirschfeld was German physician based in Berlin-Charlottenburg, and an advocate for gender minorities. As part of Hirschfeld’s advocacy, he founded the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee (Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee, WhK, in German) on May 15, 1897. The WhK is the first LGBT rights organization ever established.

Based in Berlin, the WhK campaigned against the legal persecution of the LGBT community and championed their social recognition. With the motto “Justice through science,” the committee used scientific evidence to assist defendants and conduct public lectures. Some famous supporters of Whk over the years include Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann and Leo Tolstoy.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BLUE JEANS

Finding the “perfect” pair of blue jeans is a life-long quest for some shoppers. And it isn’t an entirely modern one either.

Jacob Davis was tasked with creating a pair of work pants for a client that wouldn’t fall apart. Davis used copper rivets to reinforce “points of strain” on a pair of denim trousers. The client raved over the pants and Davis sought to acquire a patent but first, he needed a partner.

Davis reached out to the man he bought the denim from, wholesaler Levi Strauss. Ever the businessman, Strauss saw the potential these riveted trousers had. On May 20, 1873, Davis and Strauss received a U.S. patent and the rest is fashion history. (Bonus fact: The pants were originally called “waist overalls” until the 1960’s when wearers coined the term “jeans.”)

THE BOOK THAT LAUNCHED A THOUSAND ADAPTATIONS

Okay, maybe there aren’t literally 1,000 adaptations of this book, but there are quite a few. Published May 17, 1900, by L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz follows the journey of a silver slipper-clad Dorothy Gale through the land of Oz.

This tale inspired more than 100 adaptations across film, television, theatre, books, comics, games and more. One of the most famous works inspired my Baum’s book is the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.

Dorothy was named after Baum’s niece who passed away while he was writing the manuscript. In the original story, Dorothy’s slippers were silver not ruby-red. Also in the original book, Dorothy meets Glinda at the end of the story

WHAT’S THE TEMPERATURE?

Whether checking to see if you have a fever or if you need a jacket outside, odds are you check the temperature every day. The temperature you see, and how its measured, were largely determined by one man.

Born May 24, 1686, Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit was a physicist and an inventor. If the name sounds familiar, that is because he developed the Fahrenheit temperature scale after studying boiling and freezing points. Fahrenheit also invented the mercury-in-glass thermometer, which was the first practical and accurate thermometer.

Hopefully these facts start your month off on the right foot. When you are ready to buy your next home, one of our loan experts can guide you through the steps from application to closing day.

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Written By Becky Bruning