From the Archives: Some fun facts about colonial US Cities.

Here’s an article I’d written for that ended up getting rejected.  Enjoy!

New York was founded by people as British as Joan d’ Arc

If someone asked you what is the most quintessential American city, you would probably answer of four or maybe five places: Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., New York City, or some smartass answer like Fargo. Of those, the Big Apple seems to stand out. After all, it was the capital of the United States for a few years.

So it was the Articles of Confederation. They weren't ALL bad...

Yes, New Yorkers are dying to tell you that their city is the most quintessential of them all. They fought the British in the Revolutionary War. They’re named after a British city or county or something.

They have a Duke though! That makes them British, right? Right???

If any city embodies the American story it is the fine British town of New York that grew to be a mighty city.

What you probably didn’t know:

Except for the part where New York started out Dutch, not British.

Home of the Empire State Windmill

That’s right, good old New York started out as a Dutch colony. In 1664, the British (who were itchin’ for a fight to prove big fuzzy hats were cooler than wooden shoes) invaded the Dutch colony of New Netherland and took over what was then New Amsterdam (colonial governors sucked at coming up with creative names of towns, you see).

Apparently the Dutch weren’t all that bummed that they lost New Amsterdam, because they happily traded it for Paulu Run in Indonesia, an island less thank 3 square kilometers in island. That’s 1/20th the size on Manhattan, which is less than 1/10th the size of New York City.

On Left: Paulu Run. On Right: New York City

Once the British got their grimy, blue-blooded hands on it, though, they had big plans.

Pictured: Big plans.

Charleston was a wretched hive of scum and villainy

If you know anything about Charleston, it most likely deals with the Civil War or the fact that it’s a great place to go if you’re very proper and most likely old.

But not always.

That makes sense, too. After all, the Civil War started in Charleston as the modern day Charlestonians are quick to tell you. Think of them like New Yorkers, except they only annoyingly tell you about their city at very specific times.

Before that, back when Charleston was founded, it was one of the most accepting cities in the 13 colonies when it came to religion. Sometimes people forget that even though most of the US was founded under the pretext of religious freedom, most of those people were assholes.


Nowadays, Charleston is a calm and quiet city with a booming tourist industry. It’s a great place to go if you’re interested in a taste of some good old southern charm and good manners.

What you probably didn’t know:

Charleston used to be closer to now Amsterdam than New Amsterdam. Also, it was originally named Charles Town, for King Charles II. There’s some unbridled city-naming creativity at work (a trend in Colonial America).

Unlike most colonies, which started as company charters, Carolina was born of a gift from the British King to the Lords Proprietor. Being all Lord-sy and whatnot, the prostitute-addicted leader of these people, Ashley Cooper, decided to team up with John Locke and make this a free land. As such, they declared that “any seven or more Persons agreeing in any Religion shall constitute a Church.”

Not surprisingly, people began to worship the brew almost immediately by getting seven guys in a room to drink booze and sing out of tune because it was their “divinely inspired duty.”

What ensued was several hundred years of trying to make Charleston a classier place. Unfortunately, in the 1700s pirates moved in, and the free market welcomed them with open hands and open… other things that would be open at brothels.

Add to that a major slave rebellion, a Minister drunkenly baptizing a bear, and a society that treated the bombardment of a Union Fort as a spectator sport and you get a taste of the long and bumpy road Charleston took to becoming the modern day home to America’s “friendliest people.”

“My ancestors have lived here since the 1700s, so the booze literally made it into my bloodstream!”

Boston was almost full of witches

Boston always seems like a great place. They are another all-American town. They have a whole slew of teams that are dominating the world of sports right now. Plus, hey, tea parties are a great time.

Such a great time.

Plus, Boston is maybe towards the top of the most influential cities of the American Revolution. If you didn’t know this, a whole lot of important stuff concerning that war took place in or around Boston. enough where I don’t care to write about it all. Instead, read this.

So what’s weird about Boston that you probably didn’t know? Well aside from the fact that it’s named after a British town without being called “New Boston,” which makes it significantly different from just about every other colonial town, there’s the witches.

What you probably didn’t know:

When John Winthrop decided to go and make a fancy Puritan colony in the New World, he was sort of guessing where he might end up. Being ten years behind the slightly more pure Puritans that founded Plymouth, Winthrop’s fleet at least had something to aim for. Still, navigation in the first half of the 17th Century wasn’t all that great.

"I don't know, go left!"

Add to that the fact that Winthrop didn’t have a proper destination in mind anyway, and it’s a shocker he hit North America at all.

Good news! We got here! Wherever this is…

The first place that Winthrop’s ships landed, and where Boston could have been founded, was actually the spot where Salem, Massachusetts was ultimately founded. This is only a hop, skip, and short broom ride away from Salem Village, site of the Salem Witch Trials. Lucky for Boston, Winthrop decided the spot “pleased them not” and went to the current location of Boston instead.

Winthrop- “These bitches please me not. Onwards to yonder hills, that we might form a totally rockin’ gathering spot for Irish folks.”

Raleigh is tempting fate

Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina, and aside from that it is largely forgettable for any reason except being the city that stole the Whalers’ awesome logo and jerseys from the NHL.

Yes, the most memorable thing about this city is related to hockey and it isn’t in Canada. That tells you something.

Despite all that, Raleigh is one of the fastest growing cities in America, and people are flocking to the area like moths to a flame or Mormon’s to 1800s Utah. Which is ironic, because also on that list is Salt Lake City.

What you probably didn’t know:

Raleigh got its name in honor of Sir Walter Raleigh, a man who must have been pretty rad considering he got knighted, right? Well, you would think that but it simply is not as awesome for a town as you might think.

Exploits include: Being an awesome land-stealer and being thrown in the Tower of London twice. Now that’s knight material.

Raleigh was not at all connected to the founding of Raleigh, strangely enough, but it’s a good thing for those North Carolinians. That’s because Raleigh was responsible for a different colonial city a century before – Roanoke.

For those who don’t know, Roanoke is a city you’ve never heard of because Roanoke vanished over 400 years ago. It was Raleigh’s attempt to make the first British settlement in the New World mainland, and it faired about as well as one would expect from a town settled with poor location, no women, and populated by lazy and greedy men.

Though in their defense, they might have lasted as long as 3 years.

The only message left behind by the people of Roanoke was the cryptic message “Croatoan.” British explorers figured that it referred to Croatoan Island, and indicated that the settlers fled to said island and lived with the native people there called the Croatoans.. Other theories include: colonists getting fed up with colonial life and sailing to England but dying en route, a dastardly attack by the Spanish, the predictable “cannibal natives got ‘em” argument, or alien abduction.

Of course “Croatoan” could just be a threat from the Great Old Ones.

Virginia Loves Independence a Little Too Much

Virginia is famous for having a lot to do with American Independence. For starters, it is home to the face of American Independence – George Washington. If that’s not enough for you, then Patrick Henry was also born in Virginia. For those who don’t know, he’s the “Give me liberty or give me Death!” guy.

“The other part of that quote – “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!” Turned out to be pretty ironic.

Virginia loves independence so much, in fact, that it decided to give it a second go-around when states started seceding from the Union in the 1800s. Before long, the capital of the Confederate States of America was moved to Richmond, Virginia where President Jefferson Davis could live surrounded by people that would one day undoubtedly overthrow the legacy of his reign. A fun fact about Davis, he purportedly lamented when he received news that he would be the President of this new confederacy.

Probably because he wasn’t from Virginia.

What you probably didn’t know:

In Virginia, the cities crave independence so much they won’t even join counties. In the United States there are 42 independent cities, if Wikipedia is to be trusted (which it is). 39 of them are in Virginia. Why?

Now, to be an independent city really isn’t all that big of a deal. It just means that they aren’t subject to being part of a county. They can still be a county seat. They can still intermingle their kids in local subjugated villages (which we can only assume is what independent Virginians call their neighbors).

“Oh hey Jim! I see they let you out of the shackles, that’s awful nice!”

Of course the only question that remains is how much longer the Virginians can put up with not being totally free. I give it until 2020 tops.


Washington establishes a tradition early on

If you live in the United States, then you most likely know that Washington D.C. was not, in fact, a city during the Revolutionary War. It was a byproduct of the fight, organized because the states did not like the idea of other states taking the capital of the country for themselves.

After people realized that putting it in Philadelphia wasn’t going to work, the federal government set aside a square of land, 10 miles x 10 miles, to become the new capital.

Also, a convenient target for the British.

Now, being the capital of a fancy new land that, a few years prior, had known the highest standard of living in the western world was a lot of pressure. Luckily, Washington was born of democracy, and democracy was its lifeblood.

What you probably didn’t know:

There is a popular sentiment in the United States that we here at Cracked will neither condone nor condemn, and that sentiment is that most political offices are decided by a matter of money.

Still, it seems like that probably is something new-ish, right? It always seems like the founding fathers are great guys. They couldn’t possibly do anything wrong.

Oh, right

And in a funny way, Washington D.C. supported that in 1812. When the mayoral elections in our capital ended in a tie, the folks running the show decided to set forth a democratic paradigm for the ages. Was it an epic debate to woo the masses? Was it a re-vote, continually until a decision was made? Were the two candidates forced to asses themselves and their candidate and do what each felt was better for the country?

Nope. They tossed a coin. And so the tradition was set forth to make money a really big deal in American politics. Nice job, Washington.

Pictured: Democracy

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