The Reason Elections Are Held on Tuesdays

Joaquin Corbalan/iStock via Getty Images
Joaquin Corbalan/iStock via Getty Images

Ever wonder why Americans always vote in federal elections on Tuesdays? There are a few reasons—including a little something to do with the horse and buggy.

Between 1788 and 1845, states decided their own voting dates. In 2012, then-Historian of the Senate Don Ritchie told NPR that strategy resulted in chaos, a "crazy quilt of elections" held all across the country at different times to pick the electors—the white, male property owners who would cast their votes for president on the first Wednesday of December. In 1792, a law was passed mandating that state elections be held within a 34-day period before that day, so most elections took place in November. (Society was mostly agrarian; in November, the harvest was finished but winter hadn’t yet hit, making it the perfect time to vote.)

The glacial pace of presidential elections wasn't a huge issue in the late 18th and early 19th centuries—communication was slow, so results took weeks to announce anyway—but with the advent of the railroad and telegraph, Congress decided it was time to standardize a date. Monday was out, because it would require people to travel to the polls by buggy on the Sunday Sabbath. Wednesday was also not an option, because it was market day, and farmers wouldn’t be able to make it to the polls. So it was decided that Tuesday would be the day that Americans would vote in elections, and in 1845, Congress passed a law that presidential elections would be held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

This article originally ran in 2012.

The Ingenious Reason Medieval Castle Staircases Were Built Clockwise

Shaiith/iStock via Getty Images
Shaiith/iStock via Getty Images

If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones or medieval programs in general, you’re probably familiar with action-packed battle scenes during which soldiers storm castles, dodge arrows, and dash up spiral staircases. And, while those spiral staircases might not necessarily ascend clockwise in every television show or movie you’ve watched, they usually did in real life.

According to Nerdist, medieval architects built staircases to wrap around in a clockwise direction in order to disadvantage any enemies who might climb them. Since most soldiers wielded swords in their right hands, this meant that their swings would be inhibited by the inner wall, and they’d have to round each curve before striking—fully exposing themselves in the process.

Just as the clockwise spiral hindered attackers, so, too, did it favor the castle’s defenders. As they descended, they could swing their swords in arcs that matched the curve of the outer wall, and use the inner wall as a partial shield. And, because the outer wall runs along the wider edge of the stairs, there was also more room for defenders to swing. So, if you’re planning on storming a medieval castle any time soon, you should try to recruit as many left-handed soldiers as possible. And if you’re defending one, it’s best to station your lefties on crossbow duty and leave the tower-defending to the righties.

On his blog All Things Medieval, Will Kalif explains that the individual stairs themselves provided another useful advantage to protectors of the realm. Because the individual steps weren’t all designed with the same specifications, it made for much more uneven staircases than what we see today. This wouldn’t impede the defenders, having grown accustomed to the inconsistencies of the staircases in their home castle, but it could definitely trip up the attackers. Plus, going down a set of stairs is always less labor-intensive than going up.

Staircase construction and battle tactics are far from the only things that have changed since the Middle Ages. Back then, people even walked differently than we do—find out how (and why) here.

[h/t Nerdist]

The Reason Queen Elizabeth II Demands Her Ice Cubes Be Round

The Queen makes a toast with King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands during a State Banquet at Buckingham Palace in October 2018.
The Queen makes a toast with King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands during a State Banquet at Buckingham Palace in October 2018.
Yui Mok, WPA Pool/Getty Images

Whether you prefer it crushed, cubed, or cylindrical (complete with a straw-sized hole through the center), you probably have an opinion about which type of ice is the best. As it turns out, so does Queen Elizabeth II.

According to The Independent, the 93-year-old monarch requests that her drinks contain round ice, rather than the more traditional cubes. As Karen Dolby, author of the upcoming Queen Elizabeth II’s Guide to Life, told The Sun, the reason is because balls of ice don’t clink quite as much in the glass—possibly because spheres have smaller surface areas than cubes for any given volume.

Dolby also revealed that the Queen’s ice specifications don’t just apply to her own beverages; she insists that all drinks in her residences be served with round ice. We don’t know for sure if that included the private staff bar that used to be located in Buckingham Palace, but it definitely wasn’t shut down because of a few loud ice cubes.

While promoting his book We Are Amused in 2010, unofficial royal biographer Brian Hoey told ABC News that the Queen detests the noise of ice clinking so much that Prince Philip actually created an ice machine to produce tiny, quieter balls of ice, though that hasn’t been confirmed by any official royal sources.

The Queen might not need ice at all for several beverages she’s been known to enjoy, including tea, champagne, and wine, but she does need it for her drink of choice—gin mixed with Dubonnet, which she prefers on the rocks.

Wondering what else you don’t know about the long-reigning Queen of England? Find out 25 more fascinating facts here.

[h/t The Independent]

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