This time of year in a lot of places is a good time to be outside, as long as you don’t mind the bugs.
Mosquitoes, flies and more can make a comfortable summer day very uncomfortable.
Back in 1912, the community of Bisbee, Arizona decided to gamify their bug response by offering rewards for the most avid fly-swatters.
Here in the 21st Century United States, flies are mostly just annoying, but back in the early 20th Century, they could be dangerous.
In that time, flies spread serious diseases like typhoid and cholera.
After multiple outbreaks of typhoid, Bisbee, Arizona decided it was tired of these bugs showing up in significant numbers and making people sick.
They knew politely asking the bugs to leave town wouldn’t, well, fly.
So the local Commercial Club created the Bisbee Fly-Catching Contest.
For the entire month of August 1912, the town encouraged residents to catch as many “advance agents of pestilence” end quote as they could.
They could use fly swatters, newspapers, jars, bottles, whatever they wanted.
At the end of the month, people could bring the flies’ remains and the organizers would count them.
(Anyone who had used sticky flypaper had to pick off the flies themselves, the contest committee said it wasn’t going to do that for anybody.)
Whoever had smacked and/or caught the most flies at the end won a prize.
That winner was Richard Phillips, who brought in around a half a million former insects and won… ten bucks.
Still, he might have helped some people avoid serious illness, and he’s now a part of the town’s history.
In addition to a plaque in town that tells the story of the fly-catching contest, a number of buildings in Bisbee have big decorative flies on their exterior walls.
But if you come to town, do not try to swat these bugs; again, they’re decorative, and this time there’s no prize.
Starting tomorrow in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, it’s the US Open Chainsaw Sculpture Championship.
The Wisconsin Logging Museum hosts wood carvers who will make some sculptures, maybe win some accolades and, of course, wow visitors.
The Bisbee fly-catching contest of 1912 (Boing Boing)
Photo by daveynin via Flickr/Creative Commons