13 Historical Details 'National Treasure' Actually Got Completely Right



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Over 3.7K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of 13 Historical Details 'National Treasure' Actually Got Completely Right
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Vote up the factual historical details you're most surprised 'National Treasure' got right.

Have you ever wondered how much of National Treasure is true? If so, we're going to tell you. The movie, in which Nicolas Cage steals the Declaration of Independence, is pretty far-fetched on the surface. He plays Benjamin Franklin Gates, a historian searching for a treasure rumored to have been hidden since the dawn of America. When a clue points him toward the Declaration, he hatches a plan to swipe it and follow all subsequent clues.

As unlikely as it is in the big picture, there are some historical facts in National Treasure. The screenwriters may have devised a fantastical plot, but they also took care to ground it in historical accuracy. You might be surprised by how many things referred to in the movie are based in truth.

This list will look at the level of National Treasure accuracy, telling you what the film asserts and how it ties in to documented historical fact. Which of these are the coolest facts the movie got right? Your votes will decide.

Latest additions: Daylight Saving Time Wasn't Invented Until WWI

  • 1
    2,424 VOTES

    Benjamin Franklin Did Write 14 Letters As Silence Dogood

    With the FBI hot on his trail, Ben goes to the home of his father to take a closer look at the back of the Declaration. Using lemon juice and a hair dryer, he uncovers an Ottendorf cipher penned in invisible ink. That cipher makes reference to the Silence Dogood letters, written by Benjamin Franklin and now owned by Ben's father.

    Franklin very much took pleasure in rabble-rousing. At the tender age of 16, he began writing for The New-England Courant - an anti-establishment publication put out by his brother James - under the pen name Silence Dogood. The character was supposed to be a minister's widow. His 14 letters expressed an array of political philosophies, ranging from support of women's rights to opposition to religious hypocrisy. 

    2,424 votes
  • 2
    2,420 VOTES

    The Declaration Is Lowered Into An Atomic Bomb-Proof Vault When It's Not On Display

    During the hours when the public isn't around to see it, the Declaration - together with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights - is lowered into an armored vault underground, per Atlas Obscura. The Mosler Safe Company built it in 1953, securing the job thanks to their work building a similar vault at Fort Knox, as well as an atomic bomb-proof bank vault in Hiroshima. With those credentials, the company clearly had the right stuff to ensure the safety of the Charters of Freedom.

    In the early 2000s, Mosler's work was replaced with a more up-to-date one manufactured by Diebold, as part of a $110 million renovation. With the push of a button, an elevator lowers the documents into that vault every evening, where they securely wait until their next public showing.

    2,420 votes
  • 3
    2,545 VOTES

    Timothy Matlack Did Help Scribe The Declaration Of Independence

    Timothy Matlack was a brewer from Pennsylvania. He gets a significant shout-out in the movie when Ben finds a clue that reads, "The legend writ, the stain affected, the key in silence undetected, fifty five in iron pen, Mr. Matlack can't offend." That clue is instrumental in leading him to believe that Matlack secretly inscribed something on the back of the Declaration.

    Aside from his brewing business, Matlack was also a clerk in the Pennsylvania State House. Because of his good penmanship, he was selected to physically write the Declaration of Independence. As part of his duties, he was in charge of not only laying out the text, but also determining the size of the font, so that there would be sufficient space at the bottom for everyone to sign. 

    2,545 votes
  • 4
    2,055 VOTES

    The Declaration Is Protected By Thick, Bulletproof Glass, And Other High-Tech Materials To Best Preserve It

    One of the key elements of suspense in National Treasure is the knowledge that the Declaration isn't something that would be easy to snatch. A document of such importance is obviously going to be kept under extremely protective conditions so visitors can't damage it, accidentally or on purpose. 

    Ben discovers that the case surrounding the Declaration is bulletproof when he uses it as a shield after some goons fire their weapons at him. That may sound excessive, but it's generally on track. The Declaration is showcased inside a helium-filled bulletproof case, and kept at a consistent temperature of 70 degrees Farenheit, with a humidity level of 25 to 30 percent. Because it's printed on fragile parchment, the case additionally blocks ultraviolet light from reaching it, keeping the writing from fading more than it has already. 

    2,055 votes
  • 5
    2,150 VOTES

    Charles Carroll Was The Last Surviving Man Who Signed The Declaration Of Independence

    In National Treasure, John Adams Gates (played by Christopher Plummer) has a line of dialogue in which he states, "Charles Carroll was the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was also a member of a secret society known as the Masons."

    The screenwriters clearly did their homework on this count. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Charles Carroll were the last three living signers of the Declaration at one point. Jefferson and Adams both passed on July 4, 1826. That left Carroll as the final surviving person to have signed his name to the document, just as the eldest Gates claims.

    2,150 votes
  • 6
    2,083 VOTES

    Wall Street In New York Does Follow The Path Of A Wall Built By Dutch Settlers To Keep The British Out

    One of the many clues Ben and cohorts attempt to decipher is the phrase "Heere at the Wall." They're knowledgeable enough to recognize that "Heere" refers to Broadway (which was originally called DeHeere St.) and the "Wall" refers to Wall Street.

    DeHeere started at Fort Amsterdam, on the southern tip of Manhattan, and ran north. It eventually extended to a wall the Dutch colonists had built to keep the British out. Initially constructed as a wooden fence, it was eventually fortified into a 12-foot wall, all the better to ensure their protection. 

    2,083 votes