Saturday, January 13, 2018

Give It Up for Sammy P

Today is the 210th birthday of great American dudebro Salmon P. Chase. Or would be, had he not stroked out in 1873 at age 65.

Who names their child Salmon? Especially when your last name makes you sound like some kind of Olympic event for bears?

Even an actual salmon wouldn't name a kid Salmon.
That would be like me being named
Functional Alcoholic.

Anyway, you might not know as much about Salmon P. Chase as you really need to survive and thrive in this crazy old world. And that's a shame, because someday you might be kidnapped and held hostage by a fanatical "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" contestant and your only path to freedom is to be his Plus-One and know the answer to the question "Which major US bank was originally named in honor of the 25th Secretary of the Treasury?" And if you can't correctly answer "JPMorgan Chase," you'll be beaten with an XBox controller dipped in pure capsaicin and/or forced to watch the Cousin Oliver episodes of "The Brady Bunch" in perpetuity until your eyes bleed Tabasco sauce.

I don't want that to happen to you. I love you guys.

So, to celebrate the life of an American hero and potentially save your bacon in the process, here are 10 Fun Facts About Salmon P. Chase.

1. The P stands for Portland. He wasn't born in Portland, his mother's maiden name wasn't Portland, and as far as I know he wasn't a fan of "Portlandia." On the other hand, his first name was freaking Salmon, so pairing that with Portland and the surname Chase creates one of the greatest non sequitur names in American history. So there's that.

2. He served as the sixth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court and was nominated to that position by none other than Abe "the Babe" Lincoln.

I have no idea if anyone actually
called Abraham Lincoln "Babe."
But I would have if I'd been there.
3. His face appeared on the very first $1 bills in 1862. Guess who designed the bill? None other than the Treasury Secretary himself. Basically, he had political aspirations throughout his entire career and put his own face on the dollar as a means of free self-promotion. Trolling level: Salmon-tastic.

4. As Chief Justice, SPC presided over the trial of President Andrew Johnson, who was impeached in 1868. Johnson was acquitted by one vote, but that's not Salmon's fault. He and William Rehnquist remain (for now) the only two judges to preside over the impeachment of an American president.

5. Salmon P. Chase also appeared on the $10,000 bill, the largest denomination ever widely circulated by the U.S. Treasury. In 1946 the bill ceased production, and in 1969 the government began actively withdrawing it (and other big-money bills) from circulation. There are only a few hundred believed to still be at large. Check your wallet - you never know if the clerk at 7-Eleven gave you one by mistake. Not really. But maybe.

6. My boy Salmon was an anti-slavery activist. He opposed both the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. He also (unsuccessfully) argued in court that any slave who escaped to a non-slave state was no longer bound to his servitude under the laws of his former state. His objections to slavery were rooted in Constitutional principles more than in a sense of moral justice. But still.

7. Mary Todd Lincoln was not a fan of the Chase family and refused to attend the wedding of Salmon's daughter Kate. Personally, I think being blackballed by Mary Todd Lincoln is kind of badass.

8. If you cover half of Sam's face while looking at his portrait, it seems very plausible that he had at least two demons living inside him doing battle for his eternal soul. Try it!

Use this Matthew Brady photograph.
Also, his less-possessed side looks
a lot like the late Peter Boyle.
9. Chase was affiliated with five different political parties during his career, including one that he and Martin Van Buren basically created themselves. The Free Soil Party was considered a "spoiler" party that effectively led to the election of Zachary Taylor, one of America' least distinguished leaders. You go, Free Soil Party.

10.  Depending on where you look it up, Salmon P. Chase had two, three, or more children. The only one anybody seems to know anything about is Kate (the one snubbed by Mary Todd Lincoln), who apparently was quite a social-climbing spitfire and was delighted when her father gave up on marriage after being widowed three times. Had Daddy Chase ever succeeded in being elected President (he failed to be nominated twice), Kate would have been de facto First Lady, which seemed to sit well with both of them. Hmmm.

There you go. If you win a bar bet because of this post, raise a glass in my honor. Be sure to follow it with a...Salmon P. Chase-r.

Please don't throw fish at me. That's rude.


  1. I took part in a salmon chase once. It was in Portland.

    That's not true, but wouldn't it be cool if it were?

    It's a shame he didn't continue the traditino and name all of his kids after fish. Trout could have grown up to be President.

  2. His daughter wasn't named Roe? Why ever not?

  3. So does that mean when you cut to the chase it's a money shot?

    I'll show myself out.

  4. I didn't know any of these things. And I read some of them to my husband. So you have performed a public service.


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