The Know-Nothing movement came to fruition in the mid-1850s as a secret society that believed that a Catholic invasion was taking over the United States through an influx of Irish and German immigrants. The name comes from when members stated that they “know nothing” about the movement. Not a lot of thought went into it.

When the Whig party collapsed, they saw it as an opportunity to take it out for a spin on the national stage and called it the “American Party,” nominating Millard Fillmore in the 1856 Presidential Election (after losing reelection in 1852). The idea was to create a third party that could create a compromise between pro-slavery Democrats and anti-slavery Republicans (another emerging party).

The plan failed and the Know-Nothings dissolved. But the dream of electing a president based on a wave of wild conspiracy theory would live on!