Here’s an interesting clipping from The News and Herald (South Carolina), 1881:
The concept lasted a while, and there are several stories floating around about bullfrogs being tossed into butter churns by reluctant children eager to avoid their chores. Here’s another clipping from 1955 about a boy who thought it’d be clever to use the idea in a butter churning contest:
He may have been disqualified, but it’s clear the story delighted many: this exact article can be found in newspapers in Montana, Kansas, Ohio, New York, and Texas, along with several others.
And here’s another clipping from 1977 about the story of the bullfrog in the buttermilk:
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This week in 1908, the first Model T Ford is produced at the Piquette Avenue plant in Detroit, Michigan.
Though $850 was not exactly cheap in 1908, it was a great deal more affordable for the average person than most cars available at the time. The Model T sold very well—more than 15 million models were made over the next 20 years—and it took cars from an occasional luxury for the wealthy to an every day item for everyone.
Eventually the customers wanted style as well as reliability, and the Model T was pushed aside in favor of cars with more variety. The last model left assembly lines in 1927.
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Gerber’s business has long been babies, but that doesn’t mean they’ve always stuck to that market. Over the years they’ve tried some pretty bizarre ideas to branch out beyond baby food.
Perhaps the strangest of these happened over the course of a couple years in the 1970s. Gerber created meal-in-a-jar fare under the name “Singles,” aimed at adults and the college crowd. It didn’t go too well.
Most articles mocked the move as desperate and ill-conceived, and within 2 years the Gerber Singles idea was scrapped. The jars were pulled from the shelves and Singles became a weird, head-scratching memory.
Find more on Gerber and their attempts to expand the business among the results of this search.
On September 15, 1896, more than 40,000 people crowded at the train tracks near Waco, Texas. Each eagerly awaited the moment when two locomotives traveling at full speed on the same track would collide in a magnificent moment of twisting metal and mayhem. The train crash was a planned publicity stunt to revive the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad, commonly known as the Katy.
The event was the brainchild of a man named William Crush, and you’ll probably not be surprised to hear that he was a friend of famous showman P. T. Barnum. Crush figured that a theatrical train wreck would help the Katy in a time of economic downturn. This proved to be true, but despite many careful precautions the wreck did not go as Crush had intended.
The trains, carrying 6 boxcars each, both backed up a mile on the hills that surrounded a valley full of excited spectators. On a signal from Crush, the train conductors opened the throttles, tied down the whistles, and jumped free. The trains rushed toward each other, collided and careened from the tracks in a gloriously entertaining way. Then the boilers exploded.
Three were killed and many others wounded from the unanticipated shower of shrapnel. Crush was fired and then almost immediately rehired as the company realized his stunt—though deadly—had done exactly what it was meant to do. Business soared thanks to the publicity of the accident.
For more on Crush and his literal train wreck of a publicity stunt, take a look at the results of this search on Newspapers.com.
No doubt you’ve heard of P.T. Barnum, famous showman and founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Along with his talent for business and spectacle, Barnum is known for his myriad hoaxes. At age 25 Barnum took his first step into showmanship with the purchase and exploitation of an elderly African-American slave named Joice Heth.
Portrayal of Heth and Barnum from the Potsville Herald, 1935
When Joice Heth was sold to Barnum in 1835, she was blind and mostly paralyzed, only able to talk and slightly move her right arm. He exhibited her as the former nurse of George Washington. Yes, the very same man who was first president of the United States, who had been born over a century earlier. Naturally, Heth was paraded around as a curiosity for being an unbelievable 161 years old.
There is some uncertainty about the origin of her story—according to Barnum, Heth’s age and history were told to him by her previous owner, and Heth played her role with no instruction. She sang old hymns, recounted stories about her time as Washington’s nurse and made Barnum a whole lot of money in the process.
Yet some (well, many) doubted the truthfulness of Barnum’s claim. So when Joice Heth died a year later, he arranged for a public autopsy—at 50 cents a ticket, of course. Leave it to Barnum to find a way to make money off morbidity. The autopsy showed that Heth could not have been more than 80 years old. Despite this misleading start to his career, Barnum went on to further fame in the business of spectacle and curiosity.
For more on Joice Heth, take a look at the results of this search on Newspapers.com.
This day marks the anniversary of Apache warrior Geronimo’s surrender to United States government troops. By September 4, 1886, the Apaches were vastly outnumbered. The 30-year fight to defend his homeland was lost and Geronimo’s surrender marked the end of the Indian Wars in the Southwest.
His name is probably familiar to you, but most likely not because of his tireless struggle to preserve the lands of his tribe.
The name “Geronimo” is now most often associated with jumping off of things. As in the clipping above, paratroopers used to cry the name as they threw themselves from their planes. But why Geronimo?
This article refers to one of the very first units to try out group jumps from planes. As the story goes, the group saw a movie (reportedly Geronimo) the night before their first jump after training. Private Aubrey Eberhardt boasted so much about not being afraid to jump that his friends finally called him out on it, saying that he was just as scared as the rest of them. Eberhardt said he’d yell the name “Geronimo” as loud as he could when he jumped to prove that leaping from a plane didn’t scare him a bit.
The choice of the name “Geronimo” could have stemmed from a number of things. The actual Geronimo was known for his fierce fighting style and for his apparent lack of self-preservation when he threw himself into the fray, so it could have been this fearlessness that prompted the use of his name. Some also say that it was thanks to the film they saw the night before, in which Geronimo leaps from a cliff as he shouts his own name. Or it could have been, as the articles above state, a weird name that would be hard to remember in the heart-pumping moments before the jump.
Either way, Eberhardt’s shout caught on in his unit and beyond, until “Geronimo!” became so popular that news coverage picked up on the story and the public began to use it too.
For more on the real Geronimo and his surrender, take a look at this search. You can also see more articles about the use of “Geronimo” when jumping here.
On this day in 1963, over 200,000 peaceful protesters marched into Washington D.C. for the cause of civil rights and equality. Throughout the event the atmosphere remained friendly and calm, much to the surprise of many who feared the day would end in violence. A massive crowd of civil rights supporters from all walks of life gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to hear stirring speeches given by leaders of the movement. The most famous of these, of course, was that of Martin Luther King Jr., who at the end of his seven-minute address laid aside his prepared text and spoke the now-familiar words, “I have a dream.”
The next year saw the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited segregation in public facilities and racial discrimination in education and employment.
For more on this event, try this search on Newspapers.com or use the search page to seek out more specific results.
This day in newspapers across the country:
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Nothing makes a hoax come together like a willing group of friends and a talented makeup crew. At least, such was the case with the Dreadnought Hoax, pulled off by six young people on February 10, 1910.
It all began when one of the pranksters, Horace Cole, decided it would be funny to pull a joke on one of the naval officers of the H.M.S. Dreadnought. The victim of the prank also happened to be the cousin of Cole’s friend Adrian Stephen, who would join the hoax along with his sister, Virginia Stephen. Virginia, of course, is now better known by her married name, Virginia Woolf.
Virginia was still an unknown aspiring author at the time of the prank. She, Adrian, and three others in her literary circle dressed up like an Abyssinian entourage with the help of brown makeup and fake beards, while Cole put on a show as their interpreter. The group sent a telegram to the Dreadnought notifying the commander that the Emperor of Abyssinia would be paying a visit for the purpose of inspecting the ship.
They were able to pull off the charade magnificently. The commander gave them a lengthy tour of the ship and invited them to tea, which the group respectfully declined, fearing that their makeup would be ruined. They left the ship with none the wiser and thought that was the end of it. But Horace Cole could not contain himself, and soon the details of the prank were circulating in newspapers around the world.
Though the commander reportedly took the joke with good humor, some of the officers did not. As revenge on the pranksters, two were reportedly “thrashed” with canes, which was the newspapers’ sensationalized way of saying that they were tapped lightly on the backside so that it could be said they were punished. Virginia Stephen was not made to receive the same punishment.
For more on the Dreadnought Hoax, try this search on Newspapers.com.