Fletcher’s Mutiny

With a name like Fletcher Christian, you’re bound to have an adventurous life. Recognize the name? Christian is known for his involvement in what is possibly the most famous mutiny of all time.

At the age of 17, Christian enlisted in the Royal Navy as a common seaman. He rose in the ranks quickly, and by 1787 was made Master’s Mate of the HMS Bounty under Commander William Bligh. They set off on a voyage to Tahiti…
The Mutiny…and Bligh and his supporters were put on a small boat and sent on their merry way (with surprising results).

For a handful of the mutineers, the stay in Tahiti did not last long. Fletcher (rightly) guessed that once the mutiny was discovered, Tahiti was the first place the law would look. So he and a small group sailed away with 20 of the Tahitian natives to find the nearest uncharted island. That island turned out to be Pitcairn. Unfortunately, their new island home did not provide the happily ever the mutineers hoped for. As the story goes, the mutineers bickered and the native Tahitian men, who had not come along willingly in the first place, eventually rose up against them. Most of the men died on both sides.

But the massacre didn’t happen before the next generation was born on the island. Descendants of the men who mutinied can still be found on Pitcairn today.

Pitcairn forever associated with Bounty MutinyFind more on Christian, The Bounty, the mutiny and Pitcairn with a search on Newspapers.com.

The First Day of Autumn

Today is the September Equinox, which brings on its heels the first official day of Autumn. What does Autumn mean to you? Perhaps it brings memories of spices and soups, golden leaves and cozy clothes. Maybe you see it less favorably: shoes muddy from rain, cold beginning to seep through your sweater, the feeling of impending snow and shorter days. People respond to the seasons in many different ways, which can be even more apparent when seen across a span of years. The articles below range from the early 1900s to our own current century, describing the first day of Autumn as it looked to the writers:

From 1911:
First Day of Autumn, 1911
From 1924:
First day of Autumn, 1924
From 1931 (a particularly heart-warming description):
Description of Fall, 1931
From 1952:
First Day of Autumn, 1952
From 1959:
First Day of Autumn, 1959
From 1968 (when mentions of the equinox really started to filter into the articles):
Autumn Equinox, 1968
From 2009:
First Signs of Fall, 2009Happy first day of Autumn to everyone! For more articles like these, try a search on Newspapers.com.

A Coffin Spurned

Here’s a random find from the Indianapolis Star, 1925. The article describes a man who was struck by lightning while riding his horse through a storm. The horse was killed and so, it seemed, was Juan Acosta Iznaga. So convincing was his unconsciousness that a coffin was nearly ready for him when he revived, much to the shock of everyone around him.

Coffin is Ready but Man RevivesSounds like he had a hard time living his fake death down.

You can find more articles like these in the pages of Newspapers.com, either with a specific search or by browsing papers at your leisure.


The first time the now-recognizable bright white letters stood on the hills over Hollywood, they were little more than a fancy advertisement. “Hollywoodland,” the 1923 sign spelled, and in its shadows stood the new residential development of the same name.

The sign was only intended to last for a year and a half, but the 30-foot letters were soon a symbol recognized internationally thanks to the up-and-coming industry of American film. So the sign was left alone.

original sign

Since it was never meant to last forever, it didn’t take long before upkeep faltered, deterioration set in, and the sign began to look pretty sketchy. In 1949, restoration efforts were made with the stipulation that “land” be removed from the sign so it could better represent the district as a whole rather than just the development for which it was originally created.

Restoration of Hollywood Sign, 1949

But time erodes all things, and in less than 30 years the sign looked worse than ever. That’s when the stars stepped in. At nearly 28k a pop, the nine letters were restored thanks to the donations of celebrities like Gene Autry and Hugh Hefner, who each “sponsored” a letter. The replacement letters were bigger, stronger, steel and concrete structures built to last. They were unveiled in 1978 and, other than a thorough repainting in 2005, still remain as sturdy and scenic as they were on that day.

Celebrity donations to rebuild the signFind more on the history of these iconic letters in the pages of Newspapers.com. Try a search here, or browse papers here at your leisure. Be sure to check out the recently added Los Angeles Times collection for more articles from Californian history.


The Neverending Story

If you happened to be in a Googling mood last week, you might have noticed the featured doodle was a rotation of artwork in honor of The Neverending Story. This fanciful novel by Michael Ende was published this month in 1979, but you won’t find much about it in U.S. papers until the mid-80s, when the book was translated into English and then made into a film.

The Neverending Story

The book was very popular in Germany, where it was originally published, but remained basically unknown to Americans until the release of Wolfgang Petersen’s film in 1984. The author and filmmaker disagreed on the direction of the film so much that Ende finally asked for his name to be taken from the credits, saying that Petersen did not understand the book at all. Petersen had his own thoughts on the subject:

Reactions to the film

Despite Ende’s objections, the film did very well. Like most creative endeavors it had a healthy heaping of criticism, but many critics and viewers admired the special effects and the new, imaginative world Petersen had created.

Wolfgang Petersen and the racing snail

Atreyu and Artax

Even today, despite dated special effects and a very 80s-appropriate soundtrack, The Neverending Story remains a beloved classic to many. Find more articles on the author, the film, and the film’s reception with a search on Newspapers.com.

Fiction Becomes Real

Years before Captain Kirk flipped open his communicator, police detective Dick Tracy was chatting up the chief on his wrist radio. Martin Cooper says that if his inspiration for the mobile phone came from anywhere, it came from here.

Dick Tracy Wrist Radio

Martin Cooper is the man considered to be the father of the cell phone. Though many have attributed his idea to the communicators of Star Trek, he says the idea for the mobile phone had been floating around in his mind for quite a while. People were mobile creatures and Cooper knew there was a future beyond waiting at your desk for a call, or even beyond car phones—the big new thing in phone tech. He wanted to create a handheld phone that could be carried anywhere.

In 1973, Cooper found success. The concept of communicators and wrist radios was no longer science fiction—it was reality. Cooper himself made the first cell phone call to Joel Engel at AT&T’s Bell Labs, Motorola’s rival company. Sure, it was a brick of a phone, weighing in at 2 1/2 pounds. But Cooper made the call from a sidewalk in midtown Manhattan, and that’s something to brag to your competitors about.

Martin Cooper, the father of the cell phone

Find more articles about Cooper and the first cell phone on Newspapers.com.

William Wilberforce—A Force Against Slavery

If you’ve seen the film Amazing Grace, then you’ve heard the name William Wilberforce. The tireless abolitionist was born on this day in 1759.

In 1780 Wilberforce’s dynamic political career began. His focus—in politics and in life—changed drastically after he converted to evangelical Christianity five years later. In 1787 he was introduced to leading abolitionists of the day such as Thomas Clarkson, and a long and laborious 20 year battle against slavery in the UK began.

The Authentic Speech of William WIlberforce, Esq.

In 1907, after years of concerted effort, delays, and opposition, the Slave Trade Act passed and the slave trade was abolished in the British Empire. But Wilberforce and other abolitionists’ work was not yet finished. They continued to work for the removal of slavery itself.

William Wilberforce

Wilberforce suffered from poor health for decades and eventually became so ill that he retired from Parliament in the mid 1820s. That’s not to say that he stopped his involvement in politics entirely. On the contrary, he continued to push toward abolition until quite literally his dying day. After a terrible bout of influenza in 1833, he heard that the bill to abolish slavery in most of the British Empire was assured to go through. He passed away three days later.

Wilberforce in the days before his death

Death of William Wilberforce

The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 did indeed pass in late August of that year. Though Wilberforce had wished to be buried with some of his family at Stoke Newington, it was thought that he deserved the honor of a place in Westminster Abbey. He was buried near William Pitt.

For more articles like these on Wilberforce, check out Newspapers.com. You could also try a search on American abolition and the names associated with it, or look for any other topic of interest using the search page.

The Mysterious Case of Bobby Dunbar

In the late summer days of 1912, the Dunbar family’s 4-year-old son Bobby disappeared during a trip to Swayze Lake in Louisianna. After eight months of searching, the boy was found in the company of handyman William Walters. Walters was accused of kidnapping the Dunbar boy despite his insistence that the boy was Bruce Anderson, the illegitimate son of Walters’ brother and a woman named Julia Anderson who worked for his family.

Bobby Dunbar

The Dunbars were wealthy and reasonably convinced the boy was Bobby thanks to a scar on his foot and a familiar-looking mole. Anderson was unwed, not wealthy, a field hand, and fairly certain that the boy was her son Bruce. When the two families came head to head in a trial for who the boy really belonged to, the Dunbars won easily. Bobby was sent home with his true family, while Walters was sent to jail for kidnapping him.


Walters maintained his innocence throughout his time in jail. This article is a section of one of the letters he wrote during his incarceration:

Walters' letter from jail

He was released after two years in prison and so escaped being hanged, but he never backed down on his story. Bobby Dunbar lived the rest of his life with his family, and Walters lived the rest of his life convinced that the boy was Bruce Anderson. Julia Anderson eventually got married and had seven more children, who have said that she spoke often of the son the Dunbars took from her.

Perhaps you have guessed by now that this story doesn’t wrap up so neatly. Decades later, Bobby Dunbar’s granddaughter, Margaret Dunbar Cutright, looked further into the story after noticing how deeply conflicted newspaper reports had been at the time. Some said the boy had instantly recognized his “mother,” Lessie Dunbar, and that the two had reunited in a flurry of hugs and tears, but others maintained that neither had shown immediate signs of recognition upon first sight.

Margaret Cutright

A comparison of DNA between Bobby’s son and the son of Bobby’s brother, Alonzo (unquestionably a Dunbar), led to the shocking discovery that the boy who had lived as Bobby his entire life had not been a Dunbar at all. At long last, William Walters was proven to be as innocent as he’d claimed.

Walters an innocent man

Unfortunately, this conclusion still leaves the fate of the true Bobby Dunbar unknown. It is thought that he most likely fell into the lake and died back in 1912, the summer he disappeared.

There is so much to be found on this unusual story in the pages of newspapers old and new. Try a search for more information on Bobby’s story or seek out some of your own family history on Newspapers.com.

Antarctic Surgery

Sometimes the newspapers can share the craziest stories—like this one, about a surgeon who had to remove his own appendix.

Leonid Rogozov

Dr. Leonid Rogozov had the unfortunate luck of experiencing acute appendicitis while on an Antarctic expedition. With no way to get to another station and no other doctors around to help him out, he found himself in the unbelievable position of having to operate on himself.

Dr. Rogozov removes his own appendix

Details of the surgery

The operation took about 2 hours, some Novocaine and ice as anesthetics, and the aid of a driver, a meteorologist, and a mirror. Within two weeks of the operation Rogozov was back on his feet and performing his usual duties.

Find more on Leonid Rogozov’s incredible self-surgery on Newspapers.com.

Olympians at the Fair

In honor of this summer’s Olympic Games, here’s a look back at the first Games to take place in the United States.

First Olympic Games in America

The 1904 Olympic Games were actually the first to take place in any country outside of Europe. They were held alongside the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, and because of the long, costly trip only 12 countries other than the U.S. were represented. The U.S., on the other hand, had hundreds of competitors—almost five times the combined total of the foreign athletes. Thanks to their absurd advantage the U.S. athletes dominated the competition and took home most of the medals, though not without criticism.

Because the official competitions were interspersed randomly throughout the World’s Fair activities, the Games last for months—they began in July and the final event took place in September.

End of St. Louis Games

Find more about the first American Olympic Games, or the modern Olympics at large, with a search on Newspapers.com.