10 Myths About American History That Have Now Been Debunked

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Image: National Portrait Gallery

9. Pocahontas saved John Smith

Pocahontas was a Native American, born in Virginia to tribal leader Powhatan in approximately 1596. John Smith, meanwhile, was an Englishman born in 1580 who was one of the founders of the Jamestown colonial settlement. And while foraging for food in 1607, Smith was taken by Powhatan’s men on the Chickahominy River.

Image: New England Chromo. Lith. Co.

In later years, Smith would apparently go on to tell a story about this encounter. In particular, he is supposed to have said that the chief was on the point of having him executed when Pocahontas begged that he be spared. Powhatan then relented, and Smith was duly released. However, Smith wrote his account of the event a decade later and hadn’t previously mentioned the incident in earlier writings. What’s more, no one has ever corroborated Smith’s story.

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Image: Bongan

8. Benjamin Franklin’s turkey

The story that all too many believe claims that Benjamin Franklin campaigned to have the turkey declared as America’s national bird. But the tale is simply untrue. So how did the myth arise? Well, it seems to originate from a letter that Franklin wrote to his daughter in 1784. Franklin said in the note, “For my own part, I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen the representative of our country.”

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