To be named "world capital" of something is both a badge of honor, yet also something of a badge of shame, writer George Pendle tells NPR's Robert Siegel.
It means your city revolves entirely around a single product, like gravel or toothpicks.
Pendle should know: He's reported on a series of random but rather amusing list of "Other Capitals of the World" for Atlas Obscura — not the capitals of countries but of products, games and states of mind.
The Toilet Paper Capital Of The World: Green Bay, Wis.
"Up until the early 20th century, there was some toilet paper, but it had a devastating problem: the paper had splinters in it. And there was no way of getting the splinters out," says Pendle. "So every trip to the outhouse was a game of Russian roulette. But Northern Paper Mills, one of Green Bay's finest toilet paper manufacturers, came up with the splinter-free toilet paper. ... It helped mankind immeasurably."
The Carpet *And* Former Bedspread Capital Of The World: Dalton, Ga.
A strange hobby of Pendle's — collecting photos of airport carpets from around the world — led him to discover this town north of Atlanta, which is now the capital of carpets. Further research revealed that Dalton is something of a "world capital" overachiever: during the Victorian era, it was "the bedspread capital of the world."
The Jeans Capital Of The World: Xintang, China
The city in southern China produces 800,000 pairs of jeans a day. A DAY! And it might have some subcontractors in ....
The Zipper Capital Of The World: Kurobe, Japan
It's home to the world's largest manufacturer of zippers, Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha. "Of course you can't fit onto a zipper, so they shortened it down to YKK. So if you look down at your trousers, it's more than likely that you will see those letters on your zipper," says Pendle. "But don't do it in public."
The Leap Year Capital Of The World: Anthony, Texas/N.M.
The city on the Texas-New Mexico border doesn't lie anywhere near a dateline. So what gives? According to Pendle's research, a member of the local chamber of commerce was born on Feb. 29 and thought it would be, as Pendle says in that inimitable British way, "a great wheeze" to name the town "leap-year capital." "And literally, I think tens of people have flooded from around the world to celebrate their birthday there," he says.