6 Historical Facts that Will Explode Your Sense of Time and Space

Our conception of different eras of history tends to be shaped—and stereotyped—by certain events and movements that get highlighted over and over. (And over.) The 1920s: fringed flappers and champagne-soaked, Gatsby-like parties; 1930s: gloom and doom; 1940s: enthusiastic war supporters. But there was also a depression in the early 1920s. World’s Fairs in the 1930s reflected notions of progress and an exhilarating future. And during WWII nearly 50,000 American soldiers deserted from the armed forces.

We craft our historical narratives with pretty tidy parameters, but there is much historical data that doesn’t fit into these societal stories we've concocted. Here is a list of coinciding and dare-we-say realties that don't jibe with common conceptions of historical eras:

Betty White is older than sliced bread.

The ability to keep pre-sliced bread fresh—through proper cutting and wrapping techniques—kept bakers from providing this convenience. Happily an inventor solved these mechanical dilemmas in 1928. Which means Betty White, born in 1922, spent her formative years without this yeasty luxury. It also means the impoverished generation of the Depression had to slice their own bread to make lard sandwiches—adding insult to injury.  

Harvard University was founded before calculus was invented.

Established in 1636, Harvard is the oldest institution of higher education in the U.S. But the invention of calculus came in late 17th century, principally from contributions by Gottfried Leibniz (1684), and Isaac Newton (1687).  Those early ivy-leaguers didn't know what they were missing!

The last time the Chicago Cubs won a World Series, the Ottoman Empire still existed.

The Chicago Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908. The Ottoman Empire, which was founded in the 13th century, ran until the sultanate was abolished in 1922—14 years after the Cubs last won the World Series. (But maybe this speaks more to the suckiness of the Cubs than anything else—zing!)

The fax machine was invented the same year as the Oregon trail migration.

While modern medicine hadn’t advanced enough to deal with the dysentery that besieged pioneers, and infrastructure hardly existed West of Missouri, the first fax machine was introduced (1843). This early model used pendulums, electric probes and electrochemically sensitive paper to scan documents, and send the information over wires for reproduction.

Tiffany & Co. was founded before Italy was a country.

Turns out, the peninsula was still comprised of discrete city-states until 1861. Famous jewelry store Tiffany & Co. was founded in 1853. Meaning people could purchase their sparkly jewels while chattering about the “Papal States” and “Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.”

And lastly, man lived at the same time as the dinosaurs. Just kidding! (Image: commons.wikimedia.org)

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