90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Things You Should Know If You’re American

Period interpreters lead the citizen’s parade during an Independence Day celebration at Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site near Petersburg, Ill. (AP)

Part civics lesson, part trivia contest — “Stuff Every American Should Know” informs readers about everything from the difference between the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights to the 10 foods that are truly American and the books all American should read.

There’s also a refresher on past presidential assassinations (completed and foiled) and is it really illegal to rip a dollar bill in half? Yes, we learn. Also, who invented the blue jean? Not Levi Strauss. The idea started with merchants in India who sold a blue “hard-wearing fabric” that came from Dongari Fort, and was referred to as “dungaree,” according to the book.

“Stuff Every American Should Know” was written by the husband-wife team of Denise Kiernan and Joseph D’Agnese, who say the project grew out of an interest in American history — and a desire to explain it clearly.

“We were always fascinated by the misconceptions that some people have about American history,” Kiernan told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

Ten Foods Invented in America

(Flickr/IntangibleArts)

  • “Velvet” cake
  • Corn Dogs
  • Cheesesteak
  • Chop suey and chow mein
  • Waldorf, Cobb and Caesar Salad
  • Anadama bread
  • Oysters Bienville, Kirkpatrick and Rockefeller
  • Buffalo Chicken wings
  • Spiedies
  • Toll house cookies

Ten patriotic songs about the USA

  • “Yankee Doodle,” folk song
  • “Stars and Stripes Forever” John Philip Sousa
  • “You’re A Grand Old Flag” George M. Cohan
  • “This Land Is Your Land,” Woody Guthrie
  • “Battle Hymn of the Republic” Julie Ward Howe
  • “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Francis Scott Key
  • “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee,” Samuel F. Smith
  • “America the Beautiful,” Katharine Lee Bates
  • “Coming To America,” Neil Diamond
  • “God Bless America,” Irving Berlin

Why do Americans have fireworks on the fourth of July?

Though fireworks are not uniquely American, they were invented by the Chinese more than 1,300 years ago, they became associated with major American events as early as the 1700s, according to “Stuff Every American Should Know.”

And John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that Americans should mark the nation’s birthday in a big way. “It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever,” he wrote.

Lists and trivia based on “Stuff Every American Should Know,” by Denise Kiernan and Joseph D’Agnese. Copyright (c) 2012 by Denise Kiernan and Joseph D’Agnese.

Guest:

  • Denise Kiernan, author
  • Joseph D’Agnese, author

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

September 16 7 Comments

Kathy Gunst Explores Community Supported Agriculture

Kathy Gunst joins Cook's Illustrated executive food editor Keith Dresser at his CSA pickup and offers recipes for the seasonal CSA fare.

September 16 11 Comments

Remembering Jesse Winchester

Jimmy Buffett remembers his friend the late songwriter Jesse Winchester, whose posthumous album is being released today.

September 15 27 Comments

A Call To Reject Corporal Punishment As Part Of Black Culture

An incident of child abuse by an NFL player has raised questions about the use of corporal punishment as a form of discipline in the African-American community.

September 15 28 Comments

Would You Pay To Get Your Kid Into A Top College?

A San Francisco company charges parents for a consulting package based on the odds their student will get into a certain university, with prices up to a million dollars.