As Americans, we learn a lot of history in school. Sometimes we learn some additional facts if we visit a museum. But there are lots of historical stories we may not be familiar with. Here is our list of interesting occurrences that happened in U.S. past.
1. We may be familiar with the story of Betsy Ross but the 50-star flag we know today was designed by a teenager, Robert G. Heft, as a school assignment. In 1958, before Alaska and Hawaii were officially made states, Heft’s history teacher assigned his class project where each student had to bring in something they created. Hearing rumors of adding Alaska and Hawaii, Heft created a flag that included 2 additional stars. His teacher’s impression was not very high and graded him a B- for Heft’s efforts. Heft remained proud of his work and defended it. His teacher is said to have instructed Heft to get his flag approved by U.S. Congress and only then would Heft’s grade be reconsidered. After a couple of years of Heft writing letters to the White House, President Eisenhower told him that his flag design had been chosen out of over a thousand. On July 4th, 1960, Heft witnessed his school project design to become the official American flag. And yes, his grade was changed to an A.
2. Prior to President Trump, our first president, George Washington was the wealthiest president we’ve had. He had assets worth more than $500 million in today’s dollars. How did he have his wealth? He was not born in a family with money. Washington owned a lot of land at the time, over 50,000 acres. Some of the land he purchased in his teen years and some he acquired as part of the war. Washington’s brother married a leading family which led to him marrying one of the richest women at the time. Washington’s choice of career, a highly-in-demand surveyor, pushed him further into wealth. By reading Washington’s will, we learn he owned substantial shares and bonds and livestock. We know he had many slaves and he ran many crop distribution businesses.
3. The first battle of the civil war in America occurred in the same place where it ended. You may have heard of Bull Run or Battle of Manassas (Virginia), which is the first major battle of the war. Union soldiers marched 30-mile west from Washington, D.C. while Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard took over McLean’s farmhouse as his headquarters. On July 18, 1861, a cannonball was sent through the kitchen fireplace at the home on Wilmer Mclean’s farm and began the fierce war. While McLean and his family moved 120 miles away, he was asked by messenger in 1865 if his home could be used to discuss the conditions of the South’s surrender. This historic meeting of Robert E. Lee, Confederate General, surrendering to Union General, Ulysses S. Grant took place right in McLean’s living room.
4. The Liberty Bell is a well-known piece of American history. It is a symbol of freedom as it was adopted in the 1830’s by abolitionists. The bell was erected in August 1752 and was first rung on July 8, 1776, to celebrate the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. It is fractured with a large crack and there are various stories of how that occurred. The bell has not been rung since 1847 at George Washington’s birthday. But we didn’t know that during the Revolutionary War, the bell was hidden in a church in Allentown Pennsylvania in 1877-1878. Soldiers feared that the British would steal the bell and melt it down to make cannons.
5. When you think of the western-frontier man, Daniel Boone, you envision a coonskin cap. Contrary to popular belief and legend, Daniel Boone not only did not wear a coonskin cap, he hated them. Instead, Boone wore a wide-brimmed felt hat, like many other hunters of his day. It was much more logical as the brim of the hat provided better vision in the sun and the hat itself. It is believed this stereotype that he wore the raccoon hat because of an early drawing was done of him in the book, “Daniel Boone and the Hunters of Kentucky’ (1854) by W. H. Bogart.
6. When you think of Abe Lincoln’s physique, it’s hard to image him wrestling, right? President Abraham Lincoln, when young, was a successful wrestler, defeated only once out of about 300 matches. Maybe the long arms and legs helped.
7. When the American Civil War started, Confederate Robert E. Lee owned no slaves. Union general U.S. Grant did. Quite the contradiction, don’t you think? Lee insisted that his decision to support the Confederacy was not based on his defense of slavery. While Grant did own a slave, he freed them in 1859.
8. Martin Van Buren may have started a popular phrase that is used extremely frequently today. Van Buren was raised in Kinderhook, N.Y., and because of that, his nickname became “Old Kinderhook.” A popular belief is that the familiar saying of “OK” originates from his election campaign.
9. The first submarine attack happened in 1776. That’s a lot earlier than we would have thought. Named the “Turtle”, it was a one-person submersible vehicle invented by David Bushnell, an inventor and patriot. He discovered gunpowder could be exploded under water. The submarine allowed the occupant to attach a powder keg to a British ship in New York Harbor.
10. Jimmy Carter believed in UFOs. That’s right. While governor of Georgia, in 1973. Carter was asked to file a report of the sighting by the International UFO Bureau in Oklahoma. He reported “There were about twenty of us standing outside of a little restaurant, I believe, a high school lunch room, and a kind of green light appeared in the western sky. This was right after sundown. It got brighter and brighter. And then it eventually disappeared. It didn’t have any solid substance to it, it was just a very peculiar-looking light. None of us could understand what it was.”