20 American History “Facts” That We’ve Been Fooled Into Believing! Turns Out, They’re Actually Not True

Mitch
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You might think you’ve got your history down pat, but you’re about to have your world rocked — or at least your understanding of the past. Are you ready for a rollercoaster ride through the labyrinth of misconceptions, misunderstandings, and downright doozies that we’ve all been fooled into accepting as true? Hold onto your tricorn hats and let the unraveling of American history myths begin!

Benjamin Franklin Wanted the Turkey as the National Bird

20 American History “Facts” That We’ve Been Fooled Into Believing! Turns Out, They’re Actually Not True
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Contrary to American folklore, Benjamin Franklin did not advocate for the turkey to be the national bird of the United States. While Ben Franklin did have a particular fondness for the turkey, describing it in a letter to his daughter as “a bird of courage” that would not hesitate to attack a British guard, he never formally propositioned to have it as the national symbol.

This well-worn tale is a bit of a canard. In truth, the eagle was chosen for its majestic beauty, great strength, and long life – qualities reflective of our nation. As historian Robert M.S. McDonald puts it, “Benjamin Franklin knew a thing or two about turkeys, but the story about him wanting the bird on our national seal is pure bologna!”

The Liberty Bell Cracked On July 4, 1776

20 American History “Facts” That We’ve Been Fooled Into Believing! Turns Out, They’re Actually Not True
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Contrary to popular belief, the iconic Liberty Bell did not crack on July 4, 1776. In fact, the exact date of the infamous crack remains a historical mystery! Originally cast in 1752, the bell hung in the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) and was rung to mark important events.

However, the idea that it pealed out our independence on that fabled Fourth of July is more myth than fact, probably propagated by some well-meaning but misguided patriots.

The Siege of Yorktown Marked the End American Revolutionary War

20 American History “Facts” That We’ve Been Fooled Into Believing! Turns Out, They’re Actually Not True
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While it’s true that this was a significant turning point, it wasn’t the actual conclusion of the war. The Siege of Yorktown in 1781 resulted in the British forces’ decisive defeat, leading to peace negotiations.

However, the Treaty of Paris, which officially ended the war, wasn’t signed until September 3, 1783, almost two years after the Siege of Yorktown. Quite the delay, right? So, technically speaking, the war didn’t immediately halt post-Yorktown.

Washington DC Has Always Been the Capital of the US

20 American History “Facts” That We’ve Been Fooled Into Believing! Turns Out, They’re Actually Not True
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Despite the commonly held belief, Washington D.C. has not always been the capital of the United States. In fact, it wasn’t until 1800 that it donned this title. The title of the first capital actually goes to New York City, where George Washington took the oath of office as the first President in 1789.

Following New York, the capital moved to Philadelphia for a decade under the Residence Act of 1790. So, next time you’re engaged in a riveting game of trivia, remember this fun fact – Washington D.C. was not the first, but the third U.S. capital!

Only Japanese-Americans Were Interned During World War II

20 American History “Facts” That We’ve Been Fooled Into Believing! Turns Out, They’re Actually Not True
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While it is true that approximately 120,000 people of Japanese descent, two-thirds of whom were American citizens, were unjustly incarcerated in the United States, they were not the only demographic subjected to this ordeal. Italian-Americans and German-Americans, although in considerably smaller numbers, were also interned.

In fact, the U.S. government classified as many as 600,000 Italian-Americans and 11,000 German-Americans as “enemy aliens,” with thousands from both these groups interned in camps nationwide. This shows that the internment narrative is more diverse and complicated than many history books let on.

The Pilgrims Were Escaping Religious Persecution in England

20 American History “Facts” That We’ve Been Fooled Into Believing! Turns Out, They’re Actually Not True
Smith’s Inc. via Wikimedia Commons

It’s a widespread belief that the Pilgrims fled England in the early 17th century to escape religious persecution, but the reality is more nuanced. While it’s true that the Pilgrims, a sect of the Puritans, faced the threat of religious persecution in England, their journey to America wasn’t a direct escape route.

They first sought refuge in the Netherlands, finding the religious freedom they craved. However, disenchanted with the Dutch way of life, they chose to embark on the arduous journey to the New World, not solely due to religious oppression but also in search of a place where they could retain their English identity and economic prosperity. So, their voyage to America was as much an economic endeavor as a quest for religious freedom.

Reagan Freed the Iran Hostages

20 American History “Facts” That We’ve Been Fooled Into Believing! Turns Out, They’re Actually Not True
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Let’s take a trip back to 1981, the year of Ronald Reagan’s inauguration. A widespread belief is that Reagan’s tough stance and persuasive prowess led to the release of 52 American hostages from Iran on the day he officially took office. However, here’s the truth bomb: the wheels for their release were already in motion during President Carter’s tenure.

In reality, the Algiers Accords, a complex set of negotiations and agreements, set the stage for their release. These negotiations were undertaken by the Carter administration and finalized a few days before Reagan’s inauguration. So, while Reagan was undoubtedly a strong force in American history, the credit for this particular diplomatic victory should go to his predecessor.

The Emancipation Proclamation of 1862 Freed All Slaves in the US

20 American History “Facts” That We’ve Been Fooled Into Believing! Turns Out, They’re Actually Not True
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 President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, issued during the Civil War in 1862, did not, in reality, free all the slaves in the United States. Many believe this document to be the magical decree that instantly broke the chains of slavery nationwide.

However, the Proclamation specifically targeted Confederate-held territories, and even within those states, it excluded certain regions. Furthermore, it had little immediate effect, as it didn’t apply in the border states where the Union had control. It wasn’t until the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865 that slavery was officially abolished throughout the country.

Betsy Ross Designed the First American Flag

20 American History “Facts” That We’ve Been Fooled Into Believing! Turns Out, They’re Actually Not True
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This widely accepted “fact” is more a work of fiction, primarily propagated by her grandson, William Canby, in a speech he gave to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1870. There’s no historical evidence or documentation to support this claim.

In fact, Francis Hopkinson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, is the first to have made a documented proposal for a national flag, per the congressional records. He even sent Congress a bill for his design work.

The Civil War Ended at Appomattox

20 American History “Facts” That We’ve Been Fooled Into Believing! Turns Out, They’re Actually Not True
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It’s a compelling narrative, isn’t it? The idea of Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendering to Union General Ulysses S. Grant in the parlor of Wilmer McLean’s house in Appomattox on April 9, 1865, is an image ingrained in our minds. However, while it’s true that Lee’s surrender marked a significant milestone indicating the end of major hostilities, it wasn’t the official end of the Civil War.

There were still pockets of resistance, and Confederate troops continued to fight in other areas. The last significant Confederate active military force, under Brigadier General Stand Watie, didn’t surrender until June 23, 1865, more than two months after Appomattox. So, although Appomattox is often viewed as the end of the Civil War, it’s not strictly accurate.

Henry Ford Invented the First Ever Car

20 American History “Facts” That We’ve Been Fooled Into Believing! Turns Out, They’re Actually Not True
ModelTMitch via Wikimedia Commons

Henry Ford did not invent the first car. The honor of the first functioning automobile goes to German engineer Karl Benz in 1885. Benz patented his “Motorwagen” in 1886, 22 years before Ford’s Model T hit the American roads.

Ford’s pivotal contribution to automotive history was not the invention of the car but the development of an efficient assembly line process to manufacture his Model T car, which made cars affordable to the masses. This revolutionary production method, the Fordism model, dramatically altered the industry and reshaped our society’s mobility landscape.

Abner Doubleday Invented Baseball

20 American History “Facts” That We’ve Been Fooled Into Believing! Turns Out, They’re Actually Not True
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Despite the widespread belief that Abner Doubleday invented this beloved sport in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839, this is more of a curveball than a straight pitch. The fact is, baseball evolved over time from various bat-and-ball games that have been played throughout history.

The Doubleday myth was perpetuated by Albert Spalding, a prominent baseball magnate, and endorsed by a commission set up in 1905 to determine the origins of baseball. They favored a patriotic narrative over cold, hard facts. So, while Doubleday was indeed a significant Civil War figure, his connection to baseball is more fiction than fact.

George Washington Was the First President of the US

20 American History “Facts” That We’ve Been Fooled Into Believing! Turns Out, They’re Actually Not True
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We’ve always been told that George Washington was the first president of the United States – a steadfast figure who led the country in its infancy. And while it’s true he was the first constitutionally elected president, he wasn’t technically the first man to hold the title.

Before the 1787 Constitution, the United States operated under the Articles of Confederation, with a role titled “President of the United States in Congress Assembled.” John Hanson, who served a one-year term from 1781 to 1782, was the first person to hold this position, making him, in a sense, the country’s first president.

Christopher Columbus Discovered America

20 American History “Facts” That We’ve Been Fooled Into Believing! Turns Out, They’re Actually Not True
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While Columbus set sail in 1492, he never set foot on North American soil. Yes, you heard it right! Columbus, in fact, landed in the Caribbean. The first Europeans to truly explore the mainland of North America were Norse Viking Leif Erikson and his crew, who likely arrived around 500 years before Columbus was even born.

Not to mention the millions of indigenous people living across North and South America for thousands of years before Columbus ever set foot in the Bahamas. Ain’t history full of surprises?

Paul Revere Shouted, “The British Are Coming!”

20 American History “Facts” That We’ve Been Fooled Into Believing! Turns Out, They’re Actually Not True
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This fiction has been perpetuated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Paul Revere’s Ride.” The real story? In reality, Revere was discreet during his ride to avoid capture, as much of the area he rode through was British-occupied.

Furthermore, the term “British” wouldn’t have made much sense to the colonists, who considered themselves British at the time. The alert was more likely along the lines of “The Regulars (a term for British soldiers) are out.” This is just one of many historical misconceptions that have been woven into the fabric of American history.

Salem Witch Trials – Burning at the Stake

20 American History “Facts” That We’ve Been Fooled Into Believing! Turns Out, They’re Actually Not True
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Those accused during the infamous Salem Witch Trials of 1692 were not burnt at the stake. Hollywood has dramatized these events, painting fiery pictures of pyres and public spectacle. However, the historical records tell us that of the 19 individuals convicted of witchcraft, all were executed by hanging, not burning.

The lone exception was Giles Corey, crushed to death under stones for refusing to enter a plea. While burning at the stake was a common punishment for witchcraft in Europe, it was not the method of choice in Salem. The confusion likely arises from conflating European and American practices.

Pocahontas and John Smith Fell in Love and Lived Happily Ever After

20 American History “Facts” That We’ve Been Fooled Into Believing! Turns Out, They’re Actually Not True
Elmer Boyd Smith via Wikimedia Commons

The narrative of their blissful romance, popularized mainly by animated films and children’s books, has been accepted as a historical fact by many. However, historical records tell a different story. Pocahontas, whose real name was Matoaka, was only about 10 or 11 years old when John Smith arrived with other settlers in 1607. Smith was in his late twenties.

The idea of a romantic relationship between them is a fabrication, stretching the limits of historical accuracy. Most historians agree that while Pocahontas may have saved Smith’s life, their relationship was more akin to a friendship or alliance rather than a romantic love story.

The Great Chicago Fire Was Kick-Started by a Cow

20 American History “Facts” That We’ve Been Fooled Into Believing! Turns Out, They’re Actually Not True
J. L. Le Beau via Wikimedia Commons

Legend has it that the catastrophic blaze was sparked when Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern in a barn. It’s a colorful narrative, isn’t it? But hold onto your hats, folks! In reality, the origin of the fire remains unknown.

Although the O’Leary family barn was indeed where the fire started, there’s no factual evidence that a lantern-kicking bovine was the cause. In 1893, reporter Michael Ahern admitted that he had fabricated the story to make his news coverage more exciting.

The Great Wall of China Can Be Seen From Space

20 American History “Facts” That We’ve Been Fooled Into Believing! Turns Out, They’re Actually Not True
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This long-standing misconception has been widely disseminated, yet astronauts, including China’s own Yang Liwei, have debunked it. From the International Space Station, approximately 408 kilometers (253 miles) above Earth, even large cities are barely discernible, let alone a man-made structure measuring merely 30 feet wide on average.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield confirmed this on his Twitter page, stating, “The Great Wall of China is not visible from orbit with the naked eye. It’s too narrow, and it follows the natural contours and colors [of the landscape].”

Napoleon Bonaparte Was Short

20 American History “Facts” That We’ve Been Fooled Into Believing! Turns Out, They’re Actually Not True
Andrea Appiani via Wikimedia Commons

We’ve all heard the tale about Napoleon Bonaparte, the infamous French conqueror who earned the nickname ‘The Little Corporal.’ But guess what? This so-called ‘fact’ is as tall as a tale can get!

The misconception stems from the difference between French and English units of measurement. At the time of his death, Napoleon was listed as 5 feet 2 inches in French ‘pieds,’ which in English measurements is a perfectly average height of 5 feet 7 inches. So, it turns out Napoleon wasn’t so ‘little’ after all!

Man or Nature? Who is to Blame for Wildfires in North America-11 Debunked Myths

Man or Nature? Who is to Blame for Wildfires in North America-11 Debunked Myths
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Wildfires have become increasingly common in North America due to the combination of human activities and natural causes. It is important to understand that both play a role in the severity of wildfires, and understanding who is to blame can help to prevent future destruction.

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The 12 Best Microwave Air Fryer Combo (2024)

The 12 Best Microwave Air Fryer Combo (2023)
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Air fryers offer a healthier alternative to deep frying and can be used to cook various foods. But what if you could have the best of both worlds? What if you could get an air fryer and a microwave in one appliance? That’s where microwave air fryer combos come in. These nifty little devices combine an air fryer’s cooking power with a microwave’s speed and convenience, making them a popular choice and essential item for busy families & households.

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Mythbusters: Unraveling the Truths and Misconceptions of Social Security in America

Mythbusters Unraveling the Truths and Misconceptions of Social Security in America
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In the words of Mark Twain, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” This quote rings particularly true when we broach the subject of Social Security – an intricate conundrum that remains shrouded in misconceptions, despite its monumental role in the lives of millions of Americans.

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20 Poverty Myths That Seriously Need To Stop

20 Poverty Myths That Seriously Need To Stop
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Welcome, myth-busters, truth-seekers, and the merely curious! We’re embarking on a compelling journey to debunk some common myths about poverty that are as persistent as a morning coffee stain. You’ve heard them all before: “People are poor because they don’t work hard enough,” “Poverty is a choice,” or “There’s no real solution to poverty”.

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20 Movie-Inspired Myths We Still Gullibly Believe

20 Movie-Inspired Myths We Still Gullibly Believe
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Our beloved silver screen has been serving us heaping spoonfuls of drama, thrill, and emotions for decades. But along with these cinematic delights, a side dish of fascinating, yet often misguided, myths has taken root in our collective consciousness. These myths make us gasp, laugh and sometimes facepalm. So, ready your popcorn, folks – lights, camera, debunk!

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  • Mitch

    A computer science enthusiast with a keen interest in technology and games, Mitchelle (Mitch) contributes a cutting-edge perspective to the Frenz Hub writing team, integrating her academic knowledge with her personal passions

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