History is full of unbelievable stories. These events helped shape the world we live in today. So, how come we don’t study these amazing historical facts in school, or read about them in history books?
Stories like the time when a museum piece was used as an important military weapon, war mysteries, and more have puzzled historians for centuries, but no one talks about them.
These stories are only 50 of the most overlooked moments of world history. You won’t believe these events actually happened.
50. Someone Had To Come Up With A Better Printing Method
So the first printing “technology” was carving entire pages of books onto wooden blocks then stamping all the blocks onto paper to produce books.
This was extremely time-consuming because of all the carving that was required. In addition, these blocks only allowed you to reproduce one particular book. Still, it was an amazing technology that allowed people to pass on stories and knowledge. People became more educated and intelligent. To this day, it’s still one of the most important inventions in history.
Then, someone came up with the idea that instead of carving entire pages onto blocks, why not carve single letters and use those letters to compose words and sentences? That way, not only do you do less carving, you also get way more scale and can produce any material you want.
This simple idea to go from carving entire pages to just letters? It took 400 years before someone came up with it—400 years. The average life expectancy at that time was around 40 years. Generations of people who had come and gone before someone realized there was a better way to do things.
49. It Was An Important Museum Piece
The time a 340-year-old museum piece was used to repel an invasion.
The Dardanelles Operation was a fairly minor skirmish during the Napoleonic wars. The Ottomans aligned with the French against Britain and Russia. The British sent a fleet to intimidate the Turks and force them to reopen the strait.
As the British fleet sailed towards Constantinople, French engineers worked with the Turkish army to repair and improve shore defenses. Part of this included reactivating a 340-year-old super cannon modeled on the one used in the famed Turkish conquest of Constantinople in the 1400s.
This cannon weighed 17 tons and fired stone cannonballs that were two feet in diameter. After meeting little resistance from the Turkish fleet, the British were forced to withdraw after taking heavy damage from the shore batteries, including from the colossal “Dardanelles Gun”.
Trebuchets are nice, but can they fire a 360 kg projectile over 2400 meters?
48. We Should Thank This Man For Paris
“The Savior of Paris”—Paris as we know it may not exist today had it not been for one man. During the German military occupation of France in WWII, Paris became the capital of this occupied zone, while France moved it’s own capital to Vichy to keep the state alive. During this time Paris saw no real fighting and remained relatively unscathed (compare to London or Berlin by the war’s end). However, the commander of Nazi-led Paris, General Dietrich Von Choltitz was given orders by Hitler to destroy the bridges and level the city should it be overtaken by the Allies, as he would never return it to them the way it was. Within a month the Free French Forces liberated the city and Choltitz had famously ignored Hitler’s call, “Is Paris Burning?”. The General grew fond of Paris during his short time there and recognized it’s immense cultural and historical importance, so today he is remembered as the savior of Paris.
How the actual call from Hitler went, or whether or not it even took place is debated, but we do know that if Choltitz had not grown sympathetic, we may have lost some of the best parts of Paris.
47. We Don’t Blame Her
Alboin, King of the Lombards, took his wife Rosamund as a spoil of war after he killed her father in the Lombard-Gepid War. Then at one point, he made her drink from her father’s skull, which he kept as a trophy and fashioned into a mug, telling her to “drink merrily with your father.” She had him destroyed.
46. It Was All For The Sake Of Research
Robert Liston, for whom Listerine is named if memory serves, is the only person in history to have performed a surgery with a 300% mortality rate, meaning that three people passed away from one operation. The patient passed of gangrene, Liston cut the fingers of his assistant who also passed from gangrene, and he literally scared an onlooker to death by cutting his coattails. This was back when anesthetics were non-existent and speed made a bigger difference.
45. Literary Soldiers…Kind Of
Mark Twain and his buddies decided to join the Confederate army. It was an excuse to get away from the wives, hang out in the woods, and hang out. This went on for a couple of weeks until word came that the Union army was advancing. Shortly thereafter, all the men quit their made-up unit and headed home.
During WWII, there were sightings up and down the eastern coast of U Boats. Hemingway heard there was one off of Key West and decided he should hunt it down. He and a couple buddies loaded up a boat with beverages and weapons. They were unsuccessful and returned home shortly after they ran out of “sustenance”.
44. The Most Overlooked Ancient Civilization
The Aztecs are overlooked in most history classes, but they were far from the primitive tribesmen that most people think of. At the height of its power Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Triple Alliance, was rivaled in size by cities like London and Constantinople, and it was all built on a giant artificial island. It’s a shame their culture was obliterated, because though they might have been a bit too obsessed with sacrifice, they were an incredibly fascinating civilization.
43. Conflict Between Ohio And Michigan
The Toledo War: a border dispute between Michigan and Ohio that almost broke out into armed conflict between the states’ militias. Ever wonder why Michigan has the “upper peninsula” when it logically should be part of Wisconsin? The Toledo War is why.
42. Electronic Warfare
In WWII England an English physicist figured out that the Germans were using directional radio beacons to guide the buzz bombs towards London. He designed a transmitter that would synchronize with the German transmissions and, as the buzz bombs got closer the Britain, overwhelm the German signals with one that steered the bombs so that they’d drop into open empty farm fields. The Germans never did figure out what he’d done, instead they racked their brains trying to figure out how the Brits were ‘bending’ their radio beacon beams. There are some fascinating books written about WWII electronic warfare, but not many people are into that or aware of them.
41. They Were Trying To Look Their Best
My favorite story which I love to tell people is during the battle of Verdun (WWI), the Germans outfits would get ruined i.e. helmet spikes falling off. So fast forward to some high-up German commanders coming to visit them. The soldiers are scrambling to look good for them but alas, their helmets are ruined. So what do they do? They carve potatos into a spike and stick it on their heads. Always makes me laugh.
40. Carthage Should Be Destroyed
Cato the Elder, a roman senator, would give several vehement speeches, all ending in something along the lines of “Carthago delenda est,” roughly translating to “Carthage must be destroyed.” Carthage did end up getting destroyed a couple of years after he died.
Years later, Cato the Younger was on the Senate. Julius Caesar was reading a note during a meeting, causing Cato to accuse him of being a spy. After Caesar denied the accusations, Cato asked Caesar to read out the note, because if he really was innocent, he wouldn’t have anything to hide. Caesar agreed. It was a love note from Cato the Younger’s sister.
39. When Andrew Jackson Was Almost Assassinated
The Assassination Attempt on Andrew Jackson.
Richard Lawrence, the assailant, had gone insane due to heavy metal poisoning, thanks to the lead paint he used as a house painter. Because of this, he thought himself to be the exiled King Richard III of England. His train of thought was that, by getting rid of Andrew Jackson, the US would pay him the money owed to him so he could go and reclaim his rightful throne.
He then tried to attack Jackson, failed, got defeated by Jackson’s cane, and thrown in an asylum.
38. Perhaps The Real Reason The South Lost The Civil War
It is very widely speculated by historians that the main reason Robert E. Lee was defeated at Gettysburg was because he was suffering from severe diarrhea.
Lee is known as one of the most brilliant military tacticians of his time and was rarely beaten by strategy alone. Any time he was on the scene, it was an almost guaranteed victory for the South. Beyond Lee’s brilliance, the North didn’t have too many notable generals to speak of and replaced generals often, making it hard for the North to have a consistent plan. So it didn’t look like there was much hope for the North at Gettysburg.
During the battle, Lee made a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes that ultimately led to a Northern Victory and turned the entire war in favor of the Union. These mistakes puzzled historians, because they were so unlike him, so they began to look at the journals of the officers who were with Lee during the battle and found that all of them described Lee leaving the tent often to relieve himself and being very sweaty and unfocused.
37. The White House Knew How To Party
Andrew Jackson’s inauguration party was crazy as heck. The place was packed even before Jackson showed up. Thousands of people attended, with tons of overflow to the White House. He even took a basement entrance to avoid the multitudes. The sheer amount of people led to furniture being destroyed and food being ground into the carpet. By the end of the night, the party organizers had to lure the crowd out by the promise of serving more stuff on the White House lawn. Jackson stayed at a hotel that night. Historians have since tried to downplay the ruckus, stating that it could have been exaggerated by Jackson’s political opponents in order to make him look unruly. But, it could have also been down played by Jackson supporters in order to make him look less unruly…
Anyway… Later on in his presidency, a dairy farmer from New York gave Jackson a 1400 pound block of cheese. Jackson had to invite random people in to eat it. The stench of cheese persisted into the Van Buren administration. To this day, the White House celebrates “Block of Cheese” day, in which it opens lines of communication with interests groups and various everyday citizens.
36. “Schindler’s List” Is Based Off A True Story
Oscar Schindler saved over 1000 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his safe factories where they always had a meal, escaped death and were treated with dignity. He was a millionaire Nazi and spent his entire fortune trying to keep them safe. There are over 8000 Jews that were born of them the past few generations. They’re called Schindler Jews. He fled to South America a poor man and never got real recognition. But the Jews he saved supported him after the war. I know there is the movie Schindler’s List but most people haven’t seen it and I didn’t learn about him in school growing up.
35. A War Against Beavers
Argentina has a Canadian Beaver problem in the southern region of Tierra del Fuego. Back in the day they imported Canadian Beavers to try to start a fur trading industry. Since the beavers had no natural predators they went out of control and have destroyed an area of land 2x larger than Buenos Aires with flooded land caused by beaver dams. Recently the government started a war against the beavers to eradicate them. I am Canadian; a war on beavers is a war against me! I’m sharpening my hockey stick now.
34. He Didn’t Want To Be Like His Brother
Turns out John Wilkes Booth (aka the guy who dropped Lincoln) had a brother who suffered from the newfound infamy of his surname after his brother’s passing. Better yet, the surviving brother was an aspiring actor. This presumably left him open to numerous zingers from critics such as: “The second worst thing a Booth’s done in the theatre.”
33. A War Over Pigs
A border war between the US and Canada (at the beginning still a British colony), which was triggered by the eradication of an American farmer’s pig by a Canadian farmer who found it snacking on his potatoes. It is a conflict that involved several thousand armed men, including, for a time, the notorious Southern hothead George E. Pickett (later of Pickett’s Charge), and which lasted for thirteen long years—yet which is rarely mentioned in the history books of any of those nations.
No shots were fired. Nobody was hurt. Shortly after it began, a lone Royal Marine was whacked in the eye by a rock hurled from the American position. He was shipped to Fort Victoria for treatment, lived to return to his station with sight intact, and is the only documented casualty of the entire conflict. For most of the time, the two sides spent their hours playing cards, and sneaking out to visit the other sides’ lines, to swap contraband from their respective countries.
The site of the British main position, which today lies within the US’ San Juan National Historical Park, is the only bit of non-diplomatic soil in America over which the Union Jack is flown daily.
Easily qualifies as The. Best. War. Ever.
32. The Vikings Were Cleaner Than You Think
Far from being filthy, the Vikings were actually very well-groomed for the time period; they took a bath every Saturday, frequently changed their clothes, and combed their hair every single day. In fact there are letters from English monks complaining about those Danes stealing all the local girls with their comparative hygiene.
31. Jim Thorpe’s Football Domination
Jim Thorpe’s hundred-yard touchdown during a game between Army and Carlisle Indian School. A flag was called on the play, so Thorpe simply ran a second hundred-yard return. Among the hapless saps trying to catch Jim Thorpe that day was future U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower. Of Thorpe, he would later remark how there was just no way anyone was going to catch him.
30. California Was Once Argentinian
That time California was Argentinian. Hippolyte Bouchard, clearly a French sworn enemy of Spain, sailed the seas fighting the royalists whenever and wherever. He got as far as California and captured a fortress called Monterey (between the newly founded cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco). Between November 24th and November 29th of 1818, California was Argentinian. Google Hippolyte Bouchard. I swear his life is fascinating. He was one heck of a sailor and, along with William Brown, helped and defended Argentina from the Spanish and English crowns.
29. You Never Thought The CIA Would Do This
The American CIA planned to eradicate Americans, on American soil, by attacking American cities. Their only objective was to blame it on Cuba and get Americans stirred up to go to war with Cuba. Kennedy personally stopped it.
Research Operation Northwoods and NEVER trust your government.
28. Pancakes, Anyone?
The U. S. military during WWII had a project called Aunt Jemima in which they literally put explosives in pancake mix and used it to blow up a few bridges. The thing is, they used an incredibly heat tolerant explosive so you could still use it to make pancakes and eat them.
27. There’s Another Wall Like The Great Wall Of China
There’s a wall, I can’t remember if it’s in England or Scotland, called Hadrian’s Wall. It stretches from one side of the island to the other, is roughly as tall and thick as the Great Wall of China, and has been there since Roman times.
The wall was built by an emperor of the same name because he found that invading the area north of the wall was too scary. An emperor after Hadrian decided to give it a go anyway and sent a legion north. They were never seen again.
26. One Of The Most Overlooked Presidents
I think Teddy Roosevelt often gets overlooked in American history. He is in my top 3 favorite presidents.
He was just a man who went from being a policeman to the governor of New York, to the VP. He wasn’t even the popular choice for VP. There wasn’t really a clear choice, so Teddy was chosen. Then McKinley was assassinated!
Roosevelt went from an unpopular choice for Vice President to one of the BEST presidents the US has ever had.
25. They Should Have Put Coats And Hats On
William Henry Harrison. Elected President of the US, shows up to DC for his inauguration speech, and as a sign of his toughness, he isn’t going to wear a coat on the cold January day his speech is scheduled for. Harrison passes away in the next two weeks of pneumonia.
Similarly, when William Tecumseh Sherman, Union general in the American Civil War, died, Sherman’s Confederate adversary from the Civil War Joseph E. Johnston paid his respects by serving as pallbearer at Sherman’s funeral. He refused to wear a hat, and someone told him “Put your hat on or you will catch pneumonia” or something like that, and Johnston responds with “If I had died, Sherman would not put his hat on no matter how cold it was.” Anyways, Johnston passed away 10 days later of pneumonia. Fun fact: William Tecumseh Sherman passed of pneumonia as well.
In conclusion, Americans were bad at not getting pneumonia.
24. That Time When The Florida Keys Seceded From The US
The secession of the Florida Keys in 1986 is probably one of the funniest things to happen in recent history. They declared war on the US, then surrendered one minute later, and then applied for 1 billion dollars in financial aid.
23. The US Actually Did Have A Female President, In A Way
Woodrow Wilson had a stroke in his last years as president, which more or less took him out of commission, and so his wife Edith kind of just took over pretending to be him. People occasionally questioned if he was okay, and so Edith “Weekend at Bernie’s”-ed him to convince the public he was fine.
22. Brutus Wasn’t Betraying Caesar
Brutus wasn’t so much a traitor as he was a highly respected man known for his inflexible virtue and devotion to the Republic. He hated getting rid of Caesar but felt that he had to in order to safeguard the integrity of the Roman Republic. Caesar’s avengers respected him and draped him in a velvet coat after he fell on his sword.
21. Let’s Go To The Movies
During The Great Depression, theatre owners had to make money so they came up with an idea to somehow reward the cinema goers. My favorite one is the “dish night” where they granted one piece of tableware per ticket. If you were a regular visitor on those nights, in a couple of weeks you could have the whole set. Some of those sets are really beautiful and expensive-looking!
20. Innocent Until Proven Guilty By Cake
In the 1200s, there was a method of trying a criminal called the trial by cake. The accused would eat a bite of cake and if they choked on it they were guilty; if they could eat it just fine, they were innocent.
The one time it ever was used, the accused choked and passed away on the piece of cake.
19. He Was Taking Care Of Business
During the First Sino-Japanese War, a Chinese admiral pawned one of the main guns on his flagship to a scrap dealer, in order to pay off some gambling debts.
This was the same war where the Empress embezzled from the army to fund her palace renovations.
18. Doing What They Had To Do
Hundreds of U.S. communities started using their own currencies during the Great Depression in order to bypass economic downfall. Of course there was the Dust Bowl and other factors at play but, it generally worked. Sometimes, it’s as simple as stepping outside the systems that are in place. Some of our problems really only exist on paper.
17. World War I Is The Forgotten War
Disagree with me if you like but I think WWI gets way overlooked (in the USA at least). I think it’s because WWII was a conflict with much more American involvement and a clearer cut version of “good versus evil.” I’m not trying to say it’s a popularity contest or talk down any importance of any events in either. But I will say I think WWI and it’s plethora of technological advancements gets a little less press.
16. Hiroshima Warning
Something I find interesting that is always overlooked is the fact that the USA did everything possible to warn the inhabitants of Hiroshima that they were going to attack them. Including dropping leaflets and constant radio broadcasts. They also specifically picked Hiroshima because it was a military industrial town that manufactured war equipment. Not a happy family village that bred unicorns and baby deer.
15. The Naughty Document
Winston Churchill and Joeseph Stalin had a “Naughty Document” that literally carved up Europe into spheres of influence for after WW2 – people often forget how shady some of the Allies’ actions were.
14. Alexander Hamilton’s Sexuality
This is better known after the success of Hamilton, but Alexander Hamilton was gay for John Laurens (allegedly) to the point where one of his descendants hacked up parts of their letters.
13. The Confederate Flag
Instead it was the battle flag of General Lee’s army, the Army of Northern Virginia as well as a later design for the confederate Naval Jack.
12. Perfect Invasion Defence Record
The English like to pretend that their country hasn’t been successfully invaded since the Normans in 1066. They are wrong. In 1688, the Dutch King William III landed an invasion force at Torbay, marched down to London, caused the king to flee in terror and jumped on the throne after barely meeting any resistance. However, due to the fact that a lot of English people supported William, this event is known as a ‘revolution’ (the Glorious Revolution) rather than an invasion.
11. Michelangelo Got What He Deserved
Michelangelo totally got his nose broken when he was sixteen for being mean to his contemporary. Nobody knows exactly what was said, but Pietro knocked him so hard in the face that accounts of the time say that his nose was just barely holding onto his face. Dude woke up to Medici screaming Pietro into a corner and was just like, “Bro, what?”
Additionally, Michelangelo wrote angry poetry about people on his doorstep.
10. Aryan Misconception
The misconception that Aryan means blond and blue eyed. The word itself comes from Iran and India.
9. A Single Nazi Peacemaker
In 1941, Rudolf Hess, a leading Nazi tried to individually negotiate peace between Britain and Germany. He did this by flying to Scotland, crash landing his plane there. A Scottish farmer found him and had him arrested. He was stripped of his role in the Nazi Party by Hitler and was tried at the Nuremburg Trials five years later.
The fact that he tried to achieve peace by himself without the approval of others just makes me laugh, in addition to how he failed miserably.
8. He Wasn’t Actually Dead
King Eumenes II of Pergamon was tragically assassinated while traveling abroad. His brother, Attalus II, was heartbroken but fulfilled his duty by taking over as King and marrying his brother’s widow. Fast forward a few months, and who should come waltzing through the city gates but Eumenes! It seems the rumors of his death had been greatly exaggerated. And whereas this situation would have undoubtedly led to war with literally any other pair of brothers from history, these two genuinely loved one another. So instead of fighting, the two siblings happily embraced and Attalus peacefully returned his brother’s crown and wife.
7. How Mount Rushmore Was Really Funded
When Calvin Coolidge was president he went on a fishing trip to South Dakota (for THREE MONTHS). Unbeknownst to him, the local officials were stocking the locations he was fishing with extra fish because they wanted him to like South Dakota. Why? They wanted federal money and support to create Mount Rushmore.
6. Not So Golden After All
Justinian, emperor of “Rome” who is the golden boy of history and is credited with the second “golden age of Rome” was actually a bad person and a demon according to Procopius’ Secret History book. He didn’t pay the army, he didn’t follow his own laws, and his wife was sleezy.
He basically made Constantinople bankrupt from dumb building projects and from paying barbarians off to not attack the Romans. The barbarians learned this and sent the same armies against Rome but had different leaders each time to they could get the pay out from Rome. Procopius really makes him out to be a dunce in the book Secret History.
5. The Children’s Crusade
It is literally what you think it is. Supposedly, Christians got the bright idea that children are far more pure than adults, so they can go ahead and fight the war just fine, right? Wrong. Most of them were sold into slavery after paying for passage to the battlegrounds, and the rest were disposed of on the beaches. Fine bit of history that is.
4. The Torpedo
In 1800 Robert Fulton invented the torpedo which actually just floated, because nothing could propel it. A year later in 1801 he invented the steam boat. I’m guessing so he’d have something to sink.
3. Surprising Timeline
Woolly Mammoths and the pyramids coexisted
2. Benjamin Franklin Was A Big Jokester
It wasn’t just that Benjamin Franklin was a successful inventor, businessman, politician, philosopher, and writer—he was also the first real troll. He would often write articles in his own paper, but then write letters to the editor (himself) under pseudonyms (fake readers) criticizing those articles he wrote. He would argue with himself and call himself out in a paper that he owned and went largely unnoticed. He was notoriously a prankster, so much that the founders did not ask him to contribute to the writing of the constitution because they feared he would hide subliminal jokes in the text.
It is little known. It is a stone wall that begins at the tip of Long Island NY at Montauk, then continues at the coast of Connecticut at Hammonasset beach and makes it’s way up through the Connecticut backwoods into upstate New York where it ends at a mountain peak on the Canadian border. There are cairns (stone huts) scattered nearby all the line. It appears the line exactly delineates the summer and winter solstice dawn and dusk sunline, respectively, and is said to be a native American artifact thousands of years old.