Leif Erikson Day — and other historical facts that just aren't true

Oct. 9 might be Leif Erickson Day, but you might be wrong about horned-hat wearing Vikings. Here's a look at other historical moments people often misconstrue.


Oct. 9 might be Leif Erickson Day, but don't go grabbing that horned hat just yet.

The day celebrates the 11th-century Norse explorer who is credited with sailing to Newfoundland, Canada, and settling Vinland hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus ventured forth.

But Erikson's story — and that of the Vikings — is rife with misinformation.

For one, there is no evidence that they wore the now-famous headgear with the horns. Nor were all Scandinavians and Norse people pirating and plundering coasts of Europe from the eighth to 10th centuries.

In honor of Leif Erickson Day here are some other examples of history that many people get wrong.

Marie Antoinette's infamous phrase

It makes for great stuff of legend, but according to acclaimed historian and author Antonia Fraser, the Queen of France and Navarre did not say "Let them eat cake" when told that peasants were starving and had no bread. It is believed that Marie-Therese, wife of Louis XIV, actually said it a century earlier.

George Washington's teeth and truth-telling

Yes, the first president of the United States had some serious dental issues. And while he had dentures, it's not true that his fake teeth were made out of wood. According to he had false teeth made of multiple materials including ivory, gold, and lead.

He also never chopped down a cherry tree as a child and said "I cannot tell a lie" when confronted.

Little Napoleon

Despite the pejorative "Napoleon complex" to which his name is connected, Napoleon Bonaparte was not a particularly short man for his age. He is said to have been 5 feet 6 inches tall, greater than the average height for a man of his time and place — about 5 feet 5 inches.

It is believed that that story got started from British propaganda looking to cut the French leader down to size.

The British weren't coming

Actually, British soldiers were already around and hiding in the Massachusetts countryside when American patriot Paul Revere took his now famous midnight ride on April 18, 1775, during the American Revolution.

The History Channel points out that Revere would not have yelled "The British are coming" to warn townspeople because those living in the states then still considered themselves British, even as they fought for their independence. Rather, he probably said the "regulars" were on their way.

Newton's apple

The story that a young Isaac Newton crafted his theory of gravity while sitting under a tree that dropped an apple on his head is a popular one.

It's also not true.

In 2010, The Royal Society in London made available a digital version of the original manuscript which documented how the British mathematician and physicist devised his now-famous theory after witnessing an apple falling from a tree in his mother's garden in Lincolnshire. But while Newton used his head to come up with the idea, it does not appear that he got beaned.