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Communities Get a Makeover With Surprising Name Changes

During a distinguished television career, Ralph Edwards produced a game show called Truth or Consequences. When Mr. Edwards died earlier this month, it brought to mind the time in 1950 when the townfolk of a sleepy little spa called Hot Springs decided to capitalize on the TV show's wild popularity by changing the town's name to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. To this day, Truth or Consequences is a tourist curiosity.

Other U.S. municipalities have also changed identities. New Amsterdam became New York in the 17th century after Britain kicked the Dutch off Manhattan Island. In the 1950s, the little coal town of Mauch Chunk recreated itself as Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania to honor the Native American Olympic sports hero. Some communities with German names picked new ones during World War II, when Adolf Hitler was rampaging through Europe.

And recently, big corporations -- who are already paying big bucks to attach their names to sports stadiums, are putting their stamp on entire towns. At the height of the Internet boom in 2000, little Halfway, Oregon agreed to become Half-dot-com after the web company Half-dot-com paid the town $100,000 and bought it new computers. That was just a one-year deal, but the change in tiny Clark, Texas, which was just approved, is permanent. Clark's town council voted to become Dish, Texas, when a local dealer agreed to install free satellite dishes on the roof of every home in town.

What's next? The restaurant chain Chick-fil-A coming up with the cash to turn America's fifth-largest city into Chick-fil-Adelphia? Let's hope New York's swaggering, billionaire businessman Donald Trump -- he of Manhattan's Trump Towers skyscraper and six Trump casinos -- never hears of this trend. Imagine how many signs would have to be changed in New Trump City!