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1Nikola Tesla

In 1898, Nikola Tesla tricked an entire crowd into believing that they could control a toy boat by shouting commands at it. He had in fact invented radio control and was piloting the boat himself.

2. During Napoleon I's coronation in 1804, the new emperor crowned himself, instead of having the Pope Pius VII put the crown on his head, to symbolize that he was becoming emperor based on his own merit and not the will of God.

3. Wong Chin Foo was a 19th century Chinese-American civil rights activist. He launched New York City's first Chinese newspaper and was active in politics. Wong once challenged Denis Kearney, an anti-Chinese demagogue, to a duel. He offered Kearney "his choice of chopsticks, Irish potatoes or Krupp guns."

4. Andrew Myrick was a storekeeper on a Minnesota Native American reservation, who told starving natives to get grass if they were hungry. He was found dead on the first day of the Dakota War of 1862 with grass stuffed in his mouth.

5. William Wrigley Jr. sold soaps in 1891, offering baking powder as an incentive to buyers. The baking powder proved to be more popular, so he started selling it, offering gum as an incentive. But the gum proved to be even more popular, so he started selling them. In 1893, the Juicy Fruit Chewing Gum debuted.

6Dr. William Thorton

The US Patent Office building was the only major government building to survive the British burning of Washington DC during the War of 1812. Superintendent Dr. William Thorton persuaded the British that they'd be destroying the shared intellectual record of mankind if the patents were burned.

7. In 1806, an Englishwoman named Mary Bateman convinced hundreds of people that her chicken would predict the world’s imminent end. “Christ is Coming” read the eggs that the hen laid. Bateman sold protective wards to people for a shilling apiece, but her con was exposed after a local doctor caught her shoving a handwritten egg back up into her poor hen. Bateman went on to practice medicine, and was executed for poisoning several of her patients.

8. In the mid-1800’s millions of American children learned in school that one taste of alcohol could lead to blindness, madness or death. They also learned about spontaneous combustion, that just one drink of alcohol could cause their bodies to go up in flames.

9. At midnight on the December 30th, 1899, a passenger streamer ship named SS Warrimoo positioned itself at the intersection of the dateline and equator, such that the bow and stern occupied different seasons, hemispheres, days, years, and centuries. For the ship, December 31st never occurred.

10. Harvard's first black faculty member was a dentist named Dr. George Franklin Grant. He joined the Department of mechanical dentistry in 1871. Also as an inventor, he patented the wooden golf tee. Previously, golfers carried around buckets of sand, placing their balls on little piles as they went.

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11Giovacchino Antonio Rossini

Giovacchino Antonio Rossini in 1800 wrote a weird song that consisted of nothing but two people meowing at each other. It's called "Duetto buffo di due gatti" which translates to "Humorous duet for two cats."

12. In 1809, a woman named Jane Todd Crawford was diagnosed with an ovarian tumor. She rode 60 miles on horseback to see a surgeon named Ephraim McDowell who was willing to extract the tumor. It had never been done before out of fear it would kill the patient. After the 22.5-pound tumor was removed from her body without anesthesia, she lived for another 32 years.

13. The 19th-century serial killer H.H. Holmes opened a hotel in the United States which he had designed and built specifically with murder in mind. It included soundproofed bedrooms, trap doors, walls lined with blowtorches and two incinerators.

14. In 1810, to win a bet that he could turn any place into the most talked-about address in London, Theodore Hook sent thousands of letters from 54 Berners St., requesting deliveries, visitors, and assistance. Within a day, thousands had been drawn to the street, including the Archbishop of Canterbury.

15. In 1808, a gentlemen's duel took place at 2,000 feet in a pair of hot air balloons. Each man used a blunderbuss to attempt to destroy each other's balloon.

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Chicago was raised over 4 feet with screw jacks in the 19th century in order to install the first sewer system in the United States.

17. The first person to cycle around the globe was Thomas Stevens. He did it on a penny-farthing (high wheeled bicycle) between 1884 and 1886, packing only socks, a spare shirt, a revolver and a raincoat that doubled as a tent and bedroll.

18. Treadmills were used as a form of punishment to torture prisoners in the 1800's. The treadmills operated by the prisoners powered grain mills (hence the name treadmill) and pump water. Prisoners were often forced to spend up to six hours a day on the wheel, which was the equivalent of climbing about 5,000 to 14,000 feet.

19. People's teeth used to randomly explode in the 1800s due to bad fillings. Before the advent of mercury amalgam, a wide variety of metals were used to fill cavities. Using two different metals could create an electrochemical cell, effectively turning the whole mouth into a low-volt battery.

20. Lobsters were so plentiful in the 1800s that Massachusetts servants demanded a clause in their contracts to prevent being fed it more than 3 times a week.

21Stephen Girard

Stephen Girard was one of the wealthiest men in American history. He personally saved the U.S. government from financial collapse during the War of 1812.

22. In 1883, the body of a bear and Frank Devereaux were found dead beside each other with the ground around them thrashed for 20 square feet. It's believed that the man and bear fought to death.

23. In 1804, a London carpenter named Thomas Millwood dressed in white was mistaken for a ghost by an angry mob and shot in the face.

24. Downtown Seattle actually sits on top of the original city from the 1800s. It was rebuilt on top of approximately 20-foot high walled tunnels following a great fire, in order to prevent floods from high tide and sewage. You can go underground to see the original city remnants.

25. The 19th-century governor of Greece, Ioannis Kapodistrias, introduced the potatoes to Greece. Initially, he tried giving potato seeds to skeptical farmers for free who were reluctant to use them. When this failed, he piled the potatoes in public under guard, convincing people of their value. The public proceeded to steal all the potatoes and planted them.


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