Ragamuffin Day

In the days before the existence of that costumed and cacophonous day that is Halloween, there was another similar sort of celebration. It took place on Thanksgiving and was generally known as “Ragamuffin Day.” Though dressed-up children could be found throughout the country, the tradition was especially common in New York.

Little Children Allowed to Run Riot

By no means confined to New York

The youths who participated in Ragamuffin day found whatever they could to make themselves look just like…well, ragamuffins. Boys wore girls’ clothes, girls wore boys’ clothes, children wore their parents’ clothes or curtains or rags. They pestered people in the street, descended on store owners, and knocked on the doors of homes to ask, “Anything for Thanksgiving?” In return they were usually given a candy, a piece of fruit, or a penny.

Ragamuffin Day

The little fellows

Thanksgiving is Ragamuffin Day

Custom native to Italy

The occasion was not looked on with quite as much general tolerance as Halloween is today. Many adults resented the distasteful display of faux beggary and the impish behavior that often came with it.

No success in eliminating begging

Ragamuffin Day Discouraged

But the children loved it, and many remembered those days fondly even after the tradition was slowly and subtly traded over for what eventually became Thanksgiving day parades.

Check out this link for more articles about Ragamuffin Day, or a try your own search for a different angle on this story or any other topic of interest on Newspapers.com.

Happy Birthday, Steamboat Willie

Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie

On November 18, 1928, Mickey Mouse made his big debut in Steamboat Willie. Though he’d featured in Disney cartoons before, Steamboat Willie was the first to gain a distributor and make Mickey Mouse a widely recognized character.

Steamboat Willie not the first Mickey Mouse cartoon

The cartoon used the relatively new technology of synchronized sound for comedic affect, impressing audiences.

Steamboat Willie Debut

Check out this search for more on Mickey and Steamboat Willie. 

The Stories of Veterans

Each year on November 11 we honor the men and women who have sacrificed their time, their comfort, and sometimes even their lives in times of war and peace throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. We recognize them as an outstanding group who deserve all the honor and praise they are given. But more than that, Veterans Day is really meant as a thank you to millions of individuals, each with their own experiences. Each veteran is a person with a story of their own.

Today on the blog we focus on those stories found in the newspapers from WWI until today. Not all ended happily, but each shows a piece of a person’s life, given to his country for the greater good. (Click on a picture to see the full article.)

Fermin Villarreal, WWI:

Rose for a Veteran

Jack Stout, WWII:

Jack Stout, War Veteran

Robert Young, Vietnam War:

Bobby Young's Story

Jesse Valma, WWII/Korean War and Wendel Angle, WWII:

Swapping Stories

Exchanging Memories

Joe Ambrose, WWI:

WWI Veteran Attends Wreath Ceremony at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

100th Infantry Battalion, WWII:

100th Infantry Battalion

More stories from veterans and Veterans Days gone by can be found in this search. Thank you, veterans, for your service and sacrifice.


Bubble gum was not always the pink and perfect chewing experience that we know today. First invented in 1906 by a man named Frank Fleer, the original bubble gum was comically named “Blibber-Blubber.” And it had a few problems.

Blibber-Blubber, the original bubble gum

The texture resembled silly putty, and if you did decide to blow a bubble you might not want to be standing around anyone. The bubbles splattered when they burst. But Blibber-Blubber was the first formulation for what eventually became a very popular treat.

In 1928, Blibber-Blubber’s recipe was vastly improved by one of the Frank E. Fleer Company’s employees, Walter Diemer. He dyed it pink and called it Dubble Bubble.

Dubble Bubble

Dubble Bubble bubble

And just for kicks, here’s an article from 1976 that gives some tidbits on brand names, Dubble Bubble included:

Name Origins: Dubble Bubble, Noxzema, Babe Ruth, B.V.D.

Take a look through Newspapers.com‘s collection of newspapers today for more clippings like these. Use the search page to look for specific names, dates, and results of interest to you.

Laika, First Space Dog

In November 1957 headlines proclaimed the news that Russia’s Sputnik II had launched into Earth’s orbit. This mission was special because, unlike those previous, this spacecraft held precious cargo: a dog named Laika.

Sputnik II lifts off with the first animal in orbit on board

Laika has gone down in history as the first animal to go to space. Her journey was monitored by scientists on the ground who were eager to understand the effects of space travel on a living being.

Russian dog, Laika, ready for journey into space

Laika monitored for effects of space travel

Laika was meant to survive about 10 days before her life-support system’s batteries died—all part of the mission’s plan. But years later it was revealed that she’d likely only survived a few hours in orbit before overheating.

Sputnik II program ends

Laika provided the first data on the behavior and biological state of a living thing in space. Russia sent at least a dozen more dogs on similar journeys in the ensuing years for further research. Four years after Sputnik II, Russia achieved another major first when they sent Major Yuri Gararin in an orbit around the earth and returned him safely home.

Russia Puts First Man In Space

More articles on Laika and Sputnik II can be found in this search, and this one, respectively. Try a search of your own today on Newspapers.com .

Happy Halloween!

Ahhh, it’s that spooky, kooky time of year again. The time when children and adults alike don costumes both frightful and fair in the name of gathering fistfuls of candy. In honor of this sugar-filled holiday, here’s some bite-sized bits of Halloween history.

The tradition of “souling” was an earlier form of what we call trick-or-treating today. Those in need would ask for “soul cake” pastries, and in return they would pray for people’s deceased relatives. Check out these clippings about souling:

Halloween History


A Cake in exchange for a Prayer

Wondering where costumes come in to all of this? Take a look at these clippings on the Scottish and Irish tradition of guising:


Guising, cont.

Aren’t you glad that all we have to say is “trick-or-treat”?

Guising and souling were just part of what eventually became Halloween as we know it today. Take a look at this Newspapers.com search to see what Halloween histories were shared in the news across hundreds of Halloween seasons past. And check out this page for some prize-winning Halloween stories from 1924.

The Unusual Death of Edgar Allen Poe

On the morning of October 3, 1849, Edgar Allen Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore delirious, dangerously ill, and dressed in someone else’s clothes. He was taken to the Washington Medical College and treated there for four days before he died, still incoherent, on October 7. The manner of his death was so surprising and so odd that it could not be explained, and Poe was never able to clarify the situation before he died. All medical records were lost, and even now what happened to Poe in the hours leading up to that October morning remain an unsolved mystery.

Edgar Allen Poe -- Somber Life, Somber Death

Many causes have been put forward as possible reasons for his behavior and death that week, including cholera, epilepsy, heart disease, and rabies. Drugs or alcohol have also been suggested as contributors to Poe’s early demise.

Alcohol and drug theories

And there is another theory, one that would explain his odd clothes, his delirium, and his need for medical attention when he was found—Poe was a victim of “cooping.”

Poe's Cooping-related death


Poe's Cooping

Because the gangs would often dress up their victims in different clothes so they could vote at several locations, Poe’s unusual outfit makes sense under the cooping theory. He would certainly act incoherent and delirious if he’d been drugged the night before. And the fact that he was found on election day certainly helps the theory seem reasonable. But ultimately it is a theory just like any other, and the truth about Poe’s death remains unknown.

Look out for more on this subject in the results of this search on Newspapers.com. Try a topic of your own with the search page, or take a look through the papers using the browse page.

Franklin’s Armonica

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin was a man of many talents. He is still known today for his politics and political theory, interest in science, his writings, and his inventions. It is one of his inventions that this post focuses on today, one that many have never heard of: a glass instrument he called the armonica.

Franklin was inspired to create armonica after watching a performance on musical glasses—rows of partially filled crystal glasses that are played with a dampened finger tip. Franklin was charmed by the delicate, angelic sound of ringing glass and knew there must be a better way to arrange the glass so that it couldn’t be shattered by one careless bump of the leg.

Franklin's Inspiration

His idea was to put glass bowls on a spindle. The spindle would be spun, and the noise made by applying pressure to the bowls so that they would create friction against the wood. The player still applied wet fingertips to the glass, maintaining the original concept, but the presentation was more stable.

Benjamin Franklin playing the Armonica

For a while the armonica was rather popular. But, strangely enough, it soon fell out of favor after the instrument was said to cause insanity, nervous breakdowns, and deep melancholy. As the article below states, more recent theories speculate that the lead content in the glass may have cause this idea, though there is little evidence to back that up. Either way, the armonica had basically disappeared from general use in public performance by 1820.

Strange side-effects of the armonica

Some armonicas are around today, played by enthusiasts as novelties or on special occasions. On Benjamin Franklin’s birthday, for instance:

The ArmonicaFor more on Franklin’s armonica, see the results of this search on Newspapers.com.