It may surprise you to know these events probably didn’t happen anywhere near when you thought they did. Not everyone can be a world history master, especially when we tend to learn about it in specifically segmented classes like “European History” or “American Revolutionary History.” Maybe you have an exceptional grasp on the global historical timeline. But for those of us who don’t, the list below, inspired by a recent Reddit thread called “What are two events that took place in the same time in history but don’t seem like they would have?” puts key historical moments into some much-needed context.
1. Betty White was older than sliced bread.
Sliced bread was introduced in 1928 by inventor Otto Frederick Rohwedder. Before this moment, bread was sold in whole loaves as bakers didn’t trust sliced bread could stay fresh. Betty White was born in 1922 and spent her early years slicing her own bread. Before White passed away, she was only a few weeks away from her 100th birthday, which means she’s been able to experience the first “greatest invention” much longer than most of us.
2. Harvard University was founded before calculus was invented.
Established in 1636, Harvard is the oldest institution of higher education in the U.S. The “New College,” as it was originally called, had no calculus classes because it didn’t exist yet. The invention of calculus would come in the late 17th century with Gottfried Leibniz’s 1684 publication of “Nova Methodus,” and in part with Isaac Newton’s”Principia” in 1687, followed by additional explanations and reformulations by subsequent mathematicians. Also, European physicist, mathematician, and astronomer Galileo was still alive during Harvard’s early years — he died in 1642.
3. The Pyramids of Giza were built in the time of woolly mammoths.
From what we can tell, the last of the woolly mammoth died out around 1700 B.C. on Russia’s Wrangel Island. In Egypt, the Pyramids of Giza were built around 4,000 years ago, although there have been claims that they’re even older. This also means that Cleopatra’s time on Earth is actually closer to us in history than to the construction of the pyramids.
4. The fax machine was invented the same year as the Oregon Trail migration.
The first fax machine was invented in 1843 by a Scottish mechanic named Alexander Bain. This early model used a combination of synchronized pendulums, electric probes, and electrochemically sensitive paper to scan documents, and then send the information over a series of wires to be reproduced. The “Great Migration” on the Oregon Trail began the same year, when a wagon train of about 1,000 migrants attempted to travel west, but probably died of dysentery along the way.
5. The jewelry store Tiffany & Co. was founded before Italy was a country.
Italy didn’t become a unified kingdom until March 17, 1861. General Giuseppe Garibaldi led a successful campaign to gather the various city-states and bring them under one nation. Charles Lewis Tiffany and John B. Young founded Tiffany & Young in 1837 and then became Tiffany & Co. in 1853. This means Audrey Hepburn could have gotten Breakfast At Tiffany’s before she could have had her Italian Roman Holiday. Similarly, Macy’s was founded in 1858, also before Italy became the nation we know it as today.
6. France was still using the guillotine when Star Wars came out.
The last time the guillotine was used as a form of execution in France was in 1977. The guillotine lasted for about two centuries. The first Star Wars film was also released in 1977, a few months before the execution. Another mind-blowing French historical fact: The Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889, which is the same year Nintendo was founded and that Van Gogh painted “The Starry Night.”
7. Two of President John Tyler’s grandsons are still alive.
John Tyler was America’s 10th President, serving from 1841 to 1845, but somehow two of his grandsons are still alive. Mental Floss first reported on this fact in 2012, but since then Snopes has verified their identities, while New York Magazine even interviewed one of the grandsons. As of last year, both Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. and Harrison Tyler were still only in their 80s.
It really is hard to believe that some of these are true, but the dates don’t lie. And when you think about it, it really does make sense. Who knew that Betty White was older than sliced bread?