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

December 2, 2020 2.6k votes 360 voters 7.6k views12 items

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

Not everything we want to know about some of the most famous figures in history was taught to us through teachers and textbooks. Thankfully, there are so many other ways we can learn all of the facts we wished we'd learned ages ago. The Reddit thread r/todayilearned is full of fun facts about historical figures - like Elizabeth II, Abraham Lincoln, and more - that we can't believe we never knew before. It makes learning new facts so easy. Vote up the ones you think are the most awesome!

  • Photo: Official Photograph, White House Police, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Department of the Treasury / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Leslie Coffelt Is The Only Member Of The Secret Service To Have Died On Duty

    From Redditor u/merk35802:

    TIL the only U.S. Secret Service officer killed protecting a president is Leslie Coffelt. Shot three times in the abdomen, he fired one round and hit Truman's attempted assassin in the back of the head from 31 feet away with his revolver.

    Context: There has only been one Secret Service member to lose their life on the job in the nearly 150 years since the organization's inception. Leslie Coffelt was standing outside Blair House when two men began shooting with the hope of gaining access to the house to assassinate President Truman. Coffelt was hit three times in the incident but managed to fatally shoot one of the men before he entered the house. A small monument was erected in his honor of the 1950 incident. 

    Awesome fact?
  • Photo: Archives of American Art / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    From Redditor u/Figgyee:

    TIL that in 1825 painter Samuel Morse received a letter which read that his wife was sick. The day after that a new one said that she was dead. When 2 days later he went to his wife, he discovered that she was already buried. P*ssed off for the slowness of communications, he invented the Morse code.

    Context: In 1825, Samuel Morse received a few letters while he was working away from his wife. The first read that his wife was ill and the next day while he was packing to leave, he received another letter that told him she had already died. After rushing home to find her already buried, Morse was so gravely upset with the delay in his messages that he was determined to find a better way to transmit messages. When he met inventor Charles Thomas Jackson in 1833, that's what they set out to do. By creating the telegraph and drafting a series of dots and dashes to communicate via copper wires, 13 years after his wife died, Morse and Jackson successfully created a faster way of communicating and called it Morse Code.

    Awesome fact?
  • Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    William Still Found His Long-Lost Brother While Working The Underground Railroad

    From Redditor u/alpha867w:

    TIL William Still, the father of the Underground Railroad, interviewed and kept records of every escaped slave he came across. Once, while interviewing a man, he discovered that the man was actually his long-lost brother.

    Context: William Still is known for coining the term "Underground Railroad," as well as aiding many fugitive slaves in their escape. He took to keeping records of the people he helped along the way, but just before the Civil War he destroyed most - if not all - of those notes to ensure those he had helped could not be prosecuted in the future. One of the men he helped did turn out to be his older brother who had been unfortunately left behind when their mother escaped 40 years earlier.

    Awesome fact?
  • From a former Redditor:

    TIL Frederick Douglass was the most photographed American of the 19th century.

    Context: Frederick Douglass was in fact the most photographed American of the 19th century, even beating out Abraham Lincoln. Douglass had 160 distinct portraits of him taken during the period compared with Lincoln's 126. 

    Awesome fact?