There are some interesting facts and information sprinkled all throughout history. But quite a bit of those “facts” have been disproven. However, people still talk about them and spread the information as though they’re 100% correct. Here are some historical “facts” are actually incorrect.
Napoleon Bonaparte Wasn’t Actually Short
Napoleon Bonaparte was described as a military genius with a “little man complex”. He’s actually the origin of the term, “Napoleon complex”. Everyone envisions Napoleon as this short man, but the truth is that he simply wasn’t. Well, by today’s standards he’s a little bit below average in height, he was five-foot-six. However, the average height for men in France in that era was five-foot-five. His height was unremarkable at first and above average at worst. His nickname, “The Little Corporal”, was merely a term of endearment used by his soldiers.
Christopher Columbus Didn’t Discover The Americas
You may have heard people say before that Christopher Columbus Day should be renamed Lief Erikson Day. For starters, Columbus never even went to North America. He explored the Caribbean and parts of Central and South America, but never the North. Additionally, the Vikings had arrived in North America 500 years before Columbus’ famous voyage. That credit goes to Lief Erikson. There are actually eight Viking buildings in Newfoundland that are now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Albert Einstein Didn’t Fail Math
The idea that Einstein failed math as a kid is a completely bogus story. It’s been going on long enough that Einstein, himself, debunked it. The rumor was first circulated by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not (yes, it’s that old). As you’d expect of a physicist, Einstein was a master of mathematics. Einstein had mastered differential and integral calculus at age 15. And at age 17 he received a matriculation certificate. His grades showed that he had the highest marks in algebra and geometry.
The Pyramids Were Not Built By Slave Labor
Professor Amihai Mazar from the University of Hebrew in Jerusalem, concluded that the Pyramids of Giza were not built by Jewish slave labor. Mazar stated that the myth was introduced by former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem. Simply put, when the pyramids were built, the Jewish people did not yet exist. Dieter Wildung, a former director of Berlin’s Egyptian Museum, provided additional evidence. On this, Wildung said “The world simply could not believe the pyramids were built without oppression and forced labor, but out of loyalty to the pharaohs.”
The Pilgrims Did Not Host The First Thanksgiving
There’s a common misconception that the first Thanksgiving feast was done by the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock in 1621. It had actually been cited that there had been numerous meals giving thanks prior to that time. The Spanish even had similar meals in Florida as early as 1565. Abraham Lincoln hadn’t even made Thanksgiving a national holiday until 1863.
Marie Antoinette Didn’t Say “Let Them Eat Cake”
Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in his novel, Confessions, that a “great princess” said, “Let them eat cake”, in reference to France’s starving poor. And a lot of people attributed this quote to Marie Antoinette. However, there’s no evidence to support that she actually did say this. Lady Antonia Fraser actually claims that a different French process, Marie-Thérèse, proclaimed this 100 years before Antoinette’s rule. The quote has also been attributed to other royals in the past, including some Chinese dynasties.
A Cow Did Not Start The Chicago Fire In 1871
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 burned for two days. During that time it burned down three square miles of the city and killed approximately 300 people. To describe the origin of the fire, a journalist wrote about a cow owned by MRs. O’Leary that kicked over a lantern. However, that was revealed to be completely fabricated. The fire was actually attributed to hot, dry, windy conditions. That caused wood in the city to catch fire naturally.
People Never Thought That The World Was Flat
It’s been in school specials and taught in class, so it’s not too surprising people believe this one. With the “Flat Earth Theory” it seems even more likely that this would have been believed at some point. But, as it turns out, people during Columbus’ era did not believe that the world was flat. It was refuted as early as the time of Ancient Greece.
The Emancipation Proclamation Didn’t Really Free The Slaves
The Emancipation Proclamation was a landmark achievement during the Civil War. But, at the time the proclamation was signed, it didn’t do that much. It only applied to the Confederate states, which the Union had no power to enforce in. And while many Union states had already abolished slavery, there were a few, such as the Border States, that still had slaves. Yet, those states the proclamation didn’t even apply to.
Thomas Crapper Didn’t Invent The Flush Toilet
Yes, laugh it up. But the fact of the matter is that Thomas Crapper didn’t invent the flush toilet. He was a 19th Century plumber and manufacturer, and he even created the brand of “water closets” in England, but he didn’t invent flush toilets. Those were invented long before he had even begun a plumbing internship in the 1840s. The word “crap” doesn’t even come from Crapper’s name. It was derived from the word crappe, a 13th Century word for waste.
George Washington Carver Did Not Invent Peanut Butter
George Washington Carver was a botanist, and he used peanuts to help the South’s economy. He found many uses for the nut. But he didn’t invent peanut butter. It’s actually been around since 950 BCE. The Incans created it by smashing peanuts into paste. The first modern patent for peanut butter though was in 1884, when Carver was around 20.
Benjamin Franklin Did Not Suggest The Turkey As America’s National Bird
When it comes to the idea of the Founding Fathers choosing a national bird, everyone thinks that Benjamin Franklin pitched the turkey. Well, the only time Franklin even mentioned eagles and turkeys in the same conversation was in a letter to his daughter. He was simply criticizing the Society of Cincinnati’s eagle seal, which he thought looked more like a turkey. He didn’t want the bald eagle to be the country’s national bird, but he never said he would have preferred the turkey.
Cleopatra Wasn’t Egyptian
Cleopatra was the last sovereign ruler of Egypt. Although, she wasn’t Egyptian. She was a member of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. They were a family of Greeks descended from Alexander the Great. Even while the family rules Egypt, most of them refused to learn the native language. With the exception of Cleopatra, herself. To be fair, she did present herself as fully Egyptian. She even dressed like a reincarnation of Isis, the Goddess of Healing and Magic.
The Spanish Flu Did Not Originate In Spain
Originally known as the “three-day flu”, the Spanish Flu was a pandemic that killed 50 million people in just 1918. It became known as the Spanish Influenza because it was the first country to suffer significantly. Even Spain’s king fell ill with the disease. However, despite its name, it is not clear where the flu actually originated from. John Barry, who wrote The Great Influenza, actually proposed that the first case may have been in Haskell Country, Kansas.
Vikings Didn’t Wear Horned Helmets
Vikings are often portrayed as large, hairy, carrying battle axes, and wearing horned helmets. Well, of all those things, it’s the iconic helmets that are historically inaccurate. There’s just no archaeological evidence to suggest that Norsemen wore these helmets. They either wore leather helmets or no helmets at all. This misconception came in the 1800s when Swedish artist Gustav Malmströmstems included them in his work.
Paul Revere Didn’t Actually Call “The British Are Coming”
This one’s a bit nit-picky, but it’s a misconception all the more. Paul Revere did certainly go on that famous ride before the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Although, he didn’t call “the British are coming!” He was a lot more discrete than that. He had to be, during the American Revolution, a third of the citizens were British Loyalists. Also, since they were all still British citizens at this time, Revere would have referred to them as “Regulars”. That was the term used for British soldiers from Europe.
People Didn’t Jump Off Of High Buildings After The Stock Market Crash
After the stock market crash in 1929, things weren’t looking good for the economy. One of the rumors that had popped up was that people that had worked on Wall Street were beginning to commit suicide by jumping off of buildings. There were a few high-ranking businessmen that did kill themselves, but they did so using firearms. No one had jumped off of a building to achieve this. Comedians like Will Rogers only helped to spread the rumor with some of their routines.
Van Gogh Didn’t Cut Off His Whole Ear In A Fit Of Madness
The common story is that Van Gogh cut off his own ear and mailed it to a French woman. Some people correct that it wasn’t his whole ear but just his ear lobe. That part is true, the rest of it isn’t. Van Gogh actually got his ear lob cut off during a fencing match with Paul Ganguin. The two were rivals and friends, but this event soured their relationship. Ganguin made up the story to make Van Gogh seem unhinged.
Charles Lindbergh Wasn’t The First Pilot To Fly Across The Atlantic
Charles Lindbergh was the first person to fly solo over the Atlantic. That’s still quite the accomplishment, especially back in 1927. However, he wasn’t the first person to do so in general. Technically, he wasn’t even the second. In 1919, British pilot Alcock and Brown did it with a repurposed RAF bomber. This took 16 hours. And a few weeks later, the British airship R34 made a double crossing, taking four days to get to the Americas and back.
Abner Doubleday Didn’t Invent Baseball
In 1907, the Mills Commission ruled that Abner Doubleday had invented baseball in 1839. Doubleday was a Civil War general. Supposedly he had done so in Cooperstown, New York. However, George B. Kirsch, a professor of history, determined that he was in West Point during that year. Doubleday never even left behind evidence of him creating the sport. Congress later recognized that Alexander Cartwright was the inventor of the sport in 1938. He was even the one that came up with the diamond shape for the field.