Trivia & Useless Facts
Robert E. Lee, of the Confederate Army, remains the only person, to date, to have graduated from the West Point military academy without a single demerit.
All of the officers in the Confederate army were given copies of Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo, to carry with them at all times. Robert E. Lee, among others, believed that the book symbolized their cause. Both revolts were defeated.
The ancient Etruscans painted women white and men red in the wall paintings they used to decorate tombs.
Dismas and Gestas were the names of the two thieves crucified with Jesus.
The Eygptian god of the moon and knowledge, Thoth, has the head of an ibis. Source: Mike Joffe
During the American revolution, inflation was so great that the price of corn rose 10,000%, the price of wheat 14,000%, the price of flour 15,000%, and the price of beef 33,000%. Source: "2201 Fascinating Facts"
Crude oil was being drilled for in ancient China. In the 6th century it was recorded that hollow bamboo rods were driven into the ground in search of brine to provide salt for cattle. In the process, they also came across natural gas and flammable petroleum, which they used themselves or sold for fuel. Source: "Reader's Digest Book of Facts"
Although you sometimes hear that Ferdinand Magellan was the first person to go around the world, he never did. He led the historic voyage that left Spain in 1519 with five ships under his command, but Magellan himself was killed in the Philippines by islanders in 1521. One of his ships completed the around-the-world trip, arriving in Spain in 1522 with a crew of eighteen -- but without Magellan. Source: "Knowledge in a Nutshell"
Dinner guests in medieval England were expected to bring their own knives to the table -- hosts did not provide them. The fork did not appear until the sixteenth century and knives-and-forks were not in general use in England until the seventeenth century. Source: "Isaac Asimov's Book of Facts"
During the Second World War the American automobile industry produced a grand total of 139 cars. Instead, that huge industrial capacity had been transformed into the "arsenal of democracy," turning out, in breathtaking volumes, the material that allowed the Allies to win the war. The Ford Motor Company alone had more military production than the entire Italian economy in the war years. Source: "American Heritage" magazine
The saying "it's so cold out there it could freeze the balls off a brass monkey" came from when they had old cannons like ones used in the Civil War. The cannon balls were stacked in a pyramid formation, called a brass monkey. When it got extremely cold outside they would crack and break off... Thus the saying.
Playing cards were issued to British pilots in WW II. If captured, they could be soaked in water and unfolded to reveal a map for escape.
Jersey (in the Channel Islands, UK) was the only place that the Nazi's occupied in Great Britain during WorldWar II.
The only two Southern state capitals not occuppied by Northern troops during the American Civil War were Austin, Texas and Tallahasse, Florida.
At the end of the Spanish-American War, in 1898, the United States occupied Cuba. Rioting mobs in the street, along with outbreaks of malaria and yellow fever, created havoc in the country. Lieutenant James Moss was sent with is troops to maintain order; they were successful. The unique thing about Moss's 25th Infantry of only 100 men was that they were a bicycle corps -- they all rode bicycles, they were all black, and they never once used their weapons while in Cuba. Source: "Isaac Asimov's Book of Facts"
Armored knights raised their visors to identify themselves when they rode past their king. This custom has become the modern military salute.
The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought at neighboring Breed's Hill.
"John has a long moustache" was the coded-signal used by the French Resistance in WW II to mobilize their forces once the Allies had landed on the Normandy beaches.
The Enola Gay was the name of the B-29 bomber that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima.
The Bockscar was the name of the B-29 bomber that dropped the atom bomb on Nagisaki.
On October 7, Chicago was hit by the latest and biggest of several fires of an unusually dry summer and fall. Before the blaze was extinguished, fifteen hours later, twenty acres were destroyed and damage was estimated at millions of dollars. It was the worst fire in Chicago's history.
That record held up for less than a day. The next evening a fresh load of hay caught on fire in the O'Leary barn. The wind quickly spread the flames, and the fire department, weary from the previous night's marathon effort, were slow to respond. By the time the whole department could be mobilized, the blaze was out of control. The gassworks exploded a couple of hours later, and then at 7 AM hydrants ran dry when the city waterworks caught fire. From then on, all anybody could do is pray for rain. It arrived late in the evening of the ninth, and around three the next morning the fire at last went out. The fire destroyed nearly 17,500 buildings in an area about 2,500 acres, leaving 90,000 people homeless and about 300 dead. Damage was estimated at perhaps $200 million.
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 did start in a barn belonging to Patrick and Katherine O'Leary. The O'Leary's house was one of the few that survived the fire. The O'Leary's house had to be guarded by soldiers for weeks afterwards, however, because many enraged residents wanted to burn it down.
However, the Chicago fire was the second-biggest of October 8, 1871. On that same evening, at almost the same hour as the O'Leary's barn went up, a forest fire of unimaginable intensity erupted near the lumber-milling town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, about 220 miles to the north. Flamed by the same wind that had spread the Chicago blaze, it flowed through the treetops so fast that it was useless to try to fight it or even run away. In ten minutes, half of Peshtigo and its residents were incinerated. Some saved themselves by jumping into the Peshtigo River. Those who were overtaken by the flames were quickly reduced to heaps of ashes. Although the damage was estimated at only 5 million dollars, the death toll was much higher -- around 1,200 to 1,500 and 2,000 square miles (or 1.3 million acres) were devastated.
Napoleon constructed his battle plans in a sandbox.
Napoleon hit on the idea of using a semaphore telegraph -- visual messages from as far as they eye could see -- and gained a huge advantage over his enemies. He could send a message from Paris to Rome in four hours. Source: "Isaac Asimov's Book of Facts"
The dirt road that General Washington and his soldiers took to fight off General Clinton during the Battle of Monmouth was called the Burlington Path.
Original copy of the Declaration of Independence is lost. The copy in Washington D.C. is what is referred to as a holograph. That is a term for a handmade copy of a document and is not the same as a laser produced hologram.
The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper.
In the great fire of London in 1666 half of London was burnt down but only 6 people were injured
When Saigon fell the signal for all Americans to evacuate was Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" being played on the radio.
Ohio is listed as the 17th state in the U.S., but technically it is number 47. Until August 7, 1953, Congress forgot to vote on a resolution to admit Ohio to the Union.
Spiral staircases in medieval castles are running clockwise. This is because all knights used to be right-handed. When the intruding army would climb the stairs they would not be able to use their right hand which was holding the sword because of the difficulties in climbing the stairs. Left-handed knights would have had no troubles except left-handed people could never become knights because it was assumed that they were descendants of the devil.
Medieval knights put shark skin on their sword handles to give them a more secure grip; they would dig the sharp scales into their palms.
October 4, 1957 is a historic date to be remembered, it is the day both "Leave it to Beaver" and the Russian satellite Sputnik 1 were launched.
Only two people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, John Hancock and Charles Thomson. Most of the rest signed on August 2, but the last signature wasn't added until 5 years later.
Between 1947 and 1959, 42 nuclear devices were detonated in the Marshall Islands.
During WW II the city of Leningrad underwent a seventeen month German seige. Unable to access the city by roads, the Russians built a truck route across the ice on Lake Ladoga to get food and supplies to the citizens. (Thanks to Dan Murphy for the clarification.)
The first Ford cars had Dodge engines.
The Dodge brothers Horace and John were Jewish, that's why the first Dodge emblem had a star of David in it.
Studebaker was the only major car company to stop making cars while making a profit from them.
Studebaker still exists, but is now called Worthington.
Chrysler built B-29's that bombed Japan, Mitsubishi built Zeros that tried to shoot them down. Both companies now build cars in a joint plant call Diamond Star.
A winged penis was the city symbol of Pompeii, the ancient Roman resort town destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius' eruption.
Not all of West Virginia voted to go with the North.When the State of West Virginia was formed from Virginia in 1863 the three western counties in Virginia voted to go with West Virginia, but West Virginia didn't take them because they were poor. Instead they took three counties that voted to stay with Virginia, because they were richer and they had the B&O railroad. Those counties since split and are now 5, Jefferson, Hampshire, Berkley, Mineral, and Morgan.
The Roman emperor Caligula made his horse a senator.
The United States has never lost a war in which mules were used.
The beautiful, simple furniture made by the Shaker religious sect in New England was designed so that it could be hung on pegs around the walls. Every evening members of the sect tidied up in this way in case the night should be disturbed suddenly by the Second Coming of the Lord. Only the larger pieces of furniture, such as chests and tables, were left on the floor. Source: "Reader's Digest Book of Facts"
Until the Middle Ages, underwater divers near the Mediterranean coastline collected golden strands from the pen shell, which used the strands to hold itself in place. Called byssus, the strands were woven into a luxury textile, a "cloth of gold," and made into ladies' gloves so fine a pair could be packed into an empty walnut shell. Examples of this lost art exist today in some museums, and the cloth retains its color and softness. Source: "Isaac Asimov's Book of Facts"
A Mexican president once held a funeral for his own leg. The president, Antonio
de Santa Anna, was the general who in 1836 led Mexican troops to victory over Texan rebels at the siege of the Alamo. Santa Anna's leg was amputated below the knee after he was wounded during a battle with French troops in December 1838. He kept the leg at his hacienda near Veracruz for four years, during which he rose to become effectively dictator of Mexico and the center of an adoring political cult. On September 26, 1842 his supporters solemnly paraded the leg through the streets of Mexico City to the accompaniment of the bands and orchestras, then laid it to rest in a national shrine known as the Pantheon of Saint Paula. Two years later, however, the leg was stolen during the riots that surrounded Santa Anna's fall from power. Santa Anna died in 1876 at the age of 62 -- poor, blind and ignored. The fate of his leg remains unknown. Source: "Reader's Digest Book of Facts"