Favorite historical misconception?

Posted by: PetersSmith

Read the answer descriptions, not the answer names. Hopefully you'll get that by question number 10.

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6 Total Votes
1

Vikings

There is no evidence that Vikings wore horns on their helmets. In fact, the image of Vikings wearing horned helmets stems from the scenography of an 1876 production of the Der Ring des Nibelungen opera cycle by Richard Wagner.
2 votes
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2

Other

Hopefully it's not a "hoax" and actually is a "common misconception".
1 vote
1 comment
3

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein did not fail mathematics in school. Upon seeing a column making this claim, Einstein said "I never failed in mathematics... Before I was fifteen I had mastered differential and integral calculus." Einstein did however fail the entran... ce exam into the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School on his first attempt in 1895, although he was two years younger than his fellow students at the time and scored exceedingly well in the mathematics and science sections   more
1 vote
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4

Columbus

Columbus never reached any land that now forms part of the mainland United States of America; most of the landings Columbus made on his four voyages, including the initial October 12, 1492 landing (the anniversary of which forms the basis of Columbu... s Day), were on Caribbean islands which today are independent countries. Columbus was also not the first European to visit the Americas: at least one explorer, Leif Ericson, preceded him by reaching what is believed to be the island now known as Newfoundland, part of modern Canada, though he never made it to the mainland   more
1 vote
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5

Let them eat cake

Marie Antoinette did not say "let them eat cake" when she heard that the French peasantry were starving due to a shortage of bread. The phrase was first published in Rousseau's Confessions when Marie was only nine years old and most scholars believe...  that Rousseau coined it himself, or that it was said by Maria-Theresa, the wife of Louis XIV. Even Rousseau (or Maria-Theresa) did not use the exact words but actually Qu'ils mangent de la brioche, "Let them eat brioche" (a rich type of bread). Marie Antoinette was an unpopular ruler; therefore, people attribute the phrase "let them eat cake" to her, in keeping with her reputation as being hard-hearted and disconnected from her subjects   more
1 vote
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6

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy's words "Ich bin ein Berliner" are standard German for "I am a Berliner." An urban legend has it that due to his use of the indefinite article ein, Berliner is translated as jelly doughnut, and that the population of Berlin was amuse... d by the supposed mistake. The word Berliner is not commonly used in Berlin to refer to the Berliner Pfannkuchen; they are usually called ein Pfannkuchen   more
0 votes
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7

Symbol of the United States

Benjamin Franklin did not propose that the wild turkey be used as the symbol for the United States instead of the bald eagle. While he did serve on a commission that tried to design a seal after the Declaration of Independence, his proposal was an i... mage of Moses. His objections to the eagle as a national symbol and preference for the turkey were stated in a 1784 letter to his daughter in response to the Society of the Cincinnati's use of the former; he never expressed that sentiment publicly   more
0 votes
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8

Marco Polo

There is a legend that Marco Polo imported pasta from China which originated with the Macaroni Journal, published by an association of food industries with the goal of promoting the use of pasta in the United States. Marco Polo describes a food simi... lar to "lagana" in his Travels, but he uses a term with which he was already familiar. Durum wheat, and thus pasta as it is known today, was introduced by Arabs from Libya, during their conquest of Sicily in the late 7th century, according to the newsletter of the National Macaroni Manufacturers Association, thus predating Marco Polo's travels to China by about six centuries   more
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9

Plymouth colony

Contrary to the popular image of the Pilgrim Fathers, the early settlers of the Plymouth Colony did not wear all black, and their capotains (hats) were shorter and rounder than the widely depicted tall hat with a buckle on it. Instead, their fashion...  was based on that of the late Elizabethan era: doublets, jerkins and ruffs. Both men and women wore the same style of shoes, stockings, capes, coats and hats in a range of colors including reds, yellows, purples, and greens. According to Plimoth Plantation historian James W. Baker, the traditional image was formed in the 19th century when buckles were a kind of emblem of quaintness   more
0 votes
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10

Salem witch trials

The accused at the Salem witch trials were not burned at the stake; about 15 died in prison, 19 were hanged and one was pressed to death.
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11

Polish cavalry offensive

There is no evidence of Polish cavalry mounting a brave but futile charge against German tanks using lances and sabres during the German invasion of Poland in 1939. This story may have originated from German propaganda efforts following the charge a... t Krojanty, in which a Polish cavalry brigade surprised German infantry in the open, and successfully charged and dispersed them, until driven off by armoured cars. While Polish cavalry still carried the sabre for such opportunities, they were trained to fight as highly mobile, dismounted cavalry (dragoons) and issued with light anti-tank weapons   more
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12

Ronald Reagan

Actor Ronald Reagan was never seriously considered for the role of Rick Blaine in the 1942 film classic Casablanca, eventually played by Humphrey Bogart. This belief came from an early studio press release announcing the film's production that used ... his name to generate interest in the film. But by the time it had come out, Warner Bros. Knew that Reagan was unavailable for any roles in the foreseeable future since he was no longer able to defer his entry into military service. Studio records show that producer Hal B. Wallis had always wanted Bogart for the part   more
0 votes
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13

Great Chicago Fire

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was not caused by Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicking over a lantern. A newspaper reporter invented the story to make colorful copy.
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14

Santa Claus

The popular image of Santa Claus was not created by The Coca-Cola Company as an advertising gimmick; by the time Coca-Cola began using Santa Claus's image in the 1930s, Santa Claus had already taken his modern form in popular culture, having already...  seen extensive use in other companies' advertisements and other mass media   more
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15

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day, but the celebration of the Mexican Army's victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Mexico's Independence from Spain is celebrated on September 16.
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16

War of the Worlds

There was no widespread outbreak of panic across the United States in response to Orson Welles' 1938 radio adaptation of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. Only a very small share of the radio audience was even listening to it, and isolated reports ... of scattered incidents and increased call volume to emergency services were played up the next day by newspapers, eager to discredit radio as a competitor for advertising. Both Welles and CBS, which had initially reacted apologetically, later came to realize that the myth benefited them and actively embraced it in their later years   more
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17

George Smathers

U.S. Senator George Smathers never gave a speech to a rural audience describing his opponent, Claude Pepper, as an "extrovert" whose sister was a "thespian", in the apparent hope they would confuse them with similar-sounding words like "pervert" and...  "lesbian". Time, which is sometimes cited as the source, described the story of the purported speech as a "yarn" at the time, and no Florida newspaper reported such a speech during the campaign. The leading reporter who covered Smathers said he always gave the same boilerplate speech. Smathers had offered US$10,000 to anyone who could prove he had made the speech; it was never claimed   more
0 votes
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18

George Washington's teeth

George Washington did not have wooden teeth. His dentures were made of gold, hippopotamus ivory, lead, animal teeth (including horse and donkey teeth), and probably human teeth from slaves.
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19

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte (pictured) was not short; rather he was slightly taller than the average Frenchman of his time. After his death in 1821, the French emperor's height was recorded as 5 feet 2 inches in French feet, which is 5 feet 7 inches (1.69 m)... . Some believe that he was nicknamed le Petit Caporal (The Little Corporal) as a term of affection. Napoléon was often accompanied by his imperial guard, who were selected for their height - some suggest that this could have contributed to a perception that he was relatively short   more
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20

Sympathy for the Devil

The Rolling Stones were not performing "Sympathy for the Devil" at the 1969 Altamont Free Concert when Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death by a member of the local Hells Angels chapter that was serving as security. While the incident that culminate... d in Hunter's death began while the band was performing the song, prompting a brief interruption before the Stones finished it, it concluded several songs later as the band was performing "Under My Thumb". The misconception arose from mistaken reporting in Rolling Stone   more
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21

The Red telephone

Although popularly known as the "red telephone", the Moscow–Washington hotline was never a telephone line, nor were red phones used. The first implementation of the hotline used teletype equipment, which was replaced by facsimile (fax) machines in 1... 988. Since 2008, the hotline has been a secure computer link over which the two countries exchange emails. Moreover, the hotline links the Kremlin to the Pentagon, not the White House   more
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22

Occupation of Denmark

During the occupation of Denmark by the Nazis during World War II, King Christian X of Denmark did not thwart Nazi attempts to identify Jews by wearing a yellow star himself. Jews in Denmark were never forced to wear the Star of David. The Danish re... sistance did help most Jews flee the country before the end of the war   more
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23

Official language

There was never a bill to make German the official language of the United States that was defeated by one vote in the House of Representatives, nor has one been proposed at the state level. In 1794, a petition from a group of German immigrants was p... ut aside on a procedural vote of 42 to 41, that would have had the government publish some laws in German. This was the basis of the Muhlenberg legend, named after the Speaker of the House at the time, Frederick Muhlenberg, a speaker of German descent who abstained from this vote   more
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24

Frederick Remington

The claim that Frederick Remington, on assignment to Cuba, telegraphed William Randolph Hearst that "...There will be no war. I wish to return" and that Hearst responded, "Please remain. You furnish the pictures, and I'll furnish the war" is unsubst... antiated. Although this claim is included in a book by James Creelman, there is no evidence that the telegraph exchange ever happened, and substantial evidence that it did not   more
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25

Eva Perón

Eva Perón never uttered the quote "I will return and I will be millions". The quote was first formulated by the indigenous leader Túpac Katari in 1781 shortly before he was executed. The misattribution to Eva Perón originates from a poem by José Mar... ía Castiñeira de Dios (es) written in Eva Perón's first-person narrative nearly ten years after her death. The quotation could have been inspired by a similar one in the contemporary film Spartacus   more
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26

Pruitt–Igoe housing project

While it was praised by one architectural magazine prior to its construction as "the best high apartment of the year", the Pruitt–Igoe housing project in St. Louis, Missouri, considered to epitomize the failures of urban renewal in American cities a... fter it was demolished in the early 1970s, never won any awards for its design. The architectural firm that designed the buildings did win an award for an earlier St. Louis project, which may have been confused with Pruitt–Igoe   more
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27

Benito Mussolini

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini did not "make the trains run on time". Much of the repair work had been performed before Mussolini and the Fascists came to power in 1922. Accounts from the era also suggest that the Italian railways' legendary adhe... rence to timetables was more propaganda than reality   more
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28

Declaration of Independence

The signing of the United States Declaration of Independence did not occur on July 4, 1776. The final language of the document was approved by the Second Continental Congress on that date and it was printed and distributed on July 4 and 5, but the a... ctual signing occurred on August 2, 1776   more
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29

King Canute

King Canute did not command the tide to reverse in a fit of delusional arrogance. His intent that day, if the incident even happened, was most likely to prove a point to members of his privy council that no man is all-powerful, and we all must bend ... to forces beyond our control, such as the tides   more
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30

Iron maidens

There is no evidence that iron maidens were invented in the Middle Ages or even used for torture. Instead they were pieced together in the 18th century from several artifacts found in museums in order to create spectacular objects intended for (comm... ercial) exhibition   more
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31

Plate armor

The plate armor of European soldiers did not stop soldiers from moving around or necessitate a crane to get them into a saddle. They would as a matter of course fight on foot and could mount and dismount without help. In fact, soldiers equipped with...  plate armor were more mobile than those with mail armor (chain armor), as mail was heavier and required stiff padding beneath due to its pliable nature. It is true that armor used in tournaments in the late Middle Ages was significantly heavier than that used in warfare, which may have contributed to this misconception   more
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32

Chastity belt

Modern historians dispute the popular misconception that the chastity belt, a device designed to prevent women from having sexual intercourse, was invented in medieval times. Most existing chastity belts are now thought to be deliberate fakes or ant... i-masturbatory devices from the 19th and early 20th centuries. The latter were made due to the widespread belief that masturbation could lead to insanity, and were mostly bought by parents for their teenage children   more
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33

Earth was flat

Medieval Europeans did not believe Earth was flat; in fact, from the time of the ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, belief in a spherical Earth remained almost universal among European intellectuals. As a result, Christopher Columbus's ... efforts to obtain support for his voyages were hampered not by belief in a flat Earth but by valid worries that the East Indies were farther than he realized. If the Americas had not existed, he would surely have run out of supplies before reaching Asia   more
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34

Roman dining customs

Vomiting was not a regular part of Roman dining customs. In ancient Rome, the architectural feature called a vomitorium was the entranceway through which crowds entered and exited a stadium, not a special room used for purging food during meals.
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35

Roman gladiators

Roman gladiators did not ritually say "Hail Emperor, we who are about to die salute you" before combat. Two ancient Roman historians recount that in the year 52 AD, a large group of criminals condemned to fight each other to the death in a large sta... ged naval battle on an artificial lake greeted Emperor Claudius that way; he may possibly have pardoned them as a result. That is the only recorded use of the phrase in ancient Rome   more
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36

Library of Alexandria

The Library of Alexandria was not destroyed by the Muslim Army during the capture of the city in 641. A common misconception alleged that Caliph Umar ordered the destruction based on the reasoning "If those books are in agreement with the Quran, we ... have no need of them; and if these are opposed to the Quran, destroy them" (or its variation). This story did not appear in writing until hundreds of years after the alleged incident (most famously in the work of Bar Hebraeus in the 13th century) and contemporary accounts of the Arab invasion do not include any account of the library's destruction. Modern consensus suggests the library had likely already been destroyed centuries before this incident. (It is instead believed that the Library of Caesarea, a key repository of Christian literature, was the library destroyed near this time.   more
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37

Medieval life expectancy

It is true that life expectancy in the Middle Ages and earlier was low; however, one should not infer that people usually died around the age of 30. In fact, earlier low life expectancies were very strongly influenced by high infant mortality, and t... he life expectancy of people who lived to adulthood was much higher. A 21-year-old man in medieval England, for example, could by one estimate expect to live to the age of 64   more
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Leave a comment...
(Maximum 900 words)
PetersSmith says2015-04-03T18:19:09.9077155-05:00
Mathgeekjoe: I'm pretty sure most people know that lol
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-03T18:21:15.3150887-05:00
You would be surprised how many people believe that the human race could go extinct by nuclear weapon. It is a very common misconception.

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