It’s important to know about the times of the past, however, not all parts of history make it into textbooks. Ever wonder how dentures were first made? Or what ketchup was actually used for in the 1830s? Learning about the stranger side of history definitely makes it a bit more interesting. These are some facts that many people don’t know about and what we definitely didn’t learn in school. It also makes us wonder how many things about the world’s history we actually know. Here are some of the lesser-known facts about history that are almost too weird to be true.
Before alarm clocks were invented people called “knocker-ups” would shoot peas at people’s windows in order to wake them up.
In today’s world there is a deep appreciation for the alarm clock, yet at the same time, we dread it. Before modern alarm clocks were invented people called “knocker-ups” were hired to wake up people up who worked on the docks, industrial locations, or mining. “Knocker-ups” would use blow pipes or long rods to shoot dried peas on people’s windows in order to wake them up early in the morning.
Women wore flour sacks as clothing during the Great Depression, so distributors would make the sacks with colors and designs to make it more fashionable.
The Great Depression was a very difficult time in America during the 1930s. Nearly 15 million people were unemployed and tried to survive the best that they could, and that included being creative with the clothes on their backs. People used to make clothes from flour sacks and the companies distributors noticed. In order to look more fashionable, the distributors started making sacks with attractive images and colors.
Chinese women used to painfully bind their feet to make them appear smaller and more feminine.
For many centuries millions of Chinese women and girls practiced foot binding as a way to change the size and shape of their feet. It was an incredibly painful process that involved breaking their toes and arches and binding them with cloth to the sole of their feet. It was a way of achieving smaller feet to appear more feminine and attractive for men. There has been many controversies over this practice and has since been banned in China since 1912.
Albert Einstein was offered the presidency of Israel in 1952, but turned it down.
After the death of Israel’s first president, Albert Einstein was offered the presidency by Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. Upon receiving the invitation, he wrote in a letter that he is “deeply moved by the offer from our State of Israel to serve as President, and at once saddened and ashamed that I cannot accept it.” He denied the position because he “lacked the natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people.”
In the 19th century dentures were made from the teeth of dead soldiers.
Today they don’t make dentures like they used to, and that’s definitely a good thing. Back in the 19th century dentistry was just in its beginning phases, and rich people liked sugar which resulted in rotten teeth. In order to help them with their teeth, dentists made dentures out of teeth that they pulled form dead soldiers on the battlefield of Waterloo. It’s safe to say that thankfully there have been many advances in dental care since these days.
One of the designers of the Titanic argued for more lifeboats, but was rejected. He saved everyone he could, but his body was never recovered.
Thomas Andrews was one of the chief designers of the Titanic that set sail in 1912. His original design included additional safety measures and enough lifeboats for everyone on board. There were more that 2200 passengers on board, but only enough lifeboats for 1178. When the Titanic hit an iceberg and began to sink, he saved everyone that he could, however, he went down with the ship and was never found.
The facial expressions of the Guanajuato mummies are due to some being accidently buried alive.
In 1833 people in the center of Mexico became extremely ill due to a cholera outbreak. Many residents died and were buried in mass graves. It is believed that the terrified looks on their faces are due to them waking up in their coffins and realizing they had been buried alive. Some of the mummies are on display at the Museum of Mummies in Guanajuato, Mexico.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa took 200 years to build and was never built straight to begin with because of a design flaw.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of Italy’s most iconic landmarks, and it’s due to a pretty impressive design flaw. The Leaning Tower of Pisa literally gets its name due to the fact that it leans due to its foundation which caused it to sink while building the second floor. Who would have thought that this mistake would make it as famous as it is. Today, its structural uniqueness has made it a photo-op for tourists.
In the Victorian Era doctors prescribed beards to help keep men healthy.
Beards might be totally in right now and make quite a statement, but in the 1800s beards were used for health. Beards were actually prescribed by doctors as a remedy for sore throats and a way to filter air. Sounds a bit strange in today’s society, but back then germs were a scary thing to deal with and a ‘beard-boom’ seemed to be the remedy to ward off illness.
Ketchup was first sold and used for medicine in 1834
When we think of ketchup today we think of one the most popular condiments for our food. But, ketchup wasn’t always a tasty tomato dip. Ketchup was actually made from fish and mushrooms, and tomatoes were only added in 1834. During this time, ketchup was used as medicine and the tomatoes added antioxidants to help cure diarrhea, indigestion, jaundice, and rheumatism.
The first man to fly a plane and the first man on the moon were alive at the same time.
It’s unbelievable to think that there’s only 66 years between the first plane flight and the first moon landing. Two of humankind’s greatest achievements commenced in 1903 when Orville Wright and his brother flew the world’s first successful airplane flight. Neil Armstrong became the first person to land on the moon in 1969. Armstrong was 18 years old when Wright passed away in 1948.
Washington Square Park in New York City used to be a graveyard between 1797-1825, and an estimated 20,000 people have been buried there.
You never know what’s under your feet until you do a little digging. This was the case during the 1800s when the park was used as a burial ground for thousands of people. It is believed that up to 20,000 people were buried under the park. Many remains such as bones, skeletons, and tombstones were dug up during a redesign of the park. As recently as 2015 two burial vaults with 30 bodies were found.
According to DNA taken from King Tut’s mummified body, his parents were related. They were brother and sister.
Ancient Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun also known as King Tut died at the age of 19. He had health issues ranging from malaria to a bone disorder. It is believed that this might be due to his incestuous origins discovered by DNA samples of his mother and father. In 2010 the DNA tests revealed that his parents were brother and sister and this his wife was also his half-sister.
Abraham Lincoln is in the wrestling hall of fame and had only 1 loss among 300 matches.
Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was in the wrestling hall of fame? The 6’4 former president had competed in wrestling matches for more than a decade. He only had one loss out of three hundred wrestling matches. With his great success he earned the title of ‘elite fighter’ in New Salem, Illinois. He was officially inducted into the National Wrestling Hall Of Fame in 1992 as an “outstanding American.”
The shortest war in history lasted only 38 minutes.
The Anglo-Zanzibar war of 1896 lasted less than one hour and is recorded as the shortest war in history. For a war to be this short, there were actually many causalities. Nearly 500 Zanzibarian soldiers lost their lives, however, just 1 British soldier was hurt.
The tallest married couple ever recorded was Anna Haining Swan who was 7’11 inches tall and Martin Van Buren Bates who was 7’9 inches.
Due to their astonishing height, this couple became an international sensation during the late 1800s. They were declared to be the worlds “Tallest Married Couple Ever” by the Guinness World Record. The couple stood at a combined height of 15 ft 8 inches tall. During their marriage they were able to conceive a child who weighed 22 pounds.
Tsutomu Yamaguchi survived both the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Tsutomu Yamaguchi was a 29 year old Navy Engineer at the time of the atomic bombs. It was just a normal morning for him on August 6th, 1945, until the US dropped an atomic bomb in Hiroshima. He was only two miles from where the bomb was dropped and his upper body was badly burned and ears were ruptured as a result of the blast. He returned home to Nagasaki only two days later to experience the second atomic bomb. He miraculously survived.
98% of human history has been unrecorded.
There is so much of our world’s history that’s been documented throughout centuries, yet we still have so much to learn about it. However, there are still so many stories throughout history that have been lost and unrecorded. Nearly 98% of human history has gone undocumented. That’s a lot of legendary information that remains a mystery.
Robert Liston was the fastest surgeon ever causing a 300% mortality rate.
Robert Liston was considered “the fastest knife in the West.” During one of his surgeries he performed an amputation in front of spectators and Liston cut through the leg so quickly that he accidentally cut off the fingers of the person assisting him. Both his patient and assistant died of blood poisoning from their amputations. He is the only surgeon in history to have a 300% mortality rate.
Martin Luther King and Anne Frank were born in the same year a world apart.
These are the images engrained in our minds when we think of these two legendary people who never lost their faith in humanity. But, to put this all into perspective, if Martin Luther King and Anne Frank were still alive today they would be the exact same age. They were born in 1929, but we know each of them throughout different stages of history.
The US army during WW2 was the biggest in army history with 12 million soldiers by the end of 1945.
Due to a surge of American patriotism, the Twelfth United States Army Group was the largest and most powerful army during World War II. By 1945 the US army reached its peak of 12 million active duty soldiers.
The 10th president of the United States who was born in 1790, has a grandson who is still alive today.
Yes, you read that correctly so lets talk about this family tree for a minute. It is true that America’s 10th president has a living grandson, who is in fact, 93 years old today. President John Tyler was 63 years old when his son, Lyon, was born. Lyon had a son, Harrison, when he was 75 years old. That means that President Tyler’s grandson was born in 1928!
Marie Curie, the famous Nobel Prize winning physicist’s notebook still can’t be handled because it’s radioactive.
Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in physics and the only person to ever win a Nobel Prize in physics and chemistry. She’s remembered for her discovery of radium and polonium, and finding treatments for cancer. Her notebooks are radioactive due to high exposure of radiation and are stored in lead-lined boxes. Her notebooks will remain radioactive for another 1500 years.
Before winning the World Series in 2016, the Chicago Cubs hadn’t won a championship since before women were allowed to vote in the US.
Baseball is undoubtedly America’s favorite past time. The Chicago Cubs were hit by an infamous losing streak that goes back all the way to 1908. Women in the United States only acquired the right to vote in 1920. That was the very last time they had won a World Series Championship, until 2016.
Women could not get credit cards on their own until 1974.
It’s totally unimaginable that only 48 years ago women were unable to obtain a credit card on their own. Banks were allowed to refuse women a credit card until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 was signed. Before the law came into effect, unmarried women were denied, and married women needed a male co-signer for a credit card.
Warner Bros. was founded when the Ottoman Empire was still in existence.
Warner Brothers is one of America’s biggest entertainment conglomerates and surprisingly was founded in April 1923, when the Ottoman Empire was still alive and well. That makes Warner Brothers pretty historic!
The average US wage in 1910 was 22 cents per hour.
Just a little over 100 years ago the average wage in the US was only 22 cents/per hour. This means that the average salary for workers was between $200-$400 per year. Times back then were definitely different, and to put it into a bit more perspective, top earning occupations such as an accountant would earn around $2000 per year, a dentist would earn $2500 per year, and a mechanical engineer would earn about $5000 per year.
There is more processing power in a TI-83 calculator then there was in the computer that helped land Apollo 11 on the moon.
This historical fact is absolutely mind-blowing. Knowing that a calculator that is designed to help students with mathematics and pass their exams was more powerful than a computer that helped land a man on the moon. The TI-83 processing speed was actually 350 times faster!
During the Victorian Era, it was completely normal to photograph loved ones after they died.
This is a bit unsettling and it’s good to know that this was a thing of past. However, during the Victorian Era it was not uncommon to take family portraits with family members who had passed away. They would be dressed as normal and propped up to look alive. Although this might be seen as morbid, back then it was a way for these families to grieve and commemorate their loved ones.
Heroin was once a perfectly acceptable medicine. Doctors prescribed it for everything from coughs to headaches.
Today it’s well-known that heroin is a very addictive narcotic and an illegal substance. In the early 1900s it started out as a medicine prescribed by doctors to help alleviate coughs and headaches. Due to its addictive properties, the US congress band the sale and distribution of heroin in 1924.
1,200 bones from ten human bodies were found in the basement of Benjamin Franklin’s house, 1998.
So, you might ask why Benjamin Franklin’s basement was filled with human remains? Well, don’t be alarmed just yet. In 1998, renovators uncovered 1,200 pieces of bones that were found, and it’s believed they were used for an anatomy school by one of Franklin’s friends.
Flight attendant, Vesna Vulovic, fell 33,000 feet with no parachute during a plane crash. She was the only survivor.
This is an unbelievable story of survival and Vesna Vulovic lived to tell her story. On January 26th, 1972 she boarded a flight to Copenhagen when a briefcase bomb exploded 46 minutes into the flight. Ironically, she wasn’t scheduled to be on the flight that day. Due to the impact of the explosion, she fell 33,000 feet to the ground and suffered several broken bones and was temporarily paralyzed. Remarkably, she made almost a complete recovery.
Japanese solider Hiroo Onada didn’t realize WW2 was over until 1974.
Hiroo Onada was a young Japanese soldier during WW2 and received orders not to surrender. A command that he obeyed for 29 years when he hid at his post in a jungle in the Philippines. He stayed there until 1974 because he didn’t believe that the war was really over. It wasn’t until he received a direct order from the Japanese government that he actually surrendered.
The ancient Egyptians used slabs of stone as pillows.
This doesn’t look like the standard fluffy, soft, and comfy pillow that we are used to. However, you work with what you have, especially in Ancient Egypt. Slabs of stone with an curve in the middle where your head is supposed to rest, were used as pillows. It was not uncommon during these days to also sleep on wooden, ceramic, stone, and even glass pillows.
Tug of war used to be an Olympic sport from 1900-1920.
Between 1900-1920 tug of war was an event held at the summer Olympics and was considered part of the track and field program. It’s first debut was in Paris and consisted of an eight-man team. In order to win, they had to pull the opposing team six feet, and if either team failed to do so, the team who made the most progress were declared the winners.
The world’s oldest film is only 2.11 seconds long.
The Roundhay Scene is a short film that was shot in 1888. It is the world’s shortest and oldest film to date. The scene is only a little over two seconds long and was captured in 12 frames. In the scene, a woman appears to be moving around or dancing as a man walks past her.
All British tanks since 1945 have been equipped with tea making facilities.
The British really do love their tea, so why not put tea making equipment in their tanks too. The official name is the The Vessel Boiling Electric. It’s purpose is to not only make tea, but to boil water and cook food as well.
Women used to wear muzzles on their faces as punishment in the 17th century.
Women in 17th century Europe who spoke inappropriately had to wear a metal muzzle locked around their heads. In some cases, these muzzles included a spiked plate to put in their mouth. This practice was used to intimidate and humiliate women and caused a lot of physical pain and side effects, including psychological trauma.
The United States government formally declared independence on July 2, 1776. Not July 4th.
July 4th is known as America’s Independence Day where families get together to barbeque, watch fireworks, and celebrate America. However, the real independence day was declared on July 2, 1776. It is celebrated on July 4th because that’s when a draft was written for the public, and its final wording had been approved.
President William Henry Harrison had the shortest term as president in US history. He died two months into his presidency.
President William Henry Harrison was the 9th president of the United States, but unfortunately, his presidency didn’t last very long. He served as president for only two months because he passed away from a cold. It’s been said that maybe his condition worsened due to the strange treatments of leeches and opium he was receiving to help his illness.
Four years before women were given the right to vote, Jeanette Rankin became the first female member of Congress in America, 1916.
In 1916, Jeanette Rankin became the first woman in US history to be elected to the House of Representatives. An unbelievable accomplishment at the time considering that women didn’t have the right to even vote in America until 1920. She is quoted saying ” I may be the first woman member of Congress, but I won’t be the last.”
Using forks used to be seen as sacrilegious.
Forks are a widely used eating utensil, but they were once seen as blasphemous. Forks made their debut in Italy during the 11th century, and were considered to be sacriligous because our hands should be used as natural forks, and forks were considered to be “artificial hands of God.”
Charlie Chaplin entered a Charlie Chaplin look-alike competition and came in 20th place.
At the height of his career, Charlie Chaplin was everywhere. Suddenly men started growing similar mustaches and there were many imitators and look-alike contests. Chaplin himself decided to enter one of the contests, and funnily enough, he lost. He came in 20th place.
In the 1800s it was considered cruel and unusual punishment to feed lobsters to prisoners.
Eating lobsters in the past are certainly different than the expensive culinary delicacy they are considered to be today. According to historians, some states had laws against feeding lobsters to convicts more than 2-3 times a week because it was considered to be cruel and unusual punishment.
Jockey Frank Hayes suffered a heart attack and died while riding his horse during a race at Belmont Park in New York, 1923.
In 1923 Frank Hayes participated in a horse race that he ended up winning. The strange part is that he suffered a heart attack mid-race and actually died while riding his horse. His body was able to hang on the saddle until his horse crossed the finish line.
This photograph of Boston taken in 1860 is the oldest surviving aerial photo ever taken.
These days aerial photographs and videos are captured with drones and the results are absolutely incredible. However, back in 1860 no such drone existed, and this vintage photo was taken from a hot air balloon. This is what Boston looked like from an altitude of 2,000 feet.
Oxford University is older than the Aztec civilization.
When we think of the Aztecs we think of ancient history, Aztec ruins, museums, and exhibits. However, Oxford University has existed for so long and is so old that it predates Aztec civilization by more than 200 years. People started studying at Oxford around 1096 and the founding of the Aztecs wasn’t until 1325.
In ancient Egypt servants used to be smeared with honey to attract flies away from Pharaoh.
In ancient Egypt, Pharaoh who succeeded the throne at the age of six, had a pretty privileged upbringing and become one of Egypt’s most demanding kings. It’s been recorded that he despised flies so much that his servants smeared honey on their bodies to attract flies. He kept his servants by his side and essentially used them as fly traps.
In 1961, a chimpanzee named Enos was getting prepared to fly into space.
On November 29, 1961, Enos the chimp became one of the first primates to orbit Earth. Enos spent over 1,200 hours training for his space mission. While in space, there was some malfunctions during the tasks he was supposed to complete and due to the defect, he was subject to several electrical shocks. Overall the mission was successful, but Enos died less than a year later.
The original patent from 1891 shows the correct rolling direction for a toilet paper roll.
There has been an ongoing debate that still exists today of which direction the toilet paper is really supposed to go. Well, debate no more, because there is only one way and it’s presented here in this photograph. This is the actual patent from 1891 that shows the correct direction of a toilet paper roll.
Lina Medina, pictured with her son, is the youngest confirmed mother in history, 1939.
In 1939, Lina Medina, a five year old girl from Peru gave birth to a baby boy. She was the youngest person to ever give birth in medical history. At first, her parents thought she was developing a tumor in her stomach due to its large size, but, she was in fact seven months pregnant. Her pregnancy at such a young age came as a disturbing shock, and to this day, she has never revealed the identity of the father.
Cleopatra’s tomb has never been found.
Cleopatra was considered one of the most iconic figures of the ancient world and her name is known throughout the world and even Hollywood. It was one of history’s biggest unsolved mysteries that till this day, her tomb has never been found. Kathleen Martinez, an archaeologist says that her tomb has never been found “because Cleopatra outsmarted everyone.”
America’s National School Lunch Program was enacted in 1946 during WW2 because providing a free lunch to children would create a healthier draft if they ever needed one again.
The National School Lunch Program was signed by President Harry S. Truman in 1946. This legislation was enacted due to claims that many American men had been rejected from military service due to poor diet and health problems. This assisted program was established as “a measure of national security, to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation’s children.”
In 1872, Victoria Woodhull was the first female candidate for President of the United States. 50 years before she was even allowed to vote.
Victoria Woodhull was an outspoken leader of the women’s suffrage movement. She also became the first female candidate to run for president in 1872. Ironically, during this time she wasn’t even allowed to vote. It wasn’t until 1920, nearly 50 years after her candidacy, that women were legally allowed to vote in the United States.
Chi-Chi was the London zoo’s most famous panda, and was refused entry into the US on the account of her being “communist goods” from China.
The London Zoo has a long history and its most beloved animal of all time is Chi-Chi the panda. She was born in Beijing, China, and the only reason why she didn’t go to live in the US was because she was refused entry. Who could say no to this face? Well, because of a trade embargo of goods coming from China she was considered to be “communist goods.”
The fax machine was invented the same year as the Oregon Trail migration.
The fax machine was invented in 1843. This was the same year the “Great Migration” on the Oregon Trail began. As strange and cool as it sounds, the fax machine that is used in offices and modern workplaces, is as old as the Oregon Trail.
Susan B. Anthony was fined $100 for voting in the 1872 election, and she never paid it.
Susan B. Anthony was one of the biggest pioneers for women’s rights and the suffrage movement. in 1872 after casting her ballot in the presidential election she was arrested and convicted of illegally voting. She was sentenced to pay a fine of $100 and she described this as “the greatest judicial outrage history has ever recorded.”
President James Madison was the smallest President in US history at 5 feet 4 inches tall and less than 100 pounds.
President James Madison was the fourth president and will always be remembered as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He played an important role in the very beginnings of this country, however, did you know he was also the shortest US president in history? He stood only at 5 feet 4 inches tall.
The first pyramids were built while the woolly mammoth was still alive.
Woolly mammoths are known as ancient creatures who roamed the Earth way before civilization. Amazingly however, there were still woolly mammoths walking around earth when the Egyptians built the pyramids of Giza. The last known woolly mammoth disappeared just 4,000 years ago.
Cleopatra lived closer to the moon landing than she did to the building of the Great Pyramid.
This is certainly a historical fact that we didn’t learn in school. Yes, it’s true. Cleopatra lived closer to the time of the first moon landing than to when the ancient pyramids of Giza were built. Cleopatra lived between 69-30 BC, meaning 2500 years had passed since the pyramids were built. The first moon landing was in 1969, which means only 2000 years after that had passed.