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.
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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.
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It’s not widely used these days, but a century ago celluloid was a very popular material. While celluloid is mostly known for being used in film, it was first found to be a handy replacement for ivory. Jewelry and accessories were made much more affordable with the appearance of this cheap, moldable plastic material. There is a small problem with celluloid, however.
It has a tendency to explode near heat.
In the article above, an elderly gentleman was combing his beard and burning the hairs off the teeth of his celluloid comb when it exploded and his clothes caught fire. This wasn’t the first time, or the last, that such an accident happened as a result of the celluloid trend. Some were fortunate enough to evade death, but suffered painful burns and lost their hair to the flames.
The flammable qualities of celluloid were noticed early on. This next clipping, from a newspaper in 1900, shows how some recognized the dangers of having celluloid near fire. Yet celluloid accessories continued to be used by customers both aware and unaware of its flammability. Those wary of being set aflame simply kept away from fire, as the article advises.
And many injuries did result from these “dangerous articles of female adornment.” A simple search of “celluloid comb” on Newspapers.com shows many more results of articles like these, recounting unfortunate comb-related injuries and deaths. Still, celluloid remained popular until the 1920s and 30s, when it began to be replaced by other materials. Today celluloid is found in table tennis balls and guitar picks…and not much else.
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On August 6, 1945, the American B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped an atom bomb on Hiroshima to devastating effect.
The Pennsylvania paper that printed the above headline was unfortunately pretty close with its estimation: the bomb killed 80,000 people on impact, and another 60,000 would die over the next few months as a result of fallout. Thousands more were injured and more than half of Hiroshima’s buildings were reduced to rubble.
“Little Boy,” as the bomb was nicknamed, was the world’s first atom bomb. It was used in an attempt to bring an end to the war and prevent what was predicted to be an even greater loss of life through continuing warfare and invasion of Japan.
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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.
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):
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:
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:
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.
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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.
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.
A summary of Potter’s book from the year of its publication
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.
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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:
So Halvorsen dropped packages filled with candy for the children in Berlin—thus all the sugary nicknames. But what about “Uncle 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.
For 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.