17 American History Facts You Learned That Were Actually False

Your History teacher lied to you. Probably not on purpose but there are several parts of American history that are commonly believed, yet are completely FALSE! Even history teachers have taught information that isn’t entirely true.

Click next to see the 17 American history facts that your teacher might have gotten wrong.

3. The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776

While many believe that July 4 was the signing date for the Declaration of Independence, that just wasn’t the case. The signing actually transpired in August of 1766, a month after the final draft of the document was agreed upon, yet Americans still celebrate Independence Day on July 4.

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4. The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper

Hemp comes from a wide range of cannabis genus and was historically used for a number of applications including paper manufacturing. Whether it was because of this that several sites have claimed the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp or not, the statement still stands falsely. Instead, it was written on parchment, which was made of animal hide.

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5. On July 4, 1776, patriots cracked the Liberty Bell

The declaration of U.S. independence undoubtedly called for a celebration, but this had nothing to do with the Liberty Bell’s cracking. According to a history published by Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, the bell was probably rung along with the city’s other bells to prelude the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence. However, it did not mention patriots ringing the bell until it eventually cracked. The iconic crack appeared sometime in the 19th century, although the exact date is still being debated.

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6. Washington, D.C. was the only capital United States had

The U.S. capital that we know today is Washington, D.C. However, did you know that there were others before it? To be exact, there are 8 locales where American power once seated. They were Philadelphia, Lancaster, and York in Pennsylvania, Baltimore and Annapolis in Maryland, Princeton and Trenton in New Jersey, and New York City.

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7. Paul Revere was alone in his mission of warning American patriots

American patriot Paul Revere gained fame after his horseback ride to warn fellow patriots about the arrival of the British in Lexington on the evening of April 18, 1775. While this heroic act became well-known until this day, it left out the important part that he was not alone on this mission. William Dawes and Samuel Prescott, two other patriots at that time, rode alongside him. Furthermore, their number grew to as many as 40 men spreading the word across Boston’s Suffolk County.

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8. Paul Revere’s famous quote, “the British are coming!” was real

Along with Revere’s famous mission was this legendary phrase he allegedly shouted as he passed town to town. However, as the operation was meant to be conducted very discreetly, he couldn’t have possibly shouted, “the British are coming” at the risk of exposing himself. Moreover, colonial Americans at that time considered themselves as British, so Revere may have used the term regulars — patriots’ designation for the British soldiers — in executing this deed.

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9. The Battle at Yorktown concluded the American Revolutionary War

On October 19, 1781, the Americans led by generals George Washington and Jean-Baptiste de Rochambeau historically defeated the British forces in Yorktown. This feat was so huge and transformative to the success of the American Revolutionary War, that it was incorrectly thought of as its ultimate denouement. However, it wasn’t the last battle fought of the war. Instead, the naval Battle of Cuddalore in the Bay of Bengal, India on June 20, 1783 would be the final one.

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10. Slavery sprung and developed from the South

While history largely associated slavery with the South, it has actually long been present in every colony even before the Revolutionary War. In fact, Massachusetts was the first colony to legalize slavery, and New York had over 1,600 slaves in 1720. Disappointing as it may, even presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both owned slaves at the time.

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11. The birth of the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery

During the winter of 1860-1861, the governments of South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas expressed intentions to secede from the Union following disputes over some principles and issues on territorial governance. One of their ultimate justifications for the action highlights retention of slavery, as this was a part of the Southern way of life. Therefore, while civil war emerged because of the competing beliefs and policies between the North and the South, part of it can largely be attributed to the attempt to abolish slavery, which threatened the South’s regional practices and the North’s position to unify all the states.

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2. Betsy Ross created the first American Flag

Another inaccurate piece of information we learned in early education was Betsy Ross designing the first U.S. flag. The myth started when her grandson, William Canby, claimed Ross made the flag under George Washington’s command, 100 years later after its first actual production. Evidence Canby presented did not fully justify his claim, thus, his story remained only as a myth.

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12. Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in the U.S.

The Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln on January 1, 1863 stated that enslaved people in the states have been freed. However, this meant little to the overall abolition of slavery as some states, particularly supporters of the Union (i.e. Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri), were exempted to this law. The act rather served as a move to persuade Confederate rebellions and win the Civil War. It is in the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution on January 31, 1865 where slavery would be formally abolished.

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13. The Pilgrims migrated to North America to escape religious persecution

Pilgrims are English settlers who came to the New World in 1620 and established the Plymouth Colony in what we knew today as Plymouth, Massachusetts. We learned in our history class that they migrated in order to escape religious persecution back in England, but this wasn’t exactly true.

Long before they decided to immigrate, they’ve already found religious resettlement in Holland. Unfortunately, The Netherlands offered little economic opportunities, and children were slowly adapting to the culture and language like natives.

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14. Thanksgiving was a celebratory feast shared by the Pilgrims and Native Americans

Early schools taught us the importance of Thanksgiving by emphasizing the communal work of the pilgrims and native Americans that resulted in a bountiful harvest. In 1621, the first feast was held to celebrate this success together with the tribe that helped make it possible. However, some historians purport the alliance occurred due to their extreme mutual needs to survive famine and threats against other tribes.

While the first ample harvest indeed prompted three days of celebratory feast, it remains debatable whether the Indians were actually invited or had forcefully crashed the event.

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15. Witches were burned at the stake at the Salem Witch Trials

The 1962 Salem Witch Trials witnessed deaths of hundreds of people, who were dubbed witches, in Salem Village, Massachusetts. While most associate the punishments with witches burning at the stake, the truth is that not a single person was burned. Of the 20 people convicted, 19 were hanged near the Gallows Hill and one person was tortured to death.

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16. Thomas Edison invented the light bulb alone

Inventor Thomas Edison was dubbed as America’s greatest inventor with over 1,093 U.S. patents including the early versions of the light bulb. However, he was not the sole person who invented it, as historians claim there were at least 20 inventors prior to Edison’s research. He was often credited because his version proved to be more effective as an incandescent material.

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17. Neil Armstrong’s famous words on the moon were “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”

Historians and critics hounded Armstrong for supposedly not saying the grammatically correct version of his famous words on the moon. Having missed out “a,” the phrase technically meant “One small step for mankind, one giant leap for mankind,” which didn’t make sense. Armstrong believed that he said it correctly, and he wasn’t lying. Thanks to Peter Shann Ford, a computer programmer who found proof that the missing “a” was actually just lost in transmission back to Earth.

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1. Christopher Columbus discovered America

Many of us learned in primary school that Christopher Columbus discovered America, but that wasn’t precisely true. In contrast, Native Americans have already been settling down in the state before his voyage even started. Still, Columbus remains a notable figure in American history as the man who paved the way for the new age exploration that led to colonization.

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