History I Didn’t Know
I love History. I really love learning about historical things I didn’t know about. Especially if it is about something I thought I knew. I get a kick out of learning the obscure and not so obscure. Enjoy these three historical vignettes:
We all know who Mark Twain was, right? Most folks know Mark Twain as Samuel Langhorne Clemens, the author, humorist, publisher entrepreneur among many other things. We all know the many quotes that are attributed to him (whether he said it or not) and his folksy, humorous truisms. Last, but not least, we know that he got his name from the steamboats on the Mississippi river.
“Mark twain” was called out as river boat pilots navigated the Mississippi and indicated that the river was deep enough to proceed. Except that is not where Clemens got his pen name. “So where did he get it from?” You might ask. He got it from a news correspondent for the New Orleans Picayune. Captain Isiah Sellers used the pen name until his death in 1863, when Clemens started using it, explaining how he came about his nom de plume in a letter that stated the Captain “no longer needed the signature”.
“Another author!”, you cry. “Where did he get his name?” His name is safe. He got it from parents, Clarence Edmonds Hemingway, was a physician, and Grace Hall Hemingway, a musician. Hemingway did published seven novels, six short-story collections, and two non-fiction works and probably wrote much more. One web search replied with at least 33 works. His writings were full of adventure and bravery. Many folks think of Hemingway as leading an exciting life, being an explorer and a war hero. While his life may have been exciting, he never fought in World War I, the Spanish Civil War or World War II. He WAS there for all of them but his war history isn’t that exciting. In World War I, he enlisted in the Red Cross and was wounded by mortar fire serving chocolates to soldiers. In the Spanish Civil War and World War II he was there as an reporter. His claims of being the first American wounded in Italy carrying a wounded soldier on his back is false. He did not join the 69th Infantry, he never fought in any battles and he wasn’t wounded by machine gun fire. Talk about stolen valor!
For this one, I am not going to debunk anything other than my own myth. I always thought Wall Street was named as such because of the “wall” of high buildings and financial institutions. I was way off. In 1626, New Amsterdam was purchased by the dutch from the Native Americans. Tensions soon mounted,mostly because of the Fur Trade on the North River (Hudson River). In order to protect themselves and their assets, the Dutch built walls between the North river and the East river. Originally build out of wooden planks the walls soon became bigger and stronger. Fast forward to 1664 and here come the British. The Brits renamed it after the Duke of York and in 1969 tore down the walls. The street that ran parallel to the walls were named Wall Street and lives on today as the famous iconic financial center.
Have you been surprised by some history you thought you knew and it turned out it wasn’t totally true?
More History for you
Gregory, Leland. Stupid American History: Tales of Stupidity, Strangeness, and Mythconceptions. Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, 2013.
Quirk, Thomas V. “Mark Twain.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 14 Apr. 2018, www.britannica.com/biography/Mark-Twain.
“Ernest Hemingway.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 May 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Hemingway.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Wall Street.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 25 Jan. 2017, www.britannica.com/topic/Wall-Street-New-York-City.