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Blunders in American History

Updated on July 23, 2015

We’d like to think, when it comes to governing America, our leaders have been fairly intelligent about it since our country was founded. That’s what we’d like to think. Unfortunately, we’ve made a lot of blunders or made discoveries purely by accident. Here are a few of the biggest:

One was the Exxon Valdez oil tanker that spilled over 11,000,000 gallons of oil into Prince William Sound, Alaska, on March 24, 1989. An estimated 11 million gallons of crude was spread across 1,300 miles of coastline. While the majority of the spill now appears to have recovered, pockets still remain in some locations. There is evidence a little damage continues. The incident may have been more of an accident than a mistake, but as yet no one has discovered a fail safe way to transport oil from other countries.

From the very beginning it seems we got off on the wrong foot. Christopher Columbus meant to sail to Asia, not America. With this kind of planning, is it any wonder the Coke Company came out with a new recipe that fell flat on its face?

In fact, Coca-Cola was the result of an accident. In 1886 pharmacist John Pemberton was cooking up some medicinal syrup in a kettle. When he was done he had created a tonic for people who were tired, nervous, or beleaguered with sore teeth. He and an assistant sipped it and found it tasty. They began another batch, but the bungling assistant accidentally used carbonated water. And the rest is history.

Scotchgard, made by 3M, started out as an attempt to make a synthetic rubber for airplane fuel lines. The substance is now used to help prevent dirt from staining fabric. Similarly,rubber got its name when English scientist Joseph Priestley discovered it was good at erasing pencil marks on paper.

Then someone figured out how to stabilize it for use in things like boots and tires. There was only one problem…rubber melted if it got too hot and shattered if it got too cold. A man named Charles Goodyear fixed that problem when he accidentally, as legend has it, dropped a blob of rubber and sulfur on a hot stove. As we can readily see, the great American license to err was virtually unique in history. But, we learned from our mistakes. Thus, mistakes are a part of the learning process or so we would hope.

Take the case of General George Custer at the disastrous Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876. He thought he was dealing with only a small band of Indians, that in his mind, was nothing more than a nuisance, but his entire company was wiped out by an army of thousands.

Then there was the time Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin when he, accidently left a Petri dish open.

The business world has also had its share of mistakes.Remember the movie ET when the extra-terrestrial was enticed to enter a house with Reese’s Pieces? Steven Spielberg had tried to get the Mars Company to feature M&Ms in the film, but was refused. After the film was released, sales of Reese's Pieces increased by more than 65 percent.

These are just a few examples, figuratively speaking, amounting to nothing less than a grain of sand on our country’s beaches.

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    • point2make profile image

      point2make 

      5 years ago

      We do seem to go from one to another all too easily. They say history can "turn on a dime"....it is always fascinating to discover the benefits of an error.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      5 years ago from south Florida

      Interesting examples, JY, and all fortunately - or not - true. Thanks for the reminders.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 

      5 years ago from Las Vegas

      PS: Facebooked and Pinned as Well!

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