13 Historical Timeline Facts That Bent Our Brains

Voting Rules

Vote up the timeline tidbits that give you a whole new perspective on the past.

Studying history often means looking at the names of notable figures, the dates of important events, and trends that span decades or more. Through all of this, it's easy to lose sight of things that take place simultaneously in various parts of the world. It can also be challenging to line up which people from history lived at the same time, or to keep straight what historical happenings took place first.

It's pretty mind-blowing to look at the big picture and see how history actually lines up. It definitely bent our brains to learn that some historical figures were contemporaries, that seemingly intuitive historical “facts” aren't facts at all, and that what's old in one part of the world isn't always considered old somewhere else.

Take a look at these historical timeline facts that gave us a new view of history and vote up those that provide you with a fresh perspective on the past, too. 

  • As a child of pioneers, Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up in the American Midwest alongside her three sisters; a brother passed in infancy. Her parents, Charles and Caroline, as well as her siblings and her husband, Almanzo Wilder, are known to readers and TV watchers thanks to Ingalls Wilder's Little House book series and the TV series based upon it. 

    Born in 1867, Ingalls Wilder published her first book in 1932. The last of her nine semi-autobiographical works was published in 1947. The author passed a decade later in Mansfield, MO.

    By the time the entire Little House series was available to readers, Elvis Presley was 12 years old. He was born January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, MS; in 1948, the family moved to Memphis, TN.

    Presley started playing the guitar when he was 11 and performed in talent shows as his interest in music grew. In 1954, he recorded his first single, “That's All Right,” and within two years had achieved international fame.

    Whether or not Ingalls Wilder listened to Presley is unknown, but she did live long enough to have seen all three of Presley's appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show

    633 votes
  • Easter Island, known for the presence of about 1,000 moai statues carved from hardened volcanic ash, was inhabited by the Rapa Nui prior to outside contact. How they moved the moai remains a mystery, as do the purposes of the statues themselves.

    It's posited that moai served religious purposes and were crafted between 1100 and 1600 CE. The exact dates are unknown, but while the figures were made and moved across Easter Island, Europe was undergoing an intellectual resurgence.

    In countries like France, Italy, and England, the first universities developed as early as the 11th century. Oxford, for example, was home to formal teaching in 1096, while the University of Bologna was founded in 1088. The University of Paris was chartered c. 1200, making all three learning centers older than many, if not all, of the moai on Easter Island.

    1,093 votes
  • Bridges have spanned the River Thames in England for centuries, but the Tower Bridge might be the most recognizable one. Its plans were presented to London officials in 1884, and construction on the structure began in 1886. 

    Tower Bridge is considered an architectural and engineering marvel with its piers, hydraulic-driven double-leaf bascules, and high-level walkways. Construction lasted until 1894, when the bridge officially opened. 

    Three years before work started on Tower Bridge, another architectural and engineering feet opened in New York City. The Brooklyn Bridge was built to link the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn and extends roughly 6,000 feet over the East River. 

    Designed by John Augustus Roebling, it was the first steel-wire suspension bridge ever built. Construction started in January 1870, although Roebling passed before seeing his structure erected; he succumbed to tetanus following foot amputation after an injury at the dock.

    When the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883, more than 150,000 people walked across it in the first 24 hours. The cost to cross was a penny for a walker, 5 cents for a horse and rider, and 10 cents for a horse and wagon.

    775 votes
  • Napoleon Bonaparte needed a more efficient and practical way to feed his men. This was especially true for soldiers and sailors who couldn't procure sufficient provisions while on long campaigns and journeys.

    Drying, smoking, and other preservation methods were insufficient for Napoleon's forces during the French Revolutionary Wars. As a result, he sponsored a competition in 1795 for a better technique to keep large amounts of food safe for longer and make them tastier. The winner would take home 12,000 Francs - and Nicolas Appert won out

    He had essentially invented canning food, although it took years to happen. A candymaker, Appert put food into jars, corked it, and sealed it with wax. Then he'd boil the jars, a process akin to bottling wine.

    Appert published his technique in 1810 (he also got his money) and, a few months later, Philippe de Girard began using tin cans instead of glass jars. The can method had challenges of its own, however, especially because it wouldn't be until 1858 that American Ezra Warner patented the first can opener.

    One reason for the delay in developing a device to open cans had to do with the cans themselves. It wasn't until the 1850s and '60s that the metal was thin enough for anything other than a chisel and hammer.

    681 votes
  • Oliver Evans, a native of Delaware, experimented with steam power and automation during the late 18th century. On the heels of James Watts's invention of the low-pressure steam engine, Evans sought to increase the pressure, reduce the engine weight, and maximize power.

    He successfully built steam engines and boilers used at mills and in various steamboats and locomotives. During the first decade of the 1800s, Evans developed an Orukter Amphibolos, or “Amphibious Digger,” which has been called the “first amphibious vehicle and the first automobile.”

    While Evans was hard at work laying the foundation for future automotive inventions, explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark had been tasked with heading out into the landscape west of the Mississippi River. After President Thomas Jefferson and his administration purchased the Louisiana Territory from the French in 1803, Lewis and Clark spent years traversing the western frontier.

    The duo and their Corps of Discovery logged some 8,000 miles between 1804 and 1806, documenting flora and fauna as they went. They mapped the land too, creating essential guides for future explorers and pioneers.

    496 votes
  • Charles Darwin, born in Shropshire, England, on February 12, 1809, was the son of a physician and took an interest in science from a young age. After attending medical school at the University of Edinburgh, he went on to study at Cambridge University, where he focused on theology. By 1831, Darwin was fully enthralled with botany and biology and, on December 27 of that year, set out on his first voyage aboard the HMS Beagle.

    He spent years collecting and observing animals, plants, and the like, famously developing his theory of natural selection. When Darwin's On the Origin of Species was published in November 1859, it changed the scientific community forever. 

    Across an ocean and in a very different environment, Abraham Lincoln was also born on February 12, 1809. A native of Kentucky, he spent his youth “in the woods" and, in his words, “still somehow, I could read, write, and cipher… but that was all.”

    Lincoln served in the military, studied law (not formally), and became a lawyer in 1836. He then entered politics in Illinois and would eventually become the 16th President of the United States.

    That these two powerful men shared birthdates has been called an “intriguing coincidence." Despite very different backgrounds, both Darwin and Lincoln were pioneers in their own spheres. Darwin and his ideas about evolution pushed the boundaries of scientific and religious understanding, while Lincoln actively opposed slavery.

    506 votes