History's best pirate, beneath Lincoln, and the true Mona Lisa

History's most successful pirate was a woman

The picture above is "Mistress Ching" just before she put her "piece of eight" onto the table before the 9 Pirate Lords in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Her character is based on the real-life pirate lord, Ching Shih.

Ching Shih was estimated to have controlled a fleet of 400 to 1,000 ships and up to almost 80,000 pirates...can Jack Sparrow say that?

Also known as Zheng Yi Sao and Shi Yang, she was born in 1775 to a family of humble means. When she turned 26, she married a pirate named Zheng Yi. After he passed away in 1807, she and her adopted son took control of the family’s pirate confederation.

Here is a clip of Mistress Ching (i.e. Ching Shih) in 'Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End':

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A museum beneath the Lincoln Memorial?

Construction began on the Lincoln Memorial in 1914

Beneath the Lincoln Memorial is its "undercroft," a cavernous area filled with rows of tall concrete columns and large expanses of open space that has long been hidden from the public — and soon, it will be the site of a new museum

As fun as it would be to think that this "cavernous area" is actually Hangar 51 from the Indiana Jones movies...alas, it is nothing that exciting. Even though the National Park Service allowed flashlight tours of the basement in the 1980s, the public hasn't been allowed there since 1989.

This is a military warehouse. I've never been here before in my life.

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"

What is exciting, is the fact that the National Park Service has awarded a $68 million dollar contract to add an immersive museum beneath the Lincoln Memorial and other upgrades to the visitor experience. Construction is expected to begin in March with completion targeted for 2026, in time for the 250th anniversary of American independence.

Visitors will learn how the memorial was constructed and how the statue became an iconic backdrop for civil rights demonstrations. The museum will also highlight prominent figures who have shaped the history of the memorial, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Sometimes I feel like The Mummy is the Indiana Jones reboot that should have been. At least we know that whoever wrote it did their research. 🎥

Yes...this is the second month in a row that I am recommending this podcast. I just couldn't resist telling you about the G.I. Joe episode. The research is top-notch, the production is amazing, and the nostalgia hits you from beginning to end. (oh, and you'll learn a few things about this historic franchise too) 🎙

Who was Mona Lisa?

Even though this is one of those paintings that are smaller in real life than what you always thought...the history behind this over 500-year-old painting is shrouded in mystery. Some people believe that she was based on a historical figure, while others think she was entirely fictional.

The Mona Lisa hung in Napoleon's bedroom and now hangs in the Louvre in Paris, France. Speculation has varied from Davinci's mother to a prostitute...or a noblewoman to a secret lover.

The biggest claim was made in the 1500s by an art historian saying that it was the wife of a wealthy businessman. While this art historian's claims were largely dismissed, it took a modern-day historian, Dr. Armin Schlechter, to discover in 2005 a margin note in a manuscript from October 1503 to solidify his findings.

The note identifies the Mona Lisa as none other than Lisa del Giocondo, the third wife of Francesco del Giocondo, a renowned silk merchant whose family lived in Tuscany and Florence.

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History gear for our fellow history nerds.