Classy Denim for Crosby

On this day in history, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis received a patent to create rivet-reinforced denim work pants. The result: blue jeans. Jeans have long since become a popular and oft-worn staple in casual outfits across the globe. In fact, denim and “casual” go pretty much hand in hand, which once got famous singer Bing Crosby into a bit of a tight spot.

(Click the images to see the full pages on Newspapers.com)

Bing Crosby's Levi Tuxedo

Bing Crosby

The tux was made from 501 denim—Crosby’s preference—and he was apparently pleased as punch by the gift.

Find more tidbits of history like this on Newspapers.com.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Content Update

Sample St. Louis Post-Dispatch front page
If you have ancestors from Missouri or surrounding areas, come check out the St. Louis Post-Dispatch! Newspapers.com has issues starting from the newspaper’s inception in 1878. Also included under the St. Louis Post-Dispatch title on Newspapers.com are some issues of the paper’s predecessors, the Dispatch and the Evening Post, dating back to 1874. With a Newspapers.com Basic subscription, you can see issues from 1874 through 1922; or, with a Publisher Extra subscription, access the years previously listed and additional issues from 1923 to April 2016.

The Post-Dispatch began publishing in December 1878. It was created by Joseph Pulitzer out of two preexisting papers: the Dispatch and the Evening Post. When the paper was first published, it was called the Post and Dispatch, but within a few months, the title had been shortened to the Post-Dispatch.

Weatherbird turns 100 (2001)

The paper’s first managing editor was John Cockerill, and he and the paper were both embroiled in scandal when Cockerill shot and killed Alonzo Slayback in the Post-Dispatch office in 1882. Slayback had come to the office to confront Cockerill about an insulting article Cockerill had published about Slayback, and Cockerill shot Slayback in what appeared to be self-defense.

As a major paper in the Midwest, the Post-Dispatch carried international, national, regional, and local news. It started out as a four-page paper but quickly grew in length. One long running feature of the paper is the Weatherbird, a small cartoon included on the front page with the weather report. Introduced in 1901, the Weatherbird still appears on the front page today.

Another long-running feature was an illustrated piece called “Our Own Oddities” (originally called “St. Louis Oddities”), which ran from 1940 to 1990 and included quirky facts and anecdotes. The Post-Dispatch was also known for its political cartoons.

St. Louis Oddities, 1940
By the 1880s, the Post-Dispatch had become St. Louis’s biggest evening newspaper, and the paper covered all of the city’s major moments, including the completion of the Eads Bridge, the streetcar strike of 1900, the 1904 World’s Fair and Summer Olympics, the 1939 smog problem, the topping out of the Gateway Arch, and much more.

If you have St. Louis area ancestors, you might find them in lists of births, marriage licenses, divorces, deaths, or burial permits or in columns about social activities, travel notes, gossip, club activities, and news from nearby towns—just to name a few. You might even find interesting anecdotes about your relatives, such as this short piece from 1944 entitled, “3 Hams Put in Wrong Auto; Owner Wants Them Back.”

Get started searching or browsing the St. Louis Post-Dispatch here.

National Limerick Day

Everybody likes an old-fashioned Limerick!

May 12th is National Limerick Day! It is annually observed on the birthday of Edward Lear, who was known for his nonsensical limericks and other poetry. So to celebrate both Lear’s special day and the existence of limericks in general, here are some topical clippings for your perusal.

LearThe following three limericks are by Lear himself:

A Limerick from Book of Nonsense

Young Lady of Troy Limerick

Beard Limerick

Apparently he liked to use the same first word as the last in his poems.

Here are a few more limericks—some from newspaper contests, some from stories, some from random articles that made use of limericks however they saw fit:

Classifieds limerick contest example

Example limerick for a contest about classified ads

Hunting limerickStay Single limmerick

And just for fun, a little tidbit of presidential history:

Woodrow Wilson's limerick history

Find more limericks and limerick-adjacent articles on Newspapers.com.

Leave it to Hackie

The Girl at the Switchboard

This week in history, the very first telephone ever to grace the halls of the White House was installed there by President Hayes. Today’s blog focuses on another role played in the White House’s telephone history—a woman, who half a century later manned the White House telephone switchboard. This nimble-fingered lady’s name was Louise Hachmeister, but most people just called her Hackie.

Diplomat of the White House Switchboard

Chances are it's Hackie

Hackie was known for her warm manner, incredible memory, and unparalleled efficiency. She had her start as a “Hello Girl” in New York before she came to be on the staff of Roosevelt’s election campaign. Her ability to track down anyone, sometimes with nothing more than a first name, impressed everyone who knew her and eventually got her the job at the White House.

Efficiency Got Her Job

Hackie

Her position at the White House was pretty unusual at the time. A woman had never been hired for the switchboard position, because—well, just read this article’s flattering explanation:

Hackie first woman to work the White House switchboard

But Hackie proved them wrong, even as she scoffed at the idea that she knew any real secrets anyway.

One Woman Who Keeps Secrets

Hackie worked as the White House’s chief telephone operator for 20 years, before she was eventually let go from the position a few months before she planned to retire.

Find more on Hackie (also spelled Hacky) with a search on Newspapers.com.

Find: America’s WWI Neutrality Debate

Newspapers.com News, Finds and Tips

WWI political cartoon
When World War I began in Europe in 1914, the majority of Americans wanted the United States to stay out of the conflict. Although there was a vocal segment of the population who favored “preparedness” (a strengthening of the U.S. military), support for neutrality and isolationism was strong. Industrialist Henry Ford even organized a “peace ship” to sail to Europe in December 1915 to try to encourage peace talks between the belligerents. However, despite the United States’ initial neutrality, many Americans personally sympathized with Britain, France, and their allies, and American institutions lent huge sums to the Allied governments, giving the U.S. a financial stake in the outcome of the war.

Public opinion began to shift away from neutrality following Germany’s sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915, which resulted in the deaths of more than a thousand people, including Americans. Reports of Germany’s atrocities against civilians in Belgium also changed Americans’ opinions, as did the resumption of Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare in February 1917. The final straw in the shift of American public opinion toward involvement in the war was the discovery of the Zimmermann Telegram, in which Germany encouraged Mexico to declare war on the U.S.

By the time President Wilson declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, many Americans had reversed their position on neutrality and instead supported American intervention in order to—as Wilson phrased it—make the world “safe for democracy.”

This shift in American public opinion was captured in the newspaper articles and editorials of the time. You can find a sampling of them below via clippings from Newspapers.com:

  • December 1914: A quote from President Wilson in support of neutrality
  • December 1915: Editorial in support of Henry Ford’s quixotic “peace ship”
  • January 1916: “Peace ship” satiric comic
  • February 1916: Pro-preparedness, anti-pacifism article
  • May 1916: Editorial defending pacifism and criticizing preparedness parade
  • June 1916: Excerpt from editorial defending neutrality
  • June 1916: Letter to the editor defending pacifism
  • April 1917: Political cartoon about America’s potential post-neutrality role
  • April 1917: Editorial associating pacifism with being pro-German and unpatriotic
  • July 1917: Article tracing President Wilson’s move away from neutrality
  • September 1917: Editorial criticizing the peace movement
  • January 1918: Article about pacifist teachers being fired in public schools

Find more articles from the debate surrounding America’s entrance into World War I by searching Newspapers.com.

Happy Birthday, Audrey

Audrey Kathleen Hepburn was born on this day in 1929. In her 40+ years of acting, Hepburn played some of the most timeless and beloved characters in cinema. Though she died of cancer in 1993, she continues to be remembered for her grace and elegance and remains one of the most iconic figures in Hollywood history.

Take a look through these Audrey Hepburn clippings from Newspapers.com.

Audrey Hepburn was like a princess from a fairy tale

Audrey Hepburn - Gigi

Audrey Hepburn 1954

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn - My Fair Lady

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn, later life

Audrey Hepburn - UNICEF

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn - death

Find more on Audrey Hepburn, her career, and her humanitarian work on Newspapers.com.

Lindbergh Completes His Transatlantic Flight:
May 21, 1927

Lindbergh Completes His Transatlantic Flight: May 21, 1927

Lindbergh Reaches Paris
On May 21, 1927, at 10:22 p.m. local time, 25-year-old Charles Lindbergh and his silver monoplane, the Spirit of St. Louis, landed in Paris, France, making him the first aviator to successfully fly nonstop across the Atlantic from New York to Paris.

A former barnstormer, Army Air Service cadet, and airmail pilot, Lindbergh decided to try to win the Orteig Prize—$25,000 to the first aviator to fly nonstop from New York to Paris or vice versa. Many well-known pilots of the day had attempted the flight, but all previous attempts had ended in accident or death.

Lindbergh, a virtually unknown pilot at the time, had a hard time finding a company to sell him a plane in which to make the journey, even after he found backers in St. Louis to fund him. Eventually, he found Ryan Airlines, based out of San Diego, which would custom-build him a plane to his exact specifications—a light-weight, one-seat, single-engine monoplane with only the bare essentials to allow for extra fuel.

Map of Lindbergh's transatlantic flight

The plane, named the Spirit of St. Louis, was completed in a mere 60 days, and after stopping in St. Louis, Lindbergh flew on to New York to make his attempt. Initially, the flight was postponed due to poor weather, but as soon as it began to clear up, Lindbergh departed on May 20 at 7:52 a.m. The trip took him 33 ½ hours, and though he faced challenges like ice building up on his plane, Lindbergh’s greatest struggle was staying awake and alert over the long flight.

From the moment he touched down, Lindberg became an instant celebrity. Tens of thousands (and perhaps upwards of 100,000) French greeted him at the airport, and an estimated 4 million people packed the streets during his parade in New York City. 30 million Americans (about a quarter of the population at the time) came to see him as he toured the Spirit of St. Louis around the country in the months that followed. He even received the Medal of Honor for his landmark flight.

Cartoon about how Lindbergh closed the distance between US and France with his flight
Lindbergh used his immense fame to promote the nascent aviation industry, and though he would lose favor in later years because of his controversial political and personal views, for a time he was easily one of the most famous people in the world.

Did any of your family members see Lindbergh as he toured the nation? Tell us about it! If you want to learn more about him, you can search for articles on Newspapers.com.

May Day

At times the 8-hour workday feels unbearably long, doesn’t it? And yet it’s nothing compared to what many workers endured in the seventeenth century. It was not unusual for employees to be stuck at work-intensive jobs for 10-16 hours a day, and by 1884 America’s labor force had had enough.

Eight hour workday strike

In October 1884, a Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions convention came to the unanimous decision that an 8-hour workday should become standard on May 1, 1886. When that day came, thousands of workers went on strike to support the effort. Chicago led the movement, with over 30,000 strikers and perhaps twice as many general supporters flooding the streets to aid in the protest.

For several days the strikers surprised the populace with their peaceful marches and demonstrations. But on May 3, 1886, there was an incident at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company in Chicago. Despite strike leader August Spies’ pleas for calm, strikers surged toward the building to confront strikebreakers. Police fired into the crowd, killing two.

McCormick riot and revenge circular

The next day saw a rally at Haymarket square to protest the police violence. Movement leaders Spies, Albert Parsons, and Samuel Fielden spoke to the gathered crowd (on the condition that the violent speech be removed from the “Revenge!” fliers like the one described above) and for a while all remained peaceful. But then a police force arrived and ordered the rally to disperse. A lone protester lobbed a homemade bomb at them, killing one officer instantly and mortally wounding six more.

Public opinion turned against the 8-hour movement and the connected protesters, and a wave of arrests were made. Among the arrested were rally speakers Spies, Fielden, and Parsons. Five others who had not been at the rally were also arrested and included in the remarkably unjust trial that followed: Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Michael Schwab, Louis Lingg and Oscar Neebe.

Trial ends in death sentences

All were sentence to death but Neebe, whose punishment was 15 years in prison. Schwab and Fielden appealed for a life sentence instead, which they were granted. Lingg killed himself the night before the execution, taking his fate into his own hands. The remaining four were hanged. They became international martyrs for the cause, and many prominent people spoke out openly and angrily against the conditions of the trial and sentencing.

The whole Haymarket debacle was a hitch in the American labor movement’s progress, but it did strengthen the resolve to continue fighting for the 8-hour day. An international celebration was created, to be observed every May Day as a commemorative event for those who died and were executed during those May 1886 strikes.

International Workers Day

This International Workers Day is still an official holiday in many countries around the world, though it is rarely thought of anymore in the United States.

If you’re interested in learning more, search Newpapers.com for contemporary articles about the riots, strikes, and the “anarchist trial.” There’s a lot to be found on this topic and many others, and the browse page is great for stumbling upon history’s random tidbits.

 

Looking Back: Chernobyl

It’s been 30 years since one of Chernobyl’s four nuclear reactors exploded and spread radioactive particles miles in every direction. The April 26, 1986, disaster killed over 30 people directly, while thousands more were evacuated from the surrounding area. Decontamination and health care costs were and continue to be extensive, and the longer-term effects from the catastrophe continue to be seen today.

Take a look below at some articles published in the days and years following the incident::

Nuclear

Soviet Union's report

Early reports: 2 people killed

Chernobyl Cartoon

1986 cartoon reflects public sentiment on the disaster at Chernobyl

Chernobyl

No reason for concern

Chernobyl

Chernobyl: Disaster Continues

Find more on Chernobyl and other historic disasters on Newspapers.com.

Miss Perfect Posture

Beauty contests have been a tradition in the United States for nearly a century. Contests with names like “Miss Universe,” “Miss United States,” and “Miss [name of any city, really]” have attracted leggy and service-oriented ladies since the first Miss America pageant in 1921. But there have also been several other beauty contests with rather unique qualifications. One of these is Miss Perfect Posture.

Rib cage drawings show the effects of correct and incorrect posture

These posture-perfect competitions, sponsored by those in the chiropractic industry, sought out women with well-balanced stances and beautifully aligned spines.

Seeking perfect postures

Often contestants stood on two scales—one foot on each—and if the numbers came out even the lady in question had excellent posture. Sometimes the straight-backed hopefuls were also submitted to full-body x-rays to determine exactly how perfect their postures were, a practice which would not fly today.

Miss Perfect Posture Contest

In the end, only one could be named Miss Perfect Posture.

Miss Perfect Posture (1959)

Winner of Perfect Posture Contest

There were (are) a lot of other bizarre beauty competitions out there—Miss Drumsticks, Miss World’s Most Beautiful Ape, and Miss Atomic Bomb to name just a few. Search Newspapers.com for more on any of these pageants or browse to find articles and history that are more your style.