25 Historical Gems That You Missed in School Textbooks

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1Spherical Earth

Spherical Earth

It was well known among educated people in the 15th century that the earth was not flat. There are writings older than Aristotle that mention earth as a sphere, and these writings were relatively common during Columbus's period. What Columbus was trying to prove was that the earth was small enough for a voyage from Europe to India to be possible.

2. Even 60 years after his death, George Washington was such a popular American president that when freed and given the opportunity to choose their surnames, more African-American slaves chose the last name of Washington than Lincoln.

3. Japan bombed Australia during World War 2. In the initial raid on Darwin (1942-02-19) they dropped more bombs than on Pearl Harbour, although the loss of life was far lower. They conducted ~100 raids on Northern Australia over the next 2 years.

4. One of the largest fault lines in America isn't in California but in Missouri. The New Madrid fault triggered a series of earthquakes in the area in 1811-1812 that not only destroyed homes, livestock, and natural habitat but created a crater that became the Reelfoot Lake. In December 1990, residents in the New Madrid area and surrounding counties were warned about a possible earthquake happening that would destroy the area. Schools were canceled, businesses closed for the day, and some people evacuated. Nothing happened. The New Madrid fault still occasionally has minor earthquakes, and there are still studies that say there is a chance it could cause a quake that could destroy parts of Missouri and the surrounding states.

5. The night of November 15, 1917, is known as ‘The Suffragists Night of Terror.’ 33 women fighting for the right to vote were picked up from in front of the White House and put in prison. They suffered beatings, being forced to stand/hang all night with their hands tied above their heads, being thrown around and smashed into iron furniture, and humiliation at the hands of guards. One woman was knocked out after having her head bounced off an iron bench and her cellmate became so distraught (under the impression the unconscious woman was dead) that she suffered a heart attack. She was denied medical care until the next morning. These women were picked up off the street and thrown in jails where they were abused with no access to the council, all because they dared to ask Woodrow Wilson to allow them to vote.

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6Claudette Colvin

Claudette Colvin

Rosa Parks was a plant. A 16-year-old pregnant girl named Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat months before Rosa Parks did. In fact, she knew Rosa Parks personally. The problem was that an underage pregnant girl who resisted arrest violently (she scratched one of the officers who was removing her from the bus) was a hard sell for the face of a civil rights movement. The case went to trial, and MLK and the company supported her as much as they could, but they didn't try to get it national attention. Instead, they simply recreated the scenario with Rosa Parks, a respectable member of society who was cool and calm when getting arrested.

7. The construction and use of the Warwolf was supposedly the largest trebuchet ever built. When it was disassembled it would fill up 30 wagons. King Edward the first built it to siege a Scottish castle, but before it was even built, the Scottish people tried to surrender. To which Edward responded with a prompt no (in actuality he responded with “You do not deserve any grace, but must surrender to my will” in other words, I built this trebuchet over 40 days and I am most definitely going to use it) and proceeded to use the trebuchet anyways.

8. Galvarino was a Chilean warrior who had both his hands cut off by the conquistadors for raising arms against the Spanish. Instead of letting himself serve as a message of helplessness in the face of the invaders, he strapped swords to his stumps and went on the warpath. One theory states that when he got defeated again, the Spanish were impressed by him and offered him to surrender, but he spit in the commander’s face so they literally fed him to their dogs.

9. During the early 20th century, there was an outbreak of Spanish flu in the Americas which caused large amounts of suffering and death among afflicted throughout the world. Eleven victims were claimed by the flu living in the town of Longyearbyen in the North Sea. However, the very cold temperature there created a layer of permafrost at burial depth which accidentally preserved remnants of the flu. This made it illegal to die there as turning up the ground would likely re-release the disease. However, scientists studying epidemics such as the Spanish flu use samples from deceased in Longyearbyen.

10. The Battle of Bull Run, during the American civil war, was called “The Picnic Battle”, because so many civilians from Washington went on picnics on the sidelines and watched. But once the battle actually started, and the Union started losing, they all ran away, running over injured soldiers and dead bodies and generally disrupting the battle. Picnics like these were actually a relatively common thing during the Civil War and happened at Gettysburg too.

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11Bat Bombs

Bat Bombs

A dentist friend of Eleanor Roosevelt proposed bat bombs. He said that not only were the Japanese terrified of bats, but bats could also roost in difficult to access areas of Japanese buildings. Combine this with a timed incendiary device and the wood-and-rice-paper construction of Japanese buildings would cause catastrophic damage. The Army Air Force spent six months trying to build bat bombs and achieved little aside from burning down the test range at Carlsbad Army Air Field Auxiliary Air Base when some of the bats escaped, nested under a fuel tank, and exploded 6,000 miles from the intended target. After the debacle at Carlsbad, the USAAF fobbed the project off to the Navy, who wisely passed it along to the Marines. To everyone's surprise, the Marine Corps was able to get the project to work, even carrying out a successful test at Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah. Unfortunately, the project lost out to the atomic bomb and was canceled in early 1944.

12. The Apollo 10 mission was involved in several mysteries, from spooky “music” heard by the crew on the far side of the Moon, to the ongoing search for Snoopy and possible recent sightings of its long-lost S IV-b stage. However, the most fascinating mystery of Apollo 10 has to be the infamous “Rogue Turd Incident.” A mysterious piece of turd appeared out of nowhere and was spotted by Commander Tom Stafford. He was heard saying “There’s a turd floating through the air.” Within the 500-page-plus transcript of the Apollo 10 mission, pages 414-415 detail the astronaut’s encounter with a floating turd. The culprit remains a mystery to this day.

13. The longest piano piece of any kind is Vexations by Erik Satie. It consists of a 180-note composition which, on the composer's orders, must be repeated 840 times so that the whole performance is 18 hours 40 minutes. Its first reported public performance in September 1963, in the Pocket Theater, New York City, required a relay team of 10 pianists. The New York Times critic fell asleep at 4 a.m. and the audience dwindled to 6 people. At the conclusion, one person shouted “Encore!”

14. There's a community in the UK, in and around Hartlepool who are known as “Monkey Hangers.” According to local folklore, the term originates from an incident in which a monkey was hanged in Hartlepool, England. During the Napoleonic Wars, a French ship of the type chasse marée was wrecked off the coast of Hartlepool. The only survivor was a monkey, allegedly wearing a French uniform to provide amusement for the crew. On finding the monkey, some locals decided to hold an impromptu trial on the beach; since the monkey was unable to answer their questions and because they had seen neither a monkey nor a Frenchman before, they concluded that the monkey was, in fact, a French spy. Being found guilty the animal was duly sentenced to death and hanged on the beach.

15. Elmer McCurdy was a really inept train robber. He once tried to blow up a safe to get to some silver coins and ended up melting the safe and the coins. Another time, he tried to rob a train, but all they were able to get was some whiskey and like $15 from the conductor. After that, he holed up at a farm, drank all the whiskey, and got into a shootout with the Sheriff and died in 1911. But that’s not the end of his story. They took him to the funeral home and embalmed him with a lot of arsenic because they thought it’d be a while before someone claimed him. They were right. No one claimed him. So the funeral director decided to make money off him and put him on display as the Oklahoman Outlaw and charged money to see him. People had to put the money in his mouth. The funeral director’s kids used to put Elmer on roller skates and scare other children with him. Eventually, two men came to claim their brother Elmer. They were actually sideshow operators. Elmer was on the circuit now. He went places. He was sold a few more times, ended up in a “museum”, and they rented him out. He was in a movie theatre lobby as a hophead who tried to hold up a store and was shot, in order to promote an anti-drug film. Decades went by and he started looking a little rough, all desiccated and missing a couple of fingers and his hair. They then rent him out to a display at Niagara Falls, and they send him back because they think he’s a really creepy waxwork. Yes, it’s been so long no one remembers now that he’s a real dead guy. He gets sold to the Pike, an amusement park in Long Beach, California. He’s hung up in Laff In The Dark, their ghost/funhouse ride. In December 1976, they’re filming an episode of “The Six-Million Dollar Man” in Laff In The Dark, moving stuff around, and they move this painted neon orange dummy and its arm breaks off. It’s a real arm. He’s eventually taken to the coroner, eventually identified, and then eventually buried in Boot Hill in Oklahoma under concrete, so he won’t go wandering again.

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1618th Century London

18th Century London

In London in the 18th century, d*ldos were a must-have. One George-Louis Lesage (1676-1759), visiting England in 1713, noted that there were always some women in St. James's Park carrying baskets full of dolls that seem to be in great demand with the young ladies. Instead of legs, the dolls were supported by a cylinder, covered with cloth, which was about six inches long and one inch wide. According to Lesage, one young woman complained that hers was too big and she wanted to exchange it for a smaller one, but the vendor refused to do so, arguing that it would be impossible to resell it.

17. Niccolo Machiavelli, author of the Prince, once got so horny he visited a prostitute, only she was so ugly he threw up all over her. His description of the event is both gross and hilarious. “What the hell, Luigi, you can see what fortune can do to men. You had just finished fu*king your woman when you want another one. I've been in Modena for several days when I came across an old woman who washes my shirts. She asked me to come to her hovel because she wished to show me some fine shirts. Innocent prick that I am I went in. There was a woman over in the corner. ‘This is the shirt that I wanted to sell you,’ the hag said. I was terrified. But I fu*ked her. I found her thighs flabby and her c*nt damp. Her breath stank. But I was horny. When I was finished I took a torch and looked at her. I nearly dropped dead. The woman was ugly. She had a tuft of hair on her head but her head was bald. Her forehead was scarred. One eye looked up, the other down. Her eyes were filled with mucus, and she had no eyebrows. Her nose was twisted into a funny shape. Her mouth looked like Lorenzo de' Medici's but was bent to one side. She was toothless and saliva drooled out of her mouth. Her upper lip had a mustache. I looked at her stupefied. “What's the matter sir?” she asked me. As soon as she opened her mouth, such a stench came out that my eyes and my nose were assaulted and my stomach indignant. They could not bear it, and I vomited all over her.”

18. Frane Selak, a Croatian music teacher, began his unlucky streak in 1962 on a train going from Sarajevo to Dubrovnik. The train inexplicably jumped the tracks and fell into an icy river killing 17 passengers. Selak managed to swim to shore suffering from hypothermia and a broken arm. A year later, while on an airplane, its door flew off and Selak was sucked out of the airplane. The plane crashed and he woke up in a hospital. He was found in a haystack. In 1966, Selak was on a bus that went off the road and into a river. Four people were killed, but he only suffered minor injuries. In 1970, his car caught on fire and he stopped it and got out just before the whole car blew up. In 1973, Selak was driving another car when a faulty fuel line sprayed gas all over the engine and flames blew through his air vents. His only injury was the loss of most of his hair. In 1995 he was hit by a bus but he only sustained minor injuries. Finally, in 1996, he was driving on a mountain road when he went around a bend and saw a truck coming right at him. He ran his car through a guardrail and jumped out to watch his car blow up 300 feet below him. In 2003, Selak bought a lottery ticket for the first time in 40 years at the age of 74. He ended up winning $1 million.

19. About 112 people died during the construction of Hoover Dam. The first was J. G. Tierney, a surveyor who drowned on December 20, 1922, while looking for an ideal spot for the dam. His son, Patrick W. Tierney, was the last man to die working on the dam, 13 years to the day later, in 1935. So yeah a father and son died on the same day, 14 years apart while working on Hoover Dam.

20. In Monza, Italy, King Umberto I, went to a small restaurant for dinner, accompanied by his aide-de-camp, General Emilio Ponzia-Vaglia. When the owner took King Umberto’s order, the King noticed that he and the restaurant owner were virtual doubles, in the face and in build. Both men began discussing the striking resemblances between each other and found many more similarities. Both men were born on the same day, of the same year, (March 14th, 1844). Both men had been born in the same town. Both men married a woman with the same name, Margherita. The restaurateur opened his restaurant on the same day that King Umberto was crowned King of Italy. On the 29th of July 1900, King Umberto was informed that the restaurateur had died that day in a mysterious shooting accident, and as he expressed his regret, he was then assassinated by an anarchist in the crowd.

21Jim Lewis and Jim Springer

Jim Lewis and Jim Springer

The stories of identical twins' nearly identical lives are often astonishing, but perhaps none more so than those of these identical twins born in Ohio. A set of twin boys separated at birth were adopted by different families. Unknown to each other, both families named the boys Jim. The coincidences had just begun. Both James grew up not even knowing of the other, yet both sought law-enforcement training, both had abilities in mechanical drawing and carpentry, and each had married women named Linda. They both had sons whom one named James Alan and the other named James Allan. The twin brothers also divorced their wives and married other women both named Betty. They both owned dogs which they named Toy. Jim Lewis and Jim Springer finally met on February 9, 1979, after 39 years of being separated.

22. The three Olympic-class ocean liners were each involved in accidents: RMS Olympic was damaged in a collision with HMS Hawke, RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sank, and HMHS Britannic struck an underwater mine during World War I and sank. One woman named Violet Jessop survived all three accidents.

23. In 1869 during the Paraguayan War 90% of the male population of Paraguay had already died at the hands of the invading Brazilian, Argentinian and Uruguayan armies. The Paraguayans went to make a last stand at Campo Grande but they didn't have enough men so they assembled a 6,000 strong army composed mainly by children. The children anywhere from 6 to 15 painted beards on their faces to look like grown men. A 20,000 strong Brazilian army charged and slaughtered them and by the end of the day, there were 3,500 Paraguayan children dead and 46 Brazilian deaths. To this day on August 16th, the day of the battle, Paraguay celebrates Children's Day.

24. In the USA, the record for the most criminals killed by the electric chair in a single day is six. They were all German saboteurs who invaded the USA during World War 2 as part of Operation Pastorius. Also, most people hanged in a single day is 38, a record held by Mankato, Minnesota for hanging Dakota Natives for their uprising following the Dakota War of 1862. This number is in spite of the fact that Lincoln commuted the sentences of 264 others who would have also been hanged for participating in the uprising.

25. If you look up Edward Russell in history books or even Wikipedia, you learn about his military service, including Admiral of the Royal Fleet for some famous battles. What they don't teach is that he threw a party so epic it's still being talked about 300 years later. In 1694, he threw a party for officers, and with 6,000 guests coming, he wanted to make it special. So, he made the world's largest cocktail. He drained the garden fountain and used that as a giant punch bowl with hundreds of gallons of liquor, over a half-ton of sugar, thousands of lemons, etc. He hired bartenders to paddle around in boats, scoop it up, and serve it to attendees. At some point, it began to rain, so they put a tent up over the fountain to prevent it from getting watered down. About a week after they started, they had drunk every last drop, the fountain was dry, and the party was over.

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