James Buchanan was born in 1791. He was the 15th president of the United States, and his two immediate predecessors were both born after 1800 (13th president Millard Fillmore in 1800, 14th president Franklin Pierce in 1804). Buchanan is the only US president whose century-of-birth preceded that of the president before him.

A Modern Shakespeare for Spies

To make his spy novels read as more authentic, author John Le Carré is credited with coining a number of terms for his fictional intelligence agency: terms like mole, honey trap, pavement artist, asset babysitter. These terms are now common in real-life intelligence agencies. (John Le Carré wrote The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, The Constant Gardener, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Night Manager.)

The Long Occupation of Estonia

Since 1219, Estonia was ruled at various times by Danish, Swedish, German, and Russian governments. It declared independence after World War I, but that only lasted until 1940 when it was occupied by the Soviet Union. Estonia has only been an independent nation since 1991. That means that since 1219, Estonia has been independent for exactly 50 years out of 800!

Technically, the Taiwan Republic was the first independent republic in Asia. The Republic of Formosa was established on May 25th, 1895. However, on May 29th, 1895, a Japanese military force of over 12,000 soldiers landed in Northern Taiwan and turned Taiwan into a Japanese colony.

British Behaving Badly

In 1860, during the Second Opium War, the British took Beijing and destroyed the Old Summer Palace. But first they took everything they could carry of value. Including Pekingese dogs, the first of which was given to Queen Victoria who brazenly named him... "Looty."

T. Rex Were Even Scarier Than You Thought

A new study has found that the tyrannosaurus rex had the strongest bite of any known species -- extant or extinct. Its bite was so strong, in fact, that it could bite through its prey's bones without breaking its skull. Modern-day saltwater crocodiles, which hold the chomping record for any living animal, clamp down with a force only about 25 percent as strong as a t. rex's bite.

Blue, green, and hazel eyes all exist thanks to a genetic mutation; brown was the only eye color present in humans until about 6,000 years ago.

A Humorous American Civil War-Era Newspaper Advertisement

TO THE PATRIOTIC UNMARRIED LADIES. — I am a soldier, just returned from the wars. Have lost a leg, but expect to get a cork one; have a useless arm, but will be called brave for it; was once good-looking, but am now scarred all over. If any patriotic young lady will marry me, why fall in line! The applicant must be moderately handsome, have an excellent education, play on the piano and sing; and a competency will not be objectionable. One with these requirements would, doubtless, secure my affections. Address Capt. F.A.B., MERCURY Office.


New York Sunday Mercury, Nov. 9, 1862

The United States flag started out with 13 stars, and 13 stripes, for the 13 original states. The flag slowly accumulated stars as new states were added to the Union. In 1959 it reached its present form of 50 stars, with the addition of Hawai’i. For obvious patriotic reasons, it was decided in 1818 that after a new state had been confirmed by Congress, that state’s star would be officially added to the flag on the next 4th of July.

This led to a fun historical oddity: even though Wyoming and Idaho became states within a week of each other in 1890, their stars were put on a year apart. How did this happen? Well, Idaho became a state on July 3rd, 1890 and Wyoming became a state on July 10th, 1890. Because Wyoming just missed the July 4th deadline, its star was added 1 year later, in 1891.

How To Bless Your Baby, Mauretanian-Style

The Wolof people of Mauritania traditionally spit on their babies. The believe that spit carries the words of the mouth that it comes from, so spitting on babies ensures that the parents' blessings stick. Fathers spit inside the baby's ear and women spit on its face.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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