I joked as I wrote More Presidential County Sorting that no county will likely ever be named for disgraced former U.S. President Richard Milhous Nixon who resigned in 1974 in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal. That led me to wonder, well, had anything ever been named for him? Maybe I was being overly harsh? Actually I learned that if someone would like to undertake one of the loneliest search engine queries in history, try variations on "named for [after, in honor of] Richard [M] Nixon." There were precious few results.
Nixon and Elvis via Wikimedia Commons in the public domain
The pickings were so slim that I had a difficult time finding photos to illustrate the article so I decided to use this iconic image of Richard Nixon meeting Elvis Presley in 1970. Enjoy that for a little while as I attempt to unspool the very small set of actual confirmed places named for Tricky Dick.
Yorba Linda, California
I began with the obvious.
Yes, naturally there was a Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum that was named for Richard Nixon (map). Obviously that was true by definition so I’m not even sure it should count. It was established in Yorba Linda, California, the town where Hannah Milhous Nixon gave birth to a son in 1913.
Looking northwest along garden at museum – Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum by Tim Evanson, on Flickr (cc)
Nixon established his presidential library on land adjacent to his childhood home, a prominent feature of the museum complex. There used to be a Richard Nixon elementary school nearby although it closed in 1988 due to declining enrollment. Nixon had the distinction of being the president who died farthest from his birthplace (as proven by 12MC — a great circle distance of 2,436 miles / 3,920 kilometers). He made up for that by being buried on the grounds of his library within feet of his birthplace.
In addition, a stretch of Imperial Highway through Yorba Linda was renamed The Richard M. Nixon Parkway.
Twelve Mile Circle wasn’t overly surprised to see a few Nixon tributes scattered about his home town. What about other places though?
Elsewhere In the United States
Nixon Elementary School & Park, Hiawatha, Iowa
Loyal 12MC reader Calgully noted that in Australia they don’t name things for living people just in case they become embarrassments later. Those were wise words indeed, a fact that others should have considered before referencing Nixon.
There were plenty of features named Nixon although usually for different Nixons. It wasn’t an entirely uncommon surname. Most of them made it clear that they were NOT named for Richard Nixon. However I found two elementary schools definitely named for Richard Nixon, both bestowed before he became a national disgrace. The school district in Hiawatha, Iowa opened Richard M. Nixon Elementary School in 1970. The adjacent park had the same name. Another Nixon Elementary School was built in Roxbury Township in Landing, New Jersey (map). Nowhere on its website did it mention that it was named for that Nixon although clearly it was. I’d try to ignore or deny it too.
Other than that I saw a reference to a "President Richard Nixon’s Iowa Ancestor Historical Marker" listed in the Geographic Names Information System. It was located in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery, Indianola, Iowa (map). I also found a few minor streets. That was it.
International tributes were even more scarce. I found a mention of Richard M. Nixon High School, in Monrovia, Liberia in the Autobiography of John Wulu, Sr.
I wrote him a letter. In my letter I stated, "Mr. President, to you defeat means success. You were defeated two times for the office of the President, you did not allow that to deter or discourage you… My entire family and I have strong admiration for you… I decided to rename my school in your honor and call it Richard M. Nixon Institute. The school is located in Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia, West Africa." President Nixon replied to my letter through the American Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia, and said it was okay for me to name my school in his honor.
The school still existed as recently as February 2015. It was mentioned in a BBC article, "Ebola outbreak: Liberia schools reopen after six months."
There also used to be a Nixon Library in Hong Kong according to the U.S. National Archives. Nixon visited Hong Kong while he was Vice Presidential in 1953.
The First Nixon Library — Except for its name, there was little remarkable about the modest library that stood in the neighborhood of Yuen Long on the outskirts of Hong Kong from 1954 until 1977. It held only a few thousand books and employed just one librarian, and its patrons were mostly schoolchildren, farmers, and shopkeepers. Nevertheless, the humble building was a monument to Richard Nixon.
Nixon passed through Hong Kong several times after his initial visit, and even toured the library in person in 1966. He may not have been there to see the library though. There were rumors that he was having an affair.
In Popular Culture
The Simpsons Springfield expansion phase 2 at Universal Orlando by Ricky Brigante, on Flickr (cc)
I discovered an entire list of pop culture references to Nixon. My favorite one by far drew inspiration from his middle name, Milhous. The writers of The Simpsons added an "e" to his name to create the character Milhouse (full name Milhouse Mussolini Van Houten).
Many longtime Twelve Mile Circle readers probably already guessed that this article that would come next. Immediately after a story about the beginning of the alphabet, naturally one would expect to find one about the end. It became an equally difficult task too, except for the most notable location.
Take a moment to ponder this insect.
Zyzzyx chilensis by Pato Novoa, on Flickr (cc)
Zyzzyx chilensis, a type of sand wasp native to Argentina, Chile, and Peru, gained its name in the 1930’s. Flies would view this creature as particularly nasty and formidable. This wasp had a peculiar habit of laying its eggs on flies, which then hatched and consumed its host parasitically as larvae grew. I thought it sounded pretty gruesome.
Don’t worry, I haven’t gone completely off the deep end just yet. What may seem completely irrelevant actually helps establish context. Every site I examined included Zzyzx (spelled slightly differently than the name of the wasp) as the final entry on any alphabetical list of place names. Actually, it was the only entry. Like Zyzzyx chilensis, it preyed upon the weak and helpless in a parasitic manner as readers will soon see.
Zzyzx, California, USA
Zzyzx by Leif Harboe, on Flickr (cc)
I couldn’t find a definite connection between Zyzzyx chilensis and the settlement of Zzyzx (map) although the timing seemed oddly coincidental. The former Soda Springs became Zzyzx in the 1940’s, during the same basic time period. However I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about it for a couple of reasons. First, every oddball website mentioned Zzyzx so I didn’t have anything new to add. Second, it was a contrived name designed specifically to place it at the end of any alphabetical list. Zzyzx cheated.
A self-proclaimed minister-slash-doctor named Curtis Springer created Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Resort on the western edge of the Mohave desert between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. He promised all sorts of miracle cures and made piles of money. It was a complete fraud including the alleged "hot springs" he heated with a boiler. Springer didn’t even own the land. The government removed him from his desert domain in the 1970’s. After that Zzyzx became the Desert Studies Center for California State University, Fullerton so at least some good came from it. Roadside America had a particularly nice summary.
Everything about Zzyzx was fake including its name. Nonetheless, I couldn’t find any other place that began with a Double-Z, and it will likely remain alone until someone decides to honor ZZ Top.
Beginning with ZY
Żywiec polish beer in Warsaw (Warszawa) by Ulf Liljankoski, on Flickr (cc)
I jumped farther down the alphabet for places beginning with ZY. There were several waiting to be found. Żywiec, Poland seemed to be the most significant. It had a population of a little more than thirty thousand and its own brand of beer. The Żywiec Brewery had a nice range of beverages although I couldn’t figure out much because the website was entirely in Polish — not that I’m complaining since it should be in Polish — just that my navigation was less than elegant as I guessed randomly and hoped for cognates.
Zyryanka (map) in the Sakha Republic of Russia also deserved a mention primarily because the 12MC Complete Index Map lacked decent coverage of Russia. I didn’t even know if the Russian name (Зырянка) would be remarkable in its native language or not. Anyway, the settlement apparently dated back to the 1930’s to serve local coal mines, and other than that was probably more notable for its remoteness and frigid temperatures.
Beginning with ZW
Beautiful view of Zwolle at night by Ley, on Flickr (cc)
I didn’t find any ZX places although there were plenty of ZW’s as I worked my way back down the alphabet. There were too many to discuss although here’s a small sampling:
- Zwönitz, Germany (map): a smallish town in Saxony founding nearly a thousand years ago.
- Zwolle, Netherlands (map): the Province of Overijssel’s capital city, perhaps the most predominant ZW location with more than 125 thousand residents.
- Zwicky, Canada (map): an unincorporated area (railway point) in Kootenay Land District, British Columbia
Feel free to nominate your favorites.
I thought back to my school days when a teacher would call roll alphabetically. Naturally people with surnames like Anderson would be called upon first. Mine fell somewhere in the middle so I had to pay attention for a little while and then I could daydream for the rest of the drill. I always felt sorry for people named Zimmerman or such who had to remain on their toes the entire time. Those lucky Andersons, though. They could kick-back and relax, their jobs completed immediately thanks to a simple quirk of alphabetical order. The same thing could probably be said of countries. Imagine Afghanistan at the opening ceremony of the Olympics, first in line and grabbing a big dose of attention. Compare that to Zimbabwe. Most viewers are probably tuned out mentally by the time Zimbabwe strolls along.
That got me wondering about which city, town, or village might grab the very first spot in an alphabetical line. Sure, it would vary based upon the language used to sort through the list although I didn’t let that spoil my fun. Research appeared to be amazingly deficient though. I figured I’d find a ready list somewhere on the Intertubes and it would be easy. Perhaps that existed somewhere even though I checked — which meant I searched for a maximum of about 30 seconds — and I couldn’t find one. I did uncover the next best thing, Wikipedia’s List of towns and cities with 100,000 or more inhabitants.
A Coruña, Spain
A Coruña – Palacio Municipal by Pepe Martin (Mário José Martins), on Flickr (cc)
A Coruña in Spain rose to the very top of that list (map). That was its officially-recognized name in the Galician language, prevalent in the northwestern corner of Spain that was once part of the Kingdom of Galicia. In Spanish it was La Coruña and in English sometimes Corunna. According to the rules of alphabetization, nothing came before something so the single letter A followed by a space came before A followed by additional letters. A Coruña was the only city with a single letter A so Wikipedia placed it first.
I had a bit of a quibble with A Coruña. The letter A was used as a definite article. There was a school of thought that the definite article should be disregarded in an alphabetical list. Certainly that was common with geographic place names, e.g., The Bahamas was generally listed as Bahamas, The and The Gambia transformed into Gambia, The. I’m sure there were plenty of learned people who could debate those finer points back-and-forth indefinitely although I didn’t want to get involved. Nonetheless, for me, placing A Coruña at the head of the line felt like cheating.
Aachen Skyline by Stephen Downes, on Flickr (cc)
Aachen seemed to align more properly with the spirit of the contest, beginning with a double-A followed immediately by another letter near the start of the alphabet in the third position. AAC would be a hard combination to beat. People have lived in the Aachen area (map) since neolithic times, drawn there by its warm spring-fed waters. It became a spa town during Roman times and then a favored place of kings such as Charlemagne. Modern aficionados of geo-oddities also appreciated Aachen for its placement on the German side of the Belgium – Netherlands – Germany (BEDENL) tripoint, and prior to that as part of the quadripoint with the bizarre Neutral Moresnet "no man’s land" condominium.
Aaron, Indiana, USA
That still left a lot of white space between cities of a hundred thousand residents or more and the untold multitude of places with smaller populations. I continued to be hampered by a lack of prior research so I turned to the US Geological Survey’s Geographic Names Information System. It included a bunch of AAA stuff, primarily several small reservoirs called tanks in New Mexico, which I discounted. It also included an Aaberg School in South Dakota and the Aaberlite Mines in Colorado. Still, I couldn’t find a populated place that would come before Aachen in an alphabetical list.
I didn’t feel like running a bunch of separate queries because GNIS required a minimum of three letters when using a wildcard (e.g., I would have to search aaa*, aab*, aac* and so on if I wanted to check every combination starting with double-a). I took the easy route and figured there must be some place called Aaron. Sure enough, Aaron existed in four states, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri. None of them was larger than a flyspeck. Only Aaron, Indiana had a Wikipedia entry and even that was limited to two simple sentences ("Aaron is an unincorporated community in Switzerland County, Indiana, in the United States. A post office was established at Aaron in 1871, and remained in operation until it was discontinued in 1907").
That was a long way of saying I was too lazy to figure out a location that would appear first on a list of populated places in the United States. I’ll throw Aaron out there as my guess and let someone else challenge it if so inclined.
Aasiwaskwasich, Québec, Canada
Natural Resources Canada actually provided an alphabetic list of place names, bless their hearts. I supposed that was feasible because there were fewer places named in Canada due to large swaths of lightly-populated territory. Canada included a former First Nation Village named Aa-at-sow-is in British Columbia, and that would have been a top contender, however I wanted to find an inhabited place, not something abandoned. The best I could find was Aasiwaskwasich, completely in the middle of nowhere near the eastern side of Hudson Bay.
But wait, the next entry was amusing even if it wasn’t a populated locality: Aass Indian Reserve 3 (map) in the Nootka Land District, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Interestingly, there were no signs of Aass Indian Reserves 1 or 2. Nor did there appear to be a tribe of Aass Indians. Don’t check a search engine for Aass Indians, though. I did that and let’s just say one cannot unsee things once they’ve been revealed.
Twelve Mile Circle received its first visit ever from Wallis and Futuna yesterday! I thought it would be nearly impossible and was genuinely surprised when it appeared. It’s a French collectivity in the South Pacific with only about 15,000 residents and most of them speak Polynesian languages or French. I’m not sure why they wanted to know more about Smokey and the Bandit’s Route although I will note that this page seems to attract a fairly steady stream of visitors for some unknown reason.