Reading In Bed Was “Tempting God” (5 Petty Historical Controversies)

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by Jordan Breeding

Humans thrive on controversy. Entire genres of entertainment, like punk music or naked juggling, live and die on their ability to elicit strong reactions. It’s like an arms race to see who can piss off your mom the most ... which is literally how they marketed Dead Space 2: Naked Zombie Jugglers.

As far as The Modern Rogue is concerned, the pettier the controversy, the better. And though it would be pretty easy to stomp on today’s stupid arguments, they really don’t compare to the ones we found in Ye Olden Times. For instance ...


God Didn’t Want You To Condition The Air

One of the greatest achievements of the modern world has been the ability to master the weather. Although humans came up with the idea to use fire for staving off frostbite and warming up cans of pinto beans a long time ago, the invention of air conditioning is pretty recent. It could have come even sooner, though, if God hadn’t deemed it a mortal sin.

Air conditioning didn’t really become a thing until a few decades into the 20th century, despite being invented in the early 1800s. The problem wasn’t so much the technology as it was the morality of whether man should be allowed to wield such unholy power. See, the prevailing attitude through much of the 19th century Western world was that hot weather came from God, so humans should just learn to deal with it. Even into the 1900s, the U.S. Congress refused to install any sort of HVAC system for fear they’d be mocked by voters for their physical and moral frailty.



The true mark of The Beast.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, scientists developed several different processes by which to cool air, despite the grave implications such work might have on their eternal souls. Many of these early devices were used for medical purposes like keeping President James A. Garfield cool as he slowly died from gunshot wounds. In another instance, the dissecting room of Cornell Medical College installed an air conditioning device purely to keep the dead bodies fresh until medical students could slice them open.

Eventually, enough people encountered air conditioning in the wild to realize that the chance to not sweat to death every summer overrode their moral reservations. By 1929, companies were marketing air conditioning for personal use, and America fully succumbed to sin, never to recover.

Coca-Cola Was Raided By The Government (And It Wasn’t Because Of Cocaine)

We know what you’re thinking, and, no, Coca-Cola wasn’t considered controversial because of the cocaine. Everybody has been, and always will be, on board with hard drugs in their soft drinks, so please bring back the classic formula. The problem with Coca-Cola wasn’t the cocaine -- it was the extreme servings of caffeine.

Even though coffee and tea (which had been around for centuries) contained more caffeine, it was suddenly considered a problem when it presented itself in Coke. The U.S. was so afraid of citizens having trouble falling asleep that in 1909, government agents kicked off the lamest drug bust of all time: they intercepted a Coca-Cola truck and seized 40 barrels and 20 kegs of syrup. The government charged Coca-Cola with marketing and selling a beverage that was extremely harmful to consumers.




Two years later, Coca-Cola was dragged into court to defend their crimes against humanity. Their main opponent was a man named Harvey Washington Wiley who was the head of the Bureau of Chemistry of the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- which we’re pretty sure is also where Ron Weasley’s dad worked. Wiley hated Coke because, unlike coffee or tea, caffeine was deliberately added to the drink rather than occurring naturally. Also, the resulting chemical cocktail was marketed toward children who after just a few sips wouldn’t go to bed when they were supposed to. So, you know, madness. This lawsuit resulted in a case with a name that sounds like a Lifetime movie about America going to war inside of a McDonald’s: The United States Government v. Forty Barrels & Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola.

Before the case could go to trial, Coke hired a researcher named Harry Hollingworth to do some tests to see if their soda would cause anybody to develop split personalities or drop dead after two cans of concentrated insomnia. The trial didn’t get very far before the tests revealed that, duh, the the caffeine in Coke wasn’t really that big of a deal. The case was essentially dismissed, and Coke was allowed to keep doing what they were doing, caffeine included.

Luckily for Coke, the government didn’t test how everything else about Coke will kill you. Thanks, irony!

People Had To Be Psychologically Manipulated Into Using Shopping Carts

These days, what you can buy from a grocery store is only limited by your credit line and fanciful imagination. In large part, that’s because every store has some sort of shopping cart big enough to hold food that’ll last from now until the robot apocalypse of 2197. But that’s not always how it’s been.

Back in 1936, grocery store owner Sylvan Goldman noticed a troubling trend: Once shoppers at one of his stores entirely filled up their tiny wire or wooden basket with food, they just stopped shopping. Rather than adding another 1,100 pounds of peanut butter, they immediately turned and headed to the checkout line. This was not ideal. So Goldman came up with a way to keep customers out on the floor perusing the aisles for ever-larger boxes of mac ‘n’ cheese: shopping carts. Goldman’s invention not only doubled the space customers could fill with pork products, they were perfect for Jackass stunts. There was only one problem: Nobody wanted to use them.

Old people were willing to give them a go because of their convenience, but young people felt insulted by shopping carts. Male shoppers didn’t want to admit they needed help lugging cases of beer around, and younger women claimed they spent enough time pushing around their children in strollers so why the hell would they also want to push around bushels of broccoli?



All aboard the wuss train!

But Goldman didn’t give up. He concocted a brilliant plan to get customers to use his shopping carts by shaming them. Goldman hired a bunch of hot young people to do nothing but wander around the store, pushing his dopeass carts. He also posted an attractive woman at the front to offer carts to shoppers, and when they refused, she would point out that all the other, sexy people in the store were using them.

Within three years, shopping carts were immensely popular and paved the way for stores like Costco to sell consumers a lifetime supply of popcorn and string cheese in just a single trip.

Reading In Bed Was Considered “Tempting God”

Generally speaking, the consequences for late night reading are limited to slightly worse eyesight or maybe your mom catching you with Deadpool comics. But in 1831, re-reading the Hunger Games past 10:00pm sometimes led to something much worse: death by fire.

This is exactly what happened to Lord Walsingham when one morning his servants found him still in bed but burned all to hell. Additionally, his wife had apparently jumped out the window to avoid said fire but didn’t survive the fall. What could have caused this fire that left Walsingham’s remains, “... almost wholly destroyed, the hands and feet literally burnt to ashes, and the head and skeleton of the body alone remained presenting anything like an appearance of humanity”? Nobody knew the exact cause of the fire, but The Family Monitor was pretty sure Walsingham fell asleep while reading in bed, like some kind of crazy 19th century Evel Knievel.



Also, his bed was made out of gunpowder.

Since nobody had bothered to invent lamps yet, night reading was only possible through the use of candles. As some of you may know, candles only work when they’re on fire. As such, it is important to put them out before falling asleep to avoid bursting into flames. Of course, that very rarely happened, but people turned Walsingham’s case into a cautionary tale of what could happen to anybody who tempted God by staying up late.

It literally became an issue of morality with some publications urging their readers to end their day “in prayer, to be preserved from bodily danger and evil.” Apparently a fiery death was the inevitable result of reading a book before bed. Lying around reading a book suddenly equated a horrible vice like adultery or drinking Coke that, like all vices, would eventually consume abusers whole.

Then we invented lamps, and it was okay to read books at night in open defiance of God and nature.

People Feared That Women On Bikes Would Die Or “Turn Gay”

Throughout history, men have come up with endless, crazy excuses for why women shouldn’t be allowed to do the same things as men. One ridiculous example: for years women couldn’t attend schools like Yale Medical School and Harvard Law School solely because the institutions didn’t want to have to build or designate special bathrooms (if you think that’s an antiquated excuse, the Virginia Military Institute used that exact excuse up until freaking 1996). So maybe it comes as little surprise that in the 1800s, newspapers said women shouldn’t be allowed to ride bikes, because they’d all die.

To be fair, they weren’t entirely wrong. Newspapers in 1890s frequently commented on the growing epidemic of female cyclists being killed by their stupid woman-clothes. One letter published in the Daily Press gave that exact reasoning for a recent death:

I think she failed because she could not see the pedals, as the flapping skirt hid them from her view, and she had to fumble for them. Could she have taken but a momentary glance at their position, she would have had a good chance to save her life.

Many critics seized the opportunity to claim that women should never be allowed to ride bikes at all, completely ignoring the fact that most of those accidents were caused by clothes women were essentially being forced to wear.



This was the Che Guevara t-shirt of their time.

Of course, these same critics didn’t just talk about how women shouldn’t ride bikes, they actively went into the streets and chucked crap at the female cyclists and cussed them out. Because, as we all know, if you’re afraid a woman might crash, the best thing to do is throw stuff at her while she’s trying not to crash. But they weren’t just afraid of the potential deaths -- they were afraid that the sexy allure of a bike might lead women to becoming prostitutes or even turn them gay.

As the century turned, women began wearing “cycling pants” as a way to avoid getting their clothes stuck in the spokes of their bikes. Those pants soon symbolized the “New Woman” who wasn’t afraid to strike out on her own in her quest for independence. Those women were frequently ridiculed, and even when pants-wearing was accepted, places like Paris made it illegal for women to wear pants when doing anything besides riding bikes or horses.

By the way, that law stuck around until 2013.

Like this article? Check out “5 People Who Transcended Gender And Made The World A Better Place” and “5 Times Businesses Screwed Themselves By Not Understanding Other Cultures”.

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