(This Footnote to History article was printed on page 5 of the March 20, 1922 edition of the Boston Globe, and is reprinted word-for-word below.) I’ve also added some comments beneath the story.
Bluff Called, May Have to Devour 1,000,000 Peas
John D. Wainwright, Meddybemps, Me, Commences Counting ‘Em With the Hope That Henry Parish Made Mistake—Novel Bet Made
Special Dispatch to the Globe
BANGOR, Me. March 19 — John D. Wainwright of Meddybemps today started to count the peas in jars said to contain 1,000,000 of them. If there is exactly that number, Wainwright will have to eat them, but if that figure is one out of the way, Henry Parish must do so.
It started in an argument on Washington’s Birthday. Parish offered to bet $2.50 (approximately $45 today) that he could count 1,000,000 peas in a month and Wainwright took him up. After he had counted out 100,000, Wainwright suggested that they amend the wager to read that if the count was incorrect Parish would eat the peas. while Wainwright would do so if it was correct. Parish counted the first 100,000 over again and was filled with nervous dread when he found that he was three peas out of the way. He proceeded with the count with the utmost care and last night announced that it was finished.
Wainwright offered to assume the count was correct and pay Parish $2.50 if he would wave the eating clause, but Parish refused to do so.
As is typical with the press, there was no follow-up on this story in the Globe, so I guess we’ll never know who ate the peas, if they were ever eaten at all. Maybe they both agreed to the $2.50 bet and left it at that.
But that did get me wondering as to how much volume 1,000,000 peas took up. So, I decided to use the latest and greatest in technology and use AI to answer the question. I used both the Bing and Google versions.
My first step was to ask how many peas were contained in a single can. Neither gave an exact answer. I don’t recall the exact values, but were somewhere in the range of between 80 and 300 peas per can.
So, I then asked Google’s Bard how much space 1,000,000 peas would take up and it concluded that it would be around the size of a refrigerator.
So, in the name of science, I went to the supermarket and spent 98 cents to purchase a can of peas, and here is what I came up with:
There were 674 peas in the can. I then poured them into my Pyrex measuring cup (an inaccurate tool for this) and the peas filled up approximately 375 ml. Extrapolating that out to 1,000,000 peas, they would take up a volume of 556.4 L or 147 gallons.
Now you know!