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50 Noble Facts About the 1800s (19th Century)

26Bob the Dog

In the late 19th century there was a dog named Bob, who would hitch rides all over the South Australian railway system. He had no owner but was widely known to railway men of the day. When he died, he was eulogized around the world and was lauded as “the king of outcasts.” - Source

27. The baseball hand signals, such as safe and out, were invented by a 19th century deaf player named William “Dummy” Hoy so he could comprehend what was going on in his games.

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28. The concept of using a card for purchases was described in 1887 by Edward Bellamy in his utopian novel 'Looking Backward'. Bellamy used the term credit card 11 times in this novel, although this referred to a card for spending a citizen's dividend from the government, rather than borrowing. - Source

29. A man named Mr. Ramon Artagavetiya survived the sinking of a ship named America, close to the shore of Punta Espinillo in Uruguay in 1871, leaving him traumatized afterward. Some 40 years later, he was finally able to overcome his fears and sail again only to die on the Titanic. - Source

30. The hunting of bison to near-extinction in the 1800s was not to gain food, but to restrict the American Indians' dominant food supply. Herds of bison were shot from trains and left to rot where they died. - Source


The word ‘Freelance’ comes from the 1820 novel ‘Ivanhoe’. It meant a mercenary knight with no allegiance who offered his services in exchange for money. - Source

32. The fire hydrant is believed to have been invented by an engineer named Frederick Graff, but this can't be verified because the patent was destroyed in a fire at the patent office in 1836. - Source

33. Henry "Box" Brown was a 19th-century Virginia slave who escaped to freedom at the age of 33 by arranging to have himself mailed in a wooden crate in 1849 to abolitionists in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. - Source

34. In 1848, to begin construction on the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge, engineers needed to secure a line across the 800-foot chasm. The lead engineer held a kite-flying contest and eventually paid a local boy $5 for securing the first line over the river - Source

35. A New Zealand politician named Jerningham Wakefield was such a notorious drunk that his friends would lock him in Parliament overnight to keep him sober enough to vote the next day. However, this failed in 1872 when his political enemies began lowering bottles of whiskey down the chimney.

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36George Crum

The potato chip was believed to have originated in 1853 when a chef named George Crum had his fried potatoes sent back by an annoyed customer multiple times because the potatoes were "too thick". He was fed up, cut the potatoes razor thin, and put extra salt on them. The customer, to his surprise, loved it. - Source

37. In 1842, Abraham Lincoln was challenged to a duel by a political rival, James Shields. Due to his towering height, Lincoln chose broadswords. When the day of the duel arrived Lincoln demonstrated his strength by chopping a nearby tree branch in half, causing Shields to back out and apologize. - Source

38. Samuel Thompson was the original con man. In 1849, he would walk up to strangers in New York and begin a conversation. Gaining their trust, he would ask “Have you the confidence to trust me with your watch until tomorrow?” He would never return them. When finally caught, he was labeled a “confidence man”, later shortened to simply “con man.” - Source

39. In 1828, a 16-year-old boy named Kaspar Hauser mysteriously appeared in Germany claiming to have been raised his entire life in a dark cell. Five years later, he was murdered just as mysteriously, and his identity remains unknown. - Source

40. In the 1880s, The 'Thirteen Club' was created to debunk the superstition about the number 13 by dining 13 to a table, walking under ladders, and spilling salt on Friday 13th. They had 5 US Presidents as members, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.

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When invented in 1840s, some people criticized anesthesia as a “needless luxury.” - Source

42. 1816 was called "The Year Without a Summer" after the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia. Crop failure forced Joseph Smith to leave Vermont, and his journeys resulted in “The Book of Mormon.” The dreary rain in Switzerland drove Mary Shelley to stay indoors, where she wrote “Frankenstein.” - Source

43. Captain Jonathan R. Davis, in a well-documented incident, single-handedly killed 11 armed bandits who ambushed him in 1854. He killed 7 with dual-wielding revolvers and then finished the remaining 4 with a Bowie knife. He sustained only 2 slight flesh wounds. - Source

44. In 1838, Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs issued Missouri Executive Order 44, ordering all Mormons to leave the state or be killed. - Source

45. The word "scientist" did not exist before 1833. Before this, scientists were referred to as "natural philosophers". - Source

46Route Step

Soldiers are required to "route step" (or walk out of step) when crossing bridges because, in 1831, the rhythmic march of British soldiers broke a bridge, throwing soldiers off of the bridge. - Source

47. In 1899, a taxi driver named Jacob German was arrested for driving 12mph, 4 mph over the legal limit. He was pulled over by a police officer on a bicycle. - Source

48. Niihau, the 7th largest island of Hawaii is completely privately owned by one family who seeks to maintain it as it was purchased in 1864 (for $10,000 in gold), including the native population. - Source

49. While exploring South Dakota in 1822, Hugh Glass was left for dead after being mauled by a grizzly bear. He later awoke, set his broken leg, laid upon a rotting log to let maggots eat his gangrenous flesh, and crawled 200 miles to the nearest settlement, living off berries and roots. - Source

50. In 1860s, two stray dogs named Bummer and Lazarus who were best friends became local celebrities in San Francisco. Their exploits were celebrated in local papers and they were granted immunity from the city’s dog catchers. - Source

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