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Celebrities You Might Not Believe Were Alive at the Same Time

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson attends the premiere of "Skyscraper" at AMC Loews Lincoln Square on July 10, 2018,
JStone/Shutterstock

History is pretty weird and often surprising. Did you know that wooly mammoths still walked the Earth when the Great Pyramid of Giza was built in roughly 2580 B.C.? Or that Cleopatra lived and ruled Egypt closer chronologically to the moon landings than the pyramid’s construction?

What about these five pairs of celebrities that were alive (if only briefly) at the same time?

Pablo Picasso and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

While Pablo Picasso (25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973) is considered one of the greatest painters of all time and is often mentioned in the same breath as artists like Claude Monet (14 November 1840 – 5 December 1926) and Vincent van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890), he was born about 40 years later and lived until he was 91.

During Picasso’s long life, many of the most important events of the twentieth century occurred: WW1, WW2, the assassination of JFK, and of course, the birth of another great artist—Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (b. 2 May 1972).

Gertrude Janeway, One of the Last Union Civil War Widows, and Billie Eilish

The American Civil War happened just over 150 years ago, a long time ago sure, but not so long that the last surviving widow of a Union soldier didn’t live to see the new millennium.

Gertrude Janeway (née Grubb; July 3, 1909 – January 17, 2003) was 18 when she married the 14th Illinois Cavalry officer John Janeway (then 81). The two lived together for a decade before John passed, leaving poor Gertrude a widow with a pension of $35 per month. She continued to receive checks from the government until her death in 2003—two years after the pop star Billie Eilish (b. 18 December 2001) was born.

Charlie Chaplin and Leonardo DiCaprio

While one is the star of some of the greatest films of the last century and a cinematic icon who will forever be remembered, the other had a weird mustache.

Charlie Chaplin (16 April 1889 – 25 December 1977) was one of the first British actors to take Hollywood by storm. He starred in golden age silent movies like The Gold Rush and A Woman of Paris, before making the leap to “talkies” with The Great Dictator—a satire about the rise of fascism.

Chaplin was not coy about his political beliefs and frequently criticized capitalism throughout the 1940s. By the 1950s he’d fallen out of favor in the United States, and when he left in 1952, his re-entry permit was revoked. He settled in Switzerland where he lived out the remaining years of his life producing little in the way of classic works, which is probably why most people don’t realize he lived until 1977—long enough to hand the spiritual movie-star baton off to Leonardo DiCaprio (b. 11 November 1974).

Thomas Edison and William Shatner

Thomas Edison (11 February 1847 – 18 October 1931), America’s greatest inventor, and William Shatner (b. 22 March 1931), America’s greatest…something…shared the planet for a few months in 1931. This one’s a testament to both men’s longevity. Edison developed his electric lightbulb when he was in his 30s and lived (and kept inventing) until he was 84.

Shatner’s first TV role was in 1954 when he was cast as Ranger Bon in The Canadian Howdy Doody Show. He didn’t star as Captain Kirk in Star Trek: The Original Series until 12 years later, in 1966. Since then, he’s been prolific, appearing in over 20 films and 30 TV shows, including an episode of The Big Bang Theory this year. At 88, he shows no signs of stopping.

Paul Revere and Karl Marx

Paul Revere’s (1 January 1735 – 10 May 1818) ride is one of the defining moments of the American Revolution in the  eighteenth century, while Karl Marx’s (5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) economic philosophies were hugely important in the twentieth century but, for a few short days in March 1818, they were alive at the same time.

Like with some of the other examples on this list, Revere had one big moment that he’s known for—his 1775 ride—before fading off into the background of history to live a long and fulfilling life; he’s just seldom mentioned again in history textbooks after the start of the Revolution. Conversely, Marx was developing his ideas 100 years before the Cold War and the Red Scare of the 1950s—The Communist Manifesto was written in 1848—but most people associate them with the USSR and events like the Cuban Missile Crisis and the fall of the Berlin Wall.


Do you know of any crazy celebrity pairings? Let us know in the comments.

Harry Guinness Harry Guinness
Harry Guinness is a photography expert and writer with nearly a decade of experience. His work has been published in newspapers like the New York Times and on a variety of other websites, including Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »