Bummer and Lazarus

Bummer & Lazarus

During the days when dogs outnumbered people in Los Angeles, fellow Californian city San Francisco became the playground for two homeless pups. Bummer and Lazarus were their names, and they escaped the too-frequent dog poisonings and bullets that killed so many of their canine companions by becoming San Francisco’s furry celebrities. The dogs’ excellent ratting skills and their comical friendship gained them city-wide notoriety and led them to be featured in newspaper stories for decades.

Bummer heals LazarusBummer was a fluffy black dog, probably a Newfoundland or a Newfoundland mix. He was an impressive rat-killer and his usefulness in that area earned him a spot just outside of Frederick Martin’s saloon . As the story goes, Bummer rescued a smaller dog from a dog fight, nursing him back to health from a terrible leg injury. Witnesses to this dog-bonding did not expect the smaller dog to live, but Bummer was a loyal nurse. He brought his new companion food, encouraged him to eat, and slept next to him to keep him warm at night. The new dog was dubbed “Lazarus” after his miraculous recovery from the injury, and the city’s residents and reporters loved Bummer for his generosity. Lazarus, too, grew attached to Bummer and was a constant figure at his side.

Newspapermen and journalists hovered around the saloon, watching the dogs and creating dramatic stories about their lives and motivations. Bummer was purported to be the gentlemen between the two, a loyal and thoughtful friend. Lazarus, on the other hand, was seen as the fickle companion who only stayed around when it was convenient. The newspapers were strewn with personality-filled reports of the dogs’ adventures.

Bummer and Lazarus, faithful friendsMany of the stories implied a connection between the dogs and Joshua Norton, an eccentric man who also lived in San Francisco. He claimed to be Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, and the trio’s activities were well-documented in cartoons and articles from the 19th century. But the two dogs were never the pets of “Emperor Norton,” as he was known. In fact the Emperor was very offended by the cartoons, which he saw as a blow to his dignity. Emperors don’t traipse about with lowly dogs, you see. In reality, Emperor Norton and the two dogs were connected only in people’s imaginations.

Bummer dies after being kickedIn October 1863, Lazarus died. While some papers chalked it up to old age, others claim he was poisoned. Either way, Bummer apparently became very downcast without his buddy and wandered aimlessly for two more years until he was kicked by a drunk. The effects of this kick were what finished him off, and in November 1865 he joined Lazarus “in dogland.” The man who had drunkenly and fatally kicked Bummer was arrested and fined, a mark of the people’s love for the dog.

To read more on Bummer and Lazarus, take a look at this search. You can find a lot more on the interesting Emperor Norton here. And be sure to check out all of the papers available on Newspapers.com for more stories like these.

John Dillinger Killed: July 22, 1934

John Dillinger Killed: July 22, 1934

John Dillinger
At the time of his death in 1934 at age 31, John Dillinger was America’s Public Enemy Number 1 and the most infamous bank robber of his era. America had been closely following his exploits for the last year as he robbed banks and escaped jails across the Midwest, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. So when news broke of his death at the hands of federal agents, it made headlines nationwide for days.

Dillinger, born in Indiana, had first gone to prison in 1924 for the assault and robbery of an elderly grocer. He served 8 years of his sentence before being paroled in 1933 and had been out of jail less than a month before robbing his first bank. Dillinger committed more robberies before being caught and sent to jail in Lima, Ohio, in September 1933. However, with the aid of men he had previously helped escape from prison, Dillinger broke out of the Lima jail.

Fire Smokes Out Dillinger GangDillinger and his gang resumed robbing banks until January 1934, when a fire at an Arizona hotel alerted the police to Dillinger’s location. Dillinger was taken to jail in Crown Point, Indiana, but he escaped two months later—this time using the sheriff’s own car as his getaway vehicle. After a brief visit to his family in early April, Dillinger, along with his gang, narrowly escaped capture in Wisconsin. Then in June, Dillinger was named Public Enemy Number 1 and a reward of $10,000 was offered for his capture (the equivalent of more than $175,000 today); Dillinger’s response was to rob a bank in Indiana.

In July, Dillinger stayed in the Chicago apartment of Romanian brothel madam Anna Sage, who, facing deportation, offered to help the FBI trap Dillinger in exchange for help with her immigration problems. Sage and Dillinger, along with Dillinger’s girlfriend, attended a movie on the night of July 22 while federal agents, alerted by Sage, waited for Dillinger outside.

Dillinger's body en route to Indiana
When Dillinger exited the theater, the agents ambushed him, shooting him to death. His body was taken to a hospital, where he was declared dead, then to the morgue, where thousands came to view his body. Dillinger was taken back to his hometown in Indiana for a funeral, after which he was buried in the family plot.

You can find additional articles about John Dillinger’s life of crime on Newspapers.com. Or use the search box to look for stories on other people and events that interest you.

Berners Street Hoax

Berners Street Hoax
The great thing about newspapers is that while they recount many notable and significant events throughout history, they also never lack in stories of the comical or bizarre variety. The Berners Street Hoax is an excellent example of the latter type of news and is fortunately mentioned time and time again, occasionally with great detail, in the articles of years past.

In 1810, playboy and practical joker Theodore Hook made a bet with his friend that he could make any house in London the most spoken of address within one week. The bet was taken up, and Hook began his mischievous plan. He targeted 54 Berners Street, a previously unremarkable, ordinary place with nothing to distinguish it from surrounding homes. But as you can see from the many newspaper articles that reported on the event, Hook’s tactics were successful in making this address a talking point, even years later.

The prank was accomplished with a deluge of letters, which Hook sent to craftsmen and dignitaries in the name of the owner of 54 Berners Street, Mrs. Tottenham. On November 27 the deliveries began to arrive, starting in the very early morning and continuing nonstop until evening. Cake bakers, shoemakers, lawyers, vicars, grocers, and the Lord Mayor of the City of London were only some of those that responded to “Mrs. Tottenham’s” inquiries.

Poor Mrs. Tottenham.

Details of the Hoax

The streets were packed with confused tradesmen and onlookers, and all the while Hook and his friend sat in the house across the street, watching the events unfold. After the comical kerfuffle, Hook made himself scarce and was never caught, although several suspected who the perpetrator was. And just as he’d planned, the confusion and bustle that occurred on the normally peaceful Berners Street became the talk of the town.

Aftermath of the Hoax

For more on the Berners Street Hoax, this search in Newspapers.com has many results about the story. The search page and browse page are also great resources for finding other weird history or learning about your own ancestry.

Content Update – The Oakland Tribune

Content Update

Original goals of the Oakland Tribune The Oakland Tribune began publishing February 21, 1874, with the goal of becoming “the leading local paper of the city,” keeping its readers “posted upon the affairs transpiring within the city and county.” The paper went through various names in its early years—the Oakland Daily Tribune (1874), Oakland Evening Tribune (1874–75), and Oakland Daily Evening Tribune (1875–91)—before finally becoming simply the Oakland Tribune in 1891, a title it still retains today.

The Tribune was initially handed out for free, but it quickly garnered a wide subscription readership. Although the paper originally intended to remain politically independent, that changed when it was acquired by a new owner in 1876 and over the decades evolved into a powerful Republican paper that could make or break political careers.

Bay Bridge completedLooking through the early issues of the Oakland Tribune, you’ll notice that issues were only four pages at first, though it expanded as advertising and other demands grew. Along with an abundance of ads, the early Tribune mostly carried articles on local topics, whether big (like the burning down of the city hall) or small (like the need for drinking fountains due to temperance). But you can also find topics of wider historical importance in its pages, like the effects of the Great San Francisco Earthquake on Oakland’s politics and population.

In later years, the scope of the Tribune widened to national and international news, but it still featured newsworthy local events like the completion of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and the murder trial (and mistrials) of Black Panther leader Huey Newton. It also still found room for items of purely local interest, like this gem of a column from 1974 about the 9 most attractive men in the Oakland area.

9 sexiest men in the Eastbay.In addition to the headlines, the Tribune also included the typical marriage, death, birth, and divorce announcements. You might also find the names of your Oakland-area ancestors among the lists of real estate transactions, undelivered letters and telegrams, school reports and honor rolls, overland train arrivals, guests at the Grand Central Hotel, or even police arrests.

Whether it’s the Oakland Tribune or a newspaper closer home, local papers can be a great place to look for your ancestors. Get started searching or browsing the Oakland Tribune here.

Exercise Tiger

Exercise Tiger a prelude to Normandy

June 6, 2014, marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the well-known start of the Normandy invasion and one of the major contributions to the eventual Allied victory in WWII. But this event, codenamed Operation Neptune, was preempted by another operation which acted as a practice run for that fateful day on the beaches of France—Exercise Tiger.

In preparation for one of the biggest amphibious military operations of all time, landing exercises happened with fair frequency in the months leading up to June 6, 1944. The plan for the actual invasion was to hit five sections along D-day dry run a 50-mile stretch of Normandy’s shores; these were called Sword, Juno, Omaha, Gold, and Utah beaches. All aspects of the forthcoming invasion were practiced, from the wait as the boats sailed across the channel, to the heart-pumping sound of live fire from enemy forces. And of course, all of these elements were also trained for in Exercise Tiger, the name of the dry-run for those storming Utah beach specifically.

A training ground was established in England’s Devon county, where Slapton beach is found. The Slapton and Utah beaches were extremely similar in terrain—fairly narrow strips of gravel backed by grassy bluffs. Slapton and the surrounding area was evacuated to ensure civilian safety during training and practices, which began months in advance of the D-Day invasion, all leading up to Exercise Tiger in April 1944.

On April 26 the first assault troops began the journey that simulated crossing the channel, rounding the south of England in their tank landing ships (LSTs) and gliding into Lyme Bay.Exercise Tiger account The bay training area was patrolled by Royal Navy destroyers, Motor Torpedo Boats and Motor Gun Boats. The first wave landed successfully, though apparently some miscommunications led to friendly-fire casualties and radio communications issues. This also contributed to the fact that the second wave, approaching in the early hours of April 28, did not fare as well as the first. The convoy was attacked by nine German E-boats who had slipped past the protective ring of ships.  Some of the bombarded LSTs sunk within minutes, unfortunately for the men on board. By the time the E-boats stopped their attacks and the last troops had made it to shore over five days later, more than 700 men had perished—many from drowning—in the costliest training exercise involving U.S. troops during WWII.

Details of the Exercise Tiger attack

While Exercise Tiger was not an obvious success, perhaps it did offer some help as intended—making the men accustomed to conditions and quick thinking under fire. The appalling outcome did little to encourage hopes for success, but it turned out that, on Utah Beach at least, the D-Day invasion went much more smoothly than the exercise. There were still terrible casualties, but they were significantly lower than on that April day of training.

For more on this little-known event, look at this search of “Exercise Tiger” on Newspapers.com. You can also use this search for more about D-day and the events surrounding it. Or try the search or browse pages to find articles of past events about your family, friends, or interests.

D-Day on June 5th? Was She Practicing? Or Did Somebody Slip?

We all know that Allied forces landed on the beaches at Normandy on June 6, 1944. But did you know that there was some definite foreshadowing  on June 5?false report

A young woman who was “practicing on the teletype machine” sent an “erroneous” report about an invasion of France.  On June 5th.

The headlines on that day were all about the liberation of Rome.  But more than a few papers ran the article about the false alarm.

The AP picked it up.  All four major US radio networks carried it before the Kill order went out 5 minutes later.

Baseball games were stopped, prayers were said, switchboards were flooded with calls..  The lady who sent it was confined to her home for nervous exhaustion.

Within five minutes, the report had been killed and everyone went about their business.

And the next day, the U.S. received the news of the D-Day invasion.

ddayRead the newspapers your ancestors read.  You never know what you might learn.


Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand: June 28, 1914

Headline in History - Marian Anderson Sings to 75,000

NY Times announces assassination
On Sunday, June 28, 1914, America’s major headlines revolved around the Mexican Revolution and Teddy Roosevelt’s ill health. But the next day, headlines the world over were focused on one thing: Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife, Sophie, had been assassinated on the 28th in Sarajevo, Bosnia.

The imperial couple had traveled to Sarajevo to review military troops and were on their way to the town hall when a Serbian nationalist threw a bomb at their car. It bounced off and instead exploded under the next car in the motorcade, injuring members of the imperial entourage and nearby spectators. Unharmed, Franz Ferdinand and Sophie continued on to the town hall, after which they decided to change their plans and visit the hospital where the wounded entourage members were being treated.

Archduke started royal row when he fell in loveUnfortunately, their driver made a wrong turn and partway through the journey had to stop the car. As fate would have it, another member of the assassination plot, 19-year-old Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip, happened to be in that exact location, and as the car stopped, he shot the couple at close range. The archduke was hit in the neck, and his wife was hit in the stomach; both died from their wounds soon after.

The next day, newspapers exploded with details of the tragic event, and many papers took the opportunity to also publish other articles about the Hapsburg imperial family. The controversial yet romantic marriage between the now-deceased archduke and his morganatic wife was a popular news feature, as was conjecture on how the deaths would affect the already tragedy-stricken elderly emperor.

Map of assassination locationThere were also numerous articles speculating on the political effect this would have on the tense relationship between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Serbia. While many correctly forecasted that the assassination would have a disastrous effect that might ripple out to other European nations, some predicted that the death of the unpopular archduke might actually stabilize peace in Europe instead.

But even the most pessimistic of experts couldn’t have predicted that the tragedy would quickly spark a war that would last more than four years and result in upwards of 37 million dead, missing, or wounded soldiers.

Find out more about this instigating event of World War I—or learn how your ancestors’ communities reacted to news of the assassination and later war—on Newspapers.com.

“Take a Look, it’s in a Book!”

'Reading Rainbow' Returns

If you’ve been on the internet in the last forty-eight hours you may have heard of LeVar Burton’s recent and insanely successful campaign to bring the old TV favorite Reading Rainbow back to life. This time it will return as a free online service for schools rather than the television show so many saw and loved. Newspapers, of course, document the Reading Rainbow brings TV and books togetherprogress of recent news as well as more historical stories, and in the pages of Newspapers.com we see the journey of this beloved children’s show from start to close.

Reading Rainbow premiered in the summer of 1983 as a charming educational program that encouraged children to explore the magical world of literature. LeVar Burton had already gained some fame with his portrayal of Kunta Kinte on the drama series Roots when he jumped into the Reading Rainbow project as host and executive producer. The program featured
book readings by Burton and other celebrities over a backdrop of whimsical animation and historical scenery that tied in with the settings of the books. Burton brought diverse topics to the screen for his young audience, and children joined him on the show with reviews of books similar to the one featured in each episode to encourage further reading.

The show went on to air for an impressive twenty-six years, longer than any children’s show PBS had run before. It also won a slew of awards, including twenty-six Emmy Awards, and Burton himself was granted a dozen Emmy Awards as a host and a producer. But as with so many things, funding grew tight, and in 2003 Burton himself made a plea for contributions to keep the show running. It seems to have worked, but not for much longer. The summer of 2009 saw the last televised season of Reading Rainbow. 

For more articles about Reading Rainbow, check out this search. You can also look for other more recent news stories by narrowing down the year range—just click the “see advanced” or “add more info” menu on the right of the search bar and enter in your dates of choice. For a general search of the articles on Newspapers.com, try the search page or browse through our collection.

Memorial Day Poppies

Take Time to Remember

On May 5th, 1868, Major General John Logan, commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic at the time, proclaimed that May 30th would be set aside to honor the fallen soldiers of the devastating Civil War. It was called Decoration Day as a reminder to leave flowers and other remembrances at the graves of these lost comrades.

Decoration Day

It took a little over 30 years for this day to be celebrated on a more national level, and even then the Southern states refused to share the same date of remembrance for their own fallen soldiers. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the last Monday of May was selected as the day to officially observe Memorial Day, with nearly every state honoring and remembering fallen soldiers from multiple conflicts together.

In 1915, inspired by the poem “Flanders Fields,” a woman named Moina Michael came up with the idea to recognize the day, and the soldiers’ sacrifices, by donning a red poppy.

Poem that inspired memorial poppies

Miss Moina Michael

She was so moved by the words of the poem that she even wrote her own verses in response, highlighting the symbolic nature of the vibrant flower.

Moina Michael, response to Flanders Fields

The practice of wearing and decorating graves with the red poppy was picked up by other countries as it gained popularity. The poppy is also associated with Veteran’s Day, perhaps even more so now than with Memorial Day. But all uses are meant to show respect and honor for those lives lost in the several terrible wars since the nineteenth century.

Memorial Day Poppy

Memorial Day Poppies

Soon after Moina first came up with the idea for memorial poppies, benevolent groups began to sell paper versions for the benefit of the families left behind after their loved ones’ deaths. These crepe paper flowers were made by disabled veterans and other volunteers and were sold in massive numbers, with the proceeds going directly to the widows and orphans of the dead.

Poppy sale posters

Poppy makers

For her thoughtfulness and initiative in starting the tradition of wearing memorial poppies in remembrance of those who died in war, Moina Michael was put on her own commemorative stamp in 1948. A poppy-red background surrounded her portrait, and an illustration of poppies with the description “Founder of Memorial Poppy” across them decorated the left of the stamp.

Commemorative Stamp

For more on Moina Michael, try this search on Newspapers.com. There are also many articles on the site that talk more generally about Memorial Days past, which can be found with this search. Otherwise, try your own search for interesting historical news stories on Newspapers.com’s search page.

Collaboration with the UNC Libraries

Content Update

Thomas Battle running for School Committee Recently, Newspapers.com has been working with the University of North Carolina (UNC) Libraries to digitize newspapers in their North Carolina Collection: roughly three thousand microfilm reels, or about two million pages, of pre-1923 newspapers. But the partnership doesn’t stop there. UNC professor Robert Allen is incorporating these newly digitized papers—as well as Newspapers.com—into his Spring 2014 first-year American Studies seminar.

The seminar, called the Family and Social Change in America, studies genealogy and family history as a window to wider social and historical issues and uses ever-growing digital archives—such as Newspapers.com—to do so. Professor Allen’s students have used the papers available on Newspapers.com to do research on subjects such as Lebanese migration in North Carolina, the lives of African American craftsmen in the city of New Bern, and the search for “lost” family members following slavery via “information wanted” ads. The students’ work was spotlighted on the UNC website.

Oden elected to city councilIn the New Bern project, the students used Newspapers.com—in addition to records available through Ancestry.com—to expand the research done by Catherine W. Bishir in her book Crafting Lives: African American Artisans in New Bern, North Carolina, 1770-1900 (UNC Press, 2013). Each student took a craftsman discussed in the book and looked for further information on that person.

As the students combed Newspapers.com, they found interesting examples of the artisans’ high level of involvement in their community. For example, one newspaper article announces brick mason Thomas Battle running for election to the school committee, and another reports that artisan Allen Oden was elected as a city councilman in 1891. But some of the artisans’ everyday achievements were documented in newspapers as well, as shown by an 1882 article that remarks on Oden’s thriving corn crop.

Information wanted--George W. MoranIn the “information wanted” project, Allen’s students similarly used Newspapers.com and Ancestry.com to explore and extend Heather Williams’ research in her book Help Me to Find My People: The African American Search for Family Lost in Slavery (UNC Press, 2012). The students found “information wanted” ads in newspapers from North Carolina and beyond that illustrate African Americans’ post–Civil War attempts to find family members dispersed by slavery, war, and migration. One poignant example found on Newspapers.com documents a father’s 400-mile journey in search of his 11-year-old son in 1870.

Look at North Carolina newspapers yourself—or explore papers from the states your own ancestors lived in—on Newspapers.com.