Charles Lindbergh Was Not The First Flier To Cross The Atlantic – And Other Unusual Things You Didn’t Know

Lindbergh Didn’t Cross The Atlantic First

7 Strange and Unusual Historical Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

When I was a kid I remember reading a copy of Ripley’s Believe It or Not and coming across the “fact” that Charles Lindbergh was “merely the 67th person” to fly across the Atlantic.

Albert C Read's seaplane that crossed the Atlantic in 1919

Albert C Read’s seaplane that crossed the Atlantic in 1919

Technically Ripley was correct. The first person to cross the Atlantic was Lieutenant Commander Albert C. Read. On May 16-27, 1919 Read flew in a seaplane, the NC-4, from Newfoundland to the Azores and on to Lisbon Portugal. it was not a non-stop flight like Lindbergh was to accomplish eight years later, but even so I never learned that in school.

Lindbergh was not even the first to make a non-stop flight across the Atlantic. Captain John Alcock and Arthur W. Brown flew non-stop in a British biplane from Newfoundland to Ireland in a little over 16 hours on June 14, 1919.

So with that nugget of history, here are six more unusual facts that you probably didn’t know.

Why We Shake Hands With Our Right Hands
The custom of shaking hands has come down to us from the time when almost everyone carried a sword or knife. In those days when one met a stranger, it was customary as a matter of friendly intention, to hold out the right hand to show it did not hold a sword or knife.

It Was Predicted Skyscrapers Would Not Be Economically Practical Over Time
In 1939 It was estimated by the National Association of Real Estate Boards that “it is unlikely that the period of economic usefulness of a skyscraper can be much longer than forty years.”

In The Early 20th Century There Was A Proposal To Go To A 13 Month Calendar
Moses B. Cotsworth’s idea was to replace the 12 month Gregorian calendar,with a 13 month calendar. Cotsworth’s calendar would apply uniformity to the number of days in each month – thirteen months each comprising 28 days.

28 times 13 is 364. Each month and each week would begin on a Sunday, with exactly four weeks to each month. A new month would be inserted in the summer between June and July.

An extra holiday New Year’s Day which would not appear in the calendar would give us 365 days for a year. In Leap Year a second holiday would be inserted. One neat effect would be that we would have a Friday the Thirteenth every month. The proposal never acted gained ground with the public, except by George Eastman head of the Kodak Company who adopted it in his company and was used from 1928 – 1989.

The Word Window Came From “Wind Eye”
From the Old Norse “windawya” and Old English “windeage” meaning wind eye comes the word window. It was the eye of the house, a long narrow opening which was intended to let in a ray of light, but which let in the wind as well. What would keep out the wind? In 1228 the King of England ordered a window of white glass for the queen’s chamber at Winchester Castle, “so that the chamber may not be so windy as it used to be.”Glass in casements was occasionally fixed into stone of castles that early in time. But glass windows in middle-class private dwellings were not at all usual before the 16th century.

The Saying “To Get The Sack” (Get Fired) Derived From The Sultan Of Turkey Disposing of His Harem
When the Sultan of Turkey got tired of members of his harem, he would dispose of them by ordering the offending woman to be put in a sack and thrown in the Bosporus strait. When people from Great Britain and the United States who had visited Turkey heard the story of the Sultan’s disposal methods, they began to use the term “get the sack” to describe when someone was expected to be put out of a position suddenly.

The Custom of People Touching Glasses Before Drinking Originated To Avoid Poisoning
The people who fought duels in olden times used to pause before their fighting long enough to each drink a glass of wine furnished by their friends. In order to make sure that no attempt was made to influence the results of the duel by poisoning the wine in either cup, they developed the habit of pouring part of the contents of each glass into the other, so that if either contestant was poisoned the other would be too.

This habit has continued up to the present time, though now there is no thought given to the danger of poison. Also today the part of pouring the contents into each others cups has ceased. But the motion has remained as in the touching of glasses, expressing friendliness and good will.

Think about that the next time you clink glasses!

source: The New Wonder Book of Knowledge compiled by Harry Chase Hill (1940)
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