Weird History
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12 Lies About American History Even History Buffs Are Guilty Of Believing

February 4, 2021 10.9k votes 2.0k voters 77.6k views12 items

List RulesVote up the American myths you really thought were true.

A fair bit of American history is wholly inaccurate, yet these myths persist in US history classes, popular anecdotes, and even textbooks. This is how several American history lies have become facts to many people.

Many popular American misconceptions are easy to disprove, but difficult to accept. What follows is the factually correct American history all Americans deserve to know. Vote up the truths that genuinely surprise you.

  • 1

    The Alamo Was Fought For The Freedom Of All Texans

    The Myth: Courageous Texans perished at the Alamo fighting for Texas and America’s freedom.

    Its Origin: The Alamo’s history became popularized during the 1846-1848 war between Mexico and America when the infamous battle cry “Remember the Alamo" was created. It was originally believed that the battle was an undying symbol of Texas’s resolve and rejection of oppression in its fight for freedom and independence. 

    Why It’s Wrong: Contrary to popular belief, the Alamo was not fought for the freedom of Texans. The battle was fought so that Texans could continue participating in the slave trade. In 1830, the Mexican government passed an edict that prohibited American immigration to Texas and outlawed slavery. Texans were outraged by this new law, which led to a fight to win and make Texas an independent nation. Notably, Texas went on to enter the US and later become a slave state.

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  • 2

    The Island Of Manhattan Was Purchased For A String Of Beads

    The Myth: Dutch settlers in America approached Native Americans about the sale of the island of Manhattan. It was ultimately purchased for a string of beads valued at $24. 

    Its Origin: According to numerous sources, this myth originated with a letter written by the Dutch merchant Pieter Schage on November 5, 1626. The letter is now in the Dutch National Archives. 

    Why It’s Wrong: There is a letter stating that the Dutch bought the island, but it states that Manhattan was bought for more than a string of beads. According to the letter, the island of Manhattan was purchased for 60 guilders' worth of beads and ribbons, which, according to 19th-century historians, equates to $24. However, much debate surrounds this letter’s accuracy and who the island was actually purchased from.

    Some historians believe the sale encompassed more than ribbons and beads, and included kettles, knives, and cloth. Furthermore, according to certain historical accounts, the island is believed to have been purchased from a tribe that had no claim to the land. That is why the island was sold for so little. Eventually, it came to light that the Dutch had paid the wrong tribe, and they ended up having to pay for the island again. 

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  • 3

    Cowboys Wore Cowboy Hats

    The Myth: American cowboys throughout American history always wore the classic Stetson "cowboy hat." 

    Its Origin: This myth is presumed to have originated when John Stetson designed his cowboy hat prototype, loosely based on a Spanish design. He reportedly encountered a cowboy during his travels, and when the cowboy saw the Stetson hat, he was so impressed that he bought it for a large sum of $5. It is believed that, soon after this, the cowboy hat became a staple of the West. 

    Why It’s Wrong: The truth is, American cowboys favored the Derby hat, and didn’t wear the Stetson until the very end of the 19th century, years after it had been introduced in 1865.

    Those who did not favor the Derby usually wore a top hat or a hat associated with their professions. The Derby was also known as the bowler hat, with many notorious cowboy criminals such as Butch Cassidy and Will Carver donning one. Men chose to wear such hats on the frontier because they stayed on in windy conditions and protected the cowboys from the sand.

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  • 4

    Stockbrokers Jumped Out Of Windows During The 1929 Stock Market Crash

    The Myth: The stock market crash of 1929 caused such financial devastation that untold scores of people took their lives by jumping from high-rise buildings. 

    Its Origin: This myth is believed to originate from a report by Winston Churchill that he had seen a man jump from the 16th floor of a hotel. Churchill witnessed the incident on the morning of "Black Thursday," hours before the market crashed. There is no proof that the man took his life because of the stock market.

    A newspaper columnist named Will Rogers furthered that stereotype when he wrote that men were jumping to their demise in such numbers that "you had to stand in line to get a window to jump out of."

    Why It’s Wrong: According to statistical data, only two suicides occurred on the day of the stock market crash. It is estimated that, from the day of the crash straight through to the end of the year, approximately 100 people committed suicide. In the following years, in 1930, 1931, and 1932, the suicide rate continued to rise, and 1932 tallied much more than the number of suicides in 1929.

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