On July 11, 1804, years of escalating personal and political tensions culminated in the most famous duel in American history: the standoff between Alexander Hamilton, a leading Federalist and former secretary of the treasury, and Aaron Burr, who was then serving as vice president under Thomas Jefferson.
A certain Mrs. Elphinstone expected no more than a cup of tea when she paid a social call to Lady Almeria Braddock’s London home in 1792. But the visit veered off into decidedly unladylike territory when the hostess, evidently enraged by a casual comment Mrs. Elphinstone made about her age, challenged her guest to a duel in Hyde Park.
Considered the preeminent Japanese swordsmen of their time, archrivals Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro met on the remote shores of Ganryū Island to settle their differences once and for all. According to legend, Musashi showed up several hours late to psych out his opponent, bearing a giant wooden sword he had fashioned from the oar of a boat.
In February 1870, the French painter Édouard Manet flew into a fit of rage after reading a single dispassionate sentence about two of his works penned by his longtime friend, the critic Edmond Duranty. The artist stormed into Paris’ Café Guerbois, slapped Duranty in the face and challenged him to a sword duel.
Perhaps more so than the man wielding the pistol, it was pure jealously that felled the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin at the height of his career. In the 1830s, George d’Anthès aggressively pursued Pushkin’s beautiful wife Natalya in Saint Petersburg, earning verbal threats from the famous—and notoriously pugnacious—writer in return.