40 Must-Know Facts About the 1800s That Will Help You Understand the Past

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26American flag

American flag

When the first US ship arrived in China in 1785, the Chinese loved the American flag by calling it "as beautiful as a flower". Since then, an informal Chinese name for the United States has been the "flower flag country".

27. In 1787, a man was hanged for deserting and re-enlisting in the British Army 47 times, in order to get the large bounty obtained upon joining the army.

28. In the 1790s, the Guillotine was so popular that toy replicas were being sold to kids to behead their dolls and rodents, and the wealthy had tiny ones on their dining table for slicing bread.

29. Benjamin Franklin tried to abolish slavery in 1790 by petitioning Congress and writing many essays on abolitionism.

30. Orcas Island, famous for its resident pods of orcas, was actually named after Horcasitas, the Viceroy of Mexico, who sponsored an expedition there in 1791. The name “orca” originated in Ancient Rome; therefore “Orcas Island” is probably the most coincidental place name on Earth.

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31Conrad Reed

Conrad Reed

In 1799, a boy named Conrad Reed found a 17lb. of rock made of gold in a creek in North Carolina and used it as a doorstop in the family's home for several years. In 1802, Conrad's father, John Reed, showed the rock to a jeweler, who recognized it as gold and offered to buy it. Reed, still unaware of the real value of his "doorstop," sold it to the jeweler for $3.50.

32. Benjamin Lay was an 18th century Quaker vegetarian abolitionist who once kidnapped the child of slaveholders temporarily, to show them how Africans felt when their relatives were sold overseas.

33. When vaccines and similar treatment were first introduced in the 18th century, religious leaders condemned them, saying that diseases are sent by God to punish sinners. To try to cure the sinners would be going against God's will.

34. James Price was an 18th-century chemist/alchemist who claimed to be able to turn mercury into gold. When challenged to perform the conversion for the second time in front of credible witnesses, he instead committed suicide by drinking prussic acid (cyanide).

35. Bedlam Asylum was one of the most popular tourist attractions of 18th century London. Visitors paid a penny to watch suffering inmates. Entry was free on Tuesdays.

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36Window taxes

Window taxes

In the 18th century, to discreetly tax rich people more, Scotland, England, and France imposed window taxes based on the number of windows your residence had. To this day you can see many bricked over windows from that time.

37. The first person in Britain to be eaten by a tiger was Hannah Twynnoy who was a Barmaid working at a pub called the White Lion in Malmesbury in 1703.

38. Charles Domery was an 18th-century soldier known for his immense appetite. During his service, he ate dozens of live cats, pounds of raw meat and grass, and once tried to eat the severed leg of a crew member who was hit by cannon fire before other members of the crew wrestled it from him.

39. Newspapers are so big (broadsheet) because the british government began taxing newspapers in 1712 based on the number of pages a newspaper had.

40. On February 27, 1717, a series of massive snowstorms began in New England. A week later, 95% of the deer population had died and many single-story homes were completely buried.

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