Your Guide for When Travel Returns

What’s the antidote to a lonely 2020 holiday season? Planning a trip for 2021! No really: A recent study found that 97 percent of people say having a vacation planned boosts their mood. While we can’t advise you to buy tickets just yet, there are no cancellation fees for fantasizing about feeling the sun on your face, seeing your friends and getting back out in the world. Today’s Sunday Magazine is a deep dive into what’s next for the world of travel in the year ahead. We’re also laying out the 25 places you’ll (hopefully) go in the new year — stunning hotels for your bucket list, wild paradises and all the places you should make time for now. If the past year has taught us anything, it’s carpe diem.

travel trends

Nomad Vacancy. Remote work will remain the new normal in 2021 — but that doesn’t mean people need to stay at home. That’s the calculus driving an increasing number of nations, mostly island states, to offer pandemic-era remote-working visas and travel packages aimed at the work-from-anywhere crowd. These nations know they’re unlikely to draw traditional tourists in large numbers anytime soon, so they’re counting on remote workers to at least partly fill that void. Read More on OZY

Pleasure Flights. Forget cruises. After a year of not seeing the ground disappear below them, people who are used to traveling regularly have begun getting on planes again. Only these planes just fly around and return to their origin without ever reaching a new destination. With a new wave of border closings this month, such flights may gain even more purchase … and perks, like Eva Air’s in-flight speed dating.

New Passports. Get ready to pack a new set of documents as you travel: verification of vaccination and/or a negative COVID-19 test. About half of states require negative tests if you’re traveling within the U.S. while several airlines are requiring negative tests for any travelers arriving in New York from the U.K. And as the vaccines roll out, many countries are likely to require international travelers to prove their COVID-19 status, with apps like CommonPass taking on new prominence.

Road Trips. Still waiting on your shots and feeling uneasy about boarding a plane? Join the crowd. A majority of American travelers say they’ll choose driving over flying next year, and that they’ll focus on the great outdoors over cities. That means 2021 may be the perfect opportunity to take the road trip you’ve always wanted to.

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business survival strategies

Economy Plus. Recent decades have seen flying economy become increasingly uncomfortable, with once-standard features like meals, headphones and even bottled water slashed for those who can’t afford business class. But with airlines in dire straits after the industry’s worst year ever, they’re brainstorming strategies to make economy seating more luxurious, with bunk beds and jet-lag-reducing lighting. Read More on OZY

Taking the Walk Out of Walking Tours. Walking tour guides have seen their business dry up in 2020 as travel decreased. So they’ve pivoted accordingly, moving online and guiding the curious and homebound on virtual tours via the internet. That could mean a whole new income stream for these travel industry gig workers, who will likely see their in-person customer base return — but now have the resources to cater to faraway clients as well.

Living Wellness. Pre-pandemic, Georgia hotelier Valeri Chekheria’s establishments were the epitome of Eastern European cool. But in this unprecedented time, he’s betting that health and wellness will become paramount to travelers — and he’s planning a vertical urban farm and locally sourced food to appeal to a post-COVID-19 clientele. Read More on OZY

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bucket list hotels

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, Hayakawa, Japan. We like a hotel with history, and this one has the most. No, really, this ryokan — a traditional Japanese inn — is certified by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest hotel: It’s been open for more than 1,300 years and operated by the same family for 52 generations. It sources water from local hot springs for luxurious baths while offering beautiful mountain views and lavish Japanese dinners.

Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland. Maybe what you want after all this isolation is … more isolation? At least as long as it’s at this hotel on a remote Canadian island. The enormous windows give you an unparalleled view of the wild, cold ocean. Nature!

Grand Daddy, Cape Town, South Africa. OK, technically it’s a trailer park. But it’s unlike any trailer park you’ve ever seen: These seven Airstream trailers perched atop one of Cape Town’s most beautiful boutique hotels are like something out of an Instagram dream, each with a different theme (rooftop safari, anyone?). If you get claustrophobic, choose from among the hotel’s regular rooms.

Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico City. An art nouveau treasure, this building boasts an extraordinary Tiffany ceiling that you may want to stare at your entire vacation. When you do eventually venture outside, make sure to take a day trip to Mineral del Chico, a tiny former mining town now known for its stunning waterfalls.

The Witchery, Edinburgh, Scotland. This sumptuous Gothic building near Edinburgh Castle will make you feel like you’re in an interactive and very well-funded production of Macbeth. Which is why we stay in hotels, isn’t it? Dripping with brocade, candelabras and opulent bathtubs, every suite is unique — so you might want to book a night in each one.

Female cyclist carrying mountain bike on forest trail

Female cyclist carrying mountain bike on forest trail

unspoiled wildernesses

Mountain Bike in Colombia. Though the hills of this country were until recently the territory of militant rebels, recent peace treaties have opened them up for a thriving mountain-biking culture, as athletes rediscover the rustic Andean trails. Read More on OZY

Jungle Adventure. Is it really a vacation if you’re not on a remote island, tramping through deserted tropical forests? We’ll get back to you once we return from Praslin, one of the sleepier islands in the Seychelles archipelago. Kidding! We aren’t coming back.

Scale Sheer Rock. Malaysia’s Batu Caves are a pilgrimage site for Hindus all over the world. But just a couple of miles away, you’ll find eight limestone walls beloved by climbers: Chalk up your hands and scale the walls for unbeatable views. Read More on OZY

Rails Through Nowhere. Maybe you want a tiny bit of civilization with your wilderness. Maybe even … a train? Australia’s West Coast Wilderness Railway originally opened to help with local mining in Tasmania, but it’s been reincarnated as a way to explore the island’s rainforests and countryside. You can book routes that take a whole day or just a few hours. Then sit back, stare out the window and do a little daydreaming.

Forward … Marsh. Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp is a pop culture icon, the home of Walt Kelly’s Pogo comic strip and the setting for many a Burt Reynolds movie. But it’s also an extraordinary adventure — camping, canoeing and stargazing are all part of exploring the country’s largest blackwater swamp. Yes, there are alligators.

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overlooked cities

Salta, Argentina. Stuffed with gorgeous colonial architecture, the city is known as a departure point for renting a car and driving off to explore Argentina’s northwestern wildernesses. But you should spend some time here too — at the very least, it’s one of the best places on the planet to enjoy Quechan and Andean food.

Chiang Mai, Thailand. An intoxicating mix of modern buildings, classic temples and green landscapes, this northern city is also a great place to check out local elephant sanctuaries. (Skip the ones where you can ride an elephant: That’s inhumane, no matter how the resort owner tries to spin it.) Northern Thai food may be a little different from what you’re used to, but its spicy, funky flavors are unmissable — you’ll be craving khao soi for months after you leave. Oh, and did we mention elephants?

Boise, Idaho. This mountainous American outpost will be the new Denver in 10 years. Or is it the new Portland, Oregon? Either way, get to know it now while it’s still under the radar. The hiking is unbeatable — make sure to explore Table Rock — and if you time your visit right and the pandemic is over, you can catch a play at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.

Krakow, Poland. Like its hipper big sister Warsaw, Krakow is a bustling city. But it’s less Soviet-cool and more Prague-glamour, with incredible Gothic architecture and beautiful churches. Grab a plate of pierogi at Jama Michalikacafé (think of it as Poland’s version of Paris icon Les Deux Magots) and eavesdrop on your fellow diners’ intellectual conversations.

Accra, Ghana. The best place to start in the Ghanaian capital is Skybar because it gives you a panoramic view of the city. It’s also a great place to make new friends — and one thing we can almost guarantee is that in Accra, you will make friends — who will show you their favorite corners of this lively, generous city.

crazy experiences

Become a Paleontologist. Maybe you spent weeks of lockdown watching and rewatching Jurassic Park. Maybe you spent it doing some other, less fun thing. Either way, dinosaur hunting is everyone’s dream — and you can sign up to help out, even if you have no scientific training or are a child! Sign up for a week or just a few days to help contribute to research expeditions in the fossil-rich Bighorn Basin in Montana and Wyoming.

Raft the World’s Largest Waterfall. One of the most spectacular places on the planet, Victoria Falls, which straddles the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, is home to leopards, antelope, hippos, otters and honey badgers (remember them)? Pretty much any trip to the falls is worth it, but if you really want something to write home about, try a rafting trip for a day (or several).

Surfing’s New Frontier. Say goodbye to the overcrowded shores of Porto, grab your wetsuit and head for the new surfing hot spot of … Northern Ireland? Centered on the town of Portrush, the cold-water surfing scene here is heating up (metaphorically, not in a global warming way) with legendary waves and surf shops lining the beaches.

Be a Nanny to a Penguin. Hoping to reverse the decline of seabird populations around the world, the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds in Cape Town needs your help — and your hands. Take a volunteer vacation to help rear baby penguins hatched from abandoned eggs that have been brought to the center. Read More on OZY

Explore a Creepy Abandoned Theme Park. The Hồ Thuỷ Tiên Water Park was supposed to make a splashy opening almost two decades ago. But funding dried up and it never opened at all, leaving a nearly completed site deserted. Now it’s a popular exploration spot for Vietnam’s camera-happy tourists, who can get there via a short taxi ride from Hue. Read More on OZY

do this, not that

Instead of Pompeii, Try … Joya de Cerén. Frozen in time by a volcanic eruption around A.D. 630, this Maya village in Mexico is an archeological time capsule. So why isn’t it as famous as Pompeii? Maybe because it wasn’t discovered until the 1970s, when bulldozers building grain silos unearthed the houses. Read More on OZY

Instead of Buenos Aires, Try … Salvador, Brazil. Colorful and vibrant, with gorgeous classical architecture, Salvador, in Bahia state, has it all. Plus, it boasts unmatched cultural heritage and significance as the center of Afro-Brazilian life and the place where its religions and festivals are most preserved.

Instead of Lake Tahoe, Try … Issyk-Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan. With its seemingly endless shoreline and pristine views, this central Asian lake — the second-largest saline lake on the planet — is an established tourist destination for Russians. That means along with breathtaking scenery, you can find great beach parties and boating options. Read More on OZY.

Instead of Croatia, Try … Slovenia. All the Instagram influencers are in Split, Croatia, doing the yachting thing. But you don’t want to see influencers, you want to see scenery — and Slovenia has the superior version. More than half the country’s land is protected wilderness, more than any other country in the world. Read more on OZY.

Instead of New Orleans, Try … Goa. You want jazz? Head to India. Goa — known for its golden beaches and yoga retreats — is also historically the center of India’s jazz scene, thanks to a thriving traditional music culture, Portuguese influence and colonial schools that forced everyone to learn a musical instrument. Today, you can soak it in at an annual jazz festival. Read more on OZY.

The Woman Who Survived Two Years Alone in the Arctic

When rescuers came for Ada Blackjack, she was alone except for a cat named Victoria, or Vic for short. The pair were the only survivors of a quixotic five-person expedition to an Arctic island, with hopes of claiming the land for Canada. Instead, the land claimed the lives of four of the explorers.

Ada Delutuk was born in 1898, 60 years before Alaska became the 49th state, and grew up in the Inuit settlement of Spruce Creek, Alaska. When she was 8, her father died, and Ada was sent to a Methodist school in Nome, where she was taught enough English to read the Bible and how to clean houses and cook.

At 16, she married Jack Blackjack, but after six years and three children (only one of whom survived), their marriage dissolved. When Jack abandoned Ada, she and her 5-year-old son, Bennett, walked 40 miles from the Seward Peninsula to her mother’s house in Nome. Bennett was sickly and needed full-time medical care, so Ada took him to an orphanage while trying to earn enough money to provide for her son by sewing for the prospectors who were the lifeblood of the violent and rough-edged Alaskan city.

That was when she first heard of Wrangel Island, a dot in the Arctic Ocean north of Siberia thought to be the last place on earth where woolly mammoth had survived. An expedition was planned, and its organizers were looking for an Alaska Native to serve as cook and seamstress. In 1913, Icelandic-Canadian explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson had launched an ill-fated expedition to the island: His ship was crushed by ice and the crew had to walk across the island before being rescued. Half of them perished.

One of the survivors was American Fred Maurer, and in 1921 Stefansson organized a second expedition to see whether the island could be claimed for the British Empire as a strategically important airstrip (and profitable walrus-hunting and fur-trapping ground). Maurer was joined by two other Americans, Milton Galle and Errol Lorne Knight, and Canadian Allan Crawford. Ada Blackjack was hired to cook and to sew survival gear for $50 a month. They sailed to Wrangel aboard the Victoria, with a gray kitten they dubbed Vic. Once on the island, the four men raised the Union Jack and officially claimed the land for King George.

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Ada Blackjack with the crew for the second expedition to Wrangel Island and Vic the cat.

None of the group, including Ada, who barely reached 5 feet tall, possessed much in the way of wilderness skills. They built a house out of driftwood and blocks of snow, and the men spent their days hiking and collecting scientific data. After a few weeks, Ada’s behavior became erratic — she refused to work, convinced that some of her companions wanted to kill her. She occasionally ran away and had to be retrieved, or she tried to follow the men on their expedition, both symptoms of a condition known as Arctic hysteria.

Determined to survive, she learned how to kill seals … and built a gun rack above her bed in case polar bears ventured too close.

Months passed and the promised rescue ship with fresh supplies and more colonists never appeared. Back home, Stefansson was having trouble raising the funds to send a boat. The ship he did manage to send, the Teddy Bear, had to turn back before reaching the island due to foul weather, thus missing the yearly window before the island became too iced in to reach. By early 1923, the situation at the camp was dire. Knight — already suffering from scurvy — and Crawford attempted to cross the ice via sled to seek help, but had to turn back. In January, leaving Knight in Ada’s care, Crawford, Galle and Maurer tried again — it would be the last time the three men were seen alive. Alone and tending to a sick man, Ada taught herself to shoot and set traps, turning carcasses into broth for Knight when his gums were too tender to chew solid food. She even experimented with building a boat from animal skins, as she had seen the prospectors in Spruce Creek do. On June 23, despite Ada’s care, Knight died.

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In the months that followed, Ada left a daily note in Galle’s old Corona typewriter, recording her activities in case she died before the trio returned. “I’m going to the other side of the harbar mouth do some duck hunding,” read one. “I thank god for living,” read another. Determined to survive, Ada learned how to kill seals, using their skins for shoes, and built a gun rack above her bed in case polar bears ventured too close to camp.

On Aug. 19, nearly two years after the Victoria first landed, help arrived — Stefansson had finally mustered the funds for a relief expedition. The crew of the Donaldson came ashore expecting to find the five explorers. Instead, they found only Ada, who sobbed and asked them to take her back to Alaska, where she was reunited with her son.

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Back in Nome, as the families of Maurer, Crawford and Galle clamored for an investigation into the men’s fates, Ada became something of a celebrity, hailed in the press as a heroine on par with Robinson Crusoe. And then the press turned on her, suspicious of the fact that Knight had died in her care — even as his family, with whom she’d formed a bond, defended her. Ada and her song moved to the Pacific Northwest and, later, to the Aleutian Islands, where she lived well into her 80s. One month after Ada died, the Alaska Legislature honored her for “bravery and heroic deeds.”

As for Wrangel Island, two years after the botched expedition, the Canadian and British governments announced that they had no interest whatsoever in the territory.

He’s Helping Wounded Warriors Game Again

In 10 years, Ken Jones would like to be out of business. In an ideal world, his small business would run out of customers and be consigned to history. But it’s not going to happen.

A mechanical engineer by training, Jones stumbled on his calling in 2012 while visiting a friend at Maryland’s Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, America’s most famous Army hospital. He was visiting his friend every few weeks and began talking to the center’s head of occupational therapy, Erik Johnson, who asked if Jones could modify a video game controller. One of the soldiers in recovery was dealing with nerve damage in his hand and couldn’t pull the controller’s trigger the way he had before he was injured.

Ken Jones

Jones, a lifelong gamer himself, had a 17-year-old daughter at the time, and seeing teenage soldiers who needed him wasn’t something he could ignore. “You’re looking at somebody who could be your own kid,” he says. “It was tough.” He’d never tried to modify a controller before, but he was able to adapt one to be something the soldier could use.

Then another soldier needed help. Then another, and another. The veterans — young men, mostly — were avid gamers who wanted to play while in recovery so they could lose themselves in the activity. “We slowly start chipping away at the injuries and getting these guys playing again,” Jones, 55, said. Johnson, who’d been using gaming as occupational therapy since the advent of the Wii, told him it helped: The recovering veterans showed improvement in their moods and attitudes. Soon Jones was meeting with several veterans a week while working on their controllers. Eventually, he gave the initiative a name: Warfighter Engaged.

Today, WFE is a volunteer-run charity that helps disabled vets at Walter Reed, Brooke Army Medical Center or in their homes, providing adapted devices for free. They also sell standardized pieces and parts that make it possible for civilians with disabilities like muscular dystrophy to adapt their own controllers. The revenue allows the business to keep building free rigs for any veteran who wants one — Jones estimates they do about one per week. “We don’t get a lot of donations, and we don’t ask for a lot of donations,” he says, but that means that when they run out of money, they dig into their own pockets to keep it going. “It’s important that we keep doing this, and we know that.” When he’s not working, Jones spends time with his two kids — one has now taken on a role with WFE.

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WFE is a volunteer-run charity that helps disabled vets at Walter Reed, Brooke Army Medical Center or in their homes, providing adapted devices for free.

“[Ken]’s got a huge heart,” Johnson says. And his engineering background — primarily in defense, although his engagement with veterans began during those visits to Walter Reed — has proven invaluable to the cause.

The WFE team is still small after eight years of operation — just five people, about half of them veterans themselves — and Jones stays up till 2 or 3 a.m. some nights in his workshop to build the machines. Some of the adaptations are simple modifications while others are massive rigs, controllers the size of tabletops with joysticks replaced with giant buttons or paddles. Despite years of experience, Jones still has to work with each injury individually — missing a hand can mean different things for different gamers, depending on exactly what’s missing, the degree of nerve damage and the extent of remaining mobility. Johnson, who’s also a member of the WFE team, explains that even though many are skeptical that games often set in war zones are beneficial for veterans — and cautions that every person is different — they often allow the vets to feel in control of a combat environment in a way that’s impossible in a real-life battle scenario.

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Johnson explaining the WFE rigs to conference attendees.

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While gaming may seem like a mere pastime for the wounded, it’s actually considered constructive therapy. A 2018 study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine found that veterans who play games, many of whom suffer from PTSD, derive several psychological benefits. Games are often social for one thing, and they help former soldiers stay calm and feel engaged and in their element again.

What’s more, WFE has helped inspire broader change in the gaming industry. In 2016, Microsoft held a hackathon and asked Jones for ideas of what innovations he might need. The project they collaborated on became the adaptive controllers for the XBox, which Microsoft started selling in 2018. Jones’ 25-year-old daughter now works in Microsoft’s accessibility department, while also helping out with WFE.

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Jones’ daughter with Johnson.

Jones says he hopes someday there won’t be any need for Warfighter — that kids will stop getting maimed in combat and he’ll have provided a controller to every single person who needs one. He knows, however, that won’t happen, so he keeps going.

“They try to honor veterans, they bring them to parades and barbecues and bring them onstage and do all this fanfare … to have people honor their service and their injuries,” Jones says. “But when they get back to their rooms, they still have no arms or legs, and there’s nothing they can do. So the ability to just turn a game on and forget about their injuries and hang out with their buddies online … that’s one of the most important things.”

Stop Eating Batteries Already

One of the strangest characters of the 20th century was France’s Monsieur Mangetout, born Michael Lotito, who would eat anything put in front of him except bananas, which he detested. He ate bicycles, grocery carts, chandeliers, the glass in which his beer was served and even, over the course of two years, an entire Cessna airplane. When the Guinness World Records awarded him a plaque for having the strangest diet, he ate that too.

Not every child will grow up to become a Guinness World Records holder. But children do have one thing in common with Lotito: They’ll eat absolutely anything, even things that are toxic. And that problem is only getting worse. In fact, according to a recent study published in Pediatrics

Cases of young children eating batteries increased 150-fold from 1995 to 2015.

Batteries aren’t the most commonly eaten item (that’s coins), and they still represent just 6.8 percent of cases in which a kid ingests something they shouldn’t. But batteries were the second most common item eaten by kids who had to be admitted to a hospital (the first was coins again, and yes, it’s worse to eat a quarter than a dime).

So why are so many more kids eating batteries now than in the ’90s? It’s not that kids have gotten more reckless. Instead, you can blame the rise of adorable button batteries, which have been around for decades but are now in a lot of common electronic devices kids might find around the house. Upward of 85 percent of the kids who ate batteries ingested the button variety, which tend to be easy to fit in one’s mouth but can lodge in a kid’s throat and secrete toxic compounds.

It’s not just batteries that are on the rise: Altogether, incidents in which children younger than 6 ate something they shouldn’t have increased by more than 91 percent during the 20-year study. In 2016, more than 67,000 people called poison control to report such an event.

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Cases of young children eating batteries increased 150-fold from 1995 to 2015.

While these figures were collected years before COVID-19, the pandemic has likely made things even worse, says Anthony Green, chief advocacy and network officer for Safe Kids Worldwide. “It’s the nature of the home these days — with the parents at home, the kids at home, parents having to do two jobs and kids being kids,” he says. “Kids are natural detectives. And especially when they’re young, they use their fingers and they use their mouth as detective devices.” Everyone being stuck inside and parents likely distracted by work is a recipe for kids getting into trouble — and now the holiday season, with its battery-filled gifts and even greeting cards, threatens to intensify the situation still further.

Some companies are trying to do something about this: Duracell is now coating its button batteries with a compound that tastes bitter to discourage children from eating them — much as Nintendo has been doing since 2017 with its little Switch cartridges. One wonders though how much effect this will have — it’s not like batteries traditionally taste good, and if the Tide Pod challenge taught us anything, it’s that people will eat stuff that tastes disgusting once they’re committed to the exercise. Another study from 2010 found that not only are battery ingestions increasing, but those incidents are becoming more likely to end in death or a severe medical event, partly because of a trend toward higher-voltage lithium cells.

Of course, any such study is limited. Because the data used here was sourced from emergency departments, it didn’t capture cases where a child swallowed something and went to see their pediatrician, or where they never went to see a doctor at all. Still, this isn’t just a case of modern parents having no chill when it comes to their kids swallowing something. Button batteries can also cause longer-lasting gastric damage if they’re not removed swiftly — within 12 hours, according to researchers.

Parents can try to mitigate the situation, Green says, by making sure any batteries or devices containing batteries are out of the reach of kids. While regulation on things like child-resistant packaging can help, he says, it has to work in concert with individual awareness. Of course, you could always try the experiment he attributes to one children’s hospital, which illustrated the danger of batteries to children by sticking a button battery on a piece of baloney and watching as the meat blackened and disintegrated around it.

Toronto’s Depression-Era Baby Race

There are all sorts of terrible reasons to have a baby: You want to placate your in-laws, keep up with your friends or save a failing relationship. Maybe you’re allergic to pets.

Or maybe because someone will give you more than a thousand times your yearly salary to do it.

What kind of person would make such an offer? Meet Charles Vance Millar, whose death was the starting gun for the Stork Derby. A bachelor lawyer and financier who had made millions from investments, the Ontario native kicked the bucket at the age of 73, in 1926. He was known for his quirky — some might say jerky — sense of humor, which was on full display in his will. Millar left shares in a brewery to temperance-supporting Protestant ministers and bequeathed a house to three men who disliked one another while specifying that if any sold his share, the cash had to be given to the city of Kingston to distribute to its poor. But Millar’s most lasting contribution to humanity was what came to be known as the Stork Derby: Once he was done tweaking various noses, he bestowed the remainder of his estate, 10 years later, to the “the Mother who has since my death given birth in Toronto to the greatest number of children.” In the event of a tie, the winners would split the money. The race was on.

Keep in mind that the contest began in the boom years of the 1920s and encompassed the worst of the Great Depression, so Millar’s estate, worth about $750,000 at the time (or more than 1,100 times an annual minimum-wage salary), was a matter of life or death for many families. And even though the derby took place in a pre-birth-control age, when regulating fertility was far more difficult than today, women still tried to avoid unplanned pregnancies. Canada’s fertility rate dropped significantly between 1926 and 1936, from 3.36 births per woman to 2.7. It wouldn’t recover to 1926 levels until the postwar period. Economic depression tends to put a damper on all sorts of expensive things: weddings, divorces, having kids.

There’s not much evidence that the women who eventually profited from Millar’s capricious bequest were even trying to compete — they just birthed a bunch of kids during that decade. One winning family had 12 children altogether (though only nine were born during the 10-year period in question) and another had 18. At least one of the winners told journalists they hadn’t really thought about the competition until it was nearly over. Banking on the inheritance would have been a pretty risky move — especially considering what happened when it came time to collect.

When Halloween 1936 rolled around, the day the winning family was set to collect the cash, suddenly lawyers got involved. First, Millar had distant relatives who were eager to get their hands on the dough and none too thrilled about it going to some random (enormous) family. Second, there were moralizing Torontonians who thought Millar’s bequest itself was immoral. “What infuriated the middle class of the city,” wrote Gerald E. Thomson in 2000, “was the fact that many of the competing mothers were on relief and that the leading contestants were of Italian/Irish ethnic extraction.” Around the same time, many states in the U.S. held “better babies” contests, in which medical professionals judged infants according to physical health and appearance — a fad designed to promote wellness but that played into the eugenics movement. Millar’s own relatives sought to make yet another moral argument: By not explicitly excluding babies born out of wedlock, they said, Millar was encouraging sinful behavior and his will ought to be tossed out altogether.

Charles Vance Millar

Then there were the families seeking to collect what they thought was their due. The New York Times — which reported on the story breathlessly in the late ’30s — counted 17 entrants to the race, and 14 eventually filed claims for the money. But it was unclear from Millar’s will which babies counted for the purposes of the inheritance, and judges were forced to adjudicate. Two unfortunate participants were pregnant when the contest closed and therefore unable to deliver before the appointed hour. Six women emerged to claim the prize, two of whom were disqualified from the winner’s circle. Pauline Clarke admitted that five of her 10 children had been born after she and her husband separated, while the judge refused to count the multiple stillbirths among the 11 times Lillian Kenny gave birth. These two also-rans were given $12,500 apiece in a settlement, while the four left standing — each of whom had given birth nine times — split the remainder of the prize: $125,000 per family. Numerous appeals followed, eventually winding their way to Canada’s Supreme Court, but ultimately the recipients got to keep the cash.

While he was alive, Charles Vance Millar was known for his practice of placing a dollar bill on the sidewalk in front of the Queen’s Hotel, then hiding behind his newspaper on the building’s veranda to watch whoever found it and observe their response. The Stork Derby was, in its way, the same trick writ large. Millar just wasn’t around to watch.

These Women Are on the Move

Nothing can stop the march of progress — not even 2020. Read on to learn about the trends and future paradigms driven by America’s most fascinating female CEOs and entrepreneurs, the women who are shaping the world for the next decade. They include big data mavens hoping to solve world hunger, fashionistas making Paris couture more inclusive … and a $10 billion fund for women entrepreneurs, to name a few.

how women are gearing up for success

Lending a Hand

Small businesses have a rough time in the best of climates, and that applies even more to those run by female entrepreneurs — particularly during a historic downturn like today. To try to tip the scales back a bit in favor of businesswomen, JPMorgan Chase has established a $10 billion funding commitment to help those who are struggling, explains managing director Samantha Saperstein. By carefully managing cash flow — and with a little help — small business owners stand a better chance of surviving. Still, more foundational change will be needed to ensure that female entrepreneurs get their fair share: Last year, just 2.6 percent of U.S. venture capital investment went to all-female teams. 

Read more on OZY 

Top Jobs

For the first time, the U.S. will have a female vice president in Kamala Harris. Early exit polls indicated that 91 percent of Black women voted for the Biden-Harris ticket, propelling Harris into the history books. More women are expected to fill seats in Biden’s cabinet: Names floated for secretary of commerce, for example, include former DreamWorks chair Mellody Hobson and erstwhile presidential candidate Meg Whitman. Other top cabinet contenders include former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Rep. Karen Bass and Rep. Deb Haaland.  

Frau Now 

German authorities have already required that 30 percent of supervisory boards be female — and now government officials are pushing for more, with potential legislation that would require top companies to include at least one woman on executive teams of four or more people. Quotas have worked for Norway, if slowly: After it became the first country to institute boardroom gender quotas in 2008, it’s now best in Europe in terms of gender-balanced leadership at top firms. Germany doesn’t even break the top 10 … yet. Read on OZY about Germany’s only female soccer boss.

Demanding Better

Even before COVID-19, Florida’s unemployment system was notoriously user-unfriendly, with a dated website and few receiving benefits. But that became a lot more urgent for more Americans this year, so three Sunshine State women in their 50s, Laura Tweed, Aimee Matz and Tami Bohm, banded together to form a volunteer network that’s now helped more than 50,000 Floridians troubleshoot their unemployment applications on the way to receiving the state benefits many desperately need.

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the business of upheaval

The Coronavirus Gender Gap

Still, women in business have been dealt a terrible hand this year: The pandemic has disrupted everyone’s lives, but women’s jobs have landed on the chopping block far more quickly than men’s. In August and September, 865,000 women left the U.S. workforce — nearly four times the number of men. And about half the women and non-binary people who called themselves “highly likely” to start a company before the pandemic have now scrapped those plans

How Women Are Solving Inequalities

The rate of maternal mortality among Black Americans is as much as four times higher than that of their white peers, and Black women have a 40 percent higher breast cancer mortality rate. That’s not because disease discriminates according to skin color, but because systemic inequality in the U.S. is amplified in the health care system — and four Black female health care CEOs have launched a call to action, raising the alarm about the huge consequences of this discrimination and calling on all Americans to remedy it. 

Should There Be Parental Leave to Gestate … a Business?

Research on Canadian women who took maternity leave found that they were more likely to start their own businesses — even while raising a newborn. Now places like Tunisia and Sweden are experimenting with giving employees time off to pursue new business ideas in a bid to boost the startup scene. It might be a tougher sell in the U.S., which is still the only developed nation with no national parental leave policy, much less an entrepreneur-nity leave policy.

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How to Change Your Mine

As long as we use metals and minerals in everything from coins to smartphones, mining will be a fact of life. But it doesn’t have to be the same old mining: Two female entrepreneurs in Mexico are trying to change the sector by convincing mining operations to be certified as socially, environmentally and ethically responsible companies. If this catches on, it could go a long way toward changing the public perception of mining as a business of exploitation — both of workers and of natural resources.  

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Go North, Young Woman

North Dakota may not seem like the most hospitable terrain — but for women-owned businesses, it is. Towns like Williston, North Dakota, were once dominated by the super-macho oil industry, but through targeted support this community grew its number of female-led businesses from three to 58 in just three years. That’s not just good for women in business, but for the small community itself: Female-owned small businesses like health food stores and art shops have helped keep Williston’s money circulating in the local economy instead of getting vacuumed up by big outside companies.

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businesswomen to know

Cash Her if You Can

Investment expert Afsaneh Beschloss reached the upper echelon at the World Bank and JPMorgan Chase before starting her own firm. Still, the Iranian-born dynamo said on The Carlos Watson Show that she wishes she had actually worked a little less hard. “If I had done 20 percent less, it would have been equally good,” she says. “So that extra 20 percent, that really puts a lot of stress and takes away from love and family and other things that we love doing.” But there are ways the U.S. should be working harder too, she says, with the pandemic raising the possibility that American kids out of school for months could fall behind their global peers.  

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Farming for Data

Numbers control everything — even the food we eat and the ways we grow it. That’s why Ethiopian-born commodities trader Sara Menker thought it was notable that agriculture didn’t have a unified data platform. So she built exactly that, headquartered in New York with an office in Nairobi. So far, Gro has raised $40 million with its pitch of uniting farmers and traders in their quest to profit by crunching the numbers. But Menker’s ambitions stretch beyond that: She sees the platform as a way to fight world hunger or climate change.   

The Queen of Crypto

What happens to your bitcoin when you die? Ask Marie-Antoinette Tichler, a late-blooming cryptocurrency fanatic whose reputation as “CryptOprah” began when her grown son turned her on to the trend. When her husband died, the former Air Force recruit launched her own startup for digital asset management, to help others make sure their bitcoin is as well-secured and aboveboard as the rest of their money. 

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Hair, There and Everywhere

One of America’s first female millionaires, beauty mogul Annie Malone and her “Wonderful Hair Grower” aimed at Black women are nearly forgotten today. Still, she’s left a lasting legacy: Her door-to-door business model filtered down through Avon ladies, she was an early mentor of Madam C.J. Walker — and she expended much of her $14 million empire on beauty colleges and charity work in her hometown of St. Louis.

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Paris Fashion Strong

Lisa Gachet’s fashion aesthetic couldn’t be less classically black-turtleneck Parisian: Her clothes are colorful and fun while her business philosophy prioritizes inclusive sizing and DIY. If you don’t want to buy the clothes she makes, you can instead stock up on patterns and make them yourself, and Gachet’s made offering classes to turn you into a better seamstress part of her business model. And yes, the dresses have pockets.

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The Firebrand Behind a Parisian Feminist Movement

  • Marguerite Stern has taken Paris by storm with her movement to create street art protesting the harassment of women.
  • But Stern’s views on trans women have drawn pushback, and in response, she’s formed a splinter group.

Stand on almost any street in Paris and you’re likely to see a message from Les Colleuses. “Nine out of 10 rape victims know their attacker.” “In France, a femicide every two days.” “Our anger on your walls.”

These messages are from France’s newest feminist art movement, one that anyone can participate in. All you need is glue and something to say. Women across Paris, Europe and the rest of the world have connected to the method of expression pioneered by the movement’s founder, 29-year-old radical feminist Marguerite Stern. But that doesn’t mean they like everything she has to say.

Born near Auvergne, Stern didn’t learn about feminism growing up. When she moved to Paris at age 18, she was startled by the city’s culture of street harassment — a 2015 survey found that 100 percent of French women had been harassed on public transit.

When we put the collages in the streets, it’s like we’re screaming. We just put our screams on the walls.

Marguerite Stern

Around the same time, Ukrainian feminist activist Inna Shevchenko, exiled from Kiev for her public support of the arrested members of punk band Pussy Riot, took up residence in France. Shevchenko, a leader of Femen, a prominent feminist group, began leading protests in France, which was how Stern learned the power of performance art for a cause. Five days after meeting some Femen activists, she was in the street with them, baring her slogan-covered breasts.

In 2015, Stern had to take a break. After the shootings at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Femen activists, ideologically allied with Hebdo in seeing Islam and the veil as incompatible with feminist values, began getting death threats. Stern had also been jailed for a month in Tunisia for protesting bare-breasted there. She moved to a refugee camp — France’s Calais “Jungle” — to teach French to newcomers.

After that, Stern moved to Marseille, which is where she started gluing messages to walls. She wanted to do something in the streets, where those who might never attend a feminist meeting would see the slogans. Inspired by the black-and-white scribbles of artist Pierre Soulages and by the slogans of suffragettes, Stern created a style designed to be easily replicable by anyone; all it took was materials. The art is striking, with large-scale collages and long messages that often take up most of a wall. “We as women are always told that we are not powerful enough to make big things,” Stern says. “The streets are a space where as a woman you are not allowed to be loud. When we put the collages in the streets, it’s like we’re screaming. We just put our screams on the walls.”

After six months of Stern’s gluing by herself, the movement spread. Thousands of women are now working on the project in Paris, and Stern has heard from groups in Portugal, India, China, Turkey and Canada who are using the same techniques. In Paris, other groups are jumping on the bandwagon, with messages about veganism or Uighur repression. Stern doesn’t mind: Les Colleuses doesn’t have a rigid hierarchy, she says, and she doesn’t feel the need to control what other people put on walls.

That attitude may not be reciprocated, though. Stern is what feminists in the U.K. have come to refer to as a TERF, or trans-exclusionary radical feminist. A recent Instagram post of hers depicted a wall collage reading “I stand with J.K. Rowling,” the British author whose transphobic comments have caused an uproar. Stern’s explanation has to do with the idea that entrenched gender roles are a prison: She sees trans women who wear skirts or high heels as reproducing damaging stereotypes that are a tool of patriarchy. While she has said that trans people should have “the same rights” as others, Stern has also advocated for excluding them from feminist spaces meant to be for women.

FRANCE-ASSAULT-FIREFIGHTER-TRIAL-WOMEN-RIGHTS

Marguerite Stern (front row, third from left) and other Femen members protesting in September.

Source CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP via Getty

Other members of Les Colleuses, like Camille Lextray, who has taken a leadership role in the movement as Stern has retreated, have been vocal in their support of trans women, refusing to break something as complex as gender down to mere biology. “What makes us women is how we define ourselves. We recognize ourselves in what society identifies as a woman,” Lextray told Marianne magazine in August. And Stern’s attitude is reflective of a disturbing national trend: A report from SOS Homophobie found that violence against trans and nonbinary people in France increased 130 percent from 2018 to 2019.  

“Many feminists in France believe that trans people have no place in women’s spaces and women’s struggles,” says Emmanuel Beaubatie, a researcher at the French Institute for Demographic Studies. “[But] trans activism is based mainly on the legacy of feminist struggles, namely the demand for the right to have one’s own body. Many feminists have understood this well, but some resistance persists.” Beautbatie points out that this isn’t the first time a feminist movement has excluded marginalized people. “On many occasions, Black women excluded from feminist mobilizations have already asked the question: ‘Ain’t I a woman?’ This question is now asked by trans women.”

To Stern, the opposition from other feminist collagists is “patriarchal,” and she continues to glue messages to walls in public spaces several times a week. Her new group, L’Amazone, explicitly excludes transgender women and also maintains a strict anti-sex-work position, controversial in French feminism. She has published a how-to handbook for activists, Heroines of the Streets, that she hopes will offer tools to other women advocating for radical feminism.

Stern’s position on trans activism may seem retrograde to other feminists, and her next project may be just as out of step with the times. She’s looking for indoor spaces where cis women can gather, even as rules against large groups mount in a country beset by the second wave of COVID-19. “I prefer to find a big space where we can socially distance,” Stern says. “Because I think to act together we really need to meet. You can’t build a movement by WhatsApp groups or Zoom meetings; you need to see each other in real life.” 

When the Confederacy Helped Launch Vote-By-Mail

  • The first widespread use of vote-by-mail was for Civil War soldiers.
  • The Confederacy led the way, while adoption by Union states ran into all kinds of political and legal challenges.

As of Oct. 22, the U.S. Postal Service reported that 48,000 military absentee ballots had been returned — a 45 percent increase from the same date in 2016. And with an anticipated 1 in 5 military ballots going to the key swing state of Florida, those votes could end up deciding the election.

But in a very real sense, military votes have already been key in deciding the 2020 election, more dependent on mail-in ballots than any before it. Because military votes were responsible for making widespread mail-in ballots a legal reality in the first place, in an election 156 years ago.

While it wasn’t the first instance of voting by mail in America — that came ahead of the War of 1812 but was limited to Pennsylvania, and happened a few years later in New Jersey as well — the Civil War marked the advent of the right to a postal vote for a large population. At the time, suffrage was extremely limited in the U.S.: Only white men could vote, though previous requirements that they own property to be eligible had been slowly abolished over the decades preceding the war.

Then, as now, the roots of the conflict were likely more political than procedural.

The South was actually the trendsetter here: In the election of 1861, five of the 11 Confederate states allowed absentee ballots from soldiers, and over the next few years all but Texas would follow suit, according to historian Wilfred Buck Yearns. Another Confederate consideration as the war wore on was how to allow people who had fled their home states to vote, as more and more territory was occupied by the Union.

Confederate states were largely single party, though, and the Union’s path to mail-in voting was significantly more contentious. As the war began, Pennsylvania was the only state that allowed absentee ballots from soldiers, and even that saw constitutional challenges. “While the natural inclination of most citizens and elected officials was to secure the right to vote for soldiers fighting for their country, ” writes military expert Donald Inbody in The Soldier Vote, “when efforts to enfranchise those soldiers began, many states found that their own constitutions posed barriers.” Several state constitutions seemed to specify that voting required someone’s physical presence at a meeting, and certain concerns revolved around the possibility of election fraud should a ballot arrive by mail with no possibility for local election officials to verify who had filled it out.

The midterm elections of 1862 made it clear that this would be a big issue, allowing 20 Union states time to legalize forms of absentee balloting in advance of the 1864 presidential election. In some cases that meant sending election officials to personally collect ballots from military encampments and field hospitals. Some states, like Nevada — which became a state just nine days before the election took place, in perhaps the ultimate October surprise, were able to adjust easily while others had more trouble.

But then, as now, the roots of the conflict were likely more political than procedural. Amendments to state constitutions and new laws were routinely supported by Republican legislators and opposed by Democratic ones. Soldiers were thought to be a voting bloc largely supportive of incumbent President Abraham Lincoln, rather than his Democratic challenger, Gen. George McClellan, whose party officially advocated for brokering peace with the Confederacy, though the former Union commander himself favored continuing the war.

Abraham Lincoln Douglas Debate

Abraham Lincoln speaking during one of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Charleston, Illinois, Sept. 18, 1858.

Lincoln clearly thought that having soldiers vote would be in his interest. “Indiana is the only important State, voting in October, whose soldiers cannot vote in the field,” he wrote to Gen. William T. Sherman in September 1864. “Any thing you can safely do to let her soldiers, or any part of them, go home and vote at the State election, will be greatly in point. They need not remain for the Presidential election, but may return to you at once.”

Soldier furloughs to vote were politicized too. Some accused political rivals of granting such leave only to soldiers who shared their political views, while there’s some evidence that soldiers from states that allowed for absentee ballots were annoyed that their chance at a furlough was curtailed because they didn’t need to go home to vote. While an estimated 1 million soldiers were serving at the time, only about 150,000 were able to vote absentee — and of those, 78 percent broke for Lincoln, who was reelected.

After the war, the issue lay dormant until World War I, when soldiers again needed to vote from the field — this time from overseas. Certain civilians, too, won the right to vote when far from home if their jobs kept them out of town: Traveling salesmen and railroad workers were among the constituencies lobbying for the right. Widespread mail voting for civilians became a political issue in the 1970s, with Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington switching almost entirely to mail voting in recent years. Now, not only can soldiers vote from overseas, but astronauts are able to vote from space.

And despite increased politicization of the right to vote by mail, it’s a right a large majority of Americans support, with 73 percent saying anyone should be able to vote by mail according to a poll conducted at the end of August. Lincoln would concur.

The Election Podcast Trying to Get Everyone to Stop Listening

At this point in an election cycle, is thinking about politics ever fun? Does it bring you joy? Do you do it on purpose? It’s hard for those of us who work in professions where reading the news all day is a requirement, but some people must enjoy it, even in these Turbulent Times.

I am not one of those people. I do not bring my work home, even though I do all of my work from home. I try not to spend any leisure time thinking about The News. My “recently listened to” podcast slate is all sassy historical figures and in-depth dissections of romance novels.

epm_KEYART_1500

Oh, and a politics podcast in which the three hosts place bets with their own money on political outcomes via PredictIt.

Election Profit Makers, hosted by David Rees (the genius behind cult comic “Get Your War On”), longtime radio favorite Starlee Kine and investor Jon Kimball, has a simple premise: Put your money where your punditry is. The hosts throw their dollars at the outcomes they predict (Kimball) and the ones they desire (Kine).

Co-host Starlee Kine

“I won’t buy any shares in any scenario involving Trump winning,” says Kine, “This is where Jon and I diverge. But betting on PredictIt does really help me cope, in, I hope, a healthy way. The Electoral College market is still cheap enough to feel like playing … solitaire, something to do when you need to zone out. And because there are no personalities attached to it, just numbers, I can lose myself in it more; [I] almost forget what those numbers represent.”

It works for listeners too. This election cycle has felt less like a horse race than many past ones. Although the news still focuses on the polls, it also seems to acknowledge that treating politics like a game might not be the best approach in a world that has been bowled over by the tsunami that is 2020. Election Profit Makers allows a touch of that gamesmanship back in — and it’s a welcome break from the grief and exhaustion many people are experiencing after an election cycle that feels like it’s lasted 1,500 days.

It’s eye-opening to listen to a podcast that began in early March, hearing what Rees, Kine and Kimball — three smart, perceptive people — thought was going to happen. One prediction Kine is particularly annoyed about that turned out to be accurate: Kimball guessed that Joe Biden would be the nominee. “I have like two shares of Bernie that I must have bought in the first weeks we started recording. They’re worthless, I can’t even sell them for a penny,” she says. “But having them comforts me, makes me feel like the fight is still being fought.”

But that’s not the only thing that makes Election Profit Makers a singular experience. It may be the first podcast actively trying to keep people from listening: Audience members who donate money to a voting rights organization earn the right to ban someone from listening to the podcast, and Kine, Rees and Kimball have raised more than $20,000. They can’t actually keep anyone from listening (or can they? Have I been banned? I may never know), but the stated goal is to have zero listeners by Nov. 2, possibly so nobody will ever know if they lost as much money on 2020 as they did on 2016.

The Disease That Almost Felled Abraham Lincoln

Friday’s stunning news about President Donald Trump contracting the coronavirus raised all sorts of questions about the pandemic, the impending election, the global economy and national security. Could there be a worse time to fall prey to a potentially fatal illness? Yes. Just ask Abraham Lincoln, who fought smallpox in the middle of the Civil War.

On the train back from giving his Gettysburg Address in November 1863, Lincoln started to feel the symptoms: a nasty headache, so bad he had to lie down. He was sick for a month at least, and while he wasn’t on official quarantine, visitors were sparse in those weeks and actually banned during the worst of the disease in late November.

There was a not-great vaccine for smallpox at the time, now famous as the only infectious disease that’s ever been completely eradicated from the earth, but it’s not clear Lincoln ever received it. Despite his struggles, the historical record indicates that Lincoln’s doctors assured him (and the nation, still at war) that his was a mild form of the disease known as varioloid, which killed far fewer people who contracted it. All staff and residents of the White House were vaccinated after the president’s diagnosis. He remained in good spirits, reportedly joking that at last he could satisfy all his White House visitors as he had “something he could give to everybody.”

A 2007 analysis of his symptoms concluded Lincoln likely had a serious case of the disease.

We can never know what might have happened if Lincoln had died in 1863, with the nation still split in two. The Battle of Gettysburg that July is now seen as the war’s turning point, but Lincoln had yet to even issue the Emancipation Proclamation when he fell ill. A 2007 analysis of his symptoms in the Journal of Medical Biography concluded that Lincoln likely had a serious case of the disease — but by Dec. 14, 1863, he was his old self again.

Not everyone was so lucky. It’s not clear that Lincoln’s African American valet, William Johnson, actually got the disease from the president: “There was a widespread smallpox epidemic in Washington at the time,” writes Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein in Lincoln and Medicine, “so both Lincoln and Johnson could have gotten the disease anywhere.” Johnson, who was also an employee of the Treasury Department, nursed Lincoln during his illness, contracted the disease and died in January 1864.

Lincoln paid for Johnson’s coffin and paid off part of a $150 bank loan Johnson had taken out, arranging with the bank to forgive the other half. While there’s some dispute as to where Johnson is actually buried, a headstone bearing his name and the word “Citizen” in Arlington Cemetery is widely thought to be his final resting place. Still, even if Lincoln could take the financial responsibility, he couldn’t take the blame for Johnson’s illness: “He did not catch it from me, however,” Lincoln told a reporter, when Johnson was so sick he couldn’t even sign his own name to draw his paycheck. “At least I think not.”