13 Historical "Facts" You Thought You Knew

Created on Sep 15, 2016 by Kathy Pinna
The truth about Daniel Boone's hat, a Vice Presidential candidate who pardoned a witch, living descendants of a pre-Civil War President, the last Civil War widow died in 2003. . . what we consider as historical facts often isn't true. Which of the following did you know and what surprises you? Did you know that toilets that flush date back to the 26th century BCE, but pre-sliced bread is less than a hundred years old?

13 Historical "Facts" You Thought You Knew

Shirley Chisholm made a 1972 run for the Democratic Presidential nomination.
Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm

Napoleon Bonaparte wasn't a short man

Napoleon I

Napoleon was taller than the average Frenchman of his time. His height was 5' 2" in "French feet" - which in English measures 5' 7". It may be that the imperial guard, who were selected for their above average height, contributed to the perception that he was short. So much for the "short man complex"!

Immigrants' names weren't changed at Ellis Island

Awaiting examination, Ellis Island

Officials at Ellis Island kept no records - they only checked ship manifests created at the point of origin. There was simply no paperwork which would have created changes in names. At this time in New York, however, anyone could change the spelling of their name simply by using the new spelling.


Orson Wells didn't panic the nation

Orson Welles | War of the Worlds

Orson Welles' 1938 radio adaptation of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds didn't cause widespread panic. Only a very small share of the radio audience was even listening to the show. Isolated reports of scattered incidents and increased call volume to emergency services were played up the next day by newspapers that were eager to discredit radio as a competitor for advertising. Both Welles and CBS, which had initially reacted apologetically, later came to realize that the myth benefited them and actively embraced it in later years.

Albert Einstein didn't flunk math

Albert Einstein  אלברט אינשטיין

Einstein never flunked a math exam in school. When he saw this claim, he said: "I never failed in mathematics... Before I was fifteen I had mastered differential and integral calculus" He did fail his first exam for Swiss Federal Polytechnic School (in 1895) but he was two years younger than other students (he did well in math and science). He passed on his second try.

Governor pardons witch after 300 years

Timothy Michael "Tim" Kaine

Grace White Sherwood was convicted of witchcraft in 1706, essentially because her husband died and she worked their farm alone (she never remarried). She also wore britches (her husband's pants) while working. She was thrown (tied up and hooded) into a nearby river and survived the ordeal. She was then sentenced to prison, from which she was released 8 years later. She lived alone until her death at age 80.

On July 10, 2006, 300 years after her trial, Virginia governor Timothy Kaine (current Vice-presidential candidate) pardoned her.

"Xmas" is a Christian term

The government asks you to do your Xmas shopping...

"Xmas" did not originate as a secular plan to "take the Christ out of Christmas". X stands for the Greek letter chi, the starting letter of Χριστός (Christos), or "Christ" in Greek.The use of the word "Xmas" in English can be traced to the year 1021 when monks in Great Britain used the "X" while transcribing manuscripts into Old English.

Click "next page" to see the hard drugs that were in our grandparents' medicine cabinet.
Back to Top