Historical Events  General
Historical Events  General
1920 Wall St attack

Alternate:
The 1920 Wall St terrorist bombing is well known.

Current:
The 1920 Wall St terrorist bombing is not well known.

Suddenly from nowhere?

Many people are shocked to hear of what was described as the worst terrorist attack on American soil up to that point. This is the 1920 bombing on Wall St, which killed 30 people instantly, 8 who died later and over 300 were injured.

The FBI's website reports the perpetrators were never caught, although it is suspected an Italian terrorist group, or even the Mafia, were involved at the time.

A horse drawn cart was left outside the US Assay Office on September 16, 1920, which was full of expolisives and had a lit fuse burning inside it, ticking down as a shady figure left in a hurry only to lose himself amongst the stockbrokers and bankers just leaving their offices for lunch. Terrorist attacks up until then were so rare it wasn't even recognised as one for a few hours afterwards.

Historical Events  General
Ninja

Alternate:
Real Ninjas always wore black

Current:
Real Ninjas did not wear black

Ninjas were masters of disguise

The ninja is the legendary figure feared throughout history for their agility, stealth and above all superior fighting skills.

They are always depicted in an entirely black outfit  with just a small slit for their eyes. They usually brandish various weapons such as one or two swords, a set of nunchaku or even the dreaded "flying star" shurikens.

There's a big problem with this picture, however. Ninjas did exist, and are well documented as a kind of mercenary force performing special missions where the army or Samurai were not best suited, for example espionage.To achieve this, they were renowned masters of disguise, often blending in perfectly with ordinary people, workers or government officials. You see the problem here? Any kind of instantly recognisable outfit would make this role completely useless. The impression given throughout history is wrong.

Historical Events  General
Credit cards

Alternate:
1950

Current:
1888

When were credit cards first described in detail?

People think of the origins of money being something like pebbles being used by cavemen, which is almost certainly untrue in any case. The idea of money evolving into something totally abstract, beyond mere entries in a bank account, is popularly associated with the rise of technology, computers and in particular the restructuring many economies were forced to undertake as part of their rebuilding process after the second world war. In particular, the Diners Club cars, launched in 1950, is popularly regarded as the world's first credit card.

It turns out that whilst the implementation of credit cards began at this time, the idea of how they would function was fully documented in great detail a lot earlier.

From the novel Looking Backward:

… a credit card issued him with which he procures at the public storehouses, found in every community, whatever he desires whenever he desires it. This arrangement, you will see, totally obviates the necessity for business transactions of any sort between individuals and consumers.

-- Edward Bellamy, 1888

Historical Events  General
Cowboys poker

Alternate:
Cowboys in the Old West mainly played poker

Current:
Cowboys in the Old West seldom played poker

Smokey Saloon

The image most people conjure up of the Old West when thinking of how the cowboys spent their leisure time is a smokey saloon with a table of grim faces, all intent on betting the farm on that one last hand.

This picture is so common it's been depicted since the silent black and white dawn of the Western movies.

However, it turns out not to be accurate. Sure, there were saloons, piano players and colorful dancing girls, as well as the card tables surrounded by gamblers. But were these cowboys playing poker? It turns out probably not, because whilst poker did exist as a card game at the time, the most common one by far was called "Faro"

Historical Events  General
Wall St crash

Alternate:
Hundreds

Current:
None

How many deaths?

It happened just before the Great Depression. Starting in the summer of 1929, and slowly gathering momentum to reach a peak in October, it became known as the Wall Street crash. Peaking on Black Thursday - October 24th, 1929, stories of ruined traders jumping out of the windows to their death have widely circulated since, but how accurate is this?

It tuns out not only were they wrong, they were completely wrong and no-one died that way on the day, although there were stories of suicides by other means following Black Thursday.

Only decades later, once all the chaos had settled down, could the truth be uncovered.

In the United States the suicide wave that followed the stock market crash is also part of the legend of 1929. In fact, there was none.

--  John Kenneth Galbraith, "The Great Crash of 1929"

Historical Events  General
Vikings Horns

Alternate:
Vikings had horns in their helmets

Current:
Vikings did not have horns in their helmets

Vikings Horns

Where did the image of the Vikings rampaging across the land with horns in their helmets come from?

If you thought it was back in the Viking age, when they actually carried out their various raids, invasions and pillages, and not the 1800s, you are mistaken.

The image of horns on their helmets was never really seen before Sweden’s Gustav Malmström popularised them when painting them on their raids back in the 19th century, and they really only became cemented in our consciousness in the 1870's for Wagners “Der Ring des Nibelungen”.

In fact, no helmet from the period with horns has ever been found, whereas many without them have.

Historical Events  General
Fortune Cookies

Alternate:
Fortune Cookies originated in China

Current:
Fortune Cookies did not originate in China

Fortune Cookies

Come on, this is a no-brainer. Everyone knows fortune cookies came from China - don't they?

Not any more.

Today, the Chinese style phrases, proverbs or vague prophecies we see in them certainly allude to their origins as being oriental, and the Chinese restaurants they are served in, together with the way they are made, seem to fit in with what Westerners expect of Chinese food. But nope, they're rarely seen in China at all. This was even confirmed in a 1983 court case confirming they were first served in San Francisco.

It turns out they are largely an American invention. Today they are certainly served in the Chinese restaurants of the US,  but they were not brought over from the orient as a native dish.

Their popularity is due to the way they spread with the growth of what would have been seen as the new, exotic trend in foreign restaurants serving oriental food - or what appealed to the Americans of the day as such, even if not authentic.