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The 20 Greatest Historical Myths
Write Spirit ^ | 3/24/2007 | Noivedya Juddery

Posted on 03/24/2007 10:26:05 AM PDT by Dallas59

20. Eve ate a bad apple

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but they have still had bad publicity as the "forbidden fruit" that Eve tasted in the Garden of Eden, thereby making life difficult for all of us. Yet nowhere in the biblical story of Adam and Eve is an apple mentioned. It is simply called "the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden" (Genesis 3:3). OK, it COULD have been an apple, but it might just as well have been an apricot, a mango, or any other sort of fruit.

19. Newton was hit by an apple

Apples continued to get bad press with the famous story that scientist Sir Isaac Newton was under a tree, minding his own business, when an apple fell on his head. Just as well it provided him the inspiration for the laws of gravity, or the poor apple would never be forgiven! But while the falling apple is a good story, it probably never happened. The story was first published in an essay by Voltaire, long after Newton's death. Before that, Newton's niece, Catherine Conduitt, was the only person who ever told the story. It was almost certainly an invention.

18. Walt Disney drew Mickey Mouse

One of the world's most famous fictitious characters, Mickey Mouse, is credited to Walt Disney. However, Mickey was the vision of Disney's number one animator, Ub Iwerks. Disney, never a great artist, would always have trouble drawing the character who made him famous. Fortunately for him, Iwerks was known as the fastest animator in the business. He single-handedly animated Mickey's first short film, Plane Crazy (1928), in only two weeks. (That's 700 drawings a day.) But give some credit to Disney - when sound films began later that year, he played Mickey's voice.

17. Marie Antoinette said "Let them each cake"

In 1766, Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote of an incident he recalled from some 25 years earlier, in which "a great princess" (name unknown) was told that the country people had no bread. "Then let them eat cake," she replied. When Rousseau wrote of this, Marie Antoinette was an 11-year-old child in Austria. The French Revolution would not begin for another 23 years. The myth that she spoke these infamous words was probably spread by revolutionary propagandists, to illustrate her cold indifference to the plight of the French people.

In the next chapter of this list, we uncover a tall tale about Napoleon, and find out how witches did NOT die, whatever you might have heard...

16. The Great Train Robbery was the first feature film

When it was released in 1903, "The Great Train Robbery" pioneered several techniques, includes jump cuts, medium close-ups and a complex storyline. But the first feature film? It was only ten minutes long! Even most short films are longer than that. The first feature-length film was a 100-minute Australian film, "The Story of the Kelly Gang", released three years later. Even if you think of a feature film as the "feature" of a cinema program, the title would go to one of a number of French films made during the 1890s (but I won't name one, as that could cause any number of arguments).

15. Van Gogh sliced off his ear

Van Gogh is known as the archetypal starving artist, only selling one painting in his lifetime, and - in a quarrel with Gauguin - slicing off his ear, not long before committing suicide. Though he did face a tragic end, and his own paintings sold poorly, it is worth noting that he spent most of his life teaching and dealing art. He only spent eight years of his life painting, which helps to explain why he didn't starve to death. Also, he didn't slice off his entire ear, just a portion of his left lobe. Painful, but not nearly as bad as you might have thought.

14. Witches were burned at stake in Salem

The Salem (Massachusetts) witch trials of 1692 led to the arrests of 150 people, of whom 31 were tried and 20 were executed. But just as these trials were based on ignorance, there are many misconceptions about them. For starters, the 31 condemned "witches" were not all women. Six of them were men. Also, they were not burned at stake. As any witch-hunter would know, a true witch could never be killed by this method. Hanging was the usual method - though one was crushed to death under heavy stones.

13. Napoleon was a little corporal

Some people believe that Napoleon's domineering ambitions were to compensate for being so physically small. Not so. True, Napoleon was called Le Petit Corporal ("The Little Corporal"), but he was 5 feet, 7 inches tall - taller than the average eighteenth-century Frenchman. So why the nickname? Early in his military career, soldiers used it to mock his relatively low rank. The name stuck, even as he became ruler of France.

12. King John signed the Magna Carta

The Magna Carta (Great Charter) is known as a landmark in history, limiting the power of the King of England and sowing the seeds of democracy. Paintings show King John reluctantly signing the Magna Carta in a meadow at Runnymede in 1215. Fair enough, except for one thing. As well as being a rogue, John was probably illiterate. As anyone could see from looking at one of the four original Magna Cartas in existence, he simply provided the royal seal. No signature required.

11. Walter Raleigh introduced potatoes and tobacco to England

Sir Walter Raleigh - explorer, courtier, privateer - Is one of greatest myth figures ever to come from England. Virtually every reason for his fame is untrue. Was he handsome? According to written accounts, he was no oil painting - though somehow he charmed Queen Elizabeth I, and had a reputation as a ladies' man. Did he lay his cloak across a puddle so that the Queen could step on it? No, that was pure fiction. Most importantly, he didn't return from his visit to the New World (America) with England's first potatoes and tobacco. Though Raleigh is said to have introduced potatoes in 1586, they were first grown in Italy in 1585, and quickly spread throughout Europe (even across the English Channel). Also, though people all over Europe blame Sir Walter for their cigarette addictions, Jean Nicot (for whom nicotine is named) introduced tobacco to France in 1560. Tobacco spread to England from France, not the New World.

10. Magellan circumnavigated the world

Everyone knows two things about Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. One, he was the first man to circumnavigate the world; and two, during this historic trip, he was killed by natives in the Philippines. Of course, those two things tend to contradict each other. Magellan only made it half-way around the world, leaving it to his second-in-command, Juan Sebastian Elcano, to complete the circumnavigation.

9. Nero fiddled while Rome burned

We all know the story of mad Emperor Nero starting the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD, then fiddling while the city burned. However, this would have been impossible. For one thing, the violin wouldn't be invented for another 1,600 years. OK, some versions of the story suggest that he played a lute or a lyre - but then, scholars place the emperor in his villa at Antium, 30 miles away, when the fire began. Though he was innocent of this disaster, however, there is much evidence to show that he was ruthless and depraved.

8. Captain Cook discovered Australia

Many Australians will agree that this isn't so - but for the wrong reasons. They will point out that, many years before Cook arrived in Sydney in 1770, Australia had already been visited by Dutchmen Abel Tasman and Dirk Hartog, and an English buccaneer, William Dampier. Of course, it had been previously been discovered some 50,000 years earlier by the indigenous Australians.

But in fairness to Cook, he did discover a new part of the country - and more importantly, this led to the first white settlers (an opportunity that Tasman, Hartog and Dampier didn't take). So let's say that Cook DID discover Australia! Fine, but Cook was actually a Lieutenant when he sailed to the Great South Land. The "captain" rank might be a minor point, but it's certainly inaccurate - and as he is called "Captain Cook" so often that it might as well be his name, it's one worth correcting.

7. Shakespeare wrote the story of Hamlet

William Shakespeare is generally known as the greatest playwright who ever lived, even though most of his plays were not original, but adaptations of earlier stories. "The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark" (1603), probably his most famous play, was based on an ancient Scandinavian story. But while it might not have been the original version of the story, we can safely assume it was the best.

6. America became independent on July 4, 1776

Hold the fireworks! As most American school children (and many non-American ones) are aware, America's founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. However, the war raged for another seven years before independence from England was finally granted on September 3, 1783. On that day, Britain's George III and US leaders signed the Definitive Treaty of Peace.

5. Edison invented the electric light

Thomas Edison is known as the world's greatest inventor. His record output - 1,093 patents - still amazes us, over a century later. Astonishing, except for one thing: he didn't invent most of them. Most Edison inventions were the work of his unsung technicians - and his most famous invention, the electric light, didn't even belong to his laboratory. Four decades before Edison was born, English scientist Sir Humphry Davy invented arc lighting (using a carbon filament). For many years, numerous innovators would improve on Davy's model. The only problem: none could glow for more than twelve hours before the filament broke. The achievement of Edison's lab was to find the right filament that would burn for days on end. A major achievement, but not the first.

4. Columbus proved that the Earth was round

It was American author Washington Irving, some 500 years after Columbus sailed to America, who first portrayed the Italian explorer as launching on his voyage to prove that the Earth was round, defying the common, flat-earther belief of the time. In fact, most educated Europeans in Columbus's day knew that the world was round. Since the fourth century BC, almost nobody has believed that the Earth is flat. Even if that wasn't the case, Columbus would never have set out to prove that the Earth was round... simply because he didn't believe it himself! Columbus thought that the Earth was pear-shaped. He set sail to prove something else: that Asia was much closer than anyone thought. Even in this, he was wrong. To further besmirch his memory, it should also be noted that he never set foot on mainland America. The closest he came was the Bahamas. Pear-shaped, indeed!

3. Gandhi liberated India

To westerners, Mahatma Gandhi is easily the most famous leader of India's independence movement. He deserves credit for promoting the ancient ideals of ahimsa (non-violence). However, most historians agree that Indian independence was inevitable. Gandhi was just one of several independence leaders. The Indian National Congress was founded as early as 1885, when he was only 16. Gandhi's much-publicised civil disobedience was only a small part in the movement, and some historians even suggest that India would have achieved independence sooner if they had focused on the more forceful methods that they had used 50 years earlier, and which were still advocated by other independence leaders, such as Gandhi's rival Netaji Chandra Bose (who is also revered in India).

2. Jesus was born on December 25

Christmas is meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but there is no evidence whatsoever, biblical or otherwise, that He was actually born on that day. Nor is there anything to suggest that He was born in a manger, or that there were three wise men (although, as any nativity play will remind you, three gifts were mentioned). There are differing views as to why December 25 was chosen as Christmas day, but one of the most interesting is that the day was already celebrated by followers of Mithras, the central god of a Hellenistic cult that developed in the Eastern Mediterranean around 100 BC. The followers of this faith believed that Mithras was born of a virgin on 25 December, and that his birth was attended by shepherds...

Which brings us to the number one historical myth - something that is drilled into the heads of nearly all American schoolchildren...

1. George Washington was America's first President

Everyone "knows" that Washington was the first of the (so far) 43 Presidents of the US. However, this isn't strictly the case. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress (or the 'United States in Congress Assembled') chose Peyton Randolph as the first President. Under Randolph, one of their first moves was to create the Continental Army (in defence against Britain), appointing General Washington as its commander. Randolph was succeeded in 1781 by John Hancock, who presided over independence from Great Britain (see myth #6). After Washington defeated the British at the Battle of Yorktown, Hancock sent him a note of congratulations. Washington's reply was addressed to "The President of the United States". Eight years later, as a revered war hero, Washington himself became America's first popularly elected President - but strictly speaking, the FIFTEENTH President!


TOPICS: Computers/Internet; Conspiracy
KEYWORDS: history; inacuracies; myths

1 posted on 03/24/2007 10:26:10 AM PDT by Dallas59
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To: Dallas59

21. Jon Carey was a war hero.


2 posted on 03/24/2007 10:28:25 AM PDT by quantim (2008 => I'll take an imperfect winner over a perfect loser.)
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Comment #3 Removed by Moderator

To: rrc

23. Hillary Klintoon is the smartest woman in the world.


4 posted on 03/24/2007 10:49:55 AM PDT by aft_lizard (born conservative...I chose to be a republican)
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To: Dallas59

24. Barack HUSSEIN Obama is not a Muslim.


5 posted on 03/24/2007 10:51:07 AM PDT by LdSentinal
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Comment #6 Removed by Moderator

To: Dallas59
Newton was hit by an apple

Which made him appreciate the fact that there are no watermelon trees.

7 posted on 03/24/2007 11:06:17 AM PDT by P.O.E.
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To: Dallas59

25. The U.S. Constitution is a living document.


8 posted on 03/24/2007 11:08:38 AM PDT by flynmudd (Terrorists Running Away From US Soldiers Just Makes Them Die Tired)
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To: Dallas59

25. Al Gore invented the Internet.


9 posted on 03/24/2007 11:12:59 AM PDT by GoldCountryRedneck ("The American Indians found out what happens when you don't control immigration."- unknown)
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To: Dallas59
Napoleon was never a Corporal. He went from cadet to commissioned officer of the Royal Artillery. He wore the uniform of a corporal of the Old Guard Artillery [Its simplicity made him stand out from his gaudily uniformed Marshals, especially his brother -in - law, Murat].
10 posted on 03/24/2007 11:45:09 AM PDT by PzLdr ("The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am" - Darth Vader)
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To: Dallas59

Elvis Lives!


11 posted on 03/24/2007 12:29:34 PM PDT by Bringbackthedraft
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To: Dallas59

GEorge Washington was really the 16th president.

John Adams was sworn in as Vice-president 4 days before GW was sworn in as President. Thus John Adams was technically president before and after GW.


12 posted on 03/24/2007 12:47:09 PM PDT by proudpapa (Forget Rudy McRomney it's Duncan Hunter in '08!)
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To: Dallas59
11. Walter Raleigh introduced potatoes and tobacco to England

Right. It's a fib, but the explanation here is also.

13 posted on 03/24/2007 12:50:33 PM PDT by RightWhale (Treaty rules;commerce droolz; Repeal the Treaty)
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To: Dallas59
10. Magellan circumnavigated the world

While his expedition did this, it was not the first. The Ports and the Spanish and the Genoese and Venetians and English were in a highmarking contest by then and the truth is none of them were first.

14 posted on 03/24/2007 12:53:19 PM PDT by RightWhale (Treaty rules;commerce droolz; Repeal the Treaty)
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To: Dallas59
on September 3, 1783. On that day, Britain's George III and US leaders signed the Definitive Treaty of Peace.

The Treaty of Versailles is full of legal holes. England probably still owns all this.

15 posted on 03/24/2007 12:55:16 PM PDT by RightWhale (Treaty rules;commerce droolz; Repeal the Treaty)
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To: RightWhale

BUMP!


16 posted on 03/24/2007 1:13:53 PM PDT by Publius6961 (MSM: Israelis are killed by rockets; Lebanese are killed by Israelis.)
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To: Dallas59
It was American author Washington Irving, some 500 years after Columbus sailed to America,

That would make it 1992, which is long after Washington Irving's last transcript was published.

17 posted on 03/24/2007 1:21:07 PM PDT by Bernard (Immigration should be rare, safe and legal.)
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To: Dallas59
Some of them are only semantically wrong. Edison did, so far as I know, invent the incandescent light. Washington was the first President of the US under the 1789 Constitution. BTW, is the date of Mithras's birth really any more certain than Jesus's?
18 posted on 03/24/2007 1:36:30 PM PDT by x
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To: RightWhale
Exactly. While there are numerous historical bits of nonsense that have been propagated for SO long that they are now accepted as ''truth'', the author of this article misses out badly on at least two of his ''debunkments''.

Another example:

6. America became independent on July 4, 1776

Hold the fireworks! As most American school children (and many non-American ones) are aware, America's founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. However, the war raged for another seven years before independence from England was finally granted on September 3, 1783.

Horrible historical ''research''. First, John Hancock affixed his signature to the Declaration on July 2nd, and it took a number of months for the Declaration to be properly signed, although it was publicly posted on the 4th. Second, one's independence IS established from the date of its declaration; the fact that American independence 7 years to **enforce** the declaration is irrelevant.

The author is straining at gnats in his debunkment efforts.

19 posted on 03/24/2007 3:50:55 PM PDT by SAJ (debunking myths about markets and prices on FR since 2001)
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To: RightWhale
Uh, the Treaty of Versailles was the one that (haha) ''ended'' the First World War in 1918. Doubtles, you're thinking of what Americans call the Treaty of Ghent, correct?

;^)

20 posted on 03/24/2007 3:52:59 PM PDT by SAJ (debunking myths about markets and prices on FR since 2001)
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To: SAJ; RightWhale
Sorry, typed too quickly and didn't proof. ''Treaty of Paris'' settled the American Revolution. Treaty of Ghent settled it a second time when the Brits came back for another go in 1812-1814.

Apols for the (frankly stupid) error.

21 posted on 03/24/2007 3:56:26 PM PDT by SAJ (debunking myths about markets and prices on FR since 2001)
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To: SAJ

Still, we lack a sure understanding of what this 'history' thing actually is. Near as I can tell it is a compilation of not fallacies but incorrect names and dates. If this is all it is, even if the names and dates are complete and correct it is hardly something serious adults would study to the doctoral level and become professors of. The word had very definite and startlingly different meaning in its etymological root origin.


22 posted on 03/24/2007 3:59:18 PM PDT by RightWhale (Treaty rules;commerce droolz; Repeal the Treaty)
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To: x
Some of them are only semantically wrong. Edison did, so far as I know, invent the incandescent light. Washington was the first President of the US under the 1789 Constitution. BTW, is the date of Mithras's birth really any more certain than Jesus's?

Edison did indeed invent the first practical incandescent electric light. The article claims that "English scientist Sir Humphry Davy invented arc lighting (using a carbon filament)." Arc lighting does not use a filament... it uses an arc of electricity, a plasma. Arc lighting consumed the carbon rods at a fairly rapid pace, requires high voltages to initiate and maintain the arc, and produces high quantities of damaging ultraviolet wavelengths.

Another error is the article's claim that Captain Cook was not a captain. All persons in command of a ship are called "Captain" regardless of rank. Captain Bligh, famous for the Mutiny on the Bounty was actually Lieutenant William Bligh... when he was not in command.

23 posted on 03/24/2007 4:07:17 PM PDT by Swordmaker (Remember, the proper pronunciation of IE is "AAAAIIIIIEEEEEEE)
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To: Swordmaker
Edison did indeed invent the first practical incandescent electric light.

I would expect the real "first incandescent light" was probably invented by accident when somebody overheated a thin piece of wire. Refining things to the point that a filament can be hot enough to provide useful illumination and yet last long enough to be usable were big improvements that required additional non-obvious discoveries.

24 posted on 03/24/2007 4:20:29 PM PDT by supercat (Sony delenda est.)
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To: RightWhale
Well said, absolutely.

Another alternative might be simply to insist, as a society, that the legendeers and revisionists be stripped quite publicly of their academic credentials, and consigned to -- say -- ''teach'' the English language in -- say -- Washington D.C.

Or, do you suppose that would be ''cruel and unusual punishment'' within the meaning of Amendment VIII ?

25 posted on 03/24/2007 4:21:22 PM PDT by SAJ (debunking myths about markets and prices on FR since 2001)
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To: SAJ
. . . the author of this article misses out badly on at least two of his ''debunkments''.

More than two... see my previous post about a couple more... here is another:

The Magna Carta (Great Charter) is known as a landmark in history, limiting the power of the King of England and sowing the seeds of democracy. Paintings show King John reluctantly signing the Magna Carta in a meadow at Runnymede in 1215. Fair enough, except for one thing. As well as being a rogue, John was probably illiterate. As anyone could see from looking at one of the four original Magna Cartas in existence, he simply provided the royal seal. No signature required.

King John affixed his signature to the document by using his signet ring, a small, portable version of the royal seal that bears the signs signifying his authority and office. The very act of King John affixing his sign to the Magna Carta pre-dates the usage of "signature" as a word. From the Oxford English Dictionary:

"ORIGIN mid 16th cent.from medieval Latin signatura ‘signature of a sovereign on an official document,’ from Latin signare ‘to sign, mark.’

Handwritten signatures were a poor man's make-do for those who were not privileged to use a signet seal. Just because he did not write his name does not mean he did not sign the Magna Carta.

26 posted on 03/24/2007 4:34:18 PM PDT by Swordmaker (Remember, the proper pronunciation of IE is "AAAAIIIIIEEEEEEE)
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To: RightWhale
Still, we lack a sure understanding of what this 'history' thing actually is. Near as I can tell it is a compilation of not fallacies but incorrect names and dates. If this is all it is, even if the names and dates are complete and correct it is hardly something serious adults would study to the doctoral level and become professors of. The word had very definite and startlingly different meaning in its etymological root origin.

"When the legend become fact, print the legend!" - from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Check out Robert Wuhl's "Assume the Position with Mr. Wuhl"

27 posted on 03/24/2007 4:54:44 PM PDT by Swordmaker (Remember, the proper pronunciation of IE is "AAAAIIIIIEEEEEEE)
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To: x
BTW, is the date of Mithras's birth really any more certain than Jesus's?

It's interesting that the author mentions that as only one theory concerning the birth of Christ.

In consideration of today's (well, tomorrow's) date, a better explanation from a Christian perspective follows. Christian's celebrated, and still do today, the beginning of the Incarnation of our Lord on the feast day of the Annunciation - March 25th. Skipping the details of why this is so (it is related to Pascha, i.e. Easter, and the Julian Calendar, etc.), the celebration of the Nativity (Christmas) was set exactly nine months later on the 25th of December for obvious reasons.

28 posted on 03/24/2007 11:06:44 PM PDT by TotusTuus
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To: Dallas59
Fine, but Cook was actually a Lieutenant when he sailed to the Great South Land.

The commander of a ship is always referred to as Captain, regardless of his actual rank.

29 posted on 03/25/2007 10:32:51 AM PDT by Sherman Logan (I didn't claw my way to the top of the food chain to be a vegetarian.)
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To: Dallas59
To further besmirch his memory, it should also be noted that he never set foot on mainland America. The closest he came was the Bahamas.

"Columbus, on his fourth and final voyage, landed on the American mainland for the first time near present-day Trujillo, Honduras. The day was 14 August 1502, and he named the place Honduras (‘depths’ in Spanish) for the deep waters off the north coast."

http://www.newint.org/columns/country/2007/01/01/honduras/

30 posted on 03/25/2007 10:35:52 AM PDT by Sherman Logan (I didn't claw my way to the top of the food chain to be a vegetarian.)
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To: Dallas59
there is no evidence whatsoever, biblical or otherwise, that He was actually ... born in a manger

Luke 2:7 "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn."

Nobody ever said he was "born" in a manger, which would be pretty awkward at best. He was born in a stable, then laid down in a manger.

I give up. These "debunkings of myth" are usually just loaded with inaccuracies.

31 posted on 03/25/2007 10:40:09 AM PDT by Sherman Logan (I didn't claw my way to the top of the food chain to be a vegetarian.)
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To: Dallas59
Eight years later, as a revered war hero, Washington himself became America's first popularly elected President - but strictly speaking, the FIFTEENTH President!

America has never had a "popularly elected President." Presidents are elected by the Electoral College, or occasionally by the House of Representatives.

32 posted on 03/25/2007 10:41:43 AM PDT by Sherman Logan (I didn't claw my way to the top of the food chain to be a vegetarian.)
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To: Dallas59
Snopes.com takes issue with the John Hanson as first President myth.

I see nothing here about Catherine the Great and the Horse, or who's buried in Grant's Tomb (that last one stumped me for decades -- I thought the trick answer was "President Grant and Mrs. Grant").

33 posted on 03/25/2007 10:51:49 AM PDT by x
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