Page 194 - History Facts

Fifteen people were killed in 1929 when firefighters attempted to show off their skills and purposefully set a building on fire.


It has come to be known as the Gillingham Fair fire disaster. On 11 July, 1929, firefighters in Gillingham, Kent, England attempted to demonstrate their abilities by setting a building with nine boys and six firemen on fire and then rescuing them. Unfortunately, it went badly wrong. In the 1920’s, a fair was organized in Gillingham every year to raise funds for a local hospital and a house was constructed of wood and canvas forty feet high for a fire demonstration.

It was staged as a wedding reception, in which two firemen would dress as a bride and groom when the building caught on fire. Their “guests” were other firemen and boys recruited from local naval cadets who waited to be rescued. Usually, the fire was not formally started until the building was completely evacuated, but in 1929, everything went badly wrong.

Fifteen people, nine boys and six men, entered the wooden structure in the anticipation of being rescued, however instead of the false fire that began the show starting, the actual fire was triggered. To this day the reasons why the fire started are unknown, but what is known is that flames took hold of the building and spread extremely quickly, trapping all occupants inside.

The spectators did not realize anything had gone wrong and continued to watch eagerly and even applauded because it looked so real. The fire was extinguished within a few minutes, but had been so intense thirteen people died at the scene. Two victims were initially rescued, but later died from injuries.

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A Japanese politician was stabbed to death during a televised debate!


This bizarre incident happened on October 12, 1960. Japanese politician Inejiro Asanuma, a leader of the Japan Socialist Party was participating in a televised debate for the coming elections for the House of Representatives. The man was a highly controversial figure for an incident in 1959 when he went to China and called the United States "the shared enemy of China and Japan." He came back to Japan wearing a Mao suit, which got him criticism even from the Socialist leader. 

During the debate, a 17-year-old right-wing extremist jumped on stage and stabbed Asanuma with his samurai sword. The entire incident was broadcast live on television. The video was kept and can be found online if you know where to look. The photographer who caught the photo on the right won the pulizer price for it.

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Charles Darwin married his cousin after making a pros and cons list!


After Darwin's long trip to the Galapagos and back, and his constant work, he got sick from the pressure. He had a heart palpitation and his doctor ordered him to stop working and spend a couple weeks in the country relaxing and resting.

He obeyed and went to spend some time with his mother's family. It was there that he spent some time with his cousin, Emma Wedgewood, who was taking care for his invalid aunt. Although there aren't many details of their interaction, he must have taken a liking to her.

Once he recuperated from this disease spell, he jotted down a list of pros and cons for marrying his cousin. Some of the pros were: " constant companion and friend in old age...better than a dog anyhow." The cons? "less money for books" and "terrible loss of time."

He eventually proposed and married her in 1839. A third cousin officiated their wedding. The Darwins went on to raise 10 kids.

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Some awesome lists!

Mexico threatened to stop buying US corn if the US didn’t buy their avocados!


The North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA for short, went into effect in 1994. After it’d been passed, Mexico tried to export their avocados to the U.S. and the U.S. government resisted. The government claimed that fruit flies would enter with the avocados and destroy California crops.

The Mexican government invited USDA inspectors to come to Mexico and check for themselves, but the U.S. government declined. So, the Mexican government countered with offering to only sell their avocados to the northeastern U.S. states in the winter, because fruit flies can’t withstand that level of cold.

The U.S. government drew back again, but ended up complying when Mexico started setting up barriers for purchasing U.S. corn. Today, Mexican avocados are allowed in all 50 U.S. states, only because USDA inspectors eventually did go down and check millions of fruit and found no problems. Today, Chile, Peru, and Mexico import avocados to the U.S.

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A 1936 heat wave in the US killed 5,000!


In 1936, only the very wealthy could afford the commodity of an air conditioner. Very few department stores or cinemas had air conditioners either. Detroit faced the worst heat wave ever recorded in July 1936, just as the Great Depression was beginning to taper off. People walking to work would never return home. They simply collapsed from the heat and died. Hospitals filled up with people.

Morgues were so full, that bodies lined the hallways, because all the slabs were taken. Family members had to come and identify the bodies lined up. Doctors and nurses were fainting at work from the heat. It was intense. In the end, 5,000 people were killed by the heat wave.

The crazy thing is that no one really remembers it. The heat blends in with all the other hot summers faced year after year, even though this particularly hot summer took so many lives.

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