During the dog days of Summer, while everyone is taking vacations and relaxing, I wanted to share some historical facts for your entertainment. It is important to know your history, or you’re doomed to repeat it. Here are 10 tidbits, not in any particular order.
For over 30 years, Canada and Denmark have been playfully fighting for control of a tiny island near Greenland called Hans Island. Once in a while, when officials from each country visit, they leave a bottle of their country’s liquor as a power move.
The Olympics used to award medals for art: From 1912 to 1948, the Olympic Games held competitions in the fine arts. Medals were given for literature, architecture, sculpture, painting, and music. Naturally, the art created was required to be Olympic-themed. According to the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Frédy, the addition of the arts was necessary because the ancient Greeks used to hold art festivals alongside the games. Before the art events were eventually removed, 151 medals were awarded.
During the Salem witch trials, the accused witches weren’t actually burned at the stake. The majority were jailed, and some were hanged. But none of the 2,000 people accused ever got burned alive.
Famous conqueror, Napoleon Bonaparte, was once attacked by a horde of bunnies! He had requested that a rabbit hunt be arranged for himself and his men. When the rabbits were released from their cages, the bunnies charged toward Bonaparte and his men in an unstoppable onslaught.
In 1945, a balloon bomb launched by Japan landed in Oregon. It fell upon a woman and five children, who died when it exploded. These were the only World War II casualties on US soil.
Turkeys were once worshipped like Gods. While the turkey is currently America's favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal, in 300 B.C., these big birds were heralded by the Mayan people as vessels of the gods and were honored as such, so much so that they were domesticated to have roles in religious rites. They were symbols of power and prestige and can be found everywhere in Maya iconography and archaeology.
Before the 19th century, dentures were made from dead soldiers’ teeth. After the Battle of Waterloo, dentists ran to the battlefield to seek out teeth from the thousands of dead soldiers. They then took their bounty to their dental practices and crafted them into dentures for the toothless elite.
From the 1940s to the 1970s, Yale, plus other Ivy League schools like Harvard, Vassar, and Brown, required their freshmen to pose nude for a photoshoot. The goal was to gather material for a massive study into how rickets developed, and that involved sticking pins into the backs of the subjects, male and female. Generations of the country’s elite who went to the Ivy Leagues posed and the archives included the naked photos of well-known figures ranging from George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Meryl Streep. The photos were destroyed after news leaked and the study was denounced.
Adolf Hitler helped design the Volkswagen Beetle. Between Hitler and Ferdinand Porsche, the iconic bug-like car was designed as part of a Hitler-revived German initiative to create an affordable and practical car that everyone could own.
About 4% of the Normandy beaches are made up of shrapnel from the D-Day Landings. More than 5,000 tons of bombs were dropped by the Allies on the Axis powers as part of the prelude to the Normandy landings. Scientists who have studied the sand on the beaches of Normandy and they’ve found microscopic bits of smoothed down shrapnel from the landings.