History Trivia

Amelia Earhart designed the first lightweight luggage for air travel.

George Washington's wooden dentures were actually made of walrus ivory and were mounted on pure hammered gold.

About 80% of the city was burned in the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII and mother of Queen Elizabeth I, had an extra finger on her left hand.

General Stonewall Jackson has two separate burial sites - one for his amputated left arm (Fredericksburg, VA) and one for the rest of his body (Lexington, VA). Jackson’s left arm was shattered during the Battle of Chancellorsville by friendly fire and was amputated the next day. He died a week later.

Army doctor D.W. Bliss attended to two presidents after they were shot by assassins. In 1865 he was one of the 16 doctors who tried to save Abraham Lincoln. In 1881 he supervised the care of James Garfield.

Modern archaeologists have not yet agreed on how large a crowd the Colosseum in Rome could hold. However, the generally accepted number is estimated to have been 45,000.

The lone surviving written record of Mayan history is three codices written in hieroglyphs on bark paper.

One of the greatest soldiers in history, Alexander the Great, was tutored by the greatest thinker of all time, Aristotle.

General Robert E. Lee was not a slaveholder and never believed in slavery. He never believed in secession from the United States and strongly condemned it. He decided to lead the armies of the South because he wanted nothing to happen to his beloved Virginia.

The first public mention of a name for the United States' capital was in a letter from General George Washington in 1791, who referred to it as Federal City.

Jimmu, the legendary first ruler of Japan, began his reign in the year 660. Akihito, the current emperor, is said to be the 125th direct descendant of Jimmu to rule Japan.

After his death in 896, the body of Pope Formosus was dug up and tried for various crimes.

Louis XVI of France was captured at Varennes in June 1791 while trying to flee his country. He was stopped at an inn when he tried to pay with a coin that carried his likeness.

The oldest man-made building of any kind still existing is the central edifice of the 4,600-year-old mastaba (a tomb for kings) built at Sakkara, Egypt. It was created to honor King Zoser, the first ruler of the Third Dynasty.

Captain William Driver, skipper of the brig Charles Doggett, was the first person to call the American flag "Old Glory". He made a ceremony of it in 1824.

The first telephone book ever issued contained only fifty names. It was published in New Haven, Connecticut, by the New Haven District Telephone Company in February, 1878.

John Paul Jones' real name was John Paul. In a letter to Benjamin Franklin, he admitted he'd killed a sailor in the West Indies and changed his name to escape punishment. The "Jones" comes from Mrs. Willie Jones of North Carolina, whom he "admired."

Roman statues were made with detachable heads, so that one head could be removed and replaced by another.

There was no soap in the ancient Mediterranean world. Olive oil was used to wash the body in addition to cooking.

Only 16% of able-bodied males in the American colonies participated in the Revolutionary War.

King Henry III of France, Louis XIV of France, and Napoleon all suffered from ailurophobia - the fear of cats.

The oldest recorded document on paper made from fibrous material was a deed of King Roger of Sicily, in the year 1102.

In ancient China people committed suicide by eating a pound of salt.

The first coin minted in the United States was a silver dollar. It was issued on October 15, 1794.

Dennis H. sent in a link proving this fact to be wrong, which means the book I got it from was wrong. I contacted the U.S. Mint and found that the first circulated coins - 11,178 copper cents - were minted in March 1793.

Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew marijuana on their plantations.

Aztecs believed that the sun died every night and needed human blood to give it strength to rise the next day. So they sacrificed 15,000 men a year to appease their sun god, Huitzilopochtli. Most of the victims were prisoners taken in wars, which were sometimes started solely to round up sacrificial victims.

Thousands of people watched the Battle of Bunker Hill take place. People in the Boston area sat on rooftops, in trees, on church steeples, and in the rigging of ships in the harbor to watch the American revolutionaries battle the British.

Saint Isidore, or Seville, who lived in the 17th century, was believed to have written the world's first encyclopedia, the Etymologies. It included entries on medicine, mathematics, history and theology.

During the mid-1800s, less than half of the newborn babies lived more than ten years. Today, over 90 percent do.

The longest reign in the history of the world was that of Pepi II of the sixth Egyptian dynasty. He ruled from the age of 6 until his death at age 94.

In the year 498 B.C., in the city of Chung-tu, crime ceased to happen with the naming of a new Minister of Crime. Legend has it that nobody wanted to commit a crime because everyone idolized the new minister, someone by the name of Confucius.

Lady Godiva's horse was named Aethenoth.

The military salute originated during the medieval times. Knights in armor used to raise their visors to reveal their identity, and the motion later evolved into the modern-day salute.

The Santa Maria was the only one of Columbus's ships not to return to Spain. It hit a reef on December 5, 1492 and sank.

August 9, 1173 marked the first day of construction on the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It was completed sometime in 1370 after two building stoppages. In 1178, when the tower was three stories tall, construction was halted for unknown reasons. It wasn't until 1272 that construction resumed, and that lasted until 1278 (the tower was seven stories at that point). In 1360, construction of the belfry that would eventually hold seven bells began.

The Mesopotamians were the first people to keep records of lunar eclipses. The earliest records show that they started sometime around 2200 B.C.

When Robert Goddard, a pioneer in rocket science, was first testing the use of rockets with a liquid propellant in 1926, the New York Times ridiculed him, saying the inventor lacked "the knowledge ladled out daily in our high schools." Forty-nine years later, as Apollo 11 headed towards the moon, the Times printed an apology: "It is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum. The Times regrets the error."

The infamous "Red Baron" was German World War I pilot Manfred von Richthofen.

Damascas, the capital of Syria, is the oldest city in the world that's still continuously inhabited. However, nobody knows for sure how old it is.

Slaves who lived under the Manchus - the last emperors of China who ruled from 1644-1912 - wore pigtails so that they could be picked out quickly.

At the time of the U.S. Revolutionary War, Philadelphia was the second largest English-speaking city in the world, surpassed only by London.

English traders introduced opium to China to create a market for the drug. They then traded silver for opium to help pay other Chinese traders for their tea.

In 1789, Morocco became the first country to recognize the United States.

In one of the central intersections of the resort town of Pompeii - destroyed in A.D. 79 by Mt. Vesuvius - is a replica of the male genitalia, imbedded in and made of cobblestones. The image is approximately three feet wide by three feet long, and points the way to a house of prostitution. The walls of the house are still decorated with picture of the various specialties of the ladies employed there.

The Charlotte Dundas, a paddle-wheel steamboat, was the world's first steam-powered vessel, not Robert Fulton's Clermont. In 1802, five years before Fulton's famous ship took sail, The Dundas was a steam-powered tugboat in Great Britain.

The ancient Greeks were the first to use bed springs. They fashioned them out of braided leather thongs and hung them between opposite sides of the bed.

The U.S. government did not issue paper money per se until 1861. Instead, it chartered 1,600 private banks to print and circulate their own bills. There were eventually 7,000 varieties of "state bank notes" in circulation, each with a different design.

When the gray exterior of the Presidential Mansion was painted white to cover the fire damage caused by British forces in the War of 1812, the change in color brought about the change in name of the building to the White House.

Three of the first five U.S. Presidents - John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe - died on July 4th (though not the same one).

Dartmouth was the only college in New England to remain open during the entire Revolutionary War.

In 1920, Eugene Debs, a Socialist, received 920,000 votes for president of the United States even though he ran his entire campaign from prison.

Sometime around 1325, the Aztecs were looking for a place to build their capital. A priest had interpreted an omen to mean the site should be where the found an eagle, perched on a cactus, devouring a snake. And that's why they chose what is now Mexico City; they found the eagle eating a snake while resting on a cactus. The scene is depicted on the Mexican flag.

James Madison, the fourth President of the United States, stood only five feet four inches tall and weighed less than one hundred pounds.

The designer of the Statue of Liberty, French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, used his wife as the model for the body and his mother as the model for the face.

The total number of African slaves sent to all parts of the world between 1500 and 1865 was estimated to be at least 12 million. When you consider that only one in ten made the trip alive, the number of Africans who were enslaved or killed in the 350 years of the slave trade had to be no less than 120 million people.

On July 4, 1776, King George III of England noted in his diary: "Nothing of importance happened today."

The first bank in history was the Igibi. It was established in 575 B.C.

Alexander H. Stephens was Jefferson Davis's Vice President of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Of the five cabinet members in George Washington's first administration, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson was the oldest at 46 years of age (Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton was 34, Secretary of War Henry Knox was 39, Attorney General Edmund Randolph was 36 and Postmaster General Sam Osgood was 41). One of the reasons for the overwhelming number of young men was that in the 1700s the average life expectancy was 53 years.

The Spartans used a staff and a coil of paper to keep military messages from being decoded if they fell into the hands of the enemy. Rolled around the staff, the words fitted together and made sense. Unrolled, the paper was covered with gibberish. Each general had a carefully guarded staff of precisely the same diameter around which to roll the paper and read the message.

Ghengis Kahn's first conquered land was an act of retaliation. Kahn sent a group of traders on a peaceful mission to Transoxiana. The governor there beheaded their leader and sent the others back to Kahn with their beards cut off. So Kahn attacked them and continued to onward until most of Asia and Europe were his.

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in in the year 79, over 2,000 citizens of Pompeii ran into their cellars to wait until everything had ended. Excavators found them still there 1,800 years later.

The emperor of Japan is the 125th of his line, which dates back to 660 B.C.

The art of knitting originated in Scotland.

Dunkirk, France is the site of the largest military evacuation in history. During World War II, some 340,000 Allied troops were evacuated to England. The retreat by sea took place between May 26 and June 4, 1940.

Richard Henry and Francis Lightfoot Lee are the only brothers who signed the Declaration of Independence. Their cousin, Henry Lee, was a famous Revolutionary War commander and the father of General Robert E. Lee.

The Treaty of Tordesillas divided all of South America between Spain and Portugal in 1493. Pope Alexander VI drew up the treaty following Columbus’s discovery of the New World.

Before the 984 foot high Eiffel Tower was built in 1889, the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. was the tallest building in the world at 555 feet.

According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the most common job in the United States in the 1890s was a farmer. Today, it’s a salesman.

Great Britain was the first country to issue stamps in 1840.

The first police force was established in Paris in 1667.

Many scholars believe that an earthquake caused the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, referred to in the Bible as "the smoke of the country." Earthquakes produce massive clouds of dust that resemble billowing smoke.

England's King Edward VII gave a large diamond tiara to Wallis Warfield Simpson as a wedding gift. Simpson was the woman for whom Edward VII abdicated the throne for.

The first police car was an electric-powered vehicle used in Akron, OH in 1899.

The Texas Rangers were the first U.S. state police force. They were established in 1835.

Until 1896, drivers in Great Britain had to warn of their presence by having a person precede their car on foot, waving a red flag.

There were 840 soldiers in the regular army when the U.S. War Department was established in 1789. Their job was to supervise public lands and guard the Indian frontier.

The first series of commemorative stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service depicted Columbus's discovery of America. They were issued in 1893 and available in 16 denominations ranging from one cent to $5.

Incan soldiers used to eat freeze-dried potatoes when they were on a march. The Incans would leave the food outside to freeze overnight, then thaw them out and stomp on them to remove the excess water.
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