50 Common Myths, Busted

EtiAmmos/iStock via Getty Images
EtiAmmos/iStock via Getty Images

It's time to check our beliefs for a few happy falsehoods. In other words: get ready to be the most popular person at the party when you correct everyone for claiming that dogs can't look up.

Here are 50 myths we're busting.

1. Most vikings never wore horns on their helmets.

Viking helmet on fjord shore, Norway
Anetlanda/iStock via Getty Images

Some warriors may have had horns affixed to their gear, but they mostly had normal metal helmets. Wagner's 1876 opera The Ring of Nibelung inserted the false, mythic image into our minds. (You may remember it from when Elmer Fudd sang it.)

2. Iron maidens weren't used to torture people.

We've imagined them for thousands of years, but the idea that they were in use in Medieval Europe was essentially 18th century slander against a time thought as barbaric.

3. Marie Antoinette never said "let them eat cake."

Firstly, the original claim was that she said the peasants should eat brioche. Secondly, there's zero evidence that she ever said it or something like it, but there are examples from earlier folklore where oblivious aristocrats show their ignorance by telling the starving poor to simply eat rich luxurious cake.

4. Anne Boleyn probably did not have 11 fingers.

While we're on the topic of French royal women who were forcibly separated from their heads: Anne Boleyn did not have 11 fingers. That description comes from Catholic writer Nicholas Sander. One problem: He never saw her in person. Oh, and he hated her family.

5. The American Declaration Of Independence was not signed on July 4th.

Congress approved the Declaration of Independence language on the 4th, but the document wasn't signed until August 2, 1776.

6. The United States Constitution was not written on hemp paper.

Copy of the United States Constitution close up.
giftlegacy iStock via Getty Images

Also, not to harsh on your buzz, but the U.S. Constitution was not written on hemp paper. Tons of documents were, but the Constitution was written on parchment.

7. Napoleon didn't have a Napoleon complex.

Napoleon was 5'7", which was actually slightly above average height for people of his time. His nickname was "The Little Corporal," and his enemies spread propaganda saying he was tiny.

8. Albert Einstein did not fail math at school.

Einstein
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

This has spread as a lesson in perseverance, but it's not true. Einstein was obviously fantastically intelligent, reading college-level physics books at age 11. He did, however, fail an entrance exam to Zurich Polytechnic ... but that was only because it was in French, which he didn't speak.

9. John F. Kennedy wasn't saying he was a donut.

The confusion, as with so many things, stems from German grammar. Although "eine Berliner" is a type of donut, when JFK said "Ich bin eine Berliner" at the climax of his immortal anti-communist speech in West Berlin, he was saying the phrase correctly. You only say "Ich bin Berliner" to mean "I'm a Berliner," if you were born in Berlin. Plus, no one there was confused (and JFK thoroughly checked the speech with a translator).

10. Sushi does not mean "raw fish."

It means "sour rice."

11. Placing metal in a microwave doesn't ruin the microwave.

A microwave oven with an object on fire inside.
Jaroslav74/iStock via Getty Images

I mean, it's a bad idea. You shouldn't do it. But the microwave itself will survive.

12. The word crap doesn't come from where you think it does.

The word crap is not derived from the great Thomas Crapper, who innovated the field of indoor plumbing. Crap just comes from Latin, like every other word.

13. 420 is not the Los Angeles police code for marijuana possession.

The slang term beloved by marijuana enthusiasts got started by high school smokers in San Rafael, California when they'd meet at 4:20 p.m. to get high at a statue of Louis Pasteur.

14. The Great Wall Of China is not the only man-made object that's visible from space.

The Great Wall of China
istock

For one thing, many man-made objects are visible from space. For another thing, the Great Wall of China is not one of them.

15. There's no such thing as an elephant graveyard.

When elephants want to die, they just lie down and do it. The idea that there's a place where older elephants go to die isn't so much a sweet sentiment about our pachyderm friends, but an El Dorado-like story about a massive pile of valuable ivory just lying around for the taking.

16. Sharks can get cancer.

A great white shark breaching the water at sunrise.
USO/iStock via Getty Images

The 1992 book Sharks Don't Get Cancer led to a huge increase in people using ground-up shark cartilage to treat cancer. That doesn't work. Also, sharks get cancer.

17. Chameleons changing color isn't really about camouflage.

It helps them regulate their temperature, and also it's a way of communicating. They're like, "Hey there, you're pretty attractive, but I don't know how to talk, so I'm just going to turn red." Chameleons are super fast, so they're more likely to run if a predator is around.

18. Throwing rice at weddings doesn't make birds explode.

Wedding guests throw rice at a newly married couple
iStock / santypan

Birds eating your symbolically-tossed rice only to have it expand in their stomachs and blow up? It's just not a thing. And it's even been tested scientifically. Plus, birds eat rice all the time in the wild.

19. An earthworm does not become two earthworms when you cut it in half.

Worms don't work like that, people! If it's lucky, the part with the mouth survives, and you're left with one smaller earthworm; but in all likelihood, you're left with one dead earthworm in two pieces.

20. Humans have more than five senses.

That includes a sense of time, acceleration, limb position ... the five senses were made up by Aristotle. We probably have between 14 and 20.

21. Shaving does not make hair grow back thicker or coarser.

A young woman contemplates shaving her face with a razor.
Denis Valakhanovich iStock via Getty Images

No matter what part of your body you're shaving.

22. Your fingernails don't keep growing after you die.

They appear to keep growing because your skin recedes. You stop making glucose, you stop growing fingernails.

23. Gum doesn't take seven years to digest.

If you swallow your gum, it will not stick in your stomach for seven years. It goes through your body just the same as anything else that you eat, except batteries. If you take one thing away from this article: DON'T EAT BATTERIES.

24. People use more than 10 percent of their brains.

Model of a brain
iStock.com/imaginima

A misquote of William James seems to have coined this one. We don't have 90 percent spare capacity lying around waiting to be used on kung fu.

25. You can't catch warts from toads.

But you can catch warts from other people. Which is why we always say: only socialize with toads.

26. A penny dropped from the Empire State Building will not kill someone if it lands on their head.

New York skyline on a sunny day with the Empire State Building centered.
Ultima_Gaina/iStock via Getty Images

The terminal velocity of a penny is between 30 and 50 miles per hour, which is not fast enough to kill anyone—especially with the wind slowing it down. Also, if you drop a penny from the top of the Empire State Building, it will probably land three stories below you, because of the building's shape.

27. Abner Doubleday did not invent baseball.

Abner Doubleday never even claimed to have invented baseball. The game was evolving from cricket and rounders long before the Civil War hero was born.

28. The Caesar salad is not named for Julius Caesar.

A Caesar salad in a white ceramic bowl
monkeybusinessimages/iStock via Getty Images

The exact origin is slightly fuzzy, but it was named after Caesar Cardini, who invented the salad in Tijuana, Mexico, in 1924.

29. Puff The Magic Dragon is not about marijuana.

The poem's author, Leonard Lipton, does not think writing a children's poem about smoking marijuana would be a good idea. He credits a New York newspaper columnist with inventing the myth, but thinks if she hadn't done it, someone else would have.

30. Sherlock Holmes never said, "Elementary, my dear Watson" in the books.

Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch star in 'Sherlock'
BBC

Basil Rathbone said it in 1929's The Return of Sherlock Holmes, but the myth that it was a catchphrase from the books was already pervasive then.

31. No one says, "Play it again, Sam" in Casablanca.

Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) says, "Play it once, Sam, for old times' sake," when asking the piano man to play As Time Goes By.

32. Sarah Palin never said, "I can see Russia from my house."

A globe with Alaska and the Bering Strait centered.
fpdress iStock via Getty Images

It was part of the Tina Fey SNL sketch. But it did get entered into the Congressional record when a representative read the script for it on the House floor.

33. Al Gore never said, "I invented the internet."

He never said it, and he should get a little credit for the internet's existence.

34. Danishes are not from Denmark.

They were brought by Austrian bakers who crossed picket lines in Denmark during a baking strike in 1850. That's why they're called "Viennese" in Denmark.

35. Humans didn't evolve from chimps.

A pair of young chimps
iStock

We share a common ancestor (from 6 to 7 million years ago). We did evolve, though!

36. You pronounce Don Juan correctly, but Lord Byron didn't.

The Italian libertine is Don Juan, but in Byron's epic poem, "Don Juan" [jew-an] rhymes with "true one."

37. You would not explode in the vacuum of space.

Computer Generated art rendering of an astronaut floating in space above the earth.
lexaarts iStock via Getty Images

But you would almost definitely die. Just to be safe, the first thing you should do is exhale (or the air in your lungs would expand in a way that you will not appreciate).

38. No one was burned at the stake during the Salem Witch Trials.

People were hanged, and one was crushed with stones, but no burning!

39. Fortune cookies are not Chinese.

Fortune cookies on a napkin
iStock

They're Californian.

40. Redheads are not about to go extinct.

They're rare, but the MC1R gene mutation isn't going anywhere.

41. Blondes aren't going extinct either.

Marilyn Monroe
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Even though claims that they are have popped up from time to time since the 19th century.

42. No one died during the chariot race in Ben-Hur.

Since no one died, they definitely didn't include the death in the final cut of the film as the double dose myth suggests. Stuntperson Joe Canutt flipped off a chariot, and everyone (including his father Yak, who was directing the stunt sequence) thought he'd died, but he'd only cut himself. That scene was left in.

43. Mussolini did not make the trains run on time.

A modern train travels out of a cliffside tunnel in Italy
Elijah-Lovkoff iStock via Getty Images

So really no good qualities then.

44. Storing batteries in the freezer does not improve their performance.

Room temperature is best. Extremes in cold or heat aren't good for batteries. And, seriously, don't eat them.

45. You don't need to refrigerate peanut butter.

Spoon with peanut butter on top of a jar surrounded by peanuts.
iStock

And speaking of unnecessary cooling: there is never a need to refrigerate peanut butter.

46. Walt Disney is not cryogenically frozen.

He is also not peanut butter.

47. Walt Disney's will does not demand that all the studio's movies be remade every 10 years.

Walt Disney trying to coax a penguin into performing for the camera, for a 'Silly Symphony' entitled 'Peculiar Penguins'.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It just feels that way. Turns out the remakes are largely popular, and the studio likes making money. It's true, however, that a man once got stuck on the It's a Small World ride and had to listen to the song for half an hour.

48. There are more than three states of matter.

If you think everything is just solids, liquids, and gasses, you're forgetting about plasma and the scientist-made Bose-Einstein condensate.

49. Fidel Castro wasn't almost a New York Yankee.

Fidel Castro surrounded by four women
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It's possible that he went to an open tryout with the Washington Senators, but he was never scouted by any team.

50. Toilets flush in both directions in both hemispheres.

Sorry. Really. So, so sorry. Toilets and tornadoes tend to have a preference depending on which side of the equator they're spinning, but they can go either way.

Watch our full video on 50 Common Misconceptions, Busted below. For more videos like this, subscribe to our YouTube channel here.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

50 Surprising Facts About America's Founding Fathers

Hulton Archive/National Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/National Archive/Getty Images

George Washington. Alexander Hamilton. Benjamin Franklin. John Adams. These men and several more continue to stand as some of the most influential figures of the United States of America, drafting the Declaration of Independence and helping to define the ideology and ambition of the free world.

More than 200 years later, their philosophies continue to inform, educate, and inspire. If you're aware of their significance but might be a little short on details, we've assembled a laundry list of facts, trivia, and lesser-known information about this formidable group.

1. The Founding Fathers probably never heard the phrase "Founding Fathers."

Tight shot of the famous signature of John Hancock on the Declaration of Independence that was signed on July 4th, 1776.
smartstock/iStock via Getty Images

The term wasn't coined until 1916, when then-Senator Warren G. Harding was giving a speech at the Republican National Convention. Harding's phrase included men who fought in the American Revolution and drafted the Constitution as well as the Declaration of Independence.

2. John Hancock has become synonymous with personal signatures.

The most likely reason: His name takes up six square inches on the Declaration of Independence, a massive piece of real estate compared to the rest of the signees. Sam Adams, for example, needed just 0.6 square inches. No one knows for sure why Hancock used such broad strokes, although it's possible he didn't realize the document would eventually need 56 signatures.

3. The signatures on the Declaration of Independence were kept secret.

Not too many people could crack jokes at Hancock's expense over it because the signatures were kept secret for some time owing to the fact that there was fear of reprisal from the British. At the time the Declaration was signed, British armies were stationed nearby, and the potential to be hung for treason was large enough to keep quiet about it.

4. John Hancock was more famous for being a smuggler.

John Hancock
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Hancock often brought over goods like glass, paper, and tea in secret to avoid excessive British taxation.

5. The British had a price on John Hancock's head.

Hancock's smuggling practices led to the British wishing to see his head mounted on the proverbial stake. Hancock was actually said to be a little irate about that British resentment. He thought the 500 British pound price on his head was insultingly low.

6. Thomas Jefferson was given the job of writing a rough draft of the DECLARATION Of Independence.

Washington D.C. The Jefferson Memorial, a presidential memorial dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States and one of the most important of the American Founding Fathers
Joaquin Ossorio-Castillo iStock via Getty Images

Such semantics probably weren’t on Thomas Jefferson’s mind when he prepared the Declaration. Considered the best writer of the group, it was Jefferson who was charged with writing a rough draft of the document.

7. Thomas Jefferson's initial draft of the Declaration of Independence called for an end to slavery.

Jefferson later took this part out because he felt the document wouldn’t be approved by delegates in states like Virginia and South Carolina.

8. Thomas Jefferson kept bears as pets (for a short time).

A pair of grizzly bears
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER, AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Jefferson can also lay claim to having the most unusual "pets" of any president on White House grounds. A military captain gifted Jefferson with two grizzly bears in 1807. Jefferson knew the animals were too ferocious to be kept, but until he could pass them over to a handler in Philadelphia, they remained on the grounds for two months. Jefferson kept them caged on the front lawn.

9. Thomas Jefferson also had mastodon bones.

Those bears weren't Jefferson's only experiment with imposing creatures. He once had the bones of a mastodon sent to him in the White House and devoted time to an attempt to reconstruct it. He was actually a bit obsessed with mastodons.

10. Thomas Jefferson told a slave he would free him if he learned French cooking.

Just before Jefferson was appointed minister to France in 1785, he took a trip to the country and quickly fell in love with its cuisine. In a rather cringe-inducing deal, he told his slave, James Hemings, that he would free him if Hemings would learn the art of French cooking and then pass it on to a Jefferson employee. Jefferson kept his word, although Hemings stayed in France for several years and didn't become a free man in the U.S. until 1796.

11. Thomas Jefferson was a prolific writer.

Jefferson liked to write nearly as much as he liked to eat. The third president wrote an estimated 19,000 letters in his lifetime, keeping a copy of each correspondence for himself. Oddly, he never wrote to his wife.

12. Thomas Jefferson frequently wrote to Abigail Adams.


Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

After Jefferson became minister to France, he maintained a close relationship with both John Adams and John's wife, Abigail. Despite gender equality being a rare concept at the time, Jefferson thought Abigail to be every bit as insightful as anyone and kept a lengthy mail correspondence with her.

13. John Adams wasn't a fan of the vice presidency.

John Adams became vice president in 1789 with Washington's appointment as commander-in-chief, but the role seemed to insult him. Adams called it the "most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived."

14. John Adams was a fan of William Shakespeare.

An illustration of John Adams at a writing desk
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When he wasn't condemning his own job, Adams was an ardent admirer of William Shakespeare. With Thomas Jefferson, Adams even visited Shakespeare's home in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1786. Adams liked it; Jefferson thought they were overcharged for the tour.

15. John Adams brought Satan to the White House.

When Adams took the presidential office in 1797, he brought with him two dogs: One was Juno, and the other was named Satan.

16. John Adams was the first president to live in the White House.

The White House in Washington DC - official residence of the President of the United States of America.
lucky-photographer iStock via Getty Images

Adams was the first president to take up occupancy in the White House, but construction delays kept him off-premises until 1800; he was in office only five more months after moving in. That also means Juno and Satan were the first dogs to live in the White House.

17. John Adams wanted the presidency to keep some of the splendor of royalty.

Adams's lost bid for reelection may have had something to do with his somewhat pompous view of the office. He often lobbied for the president to be referred to as "his highness."

18. John Adams created the United States Marine Band.

Adams couldn't have been too much of a miser, though. In 1798, he formed the United States Marine Band, the oldest active professional music group in the country.

19. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day. And it gets weirder.

sparklers in front of an American flag
nu1983/iStock via Getty Images Plus

In a strange bit of coincidence, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died the same day: July 4, 1826. It was also the 50th anniversary of American independence.

20. Benjamin Franklin didn't believe in free will.

While all of the Founding Fathers are renowned for pushing the idea of liberty and independent choice, Benjamin Franklin apparently came to the idea a little late. In 1725, when he was just 19 years old, Franklin self-published a pamphlet titled A Dissertation Upon Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain, which argued that humans didn't actually have free will and weren’t responsible for their behavior. Maturity prevailed, however, and Franklin later burned almost every copy of the booklet he could find.

21. Benjamin Franklin wanted to rearrange the alphabet.

Ben Franklin's eccentricity wasn't limited to that strange philosophy. He once had a plan to rearrange the English alphabet by eliminating the letters C, J, Q, W, X, and Y, declaring them redundant. It didn't katch on.

22. If you're reading this while watching a sunrise, you might have Ben Franklin to thank.

A more reasonable Franklin contribution: bifocals, which he invented in order to both see from a distance and read text up close without having to switch lenses.

23. Ben Franklin didn't think very highly of the bald eagle.

A close-up of a bald eagle's head.
photosvit/iStock via Getty Images

Continuing his role as America’s most eccentric Father, Franklin also advocated for the turkey to be the nation's official bird. He once dissed the bald eagle, calling it a bird "of bad moral character."

24. Ben Franklin (sarcastically) thought highly of flatulence.

Franklin also authored a text titled "Fart Proudly," a mocking essay intended to irritate the Royal Academy of Brussels, an institution he felt was too focused on impractical science. In it, he advocated for a breakthrough in making toots more pleasant-smelling. (He never sent it.)

25. Ben Franklin bathed without water.

Franklin's unique perspective extended to personal hygiene. He often opted for what he dubbed an "air bath" over a cold water bath, wandering around nude in his quarters for a half-hour each morning while reading or writing.

26. John Adams and Ben Franklin once argued about a window.

Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in Philadelphia
rabbit75_ist iStock via Getty Images

Franklin and John Adams made for a bit of an odd couple. Forced to spend the night together in a hotel while traveling in 1776, the two argued over whether the window should be open or closed. Adams believed night air could lead to colds; Franklin, obviously fond of a little breeze, dismissed the notion as nonsense and advocated for fresh air. (Franklin won: The window stayed open.)

27. Most of Philadelphia came to Ben Franklin's funeral.

When Franklin died in 1790, roughly 20,000 people attended his funeral—two-thirds of Philadelphia’s population at the time.

28. Ben Franklin and George Washington both had big egos.

Franklin was told by friends early in his life that he should start to consider humility a virtue, while Washington reportedly had to corral his predilection for arrogance.

29. George Washington's famous hairdo wasn't a wig.

George Washington and his generals
kreicher/iStock via Getty Images

While Washington may have curbed his ego, he still made time to look good. His famous white 'do was not a wig, but his actual hair, powdered white and carefully styled each morning.

30. George Washington had a tree-shaking temper.

While he looks out at you from the $1 bill with total calm, Washington could unleash a hellacious temper if you caught him on the wrong day. Leading the Battle of Monmouth in 1778, Washington used so much profanity that General Charles Scott, who witnessed the event, said he cussed "until leaves shook on the trees … never have I enjoyed such swearing before or since."

31. George Washington helped ensure the presidency would be a short-term gig.

Later in life, Washington's newfound modesty helped usher in a significant principle of the U.S. presidency. Despite the public's desire for him to run for a third presidential term—which he would've won with ease—Washington elected to leave after two terms so he could resume being a regular citizen, avoiding the kind of long-term rule associated with monarchs.

32. George Washington gave up the presidency to make whiskey.

Once he returned to private life in 1797, Washington opened a whiskey distillery at Mount Vernon, which quickly became the largest whiskey distillery in America.

33. George Washington wasn't optimistic the Constitution would last.

Close-up of the Constitution.
jaflippo/iStock via Getty Images

Before taking on the presidency, Washington was wrapped up in the Constitutional Convention, a gathering of minds intended to elaborate on the famous document that would provide concise guidelines for future lawmakers. But Washington was unsure whether it would have any lasting impact. Walking with a friend just before the convention came to a close in 1787, he said, "I do not expect the Constitution to last for more than 20 years."

34. George Washington suffered from a host of medical problems.

In fact, it was Washington himself who didn't last that long. Plagued by a series of ailments including malaria, smallpox, tuberculosis, and diphtheria, the Founding Father died in 1799 at age 67. Suffering from a severe sore throat, he asked doctors to bleed him. They did, with five pints being removed from his body in a single day.

35. Alexander Hamilton begged George Washington to let him fight.

Ink drawings of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson on either side of George Washington.
Campwillowlake iStock via Getty Images

Washington's onetime assistant, Alexander Hamilton, had a heartier constitution. Relegated to writing Washington’s letters, Hamilton pleaded with the then-general to let him see some action on the battlefield. Hamilton faced the British in the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 and came away with a victory.

36. Alexander Hamilton was the subject of the country's first political sex scandal.

Alexander Hamilton’s health was also robust enough to carry on an affair with a married woman, Maria Reynolds, while serving as U.S. treasury secretary in 1791. When her husband threatened to go public with the scandal, Hamilton wrote and circulated a pamphlet detailing his side of the story. The Reynolds Affair became the country's first major political sex scandal.

37. The Reynolds Affair was wrapped up by Alexander Hamilton's nemesis.

In an odd footnote, when Maria Reynolds later sued her husband for divorce, her lawyer was Aaron Burr.

38. Alexander Hamilton launched the Coast Guard.

Portrait of Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill
Professor25/iStock via Getty Images

Beyond setting up the country's banking and financial systems, Alexander Hamilton was also concerned with protecting America’s coastlines. To help suffocate smuggling and enforce tariff laws, Hamilton organized a marine service; it later became known as the United States Coast Guard.

39. Alexander Hamilton's son died in a duel defending his father's good name.

Dueling was part of the Hamilton family long before Alexander's fateful encounter with Aaron Burr. Three years prior, Hamilton's son Philip challenged a lawyer named George Eacker to a pistol fight after Eacker was overheard criticizing his father. Eacker shot Philip, who died the next day.

40. Alexander Hamilton probably acted as a lawyer in the country's first murder trial.

In 1799, Hamilton's life gained one of its most interesting footnotes. As a practicing lawyer in New York, Hamilton teamed with future dueling foe Aaron Burr in what is believed to be the United States' first murder trial on record. After the body of Elma Sands was discovered, a grand jury indicted her boyfriend, Levi Weeks, for the crime. The wealthy Weeks enlisted Hamilton, Burr, and Henry Livingston for his defense. He was acquitted, though public opinion largely declared him guilty.

41. Alexander Hamilton also founded a newspaper.

Hamilton founded another cultural touchstone—the New York Post—in 1801. Then titled the New York Evening Post, it’s one of the longest continually published newspapers in the U.S. When he felt like opining, Hamilton would dictate articles to editor William Coleman.

42. The Federalist Papers went a long way in shifting public opinion on independence.

Hamilton, however, had used his own hand to author the Federalist Papers, a series of essays sent to newspapers in the 1780s to rally support for ratifying the Constitution. Hamilton used the pseudonym Publius, collaborating with James Madison and John Jay.

43. James Madison and Alexander Hamilton hated each other.

There was little love lost between treasury secretary Hamilton and fourth president James Madison, who frequently sparred with over economic strategy. Onetime friends, their acrimony set the tone for Madison’s tenure in office.

44. James Madison's wife was a celebrated hostess.

Said to be shy and reserved, Madison apparently had a counterbalance in wife Dolley, who entertained the whole of Washington. At the time, the city was not exactly a hotbed of partying, and her lavish affairs helped endear congressional members to the idea of Madison as president.

45. James Madison is our tiniest president.

To date, Madison remains our smallest president at 5 feet, 4 inches and 100 pounds.

46. There's a $5000 bill with James Madison's face on it.

James Madison's portrait on US money.
johan10/iStock via Getty Images

Madison is also the president to grace the little-known $5000 bill, part of a series of high-value denominations printed between 1928 and 1945. The bills were mainly used to settle large transactions between banks.

47. Another vice president's wife wrote a book on James Madison.

Although Madison had two vice presidents die in office, he had better luck with future VP Dick Cheney: The former vice president’s wife, Lynne, wrote a well-received biography of Madison in 2014.

48. Sam Adams was a child prodigy.

An illustration of Sam Adams
stocksnapper/iStock via Getty Images

While all of the Fathers had formidable intellects, Sam Adams had quite an early start. He was admitted into Harvard College at age 14 and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1740.

49. Sam Adams wasn't exactly a brewer.

In terms of Founding Father extracurricular activities, Sam Adams is frequently credited with being a beer brewer. That's not really true, though. Adams' father did make malted barley that was sold to breweries, and his son inherited the business and became known as a "maltster." But politics soon dominated Adams' time, and the business fell by the wayside.

50. You can drink at a pub where the Founding Fathers hung out.

Adams may not have been a brewmaster, but like a lot of Founding Fathers, he didn't mind pulling up a chair at a pub. You can enjoy a beer at the same location as Founding Fathers Paul Revere, John Hancock, and Adams. The Green Dragon Tavern in Boston is said to have been the preferred watering hole of the men—a place where politics could be discussed without the hassle of sobriety.