Historical Events You Won't Believe Happened at the Same Time

In 2014, two separate Reddit users—ShyneBox and mitch3a—posted essentially the same question to AskReddit, several months apart: What are some events in history that you never would’ve guessed happened around the same time? The response was awesome, with almost 15,000 combined comments. Super-popular blogger Jason Kottke linked to both threads and the conversation spread like crazy.

You’ve probably seen lists of historical events that happened at the same time compiled on other sites online. Unfortunately, most of these sites don’t credit the original Reddit users who got the conversation going and don’t check their facts. This list hopes to remedy that. Read on for some of the coolest observations from the original Reddit threads, complete with sources and credit to the original commenters who made these connections (or at least made them widely known).

Photo: Flying Puffin / Nina Aldin Thune

  • The Fax Machine Was Invented The Same Year The First Wagon Crossed the Oregon Trail (1843)

    It sounds crazy, but it's true: RedditFed points out that Scottish inventor Alexander Bain received the patent for the “Electric Printing Telegraph” – the granddaddy of the modern fax machine – on May 27, 1843. That same year, in what’s now known as the “Great Migration of 1843,” about 1,000 emigrants headed to Oregon via wagon train on the Oregon Trail.

  • NASA Was Exploring Space By The Time Scientists Could Agree On Plate Tectonics (1965)

    To his credit, Alfred Wegener first proposed his theory of continental drift in 1912. However, the scientific community basically laughed him off the map, and it wasn't until the publication of two papers, one in 1965 and one in 1967, that the theory of plate tectonics was refined and fully accepted in the scientific community. At the same time, NASA was winding down its Gemini Program, which not only launched crafts into space but also helped set the stage for the Apollo missions that would result in manned lunar landings.

    That Program concluded in 1966, meaning scientists were exploring space before we had agreed upon what was going on in the earth beneath their feet.

  • Woolly Mammoths Were Still Alive While Egyptians Were Building The Pyramids (2660 BCE)

    Ice Age might get a few more sequels: a small population of woolly mammoths lived on Wrangel Island – a Delaware-sized island about 90 miles off the coast of far eastern Siberia – until about 1650 BCE. The oldest of the so-called “Great Pyramids” in Egypt was constructed between 2667 and 2648 BCE, meaning that yes, as Redditor LastKill stated, there were actually woolly mammoths alive and well when the Great Pyramids were being built. 

  • You Could Take The London Underground To The Last Public Hanging In The UK (1868)

    Two Redditors (TheFairyGuineaPig and Iamreeve) drew readers' attention to this startling fact: the last public hanging in the UK took place on May 26, 1868, when Michael Barrett was executed in front of a crowd of two thousand people outside the walls of Newgate Prison in London.

    The Barbican London Underground station was built in 1865 (as Aldersgate Street) and is only a 10-minute walk from Newgate Prison (now the Central Criminal Court), according to Google Maps. This means it was entirely possible that Londoners took the tube to watch a hanging. 

  • Prisoners Arrived At Auschwitz Just Days After McDonald's Was Founded (1940)

    Most people connect McDonald’s with post-WWII America – and it's true that the chain really took off at that time – but brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald actually opened the first McDonald’s restaurant on May 15, 1940, in San Bernardino, CA. Reddit user Shieee points out that just five days later, the first concentration camp prisoners arrived at Auschwitz.

  • The Ottoman Empire Existed The Second To Last Time The Chicago Cubs Won The World Series (1908)

    Yep: the penultimate time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series was in 1908. That’s 10 years before the Ottomans were defeated in World War I and 14 years before the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. This means the Cubs’ second-to-last big win is older than Turkey