by Dr. Shanthi Thomas

History is full of strange and unbelievable facts that surprise and educate us. Some of these facts are stranger than fiction.

1. Ketchup as medicine!

Did you know that ketchup was once sold as medicine? In the 1830s, ketchup was sold as a remedy for indigestion. Only in the late 19th century did ketchup take its rightful position as a condiment.

2. About Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln is well known to us as a heroic political figure. However, nobody would have guessed that he was also a wrestling champion!

3. War on cats!

Pope Gregory 1X declared a war on the cats of the world, particularly black cats, because he thought they were associated with devil worship. This led to them being widely exterminated all over Europe. There is even a theory that this is what helped the rat population to grow, which eventually led to the spread of bubonic plague!

4. Trial against tomatoes!

On September 25, 1820, in Salem, NJ there was an unusual trial: A trial against tomatoes.  People  believed that tomatoes were poisonous, so Robert Gibbon Johnson proved them wrong by eating a whole basketful of the fruit. Since he did not die after eating the tomatoes, the trial was dismissed.

5. Horse as senator!

Caligula, emperor of Roman wanted to make his favourite horse a senator! The emperor loved the horse Incitatus so much that he was given an ivory manger to sleep in, and also a palace with his own servants!

6. The knocker-uppers

We are all familiar with the alarm clock that wakes us up in the mornings. What woke people up when there was no alarm clock? Apparently, there were knocker-uppers who would knock on people’s windows to wake them up in the mornings. They used a long stick, soft hammers, pea shooters or rattles to reach their clients’ windows.

7. Cleopatra

Did you know that the famous Cleopatra was not actually Egyptian? According to historians, the femme fatale was actually Greek. She was a descendent of Ptolemy, the Macedonian General of Alexander the Great.

8. Short but not sweet!

The Anglo-Zanzibar war of August 27, 1896, is the shortest recorded war in history between the United Kingdom and the Zanzibar sultanate. It lasted 38 minutes. Still there were 500 casualties on the Zanzibar side!

9. Albert Einstein as the President of Israel!

Albert Einstein, though Jewish, was not an Israeli citizen. Still, he was offered the presidency of Israel in 1952. However the famous scientist turned it down saying that he was more at home with objective matters, and not in dealing with people.

10. What do Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin have in common?

All these three names were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize! The Nobel prize has been in existence since 1901. In its long illustrious history, nothing would have been more controversial than the nominations of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin for Nobel Peace Prize! Fortunately, their nominations did not go far.

11. Lifeguard turned President!

President Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States was once a prolific lifeguard. In fact, his first job was as a lifeguard at the Rock River in Lowell Park in 1927. Over the next six years, Reagan saved 77 people from drowning.

12. Clothes out of flour sacks!

During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, times were so hard that women started making clothes out of flour sacks. Recognizing this, flour merchants often printed colorful cotton sacks with beautiful designs, so that they can be later turned into clothes.

13. Great horse lover

Chief Blackbird, the leader of the Omaha Native American Indian tribe until the late 18th century, was said to be so sentimentally attached to his horse that he was buried sitting on top of it. Apparently, even death could not part them!

14. Of Presidents and birds!

A few US Presidents have kept birds as pets while being in office. Teddy Roosevelt kept a one-legged rooster and James Buchanan is said to have owned two eagles, but Andrew Jackson topped them all by having a swearing parrot. When the President passed away on the 8th of June 1845, the parrot named Poll squeaked so many curse words for so long that it had to be carried away!

15. Potato tales

Did you know that the beloved potato was not very popular in France at first? This changed because of the efforts of one man, Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, who resorted to novel methods to increase its popularity.  He surrounded his potato patch with armed guards during the day, so as to suggest that potatoes were very valuable. Then he removed the guards at night to encourage people to come and steal them.

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