5 Times Historical Figures Teamed Up (School Never Taught)
Where there's a famous person, there's a weird story. And where there are two famous people, there's sure to be a much weirder story, what historians refer to as "some kind of crossover episode." So revise what you thought you knew about the following famous figures, and learn about the time that ...
Before The Revolution, Lenin And Stalin Worked Together To Rob A Bank
If you haven't studied history too closely, you might think Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin led the revolution by sitting back and writing books and/or issuing kill orders from afar, without really getting into the thick of it themselves. That is because you have been lied to about the true nature of Communism. True Communism means looting the treasury and bombing anyone in your way, so that's what the pair did in 1907. Along with them for the heist were Voznesensky (the inside man), Krasin (the explosives expert), Kamo (the "Caucasian Robin Hood" and master of disguise), and Bogdanov (a doctor trying to distill the elixir of youth from human blood), and no, we did not make any of that up.
Most of the crew were Communist comrades of course, but Voznesensky was a special case. He was an old school friend of Stalin's who'd recently reconnected with him over romantic poetry. Yes, Stalin wrote love poems under a pseudonym, and with them, he convinced Voznesensky to turn over interbank money shipment info. (Sources do not state that this happened post-coitus, but we can read between the lines.) The gang then used this info to surround a loaded stagecoach at just the right time, fling a bunch of bombs in every direction, then run off with the sacks of money. Their blasts killed 40 people.
The haul totaled just over 240,000 rubles, and when you factor in what an average Moscow factory worker made back then, you could say that's the equivalent of around $40 million today. Just one problem though: The money was entirely in 500-ruble notes, each of which was worth more than a worker might earn in several years. They couldn't spend the money anywhere. They had to exchange it, and they couldn't try local banks, all of whom were on the lookout for the stolen bills. So a couple of the lower-profile members of the gang volunteered to slip abroad and exchange the money there, and of course all of them were caught and arrested.
As for the higher-profile gang members, they were already on the police's radar, having foolishly shed several mustache hairs at the scene of the crime. To escape arrest, Lenin had to flee the country. He crossed by walking over a river's cracking ice, guided by drunken peasants, and he nearly died. Stalin, supposedly injured by one of the exploding bombs he set off personally, avoided being arrested, but the greater Communist Party expelled him for his role in the plot. The important thing, though, was that he and Lenin were firm friends now, and we can't wait to hear what these young idealists come up with next.
Henry Ford And George Washington Carver Joined Forces To Make A Hemp Car
When they hear the name Henry Ford, some people think "big businessman," and others think "uh, he was a Nazi, right?" Both those groups would be surprised to learn that Ford was actually kind off a hippie. He was super into the idea of running his cars on ethanol, reasoning that ethanol tastes a lot better than gasoline and is also renewable. He even wanted to make cars out of renewable material, because you never knew when war might suddenly leave steel scarce. To grow stuff strong enough to make a car, he needed the expertise of an expert in agriculture, and so he turned to George Washington Carver.
Together, the two decided to make a car out of peanuts. Ha, ha! Just kidding. That would be ridiculous, wouldn't it? No, they decided to make a car out of, uh, soybeans. The car would also be made of wheat, and flax, and other materials that you could grow more of endlessly. Including hemp, and for fuel, the engine would use hemp exclusively. Ford referred to the result as the first "plastic car," but this plastic material was derived from cellulose, not oil. The prototype that the Ford Company unveiled after the men researched biomaterials for a dozen years was a bit lighter than steel and significantly stronger. You could slam an axe on one of the bioplastic panels, and the axe might bounce back and hit you in the nose without leaving even a scratch on the car body.
So why aren't we today all driving hemp cars, which grow fully formed in the field, and which produce no emissions other than good vibes? Because of the evil government, of course, who went and banned hemp, setting us back a hundred years. Well ... at least that's the story. Given that Ford wasn't exactly cranking out hemp cars even before the ban came down, and given that no one's been able to replicate his exact bioplastic, there's some speculation that maybe his soybean car was a big fraud, secretly full of American steel.
But Ford and Carver went on tinkering on other applications of "chemurgy," their new field merging agriculture and industry. They looked into making biofuels from soybeans and creating synthetic rubber. Oh, and they stayed friends for years. Ford created a school and named it for Carver. Then when he learned Carver was getting old and having trouble going up and down stairs, Ford installed an elevator in Carver's home linking his lab and his bedroom. Which sounds heartwarming, but it also sounds suspiciously like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and we all know how that turned out.
Carl Sagan, Martin Sheen, Daniel Ellsberg, And PGP's Phil Zimmermann All Wound Up In Jail Together
Speaking of hippies and alternative energy, the '70s and '80s saw a whole lot of hippies rally again and again as part of the anti-nuclear movement. Confusingly, protests against nuclear power plants and protests against nuclear weapons testing are generally lumped together in historical roundups, even though those are two extremely different issues. Power plant protests were probably more fun, because thousands of protesters could break into a plant, costing the place lots of money even if not really achieving anything. That's not an option when you're holding your rally outside a military facility, so protesters at test sites had to content themselves with squirting red dye at workers from a baby's bottle and yelling, "This is the blood of the future! This is the blood of our children!"
In 1981, Phil Zimmermann was arrested at one of these anti-nuke protests at a test site in Nevada, a site that got hundreds of protests and some 16,000 arrests in less than decade. Zimmermann would go on to invent PGP, an encryption program, the sort of encryption that's useful if you're exchanging sensitive information with a confidential source, who then suddenly ghosts you without warning, Derrick. Zimmermann was arrested, and in his cell, he saw none other than 41-year-old actor/activist Martin Sheen.
Sorry, that's not accurate. He actually saw several others in addition to 41-year-old actor/activist Martin Sheen. He saw Daniel Ellsberg, the ex-military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971, and who would have greatly benefited from PGP had such a technology existed at the time. Maybe you saw Ellsberg played by Matthew Rhys in the 2017 film The Post, which largely skipped over his adventure in favor of the far more riveting story of the people who reported on him. Also in the cell was perennial protester and science man Carl Sagan. Sagan is theorized to have created all atoms personally, so he had a special interest in the fate of the atomic bomb.
Mind you, these weren't the only people at the protest. Hundreds were there, and the arrested also included Robert Blake and Kris Kristofferson, but these four happened to end up in the same cell and got to know each other. Did they combine their diverse talents and pull off a daring escape? Given that none of the four are currently still in that jail, we have to assume yes.
Napoleon's Grand-Niece Got Sex Tips From Sigmund Freud, Saved Him From Nazis
Princess Marie Bonaparte had a problem. By the 1920s, she was married to the Prince of Greece and Denmark and had given birth to a couple kids as expected, but sex just wasn't any fun. To figure out what was wrong, she consulted Sigmund Freud, the world's greatest expert on sex (or at least the one person willing to talk about the subject openly). Freud listened to this patient talk about her frigidity and figured out what the problem was: she must have witnessed a sex act as a baby, putting her off the activity for life.
Reading that now, and knowing that Freud was a quack, you're probably thinking, "Ha. Typical mad Freud stuff." But then Marie investigated, and it turned out he was right. A groom who'd worked at her childhood estate admitted that he and her wet nurse had had sex right in front of her. This revelation somehow didn't actually make sex any better for Marie, so she came up with a theory of her own: maybe the problem was anatomical. She launched a study, examining 243 women and measuring the exact position of their clitorises (you can get away with a lot when you're a princess), concluding that the farther your clitoris is from your vagina, the more frigid you'll be. She herself was what she called teleclitorienne, because an insurmountable 2 centimeters separated the two in her case. She then ordered an operation to reduce this distance, surgery being a 1924 clitoris's best chance for stimulation.
So, Sigmund Freud didn't help Marie all that much. But the two remained friends, without benefits.
When the Nazis banned Freud's work, he joked, "What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me. Now they are content with burning my books." However, it turned out they were absolutely open to the idea of burning him next, so activists worldwide petitioned their governments to get Freud to safety. For a while, it looked like Mexico might get him, but that fell through. Then Princess Marie traveled from France to Austria, paid the exit fees he needed to pay (the Nazis had seized all his money), and moved him to Britain. All four of his sisters in Vienna would end up dying in concentration camps, so yeah, this was close call for him.
To end on a much lighter note, let's talk about another close call:
Hunter S. Thompson Nearly Killed Bill Murray Playing Houdini (And Together Tried To Launch Shotgun Golf)
Every film where when an actor plays someone famous should have that famous person on set for reference. Many famous people refuse to offer help in this way, out of pure laziness -- Freddy Mercury was inexplicably absent during the filming of Bohemian Rhapsody, and Abraham Lincoln never showed up to help Lincoln star Daniel Day-Lewis get into character. But when it came time to make 1980's Where the Buffalo Roam about Hunter S. Thompson, Bill Murray was fortunate enough to have the real-life Thompson on hand. Fortunate in that Thompson could advise him, but also unfortunate in that Thompson nearly killed him.
Murray was staying with Thompson at his home in Aspen. One night, the two started arguing about which of them would make the better Houdini (this argument makes slightly more sense when you realize both had imbibed alcohol and possibly other substances). Eager to settle the issue, Thompson tied Murray to the cast-iron chair he was sitting in. If you're wondering why he had rope handy, well, that just means you've never stayed at Hunter S. Thompson's house before, and to make the challenge into a proper Houdini trick, he threw Bill into the pool to see if he could escape. In the pool he would have stayed, submerged, had another guest not thankfully pulled him out.
But the plot to kill Billy Murray was definitely not the greatest collaboration between the two. The greatest would have to be the idea that Thompson came up with one day, tested, then enthusiastically shared with a sleepy Murray. You know how golf is the most boring sport ever, only marginally more interesting than a seated business meeting? What if, suggested Thompson, the game tasks an opponent with keeping your ball out of the hole? And what if, suggested Thompson, in order to do this, your opponent wields a shotgun instead of a club? They aim at the ball and blast it far away, possibly destroying it in the process.
In addition to livening up the game, Thompson's variant would have resulted in the deaths of a fair percentage of golfers worldwide. As such, it was judged too good to exist, and the sport never progressed beyond the planning stage.