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Editor’s note: The Trivia
Geek’s sabbatical has been unexpectedly extended for another week, so to make
it up to you, we’re publishing three abbreviated trivia tidbits, all on the
timely election-season subject of politics. Hope that’s enough to keep the
critical discussion posts to a minimum.

Cleveland rocks

Grover Cleveland’s career as U.S. president is a veritable
treasure trove of trivial facts: Cleveland is the only president to serve two
nonconsecutive terms in office (1885 to 1889 and 1893 to 1897); he is the only president
to be married in the White House (to Frances Folsom in 1886); he is the only president
whose wife gave birth in the White House (to Esther Cleveland in 1893); and he
is one of only three candidates to lose a presidential election (to Benjamin
Harrison in 1888) despite winning the popular vote.

Yet few people realize that, in an effort to assuage his
largely reviled political image, Cleveland signed into law a federal holiday
that we still celebrate today. WHAT FEDERAL HOLIDAY DID GROVER CLEVELAND ENACT
INTO LAW?

A piece of the pi

From elementary geometry to high-level abstract number
theory, the precise value of pi has vexed mathematicians literally since the
days of the Egyptian pharaohs and Babylonian lawgivers. During the intervening
millennia, mathematics has conceded that pi is an irrational number, meaning
that we cannot use a fraction or ratio to describe it because pi has no easily
rendered discernible pattern or precisely calculable value.

Despite this accepted irrationality, a U.S. state very
nearly legislated an “official” value for pi at the turn the century.
WHAT U.S. STATE ATTEMPTED TO LEGISLATE AN OFFICIAL VALUE FOR PI?

Congressional oversight

Article IV, Section 3 of the United States Constitution
gives Congress the power to admit new states into the union. Article V, in
turn, gives states the power to amend the Constitution, provided three-fourths
of the states ratify any such amendment.

These two constitutional tenets gave legal scholars and
civil libertarians fits in 1953, when it was discovered that Congress had
technically failed to admit a state 150 years before, casting doubt on all
amendments ratified since 1803. WHAT STATE DID THE U.S. CONGRESS FAIL TO
OFFICIALLY RECOGNIZE FOR 150 YEARS?

In the spirit of election season, we placed three candidate questions
on your ballot this week. Get the answers to these respective political
puzzlers below.

Cleveland rocks

What federal holiday did trivia-friendly U.S. President
Grover Cleveland enact into law?

In 1894, President Cleveland used federal troops to break an
American Railway Union strike led by noted Socialist party official Eugene V.
Debs (who would later garner 1 million presidential votes from a jail cell in
1920). Though successful, Cleveland’s harsh tactics earned him the ire of
powerful labor unions.

In order to salvage the 1894 elections for his fellow
Democrats, Cleveland followed the lead of more than 20 state legislatures and
declared Labor Day, the first Monday in September, a federal holiday in all U.S.
territories and the District of Columbia.

A piece of the pi

What U.S. state attempted to legislate an official value for
the irrational mathematical constant pi?

In 1897, Dr. Edwin Goodwin of Posey County, IN lobbied the
state legislature to introduce House Bill 246, which established four separate
values for pi (none of which are close to accurate) and an additional,
incorrect value for the square root of two.

Goodwin persuaded the legislature to consider the bill with
the promise that Indiana could use his “findings” in its school
textbooks free of charge, but that other states would have to pay him a
royalty. The bill made significant progress in the Indiana state legislature
before someone finally called it out for its stupidity, and Goodwin’s laughable
claims have since fallen into rightful obscurity.

Congressional oversight

What state did the U.S. Congress technically fail to
officially recognize for 150 years?

In 1803, Congress admitted the state of Ohio into the union.
In 1953, officials were reviewing the original Congressional admission
documents in preparation for celebrating Ohio’s 150th “birthday.” However,
the legal scholars discovered that while Congress had ratified Ohio’s
geographic boundaries and accepted its state constitution, Ohio itself had not
been formally recognized as a state.

Immediately acting to prevent legal chaos—a legitimate fear
considering that any Congressional act voted on by representatives of the state
of Ohio would now be technically suspect—Congress quickly passed a resolution
that retroactively admitted Ohio into the United States on the original date of
Feb. 19, 1803.

The Quibble of the Week

If you uncover a questionable fact or debatable aspect of
this week’s Geek Trivia, just post it in the discussion area of the article.
Every week, yours truly will choose the best post from the assembled masses and
discuss it in the next edition of Geek Trivia.

This quibble comes from the Oct. 5 edition of Geek Trivia, “May the
Schwartz be with you,”
wherein I did my part to eulogize the
works of legendary sci-fi and comics figure Julius Schwartz. In this article, I
was betrayed by a cute but numerically inaccurate turn of phrase, “a film
or three,” about the number of Superman movies starring the late and
sorely missed Christopher Reeve.

TechRepublic member Ed
Woychowsky
caught the idiomatic foul-up first. “There were four
Superman films staring Christopher Reeve. The final installment was Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.”

I joked that the movie was so bad that I didn’t want to
acknowledge it, but the reader community suggested I keep such opinions to
myself. As always, thanks for keeping me humble.

The Trivia Geek, also
known as Jay Garmon, is a former advertising copywriter and Web developer who’s
duped TechRepublic into underwriting his affinity for movies, sci-fi, comic
books, technology, and all things geekish or subcultural.