The 7 Most Enduring Myths in American History

Idea of “fake news” being a relatively new phenomenon is, well, fake news. Our country was founded on fake news, and our first president—well, first-ish, but we’ll get to that later—had so much fake news written about him that he makes Trump look like an amateur. People are still claiming that Washington had wooden teeth.

He actually had dentures made out of metal and ivory, and you can see the things on display at his home in Mount Vernon. But nope, the myth about his wooden teeth continues to endure two centuries later. So read on to take closer look at a few of the most enduring American myths and half-truths.

A young George Washington “cannot tell a lie”

According to legend, when George Washington was just six years old, he chopped down his dad’s cherry tree with a hatchet. When his dad confronted him about it, George supposedly confessed to everything, claiming “I cannot tell a lie.” A nice tale, if only it was true. Turns out, the story first appeared in an 1806 autobiography of Washington, whose writer admitted that he was just trying to show how our most beloved president’s “unparalleled rise and elevation were due to his Great Virtues.”

Columbus’ discovery of America

How this European explorer still gets all the credit, and even his own holiday, is astonishing. Let’s start with the basics. You can’t “discover” something that’s already occupied. That’s like “discovering” the leftover pizza in your friend’s refrigerator. But even if you discount the Native Americans, Columbus was still 500 years too late to call himself the first European to think America was his personal Costco.

Norse explorer Leif Erikson beat him to the punch, landing on these shores during the 10th century. What’s more, Columbus didn’t even set foot on what would become the United States. He landed on several Caribbean islands, and later Central and South America.


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