53 Super Facts for Your Super Bowl Party

Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images
Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images

Want to be the smartest person in the room at this year's Super Bowl party? Bust out a few of these fun facts about Big Games past.

1.

plate of chicken wings
iStock.com/bhofack2

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Super Bowl Sunday is America's "second-largest food consumption day." (Only Thanksgiving Day beats it.)

2.

Lady Gaga Halftime Show
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

A persistent rumor says that sewage systems in major cities occasionally fail during Super Bowl halftimes, because a large volume of people supposedly all flush their toilets simultaneously. Don't worry! There's absolutely no evidence to support this claim.

3.

Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Peyton Manning is the only starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different teams: the Indianapolis Colts in 2007 and the Denver Broncos in 2016.

4.

Phil Simms is going to Disney World
Allsport/Getty Images

Phil Simms was paid $75,000 to shout "I'm going to Disney World” on the field moments after his Giants won Super Bowl XXI. Disney also paid Denver’s John Elway the same amount of money to yell the same thing—just in case his team won.

5.

Mewelde Moore #21 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates holds up the Vince Lombardi trophy as he celebrates with his daughter Jalyn Chantelle after their 27-23 win against the Arizona Cardinals during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009
Jamie Squire, Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers hold the record for most Super Bowl wins, having captured six Vince Lombardi Trophies. The San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, and New England Patriots have each won five.

6.

 Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks passes as Wesley Woodyard #52 of the Denver Broncos defends during Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014
Jeff Zelevansky, Getty Images

Which team has lost the most? That would be a tie between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, who've each dropped five Super Bowl matchups.

7.

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

A 2014 Change.org petition to "Have Weird Al Yankovic Headline the Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show" received more than 100,000 signatures.

8.

A fan holds up a ticket to Super Bowl 50 outside Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.
Andy Lyons, Getty Images

The priciest tickets to Super Bowl I, which was played on January 15, 1967, cost $12. Adjusted for inflation, that's the equivalent of about $89 today. And even at that bargain price, the event still didn't sell out. If you're thinking about buying tickets for this year's event, you'd better be prepared to shell out at least $2300 per ticket (at press time). 

9.

Jimmy Carter greets the Pittsburgh Steelers, 1980
The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum

In 1980, the Pittsburgh Steelers were the first Super Bowl-winning team to visit the White House. They visited with Jimmy Carter in a joint ceremony with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had won the 1979 World Series.

10.

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

When Jacksonville, Florida, hosted Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005, the city didn't have enough hotel rooms to meet the NFL's requirements. So in their bid to serve as the Big Game's host, they had to recruit five docked cruise ships as "floating hotels" for the event.

11.

Joe Namath
Elsa/Getty Images

Maryland sports fans must have really hated the Big Apple in 1969. On January 12 of that year, the New York Jets upset the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Nine months later, the New York Mets prevailed over the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles in the '69 World Series.

12.

iStock

The Super Bowl I halftime show consisted of two marching bands, acclaimed trumpeter Al Hirt, two men in jet packs, and 300 pigeons.

13.

Joe Montana and Dan Marino
DOUG COLLIER/AFP/Getty Images

Western Pennsylvania is quarterback country. Six Hall of Fame QBs hail from this region, five of whom (Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and Jim Kelly) played in at least one Super Bowl each as quarterbacks. The sixth, George Blanda, competed as a placekicker in Super Bowl II.

14.

Doug Benc/Getty Images

In odd-numbered Super Bowls, the NFC team is the designated "home" team while AFC teams enjoy that honor during the even-numbered Super Bowls.

15.

M*A*S*H
Keystone/Getty Images

In 1983, 105.97 million people tuned in to the final episode of M*A*S*H, making it the most-watched TV broadcast in American history. It took more than a quarter-century, but in February 2010, Super Bowl XLIV finally broke that record when 106.5 million people watched the New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts. Subsequent Super Bowls have broken even that record, with Super Bowl XLIX—which was played on February 1, 2015—currently holding the top spot, with 114.4 million viewers on average.

16.

Getty Images

In Las Vegas, more than $115 million is (legally) bet on the Super Bowl every year.

17.

Chuck Howley
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Although the Baltimore Colts beat Dallas in Super Bowl V in 1971, Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley was named the game's MVP. He's the only player in history to earn this honor as a member of the losing team.

18.

Former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan
Tom Hauck /Allsport

The Vince Lombardi Trophies—a new one of which is handed out every year—are made by Tiffany & Co. out of sterling silver.

19.

Super Bowl blackout (Superdome 2013)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

A power outage at New Orleans's Superdome put Super Bowl XLVII on hold for 34 minutes.

20.

Super Bowl 50
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

A fresh layer of high-quality, natural sod is installed on the field prior to each Super Bowl played on natural grass. For Super Bowl 50, the company West Coast Turf harvested 75,000 square feet of premium grass on the NFL’s behalf.

21.

Giants Super Bowl XLII victory parade
Al Bello/Getty Images

In 2008, then-Boston Mayor Thomas Menino lost a high-stakes bet to his Gotham counterpart when the Giants upset the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Because of New England's defeat, Menino had to send a truckload of Massachusetts delicacies—including 42 pounds of Dunkin' Donuts coffee (because it was the 42nd Super Bowl) and 12 dozen Boston cream pies (a reference to Tom Brady's number)—to New York City, where the food was donated to charity.

22.

Jim McMahon, Super Bowl XX
Getty Images North America

A few days before Super Bowl XX in 1986, Bears QB Jim McMahon mooned a TV news helicopter that was flying over one of Chicago's practice sessions.

23.

NFL logo
Tom Hauck/Staff/Getty Images

There has never been a shutout in the Super Bowl. The Miami Dolphins hold the record for fewest points scored in a Super Bowl; in 1972, they lost to Dallas, 24-3.

24.

Pats overtime TD
Elsa/Getty Images

Super Bowl LI was the first one to ever go into overtime. The Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28.

25.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Super Bowl XLV was the first one in history that didn't include cheerleaders. That's because neither of the game's participating teams—the Pittsburgh Steelers nor the Green Bay Packers—has a professional cheerleading squad.

26.

Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Cleveland is the only current NFL city that has neither hosted a Super Bowl nor seen its own team, the Browns, make an appearance in one.

27.

football on field
iStock.com/tomazl

During Super Bowl I in 1967, NBC was still in commercial when the second half kicked off. Officials asked the Packers to kick off again.

28.

Dan Witkowski

The 1989 Super Bowl halftime show was broadcast in 3D (a novelty for the time). In it, a magician dressed like Elvis Presley ("Elvis Presto") had the entire stadium participate in a round of the classic “Is this your card?” trick.

29.

dog catching frisbee
iStock.com/Mordolff

Another unusual spectacle was the 1977 Super Bowl pre-game show, which included a Frisbee-catching dog named Ashley Whippet.

30.

Lisa Simpson Predicts Super Bowl XXVI
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Springfield's resident wunderkind really knows her football. In an episode of The Simpsons which aired on January 23, 1992, Lisa correctly guessed that Washington would beat Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVI, which was played three days later.

31.

Titans fan Al Gore
LUKE FRAZZA/AFP/Getty Images

No sitting president has ever attended a Super Bowl. However, four sitting vice presidents—Spiro Agnew, George H.W. Bush, Al Gore, and Mike Pence—have made Big Game appearances.

32.

Getty Images

From 1985 to 1997, the NFC won 13 straight Super Bowls. During that streak, the NFC clubs outscored their AFC opponents by a cumulative score of 490-219.

33.

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum

While celebrating the Giants' Super Bowl XXI victory with President Reagan at the White House, linebacker Harry Carson emptied a Gatorade tub of popcorn over the Gipper's head.

34.

George Rose/Getty Images

On San Francisco's Super Bowl XXIII game-winning drive in 1989, Joe Montana saw a celebrity spectator; in mid-huddle, he nonchalantly asked his teammates, "Hey, isn't that John Candy over there?"

35.

RICK RUNION/AFP/Getty Images

On Super Bowl Media Day in 2000, a reporter asked Titans defensive tackle Joe Salave'a, "What's your relationship with the football?" He replied: "I'd say it's strictly platonic."

36.

TONY RANZE/AFP/Getty Images

Back-to-back Super Bowl victories aren't as rare as you might think. The Packers, Dolphins, 49ers, Cowboys, Broncos, Patriots, and Steelers have all pulled off this feat. In fact, Pittsburgh has won back-to-back Super Bowls on two separate occasions.

37.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

The Wonder Years, Family Guy, and Undercover Boss all premiered immediately after the Super Bowl.

38.

Mike Powell/Getty Images

The 1985 Bears recorded a hit rap song called "Super Bowl Shuffle," which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. (It lost to Prince & the Revolution's "Kiss.")

39.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Joe Montana not only emerged victorious from all four of his Super Bowl appearances, he did it without throwing a single interception in any of those games.

40.

Super Bowl streaker
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Just before the second-half kickoff in the 2004 Super Bowl, a man disguised as a referee stripped down to a G-string and streaked across the field. Patriots linebacker Matt Chatham was able to knock him to the ground, enabling security to apprehend the hooligan.

41.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In 2010, Super Bowl XLIV featured an unusual piece of memorabilia: The coin that was flipped right before the game had previously spent 11 days orbiting the Earth on a NASA space mission.

42.

Otter!!
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

For the past several years, the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, has hosted an annual Otter Bowl on Super Bowl Sunday, where a group of these adorable mammals play around with a football while a staffer narrates the action. The event is not taking place in 2019, though. The halting of the popular game is so that the aquarium and its visitors can pay tribute to Brook, a popular sea otter resident who recently passed away following a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. Brook was 21 years old.

43.

Super Bowl QB Tom Brady
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The New England Patriots' Tom Brady has currently won five Super Bowls, more than any other starting quarterback. Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana won four apiece.

44.

referee calling a touchdown
iStock.com/groveb

The very first Super Bowl touchdown was scored in 1967 by Packers wide receiver Max McGee (who was hungover at the time). 

45.

Bob Levey/Getty Images

Super Bowl bonuses are a thing. In 2017, every player on the Pats' championship roster earned $107,000 for winning. The defeated Falcons received $53,000 each as a consolation prize.

46.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Two colleges have produced three Super Bowl-winning starting quarterbacks: the University of Alabama (Bart Starr, Joe Namath, and Ken Stabler) and Purdue University (Len Dawson, Bob Griese, and Drew Brees).

47.

Green Bay Packers defensive linemen Willie Davis (left) and Henry Jordan (right) tackle Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson (middle) in Super Bowl I.
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The event we now call the "Super Bowl" originally went by a duller name: "The AFL-NFL World Championship Game." Although "Super Bowl" has been used unofficially since the very first game, the term wasn't officially recognized by the league until a few years later, with the name first appearing on the cover of the program in 1969 and on the ticket in 1970.

48.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

In 2013, 40 years after winning Super Bowl VII, the famous perfect-season Miami Dolphins were invited to the White House by Barack Obama.

49.

Don Shula
JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images

As Don Shula was being carried off the field after the Dolphins' Super Bowl win in 1973, a fan reached up to shake his hand—and stole his watch.

50.

Al Bello/Allsport/Getty Images

During the 1995-1996 season, some proxy servers blocked the Super Bowl website because it was Super Bowl XXX.

51.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Hunter S. Thompson covered Super Bowls VII and VIII for Rolling Stone.

52.

Michael Jackson Super Bowl Halftime 1993
Mike Powell/Allsport/Getty Images

In 1993, Michael Jackson's halftime performance had higher ratings than the game itself.

53.

Tom Brady at the Super Bowl
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In 2017, Tom Brady became the second oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl at age 39—he beat John Elway, who won one at age 38 in 1999, but was just short of Peyton Manning's 2016 record. Manning was 134 days older for his final win than Brady was for his (though, if the Patriots beat the Rams at Super Bowl LIII, Brady's 41 years will make him the oldest quarterback to win).

16 Jaw-Dropping Facts About Cirque du Soleil

Hannah Peters, Getty Images
Hannah Peters, Getty Images

Since its founding in 1984, the contemporary circus Cirque du Soleil has performed for more than 180 million people in 450 cities on every continent but Antarctica. In other words: There’s probably a Cirque show near you right now … or there will be soon.

For the uninitiated, Cirque du Soleil—which celebrates its 35th anniversary in July 2019—features a mix of circus acts, street performance, unparalleled acrobatic feats and the avant-garde. And no matter the show’s theme, technology always plays a role—the Montreal-based company, now one of the largest live theatrical companies in business, consistently ups its game with state-of-the-art stages, special effects and world-class stunts. Read on to learn even more jaw-dropping facts about Cirque du Soleil.

  1. Cirque du Soleil began as a troupe of 20 street performers.

Cirque du Soleil has its roots in Les Échassiers de Baie-Saint-Paul (the Baie-Saint-Paul Stiltwalkers), a group that performed acts like fire-breathing and juggling on the streets of Baie-Saint-Paul in Quebec, Canada, in the early 1980s. One of the troupe's members was Guy Laliberté, who eschewed a college education to join the group; in 1984, he presented a proposal to the Canadian government for a company of performers that would tour across the country to celebrate the 450th anniversary of Jacques Cartier's discovery of Canada. Laliberté landed a $1 million contract to make the proposal a reality, which led to the incorporation of the group as a non-profit under the name Cirque du Soleil.

  1. The name Cirque du Soleil means "Circus of the Sun."

"When I need to take time to reenergize, I go somewhere by the ocean to sit back and watch the sunsets. That is where the idea of 'Soleil' came from, on a beach in Hawaii, and because the Sun is the symbol of youth and energy," Laliberté explained to Fortune in 2011.

  1. Las Vegas has six permanent Cirque du Soleil shows.

Cirque du Soleil's first show had 10 acts and hit 15 cities in Quebec. Now, there are 23 Cirque du Soleil shows worldwide, including six permanent shows in Las Vegas and 12 that are on tour. Though it's hard to determine the most popular show, Cirque du Soleil calls Alegría—which ran from 1994 to 2013 before being "reinterpreted in a renewed version" in 2019—one of its “most beloved shows,” with 6600 performances for more than 14 million audience members around the world. That’s a lot of tickets.

  1. Mystère is the longest-running Cirque du Soleil show.

Cirque’s first permanent show in Las Vegas, Mystère has also been on stage the longest of all Cirque productions. This lighthearted, family-friendly show opened in 1993 at Treasure Island and features a classic Cirque du Soleil mix of gymnastics and trapeze.

  1. Cirque du Soleil shows are incredibly expensive to produce.

For example, —which premiered in 2005—cost at least $165 million to create, making it one of the most expensive theatrical productions in history (to compare, the Spider-Man musical, Broadway’s most expensive show, had cost estimates about half that). Much of the budget was for technical feats, including a battle scene featuring acrobats on wires fighting vertically. Sadly, it was during the battle sequence that aerialist Sarah Guillot-Guyard died in 2013. It was Cirque du Soleil’s first onstage fatality.

  1. There’s even a Cirque du Soleil show on ice.

Crystal, Cirque’s “first experience on ice,” premiered in December 2017 in Quebec City and Montreal. It’s basically the choreographed stunts you’d expect from Cirque du Soleil but everybody’s on skates.

  1. Many Cirque du Soleil casts include former Olympians.

Cirque du Soleil employs 1300 performers from 50 different countries, and Cirque says about 40 percent of its artists come from disciplines like rhythmic gymnastics and diving. To that end, in 2016, Cirque had 22 Olympians (including two medalists) on stage in a variety of roles, from high-flying trampoline acts to synchronized swimmers. That’s not to mention the many performers who are recruited from national gymnastics teams.

  1. Cirque du Soleil cast members train extensively.

Before being cast in a specific show, prospective performers attend artistic and acrobatic training at Cirque du Soleil’s international headquarters in Montreal. Depending on the show and the role, cast members then do daily training and warm-ups, sometimes lasting more than 90 minutes, along with regular rehearsals. The daily work-outs can include weight lifting, stretching, handstands, pull-ups, sit-ups, and rope work.

  1. The kitchens on Cirque du Soleil tours use up to 3000 pounds of food a week.

Traveling Cirque shows have a team of around five chefs who pump out meals for cast and crew each day. Menus change daily and incorporate local specialties in whatever city the show lands (think: bison in Denver; étouffée in Louisiana). In a 2017 interview, Cirque kitchen manager Paola Muller said that the kitchen can run through 2000 to 3000 pounds of food a week. A 2016 Thrillist article notes that 90 to 100 pounds of protein are served at each meal, and there’s a salad bar with 22 ingredients.

  1. Cirque du Soleil takes safety seriously—but the stunts are still dangerous.

Cirque du Soleil cast members pull off dangerous stunts on the regular. But even with stringent safety systems in place (some performers have called them “annoying”), injuries and accidents happen. According to Vanity Fair there were 53 injuries at the permanent Las Vegas shows in 2012, and in 2018, an aerialist was killed in Florida during a performance of Volta.

  1. Princess Diana was an early fan of Cirque du Soleil.

She took Princes Harry and William to an early performance by the group in 1990. In early 2019, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, attended a Cirque du Soleil charity performance; the duchess wore one of Diana's bracelets and a dress inspired by one of her late mother-in-law's looks.

  1. Cirque du Soleil has an outreach program based on the “social circus.”

Established in 1995, Cirque du Monde supports the philosophy that circus arts can be used as interventions for at-risk youth, creating confidence and community for kids who need it. This idea is referred to as “the social circus”; this and other global citizen campaigns have reached 100,000 kids in 50 countries.

  1. Some costume pieces in Cirque du Soleil's O are made out of shower curtains.

The costumes for all Cirque shows are unique in that they have to be not only stunning but also athletically practical and safe. Cirque’s Montreal Costume Workshop employs 300 full-time artisans, including shoemakers, milliners, and textile designers.

Each costume’s evolution requires a lot of ingenuity—and trial and error. Take, for instance, Cirque’s water show, O, in Las Vegas. Some costume pieces are made out of shower curtains, pipe cleaners, or bits of foam to make them float in the water. The wardrobe staff here does 60 loads of laundry a night to keep the 4800 costumes and accessories clean, and there’s a totally separate room dedicated to drying, complete with specialized heaters.

  1. Luzia is the first Cirque show in Spanish.

Although Cirque du Soleil shows don’t regularly rely on speaking parts (that’s what the mimes are for!), Luzia is the first show to be entirely en Español. Luzia’s title combines two Spanish words—luz for “light” and lluvia for “rain”—and features a state-of-the-art rain curtain and revolving stage.

  1. You can experience Cirque du Soleil in VR.

A natural extension of the Cirque experience? Virtual reality. In 2018, MK2, a Paris-based company specializing in VR cinemas, acquired distribution rights to four Cirque shows, co-produced by Canada’s Felix & Paul. Now, you can experience moments from , Kurios, Luzia, and O on Google Daydream, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and more.

  1. Cirque du Soleil's The Beatles LOVE has been onstage longer than the Beatles.

Cirque’s Beatles show, LOVE, has been on stage since 2006. The Beatles were together for around a decade, from 1960 (or '62, if you're going by when Ringo Starr joined, and when they released their first single) to 1970. LOVE remains a stalwart of the Cirque canon, regularly selling about 75 to 90 percent theater capacity, and is at the top of many Vegas “must dos.”

The True Story Behind Gentleman Jack: 10 Facts About Anne Lister

Suranne Jones stars as Anne Lister in HBO's Gentleman Jack.
Suranne Jones stars as Anne Lister in HBO's Gentleman Jack.
Jay Brooks, HBO

Anne Lister was one of the 19th century's most intriguing characters: she was a businesswoman, a mountaineer, a world traveler, and a science enthusiast. But it’s her love life that she’s mainly remembered for today. Often described as the “first modern lesbian,” Lister had a number of same-sex relationships, as chronicled in her gripping, 26-volume diary. Due in part to her rather masculine fashion sense, Lister was nicknamed “Gentleman Jack.” Which also happens to be the title of a new HBO series based on her life, starring the brilliant Suranne Jones (Doctor Foster, Coronation Street). Here are 10 things you should know about Anne Lister.

1. Anne Lister used her love of books as a compatibility test.

“I love and only love the fairer sex, and thus beloved by them in turn, my heart revolts from any love but theirs,” Lister wrote in her diary in 1820. Before she eventually settled down with heiress Ann Walker, Lister won the hearts of numerous other women. Courting them wasn’t always easy, but Lister had her methods. While flirting, she used to gauge the other party’s interest by mentioning books or plays that dealt with LGBTQ issues—like the writings of Juvenal, a Roman poet who had some pretty strong opinions about homosexuality. By watching the listener’s reaction, Lister could often predict if her advances would be successful.

2. Traditionally “feminine” clothing just wasn’t Lister’s style.

Lister's era was one full of whalebone corsets and restrictive petticoats, yet her personal style emphasized function over form. Because she moved at a brisk pace and enjoyed long walks through the countryside (she reportedly walked 25 miles in a single outing on at least one occasion), she tended to wear thick, leather boots, which were generally deemed unladylike. She further defied convention by sporting lots and lots of black. Even though it was seen as a masculine color at the time, Lister filled her wardrobe with black bodices and long coats. She felt that the dark garments complimented her wiry physique, and in 1817, Lister—then 26 years old—declared, “I have entered upon my plan of always wearing black.”

3. She ran her family's estate for more than a decade.

Growing up, Lister would frequently visit Shibden Hall, the brick-and-timber mansion that was the home of her aunt and uncle, who had no children of his own. Lister moved into the estate in 1815, after the untimely deaths of all four of her brothers. When her uncle James passed away in 1826, the job of managing Shibden Hall (and its surrounding 400 acres) fell to Lister. She handled its finances, oversaw its coal deposits and quarries, profited off of the onsite canals and timber, and collected rent from its tenants right up until her death in 1840.

4. As an anatomy student, Lister once dissected a human head.

On one of her extended trips to Paris, Lister was often seen attending scientific lectures, where she deepened her knowledge of everything from zoology to mineralogy. According to Angela Steidele’s 2018 book, The Gentleman Jack: A Biography of Anne Lister, Regency Landowner, Seducer and Secret Diarist, the eager pupil cut open a deceased rabbit, a severed human hand, a disembodied ear, and “a woman’s head.” “It is not known where the head came from,” Steidele wrote. “Anne, who had kissed so many women, took on the dissection of the face. She preserved the bits in rectified spirits and kept them in a cabinet she obtained especially, which also contained a skeleton and several skulls."

5. She was an accomplished mountaineer.

In 1830, Lister earned the distinction of becoming the first woman to ascend Mount Perdu, the third highest mountain in the Pyrenees Range. (Its peak is 11,007 feet above sea level.) Eight years later, she became the first amateur climber to ever scale the Vignemale, an almost equally tall summit in the same range.

6. She and Ann Walker married in 1834 in what is often cited as the first lesbian wedding in recorded British history.


Portrait by Joshua Horner - GLBTQ Encyclopedia, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

On Easter Sunday, 1834, Lister married Ann Walker in what is often cited as the first lesbian wedding in recorded British history.

The women had been acquaintances for several years. Walker was 12 years younger than Lister and, by all accounts, a whole lot shyer. In 1834, she finally accepted Lister’s persistent proposals to join her in a union that would be “the same as a marriage” (as Walker described it).

After selecting a pair of rings, they took communion together on Easter Sunday, 1834, at the Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate in York. So far as Lister and Walker were concerned, the shared Easter service was their stand-in wedding ceremony. They never mentioned this to the church, and their marriage went unrecognized in the eyes of the law. But if you visit the house of worship today, you’ll find a rainbow-ringed plaque that reads, “Anne Lister 1791-1840 of Shibden Hall, Halifax Lesbian and Diarist; took sacrament here to seal her union with Ann Walker [on] Easter 1834.”

7. an angry mob once burned effigies of lister and walker .

Lister didn't make a lot of friends among her tenants. She used to pressure them into voting Tory and refused to rent land to people who didn’t share her political beliefs. Her notoriety only increased after she began her new domestic life with Walker. Lister took an active role in managing her significant other’s estate, which was located near Shibden Hall. Soon, a dispute broke out over a drinking well on Walker’s land. Although residents of the broader community depended on that well, Lister considered it family property. So to assert her control over the situation, she had a barrel of tar dumped into the water—making it unfit for consumption. In retaliation, effigies of both Lister and Walker were burned. (Ultimately, a magistrate ruled that the water belonged to the public, and that Lister’s actions were unjustified.)

8. Lister died while vacationing in the country of Georgia.

Throughout her life, Lister maintained a passion for traveling. In 1840, Lister and Walker toured eastern Europe. That autumn, the couple was out exploring present-day Georgia (the country) when Lister came down with a horrible fever, possibly as the result of a tick bite. [PDF] Lister died on September 22, 1840; she was only 49 years old. Walker brought Lister's remains back to England, where they were buried at Halifax Minster.

9. Altogether, Lister wrote more than 7000 pages of diary entries.

Lister left behind a 26-volume diary encompassing a grand total of 7722 pages and roughly 5 million words. She started documenting her fascinating life in 1806, when she was just 15 years old. Around one-sixth of the preserved pages were transcribed in code. Those cryptic passages included some vivid descriptions of Lister’s sex life.

10. Some of those diary entries had to be decoded—twice!

The code Lister used was an odd, punctuation-free mixture of ancient Greek letters and algebraic signs. Toward the end of the 19th century, John Lister, one of her surviving relatives, successfully cracked the code with the help of his friend, Arthur Burrell. But once he figured out what the documents actually said, John hid them away, lest they attract a scandal. When Lister’s journals were subsequently rediscovered, a writer by the name of Helena Whitbread managed to unravel the code again in the 1980s. Whitbread then published decoded editions of the diaries, and the rest is history.

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