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EP256: In His Father's Shadow, From High School Dropout... To Owning D.C.'s Best Taco Chain! and Why Are Bananas So Cheap? (History Guy)

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
April 11, 2022 3:00 am

EP256: In His Father's Shadow, From High School Dropout... To Owning D.C.'s Best Taco Chain! and Why Are Bananas So Cheap? (History Guy)

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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April 11, 2022 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, The History Guy tells us the story of the 16th President’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln. Osiris Hoil lost his construction job in 2008, but through his fantastic cooking, he started District Taco, D.C.'s best taco chain. The History Guy tells us the story of the banana and how it came to be the cheapest fruit.

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Time Codes:

00:00 - In His Father's Shadow

10:00 - From High School Dropout... To Owning D.C.'s Best Taco Chain!

35:00 - Why Are Bananas So Cheap? (History Guy)

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It's Dramos. You may know me from the recap on LATV. Now I've got my own podcast, Life as a Gringo, coming to you every Tuesday and Thursday. We'll be talking real and unapologetic about all things life, Latin culture, and everything in between from someone who's never quite fit in.

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Toes, you've hit the jackpot of comfy. Hey dude, good to go to. And all of our history work is brought to us by the great folks at Hillsdale College, by the way.

Go to to sign up for their terrific and free online courses. And our next story comes to us from a man who's simply known as the History Guy. His videos are watched by hundreds of thousands of people of all ages over on YouTube. The History Guy is also heard here at Our American Stories. In this next story, the History Guy remembers the 16th president's son, Robert Todd Lincoln. Because of his father, Abraham Lincoln, Robert Todd's life has been largely forgotten.

Here's the History Guy. On April 9th, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, following the defeat of the Confederate Army at the Battle of Appomattox Courthouse. The surrender documents were actually signed in the parlor of a home owned by a man named William McClain, and they were witnessed by both Grant and Lee's staff. The last survivor among those witnesses lived all the way until 1926, and by coincidence was a very famous person, one of the most important statesmen of his day. Robert Todd Lincoln was Abraham Lincoln's firstborn son and the only one of Abraham Lincoln's children to survive to adulthood.

His younger brother Edward died of a fever at just the age of three. Robert grew up at a time when his father was practicing law on a circuit and thus was traveling, gone most of the time, and so their relationship was distant, not very close. Robert once noted that his most vivid memories of his father growing up was Abraham packing his saddlebags. By the time that Robert's father was elected president, Robert was attending Harvard University.

He described his fathers being so busy that they scarcely had ten minutes quiet time together during his entire presidency. Robert graduated Harvard in 1864 and briefly attended law school there, but he felt compelled to join the Union Army and share the risk that everybody else was taking. At first his mother resisted.

His little brother Willie had died in the White House of a fever in 1862, and his mother, Mary Todd Lincoln, feared that she could not withstand another loss. But Robert eventually prevailed, and his father asked General Grant if Robert could be assigned to his staff. Robert was made an assistant adjutant and given the rank of captain, and that is why he was present to witness Lee's surrender. Robert had traveled to Washington to visit his parents on April 15th, and his parents invited him to go to the theater with him. But he declined.

He had been traveling on horseback all day and needed a rest. And so Robert narrowly missed his father's assassination. Robert moved with his mother and his younger brother, Ted, to Chicago, and he continued his law studies. He was admitted to the bar in 1867. In 1868 he married the daughter of a United States senator.

They had three children. In 1876 Robert was elected town supervisor of the town of South Chicago, a town that was eventually absorbed into the city of Chicago. That was his only elected office of his career. In 1877 he was offered the position of Assistant Secretary of State by President Rutherford B. Hayes, but he declined, although he remained active in Republican politics. And then in 1881 he accepted a cabinet appointment as Secretary of War in the new cabinet of President James Garfield.

He was with Garfield in the train station in July of 1881 and witnessed Garfield's assassination. Robert continued to serve as Secretary of War in the cabinet of President Chester A. Arthur, where he was involved in many military reforms. He left the position in 1885. And then in 1889 he was appointed to the important position of Minister to the United Kingdom under President Benjamin Harrison, where he served for four years. When he returned to the United States he became General Counsel of the Pullman Palace Car Company, the world famous maker of railway cars. And when the founder, George Pullman, died in 1897, Robert was made President of the Pullman Car Company.

He served in that position until 1911 when he left due to ill health, but he stayed on as Chairman of the Board clear until 1922. Despite his very accomplished life, Robert Todd Lincoln is often remembered for three things. The first was a coincidence. Somewhere in 1863 or 1864, Robert Todd Lincoln was riding a train from New York City to Washington, D.C. And while in Jersey City, New Jersey, he was bumped off a train platform, landing in the dangerous spot between the platform and the train. A stranger reached down and pulled him out, and when Robert looked up, he realized that his savior was the most famous actor of the day, a man named Edwin Booth. Only later did Edwin Booth find out that the young man that he had saved was President Lincoln's son, and that is said to have offered Edwin Booth some solace, as he was personally devastated when his younger brother, John Wilkes Booth, murdered President Lincoln. Second, in 1875, Robert had his mother, Mary Todd Lincoln, committed to an asylum. He was concerned about erratic behavior after the death of his younger brother, Tad, at the age of 18.

Mary was able to get some letters out to her attorney who was able to convince Robert to let her leave the asylum and live with her sister, but it included some public embarrassment for Robert. And he and his mother never fully reconciled. And finally, Robert Todd Lincoln is sometimes described as being somewhat unlucky because of his proximity to three presidential assassinations. He just missed his father's assassination, he was there when James A. Garfield was assassinated, and he was just getting off a train going to visit President William McKinley when McKinley was shot in 1901.

He was there for three presidential assassinations because he was proximate to power during a tumultuous time. But Robert Todd Lincoln lived an extraordinary life. He was born poor and yet found great success and died very wealthy. He was an elder statesman. He was a leader in his party who was suggested as a candidate for president or vice president many times, but always declined. He was the president of one of the largest corporations in the country. He was, frankly, one of the most accomplished men of his era. His last public appearance was May 30th of 1922 when he appeared with President Warren G. Harding and former President and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, William Howard Taft, at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial.

He passed away in 1926, just a few days shy of his 83rd birthday. And, darn it, he deserves to be remembered as more than just his father's son. And those words are true and spoken beautifully by the history guy. This is Robert Todd Lincoln's story. Here are now American stories. Folks, if you love the stories we tell about this great country and especially the stories of America's rich past, know that all of our stories about American history, from war to innovation, culture and faith, are brought to us by the great folks at Hillsdale College, a place where students study all the things that are beautiful in life and all the things that are good in life. And if you can't get to Hillsdale, Hillsdale will come to you with their free and terrific online courses.

Go to to learn more. This is our American stories. And all around this great country, well, in great cities and more and more in suburbs, food trucks are popping up all over the country. Osiris Hoyle was one of the many in Arlington, Virginia, to run such a stand called District Taco.

Monte Montgomery brings us the story. Here's Osiris. My name is Osiris Hoyle. I'm from Yucatan, Mexico. I pretty much grew up in a farm where I had to do a lot of things on my own. When I was, I think, maybe 11 years old, I was selling newspapers, popsicles, flowers on my bicycle, and of course, helping my dad farm. And I learned how to cook with my mom. Pretty much every single day, she will wake me up and ask me what I wanted to eat. But of course, I had to help her. And not the way that I needed to cook it with her, but I needed to go get ingredients for her.

My mom, she's extremely picky, but that's why her food is so delicious. She used to send me to the yard, right, and I'll pick tomatoes, habaneros, anything that she needed for her meal. And I'll come with tomatoes, and she'll feel them, and she's like, nope, this is not right. And I'm like, what do you mean it's not?

It looks good. And she'll feel it, and she's like, feel it, you know, and so soft. And for me, it looked fine, you know, the same thing with limes.

She would just see it and feel it, and she's like, nope, it's not good. You have to go get more. The standards were so high, and since then, my standards are high. In Mexico, you cannot choose what kind of life you want to live, you know what I mean? I remember that I didn't know I was poor until I met, you know, rich kids. When I went to my friends, probably when I was maybe 14, 13 years old, I realized that they had the toys and games, or they have better bathrooms than we did.

And then I was like, man, I think, you know, we struggle. So when I came to United States, you know, I came with a tourist visa, and I decided to stay when I was 2,000. I was working as a dishwasher, you know, I was making minimum wage at that point, and I met my wife at work, and she was the waitress, and I needed to learn English so I can ask her out, right? So I decided to learn this system, and I used to work at this restaurant bar in Denver, Colorado, and even though I was underage, they let me stay at the bar, right, because I was helping them with the cake, you know, and bringing it in.

I wasn't drinking, but I stayed at the bar talking to drunk people. They were my best teachers. I remember, you know, I was asking questions like, how do you say this?

And then I'll write it down. And for some reason, I think they felt important, you know what I mean? I don't know, if you're drinking every day at the bar, something's going on, right? So they felt important, and I think they liked the way that I was asking them questions, and they were my best teachers, you know? I mean, the first week I thought, oh, they're going to hate it, and no, I was very welcome, and I did it for several years. But it got to the point where at my birthday, Jennifer said, hey, what are you doing today?

You want to go for lunch? And I was like, yeah, I canceled everything, and, you know, so I went for it. I was asking her out during that time for two years, three years, I think, and she never accepted it for some reason, probably because my English wasn't that good, but I was trying, right? And since then, we got married, and now we have three kids, and it was great. In 2006, we moved to D.C., you know, because things were going well, and I was excited to try something new. And I found this construction job that I was paying a lot more than if I was just a cook.

So that was great. You know, I took the job, even though I didn't have that much experience, but the construction company saw my potential. They saw that I could do more than just be a service guy, so they sent me to school so I can learn how to read blueprints. And for me, I started seeing the potential to be something else than just a cook, you know, in the kitchen, something professional where I can be the superintendent of the company and I can run projects. And I felt good. Everything was going well.

You know, I did projects where I actually was finishing before schedule, under budget, working my butt off, and I felt like, oh, yeah, bonuses were coming, this is great. So we bought our house in 2007, and then, you know, we had a baby. Everything was going so well, but in 2008, I got laid off when the economy was really, really bad. I still remember that moment because it was on a Friday afternoon, I was sweeping the project because everybody just was leaving, and I like to keep my projects clean for the weekend, and the actual owner of the company came and he gave me the news.

It was very emotional. I started crying. I'd never been fired before. And, you know, I asked for my job back.

My health insurance was through the company. And I just felt defeated. I felt not being a man anymore.

The man that my parents raised, the kid, you know, all the responsibilities, all my hard work. What just happened? I didn't understand it. So I said, look, just pay me whatever you want to pay me, okay? Just keep me on payroll, but keep my insurance, right?

My wife, she's pregnant. We'll figure it out later, and they just couldn't keep me on their payroll. I took my truck, drove away, and I had to park in a parking lot. I was actually crying that moment because I'm going to go to my wife right now and tell her that I just lost my job.

How am I going to do that? I've never been prepared for these moments, right? I have a house, a kid, she's pregnant, and what am I going to say? So I went to her job. I said, Jenny, I need to talk to you. And I had to say I got laid off, I got fired. And the only thing that she came out of her mouth, she hugged me, and she said, don't worry, we'll be okay. Man, that was so powerful, you know?

That was so powerful. For six months, seven months maybe, I was unemployed. I was looking for a construction job because I knew I know how to read blueprints now, but there was nothing available. I was getting depressed, all right?

I was getting extremely depressed because I don't have a job. I'm babysitting my son. But in the weekends, I will invite my friends so we can have some beers and make carnas and salads and these salsas. But my friends used to say, oh, Cyrus, this is so good. You should bottle this and sell it and all my units. And I'm like, I'll go home and I'll tell my wife. I think people like my food.

We might have something going on here. And then I was making it for Mark Wallace, too. A man who would go on to have a profound impact on Osiris's life. There was one day I was drinking beer and eating ceviche with Mark, and he said, hey, Osiris, do you know, all the time when I go to Austin, Texas, there's always food trucks, right, and they sell this amazing Mexican food, breakfast tacos, you know, and all that, and it's so delicious. And he turns around and he's like, Cyrus, do you want to do it? And I'm like, well, yeah, I mean, the food truck is a lot of money, but the taco stand is only $25,000. And he's like, well, if you want to do it, I'll give you the money. And I'm like, wait, you want to give me the money, you know?

I was like, what person give you, you know, that much money? First of all, I didn't finish my high school, okay? I went home and I couldn't believe it, right?

I talked to my wife about it, and at that point I didn't have anything else going on. So I went back to Mark and I said, let's do it, let's do it. And let's do it indeed. And what a story this is so far. When we come back, more from Osiris Hoyle and District Taco and how that all happened here on Our American Stories. And we return with Our American Stories and the story of Osiris Hoyle, who had just been given a generous gift from his friend Mark Wallace to start his own taco stand, and at the lowest point of his life.

Here's Osiris. We bought the taco stand, you know? We named it District Taco, and it was born in 2009. And I went straight to Roslyn.

Roslyn, Virginia, that was the first place we went. And I didn't do any research. The only thing I knew, there were big buildings.

That's all what I knew. I'm like, oh, there's big buildings, there's a lot of people here, and we're going to be here. But there was Chipotle right next door to me, okay, and there was Baja Fresh, all right? So I was in the middle. Man, I was like, ah, what am I doing here?

I'm dead. But, you know, like I said before, I'm a great sales guy, and I think I can sell tacos, and I make pretty good tacos. I started two people inside the cart, and I was the cashier.

They had one full runner, one guy that was helping us, and someone else that was just making sure nothing is missing. The first week, we started making breakfast tacos in the morning, 6 a.m., right, and it wasn't working. People around D.C. don't know about breakfast tacos. But in Mexico, we always eat tacos with eggs, you know?

So be it, you know? I grew up with it, but people around here prefer, you know, a bagel or a donut or, you know, I don't know, or something else, right, for breakfast, not a breakfast taco. So I said, okay, well, breakfast is not helping me all the way, you know?

Let me start introducing what I'm really good at. For lunch, people don't want to eat breakfast tacos, so I'm going to start making pollosado. The other day, I was making mole poblano. Every single day, I was changing the menu. Just like how my mom would ask me, what do you want to eat today?

I would change it, right? And I figured out also, okay, I want to make my carne asada, so I pretty much welded a grill that I bought at Home Depot, you know? Just like a small grill. So I was grilling, you know, in front of people. When people were walking into their job, to their office, man, we were grilling out there, right? We were grilling our salsas. We had a table, we were blending the salsas, you know? We were roasting our tomatoes and everything. It was a party.

Oh, my goodness. Not everything, you know, worked perfectly. For two months, I wasn't making any money, because I pretty much was making everything fresh. So I was making my guacamole fresh. I was making my pico de gallo fresh. So I was going to a restaurant depot every single day, and I'll get back, watch the taco stand, and drop everything, eat dinner with my family, and then cook whatever it takes a long time. And my refrigerator full of avocados, and my wife didn't like that very much, but she knew that that was the only option we had.

Here's another thing. I used to drink so I couldn't go to sleep. So I'll have, like, a couple beers, right, one beer. And then one night, I was cooking the beans, and I turned the TV on, right? It was like 8 p.m. I fall asleep.

My family was sleeping. So around 11 o'clock, I don't know about you, but when you burn beans, I don't know if you've done this before, but it smells so bad, right? Just the smell is really bad, and I woke up, and I'm like, oh, my goodness, what I've done?

What a waste of product. You know, it's money, and I couldn't just burn the house. My family, you know what I'm doing, and I was pretty angry, but at that moment, you know, I was extremely tired, extremely disappointed, right? And I was just praying because I was like, what I'm doing, I'm just wasting my time here, okay? I almost burned the house. I'm extremely tired. I'm overweight because, you know, it's just I've been eating a lot and exercising, working long, long, long hours, and this is, I don't know, this is not working.

So I was praying, and I said, God, you should send me a message because I don't know what else to do, and then my daughter started crying, and I remember, I was like, I guess that's the message I have to continue, you know, for the family, right? So I tie my shoes and get back to work. Location, location, location.

It's something realtors say matters in the value of a house or a property, but it also turns out it matters if you own, say, a food truck or a taco stand, a movable location, and it became the key to Osiris's success. So we used to set up so early, and what we used to set up is the ABC Channel 7. We used to get there like 5.50, and the weatherman will get out, right, start telling you about the weather, and then we're cooking bacon, right? Oh, man, we're cooking bacon, and I don't know about you, but when you're cooking bacon, oh, it smells so good, right? So he always talk about us. Like at 6 a.m., he'll turn the cameras, you know, and we're like cooking bacon. We're like saying hi, you know, and that was, oh, man, that was great, great times.

Things were going so good. There were long lines to order from us. We were like six people in the taco stand working, and we probably served about 200 people, and then the actual press start writing about us and from being laid off to have a taco stand. I think that was a wake-up call that actually it can be done, and then I came to my business partner, Mark Wallace, and I said, hey, Mark, I think we got something going on right here. Let's just open a restaurant. We opened the restaurant in 2010 in Arlington, Virginia, and from there, you know, we bought a lot of equipment from Craigslist, so we pretty much built the restaurants by ourselves, but we didn't know what we were doing. I remember reviews online that said, don't think because you came from a taco stand you're going to be able to control a restaurant, but those reviews, I remember I was like, okay, just wait.

I'm going to show you. And then after a year, we felt like, okay, we have a model. And then we hired for a second store in D.C. We hired contractors, okay, to build that store, but then I was like, well, you know, maybe I should call the guys that, you know, laid me off and see if they want to work with me. So I went and I hired them back. It's funny because I used to be their employee, and now I'm their client. Yeah, that's the way how things work out, right? And from there, you know, now we have 12 stores open, and over just a little bit over 450 employees, and we're going from there. You know, I think all my life has always been about what older people had than we didn't have, and I think I'm really thankful that I didn't have it all in the beginning. And you've been listening to the story of Osiris Oil, and District Taco is in 20-plus storefronts around Washington, D.C., 450 employees, and my goodness, what a story, and it's... Every immigrant's story is in some ways the same, right?

From different places, but everyone can track it in their own families. This story started in Yucatan, Mexico, and, boy, when he was young, he didn't have anything. He sold newspapers and flowers on a bike, and, by the way, he said, in Mexico, you can't choose the life you want to lead, and so he came to the United States versus a dishwasher earning minimum wage, learned how to speak English so he could, well, ask his wife out on a date, and in 2008, well, the ceiling dropped on the economy and his job working in construction. Well, that was over. He just had to do something.

He'd been laid off and had that moment that, well, no one wants to have. Started that food truck thanks to the generosity of a friend, and look where we are in this story, and it's a story that happens time and again in this great country. Osiris Hoyle's story. District Taco's story. Have one if you're in D.C. here on Our American Stories. And we continue with Our American Stories and our next story comes to us from a man who's simply known as the History Guy.

His videos are watched by hundreds of thousands of people of all ages over on YouTube, and the History Guy is also heard as a regular contributor here at Our American Stories. If you think of the quintessential American fruit, it would probably be the apple, but apples are not our cheapest fruit. Bananas are.

But why? Here's the History Guy with the story of the banana. Here's an interesting trivia question. Do you happen to know what item is most sold at Walmart? I'll give you a hint. It's a berry that grows from an herb, or if you come from the United Kingdom, a herb.

Here's another hint. The herb is in the family Musake, and the most popular version of this berry is called the Cavendish. And if you still don't know, does it help to know that it was among the first fruits to be domesticated by humans, that it is so historically important that empires have been built on it and governments overthrown because of it, and that comedians have made entire careers slipping on its peel. Some scientists estimate that the banana was domesticated as early as 8000 BC, and there's written evidence that the cultivation of bananas had reached India by 6000 BC. Thus, bananas were possibly domesticated at approximately the same time as rice and potatoes, predating the domestication of apples by millennia. The banana fruit is produced from the ovary of a single flower, in which the outer layer of the ovary wall develops into an edible fleshy portion.

Thus, bananas are, by the botanical definition, a berry. There are more than a thousand species of wild banana in Southeast Asia, China, and the Indian subcontinent, producing a staggering array of fruits, the Musa Valentina, for example, produces a bright pink fuzzy banana, and the Go Seung Hang species is so aromatic that its Chinese name literally translates as you can smell it from the next mountain. While bananas were likely first domesticated in Southeast Asia or Papua New Guinea, Arab traders carried bananas back home and introduced the fruit to the Middle East in the first or second millennium BC, and then took the fruit to the east coast of Africa.

The fruit was then traded across the continent, eventually being cultivated in Western Africa. In fact, there are two competing stories for the etymology of the word banana. One posits that it comes from the Arabic word banah, for finger, because early bananas would have been about the size of your finger.

The other posits that the word was derived from a West African language. In 327 BC, Alexander and his armies discovered the banana during one of their campaigns in India and introduced the delicious fruit to the Western world, particularly to Mediterranean countries. In the 6th century, the Portuguese discovered bananas on the Atlantic coast of Africa, and then they then cultivated the fruit on the Canary Islands, and from there it was introduced to the Americas by Spanish missionaries. Early cultivated bananas would not have been like what we buy at the supermarket today. Rather, wild bananas are full of seeds, hard enough to break your tooth, and would have been smashed and sieved to eat the soft fruit. Over time, farmers would have selected those bananas that had fewer seeds, but such bananas eventually would become so seedless that they could not be grown from seeds, and the plants had to be reproduced asexually. The banana-rich culture we have today, the average American eats 28.5 pounds of bananas each year, was the product of the 19th century. While bananas were being cultivated in plantations in the 15th and 16th centuries, those were red or green bananas that included a lot of starch and today would be called plantains. For the most part, they had to be cooked to be softened and eaten. In 1936, a farmer in Jamaica named Jean Francois Peugeot discovered a banana plant on his plantation that, the result of random genetic mutation, was producing yellow bananas.

The fruit was naturally sweet and soft enough to be eaten without cooking. This banana grew in tightly packed bunches and had a thick peel that resisted bruising, facilitating transport. Hundreds of cultivars of this banana mutation have evolved to give the world one of the greatest food breakthroughs in history, supplying the world with the number one fruit grown to feed Earth's population, the modern yellow banana. The banana, originally called the Martinique banana, was so popular that the variety was cultivated all along the Caribbean coast and Central America.

That type became known as the Grosse Michel or the Big Mike, and it was a game changer. Americans had seen bananas imported from Cuba early in the 19th century, but those were seen as merely a novelty. Likewise, bananas had been displayed in London in the 1600s, but again the fruit was little more than an oddity. Economic and dietary changes, combined with the characteristics of the Grosse Michel, created a massive trade. Imports into the U.S. gradually increased, especially at the end of the Civil War, but interest in imports really took off in the 1870s. In 1871, banana exports to the United States were valued at around $250,000. By the first year of the 20th century, the banana trade had exponentially ballooned to $6,400,000.

Ten years later, it had effectively doubled again. So many bananas were imported onto the docks at the tip of Lower Manhattan that the old slip piers became known as the Banana Docks. Fast, sometimes refrigerated boats, built especially to carry bananas without spoiling, were called Banana Boats. At one point, the United Fruit Company, now known as Chiquita Brands International, had the world's largest private fleet. The Big Mike facilitated the worldwide banana market and created the American and European love for the fruit. In 1904, a 23-year-old apprentice pharmacist at Tassel Pharmacy in Latrobe, Pennsylvania named David Evans Strickler invented the banana-based Triple Ice Cream Sundae, better known as the Banana Split, one of America's most popular desserts. The banana in that split was a Big Mike. And then a Banana Crisis. The Gross Michelle had become a classic example of a monocrop.

Big Mikes were grown from thousands of genetically identical plants. That allowed a specialization that facilitated mass production and distribution, but it revealed a vulnerability. If one tree was susceptible to a pest or blight, they all would be. That blight came in the form of Fusarium Oxysporum, a fungus that caused the banana plant to rot with what is commonly called Panama Disease. The blight was first identified in the 1870s, and the Gross Michelle was particularly vulnerable to the blight. By the 1950s, it had spread all over the banana-producing world. As suddenly it had risen, the banana market crashed. Some claim that the decline of the Big Mike inspired the popular song, Yes, We Have No Bananas.

First recorded in 1923, the song was the single best-selling piece of sheet music for many decades. The solution to the problem came from an unexpected source, Derbyshire, England. In 1834, the Duke of Devonshire received a shipment of bananas from the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. The Duke's friend and chief gardener, Sir Joseph Paxton, cultivated the bananas in the greenhouse at Chatworth House, the Duke's home in Derbyshire. Paxton named the variety Musa Kevindishi, named after the Duke, William Kevindish.

The variety was then cultivated in the Canary Islands and commercially cultivated by 1904. But the Kevindish could not compete with the Big Mike, which had a better flavor and a thicker peel that made it easier to ship. But the Kevindish turned out to have one great advantage.

It was resistant to Fusarium Oxysporum. Because it was not as hardy, the Kevindish could not be as easily shipped in the natural cluster like the Gross Michelle. The clusters had to be broken into bunches and then boxed, making the Kevindish more costly to ship. Still, Kevindish bananas represent nearly half of the bananas produced in the world today and nearly all of the export market. If you buy a banana outside the tropics, it is almost certainly a Kevindish. The banana trade is so lucrative that it has driven more than a century of politics, especially in Central America and the Caribbean. American-based companies corrupted local governments in order to obtain exclusive production rights and ran huge swaths of Central American countries as virtual corporate nations.

Economic exploitation gave rise to violent labor movements, which drew the United States government into a series of conflicts throughout the region. Although the wars were not exclusively driven by the economic demands of the fruit companies, the series of conflicts became known as the Banana Wars. In 1911, a private army financed by the Cayamel Fruit Company orchestrated a coup d'etat in Honduras over a conflict with rival United Fruit Company for an exclusive contract for Honduran bananas.

The unstable economies and governments caused by these interventions led American writer O. Henry to coin the term Banana Republic. Today the banana is the world's fourth major food behind rice, wheat and milk. Americans alone eat more than 3 million tons of bananas each year, more than apples and oranges combined. But we all might again soon be singing, yes we have no bananas, as the Cavendish is proving vulnerable to mutated strains of Panama disease. Once again, the world's export bananas are tied to a single species and that supply is under threat. The answer might come in the form of genetically modified Cavendish's or even the return of the Big Mike, as scientists have been trying to breed a fungus-resistant version of the Big Mike ever since the first blight took hold in the 1900s.

Or perhaps a new banana will rise to become king of the export market and once again we'll have to get used to a new banana. And a great job as always by Greg Hengler in the production. A special thanks to this great storytelling about, of all things, the banana. And by the way, you can hear the History Guy on his own YouTube channel. The History Guy.

History deserves to be remembered. It's Walmart's biggest selling item. Who knew 28.5 pounds each year is what each American consumes. Who knew that? And my goodness, I know I play my part. I'm way higher than 28.5 pounds each year. The story of the banana, the story of Americas, and the world's most popular fruit here on Our American Stories.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-15 10:26:41 / 2023-02-15 10:42:13 / 16

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