Weird History
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Facts About Historical Figures We Just Learned This Week That Made Us Say 'Really?'

Updated January 29, 2021 2.8k votes 407 voters 8.0k views12 items

List RulesVote up the facts about historical figures you think are most interesting.

Teachers and textbooks can't teach everything about the most famous figures in history. Thankfully, many other tools are available to reveal facts that never came up in school. The Reddit thread r/todayilearned is full of fun facts about historical figures - such as Elizabeth II, Abraham Lincoln, and more - that almost seem unbelievable.

Vote up the new facts you think are the most awesome!

  • Andrew Carnegie truly had a rags to riches tale. At a young age, he immigrated with his family to the United States from Scotland. As they had been in their homeland, they were quite poor in America and by age 13 he was already working 12 hour days at a textile mill. In order to work and help provide for his family, Carnegie was unable to attend school, but he borrowed books from Colonel James Anderson who opened his private book collection to the young, local working force. 

    Carnegie raised through the ranks with his newfound knowledge, eventually coming to found his first steel plant. Many years later, he sold his business to industrialist J.P. Morgan for a whopping $480 million - which equals roughly $13 billion today. Carnegie spent his remaining years trying to help society by funding scientific research centers, schools, libraries, and even paying teachers' pensions. And, at the end of his life, Carnegie had donated roughly 90% of his fortune to various societal programs.

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  • Shortly after Amelia Earhart's successful flight across the Atlantic, she and Eleanor Roosevelt became fast friends. Roosevelt had also logged many hours - slightly differently - as first lady.

    In 1933, Earhart and her husband were among guests invited to dinner at the White House. Spontaneously during dinner, Earhart suggested they take a quick flight to Baltimore and back, which Roosevelt took eagerly. They boarded a plane at Hoover Field airport, but instead of the plane being flown by hired pilots, Earhart did most of the flying - and Roosevelt was right beside her in the cockpit. Roosevelt had recently gotten a student's pilot license, and the two ladies still dressed in their best completed their impromptu flight together.

    Roosevelt never went on to officially get her pilot's license, but she was one of few people who were able to fly alongside Amelia Earhart.

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    André Tchaikowsky's Real Skull Was Used As A Prop In 'Hamlet'

    Andre Tchaikovsky was a famous Polish composer who began playing the piano at the young age of four, and was admitted to the Polish Composers Union at the age of only 15. After his career as a concert pianist and composer, he fell ill with colon cancer. It was then that he decided he wanted to donate his body to science - but his skull was requested to go elsewhere.

    As a Shakespeare enthusiast, Tchaikovsky asked that his skull be sent to the Royal Shakespeare Company for "use in theatrical performance." His wishes were granted and his skull was donated to the Company since 1982. His real skull was used as a prop in the popular play Hamlet, as he requested as well, but it was only used once on stage in front of an audience. While actor Mark Rylance rehearsed with the real thing consistently, he insisted on performing in front of people with a suitable substitute. 

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  • Photo: U.S. Army / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    The First American To Step Foot On The Beach At Normandy On D-Day Survived - And Lived To Be 90

    Leonard "Max" Schroeder was the first American soldier whose feet hit the sand on the beach at Normandy on D-Day during WWII. This battle was pivotal in the United States' overall success, but was extremely bloody. Capt. Schroeder led his team of men onto the beach - along with thousands of others - and made it to their secured location. During the mission, he was shot twice by German fire, and once the mission was accomplished and his men were where they needed to be, he passed out from his injuries. His next recollection was that of being at an aid station on the beach. He was next transported to an army hospital in England where he recovered and read of his role in the successful mission in many papers. 

    In 1994, Schroeder revisited the beach at Normandy as a guest of the French government to pay homage to his heroic efforts that helped turn the tide for the Allies in WWII. He passed at the age of 90 in 2009.

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