William Wilberforce—A Force Against Slavery

If you’ve seen the film Amazing Grace, then you’ve heard the name William Wilberforce. The tireless abolitionist was born on this day in 1759.

In 1780 Wilberforce’s dynamic political career began. His focus—in politics and in life—changed drastically after he converted to evangelical Christianity five years later. In 1787 he was introduced to leading abolitionists of the day such as Thomas Clarkson, and a long and laborious 20 year battle against slavery in the UK began.

The Authentic Speech of William WIlberforce, Esq.

In 1907, after years of concerted effort, delays, and opposition, the Slave Trade Act passed and the slave trade was abolished in the British Empire. But Wilberforce and other abolitionists’ work was not yet finished. They continued to work for the removal of slavery itself.

William Wilberforce

Wilberforce suffered from poor health for decades and eventually became so ill that he retired from Parliament in the mid 1820s. That’s not to say that he stopped his involvement in politics entirely. On the contrary, he continued to push toward abolition until quite literally his dying day. After a terrible bout of influenza in 1833, he heard that the bill to abolish slavery in most of the British Empire was assured to go through. He passed away three days later.

Wilberforce in the days before his death

Death of William Wilberforce

The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 did indeed pass in late August of that year. Though Wilberforce had wished to be buried with some of his family at Stoke Newington, it was thought that he deserved the honor of a place in Westminster Abbey. He was buried near William Pitt.

For more articles like these on Wilberforce, check out Newspapers.com. You could also try a search on American abolition and the names associated with it, or look for any other topic of interest using the search page.

Los Angeles Times

Content Update

Sample The Los Angeles Times front page
Do you have ancestors or relatives from Southern California? Come check out the recently added Los Angeles Times on Newspapers.com. Newspapers.com has issues of the Los Angeles Times ranging from 1881 to 2016—135 years of Southern California history! With a Newspapers.com Basic subscription, you can see issues from 1881 through 1922; or, with a Publisher Extra subscription, access the years previously listed and additional issues from 1922 to March 2016.

The Los Angeles Times began publication on December 4, 1881, under the name the Los Angeles Daily Times. However, since it originally wasn’t published on Mondays, it wouldn’t become a true daily until February 1887, when it began putting out a Monday issue. It was renamed the Los Angeles Times in the masthead in 1886.

After some rocky first years, the Los Angeles Times became successful, though due to competition with other area papers, it wouldn’t become the leading paper of Los Angeles until the 1940s. To date, the Los Angeles Times has won 42 Pulitzer Prizes, winning the first in 1942 (for a freedom of the press campaign) and most recently in 2016 (for coverage of the San Bernardino mass shooting). It also won Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of the Watts Riots (1965) and the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.

Masthead for Los Angeles Times' 1920 Midwinter Number

The Los Angeles Times was originally a Republican paper, though its political leanings would shift over the years. One long running feature of the paper was the so-called Midwinter Number, published on New Year’s Day between 1885 and 1954, to promote Southern California. For a few years, 1891 to 1895, it also had a similarly themed Midsummer Number. Since 1968, the Los Angeles Times has run a daily first-page feature known as “Column One,” which highlights interesting and thought-provoking topics.

One memorable event in Los Angeles Times history was on October 1, 1910, when a union radical bombed the Los Angeles Times’ building in retaliation for the paper’s fight against unions. The bombing killed 21 employees and decimated the building. The current Los Angeles Times building was completed in 1935.

If you have Los Angeles area ancestors, you might find them mentioned in a variety of places within the Los Angeles Times, including in lists of weddings, marriages, births, divorces, deaths, or war missing or killed. They might also appear in news about Los Angeles area locals or society news, among many other columns.

Start searching or browsing the Los Angeles Times on Newspapers.com!

The Mysterious Case of Bobby Dunbar

In the late summer days of 1912, the Dunbar family’s 4-year-old son Bobby disappeared during a trip to Swayze Lake in Louisianna. After eight months of searching, the boy was found in the company of handyman William Walters. Walters was accused of kidnapping the Dunbar boy despite his insistence that the boy was Bruce Anderson, the illegitimate son of Walters’ brother and a woman named Julia Anderson who worked for his family.

Bobby Dunbar

The Dunbars were wealthy and reasonably convinced the boy was Bobby thanks to a scar on his foot and a familiar-looking mole. Anderson was unwed, not wealthy, a field hand, and fairly certain that the boy was her son Bruce. When the two families came head to head in a trial for who the boy really belonged to, the Dunbars won easily. Bobby was sent home with his true family, while Walters was sent to jail for kidnapping him.


Walters maintained his innocence throughout his time in jail. This article is a section of one of the letters he wrote during his incarceration:

Walters' letter from jail

He was released after two years in prison and so escaped being hanged, but he never backed down on his story. Bobby Dunbar lived the rest of his life with his family, and Walters lived the rest of his life convinced that the boy was Bruce Anderson. Julia Anderson eventually got married and had seven more children, who have said that she spoke often of the son the Dunbars took from her.

Perhaps you have guessed by now that this story doesn’t wrap up so neatly. Decades later, Bobby Dunbar’s granddaughter, Margaret Dunbar Cutright, looked further into the story after noticing how deeply conflicted newspaper reports had been at the time. Some said the boy had instantly recognized his “mother,” Lessie Dunbar, and that the two had reunited in a flurry of hugs and tears, but others maintained that neither had shown immediate signs of recognition upon first sight.

Margaret Cutright

A comparison of DNA between Bobby’s son and the son of Bobby’s brother, Alonzo (unquestionably a Dunbar), led to the shocking discovery that the boy who had lived as Bobby his entire life had not been a Dunbar at all. At long last, William Walters was proven to be as innocent as he’d claimed.

Walters an innocent man

Unfortunately, this conclusion still leaves the fate of the true Bobby Dunbar unknown. It is thought that he most likely fell into the lake and died back in 1912, the summer he disappeared.

There is so much to be found on this unusual story in the pages of newspapers old and new. Try a search for more information on Bobby’s story or seek out some of your own family history on Newspapers.com.

Find: WWII Letters Home

Newspapers.com News, Finds and Tips

Son's letter cheers parents with news he met kin in Italy: 1944
For family members on the home front during World War II, receiving letters from sons and daughters serving overseas was often a happy occasion, as it meant their child was still alive—at least for now. Some families received letters from their children, only to later receive a dreaded telegram informing them of injury or death. Though for a lucky few, the reverse was also sometimes true: the family erroneously received a telegram from the military, only to receive a letter from the serviceman dated after the telegram, letting his family know he was alive.

Due to military censorship, and the servicemen and women’s own desire not to worry the folks back home, the letters were often relatively vague, mostly just letting their family know that they were okay and giving very general details about where they were and what they were doing. Some of these letters were printed or summarized in local newspapers, where you can still see them today. Who knows? You might even find one written by a family member!

Start by exploring the selected letters and articles below:

You can find more WWII letters on Newspapers.com! Try a search like this one as a starting point to find some additional letters, or begin a new search using search terms and dates of your own.

Antarctic Surgery

Sometimes the newspapers can share the craziest stories—like this one, about a surgeon who had to remove his own appendix.

Leonid Rogozov

Dr. Leonid Rogozov had the unfortunate luck of experiencing acute appendicitis while on an Antarctic expedition. With no way to get to another station and no other doctors around to help him out, he found himself in the unbelievable position of having to operate on himself.

Dr. Rogozov removes his own appendix

Details of the surgery

The operation took about 2 hours, some Novocaine and ice as anesthetics, and the aid of a driver, a meteorologist, and a mirror. Within two weeks of the operation Rogozov was back on his feet and performing his usual duties.

Find more on Leonid Rogozov’s incredible self-surgery on Newspapers.com.

Olympians at the Fair

In honor of this summer’s Olympic Games, here’s a look back at the first Games to take place in the United States.

First Olympic Games in America

The 1904 Olympic Games were actually the first to take place in any country outside of Europe. They were held alongside the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, and because of the long, costly trip only 12 countries other than the U.S. were represented. The U.S., on the other hand, had hundreds of competitors—almost five times the combined total of the foreign athletes. Thanks to their absurd advantage the U.S. athletes dominated the competition and took home most of the medals, though not without criticism.

Because the official competitions were interspersed randomly throughout the World’s Fair activities, the Games last for months—they began in July and the final event took place in September.

End of St. Louis Games

Find more about the first American Olympic Games, or the modern Olympics at large, with a search on Newspapers.com.

“Wild Bill” Hickok’s Last Hand

On this day in 1876, famous gunfighter “Wild Bill” Hickok was shot in the back of the head. He died on the spot without ever seeing his murderer, the young, up-and-coming gunslinger Jack McCall.
The tragic fate of Wild Bill

Wild Bill, born James Butler Hickok, gained notoriety in the west thanks to accounts (often exaggerated) of his impressive gunfighting and accurate aim. Much of his shootouts took place during his sporadic career as a lawman, from 1865-1871. During an 1871 shootout with saloon owner Phil Coe, Hickok accidentally shot and killed Mike Williams, a Special Deputy Marshall who had run into the shootout to help Hickok. This event reportedly affected Hickok deeply for the remainder of his days and he was relieved of his duties as marshall soon after the incident.

Legends tend to disagree on just how many men Hickok killed, but the numbers are likely inflated. Eventually his eyesight began to give out on him and, after a brief stint in Buffalo Bill’s show Scouts of the Plains, he turned to poker.

Wild Bill Hickok

Hickok always insisted on sitting with his back to a wall, a precaution against being surprised from behind. On the day he died, there was only one open seat at the poker table and it left Hickok’s back to the saloon door. He asked to switch seats a couple of times with no luck. Soon enough, Jack McCall walked in and shot Hickok at point-blank range. The four cards Hickok was holding as he died—two black aces and two black eights—have since become known as the “dead man’s hand.”

McCall, Hickok, Dead Man's Hand

McCall’s reasons for killing the famous “Wild Bill” may never be known for sure. He was reportedly bitter after losing badly at the same table as Hickok the day before, but in his trial he claimed that Hickok had killed his brother during his time as a lawman in Abilene, Kansas. McCall was acquitted by the informal mining town jury that first brought him to trial, but was later rearrested and judged guilty. He was hanged in March of 1877.

Read more about Hickok and his adventurous wild west life in the articles of Newspapers.com.

Will Rogers Dies in Plane Crash: August 15, 1935

Will Rogers Dies in Plane Crash: August 15, 1935

Will Rogers
On August 15, 1935, Will Rogers, one of the most beloved American celebrities at the time, died at age 55 in a plane crash in Alaska along with the plane’s pilot, famous aviator Wiley Post.

Will Rogers, born in 1879 in what is now Oklahoma, began his career as a cowboy. But in his twenties, he moved on to life in the public eye as a vaudeville performer, showing crowds his skill with the lariat and soon incorporating in to his act what would become his trademark humor. His popularity led to a successful career on Broadway, on the radio, and in silent (and later, talking) movies. In 1934, the year before his death, he was the biggest box-office draw in Hollywood.

Will Rogers shows his skill with the lariat
Rogers was also the most-read newspaper columnist in the country, taking on a wide range of current events and political topics with his good-natured humor. He famously wrote, “I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I didn’t like.”

Always up for an adventure, Rogers enjoyed traveling the world and became a major supporter of the nascent aviation industry. He became friends with famed pilot Wiley Post, the first pilot to fly solo around the world. In early August 1935, Rogers joined Post on his mission in Alaska to survey air routes between the U.S. and Russia.

The pair decided to fly to Point Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point of U.S. territory. The day of their flight, the dangerous 500-mile journey was complicated by extremely poor visibility. Unsure of exactly where they were, the two men landed in a lagoon near Point Barrow to ask a group of Inuit for directions. Just after taking off again, the plane crashed back into the lagoon at 8:18 p.m., killing Rogers and Post instantly.

Plane wreck that killed Will Rogers and Wiley Post
When news of Rogers’ death reached the States, the nation was stunned, and newspapers carried the story as their top headline. Thousands of people attended his Hollywood memorial service, and Rogers was buried first in California then later moved to Oklahoma.

Do you have any memories of Will Rogers? Share them with us! Or find more articles about his career and life by searching Newspapers.com.

The Creation of NASA

On July 29, 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was created as a response to a successful satellite launch by the Soviet Union. The creation of this agency launched the United States into the space scene with the object of exploration, expansion, and gathering information about all things stellar.

Program for the conquest of outer space


Find more on NASA in the papers of the past with a search on Newspapers.com.

Isolating Isletin

On this day in history, two men discovered a cure for a condition that was previously considered fatal: diabetes. This innovation in medical science happened less than a century ago, in the summer of 1921.

Banting and Best discover insulin

Dogs used in insulin discovery

Many researchers had previously connected the pancreas to diabetes, but Dr. Banting and his medical student assistant, Charles Best, were the first to successfully isolate and use insulin to improve diabetic dogs. In 1922, one year after the initial extraction was achieved, a diabetic teenager was given an injection of what was then called “isletin” and showed dramatic improvement. Suddenly, a disease that once inevitably led to death had become treatable.

Find more articles like these on insulin and other significant advances in medicine with a search on Newspapers.com.