A Day for Earth

Today is Earth Day, an environmentally-conscious, annual event that focuses on the state of our planet in the face of human pollution. The first officially celebrated earth day was in 1970, and many throughout the United States joined in with fervor. Here are some clippings from articles about the first Earth Day:

Earth Day
Earth Day has one goal

Earth Day Posters
Gas Masks on Earth Day

Many in the early years of Earth Day celebrated with peaceful demonstrations, often wearing gas masks (as in the picture above) as a foreboding warning against the slow poisoning of the planet. Today, Earth Day is generally recognized with activities like cleanup drives, tree planting, and demonstrations on recycling and composting.

Though Earth Day was originally started in the U.S., it became internationally recognized within a few years. This change-promoting day of awareness is now celebrated by over a billion people worldwide in nearly 200 different countries.

For general articles on Earth Day, take a look at this search. For articles from the first Earth Day in 1970, here’s a search specifically tied to that year. Be sure to look for other articles about family or events that interest you on Newspapers.com.


The “Fury of Hell” Hits San Francisco

Worst Earthquake in all History

At 5:13 on the morning of April 18, 1906, a rumble began in the area of San Francisco, California. For a full minute, the level 8 earthquake shook the ground, tumbling the brick and wooden buildings. Unforunately, the earthquake wasn’t even the worst part. After the shocks and shaking had subsided, the fires took over, sweeping throughout the city basically unchecked because the water mains had been destroyed in the quake. Firemen did what they could to stop the sweep of destruction, sometimes blowing up whole blocks to create firewalls, but the fires continued for five days before they were finally extinguished.

Fury of Hell, 1906

By the time the fires had been controlled, around 3,000 people had perished in the falling buildings and flames. Most of San Francisco’s homes and a significant amount of the business district had been destroyed, the equivalent of several hundred million dollars in damage today. Of those who survived, 250,000 were left homeless.

San Francisco Earthquake

Following the destruction of San Francisco, the city was able to recover fairly quickly. New buildings were constructed in a far more logical way than before, and the new set up allowed for more population growth in the coming decades.

For more articles about the Great San Francisco Earthquake, take a look at this search. Newspaper.com’s search and browse pages are also great for discovering new things and finding articles on any topic of your choosing.


“Jackie the Great”

Jackie Robinson, 1946 Baseball Star

This week in 1947, baseball great Jackie Robinson made history as the first African-American man to join a Major League Baseball team. In stepping on the field with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson shattered the segregation that had existed in the league for over 50 years and opened the sport to all races.

Fifty years later, on the same day Robinson joined the team (April 15), Robinson’s uniform number was retired during a well-attended ceremony in New York City. The number 42 was the first ever retired by all teams in the Major League.

Jackie Robinson's Number Retired

For more on Robinson’s legendary contribution to the sport of baseball, try this search from the year he was signed to the Dodgers, or this search for more general articles. Try the search or browse pages to look up topics of your choice.

Find: Lincoln’s Assassination

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Headline following Lincoln's assassination
This month marks the 150th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. He was shot on April 14 around 10 o’clock at night while attending a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC.

The assassin, actor John Wilkes Booth, entered the Lincolns’ box and shot the president in the back of the head before jumping over the railing and down onto the stage. A fanatic for the Confederate cause, Booth exclaimed “Sic semper tyrannis” (Thus always to tyrants), the Virginia state motto, before escaping the theater.

The comatose President Lincoln was taken to a bedroom of a boardinghouse across the street, where he was attended by various doctors and visited by his wife and his son, Robert, as well as by various friends and political acquaintances. Lincoln, who never regained consciousness, died nine hours after being shot, at 7:22 in the morning.

Newspaper incorrectly reports that Seward had died
About the same time as Lincoln’s assassination, one of Booth’s co-conspirators made an attempt on Secretary of State William Seward‘s life. Though gravely wounded, Seward would survive (though some newspapers initially reported him dead). Vice President Andrew Johnson was also an intended target, but his would-be assassin lost his nerve and did not attack. The final target was allegedly Ulysses S. Grant, though no successful attempt was made on his life.

You can find a wide variety of articles about Lincoln’s assassination on Newspapers.com. For an overview of the events of the night of the 14th, try reading this account from the New York Times, written the day after, which gives a fairly in depth look at the assassination. For even more detail on Lincoln’s last moments, read this column, from the Junction City Weekly Union, which documents Lincoln’s deteriorating condition throughout his final night. If you’re more interested in the nation’s response to the assassination, this article from the Daily Milwaukee News excerpts reactions from across the country (as well as Canada).

Let Us Honor the Dead by Imitating His Example
The assassination also provoked countless editorials and opinion pieces. Two editorials that provide an interesting contrast of opinions are this one, from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and this one from the New Berne Times; the two take different stances on whether or not the country should continue to work for the conciliatory peace that Lincoln had favored. Another interesting opinion piece is this one from the Wilmington Herald, which ponders how Lincoln’s death may affect the South’s reentry into the Union.

Interested in learning more about Lincoln’s assassination and the aftermath? Search for these topics on Newspapers.com. Or check out the Lincoln Assassination Papers over on Fold3.

Swansea Jack, a Canine Hero

Throughout the majority of the 1930s, an unassuming hero lounged on the docks of Swansea, Wales. But unlike many heroes in legend, television or comic books, this one had four legs and a thick coat of black hair.

Life-saving dog, Swansea Jack

Swansea Jack, as this brave dog came to be known, saved many from drowning in his seven years of life, which he spent in the River Tawe, North Dock area of Swansea.  One day, just a year after the pup had been born, a 12-year-old boy panicked in a nearby river. Jack leaped into the water without a second thought and was able to pull the boy to safety, saving his life.

Though this endearing rescue seems to have gone unnoticed by the community, it wasn’t long before Jack had another chance to prove his mettle. A crowd watched in suspense as Jack quickly responded to cries of help from a swimmer in distress off the docks. When the rescue proved successful, Swansea Jack was given a spot in the local paper and awarded a silver collar for his good deed.

Jack Always Got His Man

According to stories told throughout the area, Swansea Jack went on to save an incredible 25 more people from a watery death before he himself perished after eating rat poison. He still remains the only dog to have been given two bronze medals by the National Canine Defense League. A burial monument is located on Swansea’s promenade, dedicated to this lone canine hero.

For more on Swansea Jack, check out this search. Otherwise, see what finds you can discover on Newspapers.com through searching a topic of your choice or by browsing the selection of available papers.

What’s With the Easter Bunny?

Does the idea of a bunny hiding colored eggs seem like an odd choice for Easter? There are a few theories about where the tradition came from, including one which explains that the Easter bunny is actually a bird. Mystery solved.

The Easter Bunny

That doesn’t help, you say? Well, the whole thing potentially stems from the myth of Eostre, a goddess of fertility and spring who was celebrated by pre-Christian religions. Eostre, passing through the woods one day, came upon a freezing little bird in the snow. To save its life, she turned it into a bunny to give it fur for warmth. In the spring, the rabbit laid eggs as though it were still a bird, and, in gratitude to Eostre, decorated them and left them for her as a gift.
Eostre myth

This could be the reason behind traditional easter egg hunts — it all happened because a rabbit laid eggs.

The egg-laying bunny

For more on Eostre and her relation to today’s Easter traditions, take a look at this search on Newspapers.com. You can also search any topic of your choice using the search or browse pages.

The Van Gogh Ear Prank

Hugh Troy's Van Gogh Prank

Hugh Troy, a painter noted for his penchant for jokes, performed a few significant pranks in his life. One of these involved poor, unsuspecting, deceased artist Vincent Van Gogh and the grisly tale of his severed ear.

In 1939, Troy was trying to enjoy a rare exhibit of Van Gogh’s paintings, displayed at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. To Tony’s view, too many of the museum’s visitors were only interested because of the story of Van Gogh cutting off his ear, and were not there to enjoy the art itself. The crowds were keeping serious art admirers from being able to appreciate the exhibit, so Troy came up with a prank to clear the way for those who cared about the art.

As the article below explains, Troy crafted an “ear” using a piece of dried beef and laid it in a display box. He then somehow smuggled that display into the museum beneath a plaque declaring that this was, in fact, the very ear Van Gogh had cut off in 1888. The crowds eagerly gathered around to peer at the hunk of unremarkable meat, leaving the rest of the exhibit open to perusal.

Troy's Van Gogh Ear Prank

How Troy might have smuggled the display into the museum has not really been explained, and it’s possible that this is more myth than fact. Still, the Van Gogh ear prank holds its place in prank lore as a masterful joke.

Troy is also credited with several other pranks, including one involving a rhinocerous, and another that led to reports for counting dead flies.

For more April Fools’s news from past years try this search, or see what you can find on Newspapers.com using the search or browse pages.

First Woman Elected to Congress Takes Her Seat: April 2, 1917

First Woman Elected to Congress Takes Her Seat: April 2, 1917

Interview with Jeannette Rankin after she won her first seat seat in Congress
On April 2, 1917, Jeannette Rankin assumed her seat in the House of Representatives, making her the first woman to be elected to Congress.

Rankin was born in Montana in 1880. She graduated from the University of Montana in 1902 and later attended the New York School of Philanthropy (1908–1909), where she studied social work. After a brief time as a social worker in Washington State, she became highly involved in the women’s suffrage movement, particularly in Washington State, Montana, California, and Ohio.

With the financial backing of her brother, Rankin decided to run in the 1916 congressional election (women in Montana had the right to vote by this time). Though some newspapers initially reported that she had been defeated, Rankin won on a Progressive Republican platform that promoted national women’s suffrage, prohibition, child welfare, and pacifism. Just a few days after Rankin took her seat, the House voted on America’s entrance into World War I. Rankin, standing by her pacifist ideals, was one of about 50 members who voted against the war. Rankin served out her two-year term but decided, rather than running for reelection, to run in the Senate race; however, she lost the Republican nomination.

Ad for Jeannette Rankin's 1940 congressional campaign
Rankin moved to Georgia and resumed promoting peace and social justice. She eventually returned to Montana, again running for—and winning—a seat in the House of Representatives, this time in the 1940 elections. When Congress voted on entering World War II after Pearl Harbor, Rankin, now in her sixties, voted against war with Japan, the only member of Congress to do so. Her vote caused such an uproar in the House that she escaped to a nearby phone booth until she could get away from the furor.

Though her views on nonintervention were well known, her anti-war vote provoked a major backlash from politicians and newspapers alike, and Rankin declined to run for office again. Until her death in 1973, she spent her time traveling and campaigning for social reform, most visibly pacifism.

Interested in learning more about Jeannette Rankin? There are thousands of articles about her on Newspapers.com. Get started searching here.

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 Newspapers.com’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.