15 Weird Yet Wonderful History Facts You Probably Didn’t Learn in School

With hundreds of thousands of years’ worth of history providing insight into the lives we live today, it is no surprise that there have been some odd and amazing facts over the years.

For Real Or Nah?

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Some have fuelled conspiracy theories, while others just might make you think twice. 

Here are some weird history facts you may not have learned in school.

1. The Titanic Sinking was Predicted

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Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com

In 1898, 14 years before the Titanic tragedy, author Morgan Robertson published a novella, originally titled Futility, before being renamed The Wreck of the Titan.

1. The Titanic Sinking was Predicted

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The story tells the fictional story of the largest ocean liner that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean. It was almost the same size as the Titanic, depicted just 82 feet apart.

The boat in the story had a shortage of lifeboats on board, and how did it sink? It hit an iceberg. It was even known as the “unsinkable.”

Eerie, right?

2. The Eiffel Tower was Not Meant for Paris

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suremen / Shutterstock.com

Designed by Gustav Eiffel in the late 1800s, the Eiffel Tower was pitched to Barcelona as a tourist attraction.

Deemed too ugly by the Spaniards, Eiffel brought his idea to Paris, suggesting it as a temporary attraction.

2. The Eiffel Tower was Not Meant for Paris

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The idea was accepted, and after two years of work, the Eiffel Tower stood proud where we recognize it today.

Though it was supposed to be temporary, it clearly has remained.

3. Human Bones Were Found in Benjamin Franklin’s Basement

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Hlib Shabashnyi / Shutterstock.com

While it may sound suspicious at first, Benjamin Franklin’s keen interest in early medical research has given him a pass.

About 1200 bones from roughly ten human bodies were located in his basement after his death. They were used for studying human anatomy. 

4. The Empire State Building Given its Own Zip Code

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kropic1 / Shutterstock.com

Perhaps not surprising for New York’s most notable building, in a city with 1775 zip codes, the Empire State Building was given an entire one in 1980.

Zip codes are designated based on population density, and being such a popular tower, the Empire State Building has made the cut.

5. There Were Female Gladiators in Ancient Rome

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With females often playing a secondary role in ancient history, it is admirable to know they were able to forge a way into the arena.

Women gladiators were known as gladiatrix, and while they did not fight regularly, when they did, it was against other females or wild animals.

6. Zero Ply. Americans Used to Use Corn Cobs as Toilet Paper

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RPPD / Shutterstock.com

If you weren’t already thankful for modern toilet inventions, this may change your mind.

In early North America, corn cobs were used in place of toilet paper.

6. Zero Ply. Americans Used to Use Corn Cobs as Toilet Paper

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It may seem uncomfortable, but it was readily available and softer than other foliage. The toilet paper roll was not invented until 1890, about two hundred years later!

7. The University of Oxford Outdates the Aztec Empire

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Shutterstock.com / Shaun in Japan

While the Aztec Empire might stir up images of ancient life, it was actually around after Oxford University was founded.

One of the oldest universities in the world, the University of Oxford, has been teaching since the early 11th century.

7. The University of Oxford Outdates the Aztec Empire

The Aztec Empire was not established in central Mexico until almost 200 years later.

8. President Lincoln Used His Top Hat as a Handbag

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Spill Photography / Shutterstock.com

It wasn’t just a fashion statement. President Abraham Lincoln brought many notes and papers around with him.

As a man of ingenuity, he stored them regularly inside his top hat. 

9. Easter Island Has Over 1000 Giant Head Statues

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Amy Nichole Harris / Shutterstock.com

If the heads alone aren’t fascinating enough, how about 1043 of them?

Easter Island is a categorically small area, 14 miles long, but that hasn’t stopped the influx of volcanic rock sculptures.

As of 2023, more statues are still being discovered. 

10. Tug-of-War Was in the Olympic Games

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Observed more as a playground enjoyment, tug-of-war seems hardly the type of game to put forth alongside other competitive sports.

Despite this, for five Olympic Games between 1900 and 1920, the game was observed as part of the Olympic Track and Field Athletics section. 

11. Ketchup Was Sold as Medicine

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In the 1830s, medicinal research was still low, and many believed ketchup to cure various ailments, including indigestion and jaundice.

The idea was proposed by Dr John Cook Bennett, who later sold the recipe in the form of ‘tomato pills.’

12. Stain Removal Was Done with Urine

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alexnika / Shutterstock.com

In the 1600s, urine was considered an effective stain remover.

A book on laundering even said, “Rub all the spots in the urine as if you were washing in water.” How’s that for cleanliness?

13. Albert Einstein and Oprah Winfrey Lived at the Same Time

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jack-sooksan / Shutterstock.com

While it may seem they are histories apart, the German inventor and physicist was actually alive for ten years after talk show host Oprah Winfrey was born.

Einstein died in 1955 in New Jersey, a few hundred miles west of Oprah’s hometown, Milwaukee. 

14. People Used Food Sacks for Clothing in the Great Depression

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Androgynous dressing may be popular today, but in 1929, it was the result of desperation.

The burlap sacks were fashioned into clothing, leading to food suppliers adding color to their packaging, which then made the clothes look nicer. 

15. Burning at the Stake Never Happened in the Salem Witch Trials

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Jaclyn Vernace / Shutterstock.com

Going against popular belief, during the Salem Witch Trials of the late 1600s, not one woman was burned at the stake.

Many were hung, but the most common punishment was jail. 

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History Is Still Happening

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With history continuing to be made by the minute, it poses the question of what we are doing today that will be scrutinized a hundred years from now.

With TikTok trends like the ‘The Blackout Challenge’ and the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a certainty that we are making our mark on history.

This article was produced by TPR Teaching.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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