50 Facts About America That Most Americans Don’t Know
Here's everything the history books won't tell you.
Most Americans consider themselves as fairly knowledgeable about their country’s history. They could probably tell you that Abe Lincoln was the 16th president or that Teddy Roosevelt was a proud “Trust Buster” or, at the very, very least, that we’ve been around since 1776 (and formally so since 1789).
But when you peek beyond the purview of history textbooks, it turns out there’s a lot that they don’t teach you in class. American history is loaded with odd facts and fascinating tidbits—all of which the average American probably doesn’t know. Here they are.
George Washington Wasn’t the First President to Live In the White House
Nope, it wasn’t the first president of the United States who lived in the White House, but John Adams and his wife Abigail. While Washington did oversee the construction of the house, he never lived in it. It began being built in 1792 and wasn’t inhabited until 1800. Since Adams, each president who has resided in the White House has made their own changes and additions. After all, they lived there!
The Deadliest Job In the Country Is: President
Statistically speaking, no job in the United States of America is more deadly than that of the president. Think about it: 45 men have held the title. Four of those men were assassinated in office (Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, James A. Garfield, and William McKinley), while four died of natural causes (William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Warren Harding, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt). That’s a rate of almost 18 percent, or nearly 1 out of 5 who died on the job. Would you apply for a job with those kind of stats?
Independence Day Didn’t Happen on July 4th
Nope, July 2nd was the day that Congress voted to free us from British rule. However, the Fourth of July is when John Hancock wrote the first signature on the Declaration of Independence in order to spread the word of the vote. Fifty-six men signed the document that announced intended independence from British rule.
There’s More than One Copy of the Original Declaration of Independence
After the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, the word obviously needed to be spread. The reproduction of this text was overseen by “the Committee of Five”: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston. While hundreds of copies were made, only 26 survive today. Most can be found in museums and libraries. However, three are privately owned.
Speaking of the Declaration Of Independence, Eight of the 56 Signers Were British
Fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence from England, eight of whom were actually…British. Sure, the majority of the signers were native-born Americans, but eight heralded from across the Atlantic. Two were from England, one from Wales, two from Scotland, two from Ireland, and one from Northern Ireland.
The Average American Throws Away 4.4 Pounds Of Trash Daily
It sounds crazy, but this is true, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest 2012 figures. When you take into account America’s population, that means that around 1.4 billion pounds of trash gets thrown out in the United States every. Single. Day. This makes a nation of some of the most wasteful people on the entire planet.
In Some States, There Are More Cows Than People
Moo-ve aside, humans. (Sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves.) The cows are here to stay. According to Vox, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming have less humans than they do cattle. In these states combined, there are 32,489,391 cows. That’s more than one-third of America’s total cow population.
The Tallest President Was Abraham Lincoln
The 16th president was a tall six-feet-four-inches, or 193 centimeters. Our smallest president to hold office was James Madison. The fourth president, whose term was served from 1809 to 1817, stood five feet and four inches tall, or 163 centimeters. He also weighed less than 100 pounds.
The Oldest President Ever Elected Was Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan, the former Hollywood star and governor of California, and our 40th president, took office at 69. His term was from 1981 to 1989. Reagan was dubbed The Great Communicator and was a popular two-term president. He died in 2004 at age 93 of Alzheimer’s Disease.
The Statue Of Liberty Isn’t In New York
The Statue of Liberty, which adorns pretty much every bit of tourist memorabilia you can purchase in the Big Apple, is actually not located in New York City at all. It’s technically in Jersey City, New Jersey. Who knew? The copper statue was a gift from France to the United States in October 1886.
Americans Eat About 100 Acres Of Pizza Each Day
We love our pie—enough that we collectively consume 100 acres of pizza every single day. Annually, around 300 billion pizzas are sold in the good, ‘ole U.S.A. Not only that, but a reported 93 percent of Americans have eaten pizza within the past month. The biggest spike in delivery sales of pizza occurs around the Super Bowl. Can’t get more American than that!
Atlantic City Has The World’s Longest Boardwalk
Atlantic City has the world’s longest boardwalk. Built in 1870, it was also the first boardwalk in the United States. Its purpose was to limit the amount of sand beach goers took with them into hotel lobbies as well as the train. Today, it is a stretch of 4.5 miles long, and home to casinos, hotels, restaurants, and more.
California’s State Animal Doesn’t Exist in California
Before the mid-1800s, thousands of grizzly bears could be found across California—so much that the animal became the state’s official animal. Nowadays, all of the grizzlies are gone.
What changed, then, in the mid-1800s? If you guessed the state’s gold rush, you are right on the money. Between then and 1922, every living grizzly in the state of California was captured or killed. And all it got was a lousy flag.
The Original Capital of the United States Was Philadelphia
The country’s capital wasn’t always Washington, D.C. As stipulated by the Residence Act, Philly was made to be the temporary capital of the newly created United States of America between 1790 and 1800, while Washington, D.C., was being built. Today, you can still find many famous pieces of early U.S. history through the city of Philadelphia.
Harvard Was the First University In the United States
The school was founded in 1636, in Cambridge, Massachusetts—right across the Charles River from Boston. Oh, and speaking of: here are 21 Things That Are Harder Than Getting into Harvard.
The United States’ Debt Per Person Is $54,000
Ouch! Here are some more (probably related) stats. Approximately 48 percent of all Americans are currently either considered to be low income or are living in poverty. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimates that 167,000 Americans have more than $200,000 in student loan debt. The unemployment rate is currently 4 percent, according to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Abraham Lincoln Is in the Wrestling Hall of Fame.
The 16th president is actually in the Wrestling Hall of Fame. Before he took on the top job in the nation, Honest Abe was the winner of 299 out of his 300 fought matches, as the Wrestling Hall of Fame was only able to account for one loss out of all the matches he fought.
Lincoln Created the Secret Service the Day of His Assassination
The president, who was assassinated on April 14, 1865, has signed legislation to create the U.S. Secret Service hours before he headed to Ford’s Theatre. However, the Secret Service wouldn’t have saved Lincoln had it been created in time—the original purpose was to combat widespread currency counterfeiting. It wasn’t until 1901 that its M.O. was to protect the president.
Paul Revere Never Actually Shouted, “The British Are Coming!”
While everyone knows the story of Revere’s famous ride—in which he was said to have warned colonial militia of the approaching enemy by yelling, “The British are coming!”—there are plenty of holes in the story. According to History.com, the operation was meant to be quiet and stealthy, since British troops were hiding out in the Massachusetts countryside. Also, colonial Americans still considered themselves to be British. To be yelling about an impending invasion would be anything but stealthy.
The U.S. Government Poisoned People During Prohibition[/
You’ve likely heard about how crazy some of the law enforcement of prohibition laws could be, but it turns out the U.S. government literally poisoned alcohol in its effort to discourage drinking. When people continued to consume alcohol despite its banning, law officials got frustrated and decided to try a different kind of deterrent: death. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the U.S., which were products regularly stolen bootleggers. By the end of Prohibition in 1933, the federal poisoning program is estimated to have killed at least 10,000 people.
The First Face Of The $1 Bill Wasn’t Washington
Nope! The first person to appear on this most common bill was Salmon P. Chase. The first $1 bill was issued during the Civil War in 1862. Chase was the Secretary of Treasury at that time and was also the designer of the country’s first bank notes.
Uncle Sam Was a Real Dude
His name? Samuel Wilson. A meatpacker in Troy, New York, who fought in the American Revolution, he later became the official meat inspector for the northern army in the War of 1812. Wilson was given the nickname “Uncle Sam” for his good nature. According to HuffPost, when he started providing and inspecting meat for the troops during the War of 1812, the soldiers from Troy would joke that the initials “U.S.” label on the barrels actually stood for Uncle Sam. This idea was eventually expanded to all United States military items with “U.S.” And that’s how Uncle Sam came to be.
The Mall Of America Is Owned By Canadians
The Mall of America, located in Bloomington, Minnesota, is actually owned by Triple Five Group, a company based in Edmonton, Canada. This Canadian company also came up with the idea of the mall and designed it. So really, despite its name, it’s not so American after all. How’s that for a surprise, eh?
Ohio Wasn’t Formally a State Until 1953
Talk about a snub. It wasn’t until 1953 that Ohio congressman George H. Bender brought a bill to the U.S. Congress asking them to retroactively admit his state into the United States of America. (That’s why, despite the bill being passed in the ’50s, Ohio’s official founding date is 1803.)
So what happened? Thomas Jefferson had approved the territory that would become Ohio more than a century before. However, due to an accidental oversight, Ohio had never been formally admitted. Oops!
You Don’t Need a Driver’s License To Compete in NASCAR
Technically, a state’s driver’s license is not needed to compete in NASCAR. Even drivers who have had their actual driver licenses suspended for everything from reckless driving to DUIs were still able to race in NASCAR.
Russia Sold Alaska to the United States for Pennies
Alaska is the largest state in the United States, and was sold for a total of $7.2 million, which amounts to about 2 cents per acre. The state was purchased in 1867. In the 50 years that followed, America made their money back for the $7.2 million more than 100 times over. Talk about a quality buy.
Most Americans Spend Less Than 5 Years at Each Job
Why? It’s because American employees are likely to leave their jobs for other companies in search of better benefits and higher salaries. Americans would rather get back on the market than stick it out for the long-haul and hope for the best. In fact, per BLS figures, the typical Baby Boomer has held 10 jobs between the ages of 18 and 42.
More People Live in New York City Than in Most States
Talk about one big apple. New York City is home to 8.5 million people—more than 40 out of 50 of the states in America. This figure is especially crazy, considering how New York City is geographically tiny: just over 300 square miles.
The Word “Pennsylvania” Is Misspelled on the Liberty Bell.
Too bad spellcheck didn’t exist 300 years ago! Hey, we’re just kidding—because the spelling used was actually an accepted form at the time the bell was engraved. Here are a few other fun facts: the strike note of the Bell is in E-flat, and it weighs a whopping 2,080 pounds!
Lake Superior Has Could Cover All Land in the Western Hemisphere
Lake Superior is the world’s largest freshwater lake by surface area at 31,700 square miles, or 82,100 square kilometers—or roughly the size of Maine. It also holds 10 percent of the world’s surface fresh water. Its 3 quadrillion gallons are enough to cover both North and South America under one foot of water.
Oregon Is the Fastest-Speaking State
Most people in the Beaver State speak six words in the time it takes the rest of the country to say five words. After studying over 4 million phone calls, Marchex found that Oregon, as well as upper Midwest states and Massachusetts, have the quickest speech patterns. The slowest talkers are found in Louisiana, Alabama, and the Carolinas. Oh, and New Yorkers talk the most.
Only Two States Don’t Practice Daylight Savings Time
Though legislators in some states have tried and failed to pass laws to get rid of daylight savings time, all 48 contiguous states practice the measure. But, if you hate resetting your clock twice a year, may we suggest moving to Hawaii or Arizona? Neither state does.
Boston Is Home to the Country’s Worst Drivers
According to Allstate’s Best Driver’s Report in 2017, which takes a look at the nation’s 200 largest cities, Boston took the not-coveted first place in being the nation’s home to the worst drivers. The best drivers can be found in Kansas City.
The Empire State Building Literally Has Its Own Zip Code
It happened in 1980, and the zip code is 10188. The building was declared a landmark on May 18th, 1981, by New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, and in 1982 The Empire State Building was listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places.
If Texas Were Its Own Country, It Would Be Very, Very Wealthy
Everything is bigger in Texas. The Lone Star State would have has the world’s 10th largest GDP if it were its own country. America’s largest state economy, though, would be California, which produced a slightly higher GDP than the whole of France in 2015.
The Happiest State In the Country Is Utah
On the personal finance site WalletHub, experts analyzed the 50 states and Washington, D.C. The used 28 key metrics of happiness, including emotional health, income level, social connectivity, and sports participation rates. Utah came in first, followed by Minnesota. Alabama and West Virginia rank as the unhappiest states in the country.
There’s a Town in Alaska That Lives Under One Roof
The town of Whittier, Alaska, is an hour southeast of Anchorage. It’s a small town of around 220 people. And these 220 people all live under one roof, in one building. For those who have privacy issues, this is probably not the town for you.
Most $100 Bills Aren’t in the Country
According to The Washington Post, $100 bills are one of America’s leading exports: An estimated two-thirds of $100 bills can actually be found overseas. Uh, why? Well, many are definitely used for black-market purchases and other illegal deeds. But many are held onto as savings, in nations like Cyprus and Greece.
In Kentucky, There Are More Bourbon Barrels Than People
In Kentucky, the number of bourbon barrels outnumbers the state’s population by more than two million. That’s a lot of bourbon. Kentucky is the birthplace of the drink and crafts 95 percent of the world’s bourbon supply.
Bourbon Is America’s Only Native Spirit
Bourbon is the only native spirit of the United States of America, which was declared by Congress in 1964. In order for an alcohol to be considered bourbon, it must be made with a minimum of 51 percent corn, aged in charred new oak barrels, stored at no more than 125 proof, and bottled no less than 80 proof.
There’s An Actual Town with Just One Person
Monowi, Nebraska’s single resident is 83 years old. She is the city’s mayor, librarian, and bartender. Her name is Elsie Eiler, she pays taxes to herself, and considers people who reside 40 miles away to be her neighbors.
One Pennsylvania Town Has Been on Fire for Decades
The town of Centralia, Pennsylvania has been on fire for more than 55 years. In the late 1800s to the 1960s, it was a prosperous mining town. However, after a mine caught on fire in in 1962, the flames began to spread underground through the interconnecting tunnels. They haven’t been able to put them out since and the town’s population has drastically decreased.
The Library of Congress Has Hundreds of Miles of Bookshelves
Talk about a way deeper collection than your local library: 838 miles of bookshelves, consisting of more than 39 million books. The library receives some 15,000 items each working day. All together, these bookshelves are long enough to stretch from Houston to Chicago.
Atlanta Has Dozens of Streets With Some Variation of “Peachtree”
Despite there not being many, if any at all, literal peach trees in the city of Atlanta, more than 70 streets in the city contain the word “peachtree” in their names. A few example: Peachtree Center Avenue, Peachtree Battle Avenue, Peachtree-Dunwoody Road, Peachtree Circle, and, of course, Peachtree Street.
An Oregon Lake Is Frighteningly Deep
Crater Lake is 1,943 feet deep, which makes it the deepest lake in the United States, as well as the ninth deepest lake in the entire world. There’s only one place that’s safe to swim in this lake, and that only opens in mid- to late-June.
Kansas Could Singlehandedly Feed the World for Two Weeks
According to the National Association of Wheat Growers, an acre of Kansas wheat produces enough bread to feed nearly 9,000 people for one day. As well, the state produces enough wheat each year to bake 36 billion loaves of bread. That’s enough to feed everyone in the world for about two weeks.
There’s Enough Concrete in the Hoover Dam to Span the Nation
There’s enough concrete in the Hoover Dam to build a two-lane highway from San Francisco to New York City: 3.25 million cubic yards, to be exact. It also weighs more than 600,000 tons.
In Alabama, Unclaimed Baggage from Airlines Gets Sold
In Scottsboro, Alabama, the Unclaimed Baggage Center attracts 800,000 shoppers annually to rifle through people’s lost stuff and purchase unclaimed items. Kinda weird, but it works. Workers unpack an average of 7,000 items per day. What isn’t suitable for retail is donated or thrown out.
You Can Get A Unicorn Hunting License in Michigan
We’re not joking. You can obtain a unicorn-hunting license from Michigan’s Lake Superior State University. The Unicorn Hunters were created in 1971 by W.T. Rabe, who was known for his clever PR stunts from his time as a Detroit-area publicist.
Western Michigan Has a Lavender Labyrinth You Can See From Space
The Lavender Labyrinth is located in Western Michigan, at Cherry Point Farm & Market in Shelby. It was designed in 2001 by Cherry Point owner Barbara Bull and artist and architect Conrad Heiderer to include an herb garden. To walk to the center would take you around an hour. Oh, and you can see it from Google Earth. And for more awesome trivia, don’t miss these 50 Weird But Wonderful Facts That Will Leave You Totally Amazed.
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