37 Crazy Facts About the 1700s That’ll Surprise Even the History Nerds

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1Ewen MacDonald

A man named Ewen MacDonald was hanged in 1752 but regained consciousness after being taken to the dissection theatre. When the surgeon who was meant to dissect his body discovered the supposedly dead man sitting upright on the operating table, he promptly bludgeoned MacDonald to death with a mallet.


2. In December 1777, Morocco became the first nation to recognize the United States, and together they maintain the United States' longest unbroken treaty.


3. There have been 5 attempts to ban coffee throughout history, the last attempt being in 1777 by Frederick the Great of Prussia who issued a manifesto declaring beer’s superiority over coffee. He believed that coffee interfered with the country’s beer consumption.


4. One of the 13 articles in the 1781 US Articles of Confederation states that if Canada wants to be admitted into the United States, it will automatically be accepted.


5. In 1777, a girl named Sybil Ludington went on a night ride to warn American forces of the approaching British. She rode 40 miles which was more than twice the distance covered by Paul Revere. She started the ride at 9 p.m. and ended the ride around dawn. She was only 16 years old at that time.


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6Saloop

Saloop was a drink made out of ground orchid tubers, which was a popular 18th century alternative to coffee or tea until it became rumored to cure venereal disease. After that drinking it in public became shameful.


7. In 1774, colonial Americans had the highest standard of living on the earth and paid an average of 1.5% in taxes.


8. An 18th-century American businessman named Timothy Dexter faked his own death to see how people would react. About 3,000 people attended Dexter's mock wake. Dexter did not see his wife cry, and after he revealed the hoax, then he caned her for not grieving his death sufficiently.


9. In 1713, Venetian Baroque composer Giuseppe Tartini dreamt that he had sold his soul to the devil. In the dream, the devil played a masterful sonata with his voilin. When Tartini woke up, he composed Violin Sonata in G minor.


10. In 1719, prisoners in Paris were allowed to go free, under the condition that they marry prostitutes and go with them to Louisiana. The newly married couples were chained together and taken to the port of embarkation.


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11Original Illuminati

The original Illuminati was an enlightenment-era secret society in Bavaria created on May 1, 1776. The society’s goals were to oppose superstition, prejudice, religious influence over public life and abuses of state power, and to support women’s education and gender equality.


12. After the collapse of the South Sea company in 1720, which bankrupted many and severely affected the economy of England, a proposal was made in parliament to place bankers in sacks filled with snakes and throw them into the River Thames.


13. In 1730, a French scholar named Louis de Jaucourt spent 20 years writing a six-volume work on anatomy. He sent it to be published in Amsterdam to avoid French censorship, but the ship carrying the sole manuscript sank.


14. In 1740, Christina Johansdotter, a suicidal Swedish woman, exploited a loophole in dogmas. Suicide leading to Hell and infanticides being punishable by death, so she decided to kill a child since repenting for a crime granted forgiveness, thus leading her to Heaven after her execution.


15. A French mathematician named Abraham de Moivre claimed that he noted that he was sleeping an extra 15 minutes each night and calculated the date of his death as the day when the sleep time reached 24 hours, the date was November 27, 1754. On that exact same day, Moivre was found dead in London.


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16New Place

William Shakespeare’s final place of residence named New Place was demolished by the very person who purchased it in 1756. Reverend Francis Gastrell was so frustrated with all the tourists visiting Shakespeare’s former house that in 1759 he demolished it. The man was kicked out of the town because of this act.


17. From 1757 to 1795, an anonymous writer published an annual directory of London prostitutes named Harris's List of Covent-Garden Ladies. It sold thousands of copies each year and detailed everything from their specialties to the size of their breasts.


18. In 1760, an astronomer named Guillaume Le Gentil went from France to India to measure the transit of Venus. He missed out on both chances to do so, contracted dysentery and nearly went insane. When he made it back home, he learnt that he had been declared dead and been replaced in the Royal Academy of Sciences. His wife remarried and all his relatives had plundered his estate.


19. English inventor Joseph Merlin designed the first roller skates for a masquerade party in 1760. Not bothering to practice, he smashed into a wall-length mirror upon entrance.


20. The first student protest in the United States happened at Harvard in 1766 when a student yelled out "Behold, our butter stinketh!— give us, therefore, butter that stinketh not." This sparked The Great Butter Rebellion.


21The Turk

In 1770, a man named Wolfgang von Kempelen invented the machine that could play a strong game of chess against a human opponent. The "android" that played the game was nicknamed The Turk (as was the machine itself). It wasn't until 1857 that it was revealed to be a hoax (a chess master was hiding in the machine).


22. In 1770, the British Parliament passed a law condemning lipstick, stating that "women found guilty of seducing men into matrimony by a cosmetic means could be tried for witchcraft."


23. In 1771, a Japanese woman known only as Aochababa (green tea hag) was dissected to compare Chinese anatomical knowledge to the Dutch. The Japanese were astonished to see that the Dutch were correct, and wrote up their findings in a 4 volume text, overturning centuries of Chinese medicine knowledge.


24. Lightning rods were fashion fad meant to protect people from lightning strikes. A woven metal ribbon was placed around a hat, and a small chain made of silver was attached to the ribbon. The chain was meant to run down the back of the dress and drag on the ground. The electricity of a lightning strike to the ribbon would theoretically travel down the chain and into the ground, thus protecting the wearer of the hat. This was a popular Paris fashion trend in 1778.


25. In 1781, a British slave ship named Zong threw over a hundred slaves into the ocean to claim insurance on their death.

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