Tag Archives: Mistakes in History Books

7 Untrue Historical “Facts”

The Mayflower Brought Over The First English Colonists and Six Other Untrue Historical Facts

The first English settlement in 1607 by George Popham, Fort George. (photo from the archive Simancas Spain – courtesy Maine’s First Ship)

On the internet you can absorb a lot of “facts” that are completely inaccurate. A skeptical reader should ask where is the information coming from? What is the source?

Unfortunately many mistaken or untrue beliefs, facts and quotations were originally put down in printed books. Sometimes there was shoddy research involved, other times hearsay was used as evidence and other times outright fabrications were entered as fact. Over time, some false facts have been repeated to the point where they become sources of truth.

That is why if you take the time you can discover some entertaining books out there that delve into history and provide context to factual events. These are books written not to provide revisionist history, but corrected history based upon thorough research end evidence.

Tom Burnham’s The Dictionary of Misinformation (1975) Thomas Y. Crowell Company is just such a book.

Burnham researched hundreds of stories, quotations and facts to compile a “dictionary” of reference, rumination and pure delight based upon “misinformation, misbelief, misconstruction and misquotation.”

Here are seven untrue historical facts that we found interesting:

Henry Ford created introduced the assembly line in automobile factories
In 1902, Ransom E. Olds of the Olds Motor Vehicle Company produced 2,500 cars using an assembly line method. Wooden platforms on casters passed between lines of workmen who added parts until the car was completed. The previous year Olds built just over 400 cars.

Henry Ford improved upon the idea using a conveyor belt system, which brought various parts to the production line. Ford’s innovation cut the time to produce a Model T down from a day and a half to 93 minutes.

The First English colonists ventured to New England in 1620 aboard the Mayflower- 
In 1607, under the leadership of George Popham, 120 persons established a colony at what is now the mouth of the Kennebec River in Maine. The colonists built a fort, houses, a stockade, and a storehouse.

Harsh circumstances abounded: an alliance with local Indians soon fell apart.  An Indian attack on the colonists caused thirteen deaths.  The site of the small settlement was exposed to brutal winter winds and a particularly severe early winter set in, resulting in food supplies giving out.

The colony’s sponsor in England passed away, and George Popham died on February 5, 1608. When a supply ship finally arrived the following June, the remaining colonists abandoned the settlement and returned to England.

Revolutionary patriot Nathan Hale’s dying words were:  “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” –
School teacher Nathan Hale was hung by the British in New York City for being a spy on September 22, 1776. American General William Hull claimed to have heard about Hale’s last words from a British soldier who witnessed the hanging. Hull’s daughter immortalized Hale’s words in 1848 when she published her father’s memoirs.

But an eyewitness account from British officer Frederick Mackensie, is what we might call on the spot reporting. Mackensie wrote the following in his diary:

“He (Hale) behaved with great composure and resolution, saying he thought it the duty of every good Officer to obey any orders given him by his Commander-in-Chief; and desired the Spectators to be at all times prepared to meet death in whatever shape it might appear.” Continue reading

The Oldest Man In The World? A New Yorker Lives A Very,Very Long Time In The 19th Century

The Oldest Man In New York

I’ve always had a problem with people saying, “I read it on the internet and therefore it is true.”

I am more of a believer in the accuracy of books, but I’ll admit it- bibliophile that I am, even books are wrong sometimes. Actually, more than sometimes. How often, I’ve wondered, does a mistake appear in a book, that book becomes the “authority” or “reference” material for other books and the mistake becomes gospel?

When something strikes me as unusual, amazing or inconsistent with what I know, I try and check the facts by going to the original or earliest source material. This is just my natural curiosity. This includes lots of history that is inconsequential in the greater scheme of things. But when I get fascinated and have to know more, I’ll take the time to look into it.

In an earlier post we noted we would return to the book, “The Secrets of the Great City: A Work Descriptive of the Virtues and the Vices, the Mysteries, Miseries and Crimes of New York City” by Edward Winslow Martin (pseud. James D. McCabe) published by Jones, Brothers & Co. 1868.

One short chapter entitled The Oldest Man in New York aroused my investigative instincts, two samples from that chapter are reproduced below (the full three page text can be found here)

Strangers visiting the Church of the Ascension, in New York, cannot fail to notice the presence of an old gentleman, who occupies an arm-chair immediately in front of the chancel, in the middle aisle, and who gives the responses to the service in a very loud and distinct manner. This is, perhaps, the oldest man of the entire million of New York City inhabitants. It is Captain Lahrbush, formerly Continue reading

When The Record Books Are Wrong

The New York Yankees Actually Hold The MLB Record For The Largest Attendance In A Regular Season Game.

Records are made to be broken…that is if anyone knows about them.

If you look up the largest attendance during the regular season to see a major league baseball game, the Sporting News Baseball Record Book and many online sources claim that the paid attendance on September 12, 1954 of 84,587 at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium is the largest ever.  The Yankees were visiting the Indians that day for a doubleheader and were battling for a pennant that Cleveland would eventually go on to win. The Yankees finished in second place with 103 wins (no wild card in 1954)!

But is the 1954 Indians-Yankees game the regular season record?

Probably no one, with the possible exception of the members of SABR (the Society for American Baseball Research) really cares, but the official record books are wrong.

On September 9, 1928 The New York Yankees and Philadelphia Athletics were in a tight battle for first place, a half game separating Continue reading