You think history is boring or not worth mentioning? Just give these historical facts a try and be surprised how amazing history can be. Did you know what the scientific director of the Manhattan Project said once the first test of an atomic bomb was over? You will not believe it.
1. “Fox tossing” was a popular sport in the 16th century in which two people held a 23-foot-long cloth on both sides and then pulled it tight as soon as a fox ran over the cloth so that it flew into the air. The game continued until the animal broke its bones when it hit the ground and was then killed by a hunter.
2. Until 1809, Finland was officially only a part of Sweden.
3. The storming of the Bastille was mainly symbolic, at the time there were only nine prisoners who were subsequently freed.
4. During World War II, the Nazis attempted to cover the river Alster as part of their “Operation Cloak of Invisibility”. They covered parts of the river with wood and wire, built dummy houses and planted trees on the frozen river, as they suspected that the Allies were using the Alster for orientation. The objective was to save Hamburg’s city center from more severe bomb damage. However, this hope was not fulfilled.
5. The Eiffel Tower was only built for the 1889 World Exhibition and was supposed to be demolished 20 years later.
6. During the 18th century, the most important first aid measure for drowned people was to blow tobacco smoke into their rectum.
7. The long drink “gin and tonic” was invented by the British in the 17th century as protection against malaria. The reason for this is that until 1940, the quinine contained in tonic water was the only substance known to be effective against malaria. However, since this also causes the tonic water to taste bitter, the drink was mixed with gin to improve its taste.
8. Adrian Carton de Wiart fought in both World Wars and he was shot in his head, his leg, his hips and his ear. He also survived a plane crash and when the doctors were unwilling to amputate two of his fingers, he bit them off. When he was later asked about his time during the war he replied “I had enjoyed the war”.
9. High heels were originally worn by men to look taller. It was only in the 17th century that women began to wear such shoes in order to be more masculine. The result was that men were no longer wearing high heels, so as not to look feminine.
10. Gladiators in ancient Rome were exclusively fighters who fought against other humans for life and death. People fighting exclusively against animals were called “Bestiarii”.
11. Pirates wore an eye patch, so they could take it off at night and so could see better in the dark.
12. In medieval France, women were among others punished by being forced to catch a chicken in the city while naked.
13. When the height of Mount Everest was first determined in the 19th century, researchers calculated a total height of exactly 29,000 feet. The height they published, however, was 29,002 feet, as the researchers feared that a figure as even as 29,000 feet might be interpreted as a rough estimate.
14. During the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s, banker Pat Munroe advised his customers in the city of Quincy, Florida, to buy shares in the beverage company Coca-Cola. Over the next few years, the share price rose so much that countless people in Quincy quickly became millionaires and the city became the richest city in the USA.
15. Due to strong solar storms in 1859, the earth experienced the strongest geomagnetic storm ever recorded. The storm was so strong that you could see auroras even in Rome and some telegraphs could be operated for more than two hours without being connected to the power grid, using only the energy produced by the geomagnetic storm.
16. Anna Kopchovsky, the first woman to cycle around the world in 1894, had only learned how to cycle a few days before she set off. She covered the entire distance in 15 months and received a reward of 10,000 dollars.
17. When the USA bought Alaska from Russia in 1867, they switched from the Julian calendar previously used in Alaska to the Gregorian calendar used in the USA. The result was that the 8th to 17th of October 1867 never existed in Alaska. That’s an interesting fact about the US and if you are looking for even more fun facts about that country we can recommend you our article full of facts only about the US.
18. During World War II, women in France who had relations with German soldiers were shaved bald so that everyone could see that they had betrayed their country.
19. The abbreviation “OMG” (oh my God) was first mentioned in 1917 in a letter to the former Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill.
20. Although the name Tiffany was extremely popular in the 12th century, it is never used in historical novels because readers find it too modern. This has given rise to the term “Tiffany effect”, where something is considered much more modern than it actually is.
21. In 1930 Ketchup was sold as medicine.
22. The term “bug” for a programing error dates back to the 19th century. At the time, engineers were afraid that small bugs could destroy transmissions and cause malfunctions. When the computer was later invented, there were indeed several incidents in which insects caused a system to crash. With that, the term “bug” stuck once and for all.
23. On 14 May 1939, Lina Medina gave birth to her first child at the age of five years and seven months. To this day, she is considered the youngest mother ever. When her parents took her to the hospital, the doctors first thought she was suffering from a tumor. The father of the baby is unknown.
24. Between 1663 and 1673, Louis XIV, the King of France, sent 800 women to Canada to promote the settlement of a predominantly male French colony. The deployment of the so-called “Daughters of the King” (“filles du Roy” in French) quickly proved effective. The colony’s population doubled within ten years, and it is estimated that about two thirds of all French Canadians can trace their roots back to these 800 women. Are you looking for even more facts like this then read our article filled with facts about Canada here.
25. In order to protect its population from a plague epidemic, the government of the Republic of Ragusa (now Croatia) decided in 1377 that arriving travelers and merchants had to go to a special hospital for 40 days before entering the city, in order to check whether they were carrying the pathogen. To this day, these 40 days (Latin: “quaranta”) are regarded as the origin of the word “quarantine”.
26. Katherine Johnson, an African American born in 1918, was an incredible mathematician. Due to her special abilities, she attended high school at the age of ten and completed her studies when she was only 18. When she later worked for NASA, her talent for math was soon recognized and it became her job to verify the accuracy of computer-calculated orbits for planets. Do you want to read the full story? Then visit our article about the incredible life of Katherine Johnson here.
27. African-American Madam C. J. Walker, born in 1867 as Sarah Breedlove, developed a hair care product for black women that sold extremely well, making her the first female millionaire in the United States.
28. In September 1719, prisoners in Paris were released under the condition that they marry a prostitute and emigrate to Louisiana, USA. The objective was to advance French colonies along the Mississippi.
29. During World War II, the U.S. Army collaborated with Walt Disney to develop a gas mask that looked like Mickey Mouse, in order to make children less afraid of a poison gas attack.
30. February 29 was first introduced as a leap day by Julius Caesar in 45 BC.
31. In 1938, Adolf Hitler was Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year”.
32. Tsutomu Yamaguchi was working in Hiroshima when the first atomic bomb hit the city. As he was driving home to Nagasaki the second bomb hit. He is currently 90 years old and still alive.
33. The minute takes its name from the Latin phrase “pars minuta”, which means “diminished part” and aims to describe the minute as being the smaller unit of time of the hour. The second was then called “pars minuta secunda”, which means “second diminished part” and thus describes the next smaller unit of time.
34. September was originally the seventh month of the year. The name comes from the Latin word “septem”, which means “seven”.
35. Financially, World War I did not end for Germany until 2010, when the last of the reparations payments under the Treaty of Versailles was made.
36. From January 1st to December 31st of 1881, three different men – Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur – held the office of President of the United States.
37. In the early 20th century the Irish woman Mary Mallon, known as “Typhoid Mary”, became infected with typhoid fever and became the first person in the US to be infected with the bacterium, but not to fall ill with it. Due to her ignorance, she infected more than 100 people with the deadly disease and caused the death of several friends and acquaintances.
38. Masabumi Hosono was the only Japanese passenger on the Titanic. Fortunately, he was rescued when the ship sank, but when he returned home he was portrayed as a coward by the media and other public authorities. He was accused of being a disgrace to the country for not sacrificing his life to save the lives of others. We wrote a great article about this story. If you like to read more on this topic you can find it here.
40. Liechtenstein completed what was possibly the most successful military intervention in history. During World War I, the country sent a total of 80 soldiers to the Italian border. During their entire deployment, they hardly ever had to engage in military operations. After the end of the war, while marching back to their homeland, the soldiers made friends with an Austrian who came along back to Liechtenstein with them. So of the 80 soldiers deployed, 81 returned.
41. At the beginning of the 20th century, in the United States, it was possible to send one’s own children to close relatives or friends by mail. The first known case of a child being sent by mail was an unidentified boy from Ohio, who in January 1913 was sent to his grandmother by his parents. The longest distance over which a child was sent by mail was approximately 75 miles. However, the children were never put inside a parcel. Instead, they were delivered directly to the post office and there entrusted to a postal employee who would then accompany them on their journey.
42. In the last 3,000 years, there were only 268 years in which no wars occurred.
43. In 539 BC the Persian king “Cyrus the Great” adopted the first human rights of the world. He thus freed all slaves and gave people the right to decide for themselves what they wanted to do.
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44. The seven wonders of the ancient world only existed concurrently for 60 years.
45. During the Second World War, the city of Constance was largely spared from Allied bombing raids. Unlike other German cities, Constance did not cut off electricity at night. Allied pilots could therefore hardly distinguish the city from neighboring Switzerland, where the lights also remained on at night. In order to avoid mistakes, no bombs were dropped in the region.
46. Historical finds prove that man sailed on ships as early as 6,000 years BC. The first traces of wheels, however, only date back to 4,000 years BC, meaning that ships seem to have been invented before the wheel.
47. The Paricutín volcano in Mexico was not there until 20 February 1943. Witnesses report having worked on a maize field that day and heard a dull “plop”. A day later, the volcano was already 33 feet high, and by the next day it had grown to 164 feet. A year later, the volcano had reached a height of 1,102 feet when it began to spew lava. Today, the volcano is 1,391 feet high and continues to be active.
48. The concept of “rap battles” dates back to the fifth century. At that time, poets competed against each other in a public competition in which they rhymed insults and sexual perversions. This tradition was particularly popular in Nordic and Celtic cultures. There are stories about the Nordic god Loki, who insulted other gods in rhyme form, and even William Shakespeare refers to this in some of his plays.
49. Born in 1930, Irene Triplett is the last living descendant of a civil war veteran. Although the US civil war ended in 1865, she continues to receive her late father’s veteran’s pension of $73.13 every month. Her father Mose Triplett was only 18 years old when he went to war and 83 when Irene was born.
50. Onoda Hirō was a Japanese intelligence officer who believed that the proclamation of the end of World War II was only a ruse by the Allies and therefore continued to hold his position 29 years after the end of the war. Only when his former superior, who was now a bookseller, visited him in 1974 could Onoda be convinced that the war was over.
51. The oldest ever found advertisement dates back to 3,000 BC and was found in the ruins of Thebes. It advertised a slave named Shem.
52. In 1862, former slave Robert Smalls stole a Confederate ship and handed it over to the Union army. He was given command of the ship, promoted to Major General after several years and ultimately bought the house in which he had been held as a slave. He taught himself to read and write, ran for Congress, and was elected five times in a row.
53. During the Second World War, the US Army maintained a tactical deception unit. It consisted of numerous artists, film set designers and actors. Their task was to create vehicle dummies and to simulate operations. Soldiers called their friends in this unit the “Ghost Army”.
54. During World War II, a Canadian soldier smuggled his bear “Winnipeg” to Britain, and it later became an attraction at the London Zoo. Young Christopher Robin Milne loved this bear so much that he gave his teddy bear the same name. This in turn inspired his father to write the stories about the bear Winnie the Pooh.
55. In 1960, Frances Kelsey, an executive at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), refused to approve thalidomide as a painkiller for pregnant women, even though the drug had already been approved in more than 20 other Western countries. Later on, it was discovered that the drug, marketed under the name “Contergan”, caused severe disabilities in children. So Frances Kelsey’s decision saved countless children in the United States.
56. US President John F. Kennedy was a passionate smoker. In 1962, he instructed his press officer to buy 1,000 Cuban cigars for him. Shortly after receiving the cigars, he went on to pass a law prohibiting the import of communist goods into the United States.
57. Vikings took cats on sea trips in order to avoid a rat problem. Nowadays, it is assumed that this prevailed the worldwide spread of cats.
58. During the volcanic eruption of 1902 in Saint-Pierre all inhabitants of the city died. Only one man who was held as a prisoner outside the city survived.
59. During World War II, Queen Elizabeth worked as a mechanic for the British troops.
60. During World War II, the French weightlifter Charles Rigoulet was sent to a Nazi prison. He broke out by bending the metal rods of his prison cell and was even able to free several other fellow prisoners.
61. Oxford University is older than the civilization of the Aztecs.
62. After Josef Stalin had heard that his son failed to commit suicide, he said: “He can’t even shoot straight.”
63. Kenneth Bainbridge, scientific director of the Manhattan Project, commented at the first test of a nuclear bomb with “Now we are all sons of bitches”.
64. Cleopatra was not an Egyptian, but originally came from Greece.
65. After the great success of the Eiffel Tower, London planned the construction of the similar looking Watkin’s Tower in 1892. Due to economic difficulties encountered by the construction company, however, the tower was never completed and was later demolished. At over 1.148 feet, it would have been the tallest building of its time.
66. Scientist Max Planck was advised by his professor Philipp von Jolly not to go into physics, as almost everything had already been discovered in theoretical physics. Planck replied that he only wanted to learn the basics. In 1919, Planck was awarded the Nobel Prize for his development of quantum theory.
67. The kidnapping of four-year-old Charley Ross in 1874 is considered to be the first kidnapping in the history of the USA to have been widely reported in the media. The girl, who would never be found, was lured by two men with fireworks and sweets. Due to the worldwide interest in this case, children are still advised not to accept sweets from strangers to this day.
68. Drug baron Pablo Escobar offered Colombia to pay off the country’s entire foreign debt of 20 billion dollars if it did not extradite him to the USA.
69. The largest industrial accident ever happened on 16 April 1947 in Texas City. While cargo was being loaded, 2,200 tons of ammonium nitrate ignited on the ship Grandcamp in city’s port. The explosion was so massive that even at a distance of ten miles, people were knocked off their feet, and window panes burst as far as 37 miles away. 581 people died as a result of the explosion and over 8,400 people were injured.
70. The beginnings of the Internet date back to 1969, when US universities and the military networked mainframes to make more efficient use of their computing power. It was not until 1990 that the Internet was made accessible to the general public.
71. When Hitler visited during World War Two, activists cut the elevator cables of the Eifel Tower so that he had to climb the stairs all the way to the top.
72. When the first railroads started to operate, doctors warned of health effects, such as in the brain. This was due to its high speeds of up to 19 miles per hour.
73. Scientists assume that the face of the Sphinx was painted red.
74. In 1952 Albert Einstein received the offer to become President of Israel. He refused.
75. In 1647 Christmas was forbidden by the English Parliament.
76. The average age of soldiers fighting in Vietnam was 19. During World War II it was 26.
77. The first successful blood transfusion took place in 1660 and was between two dogs.
78. Although Beethoven has a song called “Fuer Elise”, historians have proven that he did not know an Elise.
79. In the 17th century, New York was called New Amsterdam.
80. From 1789 to 1790, New York was the capital of the USA.
81. When the Egyptians built the pyramids, there were still mammoths roaming the earth.
82. Monopoly was developed in 1930 in the U.S. to create a pastime for the unemployed people during the great depression.
83. In 1999 the founders of Google wanted to sell their company to one of its biggest competitors “Excite” for one million dollars but were rejected.
84. A pineapple was such a large status symbol in 18th century England that you could rent it for a day.
85. In the 1890s Bayer, a pharmaceutical company in Germany, advertised heroine as a medicine. Isn’t that interesting? We have much more facts about Germany so make sure to read that article as well.
86. In ancient Rome the punishment for rapists was their genitals being smashed between two stones.
87. In the history of Mexico, on one occasion, there were three presidents on one day.
88. French was the national language of Great Britain for more than 300 years.
89. Because it was impossible to transport the ingredients needed for Coca Cola to Nazi Germany, the Coca Cola Company designed a beverage especially for the German market: Fanta.
90. Before coffee became popular, beer was served for breakfast in the USA.
91. When the pirate Jean Lafitte learnt about a bounty on his head of 500 dollars was issued by the governor, he issued a bounty on the governor’s head of 5,000 dollars.
92. The first car accident with fatalities happened in 1896 at a speed of less than four miles per hour.
93. In ancient Babylon it was tradition for every woman to go to the Temple of Aphrodite at least once in her life to have sex with a stranger.
94. The first ATMs required six digits as a PIN. However, after a large number of users could not remember six digits, the PIN was reduced to four digits.
95. From 1781 to 1850, the planet Uranus was named George.
96. As early as 1966 Ford released the first electric car, which had a range of more than 200 miles. A sodium-sulphur accumulator was used as a battery. After an accident in rainy weather, the hot sodium leaking from the battery mixed with water and ignited. There was a fire that was difficult to extinguish. As a result, the model was reset and sodium-sulphur batteries were no longer used in vehicles.
97. To protect the German soldiers from the British night vision technology, they spread the lie that eating lots of carrots helped British soldiers to increase their eyesight during night. A myth was born.
98. Before English became the dominant language in the U.S., German was the second most common language.
99. In the Middle Ages green was the colour of love.
100. The development of chemical drugs can be traced back to the Nazis. For example, scientists in the Third Reich discovered an active substance that helped soldiers to march 55 miles without stopping.
101. In 1958 an atomic bomb disappeared from the arsenal of the U.S. Army in Georgia. To this day it has not been found.
102. The Jewish boxer Salamo Arouch was imprisoned in a concentration camp during World War II and was forced to fight against other inmates. The loser was shot or gassed.
103. On January 1 1985, the first phone call was made using a cellular phone.
104. The abbreviation “X-Mas” for Christmas can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. The X stands for the Greek letter “Chi” which used to be the abbreviation for the word Christ.
105. In 1967, a former Prime Minister of Australia disappeared without a trace and has still not been found.
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106. Octopus-Wrestling was a popular trend in the sixties. A diver grapples with an octopus in shallow water and tries to bring it to the surface.
107. The former U.S. Marine soldier Guy Gabaldon was able to catch about 800 Japanese soldiers during World War Two. The Japanese soldiers were hiding in a cave and Guy Gabaldon sneaked in. He convinced them that their cave was surrounded. After everyone was handcuffed he called for support.
108. During the Second World War a special event was held in a news magazine. Two soldiers were betting who would be the first to kill 100 enemy soldiers with a sword. Both died before they could win the competition.
109. At the beginning of the 20th century, horses created so much dirt with their excrements that cars were regarded as the “green” alternative.
110. In 1913, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Leo Trotsky, and Sigmund Freud all lived close to each other in the immediate vicinity of Vienna, and regularly went to the same cafe without ever having come into contact with each other.
111. A “moment” is a medieval time unit, exactly 90 seconds. An hour therefore has 40 moments.
112. In 1835, an assassin tried to kill the King of France Louis Philippe I with a homemade rifle. Due to the rifle’s poor construction, however, it exploded before the assassination attempt, killing 18 passers-by. The King of France himself was only slightly wounded.
113. To protest against mechanization during the Industrial Revolution, workers threw their wooden shoes – called sabots – into the machines. This is how the word “sabotage” was born.
114. When the first telephones came out people answered there call with “ahoy”.
115. When the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in 1911, Pablo Picasso was one of the suspects.
116. On 9 August 1965, Singapore was officially expelled from Malaysia, making it the first country to involuntarily gain independence.
117. The world’s first vibrator was patented in 1869 and was powered by a small steam engine.
118. Within 29 weeks, Harry Truman rose from US Senator to Vice President of the United States and then to President of the United States before becoming the first man to order the launch of a nuclear bomb.
119. The term “soap opera” can be traced back to the US company Procter & Gamble. In the 1930s, the detergent manufacturer produced a daily radio broadcast for women with a simple plot for advertising purposes, which soon became known as the soap opera.
120. The shortest war in the world took place in 1896 between Zanzibar and the British. Zanzibar capitulated after only 38 minutes.
121. On 24 February 1891, the “United States of Brazil” were founded, and the name of the country lasted for almost 40 years. So at the time, the American continent was home to not only the USA, but also the USB.
122. The “Sacred Band of Thebes” was a special unit of the Theban army consisting exclusively of homosexual male couples. It was hoped that the soldiers would prove to be more cohesive, as they would try anything to save their partners.
123. Walter Arnold was the first person to pay a fine for speeding. In 1896, he drove his car through a zone with speed restrictions at 7.5 miles per hour, clearly exceeding the speed limit of 1.7 miles per hour.
124. African American Ebbie Tolbert was born in 1807 and lived in slavery for more than 50 years. At the advanced age of 113 years – shortly before her death – she was allowed to cast her ballot for the first time in her life in St. Louis.
125. During World War II, Adolf Hitler gave the order to spare the British city of Blackpool from bomb attacks, as he intended to go on holiday there after Germany had won the war.
126. The first dinosaur bones were not discovered and scientifically described until 1824. So before that, people never knew that dinosaurs used to roam our planet.
127. When her ship capsized in 1880, the former queen of Thailand, Sunandha Kumariratana, drowned together with her daughter. Despite the presence of many courtiers, no one dared to save the queen, as just a few years earlier it had been punishable by death to touch a member of the royal family.
128. Einstein was asked what it was like to be the smartest guy in the world, he answered “I don’t know, ask Nikola Tesla”.
129. Henry Ford was the first tycoon to not let his employees work on Saturdays and Sundays, so that they could spend more time with their cars. Thus the weekend was born.
130. From 1912 to 1948 architecture was an Olympic discipline.
131. Until the 1960s, pregnancy tests were carried out by injecting a frog with the test person’s urine. If the frog spawned within 12 to 24 hours, it could be assumed that the test person was pregnant.
132. The Centennial Light is the longest-lasting light bulb in the world. It has been on since 1906 and is located at the Livermore fire station near San Francisco, California.
133. By his own account, the former Yugoslav King Alexander I avoided public appearances on Tuesdays because too many family members had already been murdered on this day of the week. However, when it could no longer be avoided and he had to appear publicly in Marseille on Tuesday, 9 October 1934, he was shot by the Bulgarian Vladimir Chernozemski.
134. In September 1944, nine US pilots set off to fly a maneuver against the Japanese. However, all nine planes were shot down by Japanese troops, and eight of the pilots were captured, beaten, tortured and beheaded and had parts of their bodies eaten by the Japanese soldiers. The ninth pilot who escaped was George H. W. Bush who would later go on to become the President of the United States.
135. During the Nuremberg Trials, a psychological test and an intelligence test were carried out on many accused Nazi functionaries and high-ranking military personnel. All Nazi leaders (except for Julius Streicher) displayed above-average intelligence, and some even had an IQ of 140. The former commander of the German Air Force, Hermann Göring, for example, had an IQ of 138.
136. When her husband died in the war in 1941, Ukrainian Marina Oktyabrskaya sold all her belongings and donated the money to the military to buy a tank. She was able to convince the military command to drive the tank herself and turned out to be an excellent tank driver. After she died in battle in 1944, she was posthumously awarded the title “Hero of the Soviet Union”.
137. In 1724 Maggie Dickson from Scotland was sentenced to death by hanging. After she had been hanged and taken away in a coffin, it turned out that she had survived. A court ruled that the sentence was officially carried out, so she could not be punished any further. She continued to live for over 40 years and was nicknamed “Half-Hangit Maggie”.
138. On Friday, April 18, 1930, the news channel BBC announced in its daily program that “There is no news”, because simply nothing important had happened. Instead of a news show, piano music was played for 15 minutes.
139. After the death of Leonardo da Vinci, King Franz I. of France hung up the Mona Lisa in his bathroom.
140. Although the Incas had a huge empire, they did not possess money. The inhabitants paid their taxes in the form of man power and got food in exchange for this. Interested in more background to that historical fact? Just read our article about the Economy of the Inca Empire to learn more.
141. Until the end of the 19th century, there were so-called quaggas living in the world. Although this was not a cross between a horse and a zebra, the animals were striped in the front like zebras, while the trunk was evenly reddish-brown, therefore more closely resembling a horse. Since a quagga was a subspecies of the plains zebra, South African researchers have been trying for many years to revive the breed – and their efforts have now been crowned with success.
142. The name of the US state of Louisiana dates back to the time of the French colony of New France in the 18th century. It stretched from the Gulf of Mexico far into northern Canada to Newfoundland. The part south of the Great Lakes was called Louisiana in honor of Louis XIV – Louis Quatorze in French. Today’s state on the Gulf of Mexico has only a fraction of this size, but continues to bear this name.
143. In the 19th and 20th centuries, a family clan with predominantly bluish skin lived in the Appalachian Mountains in the USA. This was due to a disease called methemoglobinemia, which was repeatedly passed on within the Fugate family due to the isolated living conditions in the mountains.
144. When King Conrad III took Weinsberg Castle in 1140, he promised all the women in the castle free passage and allowed them to take with them all the belongings they could carry on their backs. So the women decided to carry their husbands out of the castle on their backs, thereby saving their lives. To this day, the ruins of the castle still bear the nickname “Weibertreu” (faithful women).
145. Ruby Bridges was the first black child to attend a whites-only school in the southern United States. Most of the teachers at the New Orleans school refused to teach the girl, and some parents forbid their children to make contact with their new schoolmate. Ruby and her family received death threats over and over again, so she initially had to be escorted to school by at least three police officers.
146. In the 18th century the Briton Mary Toft became famous for giving birth to rabbits. Years later she was sentenced to death when it became clear that she just put dead rabbits in her vagina, which she pushed out later on.
147. Seen chronologically, Cleopatra was closer to the moon landing than to the construction of the pyramids.
148. In ancient Rome, urine was used for leather tanning and in laundries. The business with urine prospered so much that Emperor Vespasian even levied a urine tax. He justified the tax to his son Titus by holding the money under his nose and asking him if it smelled bad. When his son answered no, Vespasian famously said “Atqui e lotio est” (And yet it comes from urine). Over time, this developed into the phrase “Pecunia non olet” (money does not stink).
149. From 5 to 9 December 1952, a fog crept up over London and claimed the lives of about 12,000 people. When strong winds finally lifted the fog, people were shocked to find so many corpses.
150. In 1783, the volcano Lakagígar in the south of Iceland erupted. For months, lava erupted from over 100 craters. Numerous aerosols such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and sulphur were blown into the atmosphere and began to darken the sky over all of Europe. Crop failures and the mass death of livestock led to a famine that cost the lives of about 10,000 people. Even the famine that struck France in 1788, which together with the high tax burden at the time led to the French Revolution, could have been a consequence of the volcanic eruption.
151. Josef Stalin ordered at least 22 assassination attempts on the former Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito. After his death, a letter to Stalin with the following words was discovered: “Stop sending people to kill me. If you don’t stop sending assassins, I will send one to Moscow and I will certainly not have to send a second one.”
152. Thomas Stevens is considered to be the first person to have circumnavigated the world on a bicycle. From April 1884 to December 1886, he rode around the globe on a penny-farthing. Do you want to read more about that story? We wrote a great article on Stevens life so check it out here.
153. Scientists assume that 10,000 years ago all humans still had brown eyes. It was only around this time that the first people with blue eyes were born in the region around the Black Sea. This is seen as an indication that humans continue to develop in their evolutionary biology.
154. During World War I the Emperor of Germany, the King of Great Britain and the Emperor of Russia were all first cousins. The German Emperor Wilhelm II therefore commented sarcastically on the First World War: “If our grandmother (Queen Victoria) were still alive, she would never have allowed it.”
155. In medieval castles, spiral staircases were always built clockwise, as this provided a tactical advantage. This made it harder for attackers to swing their swords without being hindered by the wall.
156. The unit of one “meter” was first introduced during the French Revolution and was defined as one ten-millionth of the distance between the North Pole and the equator.
157. The Liberian presidential election of 1927 is considered to be the most falsified election of all time and even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. The winner of the election, Charles D. B. King, won with more than 243,000 votes, although there were only 15,000 registered voters.
158. In 1755, Lisbon was hit by a strong earthquake that destroyed almost all the Catholic churches in the city, while all the city’s brothels remained largely intact. The event ushered in a long-lasting crisis of faith in Portugal. Read our in-depth article about that story here.
159. The first deodorant for men was launched in 1935, although fragrance sprays for women had been around for decades. At the beginning of the 20th century, however, a strong smell in men was still considered masculine, so there was no demand for men’s deodorants.
160. At a wedding ceremony, women usually stand to the left of the groom. This has historical reasons, as this way the man’s sword hand was free to protect the woman from any attackers.
161. Nutella was invented during World War II, when an Italian soldier mixed chocolate with hazelnut to stretch his food ration.
162. In the 1960s Dutch ambassador Henry Helb was noticing that his two Siamese cats were arching their backs and clawing at one of the walls. It came out that both cats had heard quiet scratches behind the wall leading to 30 tiny microphones hidden behind the boards.
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