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10 weird things that have happened in November

As the 11th month gets under way, Graeme Donald, author of On This Day in History, reveals 10 of the strangest things that have happened in November…

Published: November 1, 2017 at 9:09 am
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The collapse of the German mark in November 1923 resulted in an economic crisis. This store's rent increased so much as to force the owner to close down after one last sale. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)


6 November 1810: A union of drinking and medicine

Only in Australia would one find a Rum Hospital. On 6 November 1810 Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of New South Wales, gave the valuable rum monopoly to a consortium of local businessmen on condition that part of their profits were used to build the Sydney Rum Hospital, parts of which still stand today.

6 November 1923: Germany inflated too far

There were riots in Germany over hyperinflation. The German mark sank to 4,210,500,000,000 to the American dollar, temporarily making bank robberies and mugging crimes of the past: money was just not worth stealing anymore. A loaf of bread cost 200 million marks: workers taking their wages home in wheelbarrows was a common sight.

7 November 1872: The beginning of a mystery

The Mary Celeste – not Marie Celeste – sailed out of New York and into maritime lore. She was later found abandoned, but tales of the table being set for a meal and still-warm cups of tea are the stuff of fantasy. The ship’s sextant and chronometer are missing, as is the only lifeboat, so apparently something caused the crew to abandon ship.

10 November 1871: ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume?’

Welsh-born journalist Henry Morton Stanley found his quarry, the Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone, in present-day Tanzania, but did not say “Dr Livingstone, I presume?” The statement was invented the following year by the editor of the newspaper who had sent Stanley to Africa.

12 November 1035: Death of a joking king

King Canute of England, Denmark and Norway died. He did indeed take his throne to the edge of the sea to show sycophantic courtiers that all power has its limitations, and not even he could command the waves to be still.


13 November 1914: A big day for ladies’ underwear

The fast-living Caresse Crosby, co-founder of the Black Sun Press, which numbered Laurence Sterne and Ernest Hemingway among its writers, was granted a patent for the first backless bra. Distracted by hedonistic adventures, she sold the patent for $1,500 to a company that went on to make a fortune.

14 November 1889: Around the world in less than 80 days

New York World reporter Nellie Bly set sail from New York to put Jules Verne’s 1873 novel Around the World in Eighty Days to the test. Making use of transport ranging from camels to Chinese junks, she completed the trip in a record 72 days, six hours, 11 minutes and 14 seconds.

16 November 1900: Insane circus performer almost kills Kaiser Bill

As Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany toured Breslau in an open coach, Selma Schnapke, a circus performer-turned-shopkeeper, threw an axe at him, with considerable accuracy and efficiency. It narrowly missed the Kaiser’s head, and embedded itself in the interior of the carriage. Schnapke was later ruled to be insane.

24 November 1434: The River Thames turns to ice

This day saw the first recorded instance of the river Thames in London freezing. Throughout the so-called Little Ice Age of c1350–1850 the river commonly froze, and Frost Fairs were held on the ice.

28 November 1859: Death of a myth-maker

The American writer Washington Irving died. He was probably responsible for the myth that many Spaniards opposed Christopher Columbus’s 1492 voyage to the East Indies (during which he landed in the Americas) because they feared he would sail off the edge of a flat earth.


From the earliest moments in history through to the present day, On This Day in History (Michael O’Mara Books) looks at all 365 days of the year, exploring significant events that share the same anniversary. Traversing centuries and continents, the book reveals how major events are connected. To find out more, click here.


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