14 Facts About Daniel Boone

Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Daniel Boone was a frontiersman who helped introduce the United States to a little place we like to call Kentucky. He was famous for his extraordinarily long hunts and his navigation skills. ("I can’t say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days," he reportedly said.) The myth of him as a rugged gun-toting pioneer, however, doesn't match history. Get to know the real Daniel Boone.

1. HE WASN'T SOUTHERN.

Boone was born and raised in eastern Pennsylvania, about 10 miles from the modern city of Reading. Granted, in the 1730s, this was close to the frontier, and Boone—who was raised by Quakers—was given his first gun at the age of 12 to hunt. But, after two of Boone’s siblings married non-Quakers, their father was expelled from the church. A few years later the family moved to North Carolina.

2. JUST LIKE MANY YOUNG PEOPLE, HE BLEW HIS ENTIRE FIRST PAYCHECK.

When he was a teenager, Boone took his first long hunting trip. Animal furs and hides were in high demand in east coast and European cities, and Boone took his spoils to Philadelphia—and promptly, over the next three weeks, spent all of the money he earned on "a general jamboree or frolick." He was hooked. Boone would be a professional hunter for the rest of his life, and he soon acquired a reputation as an able navigator who could remember every trail he walked.

3. AS A SOLDIER, BOONE WASN'T AFRAID … TO FLEE.

The French and Indian War began as a border dispute over who got to claim land along the Ohio River. In 1755, Boone joined the side of the British colonies and served as a teamster in General Edward Braddock's expedition. While marching toward what is now Pittsburgh, Braddock's men experienced a deadly and embarrassing defeat at the Battle of the Monongahela. One out of three soldiers died. Boone survived by running away as fast as he could.

4. HE WAS A TRAILBLAZER WHO OPENED UP A PORTAL TO KENTUCKY.

Daniel Boone escorting settlers
Botaurus, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

By the 1770s, Boone was known for his geographical know-how. In 1775, a land speculation company hired him to lead a large crew and open a path through the Cumberland Gap, a narrow mountain pass near the modern borders of Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Their successful trek led to the construction of the Wilderness Road, which would allow more than 200,000 settlers to pour into Kentucky.

5. HIS SETTLEMENTS HELPED EXTEND THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE WESTWARD.

When Boone got to the other side of the Cumberland Gap, he established Fort Boonesborough. With 15-foot-high walls and 26 log cabins, it was one of the first English-speaking communities west of the Appalachians (and it's now a state park). While Boone was relatively chummy with Cherokee Indians, his move across the gap created palpable resentment among other native populations, who claimed Boone violated the Proclamation Line of 1763, which guaranteed Native Americans land west of the Appalachians.

6. HE ESSENTIALLY LIVED THE PLOT OF TAKEN.

Daniel Boone rescuing his daughter Jemina
Library of Congress // Public Domain

In July 1776, Boone's daughter Jemima, along with two other teenagers, were abducted by Cherokee and Shawnee Indians while they were out canoeing. With help from the girls—who were breaking twigs and leaving markings whenever they could—Boone managed to find them in just three days (just like Liam Neeson, he had a very particular set of skills). At least two of their captors were killed. The incident later inspired a scene in James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans.

7. HE WAS A SHAWNEE CHIEF'S ADOPTED SON.

In February 1778, Boone and a party of men were captured by Shawnee Indians. Boone made an impassioned case to Chief Blackfish, asking the natives to spare their lives. In exchange, come spring he would ensure that Boonesborough would surrender peacefully. Boone's plea worked. Not only did Chief Blackfish adopt Boone into the tribe, he made the frontiersman his son. "During our travels, the Indians entertained me well; and their affection for me was so great, that they utterly refused to leave me there with the others," Boone said. He was given the name Big Turtle.

8. WHEN HE HAD SOMEWHERE TO GO, HE COULD REALLY COVER SOME GROUND.

Daniel Boone
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

While living with the Shawnee, Boone learned that the tribe was planning to attack Boonesborough. (It was the middle of the Revolutionary War, and the Shawnee were allied with the British.) To warn his friends and family, Boone escaped the tribe and traveled 160 miles over rough terrain, returning to Boonesborough in just four days. They successfully withstood a 10-day siege.

9. HE WAS A SURVEYOR (BUT NOT A VERY GOOD ONE).

Because he had such a deep knowledge of the local terrain, land surveyors often asked Boone to be their assistant whenever they explored the woods around Boonesborough. By the 1780s, Boone had picked up enough knowledge to become a surveyor himself. He surveyed at least 150 patches of new terrain. (Some say he went as far west as Texas.) The problem? He wasn't very good. His maps were rarely accurate.

10. HE WAS A POLITICIAN, AND HE HELD AN ECLECTIC MIX OF OTHER PUBLIC OFFICES.

Just look at this resume: Deputy Surveyor of Lincoln County, Sheriff of Fayette County, Lieutenant Colonel of the militia, Coroner of Fayette County, Justice of Femm Osage, and—most notably—a three-time representative in the Virginia General Assembly. (As a legislator, Boone served on committees for religion and was present for debates over the formation of the state of Kentucky.)

11. HE OWNED SLAVES.

Boone's legacy is inextricably linked with slavery—mainly because enslaved people saved his life on more than one occasion. Slaves helped defend Boonesborough during the siege, and a slave named London was one of the few American fatalities. It was also the smarts of an ex-slave (who joined the Shawnee) that helped Boone vouch for his life to Chief Blackfish in 1778. This man, named Pompey, helped translate Boone's desperate pleas. And yet, despite his Quaker background, Boone would buy seven slaves in the 1780s, mostly women, who worked in a tavern he owned.

12. HIS GRANDSON PROVED THAT IT'S NEVER A GOOD IDEA TO BRING A BOOK MANUSCRIPT ON A CANOE TRIP.

In 1809, Daniel Boone dictated his autobiography to his grandson John Boone Calloway. Unfortunately, five years later, Calloway was canoeing down the Missouri River with the manuscript in hand when his boat tipped over. What might have been the most accurate account of Boone's life was swept down the Missouri.

13. FAME ANNOYED HIM.

Daniel Boone hunting
iStock

John Filson's 1784 book The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke made Boone famous. Soon, stories about Boone's life were detaching from reality. He hated it: "Nothing embitters my old age [more than] the circulation of absurd stories … many heroic actions and chivalrous adventures are related of me which exist only in the regions of fancy. With me the world has taken great liberties, and yet I have been but a common man."

14. HE DID NOT WEAR A COONSKIN CAP.

Boone might have been a professional hunter, but he was no bumpkin. He was often carefully groomed. "My father, Daniel Boone, always despised the raccoon fur caps and did not wear one himself, as he always had a hat," his son Nathan said. Boone usually opted for a classic flat, broad-brimmed hat.

London's Trafalgar Square Gets a Poetry-Writing Red Lion

Tolga Akmen, AFP/Getty Images
Tolga Akmen, AFP/Getty Images

London’s historic Trafalgar Square just got a fifth lion, the BBC reports. The fluorescent red, AI-powered lion takes visitor-submitted words and turns them into two-line poems, which are displayed on a screen inside its mouth. The history-inspired installation is part of the ongoing festivities for the London Design Festival, which ends Sunday.

The idea comes from set designer Es Devlin, who is participating in a yearlong collaboration with Google Arts & Culture. She was inspired by another designer who remarked that Sir Edwin Landseer, who sculptured the other lions in the square in the late 19th century, "never wanted [them] to look so passive.” Landseer apparently wanted the lions to assume a more lively stance, “but Queen Victoria found it too shocking,” Devlin says.

The story of how Trafalgar Square’s lions came to be is an odd piece of history. For one, the process was painfully slow. Landseer spent four years just working up a sketch and spent hours studying the habits of lions at the London Zoo. He even waited two years for one of the zoo’s lions to die, then carted it back to his studio and kept it there until it started to decay. He was forced to throw out the animal—and his reference material—before he finished. “Which is why, if you look closely, you can see that the lions in Trafalgar Square actually have the paws of cats, rather than lions,” The Telegraph notes.

[h/t BBC]

13 Facts About Notre-Dame Cathedral

iStock
iStock

Constructed between the 12th and 14th centuries, Notre-Dame de Paris has centuries of French history built into its stone. The Gothic cathedral reflects the prominent role of Paris as an economic and spiritual center in the 12th century, and its scars from the French Revolution are reminders of its long connection with the monarchy—a connection that almost resulted in its demolition. Yet although thousands of tourists enter its doors each day to photograph its rose windows and flying buttresses, this sacred destination still has its secrets. Here are 13 lesser-known facts about Notre-Dame de Paris.

1. A PAGAN CITY LIES BELOW THE CATHEDRAL.

The Île-de-la-Cité on which Notre-Dame de Paris now stands was once a Gallo-Roman city known as Lutetia. The cathedral may have been built right over remnants of a temple: Around 1710, pieces of a sculpted altar dedicated to Jupiter and other deities were discovered during an excavation under the choir (although it remains unclear if this is evidence of an ancient temple, or if the pieces were recycled there from another location). Additional architectural ruins found in the 1960s and '70s, many dating back to this ancient era, lie in the archaeological crypt located beneath the square just in front of Notre-Dame.

2. THERE'S SOME RECYCLED ARCHITECTURE ON ITS FAÇADE.

The Sainte-Anne Portal at Notre-Dame
The Sainte-Anne Portal at Notre-Dame

There are three portals on the western façade of Notre-Dame, each laden with sculpted saints and sacred scenes. One doesn't seem to fit, however—the Portal Sainte-Anne has a much earlier style than the rest. Its figures, such as the central Virgin and Child, look stiffer in their poses and less natural in their features compared to the other statues. That's because this tympanum, or semi-circular area of decoration, was recycled from a previous Romanesque church. A close examination in 1969 revealed that it was not originally made for this space, and had been adapted to fit the Gothic structure.

3. THERE'S A "FOREST" IN ITS ROOF.

The cathedral contains one of the oldest surviving wood-timber frames in Paris, involving around 52 acres of trees that were cut down in the 12th century. Each beam is made from an individual tree. For this reason, the lattice of historic woodwork is nicknamed "the Forest."

4. ITS FLYING BUTTRESSES WERE GOTHIC TRENDSETTERS.

Low angle view of the East end of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral at sunset with flying buttresses
iStock

The cathedral was one of the earliest structures built with exterior flying buttresses. They were constructed around its nave in the 12th century to lend support to the thin walls, after the need for more light in the incredibly tall church required larger windows, and thus greater supports. The exposed flying buttresses became an iconic aspect of Gothic design, and although there's some debate over whether Notre-Dame was the first church to have them, they certainly set the trend in sacred architecture.

5. TWENTY-EIGHT OF ITS KINGS LOST THEIR HEADS IN THE FRENCH REVOLUTION.

In 1793, in the midst of the French Revolution, 28 statues of biblical kings in the cathedral were pulled down with ropes and decapitated by a mob. (King Louis XVI was guillotined earlier that year, and any iconography tied to the monarchy was under attack.) The mutilated stones were eventually tossed in a trash heap, which the Minister of the Interior dealt with by ordering the material be repurposed for construction. It wasn't until 1977 that the heads of 21 of these kings were rediscovered during work on the basement of the French Bank of Foreign Trade. Now they're at the nearby Musée de Cluny.

6. THE TOWERS ARE NOT TWINS.

The two towers of Notre-Dame
iStock

At first glance, Notre-Dame’s two towers appear like identical twins. Closer examination reveals that the north tower is in fact a bit bigger than the south. As with all the elements of the cathedral, they were built over time, and reflect how the cathedral is more of a collage of architectural trends and leadership than the culmination of one person’s vision.

7. ITS BELLS WERE ONCE MELTED DOWN FOR ARTILLERY.

The kings weren’t the only part of Notre-Dame destroyed during the French Revolution. The cathedral, like other churches around France, was transformed in the late 18th century from a Christian space and rededicated to the new Cult of Reason. All 20 of its bells—except the colossal 1681 bourdon called Emmanuel—were removed and melted down to make cannons.

While the bells at Notre-Dame were replaced in the 19th century, the new instruments were not as finely made as the older versions, and made a more dissonant noise when clanging. Finally, in 2013, a new ensemble of bells restored the cathedral to its 17th-century sound, with the deeply resonant Emmanuel still joining in the toll on special occasions.

8. NAPOLÉON AND VICTOR HUGO SAVED IT.

When Napoléon Bonaparte decided to have his 1804 coronation as emperor in Notre-Dame, the building was in bad shape. Centuries of decay as the city developed and changed around it, as well as the vandalism of the French Revolution, had left it on the verge of demolition. For years it had been used as little more than a warehouse. So when Napoléon declared its return to church use, and hosted his grand ceremony within his walls—an event in which he famously crowned himself—it brought Notre-Dame to new prominence.

Nevertheless, the coronation didn’t fix its structural deterioration. Then author Victor Hugo used the building as a personification of France itself in his 1831 novel Notre-Dame de Paris. (The book’s name is often translated as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, yet the hunchbacked bell ringer Quasimodo is not the main character; the central figure is Notre-Dame.) And Hugo vividly evoked its decrepit 19th-century state:

“But noble as it has remained while growing old, one cannot but regret, cannot but feel indignant at the innumerable degradations and mutilations inflicted on the venerable pile, both by the action of time and the hand of man, regardless alike of Charlemagne, who laid the first stone, and Philip Augustus, who laid the last. On the face of this ancient queen of our cathedrals, beside each wrinkle one invariably finds a scar. 'Tempus edax, homo edacior,' which I would be inclined to translate: 'Time is blind, but man is senseless.'”

The book was a success, and the momentum led to a major restoration overseen by architects Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.

9. ITS MONSTERS ARE MODERN, NOT MEDIEVAL.

Gargoyle and wide city view from the roof of Notre-Dame
iStock

Some of the most popular images of Notre-Dame are from the perspective of its gargoyles or chimera (the carved monsters that don’t act as waterspouts). Few visitors would guess that the fantastic creatures now on the cathedral weren't there until the 19th century; they were added between 1843 and 1864 during the radical restoration overseen by Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc.

Hugo had described gargoyles extensively in Notre-Dame de Paris, and Viollet-le-Duc was reportedly inspired by this romantic vision of the past. A daguerreotype from before this overhaul shows a building more stark than the one we know today, with no beasts perched on its towers, its medieval gargoyles having long been removed. Unfortunately, many of the 19th-century gargoyles are now decaying; PVC pipes have taken the place of those that have been taken down for safety.

The gargoyles were far from the only fanciful addition by the architect Viollet-le-Duc. Among the 12 apostles he had installed around the new spire, he included himself as the face of Saint Thomas.

10. ITS SPIRE IS A SAINTLY LIGHTNING ROD.

Look way to the top of the spire and you'll spy a rooster. This is not a purely decorative bird. In 1935, three tiny relics—an alleged piece of the Crown of Thorns and some bits of Saint Denis and Saint Genevieve (the city's patron saints)—were secured inside the metal bird’s body. The idea, the story goes, was to create a sort of spiritual lightning rod to protect the parishioners within.

11. THE ORGAN IS THOUGHT TO BE THE LARGEST IN FRANCE.

The Notre-Dame organ involves almost 8000 pipes (some dating back to the 18th century) played with five keyboards, making it the biggest pipe organ in France (although some claim that Saint-Eustache has a larger one). While there are some slashes on the wood of the organ loft—damage from the French Revolution, when its fleur-de-lis symbols were carved off—it was restored in 2013 to mark the 850th anniversary of the cathedral.

12. ALL ROADS LEAD TO NOTRE-DAME DE PARIS.

Point Zero marker outside Notre-Dame in Paris
Jean-Pierre Bazard, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Mostly overlooked beneath the crowds of tourists milling around outside Notre-Dame is a diminutive circular marker with an eight-pointed bronze star embedded in the cobblestones. It’s engraved with the words Point zéro des routes de France, and is the point from which distances are measured from Paris to other cities in France. It was placed there in 1924, although it had to be temporarily dislodged in the 1960s during the excavations for what was intended to be an underground parking garage. Those construction plans were thwarted when workers turned up architectural ruins—now kept in the archaeological crypt.

13. BEES LIVE ON ITS ROOF.

On the Notre-Dame sacristy, adjacent to the cathedral, is a small hive of bees. It was installed in 2013, with Buckfast bees—a strain developed by a monk named Brother Adam and known for its gentleness—living in its hives. Their honey is made from the flowering plants in nearby gardens, including the Square Jean XXIII just behind the cathedral. According to The New York Times, the sweet stuff is given away to the poor.

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