David Aaron Gray

"Don't believe everything 
you hear on the radio"
- Charles Foster Kane

David Aaron Gray (Blog)

More Historical Myths

Posted by davidaarongray on February 15, 2013 at 2:25 PM
The United States did NOT Declare its Independence from Great Britain on July 4th, 1776

On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote a letter to his wife Abigail with this prediction:

"The Second of July, 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.”


Why July 2nd? Because it was on that day, that the Second Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia voted to approve a resolution for independence from Britain.


On that same day, the Pennsylvania Evening Post published this: “This day the Continental Congress declared the United Colonies Free and Independent States.”


So why do we celebrate July 4th as Independence Day? Because that's when the Declaration of Independence was actually signed, right? 

Well... no...not exactly...

The document was not even signed by delegates of the Continental Congress on July 4th.


The huge canvas painting by John Trumbull hanging in the grand Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol depicting the signing of the Declaration is, it turns out, a work of imagination. In his biography of John Adams, historian David McCullough wrote: “No such scene, with all the delegates present, ever occurred at Philadelphia.”


It is now believed that most of the delegates signed it on Aug. 2nd. That’s when the assistant to the secretary of Congress, Timothy Matlack, produced a clean copy.


John Hancock, who was the president of the Continental Congress, signed first, right in the middle of the area for signatures. The last delegate to sign, according to the National Archives, is believed to be Thomas McKean of Delaware, some time in 1777.


The city of Philadelphia, where the Declaration was signed, waited until July 8 to celebrate, with a parade and the firing of guns. The Continental Army under the leadership of George Washington didn’t learn about it until July 9.


As for the British government in London, well, it didn’t know that the United States had declared independence until Aug. 30th.

Slavery in the United States was NOT Restricted to the South


As you can see from the map of the United States in 1789 (depicting the original 13 States), not only did slave states out number free ones (8 to 5) but states thought to be solidly Northern (and later pro Union/Anti-Slavery) (like New York and New Jersey) had as many slaves as states like Georgia.

Zero witches were burned at the stake during the Salem Witch Trials

Despite what you think you remember from history class, none of the “witches” were burned at the stake.

Burning witches was a common pastime in Europe beginning in the 15th century, claiming thousands of victims over the next three hundred years. But colonial America never burned its witches; hanging was the new rage.

All of the 31 executed Salem defendants were hanged, except for Giles Corey, an eighty-year-old man “pressed to death” under boulders, defiantly refusing to answer the bogus charges against him. 

Jackie Robinson was NOT the first to break the "color barrier" in Baseball


This one was a real shocker (at least to me).  By including this debunked myth, I am in no way trying to take anything away from the legacy of Mr. Robinson. 

That said...the fact is...

that the day that Jackie Robinson is credited with integrating baseball (April 15, 1947), came nearly 63 years after Major League Baseball's color barrier was really broken.


A man by the name of Moses Fleetwood Walker (pictured above to the left of Robinson), a University of Michigan graduate and catcher for the Toledo Blue Stockings, is actually the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball. And yes... the Toledo Blue Stockings was a Major League Baseball team. They played in the same division as the Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals.  

JFK was NOT the Youngest President

Contrary to the mythology inspired by the youthful Kennedy image, John F. Kennedy was not the youngest President of the United States.

In fact, Theodore Roosevelt (26th President) was 42 years old when sworn in as Commander in Chief in 1901, making him the youngest president ever; he beat out John F. Kennedy, by one year.

But since TR assumed the Presidency after the assassination of President McKinley, JFK still has the honor of being the youngest ELECTED President of the United States.

There were only 12 original colonies by the time the American Revolution Began in 1775

Yes, there are 13 stars and stripes on the flag representing them, but technically there were only 12 colonies that rebelled against British rule in 1775. Delaware was never its own colony, but rather a part of the Pennsylvania colony until declaring itself an independent state on June 15th, 1776.

Then known as the lower counties, Delaware did have a separate Assembly, but was under Pennsylvania governorship.

Delaware may have been late to the Colonial Party but it redeemed itself when being the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution (earning it the nickname, "The First State").

Categories: Correcting the Historical Record

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