Ragamuffin Day

In the days before the existence of that costumed and cacophonous day that is Halloween, there was another similar sort of celebration. It took place on Thanksgiving and was generally known as “Ragamuffin Day.” Though dressed-up children could be found throughout the country, the tradition was especially common in New York.

Little Children Allowed to Run Riot

By no means confined to New York

The youths who participated in Ragamuffin day found whatever they could to make themselves look just like…well, ragamuffins. Boys wore girls’ clothes, girls wore boys’ clothes, children wore their parents’ clothes or curtains or rags. They pestered people in the street, descended on store owners, and knocked on the doors of homes to ask, “Anything for Thanksgiving?” In return they were usually given a candy, a piece of fruit, or a penny.

Ragamuffin Day

The little fellows

Thanksgiving is Ragamuffin Day

Custom native to Italy

The occasion was not looked on with quite as much general tolerance as Halloween is today. Many adults resented the distasteful display of faux beggary and the impish behavior that often came with it.

No success in eliminating begging

Ragamuffin Day Discouraged

But the children loved it, and many remembered those days fondly even after the tradition was slowly and subtly traded over for what eventually became Thanksgiving day parades.

Check out this link for more articles about Ragamuffin Day, or a try your own search for a different angle on this story or any other topic of interest on Newspapers.com.

Happy Birthday, Steamboat Willie

Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie

On November 18, 1928, Mickey Mouse made his big debut in Steamboat Willie. Though he’d featured in Disney cartoons before, Steamboat Willie was the first to gain a distributor and make Mickey Mouse a widely recognized character.

Steamboat Willie not the first Mickey Mouse cartoon

The cartoon used the relatively new technology of synchronized sound for comedic affect, impressing audiences.

Steamboat Willie Debut

Check out this search for more on Mickey and Steamboat Willie. 

Native American Papers

Content Update

The Indian Journal front page
November is Native American Heritage Month. Come explore the newspapers written by or for Native Americans on Newspapers.com. Though some of these papers may have just a few issues available, they all provide a wealth of insight into Native American life at the turn of the 19th century and beyond.

Let’s take a look a few of these papers:

  • The Progress (White Earth, MN; 1886–89). This paper was published by members of the White Earth Reservation. It was devoted to reservation and area news and advocated for the interests of the tribe.
  • The Tomahawk (White Earth, MN; 1904–1921). The Tomahawk was created by the same people who ran the Progress after that paper’s demise in 1889. Between the two papers, there is 20 years’ worth of Minnesota Ojibwe history.
  • Indian Chieftain (Vinita, OK; 1882–1902). The Indian Chieftain was an influential paper in the Cherokee nation. It was “devoted to the interests of the Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Seminoles, Creeks, and other Indians of the Indian Territory.” The paper also covered national and international news, in addition to tribal affairs.
  • The Indian Journal (Eufaula, OK; 1890–1977). This paper, still in publication, is the oldest continuously published weekly paper in Oklahoma.
  • The Indian Advocate (Sacred Heart, OK; 1893–1910). The Indian Advocate was published at the Sacred Heart Abby by a Benedictine order. It was intended by its Catholic publishers to help “civilize” the tribes in Oklahoma Territory.
  • Cherokee Advocate (Tahlequah, OK; 1880–99). This paper contains some articles and sections that use the Cherokee syllabary.

Other Native American Papers on Newspapers.com include (but are not necessarily limited to):

Explore these papers and more on Newspapers.com!

The Stories of Veterans

Each year on November 11 we honor the men and women who have sacrificed their time, their comfort, and sometimes even their lives in times of war and peace throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. We recognize them as an outstanding group who deserve all the honor and praise they are given. But more than that, Veterans Day is really meant as a thank you to millions of individuals, each with their own experiences. Each veteran is a person with a story of their own.

Today on the blog we focus on those stories found in the newspapers from WWI until today. Not all ended happily, but each shows a piece of a person’s life, given to his country for the greater good. (Click on a picture to see the full article.)

Fermin Villarreal, WWI:

Rose for a Veteran

Jack Stout, WWII:

Jack Stout, War Veteran

Robert Young, Vietnam War:

Bobby Young's Story

Jesse Valma, WWII/Korean War and Wendel Angle, WWII:

Swapping Stories

Exchanging Memories

Joe Ambrose, WWI:

WWI Veteran Attends Wreath Ceremony at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

100th Infantry Battalion, WWII:

100th Infantry Battalion

More stories from veterans and Veterans Days gone by can be found in this search. Thank you, veterans, for your service and sacrifice.


Bubble gum was not always the pink and perfect chewing experience that we know today. First invented in 1906 by a man named Frank Fleer, the original bubble gum was comically named “Blibber-Blubber.” And it had a few problems.

Blibber-Blubber, the original bubble gum

The texture resembled silly putty, and if you did decide to blow a bubble you might not want to be standing around anyone. The bubbles splattered when they burst. But Blibber-Blubber was the first formulation for what eventually became a very popular treat.

In 1928, Blibber-Blubber’s recipe was vastly improved by one of the Frank E. Fleer Company’s employees, Walter Diemer. He dyed it pink and called it Dubble Bubble.

Dubble Bubble

Dubble Bubble bubble

And just for kicks, here’s an article from 1976 that gives some tidbits on brand names, Dubble Bubble included:

Name Origins: Dubble Bubble, Noxzema, Babe Ruth, B.V.D.

Take a look through Newspapers.com‘s collection of newspapers today for more clippings like these. Use the search page to look for specific names, dates, and results of interest to you.

Laika, First Space Dog

In November 1957 headlines proclaimed the news that Russia’s Sputnik II had launched into Earth’s orbit. This mission was special because, unlike those previous, this spacecraft held precious cargo: a dog named Laika.

Sputnik II lifts off with the first animal in orbit on board

Laika has gone down in history as the first animal to go to space. Her journey was monitored by scientists on the ground who were eager to understand the effects of space travel on a living being.

Russian dog, Laika, ready for journey into space

Laika monitored for effects of space travel

Laika was meant to survive about 10 days before her life-support system’s batteries died—all part of the mission’s plan. But years later it was revealed that she’d likely only survived a few hours in orbit before overheating.

Sputnik II program ends

Laika provided the first data on the behavior and biological state of a living thing in space. Russia sent at least a dozen more dogs on similar journeys in the ensuing years for further research. Four years after Sputnik II, Russia achieved another major first when they sent Major Yuri Gararin in an orbit around the earth and returned him safely home.

Russia Puts First Man In Space

More articles on Laika and Sputnik II can be found in this search, and this one, respectively. Try a search of your own today on Newspapers.com .

Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapses: November 7, 1940

War of the Worlds Radio Scare: October 30, 1938

Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapses
On November 7, 1940, at 11 a.m., the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed into Puget Sound just four months after its opening.

Although locals had wanted a bridge between Tacoma and the Kitsap Peninsula for decades, it wasn’t until the U.S. military got behind the idea as a defense measure that the idea became a reality. Construction began on November 23, 1938, and was finished a little over a year and a half later. At the time of it’s opening on July 1, 1940, the bridge was the third-longest suspension bridge in the world, with a center span 2,800 feet long. It was extremely slender, with a deck just 2 lanes (39 feet) across and 8 feet deep, making it the most flexible suspension bridge in the world.

Before the bridge opened to the public, workers noticed that even in light winds the bridge deck developed rippling vertical waves and nicknamed the bridge “Galloping Gertie.” The motion was sometimes so pronounced that it caused some workers—and later motorists and pedestrians—to feel motion sick. Bridge engineers worked to find a solution to dampen the bridge’s movement, but when initial methods failed, they hired a university professor to solve the problem. The professor’s report was released just a week prior to the collapse and before any of his suggestions could be implemented.

Opening of new Tacoma Narrows bridge in 1950

On the morning of November 7, under winds that eventually reached 42 mph, the bridge began its typical undulations. The waves became so bad that the bridge was closed to traffic. Finally, one of the cable bands slipped, and the bridge took up a new twisting (torsional) motion. The unexpected twisting (caused by the bridge’s design and aereoelastic flutter) put too much stress on the bridge, and it collapsed 190 feet into the Sound. The only fatality was a dog in a car abandoned on the bridge.

World War II interrupted the rebuilding of the bridge, so the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge wasn’t completed until 1950. The new “Sturdy Gertie” bridge, which abandoned the extreme slenderness of the old bridge, is still in use today.

Do you have any family stories about the Tacoma Narrows Bridge? Tell us about them! For more information about the collapse, start a search on Newspapers.com.

Happy Halloween!

Ahhh, it’s that spooky, kooky time of year again. The time when children and adults alike don costumes both frightful and fair in the name of gathering fistfuls of candy. In honor of this sugar-filled holiday, here’s some bite-sized bits of Halloween history.

The tradition of “souling” was an earlier form of what we call trick-or-treating today. Those in need would ask for “soul cake” pastries, and in return they would pray for people’s deceased relatives. Check out these clippings about souling:

Halloween History


A Cake in exchange for a Prayer

Wondering where costumes come in to all of this? Take a look at these clippings on the Scottish and Irish tradition of guising:


Guising, cont.

Aren’t you glad that all we have to say is “trick-or-treat”?

Guising and souling were just part of what eventually became Halloween as we know it today. Take a look at this Newspapers.com search to see what Halloween histories were shared in the news across hundreds of Halloween seasons past. And check out this page for some prize-winning Halloween stories from 1924.