These 12 historic facts will warp your sense of time


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Time is a peculiar thing, isn’t it? We often imagine it as a linear progression, a continuous flow that neatly parcels our history into clear, digestible segments. But every so often, we stumble upon historical tidbits that seem to toss that linear concept into a blender, leaving us with a fascinatingly jumbled sense of the past. For instance, the iPod was invented before slavery was abolished in the last country where it was still legal. Betty White was born before sliced bread was sold at the supermarket. And canned beer is younger than some currently serving US senators. Time might be all relative, but sometimes it’s downright, relatively mind-boggling. Here are some other historical facts that blew our minds. Know of any others? Drop them in the comments.

Image Credit: MarkSwallow/istockphoto.

1. Woolly mammoths and the Pyramids of Giza

There’s no denying the marvel behind the construction of the pyramids of Giza. Constructed between 2550 and 2490 B.C., these monuments are as astonishing as they are mysterious (seriously, how did they build such structurally sound pyramids with nothing that even resembled modern machinery?!). While we can be sure there weren’t woolly mammoths walking around by the pyramids because the creatures weren’t native to Egypt, we know that they were walking around arctic Siberia and other such locations while ancient Egyptians were hard at work. That’s because the Ice Age’s final creature hung around for a whopping 900 years after the pyramids were complete.

Another fun tidbit? If there are two things that have become historically quintessential to Egypt, it’s the pyramids and Cleopatra. However, being that Egypt’s most famous queen wasn’t born until 69 B.C., she actually lived closer in time to the present day than she did to the construction of the pyramids.

Image Credit: Pyramids of Giza and Woolly Mammoth by Morhaf Kamal Aljanee & Flying Puffin/Flickr (None).

2. Thomas Edison and the Empire State Building

Famous inventor Thomas Edison is best known for inventing the light bulb. Serendipitously, Edison died in 1931 — the same year the Empire State Building, which was home to thousands of light bulbs, was officially completed. In movie-ending-esque fashion, the grand opening was marked by President Herbert Hoover pushing a button all the way in D.C. that turned on all of the lights in the tower. Props to that full circle, life’s work moment, Edison.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

3. Queen Elizabeth II and Marilyn Monroe

Maybe it’s the chilling, now famous quote: “Sometimes I think it would be easier to avoid old age, to die young, but then you’d never complete your life, would you? You’d never wholly know you” or perhaps it’s because Marilyn Monroe really did die before she ever saw 40, but the actress is cemented in our minds as a young, beautiful, blond bombshell. As such, it’s a bit of a mind-blow that she was born the same year (1926) as fellow polarizing female figure, Queen Elizabeth II, who lived to be 96. 

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

4. Fax machines, the Oregon Trail, and ‘A Christmas Carol!’

Can you imagine riding along in a covered wagon for more than 2,000 miles on the Oregon Trail during the Great Emigration in 1843 and being able to fax your family once you reached your destination to tell them of your travels? Well, technically, that first group of 1,000 pioneers could’ve done just that because just days after they set off on the trail, Alexander Bain filed his patent for the fax machine. Meanwhile, Charles Dickens published “A Christmas Carol” that same year. Bah humbug. 

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons and Amazon.

5. The 10th president’s grandson is still living

Listen, it’s not unheard of to have a great grandparent who was born in the 1800s. But it’s pretty rare you meet someone today whose direct grandparent was born BEFORE the year 1800. President John Tyler was our nation’s 10th leader, and he was born in 1790. President Tyler had a whopping 15 children, several of whom were born later in his life. One of those children also fathered a couple of kiddos in his later years, and one of those children is still alive today. So, to break it down for you, the grandson of the 10th president, Harrison Ruffin Tyler, is still alive and kicking at 94 years old. 

Image Credit: Library of Congress.

6. The Civil War and the first American football game

Robert E. Lee surrendered the final Confederate army to Ulysses S. Grant in the spring of 1865, marking the official end of The Civil War. Today, that feels like ancient history (relax guys, we’re using the word “ancient” frivolously here), but realizing that the first American football game was played only four years after the war’s end in 1869 puts things into perspective, albeit befuddlingly so. Rutgers played New Jersey (Princeton) using rules based on soccer. Rutgers ultimately won the game 6-4.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

7. University of Oxford and the Aztec Empire

The University of Oxford is known as one of the oldest universities in the world, second only to the University of Bologna. And while people might think they understand how old Oxford truly is, there’s one blaring historical fact that makes the university’s age astonishingly apparent. 

Hear us out: which sounds more ancient to you, The University of Oxford or the Aztec Empire? Be honest. The Aztec Empire has an air of ancient times about it, but Oxford was actually around hundreds of years before the Aztecs. Folks were teaching at Oxford in 1096 and the Aztecs didn’t establish the heart of their empire in Tenochtitlán until 1325.

Image Credit: Oxford and Aztec Empire by Rationalobserver & Wikimedia Commons (None).

8. Harvard University and Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion

While it’s certainly not as old as Oxford, Harvard University has been around for a hot minute and is the oldest higher learning institution in the US. Founded in 1636, the university has confounded quite the reputation as one of the most prestigious colleges. Still, because of its super early roots, students at Harvard during the beginning years didn’t have access to some of the most common teachings of today. Harvard was established before Sir Isaac Newton published his Laws of Motion and before calculus was derived. Newton’s laws of motion weren’t published until 1686, which was five years ahead of the Salem Witch Trials. Seems fitting that Newton is a tie between some of the biggest trips of time perception. 

Another fun fact that dates Harvard is that it was founded two years before the Sun King, Louis XIV was born. Louis became king at just four years old and went on to construct the Palace of Versailles in France.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

9. Nintendo and the Eiffel Tower

Kids might not have been playing Kirby when the Eiffel Tower opened, but Nintendo was actually founded in 1889, which was the same year the tower debuted at the World’s Fair. The first issue of the Wall Street Journal also hit stands that year while Vincent van Gogh painted “The Starry Night” during his stay at a mental asylum. Apparently everyone decided to contribute to history in time for the turn of the century.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

10. Star Wars and the last guillotine execution in France

We think of guillotine executions in France as barbaric punishments that occurred before running water existed and when people talked like Shakespeare wrote. In reality, the last execution by guillotine in France happened shortly after the premiere of “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” in 1977. Now we’re picturing Jabba the Hut saying, “Off with his head.”

Image Credit: IMDb & Wikimedia Commons.

11. T-Rex and Stegosaurus

We all learned about dinosaurs in grade school. We know that there are different prehistoric ages. But for some reason, nothing puts that into perspective quite like realizing the staggering amount of time that passed between the T-rex and the Stegosaurus. We might see these two dinos coexisting in cartoons but in reality “The Land Before Time” lied to us — gasp! The Stegosaurus lived during the Late Jurassic Period, around 159 to 144 million years ago. “Sharp tooths” (we still love you “Land Before Time”) didn’t appear until the last leg of the Late Cretaceous period, however, closer to around 68 million years ago.

Image Credit: T-Rex and stegosaurus by ScottRobertAnselmo & Wikimedia Commons (None).

12. First McDonald’s and Auschwitz-Birkenau

This one puts it into perspective that where and who you are in the world can have a direct impact on the kinds of things happening around and to you. In 1940, brothers Dick and Maurice McDonald opened a small hamburger shop in California called McDonald’s Bar-B-Q — the very first McDonald’s. The same month, the first group of prisoners were forced to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp by German soldiers.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

Image Credit: First McDonald’s and Auschwitz-Birkenau by Bruce Marlin & Wikimedia Commons (None).

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