Christopher Columbus may have sailed the ocean blue, since the water in the late 1400s was still clear from major oil spills, but a few other supposed facts about this guy’s journey – and American history – are wholly incorrect.

George Washington's teeth were not wood - or windup plastic/Thinkstock

Columbus did not, as we have all heard, technically discover America, since people were already inhabiting the place. But this is just one historical myth that clearly needs some clearing up.

George Washington’s false teeth were NOT made of wood. His fake choppers were instead constructed of elephant and hippo tusks along with some cow teeth thrown in. They also had hooks to somehow attach them in his mouth.

This, too, may be the real reason he could not tell a lie, as the contraption in his mouth was too painful to talk much at all.

John F. Kennedy did NOT cause the men’s hat market to crash just because he didn’t wear one at his 1961 inauguration. Many have been losing sleep over this one since 1962.

Hat sales declined because they are hot, itchy and uncomfortable. They are also part of the chivalry movement that died with World War II, according to a professor at Brooklyn College who yelled at students who wore baseball caps to class.

Pennies/File photo Ryn Gargulinski

Abraham Lincoln’s new line of pennies was NEVER planned with the phrase “In God We Trust” omitted. The rumor started when new coin designs were issued, all of which honored Lincoln’s life. One had a cute little picture of a log cabin, another showed Lincoln on a log, and so on.

Some folks who saw the new designs were appalled to find “In God We Trust” did not appear on any of them and the rumor mill began to churn. The only problem with the rumor’s veracity was that the new designs were only to grace the back of the coins and “In God We Trust” appears on the untouched front of the coins. Penny for your silliness?

Lizzie Borden did NOT administer 40 whacks to her mother, nor did she chop down her dad with 41.
First off, the woman killed was not Lizzie’s mother but rather her step-mother. Secondly, the dead woman was struck with “no less than seven wounds,” said an early account in The Fall River Herald, and certainly nowhere near 40.

Since Lizzie was eventually acquitted, the playground rhyme needs to further be amended to include the word “allegedly.”

George W. Bush did NOT wave at Stevie Wonder. This erroneous tidbit came from a 2002 “Washington Post” story that said Bush was attending the concert and excitedly waved at Stevie at his keyboard – and Stevie did not wave back.

Bush did make a hand gesture while Mr. Wonder was settling at his keyboard, but it was not an excited wave. It was more a casual palm raise. It was also not intended for Wonder but rather for event emcee Kelsey Grammer. No word on if Grammer waved back, either.

Sources:, The Fall River Herald, children’s book in dentist’s waiting room entitled “Open Wide: Tooth School Inside

NOTE: Ryn has Columbus Day off but needed to clear up these myths before she could fully enjoy it.


What other historical myths need clarification?