Season 2 | Episode 4 | “Baltimore” | Aired July 22, 2014
Drunk History creator and Baltimore native Derek Waters approves of the idea that Baltimore is a shoe. It’s scuffed and worn in, but it doesn’t need polishing, because all of those marks have stories to tell. What have we learned from those scuffs this week?
- Paget Brewster has at least one fabulous robe.
Is it zebra print? Is it hoping to one day achieve zebra print status? It’s great either way.
- Choose a signature accessory now, in case you ever need to go undercover.
If everyone recognizes you by your hat, disguising yourself is as easy as picking out a new hat. Abraham Lincoln (Martin Starr) learned that on the road to his Inauguration. To encourage goodwill, Lincoln went on a tour of the Southern states, working his way back toward Washington, D.C. His private security detail, Allan Pinkerton (Charlie Day), pulled together a dream team of Harry Davies (Preston Flagg) and Kate Warne (Adrianne Palicki), the first female detective in the history of the United States, to keep Lincoln safe.
When the team unearthed a plot to kill Lincoln in Baltimore, they replaced his stovepipe hat with a beanie. (“Lincoln says, ‘Sorry stovepipe, I gotta be incognito. I’ll see you soon.’”) Warne snuck Lincoln onto a train as her invalid brother, and they made it to Baltimore in the middle of the night. There, thanks to a noise ordinance, they actually had to hitch horses to the train car to pull it across town, only to be stuck at another station for an hour, surrounded by people who didn’t want Lincoln to be President. He was fine, though, because he was wearing a beanie.
- Stovepipes are easily confused with Pop-Tarts.
Brewster initially calls Lincoln’s preferred headwear a “Pop-Tart hat, or whatever that was.” Ten-year-olds everywhere now want to know how they can make the 16th President’s fashion sense work for them.
- Always try for the classiest negotiation.
When beloved local physician Dr. Beanes was taken captive on a British ship in the War of 1812, prominent Baltimore lawyer Francis Scott Key (Jeffrey Ross) asked President James Madison if he could appeal for Beanes’ release. Madison authorized Key to board the ship with prisoner exchange agent John Skinner, where they “wined and dined” the British soldiers until they agreed to let Beanes go free.
Over the course of their meetings, though, the men had overheard details of a British plot to attack Baltimore. Realizing how much Key and Skinner knew, the soldiers kept them locked below deck with Beales as they launched their bombardment. Key kept watch throughout the night, and when the sun rose and the smoke cleared, he could still see the American flag flying over Fort McHenry. Inspired, he began writing a poem. The British retreated and released their prisoners, and Key spent the night finishing what would later become the national anthem.
- The American national anthem is set to the tune of a drinking song.
Key’s brother-in-law liked “The Star-Spangled Banner” so much that he suggested putting it to music, and the tune he decided to repurpose was an old British drinking song. So basically, Francis Scott Key classed up everything he touched.
- Streets of gold are nothing compared to the real streets of the 1800s. (Real streets were better.)
According to narrator and comedian Duncan Trussell, “This is the 1800s. No one has any money. People were, like, sweeping the streets, and maybe you’d find, like, a crust of bacon, and you’d eat it.”
- Don’t mess with anyone who writes about ravens.
Edgar Allan Poe (Jesse Plemons) was a broke, disrespected writer when he met Rufus Griswold (Jason Ritter). Griswold was compiling a book of poetry, and he asked Poe for submissions, only to publish three poems by Poe and 50 by his friends. Griswold then had the nerve to offer Poe $100 for a review, assuming that Poe wouldn’t badmouth any collection that included his work. Poe took the money and wrote a scathing review, claiming that he was the only poet of the group who would ever be remembered. He insulted Griswold’s anthology at every stop in his tour across America.
The anthology succeeded anyway, and Poe returned home to find that Griswold had taken his job. Poe’s wife passed away around that time, and he spiraled, eventually dying after being found in a gutter in Baltimore. Griswold, clearly not big on dignity, took the opportunity to write an insulting biography of the poet, but that plan backfired. (“Everyone in America read this, and they were like, ‘Wait, what? Drunk, crazy guy who wrote about ravens? Where can I get this book? That sounds awesome.’”) Poe’s popularity soared after his death, and Griswold died alone, with a portrait of Edgar Allan Poe on the wall.
- None of this matters.
Trussell considers that his story ends with everyone dead and suddenly realizes he’s on a show that uses drunk narrators to tell history’s greatest stories—and that maybe one day we’ll ALL just be stories told by drunk people. “No one’s buying it, man. Forget it. We’re all getting sucked into the void.”
Jesse Plemons nails that moment when the fourth wall breaks, and Poe walks triumphantly into the “void” of the Drunk History set, and Charlie Day pulls off a stovepipe hat like a pro (Pop-Tarts not included). What did you know about Baltimore’s history before this week? Grab your best animal-print robe and talk about it.
Drunk History, rated TV-14, airs Tuesdays at 10/9C on Comedy Central.