WTF Fun Fact 12953 – Abraham Lincoln, Licensed Bartender and Wrestling Champ

While U.S. President Abraham Lincoln was known for being a wrestling champ, it’s less well-known that he was also a licensed bartender. In fact, he co-owned a bar with a friend. Unfortunately, that story had a rather sad ending.

Abraham Lincoln is in the Wrestling Hall of Fame

While he grew up in a log cabin in the Kentucky wilderness and then moved to Illinois as a boy, much of Lincoln’s early life isn’t household knowledge. Take, for example, his wrestling “career.” According to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame:

“In the rough and ready style of the frontier, “catch as catch can” wrestling was more hand-to-hand combat than sport. Lincoln, an awesome physical specimen at 6-feet-4, was widely known for his wrestling skills and had only one recorded defeat in a dozen years.

At age 19, he defended his stepbrother’s river barge from Natchez thugs by throwing the hijackers overboard. Ten years later, Lincoln was a storekeeper at New Salem when his boss backed him to out-wrestle Jack Armstrong, local tough and county champion. From the start, Lincoln handed out a thrashing. When Armstrong began fouling, Lincoln picked up his opponent, dashed him to the ground and knocked him out.”

Lincoln’s bartending career

Lincoln went on to become a lawyer and, eventually, president of the United States. But before his law career took off, he was a shopkeeper and bartender. In fact, he’s the only president to have ever been a licensed bartender.

According to Chicagoist (cited below):

“In January 1833, he partnered with his friend from his militia days, William F. Berry, to purchase a small store, which they named Berry and Lincoln. Stores could sell alcohol in quantities greater than a pint for off-premises consumption, but it was illegal to sell single drinks to consume at the store without a license. In March 1833, Berry and Lincoln were issued a tavern, or liquor, license, which cost them $7 and was taken out in Berry’s name. Stores that sold liquor to consume on the premises were called groceries.”

Unfortunately, the store didn’t work out because of Berry’s alcoholism. He drank the store’s liquor, and the pair’s business fell into debt. “It wasn’t until 1848, when Lincoln was a congressman, that he was able to pay off the whole debt.”

Once Lincoln entered politics, he denied selling alcohol “by the drink,” but people knew. His opponents even poked fun at him over it during debates.

Alas, he’s remembered for other things now.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Bartender-In-Chief: Abraham Lincoln Owned A Tavern” — Chicagoist

WTF Fun Fact 12603 – The Rigors of Sumo Wrestling

Sumo is an ancient Japanese sport born out of centuries-old temple rituals in the Shinto religion. It is also Japan’s national sport (although many successful wrestlers have come from Mongolia more recently).

Sumo training takes place in Japan only, and those accepted into training are assigned to one house, or “stables,” where they spend their entire careers (you cannot transfer to another). The “stable masters” are former wrestlers who oversee their training – and just about every other aspect of their lives. For example, no women are allowed in the stables, so marriage is atypical, and those who have not reached level 2 in the skill rankings are barred from having girlfriends. Sumo wrestlers are also not allowed to drive a car – although many people point out that their weight often makes it physically impossible for them to reach the wheel anyway because of the size of their stomachs.

But life as a sumo wrestler is not all eating and pushing each other around. Sadly, it’s a scandal-ridden sport where beatings are common to toughen up young men so that they feel less and less pain over time.

Life is incredibly strict, and many rules are dictated by tradition, such as how to dress, wear their hair, and address people in public. Because of their polite and soft-spoken nature, many citizens often bow to sumo wrestlers on the street as a sign of respect for their discipline.

Some have called sumo wrestling a dying art in Japan, and many of us know that when this kind of thing happens, the organizations overseeing a tradition try to hold on tighter to their old ways rather than adapt. More recent stories on the sumo world point out its secretive nature, part of which seems designed to cover up the violence that goes on inside.

Mark Buckton, a sumo expert and former commentator and columnist for Japan Times, told the BBC about a typical day:

“They do eat a lot. But what they do, which is crucial to them is, as soon as they’ve eaten, they go to sleep. They don’t eat anything for breakfast – they do all the training in the morning. They eat their lunch – they would have what you would have, maybe a bit more. But they would just eat it with large volumes of rice. Crucially they will then go to bed. They won’t wake up till mid-afternoon. Then they’ll eat again in the evening – they’ll eat a lot. And then they’ll go to bed quite early, because they’ll be up at 5, 6 o’clock in the morning training.”

While there are roughly 650 fighters, only about 60 are in the tier that gets paid. Everyone else trains and fights without financial compensation.

Things are more lucrative and lenient for the top-level wrestlers – they can marry and live outside the stable. But if they are injured and begin to lose and drop down to a lower tier, they must leave their wives and children and return to the stable!

Buckton also described the brutal conditions for fighters who do not meet the stable master’s standards:

“Oh, they are horrible. Before the boy was killed in 2007, there were regular beatings. You’d see guys with welts on their backs and on the backs of their legs, for not trying hard enough.”

Even champions recall the “kawaigari” or “doting” they experienced – violent beatings that can last as long as 45 minutes. According to Buckton:

“There is remarkable consistency in how the training, and the punishments, have been applied across the different stables and over the decades. This also means that when Harumafuji-style incidents happen, you don’t talk about them for the sake of preserving the group.”

It’s worth remembering when Westerners laugh off sumo wrestling. And it sounds like it’s time for things to change. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Inside the scandal-hit world of Japan’s sumo wrestlers” — BBC News