Cheese dogs and Bowie knives: Little Rock trivia and history

Cheese dog Little Rock

Cheese dogs got their start in Little Rock in 1956.

Cheese dogs got their start right here in Little Rock. That’s not the only bit of trivia DealChicken’s scratched up while hunting and pecking around town for great deals. Check out these fun facts he’s found.

Little Rock is home to the “cheese dog,” a hot dog injected with cheese. The popular treat was invented at the city’s Finkbeiner Meat Packing Company in 1956. The company also introduced a frankfurter with chili in the casing, but it never caught on with the public.

The 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, headquartered in Little Rock, is nicknamed the “Bowie Brigade” after the famous knife first crafted for James Bowie in Arkansas. The brigade has adopted the knife as part of its insignia and wears a uniform patch emblazoned with the weapon. Its soldiers once carried the knife in the field. Today, brigade officers wear the knife as part of their uniform, and they are the only Army soldiers authorized to do so.

The Bowie knife also played a role in the state’s first legislative session at the Old State House in 1837. During a debate over a bounty on wolf hides, Rep. Joseph J. Anthony of Randolph County made a snide remark to Speaker of the House John Wilson. The fight quickly escalated, ending in a knife duel. After a short struggle, Wilson stabbed Anthony in the heart, killing him. Wilson was dismissed from the House and later acquitted on charges of murder.

Librarian and author Dee Brown, who was raised in Arkansas and retired to Little Rock, wrote the landmark book “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.” His work revealed the harsh realities of American westward expansion for Native Americans, changing public perception of battles between whites and Indians through the 1800s. The book has been translated into many foreign languages and has sold more than 5 million copies.

Little Rock’s Old State House, which served as the state capitol for 75 years, was modified from the original plans due to budget limitations. The grand building was scaled down and constructed from less-expensive materials, such as handmade brick instead of stone. Although the building wasn't completed until 1842, legislators began holding sessions in the partially-completed structure when Arkansas became a state in 1836.

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney World—as well as displays at Graceland and across Arkansas—are the work of the late Jennings Osborne, a Little Rock businessman. His display started with a thousand lights, strung at his Arkansas home to delight his daughter, and grew to more than 3 million bulbs by the early 1990s. He donated his lights to sites across the country after his neighbors sued over traffic congestion from the display and won.

Niagara, a “romantic” energy drink from Sweden, caused a stir after a Little Rock distributor began selling the product in 2001. The bubbly blue drink had struggled to find a market in Europe and the United States, but after women in Little Rock flocked to buy it sales grew to 100,000 bottles monthly. Demand for the drink fizzled out after drug manufacturer Pfizer, maker of erectile dysfunction drug Viagra, sued for trademark infringement. It is still distributed under the name Nexcite.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur, supreme commander of U.S. forces in the South Pacific during World War II, was born in the Tower Building of the Little Rock Barracks while his father was stationed there. Today, his birthplace is the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, and a local park bears his name. MacArthur, though, claimed Norfolk, Va., as his hometown and only returned to Little Rock once, while testing the waters for a presidential bid in 1952.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and his family spent more than a year of his term living in a triple-wide mobile home during restoration work on the governor’s mansion. The mobile home, donated by Champion Home Builders, was transported to Little Rock on three trucks draped with banners reading “My other home is the governor’s mansion.” The move garnered nationwide attention—including ribbing from Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show.”

The U.S. Navy has named two ships after Little Rock. The original USS Little Rock was built as a light cruiser and later rebuilt as a missile cruiser. It operated between 1945 and 1976 before being decommissioned as a museum ship. Today, it is open for public tours at Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park in Buffalo, N.Y. The new USS Little Rock, a freedom-class littoral combat ship, was announced in July 2011.