Discovering the 1700s: A Dose of History in 45 Facts

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1Whipping Tom

Whipping Tom

Whipping Tom was the nickname given to two serial spankers in London in the 17th and 18th centuries. "On seeing an unaccompanied woman, he would grab her, lift her dress, and slap her buttocks repeatedly before fleeing. He would sometimes accompany his attacks by shouting “Spanko!”

2. 18th Century Norwegian swashbuckler Peter Tordenskjold once ran out of ammo during a sea battle so he sent his enemy a letter thanking him for “a fine duel” and asking him to send more ammo so they could carry on. The two crews then toasted each other’s health and went their separate ways.

3. Macaroni was an 18th-century expression for fops who dressed in high fashion with tall, powdered wigs. The joke being made in "Yankee Doodle" is that Americans were allegedly naive enough to believe that a feather in the hat was a sufficient mark of a macaroni.

4. 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.

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

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6Frederick the Great of Prussia

Frederick the Great of Prussia

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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

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

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11Timothy Dexter

Timothy Dexter

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.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. 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.

15. 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.

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16Louis de Jaucourt

Louis de Jaucourt

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.

17. 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.

18. 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.

19. 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.

20. 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.

21Guillaume Le Gentil

Guillaume Le Gentil

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.

22. 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.

23. 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.

24. 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).

25. 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."

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