When our forefathers threw off their Whigs and became Republicans, they could hardly have imagined that one of their party's biggest stars would call herself a "Mama Grizzly." These are heady days for the GOP, which recaptured the U.S. House this month.

1 The Iowa Republican Party platform has nearly 400 planks. One of them is: "We support the definition of manure as natural fertilizer."

2 Elizabeth Dole, transportation secretary under President Ronald Reagan, was the first woman to command an armed service, the Coast Guard. As secretary, she gets credit for the rear-window brake light in cars.

3 Republicans were pioneers on civil rights for blacks and women. Their role in abolishing slavery is well known. Less understood is that the GOP proclaimed support for some women's rights 40 years before the Democrats. Its 1876 platform declared that the party "recognizes with approval the substantial advances toward the establishment of equal rights for women." Its 1896 document called for "equal pay for equal work." The Democrats didn't address women's rights until they supported women's suffrage in 1916, just four years before the passage of the 19th Amendment.

4 Abraham Lincoln was among our most admired presidents, but he wasn't above playing politics even in wartime. Worried that he would lose the 1864 election, he arranged for soldiers who were unfit for immediate duty to leave the warfront and return to their home states to vote.

5 Newt Gingrich was born with the name Newton Leroy McPherson to a 16-year-old mother and 19-year-old father whose marriage broke up in three days.

6 Col. Robert McCormick, publisher of the Tribune, was such a stalwart Republican that when Rhode Island Democrats won a political battle in 1935, McCormick ordered that Rhode Island's star be cut out of the American flag that flew in the Tribune Tower lobby. But an employee pointed out that mutilating the flag was a crime punishable by a fine and jail time, and the colonel relented.

7 Republican National Chairman Michael Steele's half-sister married Mike Tyson after the boxer's rape conviction, and later divorced him. Tyson endorsed Steele's unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 2006.

8 Four cities call themselves "the birthplace of the Republican Party." Activists in Ripon, Wis.; Exeter, N.H.; and Crawfordsville, Iowa, held meetings in 1853-54 to discuss forming a new party. The first official meeting of the Republican Party took place in Jackson, Mich., in July 1854.

9 A Republican named Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback was the nation's first African-American governor, serving 35 days in 1872-73 after Louisiana's governor was impeached.

10 Margaret Chase Smith was just a freshman Republican senator from Maine when she denounced much-feared demagogue Joseph McCarthy on the Senate floor in 1950. One memorable line: "I don't want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny — Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear." Despite earning McCarthy's wrath, she served three more terms.

mjacob@tribune.com

sbenzkofer@tribune.com

Tribune deputy metro editor Mark Jacob and the Republican Party share the same birthplace — Jackson, Mich. Tribune weekend editor Stephan Benzkofer hails from Minnesota, where Republicans will control the state Senate and House for the first time in 40 years.

Sources: "American History Revised" by Seymour Morris Jr.; "Post Biographies of Famous Journalists" by John E. Drewry; " Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency" By Nigel Hamilton; "The Pact: Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the Rivalry That Defined a Generation" By Steven M. Gillon; "Ripples of Hope: Great American Civil Rights Speeches," edited by Josh Gottheimer; the American Presidency Project at presidency.ucsb.edu; Center for Public Integrity; newsweek.com; iowagop.org; notablebiographies.com; senate.gov; public.coe.edu; pbs.org; sos.louisiana.gov; blackpast.org; Washington Post; New York Times; and Tribune archives and news services.