40 “Everyday History Facts” They Probably Didn’t Teach You In School, As Shared By This Instagram Account
Carl Sagan once said, “You have to know the past to understand the present.” While some may think that history is just a whole lot of dates and names, it’s actually much more than that. In fact, it’s the little details that help you to get a deeper knowledge of a certain era or event, and let you figure out why things happened the way they did.
If you’re always searching for new tidbits of information and find yourself trying to expand your mental horizons, we’ve got you covered. Just take a look at this Instagram account dedicated to making history more interesting one day at a time. From Elvis Presley to Shrek the Sheep, this page will help you put things into context.
Bored Panda has collected some of the best facts posted by the account, so continue scrolling and make sure to upvote the ones that were new to you. Also, be sure to check out our previous posts about weird history facts here and here.
On July 15, 1878, Anna Coleman Ladd graces the world with her presence. Coleman is credited for being the god-mother of Anaplastology. She spent most of her days in Red Cross tents, experiencing first hand the gruesome nature of one of the bloodiest battles of human history during the Battle of the Somme. Coleman assisted soldiers who were battered beyond recognition, sculpting face masks in an attempt to restore them to their former selves. She molded pieces from galvanized copper, tin foil, and human hair by hand. Coleman provided the soldiers of WWI with an invaluable gift, a reflection they could come to terms with.
In 1955, Rosa Parks gets arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. Parks’ act of disobedience led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott went on for more than a year as African Americans walked or carpooled to work and school. The bus company suffered greatly, since African Americans were 70 percent of their riders. In November of 1956, the US Supreme Court ruled the bus segregation as a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. This called off the protest and Rosa Parks became one of the first to ride the newly desegregated buses.
But why is it important to study history in the first place? Dr. Tony Joel, an Associate Professor of History at Deakin University, wrote that this subject is a multifaceted discipline that can increase our cultural awareness: “By studying history, you’ll gain a range of transferable skills, from informed citizenship and critical thinking, to research and general awareness.”
History is one of the “traditional” disciplines in the humanities. While it may look like the popularity of this study field is decreasing, Joel said that it’s still a subject that many students enjoy: “It seems that, even if they’re enrolled in engineering, nursing, science, law, commerce or something else, many students love to dabble in a little bit of history as part of their course.”
According to him, it’s a common error to think that studying the past simply involves remembering the who, what, and when. These types of questions are just the start of it: “Historians are far more interested in exploring the how and why questions—that is, interpreting events to better understand how they unfolded and why they occurred.”
In 1957, Elvis Presley gets drafted to the United States Army. Despite thousands of Presley’s fans asking for him to be spared, Elvis still joined the army. Presley’s entrance in the army was widely praised as he was seen as a model for all young Americans. Presley had a massive influence on society. When he received his polio shot by an army doctor on television, vaccination rates increased from 2 to 85 percent by the time he was discharged in 1960.
In 1916, the greatest female sniper of all time, Lyudmila Pavlichenko is born. As a member of the Soviet Army during World War II, she killed 309 Nazis, earning the name “Lady Death.” The feared Germans offered Pavlichenko lots of chocolate and to make her German officer in exchange for her to switch sides. After declining, the Germans said “if we catch you, we will tear you into 309 pieces and scatter them to the winds!” The Germans were unsuccessful and in 1974 Pavlichenko passed due to a stroke.
Joel mentioned the oft-quoted aphorism by philosopher George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. It’s important to interpret the general facts surrounding different historical events in order to develop a better understanding of our world today.
“And if we heed Santayana’s warning, then remembering history—and learning important lessons from it—should help us to avoid previous mistakes and prevent previous misdeeds from happening again,” the professor explained.
In 2010, Miep Gies dies. Gies was the last survivor who helped hide Anne Frank and her family during World War II. Despite Gies’ heroic contributions trying to save the Franks from the Nazis, the Franks were captured. However, Gies protected Anne Frank’s notebooks that described Frank’s experience in her 2 year hideout. These experiences were later published as “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.” The diary became one of the most widely read book on the Holocaust.
In 1992, Japan apologizes for forcing more than 200,000 Korean women to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II. These women also known as “Comfort Women” were selected by Japanese who deceived Koreans. The Japanese saw Koreans as an inferior race and wanted to strip Koreans from their culture. The women were brutally forced to serve 40 to 50 men a day. Since, these women were the only source of comfort for soldiers they were in front of the line and many died from explosions, bullets, and s**cide. After the war, life was difficult for the women as they were left stranded and many were unable to return home. Some were sent home when allied forces found them, but even when they were returned home their families were ashamed of the them and were abandoned.
Finding out the little details or little anecdotes about our past is not only fun but also helps us re-think the knowledge surrounding a certain historical event. In fact, whether it’s learning new things about history, psychology, or gathering random information floating around the internet, people certainly benefit from learning facts.
Previously, we reached out to Daniel T. Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and author of Outsmart Your Brain, to talk about why humans are so drawn to acquiring new information. “What’s odd about facts is that the content matters less to whether or not you’d like to learn about it than you’d think,” he said.
In 2004, Shrek the Sheep is finally sheared. The sheep was hiding for 6 years from shearers because of his strong dislike of getting haircuts and was eventually found. The sheep’s fleece weighed a record 60 pounds at the time. The shearing was viewed by millions live on TV.
In 1913, Harriet Tubman passes away. Tubman is known for escaping slavery and for helping around 300 slaves escape via the Underground Railroad. Among those captured were Tubman’s parents and none of those that escaped were captured again. Due to her success in helping slaves escape, slave owners put a $40,000 reward to capture Tubman.
“Curiosity seems to be an innate drive we share with many other species that prompts us to learn about our environment, which obviously helps individuals to survive,” the professor explained. “We are not curious about everything—we are curious when we think a little exploration will lead to a lot of learning.”
Yet, some people believe that taking the time and energy to learn interesting facts is a waste of time. The professor disagrees, saying that factual knowledge is a really important driver of reading comprehension and other high-level thinking skills, like problem-solving.
In June 1944, 14-year-old George Stinney, was convicted and put to death by the electric chair for the murders of two girls ages 7 and 11. Stinney was questioned in a small room, alone – without his parents, without an attorney. Therefore, people believe Stinney was coerced into confessing the murders. Stinney was then rushed to trial and after a two-hour trial and a 10-minute jury deliberation, Stinney was convicted of murder and sentenced to die. Stinney became the youngest person in modern times to be put to death. 70 years after his death, Stinney was exonerated.
In 1992, Whitney Houston’s hit song “I Will Always Love You” premiers. Many associate this song with Whitney Houston. However, the song is a cover of Dolly Parton’s song. Parton agreed to let Houston use it after she was asked by Kevin Costner who co starred “The Bodyguard” with Houston at the time. Parton then heard Houston’s version and was blown away. Houston ended up winning 10 Grammy awards for the song and Parton became a legitimate songwriter.
“Think about how much easier it is to read a passage if you’re familiar with the general topic—I don’t care how ‘skilled’ a reader you are, if (like most Americans) you’re unfamiliar with the game of cricket, you will not be able to make sense of a newspaper account of the game,” Willingham mentioned. However, “a ten-year cricket fan in India or another cricket-mad country would have no problem.”
In the 17th and 18th century, boys usually 6 years old were purchased from their poverty stricken parents by a master sweep in England. These boys would become chimney sweeps. Children would climb up chimneys using their elbows, back, and knees. Unfortunately, some children would get stuck and never get out. Since kids were put in unnatural positions, their growth was stunted and they would suffer from lung problems, soreness, and Chimney Sweep Cancer. In 1864, Parliament passed the “Act for the Regulation of Chimney Sweepers” which ended the use of young boys to clean chimneys.
In 1887, Hellen Keller meets her teacher, Anne Sullivan. When Keller was 19 months old she lost her sight and hearing. Sullivan taught Keller techniques that led Keller to become a college graduate, lecturer, and activist. For this accomplishment, Sullivan became known as “the miracle worker.”
Some people blame the web for overloading our brains with tons of information, others say that we don’t actually need to learn facts since they’re just a few Google searches away. However, we are the ones putting those little details into context. Later on, we can connect the dots and come up with new answers and clever ideas.
In 1993, Andre the Giant dies. Andre was a professional wrestler who was 7 ft. and 4 in. tall and weighed 520 pounds. Andre’s massive size was due to a brain tumor that produced large amounts of a human growth hormone. The giant had a high alcohol tolerance, as he was able to drink 108 12 oz beers in one sitting. With the mixture of his tumor and unhealthy lifestyle, Andre died due to heart failure at 46 years old.
In 1979, sixteen year old Brenda Spencer shoots at a elementary school from her home. Spencer killed 2 men and wounded 9 kids, as she lived across the street from the school. The rifle that Spencer used was gifted to her for Christmas by her father. When asked why she committed the act, Spencer said “I just don’t like Mondays. I did this because it’s a way to cheer up the day. Nobody likes Mondays.” As of result, Spencer is currently serving two 25 year sentences.
In 1895, German scientist Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen becomes the first person to observe X-rays. This finding occurred accidentally as he was testing to see if cathode rays could pass through glass. He noticed a glow from a nearby chemically coated screen and labeled this an X-ray because of its unknown nature. Rontgen then learned that the X-ray can penetrate human skin but not higher density parts like a bone and can be photographed. This was a major finding in the medical world as doctors no longer needed to open a body to see inside the human body.
On this day in 1972, the deadliest snow storm in history begins. The 7 day snow storm dropped 10 to 28 ft of snow on Iran. The snow buried thousands of people and two villages had no survivors. By the end of the storm, 200 villages were wiped off of the map and 4,000 people died.
In 1921, the Tulsa Race Massacre begins. One of America’s worst and least known incidents of racial violence. On May 30th, an African American man, Dick Rowland was riding in an elevator with a white woman. It is unclear as to what happened in the elevator, but it believed that the woman screamed and Rowland fled the scene. The police arrested Rowland the following day and began an investigation. The next day, a newspaper reported that Rowland would be lynched. This began a 2 day riot where the outnumbered African Americans had their businesses and homes burned in Greenwood, one of the few up and coming African American cities at the time. As of result, it is now believed that around 300 African Americans have died while 10 white people have died. Roughly 9,000 African Americans were left homeless and thousands were arrested.
In 1926, famous magician and escape artist Harry Houdini dies from a poisoned appendix. Interestingly, two weeks prior to his death Houdini was giving a lecture and commented on how he has the ability to withstand blows. Moments after making the comment a student punched Houdini twice in the stomach. However, Houdini had no time to prepare. These blows ruptured Houdini’s appendix and the bacteria eventually poisoned his system. “Never try to fool children, they expect nothing, and therefore see everything...”-Harry Houdini
In June 1871, 8’1 Anna Haining Swan and 7’9 Martin van Buren Bates became the tallest married couple ever. The two fell in love when they met each other as employees of a circus. After moving in to a custom made house, the two were unfortunately unable to have a healthy baby as their first child died in a few hours and their second child that weighed 23 pounds survived for 11 hours. Their second child has the record for being the heaviest baby. When Anna died in 1888, Martin ordered a statute of her from Europe.
In 1942, news of Holocaust death camp killings becomes public for the first time. The news broke out almost 7 months after the extermination of Jews began. The genocide began in Chelmno, a death camp in Poland that used gas vans as the main source to achieve their goals. This was used because it was silent and invisible. The gas vans would end up killing 360,000 Jews.
In 2018, former United States Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar is sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexual assault. Nassar was found to abuse over 260 women and girls. This case showed the power of the #MeToo movement and was an example of how abusers can escape justice for decades.
In 2004, the first legal same sex marriage is performed in Massachusetts. On November 2003, the state ruled that the ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional. Eventually, same sex marriage became legal in all 50 states on June 26, 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled that states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.
Chinese foot binding began in the 10th century, as a way to impress the emperor in his favorite dance. Eventually, the tradition of foot binding spread and it was perceived as a sign of beauty and wealth. It was believed that in order to have a good marriage, girls from the age of 4 to 9 had to have their feet bound. Foot binding caused infections which rotted toes and foot deformity. In 1912, China banned the tradition.
In 1692, the first people are accused of witchcraft as part of the Salem Witch Trials. The trials began when two little girls began having fits and a doctor diagnosed them of suffering the effects of witchcraft. The community then began accusing people of witchcraft, mostly middle aged women. As of result over 150 people were arrested and around 20 people were put to death. The trials finally ended a year later when the governor realized that many innocent lives were being lost.
Before he became president, Abraham Lincoln was a dominant wrestler. Thanks to his long limbs, in approximately 300 matches Lincoln was only defeated once. Lincoln was known for talking trash in the ring and even challenged an entire crowd: “I’m the big buck of this lick. If any of you want to try it, come on and whet your horns.” At 21 years old, Lincoln was the wrestling champion of his county in Illinois. In 1992, Lincoln was honored in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
In 1945, the US Army liberates Buchenwald concentration camp. When the Gestapo headquarters (Germany’s secret police), found out that Americans were close they ordered the camp administrators to blow up all the evidence of the camp including the inmates. However, they did not know that the administrators already fled out of fear. The camp held thousands of Jews. Many died from disease, malnutrition, executions, and were used as test subjects for vaccinations. Among those saved were famous author, Elie Wiesel.
In 1992, the first smartphone is released. IBM’s Simon launched at $899 and featured a 4.5 in LCD touch screen. The phone was ahead of its time as it could send and receive emails, faxes, and pages. The Simon went on to sell 50,000 units.
In 1934, Bonnie and Clyde are shot to death by police. The two were known for stringing various robberies together. The public saw Bonnie and Clyde’s as dangerous outlaws and as “Robin Hood” like folk heroes. Their fame was increased by the fact that Bonnie was a woman, an unlikely criminal, and because the couple posed for playful photographs together, which were later found by police and released to the media.
In 1952, the Great Smog of 1952 begins. The heavy smog began when residents burned coal to stay warm and with the mixture of smoke, soot, and sulfur dioxide from the industries and cars nearby caused a heavy smog that covered the city. The smog lasted for 5 days and killed more than 4,000 people. The high death totals occurred due to respiratory issues that it caused, as people had problems with breathing and were vomiting phlegm. Also, visibility was limited as there was no sunlight. When the smog finally blew away, the British government passed laws to stop residents from using coal to heat their homes.
In the 1930s, London parents would use the “baby cage” to hang their babies out the window. Parents would do this because of the conception that babies need to be “aired” to “renew and purify the blood.” Therefore, responding to a lack of outdoor space, some London communities began installing “baby cages.” Eventually due to the growing safety concerns of babies in the 20th century the custom ended.
In 1946, French fashion designer, Louis Reard invented the modern bikini for women. The word “bikini” came from the United States atomic bomb testing site, Bikini Atoll. Therefore, Reard wanted to make a fashion statement that was explosive just like an atomic bomb.
In 1945, Soviet troops enter Auschwitz. The Soviets freed over 7,000 survivors of the concentration camps and as of result, they revealed to the world the horrors that occurred in the camps. During the existence of the camp over 1 million Jews were brutally murdered. Prior to the Soviets entrance, the Germans were aware that the Soviets were on their way and therefore they tried to cover their crimes by shooting sick prisoners and blowing up crematoria.
In 1942, Anne Frank and her parents hide in a secret apartment behind her father’s business to avoid being captured by the Nazis. In this hiding spot, Anne Frank wrote her diary which went on to become a best seller, that is translated in over 70 languages. Despite hiding for more than 2 years, the Nazis captured the family. However, Anne Frank’s diary was left behind.
In 2012, 17 year old Trayvon Martin is shot and killed by the captain of the neighborhood patrol, George Zimmerman. Martin was on his way home from a convenience store and was spotted by Zimmerman who was patrolling the area after a series of break ins have occurred. Zimmerman was suspicious of Martin and contacted the police, who told him not to follow the man. Zimmerman disobeyed the order and moments later shot Martin. When the police arrived, Martin was dead and Zimmerman had a bloody nose and cuts on the back of his head. Zimmerman. Is es self defense as an excuse and as of result was found not guilty an a charge for second degree murder. In 2013, the city where the incident happened ruled that it is now forbidden for neighborhood watch volunteers to carry a gun and pursue suspects.
In 1974, one of America’s most famous serial killers Ted Bundy strikes again. Bundy used his charm to pick up his young victims. When Bundy was finally recaptured in 1979 after escaping jail twice, he confessed to killing 36 people. However, some claim that he killed over 100 people. Eventually, in 1989 Bundy was executed.
In 1961, Princess Diana is born. During her marriage, the “People’s Princess” was president or patron of over 100 charities. The Princess publicized work on behalf of homeless and also disabled people, children and people with HIV/Aids. Princess Diana was also known for her renowned style and was closely associated with the fashion world, patronising and raising the profile of younger British designers.
In 1992, President George H.W. Bush vomits on Japan’s Prime Minister. Bush was invited for dinner by the Prime Minister. During dinner, Bush felt ill and and then fell to his side. Bush ended up vomiting on the lap of the Prime Minister. This incident became one of the most widely ridiculed moments against a president.
In 1865, slavery gets abolished in America. The 13th Amendment was adopted and ruled that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude… shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” 246 years after the first shipment of slaves to Jamestown slavery was abolished. However, issues to overcome slavery was an issue for America for over a century with the Reconstruction era and African American civil rights movement in the 1950 and 60s.
In 1999, two teenagers kill 13 people in Columbine High School. Prior to the incident the two killers, recorded videos stating what they would do and apologized to their parents for their actions. The two would both kill themselves after the shooting. Since this incident there has been an average of 10 school shootings a year in the US.
In 1967, the Detroit riots begin. In what is considered as one of the bloodiest riots in U.S. history, as 43 people died and more than 1,400 people were injured. The weeklong riots stem from high levels of frustration and anger from African Americans by extreme poverty, racism and racial segregation, police brutality, and lack of economic and educational opportunities. After the police raided a party for Vietnam War veterans, violence broke out. Eventually, the National Guard was called to end the violence.
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