Fact: it is not true. Some forms of damp proof courses go back to ancient Roman times.

The Romans, being excellent engineers, that have built some masterpieces that lasted over 2000 years. Historic records show that they not only were aware of the rising damp phenomenon, but they also worked out efficient solutions in combating it.

Roman architect and engineer Vitruvius in his famous Ten Books on Architecture has described the type of plaster mix that should be used on the lower parts of the walls subject to ground moisture:

Having spoken of the method by which stucco work should be done in dry situations, I shall next explain how the polished finish is to be accomplished in places that are damp, in such a way that it can last without defects. First, in apartments which are level with the ground, apply a rendering coat of mortar, mixed with burnt brick instead of sand, to a height of about three feet above the floor, and then lay on the stucco so that those portions of it may not be injured by the dampness. (Book VII)

There are also remnants of Roman damp proof courses in various places as shown below.

From 1877 damp proof courses became mandatory in the UK. As a result, from around the early 1900s more and more buildings have been built with DPCs, usually using bituminous felt, lead or slate.

All these were present well before any chemical DPC.