Tuesday, February 4, 2014


OK history buffs (or non-history buffs) - which of the following wild assertions just so happen to be true and which ones are false? Since I have to write about this stuff all the time, I actually know the answers and don’t have to look them up.  See how many you already know….TRUE OR FALSE: 
1) Ben Franklin invented the fan chair, which was a rocking chair with a fan on top to blow away flies.

2)  Ben invented a musical instrument that caused dogs to run away and hide and also made people think there were ghosts in their room.

3)  Pocahontas was bald.

4)  She taught her boyfriend, John Smith, how to smoke tobacco.

5)  Before being captured and enslaved, John Smith won a Turkish fortress by making a bunch of explosives and catapulting them into the Turks’ camp while they slept.

6)  George Washington always wore a white wig in public, even as a child.

7)  George Washington chopped down a cherry tree, and when his dad asked him about it, he said “I cannot tell a lie, pa.  I did it with my little ax.”

8)  George Washington had scars on his face from a duel.

9)  During the California Gold Rush, a single piece of paper cost $150 but you could get 12 shirts washed and ironed at the Chinese Laundry for $3.

10) During this gold rush, cooks regularly checked chicken gizzards for small gold nuggets.

11)  Frenzied gold seekers from 37 different countries rushed lickety-split straight toward California to seek their fortunes.

12)  Cowboys traveling on The Old Chisholm Trail used to cross the muddy rivers by running on their cows backs.

13)  The trail was finally closed by barbed wire.

14)  Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born on the very same day just a few hours apart, and they didn’t always get along with their dads.

15)  When Charles Darwin journeyed around the world by ship, he caught a giant octopus and sent it back to England for scientists to study.

16)   Charles Darwin used to ride on horseback with a wild Gaucho cavalry, ride on the backs of gigantic tortoises, and ride in a box on the back of an elephant in true Indian fashion. 
17)  In Salem Massachusetts, some people made medicine by combining boiled snippets of children’s hair, spirits of mummies, and the brains of young men who had died a violent death.

18)  During the Salem Witch Trials, nineteen people were burned for the crime of witchcraft.

19) During this time, people of all ages were accused of turning into a ball of light the size of a bushel basket, choking a woman with nails and eggs, stupefying a boy for 12 years, making a wagon plump down into a hole on flat ground, and killing victims with their evil “eye beams.” (A ghost said so.)


1)  False, but he did have such a chair inside his house.

2)  True.  It was called the glass armonica, and before it went out of style for hurting dogs' ears and sounding spooky during seances, it was so popular that Mozart and Beethoven wrote music for it.

 3)   True.  Pre-pubescent Powhatan Indian girls shaved the tops of their heads, and Pocahontas was between 10 and 12 years old.

4)  False.  Of course she was way too young to be John Smith's girlfriend, and besides, he thought smoking tobacco was disgusting.

5)  True, all true.  He was also great at making fireworks.

6) False.  George hated wigs even though they were in style.  If he absolutely had to, he would powder his hair instead.

7)  False.  Parson Mason Locke Weems made up that fake story to get kids to tell the truth like their hero.  Oh, the irony.

8)  False.  The scars were from smallpox.

9)  All true.

10) True again. One time a chicken gizzard panned out at $12.80

11)  False.  They came from more than 70 countries and set off one of the greatest mass migrations in history.

12)  Yup, that's true.  Those guys had talent.

13)  True.  Barbed wire smarts if you're a traveling cow.

14)  True. Their dads didn't seem to think they'd amount to much.

15)  False, false, false.  He did uncover plenty of humongous fossilized bones from extinct giant animals though.

16)  True.  Darwin perched these various backs in Argentina, the Galapagos, and the Isle of Mauritius.  

17)True.  Guilty as charged.

18)  False.  They were hanged, not burned.  A 19th guy was pressed to death by stones.

19)  True.  People really did tell all of these bald-faced lies in court.  AND THERE ARE NO WITCHES!!!

Didn't I tell you truth is stranger than fiction?  So how did you do? Feel free to try this on your students, friends, and enemies, and if they get all the answers right I will send them a lollipop.  (False.)


Susan Kuklin said...

What a wonderful, fun post!. Just great.

Rosalyn Schanzer said...

Thanks Susan. It was fun to write. But I forgot to put in this amazing one: The men who went on the journey with Lewis and Clark ate 8 pounds of meat per person per day. (TRUE!! Imagine eating that much steak today. Apparently traveling upstream for months and months on end can burn up a lot of calories.)

Jim Murphy said...

Great post, Roz. Is the armonica the same one that's in the Corning Museum?

Rosalyn Schanzer said...

Thanks, Jim. I'm not sure about the Corning Museum, but I did see a genuine glass armonica in a big museum in Philadelphia way back when I was researching the book, and they sometimes used to have a woman who would come over there to play it for museum visitors.