The Turkey Pardon

Presidential Pardon Saved the Gobbler

The story of the presidential turkey pardon is a strange and mysterious one. Strange, because it involves pardoning a large fowl to save it from ending up in your Thanksgiving dinner. And mysterious because no one is sure where or why it began.

Thanksgiving Trivia

Commonly, the tradition is said to have started with President Truman in 1947, the year the first turkey was supposedly pardoned. This is despite the lack of any newspaper articles, stories, letters or other similar things proving the connection between Truman and the turkey pardon. Stories of Abe Lincoln pardoning the turkey meant for their Christmas dinner after his son grew attached to the bird also abound, leading many to believe that perhaps he is the reason for the custom.

Lincoln's Turkey History

As the article above mentions, Reagan was the first to mention an actual pardon for the lucky turkey, but it was a passing joke. The first official Thanksgiving turkey pardon didn’t happen until 1989, during George H. W. Bush’s presidency. Since then it has been a standing tradition every Thanksgiving holiday.

Turkey gets presidential pardon

The annual turkey pardon has been fairly well-documented in the last few decades. Here are some other articles about presidents pardoning their feathered friends:

Clinton's First Presidential Pardon Granted to a Turkey

Presidential Turkey Pardon

Strong Turkey Pardon Feelings

Obama Pardons Turkey

Of course there are many more similar articles to be found, full of stories of the origins of this bizarre tradition. Some are not quite factual, but all share different angles to this silly story. See what you can find on Newspapers.com.

The Facts of Facial Hair

Mustaches

Whether you know it as Movember, No Shave November, or something in between, this month is the time when many a man forgoes the razor and lets his face fur grow freely in the name of promoting men’s health. In honor of this strange and ever-growing tradition (pun intended), today’s post will center around the lip sweater, the cookie duster, the soup strainer, the caterpillar, or, as it is most commonly known…the mustache.

Mustaches—and their frequent companions, beards—have been a rather hotly debated topic over the centuries. Some find them disgraceful and a sign of derelict character, while others see them as the ultimate expression of a true gentleman. Here are a few articles that brave the subject of mustaches (click on the images to read the whole article):

1. Waiters in years past had a struggle if they were the mustache-loving type. For a while, waiters were banned from sporting lip fuzz, a rule that began in France and trickled into the high-end restaurants in the United States. Many pushed back against the insistence on bare faces, though not all succeeded.

Let His Mustache Blossom!

2. Did you know there are national mustache days? They are varied and many now, without as much consensus on a date as this article has. The many difficulties and advantages of wearing a mustache are delved into here.

Mustache advantages vs. disadvantages

3. Ever wanted to know about the facial hair decisions of past presidents or the longest mustache in the world in 1972? Look no further: here lies the history of the mustache. And in case you were curious, the current world record for longest mustache is 14 feet, which is just a little longer than the record in this clipping…by about 5 feet. That’s a lot of mustache.

Unsightly Hair or Beautiful Brush?

4. What does your mustache say about you? (Spoiler, it says a lot.) This article amounts to a zodiac of mustache meanings. Where do you fall on the scale from timid to murderous? And don’t overlook the fabulous last line of the clip below, “The Cleanly Shaven Upper Lip is Open to Suspicion.”

The Cleanly Shaven Upper Lip is Open to Suspicion

You’d be surprised how many newspaper stories mention the mustache, some with great vitriol. Take a look at this search to look for more about how mustaches are signs of insecurity, make you more manly, or attract the ladies. It plain to see that they can do all these things and more—depending on who’s talking.

The President at Gettysburg

Address by President Lincoln given at Gettysburg

It’s been over 150 years since the president stood before an audience of thousands and proclaimed the words, “all men are created equal,” but President Lincoln’s stirring address just four months after the battle of Gettysburg still remains one of the most memorable speeches in American history. Brief and stirring, the speech was given as part of a ceremony to consecrate a new cemetery for the thousands of men who had died in that terrible battle. Lincoln’s words only lasted about three minutes, in contrast to the hours of speeches that preceded him, but it clearly defined Lincoln’s vision of winning not only victory for the Union, but unified freedom for everyone: “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Lincoln’s full speech was reprinted many times in newspapers throughout the country. Here is just one version (click to make the image larger):

Lincoln's Remarks

More on Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address can be found on Newspapers.com. Try narrowing down the dates for more contemporary articles, or see how the newspapers refer back to the occasion over the years with a broader search.

Elvis in CinemaScope

November 15th, 1956, was the day the film Love Me Tender premiered, featuring none other than 21-year-old Elvis Presley. Originally called The Reno Brothers, the title of the film was changed to capitalize on Presley’s famous tune, which Presley sang during the movie in the role of the youngest Reno brother, Clint. Presley hoped the film would be his first step on the road to becoming a serious actor, one of his dreams. Unfortunately for the famous singer, Love Me Tender was just the first in a long string of musicals in which his beloved songs were used to garner attention for the films. The public wanted his music, not a new James Dean.

November 15, 1956 - Elvis make film debut in Love Me Tender.

Still, regardless of Presley’s own disappointment in his role as the famous face on the posters, his movies, including Love Me Tender, were box office hits, selling out almost as quickly as his albums. In fact, Love Me Tender was the first movie ever to recover its initial investments in just three days. It wasn’t long before Elvis was perpetually cast in the role of the dashing young love interest with a talent for song. It wasn’t what he wanted, but Elvis certainly loved to entertain and continued to do so through both movies and music for years.

Presley's movie debut:

Presley’s movies aren’t considered the greatest of all time, but they definitely have their fair share of fans. Are you an Elvis Presley fan? Were his movies or his music more to your taste? Let us know, and if you’re interested in more articles about anything Elvis related, see what else you can find on Newspapers.com. 

“Give Up or Give In!”: Advertising during World War I

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James Montgomery Flagg's famous Uncle Sam recruitment image
Following the creation of the Committee on Public Information in April 1917—and especially its advertising division in January 1918—official propaganda for World War I spread like wildfire. In fact, pro-war propaganda became so prevalent that it began seeping into a myriad of aspects of daily life—including newspaper advertising.

Some ads were for products with an obvious connection to the war, such as the omnipresent advertisements for Liberty Loans. These ads often echoed the sentiments seen on propaganda posters, using patriotism and pride in equal measures with guilt and even fear to persuade newspaper readers to purchase Liberty Bonds and War Savings Stamps to help fund the war effort. For instance, one Liberty Bond ad made it clear that it was either “give in” and participate in the Liberty Loan or “give up” hope of winning the war. Another ad asked “What is YOUR standard of patriotism? . . . In an hour like this it is not true patriotism to give merely what we don’t need. True patriots will sacrifice.”

Liberty Bond ad (New York)
Then there were the ads in which advertisers found ways to associate their everyday products and services with the war effort. Nemo Self-Reducing Corsets used this technique in an ad that stated, “Women who work, especially those who are doing unaccustomed war-time labor, must guard their health to retain their efficiency. Therefore, Nemo Self-Reducing Corsets are now, even more than ever—a national necessity!”

Likewise, ads that demonstrated support for America’s soldiers also became a popular marketing tool. A classic example of this is a Wrigley’s gum ad that underneath an image of a soldier hugging his mother reads, “He’s telling her that nothing he received from home brought him more joy, longer-lasting pleasure, greater relief from thirst and fatigue, than Wrigley’s.”

World War I Wrigley's gum adAnother way ads capitalized on the war was by referring to Herbert Hoover’s request as head of the U.S. Food Administration for Americans to conserve certain kinds of food, such as wheat. Such an ad for a Roberts & Leahy store advertised, “Eat more potatoes and less wheat products and you will be doing a little bit more to help our own boys over there. We will help you do your bit of saving by selling potatoes so cheap you can afford to eat more of them and less wheat products.”

Whatever their technique, ads like these counted on Americans’ patriotism—and the newspapers’ increased wartime readership—to sell their products. Have you come across any interesting wartime ads or propaganda in the papers on Newspapers.com? Tell us about it! Or clip and share them with your family or friends.

The Sting of Success

James Brindley Nicolson awarded Victoria Cross

The story behind this clipping is much more impressive and unbelievable than the two short paragraphs let on. James Brindley Nicolson was a 23-year-old flight lieutenant in World War II when his plane was fired on, leaving him injured in the eye and leg. Blinded by the blood from his wounds and with a fire starting in the cockpit, Nicolson was about to bail out when he spotted another enemy fighter. Determined to see the battle out to the bitter end, Nicolson crawled back into the flaming bucket seat and fired at the enemy craft until it fell from the sky.

Nicolson managed to jump from his diving plane and open his parachute in time to land relatively safely on solid ground, although he was shot in the leg midair by a member of the Home Guard before they realized he was not the enemy. As the article states, Nicolson was badly burned on much of his body after literally sitting in fire during the airborne fight. Not surprisingly, Nicolson was awarded the United Kingdom’s highest honor for bravery and gallantry, the Victoria Cross.

Head over to Newspapers.com to find more clippings like this one.

FDR Moves Thanksgiving: November 23, 1939

FDR Moves Thanksgiving: November 23, 1939

President schedules Thanksgiving for 1940
In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt upset the majority of the nation when he changed the date of Thanksgiving. Up to that point, the date of Thanksgiving hadn’t been set by federal law, but since Lincoln’s presidency, it had become tradition to hold the holiday on the last Thursday in November.

In 1939, though, November had five Thursdays, so Thanksgiving was going to fall on the 30th, which retail lobbyists worried would shorten—and therefore hurt—the Christmas shopping season. So in August, Roosevelt decided to move Thanksgiving up a week, to the second-to-last Thursday, the 23rd.

Happy Franksgiving
The move created an uproar. Not only did many people dislike this change to what had become a tradition, but moving the date of Thanksgiving disrupted vacation plans, football schedules, and calendar production.

Since Thanksgiving’s date wasn’t determined by federal law, individual governors could decide whether their states would side with the president or keep the holiday on its traditional date. That first year, 23 states celebrated on the old date, 22 on the new day, and 3 on both. The two dates began to be known as Republican Thanksgiving and Roosevelt’s Thanksgiving (also commonly called “Franksgiving,” based on the president’s first name), though the division wasn’t entirely along party lines.

Majority of Americans don't want to move Thanksgiving in 1939
The following year, 1940, Roosevelt again moved Thanksgiving to the second-to-last Thursday, and that year 32 states celebrated with the president, while 16 stuck with tradition. Come 1941, data from the last two Christmas shopping seasons revealed that making Thanksgiving come earlier hadn’t had a significant effect on sales, so Roosevelt decided to bow to popular opinion and move Thanksgiving back to its traditional date, with the change to take effect in 1942.

But in the fall of 1941, Congress decided to cement the date of Thanksgiving once and for all by passing a resolution that officially set the date for the fourth Thursday in November. President Roosevelt signed it into law on December 26, 1941.

Find more articles about Roosevelt’s Thanksgiving experiment on Newspapers.com. Or search for other topics that interest you.

The Ghost of Patience Worth

Patience Worth

In honor of the Halloween holiday, today’s post focuses on the intriguing story of Patience Worth—the spookiest author you’ve probably never heard of. Patience had a very unusual way of writing, a method that, both then and now, produces either a sense of unease or a lot of eye rolling. Luckily for Patience she found a willing partner in a Mrs. Pearl Lenore Curran, and thousands of pages of fiction and poetry resulted from their peculiar partnership.

“On a hot, stuffy St. Louis summer night 60 years ago three women passed the time experimenting with a Ouija board. They had not had much luck in previous attempts to contact spirits but thought they would give it another try. After several false starts the board spelled out a message: ‘Many moons ago I lived. Again I come—Patience Worth my name.’”

It all began when Pearl Curran visited her friend who convinced her to try the Ouija board. As the article above states, their first attempts were apparently met with this reply: “Many moons ago I lived. Again I come—Patience Worth my name.”

Patience Worth, guiding spirit

Patience Worth was a woman thought to have lived several hundred years before Curran’s time based on Curran’s descriptions and Patience’s odd pattern of speech, which even Curran said was “as strange to her as it is to others.” Curran used the Ouija board to learn what Patience wanted to write, describing the sessions as visions of scenes and action rather than a voice telling her which words to use. Eventually Curran became so familiar with Patience’s ways that she could receive direction with nothing more than the typewriter at which she wrote. Under Patience’s name, Curran published seven books, dozens of plays and essays, and thousands of poems.

Patience’s unique phrasing certainly made the idea of a dictating ghost more believable. She also appeared to be much more educated on history and culture than Curran claimed to be, which was something of a wonder to even the most skeptical. Still, many didn’t quite buy the story.

Patience put to the test

Pearl Curran insisted throughout her life that the ghost of Patience truly communicated with her. Unfortunately, no record was ever found of a living Patience Worth in years past, and the mystery of (and interest in) whether she ever really existed died with Curran. Regardless of whether Curran spoke the truth, had a secondary personality, or was simply a very clever woman, the writing she did under the name of Patience Worth was considered learned, witty, and of high quality.

The lessons of Patience

Find out more about Patience Worth and Pearl Lenore Curran using this search on Newspapers.com, or try to find some spooky stories of your own! The Search Page and Browse Page are great places to start exploring history through the news.

Andre the Seal

In 1970s Maine there lived a friendly seal with a certain flair for showmanship. His name was Andre, and he was one of the Rockport area’s main attractions.

Andre and Harry

Andre was found by Maine resident Harry Goodridge when he was just a wee pup. The seal had apparently been abandoned, so Goodridge took him home and there he flopped and rolled around to his heart’s content. Goodridge took him down to the harbor daily, and soon enough constructed a floating, partially submerged pen where Andre could swim and lounge.

Before long, Andre and Harry were the talk of the town. Together they made up a most unusual team, entertaining growing crowds with Andre’s tricks, including twists, jumping through hoops, dancing, and dozens more.

Andre's tricks

Andre became a well-known and beloved sight in Rockport harbor, and more and more people gathered to see him perform. The seal was a charming tourist attraction, and attract he did.

Andre the crowd-pleaser

The seal was so friendly that fishermen grew frustrated with his tendency to swamp their boats as he climbed in to say hello. This happened most often in the winter months, when Goodridge left Andre to his own devices in the harbor. Andre was so good-natured and eager to please that Goodridge thought he might enjoy furthering his entertainment career in the New England aquarium in Boston. From then on, Andre was taken to Boston every winter to continue his series of tricks and to socialize with the seals there.

The spring after his first winter away, Goodridge made a risky move in deciding to let Andre swim the many miles back to Rockport harbor. Many people were skeptical that the seal would ever return, but Goodridge was certain Andre would prefer the lengthy swim to a long, stuffy drive. He resigned himself to the fact that Andre may indeed choose to swim away and never come back, and watched the seal disappear into the waters of Marblehead, Massachusetts.

Andre the Seal Swims to Maine

Goodridge’s faith in Andre was well-founded, as it turned out. To everyone’s delight, Andre was spotted in Rockport harbor only three days later. Andre’s spring journey became a tradition from that point on, complete with residents all along the coast keeping an eye out for sightings of the spotted gray seal.

Andre rests on his Maine-ward journey

Andre continued to entertain the masses in both Maine and Massachusetts for years. But all good things come to an end—even the friendly, seal-shaped ones.

One July day, in the weeks following a bad mating-season fight with another seal, Andre was found dead on shore some eight miles from the harbor. Goodridge had noted his scars and unusual sluggishness following the fight and suspected, perhaps, that Andre would not perform again. Goodridge closed the door on the Andre years with acceptance and grace, noting that Andre had led a good life.

Andre the Seal found dead

Find more articles about this heart-warming pair here, or feel free to make your own search using search or browse on Newspapers.com