A Quick History of Fascinators

Tomorrow’s royal wedding is the talk of the town, and that means attention will most certainly be paid to the fashion choices of attendees. Dresses, designers, and best (or worst?) of all, fascinators.

Ah, fascinators. Those whimsical and often bizarre little hats that perch on carefully styled hairdos. They were not always this way, of course; only in recent decades have fascinators been revamped into the small and precariously pinned headpieces that we know today.

Old-style fascinator, 1896Old-style fascinator, 1896 · Wed, Dec 2, 1896 – Page 5 · Washington Times (Washington, District of Columbia) · Newspapers.com

The name is older than the style; fascinators of the past were actually somewhat more sensible, scarf-like things like the one in the drawing above. They were frequently marketed and sold as a seasonal item for warmth right next to scarves and mittens, and since they were knitted and draped around the head and neck it’s not too hard to see why.

Cool Nights Call for ThemCool Nights Call for Them · Wed, Dec 14, 1898 – 10 · The Buffalo Commercial (Buffalo, New York) · Newspapers.com

There are several clippings in the archives from younger women who lament being forced to wear “old-fashioned” and “ugly” fascinators by their mothers, as by the early 1900s fascinators were no longer the style and were usually associated with old women. This clipping below, from 1966, comments on the lull in fascinator use just before it was readopted into a more modern style that could be appreciated by all ages.

Fascinators came back in style, 1960sFascinators came back in style, 1960s · Fri, Oct 21, 1966 – 2 · Mount Union Times (Mount Union, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

In the 60s and 70s, the definition of a “fascinator” was pretty loose. It sometimes referred to modernized versions of the original scarf style of headwear, but slowly it also began to apply to the smaller, clip-in hats that had existed for decades.

Fascinator, 1970Fascinator, 1970 · Sun, Apr 26, 1970 – Page 114 · The Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) · Newspapers.com

Fascinators (before they were called fascinators)Fascinators (before they were called fascinators) · Mon, Mar 8, 1943 – Page 9 · Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) · Newspapers.com

By the 90’s, the term “fascinator” had become firmly attached to a specific kind of hat—small, jaunty, and often bedecked in beads or feathers or any manner of frills and flounces. And, as with many trends in fashion, the fascinator is not always a favorite.

The fascinator reigns supremeThe fascinator reigns supreme · Mon, Jan 25, 1960 – Page 6 · The Age (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) · Newspapers.com

Not everyone's a fanNot everyone’s a fan · Wed, Oct 19, 1988 – Page 100 · The Age (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) · Newspapers.com

Keep an eye out for some fancy fascinators if you’re tuning in to the royal wedding—they’re sure to make an appearance! And now you can feel free to regale your friends with the truth about fascinators: they were once just floppy, unfashionable scarves until someone rebranded them. The magic of marketing!

Find more on fascinators and fashion history with a search on Newspapers.com.

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Poison Squad: The Men Who Ate Poison So You Don’t Have To

A group of young men volunteered to eat poison for dinner. All in the name of science.

The press dubbed them the Poison Squad, but the man in charge—Dr. Harvey Wiley—called the experiment the “hygienic table trials.” The trials, which lasted from 1902 to 1907, were part of Wiley’s crusade to prove that common chemical preservatives then in use were not fit for human consumption.

More than 100 years later, the preservatives in our food are once again a hot topic. Many food packages now declare they are preservative-free to boost sales, and an internet search for the question “Are food preservatives bad for you?” returns more than 2.5 million results.

Is there anything we can learn from Harvey Wiley and the Poison Squad?

Dr. Wiley’s Crusade
At the time of the table trials, Wiley was chief chemist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. One of his passions was pushing for federal regulation of food “adulteration”—in other words, he wanted to stop food manufacturers from adding potentially dangerous substances to food and misleading consumers about ingredients.

In 1902, Wiley received money from Congress to study the effects of chemical food preservatives on humans. For the next five years, Wiley conducted experiments in which he fed groups of young men common food preservatives of the day—like borax, salicylic acid, copper sulfate, and formaldehyde.

Fully informed of what they were getting into, the volunteers received three square meals a day—in exchange for eating doses of the preservatives along with their meals. Throughout the experiment, their vital signs were recorded, and urine and stool samples were collected and analyzed.

Careful notes were taken about any symptoms the men developed. Borax, for instance, was found to cause headaches and stomach aches, while the formaldehyde test had to be ended early because the men got too sick.

The Public Joins the Cause
The press eventually caught wind of these experiments, and the so-called Poison Squad became a national sensation. Article after article appeared in newspapers around the country, generally praising the efforts of Dr. Wiley and his volunteers. “The food consumers of America owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Wiley’s ‘poison squad,’” read one such article in the Salt Lake Telegram in 1903. “Congress should give every one of them a gold medal.”

Ad for Ceylon and India Tea (from the New York Tribune)

Ad for Ceylon and India Tea (from the New York Tribune)

The high visibility of Dr. Wiley’s preservative experiment increased public awareness of food safety, an issue that women’s groups had long been championing. Because of this growing awareness, some food and beverage companies began advertising their products as being free of risky substances. A 1902 ad for Ceylon and India tea, for instance, boasted the product was “not mixed with adulterants or coloring matter”—a shift from just two years prior, when that product’s ad made no reference to food safety.

Although Dr. Wiley’s methods seem somewhat suspect today, his experiments paid off. His findings from the Poison Squad ultimately enabled him to work alongside other activists to push through the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act—the nation’s first real federal food regulation law.

The Debate Lives On
Today’s debate about food preservatives revolves around some of the same issues as in Dr. Wiley’s day. One side emphasizes preservatives’ role in prolonging the shelf life of food and making it cheaper and more accessible, while the other criticizes chemical preservatives for their potential dangers. It’s a complicated issue.

But if there is one thing either side can learn from Dr. Wiley’s story, it’s the power that passionate and persistent individuals have to shape the national conversation on food safety. Just without a Poison Squad this time.

Find more articles about Dr. Wiley and the Poison Squad on Newspapers.com. And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more interesting historical content like this!

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This Week in History – Brown Vs. Board of Education Ruling

This week in 1954, segregation in public schools is declared to be unconstitutional and “inherently unequal” in the final ruling of Brown v. Board of Education. The unanimous decision was a major win for the civil rights movement and a big stepping stone toward the eventual abolishment of racially segregated public spaces.

“Segregation is ‘inherently unequal'” · Mon, May 17, 1954 – Page 2 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) · Newspapers.com

Conclusion of decisionConclusion of decision · Tue, May 18, 1954 – 8 · Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) · Newspapers.com

Brown vs. Board of EducationBrown vs. Board of Education · Sun, May 17, 1964 – Page 8 · Sunday Gazette-Mail (Charleston, West Virginia) · Newspapers.com

Find more on this important moment in history with a search on Newspapers.com.

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Robert Johnson, Master of the Blues

You may have heard his name recently if you’re a Timeless fan. NBC’s time-traveling show went back to the 1930s in a recent episode and introduced its characters to one of history’s greatest and most influential blues masters, Robert Johnson.

Most may recognize him from the myth that surrounds his talent, which goes something like this:

Robert Johnson, deal with the devilRobert Johnson, deal with the devil · Wed, May 10, 1989 – Page 11 · Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Arizona) · Newspapers.com

The legend seemed to suit Robert Johnson just fine; one could say that he did sell his soul, metaphorically, by casting off a typical settled life in pursuit of the itinerant life of a blues musician. He moved from city to city, making friends with the locals, schmoozing the ladies, and captivating audiences with his skill. All his recordings were made in the span of two years: 1936 and 1937.

Devil in his musicDevil in his music · Sat, Mar 15, 1986 – 16 · Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut) · Newspapers.com

Johnson's recordingsJohnson’s recordings · Sun, Jan 19, 1997 – 43 · Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio) · Newspapers.com

Johnson’s unexpected death in 1938 at the age of 27 (from unknown causes, though many speculate he was poisoned by a jealous husband) cut his career abruptly short, and he never lived to see the full scope of his fame or the incredible influence his music had on the rock and blues genres.

Robert Johnson's musicRobert Johnson’s music · Sat, Mar 15, 1986 – 17 · Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut) · Newspapers.com
There’s more to find on Robert Johnson (particularly after 1961, when his recordings were first reissued). Try a search on Newspapers.com for this or another topic of interest.

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Remembering 10 Classic Cars through Newspaper Ads

News, Finds, Tips of the Month

Any car buffs out there? If cars are your passion, newspapers are a great place to learn more about your hobby. You can find ads from a car’s first appearance and learn things like what the original price was, what the first selling points were, what unique features it had, and how car dealers, car experts, and the general public reacted to the car when it was first sold.

We’ve gathered newspaper ads from 10 famous classic cars. Take a look and let us know if you learned anything new

  1. 1908 Ford Model T adFord Model T. As the first car that was affordable for middle-class Americans, the Model T was a big hit as soon as it rolled off the assembly line in the fall of 1908.
  2. ’32 Ford Coupe. This car became a popular hotrod in the 1940s and inspired the 1963 Beach Boys song “Little Deuce Coupe.”
  3. '55 Ford Thunderbird  ad’55 Ford Thunderbird. The first of the Thunderbirds, the successful ’55 model emphasized comfort and convenience. The later ’58 Thunderbird was so popular it created a whole new market segment: the “personal luxury car.”
  4. ’57 Chevrolet Corvette. Corvettes are one of the most iconic sports cars, and the ’57 model touted a bigger V-8 engine, 4-speed manual transmission, and other performance-oriented options.
  5. ’59 Cadillac. First introduced in the 1948 model, tailfins hit their peak in the ’59 Cadillac.
  6. '69 Chevy Camaro adTriumph Spitfire 4. First sold in late 1962, the small, relatively inexpensive Spitfire was the quintessential British two-seat convertible sportscar.
  7. ’69 Dodge Charger. The ’69 Dodge Charger was immortalized in the TV show The Dukes of Hazzard by the bright orange General Lee.
  8. ’69 Chevrolet Camaro. A classic muscle car, the ’69 Camaro had a sportier, more aggressive appearance than earlier models.
  9. '77 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am ad’69 Ford Boss 302 Mustang. A variant of the ever-popular Mustang, the Boss 302 Mustang emphasized performance (rather than power) and competed with the Chevy Camaro.
  10. ’77 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. Another car made famous on screen, the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am was featured in Smokey and the Bandit.

Find more classic car ads by searching for the year, make, and model on Newspapers.com!

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This Week in History – V-E Day

This week marks the anniversary of the surrender of German troops throughout Europe and the official end of World War II. The majority of surrender took place on the 8th of May, leading to bold and victorious headlines like this:

Victory in Europe Day, 1945Victory in Europe Day, 1945 · Tue, May 8, 1945 – 1 · Journal and Courier (Lafayette, Indiana) · Newspapers.com

In Soviet Russia some conflict continued, but surrender there was confirmed by the following day, May 9th. Celebrations popped up across the world, with people taking to the streets to cheer the end of the terrible, 6-year war.

Russia says surrender complete, May 9 1945Russia says surrender complete, May 9 1945 · Wed, May 9, 1945 – 1 · Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Florida) · Newspapers.com

Find more clippings and articles of this historic moment with a search on Newspapers.com.

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The Missing Mona Lisa

Once upon a time, in the year 1911, the sudden disappearance of a famous work of art thrust it into the international spotlight.

Famous Mona Lisa StolenFamous Mona Lisa Stolen · Wed, Aug 23, 1911 – Page 1 · The Greenville News (Greenville, South Carolina) · Newspapers.com

The painting was stolen sometime on the morning of August 21, but it appears that somehow no one noticed until the next day. This will seem strange to those who have had to push through crowds of people and their cameras to get a peek at the Mona Lisa in recent years, but makes a bit more sense in the context of 1911. While the Mona Lisa was by no means unknown at the time, it was this very thievery and the resulting flood of news headlines that made her one of the most famous paintings in the world.

For two years the whereabouts of the painting remained a mystery.

Missing in mystery for 2 yearsMissing in mystery for 2 years · Sun, Aug 10, 1913 – Page 4 · Pittsburgh Daily Post (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

At long last, the thief was caught. His name was Vincenzo Perugia, and his connection to the theft was discovered in late 1913 after he tried to sell the painting.

Mona Lisa Thief Talks, 1913Mona Lisa Thief Talks, 1913 · Sun, Dec 14, 1913 – Page 33 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) · Newspapers.com

Perugia explained how he’d envisioned and planned the theft while working for the Louvre. On the morning of the 21st he’d simply walked into the museum, taken the Mona Lisa from where she hung in a room that was empty at the time, and walked out with the painting hidden under his worker’s smock.

And as for his motives?

Perugia's motivesPerugia’s motives · Sun, Dec 14, 1913 – Page 33 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) · Newspapers.com

Perugia’s understanding of history was a bit misguided (the Mona Lisa had never been stolen by Napoleon at all, but was taken to France by Da Vinci himself in the 16th century), but nonetheless he considered himself a national hero and fully expected to be showered in the praise of his fellow wronged Italians.

After a short exhibition throughout Italy the famously enigmatic lady was returned to the Louvre and can still be seen there today.

This story was extremely well circulated throughout the papers of the time, so there’s a lot more to find! Try a search on Newspapers.com for Perugia and the Mona Lisa theft to find more clippings about this piece of history.

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The Gloves Are Off: What Happens When Two Powerful World Leaders Go Head-to-Head?

Two opposing world leaders agreed to meet against a backdrop of heightened nuclear tensions and belligerent rhetoric. No, it’s not President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. We’re talking about Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev.

East Meets West
At the time, the arms and space race between the U.S. and Soviet Union was in full swing, and Cold War tensions were high. But the two nations agreed in late 1958 to hold cultural exhibitions in each other’s countries. Before the American exhibition officially opened in Moscow in July 1959, Vice President Nixon traveled to Russia to act as host to Khrushchev as the Soviet premier toured the exhibits.

Khrushchev and Nixon talk in a model kitchen at the American exhibition in Moscow (via the Lincoln Journal Star)

Khrushchev and Nixon talk in a model kitchen at the American exhibition in Moscow (via the Lincoln Journal Star)

The two men’s informal discussions that day are collectively known as the Kitchen Debate, since (as the Daily News put it) “their battleground was the narrow space between the stove and the washing machine in a model American kitchen.” Though their conversations touched on topics like modern appliances, the affordability of housing, and the exchange of ideas between the two nations, the real subject was capitalism versus communism—and their discussions sometimes grew quite heated.

The Kitchen Debate
When Nixon bragged that the model house they were looking at cost $14,000—a price tag he claimed was affordable for most American World War II veterans—Khrushchev replied that American houses were built to only last 20 years, while Soviet houses were built to last for generations. When Khrushchev boasted that everyone was guaranteed housing in Russia, Nixon shot back that America had diversity and choice.

Following their exchange in the model kitchen, Nixon and Khrushchev moved to a TV studio demonstrating new color television technology. There, Nixon suggested that advancing technology would increase the possibility of communication between the nations, facilitating learning on both sides. “Because after all,” he could not resist adding, “you don’t know everything.” To which Khrushchev replied, “If I don’t know everything, then you know absolutely nothing about Communism, except for fear!”1

The American Public’s Reaction
When news of the exchange hit U.S. newspapers, the American public—for the most part—applauded Nixon for standing up to the famously bellicose Khrushchev. An AP article carried by the Lincoln Journal Star reported that “Nixon stood toe-to-toe with Khrushchev batting back his arguments one by one.” The Belleville Telescope admiringly wrote that the meeting between Nixon and Khrushchev “developed into a world-shaking bluff and bluster in which the Russian Premier came out second best.”

Nixon called a "secret weapon in the cold war" (via the Chicago Tribune)

Nixon called a “secret weapon in the cold war” (via the Chicago Tribune)

And when, a few days later, the video of the conversation was aired on American TV, Nixon gained further popularity. An editorial in the Evening Sun, written in the weeks after the Kitchen Debate, lavished praise on Nixon, saying “In every assignment he has drawn, he has turned in a distinguished performance. He is the despair of opponents who wait for him to stumble so they can push him out of sight.” (Of course, Nixon would later stumble—quite spectacularly.)

Questions for Today
But while the gloves may have come off during the Kitchen Debate, it did little to actually resolve any of the problems of the Cold War. The showmanship between the two leaders resulted in little besides popularity and propaganda within their respective countries.

However, the Kitchen Debate does spark some questions about the potential meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un. If Trump is seen as standing up to Kim Jong Un, will he get a similar boost in domestic popularity as Nixon did? And will the meeting between Trump and Kim have any lasting effect on relations between the two countries? Or, like the Kitchen Debate, will it be a temporary blip on newspaper front pages?

For more articles about the 1959 meeting between Nixon and Khrushchev, search Newspapers.com. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more interesting historical content.

1. The Kitchen Debate – Transcript. Cia.gov. 24 July 1959.

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