As kids, we dressed up as cowboys, watched Pocahontas, pretended we were pirates and learned about Christopher Columbus. These were fun ways to engage with America and her history, right? Except, much like the tooth fairy, not everything we learned about the U.S. of A’s past is true.
Much of American history is rich with dramatic struggles and is incredibly influential to the rest of the world; however, even “common knowledge” isn’t always accurately told. That begs the crucial question: which aspects are real? And which are just fantasy?
1. Washington, D.C. Wasn’t Always Our Capital: Our first was Philadelphia, and we jumped around a lot after that. The list of capital locations includes Baltimore, New York City, Trenton, and even Annapolis in Maryland.
2. Witches Weren’t Burned On The Stake: Salem witches weren’t really set on fire. Instead, they were stoned or drowned, which gave them the chance to prove their magic powers by saving themselves. This never happened.
3. Walt Disney Didn’t Draw Mickey Mouse: Disney’s most famous character is definitely Mickey Mouse. And while the Mickster was Walt Disney’s idea, we actually have Ub Iwerks to thank for designing and drawing this childhood icon from ears to toes.
4. Disney’s Head Isn’t Frozen: Also, stop spreading the rumor Walt Disney had himself cryogenically frozen! He was actually cremated, his ashes spread in a lake. Still, it would have been cool if his ashes remained in the castle of sleeping beauty. Maybe then he’d wake up after a couple years anyway.
5. The Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on the Fourth of July: Continental Congress voted and drafted it on the 2nd of July, revised it on the 4th, and it was read aloud on the 8th. The final document wasn’t signed until August 2nd. Hold the fireworks!
6. The First Car Was NOT American: As much as we’d like to claim this success with Ford’s Model T, German engineer Karl Benz was almost a century ahead, creating horseless carriages and patenting the first automobile in the 19th century.
7. Pocahontas Didn’t Love John Smith: Why on earth would Pocahontas fall in love with John Smith after he and his people invaded her land and disrespected her people? She didn’t. Pocahontas, or actually Matoaka, only saved John’s life because she wanted to preserve peace.
8. Thanksgiving Wasn’t A Celebration: Some experts suggest the pilgrims showed up on the Native Americans’ teepee steps because they figured they’d all be sick or dead from a plague, so it’d be easy to steal their food!
9. Thomas Edison Didn’t “Invent” Electricity: The only things he invented were stories, taking the findings of true inventors and patenting them. The alternating current electricity supply system was Nikola Tesla’s and the light bulb was Warren De La Rue’s.
10. Abraham Lincoln Wasn’t Thinking About Slaves: He did bring us the Emancipation Proclamation, but he didn’t do it out of the warmth of his heart. His focus was to save the Union no matter what happened to slaves; it just so happened that freeing them was the answer.
11. Albert Einstein Was Bad At Math: The genius was rumored to be bad at math when he was a schoolboy. Contrarily, by the age of 15, he had mastered differential and integral calculus — so get your A-game on and don’t use Einstein as an excuse!
12. Feminists Don’t Burn Their Bras: There was one protest in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where bras, girdles, and high heels were burned, but that was pretty much the end of that.
13. Charles Lindbergh Isn’t A Hero: Not only was he not the first to cross the transatlantic in an airplane (that was done eight years earlier, in 1919, by British aviators Alcock and Brown), but he was also a Nazi-sympathizer.
14. The Wild West Wasn’t That Wild: You were probably led to believe that the Wild West was nothing but bank robberies and towns not big enough for two tough cowboys. The good: there were only 12 robberies during that era. The bad: gun violence has increased by over 100,000% since then. The ugly: spurs on your boots.
15. Cowboys Didn’t Wear Cowboy Hats: Those cowboy boots you find at Payless may have been based on historical fashion, but those giant hats you find at costume stores certainly aren’t. These bad boys opted for Bowler hats instead.
16. Jonathan Appleseed Was Real: …Although his last name was actually Chapman. He was a pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of the Midwest and the East coast. If you love picking apples in the fall, be grateful to Johnny Chapman!
17. Columbus Didn’t Discover America: Columbus mistook America for India, and the first person responsible for “discovering” the land was Leif Erikson, who hopped off the boat in the 10th century. Secondly, Columbus only landed in South/Central America.
18. Pirates Haven’t Been Around For A Long Time: Most people guess pirates were only around until the 18th century, but they were blowing holes in ships, looting cities, and keelhauling people well into the 19th. One of the last pirates was captured in 1832.
19. It Is NOT Illegal To Burn The American Flag:… depending on the situation. While the act is considered radical, you are allowed to burn the flag under the first amendment, which protects the freedom of speech.
20. George Washington Was Not Our First President: He was our first elected president, but 14 other people before him had ruled the country under that title. Surely it wasn’t George who created this myth though; after all, he cannot tell a lie.