Page 10 - History Facts

Find out how Mao Zedong's campaign to kill grain-eating sparrows in 1958 contributed to the death by starvation of 30 million people

In 1958 the Chinese leader, Mao Zedong, declared war. He decided there were four things he had had enough of: Mosquitoes, flies, rats and sparrows.

He was informed by his scientists that one sparrow eats about 4.5kg of grain each year. They said that according to those calculations, for every million sparrows killed there would be grain (and therefore food) for 60,000 people.

With only that information and a stubborn unwillingness to listen to anything else, he launched the Great Sparrow Campaign in which all citizens were expected to participate and kill as many sparrows as possible.

On 13 December 1958 alone, 194,432 sparrows were killed! Hundreds of millions were killed during the duration of the campaign and the sparrow almost became extinct in China.

What the scientists failed to mention, was that sparrows eat insects like locusts, and that locusts do much more harm than sparrows can. With no sparrows in sight, the locusts did indeed move in and had free reign.

Suddenly Mao Zedong realized what an eco-system was and hurriedly imported sparrows from the Soviet Union, but it was too late. The overflow of insects contributed to the Great Chinese Famine (1958-1961) in which approximately 30 million people starved to death!


Cats were used as live shields by the Persians

During the battle of Pelusium in 522 BC, Cambyses II, the King of Persia, used cats as leverage against Egyptians. He knew that Egypt revered cats, so during various ocassions, him and his soldiers would use cats as shields knowing that the Egyptians would be too scared to strike them in fear of hurting the cats.

Other tactics included simply letting the cats loose in the battlefield, and creating chaos in the egyptian armies. It was against Egyptian law to hurt or kill attack, so in many occasions, for fear of accidentally hurting a feline, the Egyptians would surrender the city.

President Johnson was sworn in by the first woman to do so, and remains the only time done on an aircraft.

A keystone moment in woman’s history came after a nation-shocking tragic event.

Judge Sarah T. Hughes was the first woman to administer the presidential oath of office for President Lydon B. Johnson after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

She got the opportunity due to the extreme impromptu nature of the ceremony.Hughs was chosen by Johnson himself because of their long standing friendship.

They managed to cram 27 people into the tight quarters of the presidential plane, Air Force One. Auxiliary power was disconnected from the plane, resulting in a non-functioning air conditioner.

The plane was instructed to take off as soon as possible, so the inauguration took place while the plane's four engines powered up. It is still the only time an inauguration took place on an aircraft.

Johnson was sworn in using a missal found by the side table in Kennedy's Air Force One bedroom since a bible was nowhere to be found. It was almost that exact moment that the nation learned of Kennedy's death via Walter Cronkite's broadcast.


Some awesome lists!

There used to be $10,000 bills! Find out why you won't find those anymore.

In today's economy, with inflation running rampant year after year, it's not uncommon for people to have to carry wads of $100 bills just to cover expenses week to week. Things cost a ton of money nowadays.

Still, the U.S. won't make anything higher than a $100 bill available, causing some heavy wallets and oversized wads. Turns out that is exactly what the government wants.

There were higher denominations that were last printed on December 27, 1945 but weren't officially discontinued on July until, 1969.

They included $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 as early as 1961. In 1969 the larger bills started being taken out of circulation by President Nixon. As of 2009, only 336 $10,000 bills, 342 $5,000 bills and 165,372 $1,000 bills were known to exist.

Nixon decided to take large denominations out of circulation since electronic transactions were used for legal, large-scale transfers. Large bills were being used to make illegal transactions such as drug trading across the border and counterfeiting.

Without large bills, transferring major sums of money would be more risky and a huge pain in the butt for the cartels.


Boys were the first telephone operators, but they were rude and swore. Young women were hired soon after as they didn't swear as much (and were faster).

The telephone was a revolutionary invention.

Within a year of the Alexander Graham Bell introducing his device, 230 phones were installed by Bell, and he had established the Bell Telephone Company. In four years the number of phones was at 60,000!

When the telephone was new, it required switch operators to connect callers. At first they were all male, but that soon changed. Boys earned a reputation for being rude and abusive to each other as well as to the customers.

In response, young women replaced them, and by 1910, New York Telephone had 6,000 women working on its switchboards. The women didn’t swear as much and were faster as well.

These women had to adhere to strict codes for dress and conduct, though. They could only use certain phrases, while customers could say whatever they wanted. This led to the occasional rude customer yelling and swearing at them to which they would reply “thank you.”

Still, this was important because besides teachers, there weren’t many women in the workplace. This was one of the first steps towards equal work opportunities for women.



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