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"The little-known secrets behind the men & women who shaped America"

Who is buried in Grant's tomb?

By Paul Niemann

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[October 16, 2008]  OK, this sounds like a trick question. We all know that Ulysses S. Grant is buried in Grant's tomb; there's no doubt about that.

But it leads us to today's story, which focuses on several common myths, misnomers and misunderstandings -- as well as a few truths. Your job is to decide which of these six subheadings are fact and which ones are fiction.

RestaurantFACT or FICTION: Charles Goodyear founded the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.

While Charles Goodyear did invent the process of vulcanizing rubber, he did not found the company that bears his name. Then who did start the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company? It was Frank Seiberling in 1898; he named it Goodyear as a tribute to Charles Goodyear 38 years after Goodyear died. So the first one is FICTION.

FACT or FICTION: The person who established the Nobel Prizes also invented dynamite.

How ironic would it be if the person who established the Nobel Prizes also invented something that led to the deaths of thousands of people? Oddly enough, this one's a FACT, as Alfred Nobel left over $1 million in his will for the five awards: peace, physics, chemistry, physiology and medicine, and literature.

FACT or FICTION: Presidential inventor Thomas Jefferson, who established the U.S. Patent Office 11 years before he became president, never patented any of his own inventions because he considered patents to be an unfair monopoly.


This one is also a FACT. Jefferson invented many items that are still in use today, including the swivel chair, the dumbwaiter and double doors. He also introduced french fries and macaroni to America, and he was our nation's first patent commissioner.

FACT or FICTION: The inventor of Liquid Paper was also the mother of a band member of The Monkees.

Fact-a-mundo, as The Fonz would say. If you've been a loyal reader since this column began in 2003, then you might remember that the mother of Monkees guitarist Michael Nesmith sold her Liquid Paper Corp. to Gillette for $47 million plus royalties. Maybe that's why he skipped their 1997 reunion tour, as he certainly didn't need the money.

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Funeral Director

FACT or FICTION: The world's first metal detector was used to try to save a U.S. president's life.

The inventor was Alexander Graham Bell, and he used his metal detector to try to locate a bullet that had wounded President James Garfield, so this one's a FACT. Every time the metal detector made a buzzing noise, the doctors assumed that they had found the location of the bullet, so they continued to probe his body looking for it. The metal turned out to be the metal springs of President Garfield's bed, so the metal detector, along with the doctors, probably did more harm than good. President Garfield died soon afterward.

FACT or FICTION: The inventor of the World Wide Web chose not to patent the Web so that it could reach its full potential and so that everyone could have access to it.

Since you know that you don't have to pay to use the Web, this one must be FACT. The Web's inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, probably would have faced at least 600 lawsuits from imposters claiming to have invented it, just as Alexander Graham Bell did when his "other" invention became a big hit.

That's a good one to end today's story with. And that's a FACT.


Paul Niemann's column is syndicated to more than 70 newspapers. He is the author of the "Invention Mysteries" series of books. He can be reached at

Copyright Paul Niemann 2008

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