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

Introducing Our New Viewer!

Newspapers.com News, Finds and Tips

Viewer highlights
If you’ve visited Newspapers.com recently, you’ve probably noticed our new and improved viewer when you go to look at papers on our site. The new viewer has the same features you’re familiar with, but it’s now faster and more streamlined.

One of the biggest improvements is that the new viewer, whichMobile Viewer Screenshot uses HTML 5, works on all platforms, whether you use a computer, smartphone, or tablet to access Newspapers.com. It also loads much more quickly and has more options for printing and saving. For example, you now have the option to print or save newspaper pages (or portions of pages) as a JPG or PDF. If the terms “JPG” and “PDF” don’t mean anything to you, here’s an easy way to choose which to select: If your main intention is to print out a portion of a newspaper to have as a hard copy, PDF is probably the way to go since it will include the source information and be formatted to fit letter-size paper. If, however, you want an image file without the source information to use digitally—or to print out in high resolution—JPG will likely be your best bet.

You’ll also notice some changes to the way the viewer looks. For instance, the viewer now boasts simplified tool options on the right-hand side, one of which is a button with improved brightness and contrast options. Though the zoom buttons are the most prominently displayed tools, selecting the arrow beneath the zoom buttons will expand the tools to display everything else (adjust brightness/contrast, rotate image, view full screen).

Viewer ClippingThe filmstrip at the bottom of the screen has also been improved. Not only is the separation between different days’ papers more clearly delineated, but moving from issue to issue in the filmstrip is much smoother, as it now allows scrolling. If using a computer, you just need to mouse over the arrows and it will auto-scroll the filmstrip until you move your mouse. To pin the Filmstrip open in the new viewer, simply select the pushpin icon that’s to the left of the word “Filmstrip” while the filmstrip is open.

And although the “People Interested in This Paper” feature may look like it has disappeared, it’s still easily accessible if you select the red double-arrow tab on the far right side of the viewer.

We’re pretty proud of our new viewer. If you haven’t tried it out yet, take a look and let us know what you think!

Oregon Papers

Content Update

Oregon StatesmanThis month we’re highlighting our growing collection of papers from Oregon. Although this state’s collection is already at over 500,000 pages across 24 newspapers, Newspapers.com is planning on adding thousands more pages in the near future through our partnership with the University of Oregon.

The newspapers in our Oregon collection showcase a wide range of interests, politics, and priorities—from reports on hometown and state news, to promotion of local industries, to advocacy of women’s rights, to support of political parties, whether Whig, Independent, Democrat, or Republican.

The two oldest newspapers in the state—the Oregonian and the Oregon Statesman—can both be found on Newspapers.com. Both dating back to the 1850s, these papers give you the chance to see what life was like in Oregon before it gained statehood. For example, this editorial from an 1856 issue of the Statesman discusses the difficulties of receiving mail by coach during the rainy season.

One particularly unique title is the New Northwest. This paper was founded by suffragist Abigail Scott Duniway to promote the rights of women, hoping to address economic, social, and political injustices while also covering topics of everyday interest to women readers. In one issue of the paper from 1871, a critique of the harsh lifestyle of farmers’ wives lies side by side with a rousing pro-temperance piece, an update on the activities of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and a poem about the beauties of Oregon penned by a female contributor.

Sumpter Miner
Another interesting niche paper is the Sumpter Miner. Though this paper contains some local news, it largely focuses on mining, the industry that caused the town of Sumpter to boom (and eventually bust). Case in point, in the very first issue of the paper (dated 13 September 1899), three of the four articles on the front page mention mining in some way or another.

Right now, Newspapers.com has papers from 14 Oregon cities: Ashland, Astoria, Burns, Enterprise, Grants Pass, Joseph, Klamath Falls, Medford, Ontario, Portland, Salem, St. Helens, Sumpter, and Toledo. So if you have ancestors that hail from those cities or the surrounding areas, you just might find information about them in the newspapers, like this tidbit from the Burns Times-Herald about what happened to Mr. E.W. Lewis, a local horse breaker, when he tried to go on vacation.

Get started browsing Oregon papers here. Or use our Search box for more specific queries.

Norman Ollestad

11-year-old boy walks to safety

In the papers of 1979 is found the incredible and harrowing experience of 11-year-old Norman Ollestad. His father raised him from infancy in a life of adventure and risks, teaching him determination along the way. It was his determination that ended up saving Norman’s life one disastrous day.

Norman Ollestad

Norman and his father had taken a Cessna 172, along with a flight instructor and his father’s girlfriend, on a short flight over the San Gabriel Mountains. The plane went down at 8,000 feet, killing Norman’s father instantly and the pilot shortly after. Sandra, his father’s girlfriend, lived, though with some head injuries and a dislocated shoulder. Norman was miraculously mostly unharmed. The two huddled together under the wing of the downed plane for seven hours, waiting for help to come. Eventually Norman suggested they try to get off the mountain, fearing they might freeze to death. Sandra reluctantly agreed, and together they started the depressing trek back down the ice- and snow-covered slopes.
Norman Ollestad, plane crash survivor

The mountainside was so icy that they simply sat and slid down the slope. It tore at the skin of their hands and was hard to keep their speed and direction under control. Early into the descent Sandra slid into an ice chute and lost consciousness. Norman covered her in branches in an attempt to keep her warm before he continued down the mountain alone. Over nine hours after the plane crash he wandered into a ranch house with the upsetting news, shocking everyone with his resilience and ingenuity.

Norman Ollestad, crash survivor

Unfortunately, Sandra died before she was found. Norman was treated for a bruised and cut face and a broken wrist but emerged from the incident with an impressive determination to return to the slopes for recreational purposes.
Norman's reaction
Try this search for more on this story of Norman Ollestad, or check out the search page on Newspapers.com to do a new search of your own.

The Great Chicago Fire: October 8-10, 1871

President McKinley Shot: September 6, 1901

Cow cause of Chicago Fire?
The Great Chicago Fire—a fire that would ultimately kill 300 people and destroy more than 17,000 buildings—started in a cow barn owned by Patrick and Catherine O’Leary around 9 p.m. on October 8, 1871. Although folklore states that the fire began when Catherine’s cow kicked over an oil lamp, no one really knows how the fire actually began.

It had been unusually hot and dry in Chicago, and in a city predominately built with wood, that meant the fire spread quickly. Despite the efforts of the fire department, the fire raged throughout the night, even jumping the river. Firefighters tried to fight the massive flames with their fire hoses until the city’s waterworks burned, cutting off the hydrants’ supply of water.

Destruction caused by Chicago Fire
The huge fire burned for about another 24 hours essentially unchecked—consuming a large portion of the city, residential and business districts alike—until it began to burn itself out on the night of the 9th. A light rainstorm that same night helped douse the remaining flames. When the fire was finally out, on the 10th, an area about 4 miles long and almost a mile wide had been burned to the ground, leaving 100,000 people homeless.

Nationwide, newspapers kept their readers up-to-date on this major disaster and its aftermath, reporting the latest fire news they had received by telegraph. The papers also reported on relief efforts, as cities, businesses, and individuals across the country donated money and food to the beleaguered city.

Very latest news on the Chicago FireOn the 11th, the Chicago Tribune published an issue packed with details of the fire, calling it “a conflagration which has no parallel in the annals of history.” (Though in fact the same day as the Chicago fire, October 8, the deadliest fire in U.S. history burned in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, killing more than 1,500 people; but that fire was largely overlooked by newspapers outside Wisconsin in favor of covering the Chicago blaze.)

Despite the devastation of Chicago’s fire, reconstruction (this time using less wood) began almost immediately and businesses quickly reopened, though many in new locations. Within a little more than 20 years, Chicago would rise from its ashes to become a booming city deemed worthy of hosting the 1893 World’s Fair.

Find more articles about the Great Chicago Fire on Newspapers.com. You might even find your Chicago ancestors in the lists of people missing or “lost and found” following the fire.

Working with Wikipedia to better document our past

We’ve recently donated 100 subscriptions to the Wikipedia community through the Wikipedia Library, a grant-funded program which makes it easier for experienced volunteer editors to access research materials.

The Wikipedia Library

The Wikipedia Library

It’s very exciting to be involved in this new partnership which allows us to contribute to one of the most frequently used reference tools in the world, and demonstrates how historical newspapers can help improve public information about historical topics from around the world.

We asked User:We Hope, one of Wikipedia’s volunteer editors, to explain how Newspapers.com has helped with his recent contributions.

Newspapers for Wikipedia references
Since I’ve always been interested in the past and what really happened in it, I’ve tended to draw quite a bit from newspapers. For me, accessing older newspapers is like traveling back in time for facts which may have been lost to later publications.

I’ve done quite a bit of work on Wikipedia around articles, such as Red Skelton and Perry Como, where my main sources were older newspaper stories. These sources allow me to “get closer” to when they were happening and allows us to present somewhat different information on Wikipedia than may be found in books on the given subject. When working on Red Skelton, I found that two book sources listed his son’s birthdate incorrectly. A newspaper article on the boy’s death said he was ten days shy of his tenth birthday; checking California vital records showed that the newspaper story had his birthday correct.

Wikipedia is a wonderful environment for capturing this information and correcting it for public record: almost everyone visits Wikipedia for research, and providing both the older sources alongside new sources ensures that future researchers can discover the same information I did.

Exploring an old locomotive
Recently, I have gotten interested in the locomotive William Crooks, because I discovered the engine while upload public domain railroad photos and postcards to Wikimedia Commons. The old engine has an interesting history: it was built in 1861, almost destroyed by fire in 1868, and saved from the scrapyard by the Great Northern Railway’s president, James J. Hill, around the turn of the century.

When researching the Wikipedia article, a copy of an old railroad brochure about the train helped to fill in some information, as well as providing photos of the William Crooks in various places after it was officially retired. The brochure helped document its many tours made under its own power across the country, such as the 1927 Fair of the Iron Horse in Baltimore and the 1939 World’s Fair, but there still was not enough information to do much expansion of this article–not until Newspapers.com.

Having access to the older newspapers available on Newspapers.com, I have been able to add much more specific information. For example, I found an article with an interview of Albion Smith, who restored the locomotive after the 1868 fire and was one of its early engineers. Mr. Smith was instrumental in saving the old engine from the scrapyard by speaking to James J. Hill about the situation. Another interview in the article was with John J. Maher, who started as a fireman on the William Crooks Mr. Maher, helped highlight the earlier wood-burning days of the locomotive. These interviews allowed me to better document the trains transformation from wood-burner to a coal-burner. Moreover, many of my other Newspapers.com clippings I hope to further expand the article with.

William Crooks Locomotive Article

Newspapers article with interviews regarding the William Crooks

More than just individual research for articles
Having Newspapers.com access has also made it possible to verify the copyright status of comic strip images uploaded by various users over the years. Our community on Wikipedia and sister sites like the free media repository Wikimedia Commons, wants to ensure every piece of material is free from copyright claims when we publish it so it can be easily reused by our readership. We carefully screen images uploaded by our thousands of contributors to make sure the copyright statements are accurate. Sometimes older images are uploaded to Wikipedia under a public domain claim due to age, but were not in fact public domain, or couldn’t be easily checked for their copyright status, because they had been uploaded without contextual information like dates of first publication. Having access to a larger collection of newspapers provides us the needed information so that I can double-check the original publication status of the comics, and allows us to send those images Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia’s sister database of free use images, to be used and enjoyed by more people.

Freckles and His Friends

An example of one of the comics discovered on Newspapers.com

In other contexts, I am using the Newspapers.com to explore other topics, such as documenting the biographies of public figures like Ruth Etting, the stars of the Amos ‘n’ Andy television series, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, and Paul Weston, the bandleader and composer for more expansions of articles. Being able to capture all that research with clippings allows me to share them with collaborators on those articles. For example, I recently worked with fellow Wikipedian User:This is Paul to explore the life and history of murder victim Joan Robinson Hill, who was discussed in the book Blood and Money. We were really successful in expanding the article using Newspapers.com information to compile what happened after the book was published. We were also able to add some previously “lost” information to the Wikipedia-Featured Article Jo Stafford. An interview I discovered with Jo Stafford gave her first-hand account of how her hit record “Tim-tay-shun” was recorded with Red Ingle and her use of the name Cinderella G. Stump on the label.

Having access to so many sources means lots of clippings on any given subject and I find that when I start searching on a subject, I start clipping, and clipping, and clipping, because there are just so many good sources that need to be added to the Wikipedia article. If I had one “wish” for a feature to be added to Newspapers.com, it would be some type of folder system where one could sort all clippings a member had about a given subject for ease in finding when editing Wikipedia. However, all in all, this partnership has helped make more public a great deal of information about many, many different subjects and I hope we will be able to continue making these discoveries through the access to older newspapers!

Newspapers.com . . . Not Just for Genealogy

Content Update

Why do you use Newspapers.com? To look for information on your ancestors? To research a specific topic? To learn more about a certain time or place? Newspapers.com members are taking advantage of all of these possibilities. Though genealogy is one of the most common uses, our members are utilizing our historical newspapers to do all sorts of unique research.

For instance, paderamo is researching historical chess matches, while ramblinkc is reading up on local sports of decades past. Cupper1001 is looking into Pennsylvania articles about railroads, and jrtate_lotbl is clipping stories on crime in Raleigh, North Carolina. Other members are interested in general local history, as seen in kinnelon59‘s research into happenings in Duryea, Pennsylvania, or cruther64‘s into Hamilton, Ohio. Sometimes members’ interests even overlap, like smkolins‘s and DrTroxel‘s clippings on the Baha’i Faith.

Tiny Gos Makes Career Out of Going to SchoolBut you don’t necessarily have to be researching a particular subject to find fascinating articles. Among various members’ clippings, you can find articles about a family who walked 1,200 miles to talk to the president, as well as a court case where the faithfulness of the defendant’s wife convinced the judge to lower his sentence. Other interesting articles that have been clipped recently have included ones about a dog who made a “career out of going to school,” a “forgotten bomb” that exploded in a courthouse, and a man who trapped rats as large as cats. And don’t miss this photo a user found of Albert Einstein and his sister. Can you spot the family resemblance?

Curious about what other Newspapers.com members are up to? Try visiting their profile pages or the “All Clippings” page.

Anna ‘Anastasia’ Anderson

Is Anna Anderson Anastasia?

Who Is the Real Anastasia?

Few things capture the imagination like an unexpected plot twist. Perhaps this is why the mystery of Anastasia Romanov was so compelling that speculations surrounded her fate for decades. When Anastasia and some of her siblings were rumored to have survived the mass execution of their family, impostors cropped up by the dozens. The most famous of these was Anna Anderson, who controversially claimed to be the youngest Romanov daughter even until her death in 1984.

Anderson tells the world she is Anastasia after being pulled from the Landwehr Canal

As mentioned in the article above, the woman who came to be known as Anna was recovered after jumping into the Landwehr Canal in Berlin, an attempted suicide. Two years later she revealed her identity: the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia.

This revelation didn’t come without scrutiny. For the remainder of her life, Anna Anderson fought to be recognized as the last remaining daughter of the murdered tsar. Though some found her claims credible, thought her appearance was consistent, and were swayed by her memory for childhood details, just as many or more refused to believe that this woman, whose behavior was often unstable, was the true Anastasia.

Not Really Anastasia

Anna Anderson's claim to Anastasia

Anna Anderson meets resistance

Anna Anderson Died Feb 12, 1984, Still Fighting for Recognition as Anastasia

Anna’s supporters provided her with very comfortable living arrangements and staunchly defended her claims. Her story spread like wildfire, a sensational tale that was only enhanced by romantic reports of this strange potential turn of fate.

The Mystery of Anastasia

The matter was turned to German courts to decide whether or not it could be proven that Anna was truly Anastasia. But there was no great evidence for either side. Years and years of deliberation passed, and finally the German courts ruled that her identity as Anastasia was neither established nor refutable. Essentially, the truth of Anna Anderson’s claims to be Anastasia was left to the personal judgement of those who encountered her.

Anderson died at age 82 with her identity still undecided. It wasn’t until much later, in 1991 and 2007, that the bodies of the true Romanov family were discovered. DNA tests concluded that Anderson was not Anastasia after all, but a Polish factory worker named Franziska Schanzkowska, an assertion that had been made by Ernest Louis, the tsarina’s brother and Grand Duke of Hesse, after a private investigation in 1927. Why she pretended to be, or thought she truly was, Anastasia remains uncertain.

The history of Anderson’s years seeking recognition is a tale filled with sentimentality and intrigue, and it is thanks to this that Anderson’s story was so well-documented by the news over the last century. Read more about Anderson’s involvement hereThis search has hundreds of articles speculating more generally about the mystery of Anastasia Romanov. Or try searching for one of the other impostors, other members of the Romanov family, or an unrelated search of your own on Newspapers.com’s search page.

President McKinley Shot: September 6, 1901

Opening of the Panama Canal: August 15, 1914

Headline President McKinley Shot
“Extra!” screamed late-edition newspaper headlines on the evening of September 6, 1901, “President McKinley has been shot.” The crime had occurred earlier that day at about 4 p.m. while President William McKinley was shaking hands during a public reception at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.

The popular president had given a speech at the exposition the day before and returned the following day to hold a short meet-and-greet with the public. The assassin, 28-year-old would-be anarchist Leon Czolgosz (pseudonym Fred Nieman), had attended the president’s speech but lacking opportunity to kill him there, arrived early enough the next day to ensure that he would be in line to meet the president. Czolgosz hid his gun in a handkerchief that he then wrapped around his hand. When the assassin finally reached the president, he fired twice, point blank, hitting McKinley in the chest and abdomen.

One Bullet is Extracted
McKinley was rushed to the exposition’s hospital. The wound to his chest was superficial, but the one to his stomach was serious, and during the surgery the doctors were unsuccessful at locating the bullet. Still, despite mistaken news reports of his death, in the days following the shooting McKinley appeared to be recovering—until the night of the 12th, when he took a sudden turn for the worse. Gangrene had developed around his stomach wound, and at 2:15 a.m. on the 14th, President McKinley died. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, who had rushed back from a family vacation, was sworn in as president later that afternoon.

Depiction of McKinley's funeral procession
The nation was devastated by McKinley’s death. Vast crowds showed up to view his body in Buffalo, Washington DC, and Canton (Ohio) during the various public viewings, processions, and funeral services, and towns across the nation held their own memorial services. Czolgosz, who had been arrested at the scene of the crime, was quickly tried and convicted. He was sent to the electric chair on October 29, less than two months after the shooting.

Learn more about McKinley’s assassination, or other events and people that interest you, on Newspapers.com.