This Week In History

• On August 18, 1883, Thomas Edison completed a working prototype for what is widely regarded as his worst invention, the pedal-operated pencil breaker. The shoebox-sized contraption, which weighed over thirty pounds, was designed to sit on the desk of a clerk or accountant, who powered it with his feet. Why an accountant would need broken pencils was never fully explained, a fact cited repeatedly by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in their unusually vitriolic denial of Edison's patent application. • On August 20, 1984, former president Jimmy Carter shattered all previous records for continuous breakdancing, collapsing after 23 hours and 17 minutes. In his book, "Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President," Carter called it "the single achievement of which I am most proud, a feat of unadulterated substance that cannot be diluted by politics."

• On August 21, 1905, Cardinals pitcher Reginald "Pants" Dixon was nearly killed by an errant fastball from his nemesis, Julian "Shrap" McGuiness. The pitch missed Dixon's head by less than an inch, nearly instigating a brawl as a furious Dixon charged the mound and was met by every single one of McGuiness' teammates. (The Cardinals remained quietly on the bench.) McGuiness insisted the pitch wasn't intentional, but most believed it was in retaliation for Dixon calling him a "toe-cracklin' stack o' cornpone." Dixon attempted to return the favor later in the game, but hit an elderly woman in the stands instead.