14 Surprising Facts About Daniel Boone

Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Daniel Boone was a frontiersman who helped introduce the United States to a little place we like to call Kentucky. He was famous for his extraordinarily long hunts and his navigation skills. ("I can’t say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days," he reportedly said.) The myth of him as a rugged gun-toting pioneer, however, doesn't match history. Get to know the real Daniel Boone, who was born on November 2, 1734.

1. Daniel Boone wasn't Southern.

Boone was born and raised in eastern Pennsylvania, about 10 miles from the modern city of Reading. Granted, in the 1730s, this was close to the frontier, and Boone—who was raised by Quakers—was given his first gun at the age of 12 to hunt. But, after two of Boone’s siblings married non-Quakers, their father was expelled from the church. A few years later the family moved to North Carolina.

2. Just like many young people, Daniel Boone blew his entire first paycheck.

When he was a teenager, Boone took his first long hunting trip. Animal furs and hides were in high demand in east coast and European cities, and Boone took his spoils to Philadelphia—and promptly, over the next three weeks, spent all of the money he earned on "a general jamboree or frolick." He was hooked. Boone would be a professional hunter for the rest of his life, and he soon acquired a reputation as an able navigator who could remember every trail he walked.

3. As a soldier, Daniel Boone wasn't afraid ... to flee.

The French and Indian War began as a border dispute over who got to claim land along the Ohio River. In 1755, Boone joined the side of the British colonies and served as a teamster in General Edward Braddock's expedition. While marching toward what is now Pittsburgh, Braddock's men experienced a deadly and embarrassing defeat at the Battle of the Monongahela. One out of three soldiers died. Boone survived by running away as fast as he could.

4. Daniel Boone was a trailblazer who opened up a portal to Kentucky.

Botaurus, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

By the 1770s, Boone was known for his geographical know-how. In 1775, a land speculation company hired him to lead a large crew and open a path through the Cumberland Gap, a narrow mountain pass near the modern borders of Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Their successful trek led to the construction of the Wilderness Road, which would allow more than 200,000 settlers to pour into Kentucky.

5. Daniel Boone's settlements helped extend the English language westward.

When Boone got to the other side of the Cumberland Gap, he established Fort Boonesborough. With 15-foot-high walls and 26 log cabins, it was one of the first English-speaking communities west of the Appalachians (and it's now a state park). While Boone was relatively chummy with Cherokee Indians, his move across the gap created palpable resentment among other native populations, who claimed Boone violated the Proclamation Line of 1763, which guaranteed Native Americans land west of the Appalachians.

6. Daniel Boone essentially lived the plot of Taken.

Library of Congress // Public Domain

In July 1776, Boone's daughter Jemima, along with two other teenagers, were abducted by Cherokee and Shawnee Indians while they were out canoeing. With help from the girls—who were breaking twigs and leaving markings whenever they could—Boone managed to find them in just three days (just like Liam Neeson, he had a very particular set of skills). At least two of their captors were killed. The incident later inspired a scene in James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans.

7. Daniel Boone was a Shawnee chief's adopted son.

In February 1778, Boone and a party of men were captured by Shawnee Indians. Boone made an impassioned case to Chief Blackfish, asking the natives to spare their lives. In exchange, come spring he would ensure that Boonesborough would surrender peacefully. Boone's plea worked. Not only did Chief Blackfish adopt Boone into the tribe, he made the frontiersman his son. "During our travels, the Indians entertained me well; and their affection for me was so great, that they utterly refused to leave me there with the others," Boone said. He was given the name Big Turtle.

8. When Danielle Boone had somewhere to go, he could really cover some ground.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

While living with the Shawnee, Boone learned that the tribe was planning to attack Boonesborough. (It was the middle of the Revolutionary War, and the Shawnee were allied with the British.) To warn his friends and family, Boone escaped the tribe and traveled 160 miles over rough terrain, returning to Boonesborough in just four days. They successfully withstood a 10-day siege.

9. Daniel Boone was a surveyor (but not a very good one).

Because he had such a deep knowledge of the local terrain, land surveyors often asked Boone to be their assistant whenever they explored the woods around Boonesborough. By the 1780s, Boone had picked up enough knowledge to become a surveyor himself. He surveyed at least 150 patches of new terrain. (Some say he went as far west as Texas.) The problem? He wasn't very good. His maps were rarely accurate.

10. Daniel Boone was a politician, and he held an eclectic mix of other public offices.

Just look at this resume: Deputy Surveyor of Lincoln County, Sheriff of Fayette County, Lieutenant Colonel of the militia, Coroner of Fayette County, Justice of Femm Osage, and—most notably—a three-time representative in the Virginia General Assembly. (As a legislator, Boone served on committees for religion and was present for debates over the formation of the state of Kentucky.)

11. Daniel Boone was a slave owner.

Boone's legacy is inextricably linked with slavery—mainly because enslaved people saved his life on more than one occasion. Slaves helped defend Boonesborough during the siege, and a slave named London was one of the few American fatalities. It was also the smarts of an ex-slave (who joined the Shawnee) that helped Boone vouch for his life to Chief Blackfish in 1778. This man, named Pompey, helped translate Boone's desperate pleas. And yet, despite his Quaker background, Boone would buy seven slaves in the 1780s, mostly women, who worked in a tavern he owned.

12. Daniel Boone's grandson proved that it's never a good idea to bring a book manuscript on a canoe trip.

In 1809, Daniel Boone dictated his autobiography to his grandson John Boone Calloway. Unfortunately, five years later, Calloway was canoeing down the Missouri River with the manuscript in hand when his boat tipped over. What might have been the most accurate account of Boone's life was swept down the Missouri.

13. Fame annoyed Daniel Boone.


John Filson's 1784 book The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke made Boone famous. Soon, stories about Boone's life were detaching from reality. He hated it: "Nothing embitters my old age [more than] the circulation of absurd stories … many heroic actions and chivalrous adventures are related of me which exist only in the regions of fancy. With me the world has taken great liberties, and yet I have been but a common man."

14. No, Daniel Boone did not wear a coonskin cap.

Boone might have been a professional hunter, but he was no bumpkin. He was often carefully groomed. "My father, Daniel Boone, always despised the raccoon fur caps and did not wear one himself, as he always had a hat," his son Nathan said. Boone usually opted for a classic flat, broad-brimmed hat.

This story has been updated for 2020.

10 LEGO Sets For Every Type of LEGO Builder 


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If you’re looking for a timeless gift to give this holiday season, look no further than a LEGO set. With kits that cater to a wide age range—from toddlers fine-tuning their motor skills to adults looking for a more engaged way to relax—there’s a LEGO set out there for everyone. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite sets on Amazon to help you find the LEGO box that will make your loved one smile this year. If you end up getting one for yourself too, don’t worry: we won’t tell.

1. Classic Large Creative Gift Box; $44


You can never go wrong with a classic. This 790-piece box contains dozens of types of colored bricks so builders of any age can let their inner architect shine. With toy windows, doors, tires, and tire rims included in addition to traditional bricks, the building possibilities are truly endless. The bricks are compatible with all LEGO construction sets, so builders have the option of creating their own world or building a new addition onto an existing set.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Harry Potter Hogwarts Express; $64


Experience the magic of Hogwarts with this buildable Hogwarts Express box. The Prisoner Of Azkaban-inspired kit not only features Hogwarts's signature mode of transportation, but also Platform 9 ¾, a railway bridge, and some of your favorite Harry Potter characters. Once the train is built, the sides and roof can be removed for play within the cars. There is a Dementor on board … but after a few spells cast by Harry and Lupin, the only ride he’ll take is a trip to the naughty list.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Star Wars Battle of Hoth; $160


Star Wars fans can go into battle—and rewrite the course of history—by recreating a terrifying AT-AT Walker from the Battle of Hoth. Complete with 1267 pieces to make this a fun challenge for ages 10 and up, the Walker has elements like spring-loaded shooters, a cockpit, and foldout panels to reveal its deadly inner workings. But never fear: Even though the situation might look dire, Luke Skywalker and his thermal detonator are ready to save the day.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Super Mario Adventures Starter Course; $60


Kids can play Super Mario in 3D with LEGO’s interactive set. After constructing one of the courses, young designers can turn on the electronic Mario figurine to get started. Mario’s built-in color sensors and LCD screens allow him to express more than 100 different reactions as he travels through the course. He’ll encounter obstacles, collect coins, and avoid Goomba and Bowser to the sound of the Mario soundtrack (played via an included speaker). This is a great gift for encouraging problem-solving and creativity in addition to gaming smarts.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Gingerbread House; $212


Gingerbread houses are a great way to enjoy the holidays … but this expert-level kit takes cookie construction to a whole new level. The outside of the LEGO house rotates around to show the interior of a sweet gingerbread family’s home. Although the living room is the standout with its brick light fireplace, the house also has a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and outdoor furniture. A LEGO Christmas tree and presents can be laid out as the holidays draw closer, making this a seasonal treat you can enjoy with your family every year.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Elsa and Olaf’s Tea Party; $18


LEGO isn’t just for big kids. Toddlers and preschoolers can start their LEGO journey early by constructing an adorable tea party with their favorite Frozen characters. As they set up Elsa and Olaf’s ice seats, house, and tea fixings, they’ll work on fine-motor, visual-spatial, and emotional skills. Building the set from scratch will enable them to put their own creative spin on a favorite movie, and will prepare them for building more complicated sets as they get older.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Collectible Art Set Building Kits; $120


Why buy art when you can build it yourself? LEGO’s Beatles and Warhol Marilyn Monroe sets contain four options for LEGO art that can be built and displayed inside your home. Each kit comes with a downloadable soundtrack you can listen to while you build, turning your art experience into a relaxing one. Once you’re finished building your creation it can be exhibited within a LEGO brick frame, with the option to hang it or dismantle it to start on a new piece. If the 1960s aren’t your thing, check out these Sith and Iron Man options.

Buy it: Amazon

8. NASA Apollo Saturn V; $120


The sky (or just the contents of your LEGO box) is the limit with LEGO’s Saturn V expert-level kit. Designed for ages 14 and up, this to-scale rocket includes three removable rocket stages, along with a command and service module, Lunar Lander, and more. Once the rocket is complete, two small astronaut figurines can plant a tiny American flag to mark a successful launch. The rocket comes with three stands so it can be displayed after completion, as well as a booklet for learning more about the Apollo moon missions.

Buy it: Amazon

9. The White House; $100


Reconstruct the First Family’s home (and one of America’s most famous landmarks) by erecting this display model of the White House. The model, which can be split into three distinct sections, features the Executive Residence, the West Wing, and the East Wing of the complex. Plant lovers can keep an eye out for the colorful rose garden and Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, which flank the Executive Residence. If you’re unable to visit the White House anytime soon, this model is the next best thing.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Volkswagen Camper Van; $120


Road trip lovers and camping fanatics alike will love this vintage-inspired camper. Based on the iconic 1962 VW vehicle, LEGO’s camper gets every detail right, from the trademark safari windshield on the outside to the foldable furniture inside. Small details, like a “Make LEGO Models, Not War” LEGO T-shirt and a detailed engine add an authentic touch to the piece. Whether you’re into old car mechanics or simply want to take a trip back in time, this LEGO car will take you on a journey you won’t soon forget.

Buy it: Amazon

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How It's a Wonderful Life Went From Box Office Dud to Accidental Christmas Tradition

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Director Frank Capra's 1946 classic It's a Wonderful Life is sacred in the holiday movie pantheon. It's not as quotable as A Christmas Story (1983) or as lyrical as 1966's How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, but the story of George Bailey has a universal message behind it that endures more than 70 years later. Though the movie is the quintessential Christmas tale today, when it was first released in 1946, audiences and critics were lukewarm toward the picture, resulting in a box office disappointment that killed Capra's nascent production company, Liberty Films. In a strange twist, decades after it was first released, an unlikely clerical screw-up managed to turn It's a Wonderful Life into the Christmastime staple we know today.

In the 1930s, Capra became a magnet for Academy Awards, directing movies like the screwball comedy It Happened One Night (1934) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). After Pearl Harbor, Capra knew he could contribute something to the war effort, so he took a post in Washington overseeing the development of U.S. propaganda films for the government—most notably the award-winning Why We Fight series of documentaries.

Upon returning from Washington in 1945, Capra—along with other wartime directors William Wyler and George Stevens—helped finance Liberty Films, an independent production company poised to give filmmakers the one thing they all dreamed of: freedom. The company's first film would be an adaption of a short story titled "The Greatest Gift," which would also appear in Good Housekeeping under the title "The Man Who Was Never Born," and would be adapted for the screen as It's a Wonderful Life. It's one of the few movies Capra also received a screenwriting credit for, and with a proposed budget of $2 million, it was a huge gamble for Liberty.

Something akin to a nightmare

In the book Five Came Back, writer Mark Harris describes It's a Wonderful Life's production process as something akin to a nightmare. Script rewrites, a bloated shooting schedule, and an ever-changing crew cost the studio nearly all of the original $2 million budget—well before filming was even wrapped. The spending became such a concern for Capra's partners at Liberty that George Stevens remarked, "Why the hell couldn't it be springtime?" when he saw how much it cost the production to produce fake snow for shots. Capra bet Liberty's future on audiences looking for some comforting nostalgia after the war, but he was about to see firsthand just how much the world had changed since he came back.

The original plan was to release It's a Wonderful Life in January 1947, after the Oscar deadlines, but when RKO—the film's distributor—needed a movie to release in time for Christmas, Capra's project was the easy solution. It opened just weeks after William Wyler's major studio film The Best Years of Our Lives, a hard-hitting drama about a U.S. soldier coming home after the war to pick up his life again. The two films couldn't be any more different, and the reviews reflected that.

Even at nearly three hours long, The Best Years of Our Lives was an absolute hit with critics and at the box office, recouping its budget multiple times over. It's a Wonderful Life, with its inflated budget and saccharine tale touting old-timey values, was met with a whimper, making only an estimated $3.3 million against a $3.7 million budget. Wyler beat Capra in every way: reviews, box office, and awards. The Best Years of Our Lives won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, while It's a Wonderful Life received only a lone technical award—ironically for the fake snow Stevens loathed.

Liberty Films had borrowed more than $1.5 million to make the film, and with such a disappointing box office return, the production company was soon sold off to Paramount. Capra only directed five feature films afterwards, none of which ever reached the heights of his pre-war work. As unlikely as it seems today, It's a Wonderful Life was seen as a flat disappointment destined for anonymity—until a clerical error changed its fate.

A Wonderful free-for-all

In 1974, the movie entered the public domain after the film's copyright holder simply forgot to file for a renewal. This meant that TV stations everywhere could play It's a Wonderful Life all day and all night and not have to pay a cent for it. Networks aren't necessarily shy about exploiting free Christmas content, and the film's reemergence on television gave Capra's story new life. While a post-World War II crowd may have rejected the movie's sentiment, subsequent generations seem to revel in the opportunity to visit the nostalgic whimsy of it all.

“It’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen,” Capra once told The Wall Street Journal about the film's revival. “The film has a life of its own now and I can look at it like I had nothing to do with it. I’m like a parent whose kid grows up to be president. I’m proud ... but it’s the kid who did the work. I didn’t even think of it as a Christmas story when I first ran across it. I just liked the idea.”

Legalities rewrote the history of It's a Wonderful Life yet again in 1993. The Supreme Court's previous ruling in Stewart v. Abend established a precedent that allowed the film's original copyright owner—Republic Pictures—to regain its ownership of the movie. The ruling claimed that since Republic owned the copyright on the original short story which the movie was based on, and the score for the film, they, in essence, still owned the movie. So what was once a near barrage of networks airing It's a Wonderful Life has since been pared down to just one: NBC.

The network paid for exclusive rights to air the movie, which is why you'll only see It's a Wonderful Life on TV once or twice during the holidays. But the movie's modern appeal exists because of that scarcity. The film that killed a production company 70 years ago is now an annual television event and part of countless family traditions around the globe. It turns out Capra always knew what audiences wanted, he just needed to wait for the right clerical error to prove it.

This story has been updated for 2020.