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American Myths: The 40 Most Enduring Myths in U.S. Historical past

Even the concept of “faux information” being a comparatively new phenomenon is, effectively, faux information. Our nation was based on faux information, and our first president—effectively, first-ish, however we’ll get to that later—had a lot faux information written about him that he makes Trump appear to be an novice. Persons are nonetheless claiming that Washington had picket enamel. He truly had dentures made out of steel and ivory, and you’ll see the issues on show at his dwelling in Mount Vernon. However nope, the parable about his picket enamel continues to endure two centuries later. So learn on to take nearer take a look at just a few of probably the most enduring American myths and half-truths. And when you’re boning up on all issues U.S. of A., do not miss the 23 Freedoms Individuals Completely Take for Granted.

George Washington and the cherry tree

In keeping with legend, when George Washington was simply six years previous, he chopped down his dad’s cherry tree with a hatchet. When his dad confronted him about it, George supposedly confessed to all the pieces, claiming “I can not inform a lie.” A pleasant story, if solely it was true. Seems, the story first appeared in an 1806 autobiography of Washington, whose author admitted that he was simply attempting to indicate how our most beloved president’s “unparalleled rise and elevation have been attributable to his Nice Virtues.” And if you wish to have your worst assumptions about your elected officers confirmed, listed here are 9 Instances Politicians Completely Misplaced It and Issues Received Bodily.

old baseball glove and ball

Each fan of America’s pastime is aware of it was born in Cooperstown, New York. However that historical past is an invention, cooked up in 1907 by a committee charged with determining the origins of baseball. They gave the credit score to Abner Doubleday, a Civil Conflict hero who allegedly invented the sport in Cooperstown in 1839. The reality is, Doubleday wasn’t even a fan of the game, a lot much less its creator. Variations on baseball have been round for the reason that 18th century, from kids’s video games like rounders to cricket. Baseball as we all know it at the moment was the brainchild of New Yorker Alexander Pleasure Cartwright, a volunteer firefighter and financial institution clerk who got here up with the three-strike guidelines, the diamond-shaped infield, and all of the foul traces. Wish to proceed flexing your newfound knowledge? Listed here are 30 Phrases That Will Make You Sound Smarter.

Explorer Christopher Columbus

How this European explorer nonetheless will get all of the credit score, and even his personal vacation, is astonishing. Let’s begin with the fundamentals. You possibly can’t “uncover” one thing that is already occupied. That is like “discovering” the leftover pizza in your good friend’s fridge. However even in the event you low cost the Native Individuals, Columbus was nonetheless 500 years too late to name himself the primary European to suppose America was his private Costco. Norse explorer Leif Erikson beat him to the punch, touchdown on these shores in the course of the tenth century. What’s extra, Columbus did not even set foot on what would turn into america. He landed on a number of Caribbean islands, and later Central and South America. And for extra history-correcting details, meet (or, fairly, do not) the 50 Well-known Folks Who By no means Existed.

an artistic rendering of the Salem Witch Trials

When you’re searching for examples of epic Jerkdom, you may’t do a lot better than the witch trials of Salem, Massachusetts. Between February, 1692 and Might, 1693, practically 200 folks have been accused of working towards “the Satan’s magic,” together with the aged, homeless, and a 4-year-old woman who was grilled on the stand. Most have been jailed, however 19 have been hanged on what would quickly be often called “Gallows Hill,” and a 71-year-old man was crushed with heavy stones. However no one obtained burned. Nada. Not a single individual ever shouted out, like a personality from a Monty Python sketch, “She’s a witch! Burn her!” Sorry.

a statue of paul revere - american myths

Paul Revere shouting “The British are coming!” within the streets would have been the trendy day equal of operating down Instances Sq. in New York and shouting, “The Individuals are coming!” At that time, the colonies have been nonetheless technically British, and never everyone was cool with the concept of a revolution. Extra seemingly, Paul Revere—and he was simply one in all dozens assigned to place the phrase out in Boston—whispered his alarm, and as a substitute of warning of the British, he seemingly stated, “The regulars are popping out.” We have now Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s patriotic poem to thank for anyone even understanding Paul Revere’s identify in any respect.

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin

Misinterpreting jokes is not distinctive to our century. Writing to his daughter from Paris in 1784, Benjamin Franklin complained to his daughter Sarah that the newly-formed United States was critically contemplating the bald eagle as their nationwide image. The bald eagle had a “dangerous ethical character,” Franklin wrote, and was a “rank coward” who “doesn’t get his dwelling truthfully” as a result of it simply steals meals from different birds and is “too lazy to fish for himself.”

He famous that the proposed drawing seemed extra like a turkey, which he joked was a greater concept, as a turkey is “a real unique native of America” and a hen of braveness who wouldn’t hesitate “to invade his farm yard with a crimson coat on.” If solely he’d remembered to incorporate a smiley-face emoticon, no one would have been confused.

Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse

The legendary animation pioneer, the man who made “I will Disneyland” the commonest expression of celebration within the free world, did not truly draw his most well-known creation. Certain, Mickey Mouse was his concept, and he supplied the voice. However all the pieces iconic about Mickey Mouse—the pancake ears, the crimson shorts—are the creation of Ub Iwerks, Disney’s favourite animator. The following time you see someplace carrying a Mickey Mouse shirt, be sure you inform them, “Ah, I see you are a fan of Ub Iwerks.”

a cowboy literally riding into the sunset - american myths

Have you ever ever seen a photograph of an precise cowboy—not actors like John Wayne or Clint Eastwood, we imply actual cowboys like Butch Cassidy, Wyatt Earp, Invoice Doolin, or Billy the Child —after they’re carrying cowboy hats? In all probability by no means. Actual cowboys from the American frontier, each the great guys and the dangerous guys, had little interest in these huge, cumbersome Stetsons that everybody associates with them. The preferred headgear amongst nineteenth century gunslingers was a bowler, typically referred to as a derby. We do not know what Billy the Child is carrying in his most iconic photograph. Possibly an nearly crushed high hat?

the declaration of independence against the us flag

You understand how folks at the moment wish to complain you can by no means belief the federal government? Seems that is been true for the reason that starting. The Continental Congress voted for independence and drafted the declaration on the 2nd of July, a revision was authorised on the 4th, it was learn aloud for the primary time on the eighth, and the ultimate doc wasn’t signed till August 2nd. John Adams, our second president, was satisfied that July 2nd would turn into the annual vacation. “It must be solemnized with Pomp and Parade with shews, Video games, Sports activities, Weapons, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one Finish of this continent to the opposite from this Time ahead eternally extra,” he wrote. You have been sooooo shut, Johnny boy.

New York Stock Exchange

Black Tuesday, October 24, 1929, continues to be thought-about probably the most surprising inventory market crash in U.S. historical past. Not simply due to the monetary devastation, however due to the our bodies that apparently rained from the sky in New York and different cities, as financially ruined buyers jumped from skyscrapers. Besides, effectively, it did not actually occur. There have been solely two suicides by leaping from tall buildings after the Wall Avenue crash, and one in all them was an aged feminine clerk named Hulda Borowski, who might or might not have made the leap as a result of her shares had plummeted.

President Richard Nixon addressing a large crowd - american myths

The thirty seventh U.S. president, a person affectionately nicknamed “Tough Dick,” did go fairly a little bit of laws throughout his administration that may very well be construed as environmentally pleasant. His signature gave us the EPA and the Protected Consuming Water Act, amongst others. However then once more, this was throughout a interval when many U.S. rivers have been on hearth, and smog-filled air clogged the cities. (When you’re a president in a rustic that is overrun with zombies, saying, “Hey, let’s do one thing about all these zombies” just isn’t a daring stance.)

Additionally, Nixon as soon as purportedly informed leaders on the Ford Motor Firm that environmentalists needed to “return and reside like a bunch of [dang] animals. They are a group of individuals that are not actually one [dang] bit fascinated by security or clear air. What they’re fascinated by is destroying the system.”

The Story of Pocahontas
Courtesy Kelly – College of Toronto

By no means get your historical past for Disney films. The essence of the Pocahontas/John Smith story is true. A younger Native American woman did befriend an Englishman, and their relationship might have saved the Jamestown colony. However Pocahontas was simply 12, which might make a romantic relationship with a 28 yr previous dude simply gross, even by seventeenth century requirements. Additionally, her actual identify wasn’t Pocahontas. That was only a nickname, roughly translated as “Little Playful One” or “Little Mischief.” Her extra formal names—she had a number of—included Matoaka and Amonute.

American inventor Thomas Edison
Everett Historic / Shutterstock

Edison had a file variety of patents—1,093, to be actual—and the overwhelming majority of them weren’t his personal innovations. He was only a man good sufficient to seek out actual inventors and steal their concepts earlier than they may take the credit score. Edison obtained the patent for the sunshine bulb in 1880, but it surely’s true father was Warren de la Rue, a British astronomer and chemist, who created the primary gentle bulb forty years earlier.

orson welles in war of the worlds
Public Area

Orson Welles fooled the world together with his 1938 radio broadcast, an homage to H.G. Wells that reported on a Martian invasion as if it was a factor occurring in the actual world. 1000’s purchased into the prank. Okay, tons of. Positive, a baker’s dozen. A minimum of one man, a farmer, who might or might not have been coaxed into posing for a photograph for Life Journal whereas angrily brandishing a shotgun. The purpose is, Orson Welles tried to trick listeners into pondering we have been below assault from extraterrestrials, and at the least one man in overalls believed him, so clearly mass hysteria!

Betsy Ross and the Flag

The one proof we’ve got that Betsy Ross had something to do with creating the American flag got here from her grandson, William Canby, who argued in 1870—a full decade-plus for the reason that occasions in query—that his “gam-gam” got here up with the entire concept. You will forgive us if that sounds fishy. Betsy at the least had one contribution to the flag; she urged a five-pointed star as a substitute of a six-pointed one as a result of it might be simpler to stitch. The actual creator was seemingly Francis Hopkinson from New Jersey, who signed the Declaration of Independence and designed many seals for U.S. authorities departments. When he tried to receives a commission for arising with the American flag, it was denied by the Board of Admiralty, on the grounds that “he was not the one one consulted.” Ouch!

the first thanksgiving - american myths

Just about all the pieces you understand about Thanksgiving is not true. The story we’re informed, time and time once more, is about Pilgrims having a cheerful meal with Native Individuals, and everyone realizing, “Hey, we’re not so totally different from one another in spite of everything. Let’s have some turkey and stuffing to rejoice.” Nope. The actual story includes plagues, and Pilgrims displaying up as a result of they thought the Native Individuals have been sick or useless, so it might be straightforward to steal their meals. It is most likely nearer to the vacation expertise many individuals expertise at the moment, with all of the screaming and tears and accusations and harm emotions. Simply add in much more violence to make it just a little extra sensible.

the original Ford Model T

Once we consider the primary automotive, we consider Henry Ford’s Mannequin T, first launched in 1908. It was a swell vehicle, however not by any stretch of the creativeness the “first” horseless carriage. That occurred again within the nineteenth century, when European engineers like Carl Benz and Emile Levassor have been making vehicle improvements that have been gentle years forward of Ford. Benz patented the primary vehicle in 1886. Ford wasn’t even the primary to promote vehicles within the U.S. That might be Ransom E. Olds, who was promoting Oldsmobiles in 1901 for the low value of $650.

Abraham Lincoln statue at the lincoln memorial

Abraham Lincoln might have given us the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, however he had difficult and conflicting concepts about slavery. In an 1862 letter to a distinguished newspaper editor, he shared these ambiguous feelings: “If I may save the Union with out releasing any slave I’d do it, and if I may put it aside by releasing all of the slaves I’d do it; and if I may put it aside by releasing some and leaving others alone I’d additionally do this. What I do about slavery, and the coloured race, I do as a result of I consider it helps to avoid wasting the Union.” So yeah, it is honest to say that Lincoln freed the slaves. Nevertheless it’s additionally honest to notice that he was completely open to a plan B.

The Founding Fathers

Not even shut. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin have been deists, which suggests they believed in God however simply not one with holy books and commandments written in stone. George Washington was an Episcopalian, although not a robust sufficient believer to summon a pastor on his deathbed. John Adams, a Unitarian, claimed that “The federal government of america just isn’t, in any sense, based on the Christian faith.” Additionally, there’s that bizarre pyramid with a single eye on the greenback invoice. I imply c’mon! What’s that about?

albert einstein in a library
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It is a type of tales that folks with dangerous grades love to inform. “Certain, I flunked my math check, however so did Einstein.” Yeah, sorry to burst your bubble, however that is by no means true. Einstein was at all times good, even at an early age. The story that he was horrible at math was invented by a Ripley’s Imagine It or Not! newspaper column within the 30s, with the click-baiting-before-click-baiting-was-a-thing title “Biggest dwelling mathematician failed in arithmetic.” When a Princeton rabbi shared this story with Einstein in 1935, he simply laughed and stated, “I by no means failed in arithmetic. Earlier than I used to be fifteen I had mastered differential and integral calculus.”

the alamo at high noon

You suppose with the fixed reminders to “Bear in mind the Alamo” that anyone would’ve realized that what was being remembered possibly wasn’t all that noble. The 250 or extra Individuals who died on the Alamo weren’t preventing for freedom. Simply the alternative, the truth is. Texas was nonetheless technically a part of Mexico after its Conflict of Independence from Spain, however slavery was banned from Mexico in 1829, which did not make many Texans pleased. They needed to maintain their slaves, and Common Santa Anna was like, “Nope.” In order that they holed up within the Alamo in San Antonio till… you understand the remaining.

a burning bra

The place did we get the concept feminists burn their bras? It seemingly began with the ladies’s liberation protest in Atlantic Metropolis, New Jersey, in the course of the 1968 Miss America pageant, the place bras (and different “devices of torture” like girdles and high-heel footwear) have been dumped right into a trash can and set ablaze. However that was the primary and final time a bra was burned within the U.S. as an expression of feminine energy.

soldiers in trucks during world war ii

The U.S. undoubtedly performed a enormous half in defeating the Nazis in World Conflict II. However we won’t take full credit score. The Nazis have been largely defeated by the Soviet Union. Whereas the U.S. misplaced 1.3 million lives in World Conflict II, the Russians misplaced a staggering 25 million.

Religious pilgrims

The issue with that sentence is the “freedom” half. It began in 1593, when the Protestant “Separatists” emigrated to Holland from England for the possibility to observe their non secular preferences with out interference. The one downside? Holland allowed too a lot non secular freedom, giving free reign to Judaism and Catholicism and even atheism. It was an excessive amount of for his or her pure Puritan hearts. In order that they jumped on the Mayflower and went searching for a brand new world.

a stamp depicting charles lindbergh

It is a bizarre factor a couple of phrase like “first.” It makes all the pieces appear extra vital and particular. When Charles Lindbergh took his solo flight between New York and Paris in 1927, it was undoubtedly historic. And should not that be sufficient? Does it take something away from Lindbergh’s flight to say that one other aircraft did it eight years earlier, in 1919, piloted by British aviators Alcock and Brown? They’d flown nonstop from Newfoundland to Eire in a Vickers Vimy biplane.

cowboys in the wild west

Between 1859 and 1900, there have been an estimated 12 financial institution robberies within the entirety of the so-called “Wild West.” And the grand complete of gun-related murders in frontier cities got here to about 1.5 per yr. There may’ve been 1.5 gun-related murders in some U.S. cities at the moment within the time it took you to learn that final sentence. The notorious 1881 shootout on the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, during which the Earp brothers exchanged gunfire with the Clanton-McLaury gang, had a physique depend of precisely three.

bros watching football and singing along to the star spangled banner

To be honest, the phrases have been written within the U.S. by the poet Francis Scott Key. It was initially about Fort McHenry in Baltimore, which efficiently fought off the British navy in 1814. However the music—the notes everyone knows by coronary heart even once we do not bear in mind the phrases—was initially an previous 18th century British consuming tune referred to as “To Anacreon in Heav’n,” a couple of males’s social membership referred to as the Anacreontic Society the place there was loads of booze and fiddle-playing, apparently. Some pattern lyrics:

Voice, fiddle, and flute, now not be mute,

I will lend you my identify and encourage you in addition

And moreover I will instruct you want me to intwine

The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s vine.

Not loads of “our flag was nonetheless there” patriotism, however in the event you’ve ever garbled the tune earlier than a baseball recreation, you understand the spirit is identical.

a classic martini in a warmly lit bar

Throughout the twilight of the Gold Rush, the story goes, a miner walked into the bar on the Occidental Resort, in Martinez, California, and requested for the strongest drink conceivable (to boring the ache of coming dwelling empty-handed). The bartender whipped collectively some gin and vermouth, splashed in some olive juice, and lo, the world’s most traditional libation was invented.

Solely, there is no strategy to corroborate this tall story. In reality, widespread origin tales of the martini have been credited to Randolph Martine, a decide in New York (nope: he solely drank Champagne); Alessandro Martini, founding father of Martini vermouth (nope: he drank his stuff straight); and nineteenth century mixologist Jerry Thomas (nope: his model had crimson vermouth). The reality is that nobody can credibly determine its historical past. Because it stands, the martini is little greater than a results of the collective, centuries-honed consciousness of the American spirit of innovation. Humorous, then, that the drink’s most steadfast champion comes from throughout the Atlantic.

glistening apples

It seems the parable of a fantasy generally is a fantasy itself. Johnny Appleseed, the folkloric hero from the early days of our nation, is a really actual dude. His beginning identify: John Chapman. And, in the event you head to his hometown (Leominster, Massachusetts), you may even discover a devoted granite marker subsequent to his birthplace. The entire road was renamed, too—although metropolis planners caught together with his legendary moniker: Johnny Appleseed Lane.

nasa at cape canaveral florida

It is a good line. It is also an incorrect one. The precise utterance: “Houston, we have had an issue.”

the old north bridge in concord

We’re all conscious of the “shot heard around the world,” a phrase coined by Ralph Waldo Emerson to explain the primary gunshot on the Battle of Lexington and Harmony—and the spark for the Revolutionary Conflict. As legend has it, that first musket shot marked the start of armed and violent battle between the Colonies and the British. Not so. In keeping with Ray Raphael‘s seminal Founding Myths, farmers had staged violent uprisings in opposition to Pink Coats since 1774, a complete yr previous to the Battle.

cryo freezing tube

There is a long-perpetuated fantasy that Walt Disney, after his 1966 demise, had his physique cryogenically frozen, with the intent to be revived as soon as know-how permits it. This rumor is demonstrably false. Disney was cremated, and his ashes have been thrown to the wind on the Forest Garden Memorial Lake. The primary individual to be posthumously frozen is James Bedford, in 1967. Bedford’s physique is at the moment below lock-and-key with the parents on the Alcor Life Extension Basis.

a pirate ship literally riding off into the horizon

Hollywood and Treasure Island knockoffs would have you ever consider that, by the 18th century, pirates kind of wrapped up their complete “steal stuff and kill folks” shtick. However pirates operated effectively into the nineteenth century. In reality, one excessive profile case, that of pirate Charles Gibbs, née James D. Jeffers, did not come to an finish till 1832, when he was convicted of mutiny and homicide, and hanged to demise on Ellis Island. (Sure, that Ellis Island.) Of be aware: the prosecuting legal professional occurred to be the son of Alexander Hamilton.

the old state house in delaware

We’re taught that america of America, as we all know it, spawned from 13 unique colonies. Because it seems, a type of colonies, Delaware, wasn’t formally a colony till 1776—simply earlier than, you understand, the entire revolution factor kicked off. Earlier than then, for almost all of the 18th century, it was a colony of Nice Britain. And even additional again, since its incorporation, Delaware was a part of the Pennsylvania colony. There you’ve it: America’s unique set was a dozen.

the supreme court - american myths

When the Supreme Court docket was based, in 1789, six justices sat on the bench. In 1807, that swelled to seven. Thirty years later, it jumped to 9. And within the throes of the Civil Conflict, in 1863, the bench elevated to 10 earlier than dropping right down to 9 once more on the finish of the last decade: one for every circuit court docket. In different phrases, the nine-justice bench we’re so aware of just isn’t an in-blood constitutional mandate. Beneath the suitable political circumstances—one political social gathering absolutely controlling the home, senate, and White Home—the supreme court docket may develop to, theoretically, 10 or 11 or 12 or 13 or 30 or, actually, as many members as a unified congressional entrance would enable.

In reality, within the Thirties, Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to spice up the bench to a whopping 15, however his plan was shot down within the senate.

the liberty bell's crack in philadelphia

Even the writers of Recreation of Thrones could not pull off a plot level as handy as this perpetuated fantasy: that enthusiastic patriots cracked the Liberty Bell by ringing it too onerous on the day we declared independence. Historians have been capable of hint the primary crack again to the 1750s, although, and the massive one everyone knows at the moment is probably going only a results of common wear-and-tear.

william howard taft giving a speech to a medium sized crowd

William Howard Taft, the twenty seventh POTUS, was by all accounts an enormous man: on the top of his width, he clocked in at greater than 350 kilos. As such, a well-liked legend has it that Taft as soon as obtained caught inside a White Home bathtub. The reality of the matter is much less enjoyable. Taft’s workers special-ordered a tub massive sufficient to comfortably sit 4 grown males—so massive, the truth is, that even a 350-pound behemoth could not presumably get caught. The bath fantasy seemingly stemmed from a post-presidency leisure go to to resort New Jersey, as reported in a 1913 article within the Philadelphia Inquirer. Purportedly, Taft precipitated the bathtub in his room to overflow, resulting in leakage within the first-floor eating room.

a man burning the american flag outside the 2016 democratic convention

To be honest, it was unlawful to burn the flag for almost all of American historical past. However the U.S. Supreme Court docket dominated, in 1989, in Texas v. Johnson, that stopping somebody from burning the flag is a primary modification violation. (The Court docket upheld their resolution in 1990’s U.S. v. Eichman.) That stated, in sure instances and locations—say, a army funeral—the observe could be thought-about unlawful.

capitol hill and the reflecting pool at night

Our first official capital metropolis, in 1774, was Philadelphia. However in brief order, our international locations leaders bounced round and convened all over the place from massive cities, like Baltimore and New York Metropolis, to less-esteemed locales, like Trenton, New Jersey, and Annapolis, Maryland. (Lancaster, Pennsylvania, holds the distinctive declare of being “capital for a day,” for the reason that Second Continental Congress convened there for a single day on September 27, 1777.) The District of Columbia did not turn into the capital as we all know it—set in stone, each by decree and sheer quantity of statues and landmarks—till 1819.

a statue of Founding Father and President George Washington

Let’s finish the place we started, with our first president. Or our “type of” first president. All of us simply naturally assume that George was primary.

Throughout the American Revolution, a number of presidents have been elected by the Continental Congress, the primary being Peyton Randolph, who created the Continental Military. Thomas Mifflin, who was president between 1783 and 1784, oversaw the ratification of the Treaty of Paris. John Hancock, who turned extra well-known for signing the Declaration of Independence, was the president between 1785 and 1786. George Washington was our first president to be elected by the folks, however technically talking, he was our fifteenth president.

If you wish to get out of the previous for a bit and re-examine a few of the wilder issues in our current previous that may make the historical past books, 20 Current Day Information No One Might Have Predicted 5 Years In the past will certainly be a visit.

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