During our school years, history classes only taught us important dates, discoveries and events that took place throughout history. Most of the fun and interesting topics were usually omitted. This also means that we know very little about prominent figures in the past. In order to feed your curiosity, we have collected some amazing biography facts about famous people. No matter the field, the following historical figures surely have played an important role in changing the course of history. Here are 10 eye-opening facts about prominent figures.
1. Abraham Lincoln, arguably one of the greatest American presidents, has been honored in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. In fact, he was only defeated once in 300 matches.
It might come as a surprising to learn that Abraham Lincoln has been honored in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. As a young man, Lincoln was a skilled and accomplished wrestler. His long limbs helped him take down opponents with ease. In fact, Lincoln was so good at the sport that he has only lost once in approximately 300 matches. Apart from taking down opponents at a quick pace, he was also known to talk smack in the ring.
According to Carl Sandburg’s biography of Lincoln, Honest Abe once challenged an entire crowd of onlookers after dispatching an opponent: “I’m the big buck of this lick. If any of you want to try it, come on and whet your horns”. There were no takers. His amazing talent earned him an “Outstanding American” honor in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1992. (source 1, 2)
2. After her mother, Gladys (Monroe) Baker Mortenson, was hospitalized after being diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, Marilyn Monroe was left in a series of foster homes and the Los Angeles Orphans’ Home Society.
Marilyn Monroe was a prominent figure, who used her beauty and power to help many. While it’s easy to think of someone with such beauty to have a successful life, Monroe did not achieve it with ease. Born Norma Jean Mortensen on June 1, 1926, Monroe had a difficult childhood. Her mother was mentally unstable and her father was absent. In 1933, when Monroe was seven years old, her mother had the first of a series of mental crises and Marilyn became the responsibility of the state.
Since then, she moved around a series of foster homes. Although her mother’s best friend, Grace, was appointed guardianship of Monroe, almost 11 families showed interest in adopting her, but her mother wouldn’t allow anyone to adopt her. During her 16th birthday, in order to prevent herself from moving through another foster home, Monroe decided to get married on June 19, 1942, to James Dougherty. The marriage however, did not last for long, since Dougherty joined the U.S. Merchant Marines in 1943. Although she had a difficult childhood and a failed marriage, the experiences only made her a stronger and more resilient woman. (source)
3. Nikola Tesla was fascinated with pigeons. One day, a white pigeon visited him through an open window at his hotel. Tesla believed the bird had come to tell him that it was her time. When it passed away in his arms, Tesla knew that he had finished his life’s work.
The Serbian-American inventor is known worldwide for his inventions and contributions to the modern alternating current (AC) electrical supply system, which is widely used to this day. Tesla was way ahead of his time but by 1912, he began to withdraw himself from the world. Reports show that Tesla was showing signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder, becoming extremely obsessive with cleanliness and fixating on the number 3. When he shook hands or washed his hands, he did it in a set of three. Near the end of his life, he also became fixated on pigeons, especially a specific one, which he claimed to love almost as one would love a human being.
According to Tesla himself, one night, the white pigeon visited him through an open window at his hotel. Tesla believed that it had come to inform him that it was time for her to go. He also claimed that he saw two powerful beams of light in the pigeon’s eyes and stated that it was “a light more intense than I had ever produced by the most powerful lamps in my laboratory”. The pigeon passed away in his arms, and the inventor claimed that in that moment, he knew that his life’s work was completed. (source)
4. Walt Disney’s housekeeper, Thelma Pearl Howard, was given shares as bonuses. When she passed away at the age of 79, she was a multi-millionaire.
Thelma Howard worked as Walt Disney’s personal housekeeper for more than thirty years. She had much respect for Disney. In return, Walt Disney respected and loved Thelma, since she cooked meals for him and helped take care of his two daughters. She landed the dream job of becoming a housekeeper for Walt Disney in 1951, at the age of 36. Thelma took care of the 8 bedroom, 17 bathroom, 3.6 acre mansion worth $100 million. She also adored his daughters and took extremely good care of them. Disney saw this and appreciated her efforts to help his family.
Apart from the average housekeeper salary, Disney also provided her with free room, meals and shares of Disney stock as a bonus for Christmas and her birthday. When the Disney empire grew bigger, she started receiving more and more stocks as bonuses. At first, the stocks were only worth hundreds but then grew to be worth thousands. Of course, Thelma respected Disney so she never sold a single share that was gifted to her. She lived a very modest life. After retiring in 1981, she moved into a humble two bedroom bungalow until her failing health forced her to move into a nursing home. In 1994, Thelma passed away, but was in possession of 193,000 shares of Disney, which at the time were worth $9.5 million. After she passed away, her will stated that half of her fortune be given to her disabled son, while the remaining was to be given to charity. (source)
5. King Henry VIII of England appointed four Grooms of the Stool, who were responsible for wiping his bottom during his reign.
Sir William Compton (1509–1526), Sir Henry Norris (1526–1536), Sir Thomas Heneage (1536–1546), and Sir Anthony Denny (1546–1547) held the official title of the “Groom of the King’s Close Stool”. The four men were responsible for attending to the king’s needs by providing him with water, a washbowl, and a towel. They also had the duty of learning the king’s diet and meal times, so they could predict the king’s needs.
The Grooms of the Stool were also the king’s most intimate courtiers with whom the king shared his secrets with. The position was considered to be of great significance since the men also had the ability to influence the king as he asked them for their opinions. The men were knighted by the king and provided with royal lodging close to the king, and also received the king’s old clothes. (source)
6. Thomas Edison’s last breath was captured in a test tube and is on display at The Henry Ford Museum in Detroit.
Thomas Edison is remembered as one of the most influential inventors of all time. However, no one idolized him like the automotive pioneer Henry Ford. It was Ford’s dream to meet the man responsible for the motion picture camera, phonograph, and a long-lasting, electric light bulb. When the founder of Ford Motor Company worked for Edison Illuminating Company in 1896, he shared his vision of his new automobile, which Edison found to be impressive. The two remained close friends until Edison’s health declined in 1931. Henry Ford was so upset with this that he asked Edison’s son to capture his father’s last mortal breath.
His son obliged to grant his father’s best friend’s wish and collected the last breath in a test tube; which was then sealed using paraffin wax. The test tube was then sent to Ford, and remains at the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan. (source)
7. Franklin D. Roosevelt once accidentally walked in on Winston Churchill with no clothes on. When Roosevelt apologized, Churchill replied: “The Prime Minister of Great Britain has nothing to hide from the President of the United States”.
In 1941, shortly after the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill was visiting the White House. As the story goes, Roosevelt walked into Churchill’s room to talk about details of war when Churchill was “ gleaming pink from his bath”. The encounter was confirmed by Churchill’s bodyguard, Walter Thompson, and one of his secretaries, Patrick Kinna. Churchill had just stepped out from his steaming hot bath. At that moment, Churchill responded: “The Prime Minister of Great Britain has nothing to hide from the President of the United States”. (source)
8. William McKinley, the 25th president of the United States, loved his wife Ida Saxton, through more than two decades of her illness. The President kept close watch for signs of an impending seizure and moments before a seizure, he would cover her face with a large handkerchief.
William McKinley was the 25th president of the United States. He led the nation to victory during the Spanish-American War and was also the last president to have served in the US Civil War. Ida Saxton was working as a cashier at her father’s bank when she met Major William McKinley. The two fell in love immediately and were married. While McKinley practiced law, Ida devoted her time to her home and her husband. By 1873, Ida started falling ill and was suffering from phlebitis and epileptic seizures.
Even though Ida was ill, McKinley remained faithful and took his beloved wife everywhere. She even went to state dinners, despite it being against protocol. McKinley was extremely cautious about the public knowing about his wife’s decline in health. He paid close attention to his wife and knew the signs of an upcoming seizure; to which he placed a large handkerchief on her face. (source)
9. Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1939, Adolf Hitler was nominated by a member of the Swedish parliament, E.G.C. Brandt. However, it was meant as criticism to point out the flaws of foreign policies of the day. While the joke went over everyone’s heads, the nomination was withdrawn. Josef Stalin was nominated twice: in 1945 and 1948 for his efforts to end World War II. Benito Mussolini was nominated for the 1935 Nobel Peace Prize by a law professor in Germany, and the other, a professor in France. It’s not clear as to why two professors even considered to deem him worthy and we will never know the reason behind it since the letters written by the professors cannot be found in the Nobel Institute archives. (source)
10. Henry Ford believed in providing equal employment opportunities to everyone, regardless of their health or conditions. Ford hired many people who were disabled. In 1927, around 13,000 people with disabilities were working in his company.
Ford paid equal salaries to all the employees since he believed that everyone deserved an equal opportunity at life. He also adopted the shorter working shifts, where workers only had to work 8-hour shifts for five days a week and had to be paid for working overtime. (source)