The Great Chicago Fire: October 8-10, 1871

President McKinley Shot: September 6, 1901

Cow cause of Chicago Fire?
The Great Chicago Fire—a fire that would ultimately kill 300 people and destroy more than 17,000 buildings—started in a cow barn owned by Patrick and Catherine O’Leary around 9 p.m. on October 8, 1871. Although folklore states that the fire began when Catherine’s cow kicked over an oil lamp, no one really knows how the fire actually began.

It had been unusually hot and dry in Chicago, and in a city predominately built with wood, that meant the fire spread quickly. Despite the efforts of the fire department, the fire raged throughout the night, even jumping the river. Firefighters tried to fight the massive flames with their fire hoses until the city’s waterworks burned, cutting off the hydrants’ supply of water.

Destruction caused by Chicago Fire
The huge fire burned for about another 24 hours essentially unchecked—consuming a large portion of the city, residential and business districts alike—until it began to burn itself out on the night of the 9th. A light rainstorm that same night helped douse the remaining flames. When the fire was finally out, on the 10th, an area about 4 miles long and almost a mile wide had been burned to the ground, leaving 100,000 people homeless.

Nationwide, newspapers kept their readers up-to-date on this major disaster and its aftermath, reporting the latest fire news they had received by telegraph. The papers also reported on relief efforts, as cities, businesses, and individuals across the country donated money and food to the beleaguered city.

Very latest news on the Chicago FireOn the 11th, the Chicago Tribune published an issue packed with details of the fire, calling it “a conflagration which has no parallel in the annals of history.” (Though in fact the same day as the Chicago fire, October 8, the deadliest fire in U.S. history burned in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, killing more than 1,500 people; but that fire was largely overlooked by newspapers outside Wisconsin in favor of covering the Chicago blaze.)

Despite the devastation of Chicago’s fire, reconstruction (this time using less wood) began almost immediately and businesses quickly reopened, though many in new locations. Within a little more than 20 years, Chicago would rise from its ashes to become a booming city deemed worthy of hosting the 1893 World’s Fair.

Find more articles about the Great Chicago Fire on Newspapers.com. You might even find your Chicago ancestors in the lists of people missing or “lost and found” following the fire.

Working with Wikipedia to better document our past

We’ve recently donated 100 subscriptions to the Wikipedia community through the Wikipedia Library, a grant-funded program which makes it easier for experienced volunteer editors to access research materials.

The Wikipedia Library

The Wikipedia Library

It’s very exciting to be involved in this new partnership which allows us to contribute to one of the most frequently used reference tools in the world, and demonstrates how historical newspapers can help improve public information about historical topics from around the world.

We asked User:We Hope, one of Wikipedia’s volunteer editors, to explain how Newspapers.com has helped with his recent contributions.

Newspapers for Wikipedia references
Since I’ve always been interested in the past and what really happened in it, I’ve tended to draw quite a bit from newspapers. For me, accessing older newspapers is like traveling back in time for facts which may have been lost to later publications.

I’ve done quite a bit of work on Wikipedia around articles, such as Red Skelton and Perry Como, where my main sources were older newspaper stories. These sources allow me to “get closer” to when they were happening and allows us to present somewhat different information on Wikipedia than may be found in books on the given subject. When working on Red Skelton, I found that two book sources listed his son’s birthdate incorrectly. A newspaper article on the boy’s death said he was ten days shy of his tenth birthday; checking California vital records showed that the newspaper story had his birthday correct.

Wikipedia is a wonderful environment for capturing this information and correcting it for public record: almost everyone visits Wikipedia for research, and providing both the older sources alongside new sources ensures that future researchers can discover the same information I did.

Exploring an old locomotive
Recently, I have gotten interested in the locomotive William Crooks, because I discovered the engine while upload public domain railroad photos and postcards to Wikimedia Commons. The old engine has an interesting history: it was built in 1861, almost destroyed by fire in 1868, and saved from the scrapyard by the Great Northern Railway’s president, James J. Hill, around the turn of the century.

When researching the Wikipedia article, a copy of an old railroad brochure about the train helped to fill in some information, as well as providing photos of the William Crooks in various places after it was officially retired. The brochure helped document its many tours made under its own power across the country, such as the 1927 Fair of the Iron Horse in Baltimore and the 1939 World’s Fair, but there still was not enough information to do much expansion of this article–not until Newspapers.com.

Having access to the older newspapers available on Newspapers.com, I have been able to add much more specific information. For example, I found an article with an interview of Albion Smith, who restored the locomotive after the 1868 fire and was one of its early engineers. Mr. Smith was instrumental in saving the old engine from the scrapyard by speaking to James J. Hill about the situation. Another interview in the article was with John J. Maher, who started as a fireman on the William Crooks Mr. Maher, helped highlight the earlier wood-burning days of the locomotive. These interviews allowed me to better document the trains transformation from wood-burner to a coal-burner. Moreover, many of my other Newspapers.com clippings I hope to further expand the article with.

William Crooks Locomotive Article

Newspapers article with interviews regarding the William Crooks

More than just individual research for articles
Having Newspapers.com access has also made it possible to verify the copyright status of comic strip images uploaded by various users over the years. Our community on Wikipedia and sister sites like the free media repository Wikimedia Commons, wants to ensure every piece of material is free from copyright claims when we publish it so it can be easily reused by our readership. We carefully screen images uploaded by our thousands of contributors to make sure the copyright statements are accurate. Sometimes older images are uploaded to Wikipedia under a public domain claim due to age, but were not in fact public domain, or couldn’t be easily checked for their copyright status, because they had been uploaded without contextual information like dates of first publication. Having access to a larger collection of newspapers provides us the needed information so that I can double-check the original publication status of the comics, and allows us to send those images Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia’s sister database of free use images, to be used and enjoyed by more people.

Freckles and His Friends

An example of one of the comics discovered on Newspapers.com

In other contexts, I am using the Newspapers.com to explore other topics, such as documenting the biographies of public figures like Ruth Etting, the stars of the Amos ‘n’ Andy television series, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, and Paul Weston, the bandleader and composer for more expansions of articles. Being able to capture all that research with clippings allows me to share them with collaborators on those articles. For example, I recently worked with fellow Wikipedian User:This is Paul to explore the life and history of murder victim Joan Robinson Hill, who was discussed in the book Blood and Money. We were really successful in expanding the article using Newspapers.com information to compile what happened after the book was published. We were also able to add some previously “lost” information to the Wikipedia-Featured Article Jo Stafford. An interview I discovered with Jo Stafford gave her first-hand account of how her hit record “Tim-tay-shun” was recorded with Red Ingle and her use of the name Cinderella G. Stump on the label.

Having access to so many sources means lots of clippings on any given subject and I find that when I start searching on a subject, I start clipping, and clipping, and clipping, because there are just so many good sources that need to be added to the Wikipedia article. If I had one “wish” for a feature to be added to Newspapers.com, it would be some type of folder system where one could sort all clippings a member had about a given subject for ease in finding when editing Wikipedia. However, all in all, this partnership has helped make more public a great deal of information about many, many different subjects and I hope we will be able to continue making these discoveries through the access to older newspapers!

Newspapers.com . . . Not Just for Genealogy

Content Update

Why do you use Newspapers.com? To look for information on your ancestors? To research a specific topic? To learn more about a certain time or place? Newspapers.com members are taking advantage of all of these possibilities. Though genealogy is one of the most common uses, our members are utilizing our historical newspapers to do all sorts of unique research.

For instance, paderamo is researching historical chess matches, while ramblinkc is reading up on local sports of decades past. Cupper1001 is looking into Pennsylvania articles about railroads, and jrtate_lotbl is clipping stories on crime in Raleigh, North Carolina. Other members are interested in general local history, as seen in kinnelon59‘s research into happenings in Duryea, Pennsylvania, or cruther64‘s into Hamilton, Ohio. Sometimes members’ interests even overlap, like smkolins‘s and DrTroxel‘s clippings on the Baha’i Faith.

Tiny Gos Makes Career Out of Going to SchoolBut you don’t necessarily have to be researching a particular subject to find fascinating articles. Among various members’ clippings, you can find articles about a family who walked 1,200 miles to talk to the president, as well as a court case where the faithfulness of the defendant’s wife convinced the judge to lower his sentence. Other interesting articles that have been clipped recently have included ones about a dog who made a “career out of going to school,” a “forgotten bomb” that exploded in a courthouse, and a man who trapped rats as large as cats. And don’t miss this photo a user found of Albert Einstein and his sister. Can you spot the family resemblance?

Curious about what other Newspapers.com members are up to? Try visiting their profile pages or the “All Clippings” page.

Anna ‘Anastasia’ Anderson

Is Anna Anderson Anastasia?

Who Is the Real Anastasia?

Few things capture the imagination like an unexpected plot twist. Perhaps this is why the mystery of Anastasia Romanov was so compelling that speculations surrounded her fate for decades. When Anastasia and some of her siblings were rumored to have survived the mass execution of their family, impostors cropped up by the dozens. The most famous of these was Anna Anderson, who controversially claimed to be the youngest Romanov daughter even until her death in 1984.

Anderson tells the world she is Anastasia after being pulled from the Landwehr Canal

As mentioned in the article above, the woman who came to be known as Anna was recovered after jumping into the Landwehr Canal in Berlin, an attempted suicide. Two years later she revealed her identity: the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia.

This revelation didn’t come without scrutiny. For the remainder of her life, Anna Anderson fought to be recognized as the last remaining daughter of the murdered tsar. Though some found her claims credible, thought her appearance was consistent, and were swayed by her memory for childhood details, just as many or more refused to believe that this woman, whose behavior was often unstable, was the true Anastasia.

Not Really Anastasia

Anna Anderson's claim to Anastasia

Anna Anderson meets resistance

Anna Anderson Died Feb 12, 1984, Still Fighting for Recognition as Anastasia

Anna’s supporters provided her with very comfortable living arrangements and staunchly defended her claims. Her story spread like wildfire, a sensational tale that was only enhanced by romantic reports of this strange potential turn of fate.

The Mystery of Anastasia

The matter was turned to German courts to decide whether or not it could be proven that Anna was truly Anastasia. But there was no great evidence for either side. Years and years of deliberation passed, and finally the German courts ruled that her identity as Anastasia was neither established nor refutable. Essentially, the truth of Anna Anderson’s claims to be Anastasia was left to the personal judgement of those who encountered her.

Anderson died at age 82 with her identity still undecided. It wasn’t until much later, in 1991 and 2007, that the bodies of the true Romanov family were discovered. DNA tests concluded that Anderson was not Anastasia after all, but a Polish factory worker named Franziska Schanzkowska, an assertion that had been made by Ernest Louis, the tsarina’s brother and Grand Duke of Hesse, after a private investigation in 1927. Why she pretended to be, or thought she truly was, Anastasia remains uncertain.

The history of Anderson’s years seeking recognition is a tale filled with sentimentality and intrigue, and it is thanks to this that Anderson’s story was so well-documented by the news over the last century. Read more about Anderson’s involvement hereThis search has hundreds of articles speculating more generally about the mystery of Anastasia Romanov. Or try searching for one of the other impostors, other members of the Romanov family, or an unrelated search of your own on Newspapers.com’s search page.

President McKinley Shot: September 6, 1901

Opening of the Panama Canal: August 15, 1914

Headline President McKinley Shot
“Extra!” screamed late-edition newspaper headlines on the evening of September 6, 1901, “President McKinley has been shot.” The crime had occurred earlier that day at about 4 p.m. while President William McKinley was shaking hands during a public reception at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.

The popular president had given a speech at the exposition the day before and returned the following day to hold a short meet-and-greet with the public. The assassin, 28-year-old would-be anarchist Leon Czolgosz (pseudonym Fred Nieman), had attended the president’s speech but lacking opportunity to kill him there, arrived early enough the next day to ensure that he would be in line to meet the president. Czolgosz hid his gun in a handkerchief that he then wrapped around his hand. When the assassin finally reached the president, he fired twice, point blank, hitting McKinley in the chest and abdomen.

One Bullet is Extracted
McKinley was rushed to the exposition’s hospital. The wound to his chest was superficial, but the one to his stomach was serious, and during the surgery the doctors were unsuccessful at locating the bullet. Still, despite mistaken news reports of his death, in the days following the shooting McKinley appeared to be recovering—until the night of the 12th, when he took a sudden turn for the worse. Gangrene had developed around his stomach wound, and at 2:15 a.m. on the 14th, President McKinley died. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, who had rushed back from a family vacation, was sworn in as president later that afternoon.

Depiction of McKinley's funeral procession
The nation was devastated by McKinley’s death. Vast crowds showed up to view his body in Buffalo, Washington DC, and Canton (Ohio) during the various public viewings, processions, and funeral services, and towns across the nation held their own memorial services. Czolgosz, who had been arrested at the scene of the crime, was quickly tried and convicted. He was sent to the electric chair on October 29, less than two months after the shooting.

Learn more about McKinley’s assassination, or other events and people that interest you, on Newspapers.com.

Texas Papers

Content Update

Since Newspapers.com is looking forward to attending the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in San Antonio, Texas, at the end of this month, we thought we’d get in the Lone Star spirit by highlighting our assortment of over 170 English- and Spanish-language Texas newspapers.

With more than 8.4 million pages so far, our Texas collection has the second-highest number of pages of any of our state collections (only Pennsylvania has more). Cumulatively, our Texas papers span almost 150 years (from 1865 to 2014) and cover 82 different cities, making this an invaluable resource for anyone researching their Texas ancestors or wanting to learn more about events and trends in the state’s remarkable history.

Waxahachie Daily LightNew to our Texas papers are issues of the Waxahachie Daily Light. Based in the county seat, the Daily Light has covered news from Waxahachie and the rest of Ellis County since the 1860s. Now, you can read about the goings on in the county—as well as how state and national news affected the area—in the years 1911 and 1941. For instance, on the same front page from February 4, 1941, news of World War II, politics in Washington DC, and a murder in Cleburne are interspersed with information on local deaths and illnesses, announcements of various cultural, civic, and religious events, and much more.

Recently updated is the San Angelo Press. During its 10-year run (1897–1907), this weekly paper paired local news with news on livestock, ranching, and farming. The long-running column “Stock News” was a staple of the paper, keeping residents of Tom Green County up to date on everything they needed to know about the livestock industry and which of their neighbors were buying or selling animals.

Brownsville HeraldOur Texas paper with the longest time span is the Brownsville Herald, with issues from 1892 to 2008—a period of 116 years! However, the oldest issues of our Texas papers come from the Galveston Daily News, which has issues dating back to 1865. If you’re looking in our collection for a Texas paper with few time gaps, the Abilene Reporter-News is one of our most complete Texas papers, with more than 737,000 pages between the years 1926 and 1977.

From Abilene to Wichita Falls, use Newspapers.com to explore the papers that documented the progress of the state of Texas and its residents.

Health and Beauty Tips to Skip

One thing that has changed very little throughout the years is a person’s need to look and feel the best they can. Ads have capitalized on human insecurity for as long as they’ve been around, using promises and deception–and occasionally even the truth–to get people to buy their products. Here are just a few examples of interesting or unusual newspaper ads and tips that you might not see so much these days.

Charcoal Kills Bad Breath

Advice on the use of charcoal for bad breathThe charcoal ads introduce one of the few weird remedies that actually work. Charcoal as a rudimentary breath mint? Yes, in the absence of anything better to brush away that horrific halitosis, it will do the job. You’ll just want to rinse your mouth or else show the world your grimy black grin.

Most of the old ads indicate that the charcoal was sold in the form of capsules or lozenges, which certainly makes the idea seem more palatable. But it wasn’t many years ago that sucking on a lump of charcoal was a valid option for removing that unappealing bad breath.

Arsenic Complexion Wafers

Some ideas were less lasting. These “complexion wafers” were possibly quite effective, but the added benefits of arsenic did not outweigh the negative side effects–like being poisoned, for example. Arsenic wafers were certainly not as safe as Dr. Simms would have us believe.

Why Be Skinny?

Nobody Loves a Skinny Man

The first quarter of the twentieth century saw numerous ads on gaining weight, a concept that might seem strange to many now. Pills and powders were touted with assurances of serious weight gain. They were most often directed toward women with flat, narrow physiques, implying that they would get more looks and more success with fuller figures. “Skinny” men received the same treatment in reverse; women would surely pay attention to them if they gained thirty or forty pounds! These ads have practically disappeared in favor of those promoting weight loss in the years since.

Pass me a Lucky - I pass up the sweets.

The old cigarette ads probably wouldn’t surprise anyone. Cigarettes companies posted ads with endorsements from doctors, promises of throat-soothing properties, and, like the ad above, implications that smoking would help you stay away from those tempting sweets.  That last one may be a true assertion, but cigarettes are not exactly a healthier alternative.

Cocaine for Toothache

Cocaine was a once an acceptable remedy for toothaches, usually in the form of drops to suck on. The article above tells a story of a doctor who tried a more direct method, injecting cocaine straight into his gums. The headline makes it pretty clear how well that turned out. But he did cure the toothache!

Dimple-making device

Dimples on the cheeks and chin have long been objects of envy for many people. This contraption from the 1920s provided a fairly simple solution: simply pop it on your face for a night and your cheeks would be perfectly, charmingly indented the following day. That is, until it went away a few hours later.

Eventually inventions like this were tossed out in favor of more permanent surgical solutions, some of which are still around today.

DOLLARS FOR DIMPLES

You can find thousands more of ads like these on Newspapers.com. Try the search page for specific results, or browse through the collection to see what there is to be found.

6 Tips for Searching Obituaries on Newspapers.com

Newspapers.com News, Finds and Tips

Newspapers.com is a valuable resource for locating your ancestors’ obituaries and death notices. Our indexed digital newspapers make the process much easier than sorting through hard copies or microfilm. Perhaps the most convenient way to find obituaries on our site is by using the “search” feature. While Newspapers.com’s “search” is straightforward and easy to use, you can make your searches even more effective by using a few of the following tricks and tips:

  1. Learn how to use Newspapers.com’s “search” feature. This tip may sound obvious, but it’s essential. Searching for obituaries will be a lot easier if you’re already familiar with how to do a general search of the papers on our site. For instance, did you know that you can narrow your results by date, state, and/or paper? If you haven’t watched our helpful “Searching Newspapers.com” video yet, do it!

  2. Add key terms to your search. Say you’re searching for the obituary of John Bair. If you search just for ["John Bair"], you’ll get many results that don’t have anything to do with a possible obituary. But if you instead search for ["John Bair" obituary], it will narrow down your results to much more likely candidates. Such key terms include “obituary”, “death”, “died”, “dead,” and “funeral.”

  3. Search using alternative names, nicknames, abbreviations, initials, and common misspellings. If a search of an ancestor’s legal name doesn’t bring up the obituary you want, try different variations of their name. Many older newspapers identified men by their first and middle initials along with their last names, while others sometimes used abbreviations (e.g., “Wm.” for William). If you’re searching in obituaries for a female ancestor, you’ll want to try also looking for her under her husband’s name (or husband’s initials)—for example, “Mrs. George E. Moring”, “Mrs. George (Grace) Moring,” or “Mrs. G. E. Moring.” And don’t forget to try a search using a woman’s maiden name.

  4. Know when to narrow your search and when to widen it. The more information you know about your ancestor, the easier it will be to narrow your results to find their obituary more quickly. For example, if you know your ancestor lived between 1870 and 1928 and spent their whole life in Kansas, you can narrow your search to those parameters of time and place to get rid of many superfluous results. However, don’t automatically discount results from a wider search just because they’re not from the city or state where your ancestor died. Obituaries may have been published in the place where they spent the majority of their life instead of the one where they died. Or obituaries may be in newspapers from the city where the deceased’s relatives lived.

  5. Save your search. If you didn’t find the obituary you want, save your search by selecting the “Save/Notify” button in the top-right corner of your search results (watch this video for more details on how to do this). By doing so, Newspapers.com will automatically notify you when any newspapers are added that fit your search criteria.

  6. Don’t be afraid to browse instead of search. Newspapers.com uses OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to find names and terms in the newspapers. However, while OCR can locate many instances of the words you’re searching for, it isn’t 100 percent accurate, especially for newspapers that are in poor condition. So if a search doesn’t turn up an obituary you’re looking for, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not on Newspapers.com. It just may mean that you’ll have to look for the obituary the old-fashioned way, going through likely newspapers page by page until you find what you’re looking for.

Ready to begin searching for those obituaries? Get started on our Search page.

The Wizard of Oz Turns 75

The Wizard of Oz Turns 75

Wizrd of Oz theater ad
August 12 marks the 75th anniversary of the premiere of one of America’s most iconic and beloved films: The Wizard of Oz. Premiering in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, on August 12, 1939, The Wizard of Oz screened in Hollywood on the 15th and New York on the 17th, before it’s general release on the 25th.

Newspaper film critics immediately loved it, calling it “a glittering, rollicking fantasy in modern idiom” and “this season’s rainbow lollipop of entertainment” that you’d “have to be pretty old and crotchety not to like.”

The critics were awed by seemingly every aspect of the film, from the vibrant Technicolor, intricate costumes, and imaginative sets, to the clever songs, talented actors, and mysterious “camera magic.” One review summed it up by calling the film “the most ideal combine of color, music, dancing, spectacle, pageantry, laughs, and thrills.” More than one article mentioned the movie’s $3 million price tag, with one reviewer observing that 13 “ordinary pictures” could’ve been made for the same price.

Critics almost unanimously declared The Wizard of Oz to be a perfect “all-family picture” that “successfully combin[ed] for the first time adult and juvenile appeal.” (Though at least one reviewer cautioned that parents view the film first if their young children were “subject to nightmares.”)

And the film certainly did have “juvenile appeal.” Youth groups commonly held “theater parties” to attend the film together, and some children even hosted “Wizard of Oz” parties complete with yellow-brick roads and family members in character costumes. Contests to win a chance to meet the cast members were also popular for youth, especially the one hosted by Loew’s theaters in New York.

Free ticket to The Wizard of Oz with purchase of dressTheaters promoted the film other ways too, holding special screenings where audience members were given autographed cast portraits, novelty buttons, and ice cream, for example. Other businesses got in on the action by using the film to promote their merchandise—everything from fur coats and dresses to ice cream.

Despite the positive reviews, the film wasn’t originally a monetary success because its high production costs countered box-office earnings. However, a re-release to theaters in 1949 and annual television broadcasts beginning in 1956 introduced The Wizard of Oz to new generations of children, transforming it into the beloved classic it is today.

Find more articles on Newspapers.com about the 1939 release of The Wizard of Oz using this search.

* “WIZARD OF OZ ORIGINAL POSTER 1939″ by MGM – http://daw.dyndns.org/images/movies/posters/wizard%20of%20oz.jpg. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The Vatican’s own “Scarlet Pimpernel”

During the turbulent years of WWII, the Vatican housed an unusual Irish Roman Catholic priest and monseigneur with a penchant for defying and resisting the Nazis. His name was Hugh O’Flaherty, and his aid in helping released Allied POWs remain free in Nazi-occupied Italy led him to be nicknamed “The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican.”

The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican

During Italy’s time as an Axis country, O’Flaherty spent much of his time visiting the camps full of war prisoners from the Allied countries. He would search for those thought to be missing in action and tried to send information on their health and safety back to their families using Vatican Radio, the broadcasting service of the Vatican.

In 1943, when Italy left the Axis and joined the Allies, thousands of British POWs were released from the camps. Unfortunately, the subsequent Nazi occupation in Italy meant the freshly freed men were in danger of recapture. Many released POWs remembered O’Flaherty from his days visiting the camps and came to Rome to find him, seeking refuge and hope. Eventually O’Flaherty became a huge thorn in the side of the Nazi leaders who were trying to round up fleeing prisoners and find the men concealing them.

Hugh O'Flaherty

O’Flaherty never hesitated to help a fellow human in danger. He created a network of agents, wore disguises, set up safehouses, and helped over four thousand desperate people—mostly Allied soldiers and Jews—stay hidden in various locations throughout Rome. He escaped arrest and multiple assassination attempts. Even once the Nazis recognized his involvement as the leader of the network, they could not do anything to him while he remained inside the Vatican. So he began to openly help escapees on the very steps of the Vatican, infuriating the Nazi officials who watched.

The success of O'Flaherty's network

One man in particular, Colonel Herbert Kappler, chief of the SS and Gestapo in Rome, discovered what O’Flaherty was up to and set himself to the task of arresting, killing, or otherwise stopping the Irish priest. He had a white line painted outside the Vatican and made it clear that if O’Flaherty crossed that line, he would be arrested (and probably tortured and killed). Nevertheless, O’Flaherty did manage to covertly cross that line many times and then make it back home unharmed. No matter what Kappler did, O’Flaherty and his network managed to outwit him. When the Allies swept through Rome in 1944, O’Flaherty’s network was still intact and all its beneficiaries safe. O’Flaherty then demanded that any German prisoners be treated properly by the Allied soldiers.

One of these prisoners was Herbert Kappler. After the war O’Flaherty often visited Kappler in prison, his only visitor. In a surprising twist, Kappler eventually converted to Catholicism in 1959–and was baptized by none other than O’Flaherty himself.

Read more about O’Flaherty using this search on Newspapers.com, or more about Kappler (particularly his post-war years) here. There are many more stories from WWII that can be found in history’s newspapers. Try your own search here.