Happee Birthdae Harry!

This is a great week for famous children’s book authors. J. K. Rowling was born on this day in 1965, making this her 50th birthday. July 31st was the birthday also given to the character that would make her famous, Harry Potter.

Harry Potter

Harry Potter Books a Phenomenal Success

As the article above mentions, the books were an instant hit, and with their popularity came the clamor for more. More books, of course, and later a series of eight movies. Harry Potter is now a beloved cultural icon and a name known by millions in the real world, just as it was in the world of wizards and muggles.

Newspapers in the early 2000s did not skip out on their fair share of Harry Potter love. Search “Harry Potter” on Newspapers.com and you’ll see a flood of articles starting the year after the first book was published. In honor of the birthday of “The Boy Who Lived,” here are some Harry Potter facts you may not know from the Hood County News (2001):

Harry Potter Facts

Fact 3 is almost true—Harry Potter lead Daniel Radcliffe’s birthday is actually July 23rd. And though the Goblet of Fire ended up being released as a single film, the seventh Harry Potter book did become a two-part movie deal in the end.

Not familiar with the world of Harry Potter? Not to worry! This clipping from the Indiana Gazette in 2003 gives a rundown of the books’ most central characters:

Characters in Harry Potter

If you’re a fan of Harry Potter and like to test your stuff, try out this quiz from 2005, once again found in the Indiana Gazette:

Harry Potter Quiz

(Answers here)

Of course there are many more articles to be found. A general search of “Harry Potter” brings up these results, but try specific years or names for more narrowed down articles about the author, her books, or her characters.

Newspapers.com has millions of pages that can be searched or browsed through for any other topic of choice, or you can look through specific papers here.

Beatrix Potter

On this day in 1866, children’s author and naturalist Beatrix Potter was born. Her family was wealthy enough that Beatrix and her brother were taught at home in a school room, in which they kept a good deal of small pets like rabbits, mice, a hedgehog, and many others. Beatrix was devoted to her pets and they were no doubt a source of inspiration for her books; she grew up drawing them and studying them and often took them with her on trips.

Beatrix Potter early life

Potter was always very curious about the natural sciences, and an avid observer. She became especially interested in naturalism and mycology, the study of fungi, and often made detailed illustrations of the things she studied and saw. In 1897 she even wrote and submitted to the Linnean Society a scientific paper based on her own theories on the germination of fungus spores, though because she was a woman she was not allowed to present it or attend the proceedings.

Of course, Potter is best known for her work in children’s literature. Though it took a while for anyone to accept her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, it was finally published in 1902 and was immediately successful. For decades she continued to write short, charming tales centered around small creatures like the ones she’d grown up drawing, usually publishing two or three every year.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit

A summary of Potter’s book from the year of its publication

Peter Rabbit

Later in life she married lawyer William Heelis, and lived with him in the country. Her interests only continued to grow, extending to farming and land preservation. When she died in 1943 she gave a sizable donation of land to the National Trust, the largest gift they’d ever received at the time. The lands were preserved and remain part of the Lake District National Park today.

The Tale of Beatrix Potter

For more articles about Beatrix Potter’s life and legacy, look through the results of this search on Newspapers.com. Try to search or browse the collection today for papers and topics that interest you.

Uncle Wiggly Wings

Lieut. Gail S. Halvorsen,

Lieut. Gail Halvorsen acquired a lot of nicknames during his time in the United States Air Force: The Chocolate Flyer, The Chocolate Uncle, Gum Drop Kid, The Lolipop Flyer, and, of course, Uncle Wiggly Wings (to name a few). If most of these seem to have a sweet sort of theme, that’s because candy is Halvorsen’s legacy. Here’s why:

Uncle Wiggly Wings

Halvorsen's Hobby

Checking over the candy

So Halvorsen dropped packages filled with candy for the children in Berlin—thus all the sugary nicknames. But what about “Uncle Wiggly Wings?

The plane with the wiggly wings

Halvorsen’s candy operation grew as more and more people pitched in with candy and helped attach the bundles to the parachutes. Soon it became a full blown operation, named “Little Vittles,” and donations poured in. What started as three boxes of candy on makeshift handkerchief parachutes grew to around 850 pounds of candy for Halvorsen and the rest to drop. Multiple plane crews joined in dropping the candy bombs every other day over Berlin, and the grateful recipients sent back the parachutes with thank you notes, drawings, and sometimes presents. At one point a thankful little girl sent Halvorsen her teddy bear, which became one of his favorite possessions.

Candy Bomber

Teddy Bear gift from a grateful childFor more on Halvorsen and his unusual operation, take a gander at the results of this search. You could also try searching any of his other nicknames for even more articles about his work then and now. And try out the search and browse pages on Newspapers.com to find results on other topics or to look through the pages of years past.

Disney’s Dream

Disneyland Opens its Gates

Today is a special one for lovers of all things Disney. On July 17, 1955, Walt Disney opened the gates to a park that was years in the making—Disneyland!

Acres of farmland were given over to the building of the giant amusement park. Disney wanted the park to be an attraction of both amusement and education, an thrill for young and old alike. And it worked. When the park opened, it was not prepared for the thousands of eager visitors who bought them out of food and drink and proved too much weight for some of the rides. In the end, the park recovered despite those setbacks and continues to be extremely successful today.

Disney's Prices in 1955

You might look at that $1 pricetag with envy today, but in 1955 that fee only granted entrance to the park. You were free to wander around and look at all the wonders of Disney’s dream park. If you wanted to go on any rides, however—that was was extra.

His Dream Comes True

For more articles on Disneyland’s opening day, try the results of this search. And try looking through the pages of Newspapers.com today to find articles on family, historical events like the one above, or any other topic you choose.

Apollo 11

1969 - Apollo 11 lifts off for first manned trip to the moon

On this day in 1969, Apollo 11 launched into space with a mission to land on the moon. Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins were the three astronauts to take the trip that would go down in history.

The news was spread across headlines throughout the country, as you can see in these clippings:

Apollo 11 starts historical voyage

Moon Is Next Stop

Apollo 11 Historic Trip

Moon, Here We Come

Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins

There are many, many more! Try this search for more Apollo 11 articles, or try a search of your own on this topic or any other of your choice using Newspaper.com‘s search page.

Billy the Kid Killed

The Story of an Outlaw

On July 14, 1881, gunman and outlaw Billy the Kid was shot and killed.

Billy the Kid shot dead

Though most of his life he was relatively unknown, Billy the Kid’s reputation became legendary. It was said that he had killed at least one man for every year he’d lived. Now it is more widely believed that the number of deaths at his hands was closer to 8.

The Kid

Billy the Kid Dead

As the articles above mention, the Kid—whose real name was Henry McCarty—was eventually shot and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett. Garrett had been questioning one of McCarty’s friends about the outlaw’s whereabouts when McCarty walked right into the room, unaware of Garrett’s presence. Garrett shot him on the spot, and that was it for Billy the Kid.

Find more newspaper articles on Billy the Kid using this search. For other articles like these, be sure to check out Newspapers.com.

Murder in Miniature

Frances Glessner Lee was not your typical millionaire heiress. She lived the early part of her life doing what a young woman from a wealthy family ought to do: she played with dolls, was educated in the lonely privacy of her own home, and eventually married a respectable lawyer instead of attending college (although it ended in divorce). Her rather unique interests in forensic pathology and crime scene investigation were discouraged by her family, and so she put them aside. But when her brother died in 1930, followed shortly by both of her parents in the years thereafter, 52-year-old Glessner Lee found herself with a lot of money and a newfound freedom that she’d never had before.

With the help of her brother’s old classmate, Dr. George Burgess Magrath, Glessner Lee established a department of legal science at Harvard University in order to train for better forensic investigation. Together they urged that coroners be replaced with medical professionals. Their efforts influenced states across the country to change the way they approached forensic science.

She Models Murder Scenes

But the most unusual and morbidly delightful contribution that Glessner Lee provided were her “Nutshell Studies,” a series of miniature model crime scenes depicting incredibly detailed versions of real-life incidents. The lights turned on and off, doors opened and closed and locked with tiny keys, and tiny dolls represented the bodies of the deceased. Glessner Lee made every detail to the exact specifications of the life-sized crime scenes with mind-blowing accuracy, down to the last gruesome detail.

Grances Glessner Lee

The Nutshells were used to train investigators to see the little things that can catch a killer. Was the death a murder, a suicide, or an accident? The scenes represented all of these options, and those observing the model rooms examined the evidence until they could figure it out, often with the aid of other information that would be provided at a real crime scene.

Mrs. Lee's Nutshells

For all her work in furthering the field of forensic investigation, Glessner Lee was made an honorary Captain of New Hampshire’s police force, a rank no woman in the United States had been given before.

Glessner Lee’s Nutshell Studies are still used in training even today. Her contributions were directly responsible for many of the changes that have led to forensic investigation as we know it. And if she seems vaguely familiar, here’s a fun bit of trivia: she was also reportedly the inspiration for the character of Jessica Fletcher in the show Murder, She Wrote.

For more about Frances Glessner Lee, articles on her work can be found using this search. 

Yankee Doodle Dandy

When asked to think of a few truly patriotic songs–the ones that have been around in the United States for centuries–only a couple come to mind. The national anthem is likely the first for most. But there is one older still, and as is implied by the title of this post, that is the sing-song tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy.

This funny little song with its unusual lyrics is often associated with the conflict that gave the United States their independence–the Revolutionary War. However, the song actually originated during the French and Indian War when disorganized, rag-tag colonials were mocked by their British allies as “Yankee Doodles,” or American simpletons.

The song was brought back into popularity during the Revolutionary War as an insult to those fighting for independence. But the colonists ended up embracing the catchy song.

The colonials made the song their own

The colonists often took the song and twisted the words, making parodies of the original that they sang to friend and foe alike. Some are seen in the clippings below (click the images for larger versions on Newspapers.com):

Revised Yankee Doodle

Yankee Doodle on the Fourth of July

In the centuries since, the song has acquired hundreds of new verses. The only thing that remains the same through every version is that goofy gentleman, the Yankee Doodle Dandy.

For more articles with different versions of this song throughout the years(some more offensive than others), check out this search on Newspapers.com

Pickles the Dog


Pickles earns silver medal

A dog named Pickles made headlines in 1966 after finding the World Soccer Cup under a bush. Eight days earlier the cup had been stolen, leading to worldwide anger and accusations of carelessness toward England, who hosted the championship that year. But Pickles saved the day when during a walk with his owner, David Corbett, he became interested in an area of the garden and discovered a bundle of newspaper. Corbett picked up the object and unwrapped the paper to find the 10-inch gold cup. Corbett went in to show his wife, stunned, then drove to the police station to turn it in.

Pickles saw it first

Olive Oatman

A Desert Tragedy

In 1850, 14-year-old Olive Oatman traveled across the country to find a new home in California, along with six other siblings and her parents. After separating from the other families on the trail, the Oatmans were attacked by a group of Native Americans and all but three were killed. Olive’s brother Lorenzo survived by feigning death after he was clubbed, and he made his way back to safety once all had fallen quiet again. Olive and her 7-year-old sister Mary Ann were taken by the attackers and used as slaves.

The surviving son's account

After a year in captivity they were traded to a group of Mohave, who treated them a little better. It was among this people that Olive received the distinctive chin tattoo:

Olive Oatman

They’d lived in harsh captivity for five years when young Mary Ann became sick and died, leaving Olive alone and depressed. She remained among the Mohave for six more months before rumors spread that she was among them. Negotiations were made to let her return and, within days of her release she was happily reunited with the brother she had thought to be dead, who had been trying all that time to find a way of rescuing his sisters.

After her rescue

For a more complete version of the story, click through to this article from 1893 on Newspapers.com. There is more to find on Olive Oatman, too: try this search. You can also use the search or browse pages to look through the collection of papers on the site.