Okay …maybe “lies” is a bit of a harsh word. Regardless, they are alternative facts, misstruths, simply not true. Being American Independence Day I thought that I would compile this list of American history facts most people believe are true, but actually are not. Enjoy..
1) The Pilgrims Were Escaping Religious Persecution
As youths, many of us learn that the Pilgrims immigrated to the New World and founded a colony in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620, in order to escape the religious persecution they faced in England. This is all accurate, except for the bit about religious persecution. Religious intolerance was actually not a huge factor in the Pilgrims’ decision to venture to North America. The Pilgrims, in fact, had already found the religious tolerance they sought in Holland. So why leave that wonderland? What was the problem? They loaded up the Mayflower and crossed the Atlantic for two reasons: to maintain their English identity, and to pursue better economic opportunities.
2) The Cowboy Hat
The cowboy is one of the most iconic images in American history, but that doesn’t mean our understanding of it isn’t flawed. The iconic cowboy hat, the Stetson, might be what every cowboy wears in Westerns, but it wasn’t what they actually wore in real life until the very end of the Wild West. The Stetson wasn’t even around until 1865 and in fact, it became really popular at the end of the 19th century. Up until then, you can clearly see from the famous image of the Wild Bunch pictured above which hat cowboys preferred: the derby, also known as the bowler hat. The sombrero was also quite popular.
3) World War II Never Made it to The U.S. Mainland
Americans, for the most part, assume that World War II never reached the United States mainland. Sure, we all know about Pearl Harbour, and some of us are even familiar with the Battle of the Aleutian Islands between the U.S. and the Japanese (June 1942 to August 1943). Yet neither Alaska or Hawaii are part of the mainland, nor were they even states at the time. Yet, unbeknownst to some, the Japanese did attack the U.S. mainland several times during the war. In fact, it would seem that before hipsters, the greatest threat to the west coast was the Japanese military. For one, a Japanese submarine shelled the Ellwood Oil Field near Santa Barbara, California on February 23, 1942, and a few months later, on June 24, 1942, a different Japanese submarine opened fire on Fort Stevens in Oregon. In September 1942, on two occasions, the same submarine used a floatplane to drop incendiary bombs near Brookings, Oregon in hopes of starting a forest fire. Fortunately, none of these attacks caused major damage, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.
4) “Houston, we have a problem.”
It’s a famous real-life line that turned into one of the most recognisable quotes in cinema history. It’s a little wrong, though. What was actually said in the mission was “Houston, we’ve had a problem”, but that’s not the real issue here. This is actually a case of misattribution. Most of us know the line from the Apollo 13 movie where Tom Hanks played Commander Jim Lovell and, since he’s the main character, he delivers the line. However, in real life, the line was initially said by backup Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert, played by Kevin Bacon in the movie.
5) Washington D.C. Has Always Been The Capital of The U.S.
We all know Washington D.C. is the capital of America, but what they might not know is D.C. is actually their ninth capital city. The first capital was Philadelphia, where the Continental Congress convened in 1774 and signed the Declaration of Independence two years later. The the capital changed several times during the Revolutionary War — from Philadelphia to Baltimore to even Lancaster, Pennsylvania — as Congress constantly moved to keep one step ahead of the British Army. In 1789, George Washington actually took the oath of office as the first President of the United States in New York City, meaning Federal Hall in the Big Apple briefly served as the first capital of the United States (under the U.S. Constitution) from 1789-1790. Philadelphia then became capital again, until the District of Columbia could be completed.
6) George Washington Carver Invented Peanut Butter.
Although finding hundreds of new uses for the peanut and greatly aiding the farming economy of the American South, Carver didn’t invent peanut butter, despite popular belief. Peanut butter has actually been around since about 950 B.C., as the Incas in South America mashed their peanuts into a paste. But even in contemporary times, the first patent for a peanut butter-like substance was registered in 1884, when Carver was only about twenty years old. In his 1943 New York Times obituary, no mention of inventing peanut butter appears, though the publication lists peanut-based developments “including milk, ink, flour, breakfast foods, wood stains, face creams and, latterly, a medicinal peanut oil which was found helpful in the treatment of infantile paralysis.” Carver never patented his products as he believed they were a gift from God.
Dr. John Harvey Kellogg is credited with the first patent related to “peanut butter,” but most suspect that the true inventor of the delicious spread we’ve come to know will remain a mystery.
7) The United States Won It’s Independence Because of it’s Military Tactics.
A popular refrain that you hear about the American Revolution is that the colonists defeated the British forces because they used hit-and-run, guerilla-style tactics that they learned from Native Americans. As the story goes, the more regimented British military troops could not adapt to effectively fight back. The reality is much more complicated. Prior to the American Revolution, colonists actually requested help from Britain, because their military training left them inept during clashes against hostile Native American tribes. So if Britain couldn’t fight back, it’s not because the Minutemen were too wild and crazy. It’s simply because we taught them too well. It’s also untrue that General George Washington was a brilliant tactician. He made several blunders during the campaign, and even lamented his own skills as an effective general. The commander of French forces, Comte de Rochambeau actually formulated the campaign that eventually lead to the colonists’ victory over the British at the Siege of Yorktown. The surrender of Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis of England in 1781, at Yorktown, effectively ended the war. That being said, the real motivation for Great Britain giving up the fight wasn’t that they were beaten beyond all hope, but rather the onerous financial cost of the war, combined with waning popular support.
8) The Flag We All Think Was the National Flag of the Confederacy, Wasn’t.
Another commonly held misconception is that the flag of the Confederate States of America was the recognisable — and super-controversial — blue cross and red background icon displayed above. This flag was never actually the official symbol of the Confederacy. It’s actually the Confederate Battle Flag, the banner that the Army of Northern Virginia (led by General Robert E. Lee) flew during conflicts. The official flag of the Confederacy changed three times during the American Civil War (1861-1865), but was never the one that everybody assumes it is. The basic “blue cross, red background” design was eventually incorporated into the official flag, but it was always only a portion of it.
And that’s it! I hope you have enjoyed this list. Stay Safe. HV