The Latest Improvement in Electric Lighting

Latest Improvement in Electric Lights

Here’s a great clipping about a revolutionary improvement to electric lighting: the ability to dim it. Did you know that the “greatest objection to electric lights in bedrooms” was that unlike gas or kerosene lamps, which had been used for years, they could not be turned down in brightness? Imagine how blinding electric light must have been when it first came around in the late 1800s.

Electric Light Too Bright

Search for more like these on’s search page, or browse to see what else can be found in the pages of history.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

March 25, 1911, was a tragic day at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City. The business was woefully unprepared when a fire broke out and trapped many of the employees inside. In the end, 145 of the workers at Triangle Shirtwaist perished from fire, asphyxiation, or from falling to their deaths.

Gruesome Headline from Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

Max Blanck and Isaac Harris owned the 10-story Manhattan building, in which worked hundreds of employees, mostly teenage immigrant women. The workers were crammed together in whatever available space there was, which is bad enough. But the major safety issues came in the form of terrible escape route options. Two stairways led to the street below, but one ended in a door that was kept locked from the outside, and the other opened inward. There were also four elevators, but for whatever reason only one was functioning at the time and it held, at maximum, 12 people.

As the fire spread, hundreds found themselves trapped on the upper floors with no escape. Even the single working elevator made only 4 trips, packed with terrified women, before it too could no longer be used. Those left behind hung outside windows for as long as they were able before the fire burned their hands too badly to hold on. Most perished this way, falling to their deaths before they could be rescued. Some jumped down the elevator shaft and met the same fate. Others clung to ledges and were accidentally pushed off by others frantically trying to do the same thing.

Headlines following fire

Firemen arrived at the scene after several dozen had already perished, doing what they could with ladders that only reached the 7th floor and nets that broke under the weight of too many people jumping into them. Those who survived the fall from the upper floors were taken to hospitals to recover, but many of those trying to help in the rescue effort had to watch, helpless, as the horrific scene unfolded before them.

Harris and Blanck, who themselves were on the 10th floor when the fire started, escaped by climbing onto the roof and jumping to a nearby building. They already had a history with factory fires suspicious enough to narrow the eyes of even the most forgiving, having apparently set fire to some previous (and mercifully empty) workplaces deliberately to collect the insurance money. Though they did not start this particular fire, they had purposefully omitted certain safety features like sprinklers so that they’d have the option in the future. The two were put on trial for manslaughter but were acquitted. In fact, Harris and Blanck suffered no negative repercussions at all, much to the outrage of friends and family of the victims. 

Blanck and Harris Acquitted

There is one positive side to this horrible piece of history: as a result of so many completely preventable deaths, it became obvious that worker conditions and safety regulations were in dire need of reform, and these reforms were made within the year. The fire also led to the creation of groups that worked to improve conditions for women sweatshop workers in manufacturing. The Triangle Shirtwaist fire remained the worst industrial fire until 1993, when a toy factory in Thailand burned down, killing 188.

Newspapers catch humanity at its best and worst, both the pleasant and the tragic. To read more about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, the article in this clipping recounts the specific and sobering events of that day, or try this search for more about the fire and what happened as a result.

Paris Baby Raffle

Here’s a bit of bizarre news from Paris in the days of yore: in the early 1900s a raffle was held to find families for a large number of babies whose parents could not be located. The lottery was held not only to find homes for the wee babes, but also to raise money for charities. On the latter score they were apparently quite effective; multiple charities benefited from the funds raised by this unorthodox event.

Baby Raffle in Paris

A Baby Raffle in Paris

The raffle was cleared with authorities prior to the event, and the children’s new families were investigated to make sure they would be suitable to raise and care for their child. Nothing to worry about, right?

For more strange news, try a search on

Women’s Papers on

Content Update

Woman's Enterprise
In honor of Women’s History Month, let’s take a look at some of the papers on that were run by women. Even those papers with only a few issues available are a fascinating and worthwhile read, as all these papers provide a window into the unique role of women in the newspaper business, as well as into how their papers addressed women’s issues and interests.

Women’s Enterprise was a monthly paper based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, published by Mattie B. McGrath. Geared toward female readers, it began publishing in 1921, soon after women were given universal suffrage, and it encouraged women to vote and be involved in civic matters. It also often featured articles about women’s education, employment, and volunteer work, as well as ones about local buildings and institutions, fashion, and cooking.

The Windham County Democrat, which ran from the 1830s to 1850s in Brattleboro, Vermont, was originally published by George W. Nichols. But after he fell ill in the 1840s, his wife (and former editorial assistant), Clarina Howard Nichols, began running the paper, which she continued to do for the next decade. Though the Democrat was a fairly typical newspaper under her husband, Clarina turned it into more of a literary- and reform-based paper that dealt with issues like women’s rights, abolition, and temperance.

In 1896, Sabrie Akin founded the Labor World, whose mission, like its title suggests, was to cover labor and union issues, mostly in its hometown of Duluth, Minnesota, and nearby Superior, Wisconsin. Sabrie ran the paper until 1900, when she died suddenly, after which it passed on to other editors.

The Wheelwoman
The Soldiers’ Journal was founded by Amy Morris Bradley in Virginia during the final years of the Civil War. Amy served as a nurse and as an administrator of the U.S. Sanitary Commission during the war and began publishing her paper for a nearby Union camp to keep the soldiers updated on military news. Her distribution grew to include such figures as Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant.

The Wheelwoman was first published in London, England, by Mabel Edwards and her partner, Charles F. Rideal, in 1896 and catered to “the 70,000 or so lady cyclists throughout the world.” The paper was filled with ads, articles, interviews, and advice, all geared toward female bicyclists of the Victorian period.

Interested in more papers run by women? Try browsing the Champion, the New Northwest, the St. Cloud Visiter and St. Cloud Democrat, the Era-Leader, the Lexington Record, and the Honolulu Times.

Dogs of War

Dogs of War

In March of 1942, a letter was signed by Robert P. Patterson, Secretary of War, that officially authorized dogs to be inducted into the war effort. These dogs would be known as the K-9 Corps.

At first it was anticipated that only 200 dogs would be required, but it soon became obvious that the need for these unique members of the military was much greater. Thousands of dogs were sent to be readied for their place in the war effort. They were generally trained for 8-12 weeks before being sent out with their human comrades.

Some were trained as sentries, taught to give warnings through barking or other alerts, and were especially helpful at night. Some sentry dogs were even used in detecting enemy submarines with the Coast Guard. Others became patrol dogs and worked in silence, finding snipers, ambushes, and other sneaky goings-on. With their heightened sensitivities, these dogs often knew about enemy presence up to 1,000 yards in the distance, which was incredibly helpful in keeping their men safe.

First Enlistee from Kingsport Tennessee (K-9)

Nick, the first enlisted dog in the War Dog fund, Dogs for Defense, Inc, from Kingsport, Tennessee, and the city’s official recruiting officer

The dogs might also have been taught to carry messages as messenger dogs, learning how to move silently and quickly through small spaces and find their allies by scent or intuition. There were also mine dogs—taught to detect trip wires, booby traps, and (as the name suggests) mines—and attack dogs, who learned to attack in addition to being sentry dogs. Casualty dogs were also trained to find wounded men on the battlefields.

Dogs had been used in unofficial capacities before WWII. After World War I a dog known as “Sgt. Stubby” was lauded as a hero. During the war he’d saved his troops from mustard gas, found and comforted wounded men, and once even caught a German spy. The creation of the official K-9 Corps was partially inspired by Stubby’s bravery, fearlessness, and usefulness during that conflict.

War Dog Heroes

Stubby was not alone in his canine heroism. Other dogs became famous for their courage during World War II as part of the K-9 Corps. One German Shepherd mix named Chips was brought to the front to be trained as a sentry dog. At one point he broke from his handler to attack a bunker full of enemy gunners, and all four of the men fled only to be forced to surrender to the waiting U.S. troops. Chips continued in his duties that day despite a scalp wound and powder burns on his head where he’d been grazed by an enemy bullet. He was perhaps the most famous war dog of World War II; so famous, in fact, that a Disney movie was made about him called Chips, the War Dog.

Chip's heroism

The real-life Chips returned home to his original family, but was soon sent to live with his handler from the war. Many of the war dogs had to be “untrained” after months or even years of being in battles and learning how to exist in a theater of war. Many were successfully integrated back into society and lived happily with the families who had sent them to the corps.

Many other dogs lost their lives during their service, to the dismay of their handlers, troops, and families back home. But all canines in the corps were extremely helpful in protecting and saving the men they worked with.

K-9 Corps in the war

To find more about dogs in the K-9 Corps, as well as in police forces and other public service capacities, try looking at the articles found in this search. You can also try a search of your own on for a subject or person that interests you.

Tip: Searching with Wildcards and Boolean Operators News, Finds and Tips

If a simple search on for an ancestor’s name isn’t returning the results you want, try including wildcards or Boolean operators in your search.

Wildcards are great if there are multiple spellings or possible misspellings of a name. Two common wildcards are the question mark [?] and asterisk [*].

  • Use a question mark to replace a single letter. For example, if the person you’re searching for has the surname “Johansen” but you aren’t sure if it’s spelled –son or –sen, you can search [Johans?n], and that will return results for both “Johanson” and “Johansen,” as well as other variations.

  • Use an asterisk to replace multiple letters. If you think there might be a double S in the surname “Johansen,” searching for [Johan*n] will return results for “Johansen” and “Johanssen,” in addition to “Johanson,” “Johansson,” and other possible spellings.

Boolean operators can help you focus your search. Two common ones are “or” and “not.”

  • Use “or” between your search terms to return matches that have either (or both) of your terms. For instance, if you are searching for news stories that mention either William Johansen or his brother, John, you can search for ["William Johansen" OR "John Johansen"] and the search will return results with matches for just William Johansen or just John Johansen, as well as results with both names.

  • Use “not” between search terms to help eliminate irrelevant results. If you are searching for “William Johansen” but you don’t want to see any results that also talk about his brother, John, you can search for ["William Johansen" NOT "John Johansen"], and that will get rid of any matches for William that also mention John.

So if you’re having trouble finding the right person in your search results, try using wildcards or Boolean operators!

The Mythical Man of Georgia Tech

If you were a student at Georgia Tech, you’ll already know of George P. Burdell, one of the establishment’s best-known graduates. Enrolled in 1927, Burdell received both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree before becoming an official alumnus of the school. Then he enrolled again. In fact, George P. Burdell kept enrolling over and over again for years, and remains a student there to this day.
George P. Burdell Lives OnThe funny thing is, George P. Burdell doesn’t exist. In 1927, another (real) student named William Edgar “Ed” Smith received two admission forms to Georgia Tech. He filled out both: one with his actual information, and one using the false identity of George P. Burdell.

Once Smith and Burdell were both accepted, Smith kept the joke running. He did all of Burdell’s schoolwork along with his own, changing it up here and there to ward off suspicion. By 1930 Burdell had been given a bachelor’s degree, and just a few years later a master’s followed. Every year since he’s remained an active student. When the school implemented a computerized enrollment system they thought Burdell would fade into oblivion, but students hacked the system and enrolled Burdell in every single class offered.

Burdell didn’t just stick around Georgia Tech, either. His name appears at other institutions; in wedding announcements; in attributions for magazines, T.V. shows, and productions; even in WWII records. And as you can see in the article above, George P. Burdell was alive and well in 1972, when he donated several thousand dollars to Furman University, earning him a bronze plaque.

“…If a man wants to pay this price to continue a myth, I’m happy to cooperate with him,” Furman’s vice president of development mentions in the article.

Check out for more interesting history captured in articles like these.

Doth Mine Eye Deceive Me?

Last week the internet was drawn into a divisive debate over the perceived color of a dress. Was it blue and black? Or white and gold? What is the truth? The dress in question was essentially an optical illusion, and not the first by a long shot. Oh yes, the newspapers of past years show that humanity has long been fascinated with optical illusions and how they mess with our perception of reality. One truth remains the same through all the articles: don’t always trust what your eyes seem to see.

Optical Illusions

Lessons in Perspective

Don't Always Believe What You See!

If you love optical illusions and history, try looking for more like these on Or you can look for something more your style using the search page.

Elvis Joins the Army: March 24, 1958

Elvis Joins the Army

On March 4, 1958, 23-year-old Elvis Presley was inducted into the U.S. Army.

Elvis to be sent to Ft. Hood

Elvis, like other young men, had registered for the draft when he turned 18. Then, despite his ensuing fame, he was declared eligible for induction in January 1957, with his draft notice arriving that December. Though he was supposed to report to the Army in January 1958, Elvis was granted a deferment until March so he could finish his current film, King Creole.

Elvis was processed into the Army on March 24, 1958, at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, surrounded by family, friends, and a sea of reporters. The singer entered regular Army service as a private, rather than joining Special Services, in which he would have entertained troops. Elvis was sent to Fort Hood, Texas, for basic training and was assigned to the 2nd Armored Division. While he was at Fort Hood, his mother, with whom he was very close, became seriously ill. Elvis was granted emergency leave, and he was able to make it to her bedside before she passed away in August.

With his training complete, in September Elvis was assigned to the 3rd Armored Division and was sent to Germany. There, Elvis apparently served dutifully and well as a driver, despite the constant media attention and fledgling amphetamine abuse.Elvis showing his sergeant's stripes
It was while he was serving in Germany that he met 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu, whom he would later marry. Elvis achieved the rank of sergeant in February 1960, and a month later, on March 5, he was honorably discharged from active duty at the age of 25.

While Elvis had been busy with the Army, his manager, Tom Parker, had been busy keeping the singer’s career rolling. Over the two years of Elvis’s service, Parker released songs that had been recorded before the singer left. Less than a month after returning home, Elvis recorded a new album and a single, “Stuck on You,” which hit number one on the charts the following month. Despite his fear that his fans would leave him in his two-year absence, Elvis was back in business.

Are you an Elvis fan? Find more articles about him on

The Hills are Alive…

…with the sound of an anniversary!

Andrews and Plummer

Sound of Music to be released early next year

You may have heard by now that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the classic film, The Sound of Music. The monumental musical was released on March 2, 1965, with rising star Julie Andrews in the leading role. The movie’s success (including winning five Academy Awards) is proof of the film’s quality and explains why it is still so beloved today.

Some even went so far as to call it the “crowning achievement of motion picture musicals.”

After being passed over for established film actress Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (despite playing the role of Eliza for 3 1/2 years in Pygmalion), Julie Andrews earned notice with her dazzling performance in Mary Poppins, released in 1964. But it was the character of Maria that solidified Andrews’ fame and captured the hearts of viewers around the world.

Academy Award-winning Julie Andrews thrills audiences as Maria in the Sound of Music

Destined to be one of the biggest hits ever

Still, there will always be those who disagree. Some were not so spell-bound by the film. This article is particularly critical of the casting—except for Julie Andrews, of course!

Unhappy Over CastingBut Julie Andrews Magnificent

Is The Sound of Music one of your family favorites? Does it warm your heart? Or do you agree that “the rest of the cast is ludicrous” as Mr. Kleiner states above? Let us know. And if you’re interested to find more about The Sound of Music, seek articles on other films, or want to find something completely unrelated, take a look at and try a search for some of your favorite things.