20+ Historical Lasts We Learned About In 2021 That Made Us Say 'Whoa'

List Rules
Vote up the historical lasts you discovered in 2021 that stuck with you the most.

History contains a lot of lasts, many of which are never recorded. The end of an era, the final time a phenomenon takes place, the conclusion of a life - these can all happen quietly, quickly, and even go without notice.

Some historical lasts are well-known - finalities that leave an impression. The final words of a historical figure, for example, may endear them to us, while the last survivors of significant events offer insights into historical happenings we could never fathom. Even the final meals of notable individuals make them feel just a little bit more like us.

Last events may surprise us, remind us how much has changed, or serve as hints that modernity isn't that different from the past. We dove deep into historical lasts this year and gathered some of the most memorable ones we found. Vote up those that stuck with you the most.

  • Florence Green Was The Last Surviving Participant Of World War I
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    478 VOTES

    Florence Green Was The Last Surviving Participant Of World War I

    Florence Green was 110 years old when she passed in 2012 as the longest-surviving veteran of World War I. Born Florence Beatrice Patterson in London in 1901, she served as a member of the Women's Royal Air Force in 1918. She worked at the Marham and Narborough airfields in Norfolk, England, and remained in the WRAF until 1919.

    After the conflict, Green married and lived a quiet life in Norfolk, only formally being recognized as a veteran in 2010. At that time, she joined American Frank Buckles and Australian Claude Choules as the longest-surviving WWI veterans.

    Buckles passed in February 2011, while Choules passed in May of the same year.

    478 votes
  • Millvina Dean Was The Last Survivor Of The Sinking Of RMS 'Titanic'
    Photo: Stephen Daniels / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0
    369 VOTES

    Millvina Dean Was The Last Survivor Of The Sinking Of RMS 'Titanic'

    Millvina Dean, who lived until 2009, was the last survivor of the sinking of RMS Titanic in 1912; she was also the youngest person to live through the disaster. Her full name was Eliza Gladys Millvina Dean, although she went by Millvina throughout her life. She was just 2 months old when she accompanied her parents and brother Bertram as third-class passengers on the journey across the Atlantic Ocean.

    When the Titanic sunk, Millvina, Bertram, and their mother all made their way onto a lifeboat, but the family patriarch, also named Bertram, did not survive. The group went back to England aboard the RMS Adriatic soon after the Titanic sank, where, according to the Daily Mirror:

    [She] was the pet of the liner during the voyage, and so keen was the rivalry between women to nurse this lovable mite of humanity that one of the officers decreed that first- and second-class passengers might hold her in turn for no more than 10 minutes.

    The only recollection Millvina had about the sinking was what her mother told her well after the event:

    She told me that they heard a tremendous crash, and that my father went up on deck, then came back down again and said, "Get the children up and take them to the deck as soon as possible, because the ship has struck an iceberg."

    Millvina spent the rest of her life in England, working for the British government during World War II and then with an engineering firm. Her brother Bertram passed in 1997, and Millvina passed in 2009 at the age of 97.

    369 votes
  • The Last Words Spoken By Robin Williams On Screen Were Heartwarming 
    Photo: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb / 20th Century Fox

    The last live-action appearance of actor and comedian Robin Williams was in the third installment of the Night at the Museum franchise. Technically, Williams also voiced Dennis the Dog in Absolutely Anything, a 2015 comedy directed by Terry Jones.

    Both Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and Absolutely Anything were released after his passing (as were three other movies: A Merry Friggin' ChristmasThe Angriest Man in Brooklyn, and Boulevard).

    In Absolutely Anything, the last thing Williams, as Dennis, says is "Hey, nobody's perfect!" It's in response to his fellow canine's assertion that he's not a dog, he's a man.

    In Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Williams plays Theodore Roosevelt. As the former Rough Rider and US President talks to Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) in the moments before morning arrives, he opines about childrearing, says goodbye, and speaks his last words: "Smile my boy; it's sunrise." 

    504 votes
  • 4
    452 VOTES

    Helen Jackson, The Last Civil War Widow, Passed In 2020

    Helen Viola Jackson married Civil War veteran James Bolin in 1936. Jackson was 17 when they wed, while James was 93.

    Their marriage, according to Jackson, was based on convenience and "respect," noting that her husband "really cared for me [and] wanted me to have a future." The two were living in Missouri at the time, with Jackson struggling to survive during the Great Depression. Bolin, who'd fought for the Union during the Civil War, wanted to help and promised to leave Jackson his pension when he passed.

    Because Jackson was concerned she looked like an opportunist, she never applied to receive Bolin's pension after his passing in 1939. She never remarried either, and only spoke about her relationship with Bolin in 2017.

    At the age of 101, Jackson - the last widow of a Civil War veteran - passed in December 2020.

    452 votes
  • Claude Choules Was The Last Surviving Combat Veteran Of Both World Wars
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    337 VOTES

    Claude Choules Was The Last Surviving Combat Veteran Of Both World Wars

    Claude Choules holds distinction as the last surviving veteran of both World War I and II. Born in England, he joined the Royal Navy at age 14, serving aboard HMS Revenge, and recalled watching as German naval forces surrendered in 1918:

    They knew they didn't have any more chance, or if they did, they'd given up hope.

    After WWI, Choules and his wife Ethel moved to Australia. He was permanently transferred to the Royal Australian Navy in 1926 and continued to serve until 1931. A year later, he rejoined and became a torpedo officer, a rank he also held during WWII. He served as a demolition officer as well, and wiped out mines as they approached Australian shores. In addition, Choules helped protect Freemantle, Australia, from an incursion by Japan; his orders were to destroy facilities and oil tanks and even sink ships to stave off any assault.

    Once WWII was over, Choules remained in the military until 1956 and lived in Australia until his passing in 2011 at the age of 110. 

    337 votes
  • The Last Telegram Ever Sent Was In July 2013
    Photo: National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    306 VOTES

    The Last Telegram Ever Sent Was In July 2013

    During the 19th century, the development of telegraphy ushered in a communication revolution. By the 1920s and 1930s, sending the popularity of sending telegrams peaked and, less than 100 years later, the service was gone.

    On January 27, 2006, Western Union in the US sent its final telegrams - a collection of messages that went out via its network of lines that began in 1851. It's difficult to pin down exactly when the very last message went out, but this wasn't the end of telegrams worldwide. That didn't happen until 2013.

    In India, telegram messages came to an end on July 14, 2013 - officially nixing the communication technique. The government-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited ended telegraph service when it was no longer profitable. According to Shamim Akhtar, BSNL's general manager:

    We were incurring losses of over $23 million a year because SMS and smartphones have rendered this service redundant. 

    306 votes