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21 Identifying Facts and Myths About Colonial America

Colonial America, which spanned from the early 17th century to the late 18th century, is recognized as a pivotal period in American history. It acts as the foundation upon which the modern United States has been constructed. Despite its extreme importance, this time period is usually shrouded in myths and misunderstandings. In the article, we will set out on a quest to expose and debunk some of the common myths that surround the Colonial America story.

The United States we know today was founded during this time period, although it is frequently misunderstood and misrepresented. In this essay, we will also examine and dispel some of the most widespread myths about Colonial America.

Image Source: Culture Club-Getty Images. The image shows the colonies of North America in 1776, at the time of the United States Declaration of Independence. Statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. Thirteen American colonies, then at war with Great Britain, declared themselves independent states.

21 Myths Of Colonial America

The following urban legends have their roots in poetry, old tales that have been altered over time, or historical facts that have been inflated for nationalistic purposes. How many did you believe to be accurate? Test your understanding of these widely-held misconceptions about early American history.

America became independent when the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776

Despite being commemorated as “Independence Day” and America’s birthday, on July 4, 1776, the United States was not a sovereign nation.

The Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on that day, but the United States was not liberated from Great Britain until the American Revolution was completed and the “Treaty of Paris” was signed on September 3, 1783. The United States had not received official recognition as an independent country before that point.

The idea that the “Declaration of Independence” was ratified on July 4th is another prevalent misunderstanding. The agreement was prepared by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28 of the year 1776, and Congress accepted the final draught on July 4. However, the signing ceremony was not held until August 2 of that year.

1) There were 13 Original Colonies!

Although the US flag has 13 stripes to represent them, there were really only 12 colonies that resisted British power in 1775. Before declaring independence on June 15, 1776, Delaware was never a separate colony; rather, it was a component of the Pennsylvania colony.

Delaware did have a distinct Assembly back then, but it was governed by Pennsylvania and was known as the lower counties.

But it is unquestionably true that Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution, making history by doing so on December 7, 1787.

2) Was the Original American Flag Designed by Betsy Ross?

Most people in America think that George Washington invited Betsy Ross to help design and sew the first American flag. This nationalistic myth has become ingrained in children’s literature, art, and academic curricula.

In reality, though, flag historians dispute the veracity of this story.

It wasn’t until 94 years after the alleged incident that the narrative of Betsy Ross and the flag surfaced. Her grandson, William J. Canby, told of a paper he wrote for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1870. However, this narrative is not backed up by any historical facts or records. Following the Civil War, the narrative was extensively published, and it quickly gained popularity as the nation began to mend.

Although any number of flag manufacturers in Philadelphia at the time may have sewed it, the early flag design with 13 stars in a circle is frequently referred to as “the Betsy Ross flag.”

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3) George Washington Had Wooden Dentures!

All of George Washington’s life, he had tooth issues. At the age of 22, he lost his first tooth, and by the time he was inaugurated in 1789, he had lost all but one of his natural teeth. He finally lost every tooth, and during his lifespan, he had several sets of dentures. Despite the widespread myth, none of his dentures were made of wood.

According to forensic laser scans of Washington’s dentures, the sets were crafted from human and animal teeth, frequently those of horses and donkeys, as well as ivory from elephants and hippopotamuses, gold, and lead. They also didn’t fit well, which caused discomfort and distortions in his mouth and voice.

The origin of the tale about wooden teeth is unknown. According to one rumor, his teeth acquired an unpleasant brown tint due to poor oral care, and to hide the reality, others said that his dentures were made of wood. While some others claim that he enjoyed drinking red wine, which stained them, or they surmise that his discolored remaining teeth gave the impression that they were made of wood.

4) “The British Are Coming!” Said Paul Revere

According to history, Paul Revere rode through the streets from Boston to Lexington, Massachusetts, on April 18, 1775, shouting “The British are coming!” to alert the locals to the approaching army.

Despite the fact that most people in Massachusetts at the time identified as British, Revere never shouted, “The British are coming!” Doing so wouldn’t have made any sense.

The well-known Paul Revere legend is largely fictitious and is said to have been inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Paul Revere’s Ride.” Although the poem is a highly fictionalized depiction of the renowned ride, the incredibly well-known language is frequently taken as gospel.

5) George Washington, Who Was Still A Child, Cut Down A Cherry Tree and was Unable To Lie!

The cherry tree story is one of several urban legends associated with Washington, none of which can be verified.

The story goes that young Washington loved to use his hatchet, and one day he cut down a cherry tree in the backyard. The young Washington said, “Pa, you know I can’t tell a lie,” when his father discovered the tree had been chopped down and questioned him about it. “I did use my hatchet to chop it,” he said.

The author of the story is typically cited as Mason Locke Weems, who published “The Life of Washington” not long after the president’s passing. Washington’s integrity was highlighted in the story. A fabrication concerning speaking the truth!

6) The Constitution Was Written on Hemp Paper!

There is a myth that the “Declaration of Independence”, “Constitution”, and “Bill of Rights” were all penned on hemp paper. Since hemp is a fiber manufactured from the marijuana plant, this argument is frequently stated by proponents of legalizing marijuana. On parchment, a treated animal skin, which is what all three of the papers are written on.

Although it is true that hemp was frequently used to make paper during this period, it is nevertheless feasible that certain drafts were produced on this material.

On July 4th, 1776, the Liberty Bell proclaimed America’s freedom!

On July 4th, the Independence Bell was not rung in Philadelphia to proclaim America’s independence. This narrative is frequently attributed to author George Lippard in his 1847 book “Legends of the American Revolution”.

The Declaration of Independence was initially read to the public on July 8; it is more likely, though unconfirmed, that the “Liberty Bell” was rung on the same day.

Additionally, it wasn’t until the 1830s, when abolitionists used the bell as a symbol of the anti-slavery campaign, that it was given the name “Liberty Bell.”

7) Early European Settlers Lived in Their Own Colonies!

Frontier civilizations and Native American cultures frequently mixed and interacted with one another. White settlers found the Native communities appealing, and many of them moved on to become part of the Native communities. The pilgrims forbade the wearing of long hair by men because they feared it might cause “Indianization.”

This story probably originated because long hair was forbidden by the pilgrims in order to avoid cross-cultural contact. Coexistence was not an option for settlers who wanted to steal Native territory. A straightforward European settlement and a distinct Native tribe adjacent have frequently been shown in subsequent histories, literature, and films about early America.

8) During the Salem Witch Hysteria, Witches Were Executed By Burning!

19 of the 20 individuals put to death during executions were hanged. Giles Corey, one of the 20, died after being crushed under heavy, big stones for several days. Given that the court was attempting to elicit a plea from him, it seems more plausible that his death was the result of bad luck than of malicious intent. No one was set ablaze.

Despite being a terrible and unfair chapter in American history, the “Salem Witch Trials” are nothing compared to the witch hunts that took place in Europe. An estimated 50,000 people were killed for practicing witchcraft between the 1400s and 1700s, according to current figures.

Many of those accused were burned at the stake since it was a traditional penalty that was initially outlined in medieval criminal laws. Since it was such a frequent penalty, many people now believe that witchcraft was practiced at Salem.

9). The American Revolution Was Won By The Colonists Using Unconventional Guerilla Tactics!

Despite one or two instances of tactical genius akin to guerrilla warfare, the Continental Army fought primarily as European-style armies of the day engaged in combat.

As the tanks drew nearer, they faced each other in columns and effectively took turns shooting at their adversaries. This was due to the fact that the smoothbore muskets that were in use at the time could be loaded fairly rapidly but were imprecise; therefore, it was most efficient to have them fire in a massive cluster.

It makes sense that historians and artists would concentrate on the most adventurous and exciting conflict-related accomplishments. Great reading may be found in Hamilton’s offensive move at Yorktown and his strategies at Lexington and Concord. However, in actuality, they are the exception and not the rule. The majority of military interactions during the conflict were distinctly traditional.

10) Americans Of All Stripes Took Up Arms Out Of Patriotism!

Originally, the term “spirit of ’76” connoted the ardent nationalism of colonialists, which was frequently associated with the conviction that every qualified settler faithfully served and survived the eight-year struggle.

However, excitement diminished as the difficulties and risks of military duty became more and more clear. Many people opted to stay at home under the protection of their “Chimney Corner” rather than risk going to battle, a stance shared by General George Washington.

Washington voiced skepticism about building the army through voluntary enlistments in the early stages of the battle. He predicted that once the initial fervor died down, the number of people who would continue to fight for the cause out of conviction would be very tiny. His assumption came true.

As 1776 went on, several colonies found themselves needing to fill their ranks using enticements that were frequently shorter than the one-year requirement imposed by Congress, including monetary incentives, clothes, blankets, and shorter enrollment durations.

The draft system was proposed by Congress in April 1777 as an addition to the enlisted ranks. By the end of 1778, most states had turned to conscription when the voluntary quotas set by Congress were not fulfilled. The Army’s demographics were drastically changed by these extended enlistments.

Washington’s forces in 1775–1776 represented a wide cross-section of the free male population. But after 1777, the typical Continental soldier was young, single, without property, strapped for cash, and frequently impoverished. This change was a reflection of how the Revolutionary War effort had to change over time.

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11) The Pilgrims Arrived At Plymouth Rock!

A million or more tourists travel to Plymouth, Massachusetts, every year to see the famed Plymouth Rock, which is housed in a structure that resembles a zoo. Since the Mayflower arrived in 1620, this rock has been revered as the exact location where the Pilgrims stepped foot in the New World for the first time. However, there is no record of such a landing on a rock in historical chronicles from that era.

A startling 121 years after the Pilgrims’ landing, in 1741, the relationship between the Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock was first established. A 94-year-old man named Thomas Faunce, whose father came three years after the Mayflower, expressed his concerns about a new dock potentially erasing the historic stone. The elderly guy was then brought to the beach by passing people, which resulted in a crucial moment when he was able to recognize the rock.

Even though it was accidentally broken in half during its move to the town square in 1774, it afterward became a significant source of communal pride. They took half into town and left the other half at the harbor rather than giving up on the objective.

With the exception of sporadic modifications, the two portions were united in cement in 1880 and inscribed with “1620,” where they have remained on the coast ever since. But over time, certain parts have lost their integrity. Two of these shards are currently housed at the Smithsonian, while a 40-pound piece is present in the Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims in Brooklyn Heights. The Plymouth Rock, originally the size of a dining table, is said to be just a small portion of its former size at this time.

Even though it served as a landing spot, Plymouth Rock wasn’t the Pilgrims’ first stop. At Provincetown, on the extreme tip of Cape Cod, the Mayflower first moored, and it was there that the passengers signed the Mayflower Compact. However, William Bradford called the location “hideous and desolate.” The Pilgrims continued their journey to Plymouth, where they eventually established themselves and stayed.

12) Continental Soldiers Were Always Ragged And Hungry!

Indeed, the stories of Continental Army men going barefoot, leaving excruciating blood tracks in the snow, or being hungry in a nation of abundance are true. Think about the experience of Private Martin from Connecticut. In the autumn of 1776, while serving with the Eighth Connecticut Continental Regiment, Martin endured days on meager rations that included a meager handful of chestnuts and, at one point, a piece of leftover roast sheep’s head—which he ironically referred to as his “gentleman officers.” A Massachusetts soldier named Ebenezer Wild who was stationed in Valley Forge during the bitter winter of 1777–1778 recalled living for days on what he sadly described as “a leg of nothing.”

Later, Wild’s friend and Continental Army medic, Dr. Albigence Waldo, said that many soldiers survived by eating “fire cakes,” which were made of wheat and water and cooked over fires. One soldier even said that after eating, his gut felt like cardboard. The Army’s supply system, which was sometimes inefficient and occasionally wholly unreliable, caused widespread hardship and hunger.

However, things weren’t always this bad. The arrival of a large quantity of bulky clothes from France at the start of the winter in 1779 forced Washington to find more storage space for the excess. The conditions that the soldiers encountered in this protracted struggle, where they were stationed from upper New York to lower Georgia, presented a wide range of difficulties.

13) The Military Was Ineffective!

The British militia system, which mandated that all able-bodied males between the ages of 16 and 60 bear arms, was adopted by the nation’s earliest immigrants. During the Revolutionary War, the Continental Army included about 100,000 troops. Almost twice that many served in the militia, mostly guarding the home front, acting as a police force, and occasionally spying on the enemy. A militia unit was typically mobilized for no longer than 90 days if called to active duty and dispatched to the front lines to support the Continentals.

After the conflict, several Americans believed that the militia had been mainly unsuccessful. Nobody damaged its reputation more than General Washington, who warned that relying on the militia “certainly rests on a broken staff.”

Although the militia had its flaws, America could not have won the war without it. In a letter from 1781, a British general named Earl Cornwallis said, “I will not say much in praise of the militia, but the list of British officers and soldiers killed and wounded by them… proves, but too fatally, that they are not wholly contemptible.”

14) Saratoga Was The War’s Turning Point!

British General John Burgoyne turned up 5,895 troops for American forces outside of Saratoga, New York, on October 17, 1777. This represented roughly a fourth of the British soldiers in America in 1777 when combined with the 1,300 fatalities sustained during Burgoyne’s earlier five-month struggle to reach Albany.

Saratoga wasn’t the only turning point in the war, despite its importance. A single decisive event seldom determines the outcome of protracted confrontations, such as the Revolutionary War, one of America’s longest military engagements, until almost two decades later in Vietnam.

In addition to Saratoga, four additional crucial instances might be named. The first included both the victories along the Concord Road on April 19, 1775, and the conflict at Bunker Hill in Boston two months later, on June 17.

British General John Burgoyne turned up 5,895 troops for American forces outside of Saratoga, New York, on October 17, 1777. This represented roughly a fourth of the British soldiers in America in 1777 when combined with the 1,300 fatalities sustained during Burgoyne’s earlier five-month struggle to reach Albany.

The first included both the victories along the Concord Road on April 19, 1775, and the conflict at Bunker Hill in Boston two months later, on June 17.

15) General Washington Was A Master Strategist And Tactician!

Following George Washington’s death in 1799, Timothy Dwight, the president of Yale College, claimed that the general’s military effectiveness was mostly attributed to his capacity for formulating comprehensive and clever schemes and his acute eye for seizing any opportunity.

This point of view was popular and has gained support from many historians.

But it’s crucial to realize that Washington made mistakes and had strategic shortfalls. Washington knew full well what he was capable of. He freely stated to Congress prior to the New York campaign in 1776 that he lacked experience in planning large-scale operations and had limited knowledge of military matters.

Partly as a result of Washington’s poor reconnaissance of the terrain and his effort to defend a larger region than his force could hold in August 1776, the Continental force suffered a serious setback in its maiden trial on Long Island.

The surrender of Fort Washington on Manhattan Island and Fort Lee in New Jersey in November was partially caused by Washington’s fatally ill-advised action.

These losses took a tremendous toll, costing the army roughly a fifth of its personnel, as well as essential equipment and supplies. Notably, Washington didn’t take responsibility for these losses; instead, he expressed to Congress his lack of faith in the troops’ overall condition.

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16) Pilgrims And Puritans Were The Same!

One of the most widespread myths regarding Colonial America is that the early English settlers were known as both Pilgrims and Puritans. While both groups aspired to religious freedom, they really held different ideas and came from different places.

In order to entirely renounce the Church of England, the Pilgrims were separatists who settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620. On the other side, the Puritans favored internal Church of England change. The Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded in 1630 with the goal of building a “city upon a hill” that would serve as a model Christian community.

17) Native Americans Were Passive And Homogeneous!

The idea that Native American tribes had uniform cultures and were complacent in the face of European colonization is another popular fallacy. There were actually a large number of separate Native American tribes, each with its own unique language, culture, and social organization.

While some tribes made agreements and traded with the Europeans, others vehemently opposed colonization. The Wampanoag and Narragansett tribes in New England strove to forge cooperative partnerships, but the Powhatan Confederacy engaged in conflict with English immigrants in Virginia.

18) All Of The Colonists Desired Religious Freedom!

Although religion played a crucial role for some early immigrants, it was not everyone’s primary reason for immigrating to Colonial America.

Many people and families came to the New World in search of employment opportunities, refuge from political persecution, or just a chance for a new beginning. For instance, the Southern colonies were built primarily for economic reasons, like tobacco production, but the Dutch founded New Amsterdam (later New York) primarily as a commercial station.

19) Slavery Was Only A Southern Issue!

The idea that slavery was only practiced in the Southern colonies is one of the most persistent fallacies about Colonial America. The degree and type of slavery varied by location, but it was in fact present in all thirteen colonies.

For instance, although on a smaller scale than the Southern colonies, the New England colonies participated in the transatlantic slave trade and had populations that were slaves. All of the colonies’ social and economic systems were intricately entwined with slavery, and the effects of slavery’s legacy are still felt in modern-day American culture.

20) America In The Past Offered Endless Opportunities!

Another myth is the notion that Colonial America provided a limitless opportunity for everyone willing to put in the effort. While certain groups, especially white male landowners, did have chances, many others faced tremendous obstacles. Women’s legal rights were restricted, and they frequently had to play only certain roles. The lives of indentured servants were filled with hardship and uncertainty. Additionally, prejudice and discrimination against African Americans, both free and enslaved, were institutionalized.

21) The Support For The American Revolution Was Universal!

Not all colonists backed the American Revolution, despite what is commonly believed. Loyalists, commonly referred to as Tories, made up a sizable percentage of the populace.

For a variety of reasons, such as economic ones, an aversion to anarchy, or feelings of patriotism toward their motherland, they continued to be loyal to the British Crown. Loyalists were subjected to persecution and had their property taken away during the turbulent and polarizing period of the Revolution.


Colonial America is a complicated historical era that resists easy classification.

By refuting these widespread misconceptions, we are better able to comprehend the various drives, difficulties, and experiences that created this significant time period. Understanding the subtleties of Colonial America enables us to comprehend the complexity of our country’s origin and the wide range of voices that contributed to it.

The colonial era is hazy and full of hazy memories of stories taught in school for many Americans. The Mayflower, the Salem Witch Trials, and the Declaration of Independence are some significant events that we may recognize, but the events that occurred in between can sometimes be forgotten.

The truth is that there are a lot of myths about this time period, from little yet strange parts of daily life to significant historical events that aren’t what you think they are. You might not be as knowledgeable about colonial America as you believe you are.

The reality can evade you since this time period, particularly the American Revolution, has been so highly mythologized. It’s far simpler for those who tell stories about this time period to focus on the heroic tales of individuals who battled for freedom rather than delving into the convoluted politics surrounding the revolution and the wise but fallible Founding Fathers.


What Is A Fact About Life In Colonial America?

Due to high death rates throughout the Colonial era, marriages often lasted fewer than 12 years. Death struck more frequently and early in Colonial America: In 1700, the average age of death for English males in Virginia was 48.

Who Colonized America First?

The first to establish itself was Jamestown, which was situated in modern-day Virginia. In 1607, British settlers established the Jamestown colony. The region that is today known as New York was first settled by Dutch immigrants not long after the Jamestown colony was founded.

What Is the History of the 13 Colonies?

13 colonies proclaimed their independence from Great Britain in 1776. The colonies were located in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia. They were named Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New York.

What Are Five Interesting Facts About the Colony?

The Pilgrims did not arrive until 1620. The Mayflower was a cargo ship; many of the early settlers were indentured servants; food was scarce and very bland; and there were a total of 13 colonies. The first colony was a failure. The first successful colony was Jamestown.

What Was Life Like Living in Colonial America?

Even cooking was laborious in the colonial era. However, colonists managed to combine labor and recreation. They also delighted in games and athletics. The colonists accepted English law as their legal system for most of the 1700s.

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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