Mao Zedong jokingly offers to give America 10 million Chinese women in 1973.
In the 1970s, Chairman Mao was somewhat chummy with Henry Kissinger, the national security advisor to President Nixon at the time.
Near the end of the Cold War, Mao was having a chat with Kissinger about possible trade agreements when he brought up the idea that China could give the US 10 million of its female citizens as a gift. Kissinger replied by calling the idea a "novel proposition" and adding, "We will have to study it."
Neither man was serious, but imagine the Twittersphere's backlash if Kim Jong-Un and Obama's national security advisor, Thomas E. Donilon, were found laughing it up about that proposition today.
The Straw Hat Riot of 1922 rejects the obligation to wear felt.
At the end of each summer during the early 20th century (generally around September 15th), men would swap their straw Panama hats for a more distinguished, though less breathable, felt hat.
If you didn't make the switch, you were reportedly ridiculed and even risked having your straw hat stolen and stomped on. (A bit harsher than the no-white-after-Labor-Day rule, no?)
In 1922, people finally revolted against the fashion policy. Riots broke out for days, and thousands of people fought — many to great injury — over the right to wear the hat of their choosing.
Goldfish swallowing takes over college campuses in the 1930s.
After one enterprising Harvard freshman named Lothrop Withington Jr. swallowed a live fish as a publicity stunt while running for class president, a goldfish-swallowing trend spread among college campuses in the late 1930s.
"Last week Joe College was busy gulping goldfish," TIME magazine wrote in 1939. "He garnished it with salt, with mayonnaise or with ketchup, and he chased it with milk, orange juice or soda pop, but one routine did not vary. Each goldfish was gulped alive."
I'm only guessing, but Withington would probably have enjoyed icing his bros if he'd gone to college in 2010.
Phone booth stuffing took off all over the world in the late 1950s.
Like the "Keep Calm and Carry On" mantra, phone booth stuffing first gained popularity outside the US. But once it arrived stateside, in the spring of 1959, kids couldn't help but join in.
People would cram their bodies into the narrow spaces like olives in a jar. Some adopted other methods, such as stacking themselves horizontally.
The world record for phone booth stuffing came in March of 1959, when 25 people in South Africa piled into a booth. Incidentally, the phone rang during the stunt, but no one could answer it.
"Orchidelirium" infected Victorian-era snobs who competed to own the best flowers.
Long before people collected Twitter or Instagram followers, the ultimate status symbol was orchids.
People in Victorian-era Europe were so feverish about the precious flower, in fact, that at the height of "orchidelirium" they were hiring staffs of "hunters" to travel the world in search of new species. Those species were often sold at auction for exorbitant prices.
Finally, in 1973, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora banned the practice of wild orchid collection.
Pole sitting gave kids in the 1920s a way to reach new heights.
Nearly a century before David Blaine stood atop a 100-foot pole for 35 hours in New York's Bryant Park, kids in rural America were finding perches on neighborhood telephones poles.
The fad was popular from the mid- to late-1920s and ended at the start of the Great Depression. Kids would construct seats at the tops of the poles and challenge their friends to see who could stay up there the longest.
Some of the most die-hard pole-sitters (whose mothers evidently did not scream at them to get down), could last more than a day or two.
Ronald Reagan releases a spoken-word album warning against socialized medicine in 1961.
Audiophiles may remember the 10-minute recording that Reagan, then a private citizen, released 20 years before he became president.
Called "Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine," it warns listeners of the dangers that the federal government could pose to Americans' personal freedoms if it took over the health care system.
The American Medical Association distributed the LP as part of its "Operation Coffee Cup" campaign, which tried to undermine the Democrats' plans to expand Social Security to cover health care.
The US government poisons alcohol in the 1920s, killing 10,000 Americans.
Potable alcohol was so hard to come by during Prohibition that people often resorted to drinking industrial alcohol like the kinds used to disinfect wounds. The only way to get your hands on it, however, was to steal it. Eventually, the US government got so fed up with the level of alcohol theft that it began poisoning its own supply to render it fatal if consumed.
"By mid-1927," Deborah Blum writes for Slate, "the new denaturing formulas included some notable poisons — kerosene and brucine (a plant alkaloid closely related to strychnine), gasoline, benzene, cadmium, iodine, zinc, mercury salts, nicotine, ether, formaldehyde, chloroform, camphor, carbolic acid, quinine, and acetone."
The result: By 1933, the poisoned alcohol had killed nearly 10,000 people in what came to be known as "chemist's war of Prohibition."
A dust cloud in the 6th century plunges Europe into an 18-month-long winter.
Twitter freaks out when there's a foot of snow on the ground, so imagine how people would react if the dust clouds of 536 AD swept through today.
Archaeological records indicate the storms caused temperatures to drop for a period of 12 to 18 months, creating frosty summers and violently harsh winters. An unidentified natural event, possibly a volcanic eruption, is thought to have created the dust veil.
The consequence wasn't just mild inconvenience — it was utter catastrophe. Nearly a third of Europe's population got wiped out, with death rates rising as high as 90% in some northern regions.
Dwight Eisenhower gets lassoed at the 1953 inauguration while Nixon laughs.
Picture Joe Biden standing idly by as Barack Obama, newly sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, catches a loop of rope around his waist.
Kind of ruins the grandeur of it all.
But the 1950s were a different time, and one president getting lassoed by a man on horseback as his VP giggles several feet away wasn't such a big deal. So it went with President Eisenhower and Richard Nixon.