8 Unexpected Origins of Pop Culture Icons

Some of our favorite things have really strange beginnings—you'll never enjoy a Graham cracker the same way again!

1Graham cracker was invented to kill libido

Stop masturbating now - ask me HOW!

Sylvester Graham was a charismatic 19th century minister who was a strict vegan. He believed that unhealthy and processed foods created lust in the body, which led to disease and death. He was especially against masturbation, which he claimed could cause insanity. To counter these lustful urges and calm the sex drive, Graham encouraged his Grahamites to eat only bland foods, including a special cracker. Today's Graham cracker, made with bleached flour, cinnamon, and sugar, is more likely have the opposite effect of what was originally intended.

2Green Eggs and Ham was written because of a bet

Dr. Seuss' children's book Green Eggs and Ham was written as the result of a bet Seuss made with the publisher of Random House. Bennet Cerf bet the author (whose real name was Theodore Geisel) $50 he couldn't write a book with 50 words or less. Geisel took him up on the challenge, producing Green Eggs and Ham, which contained exactly 50 unique words. Cerf never paid up.

3Mother's Day was not meant to be commercial

Mother's Day was created by Anna Jarvis, who sought to create a holiday in honor of her mother, who died in 1905. For many years, she lobbied to make Mother's Day a national holiday, and envisioned a day to write a personal letter or express sincere love and gratitude to mothers everywhere, without gifts or cards.

Woodrow Wilson made Mother's Day an official holiday in 1914, but the event was bittersweet for Jarvis. By the 1920s, so many greeting card companies and others began exploiting the day that she reversed her position and tried to get the holiday rescinded. Her protests included crashing a candy maker's convention, and an altercation with the American War Mothers, who sold Mother's Day carnations.

4Silly Putty was a failed WWII experiment

In 1943, GE scientist Richard Wright was trying to come up with a synthetic hard rubber that could handle extreme temperatures needed for the war effort. He failed, instead creating a gooey substance. In frustration, Wright threw it on the floor only to have it bounce back and hit him. After the war, it was eventually sold to an ad man who named it Silly Putty, and sold it in a plastic egg just before Easter.

5“Alice's Adventures in Wonderland” was written on a rowboat

Photo taken by Lewis Carroll of Edith, Ina, and Alice Liddell

Forget all you've heard about Lewis Carroll taking psychedelic drugs to come up with “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland” because it's not true. Charles Ludwidge Dodson was his real name, and he invented the titular character and her subsequent adventures to entertain some children (one of which was named Alice) during long rowboat trips across the Thames River. "Tell us a story with a lot of nonsense in it," Alice begged. While the children rowed (there were no such thing as child labor laws back then) he made up the stories on the spot.

6The Bikini was developed as the result of a competition between two Frenchmen

The sensational bikini design was the creation of two men, each attempting to outdo the other. In 1946, Jacques Heim unveiled the Atome (French for atom) and called it the world's smallest bathing suit. Shortly thereafter, Louis Réard introduced the Bikini (named after the island where atomic testing began) and pronounced it “smaller than the smallest swimsuit." Reard's design won by a navel—Heim's still covered the wearer's bellybutton.

7High five was invented at a baseball game

Burke (L) showing off his invention

Everyone from sports figures to politicians have performed at least one high five. But this now ubiquitous salutation can be traced back to one particular baseball game. It was October 2, 1977 in Los Angeles at the last game of the season between the Astros and Dodgers. Dodger Dusty Baker slammed a 3-run homer to tie the score. When Glenn Burke, on deck, thrust his hand in the air, Baker instinctively smacked it. Burke stepped up to the plate and also hit a homer. On the way back, Burke returned Baker's slap, ushering in the era of the High Five.

8Incredible Hulk inspired by scared woman who lifted car off baby

When we think of the Hulk, we think of a mean, muscular green man. But according to Jack Kirby, the comic hero's creator, the inspiration was from a real life incident involving a terrified woman. Kirby witnessed the woman lift the rear of a car, when she discovered her child had become trapped under the running board. Kirby realized at that moment “we could all go berserk” when we needed to, and came up with the Hulk.

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