“Let Sleeping Porcupines Lay”

Let Sleeping Porcupines LayA man kicked a porcupine out of his way and got two legs full of quills. This experience isn’t so common today, contrary to what this article from 1941 implies, but it does give some solid advice in case you ever do come across a porcupine: just let ’em sleep. And a word to the wise—kicking is definitely not advised.

Search Newspapers.com for more articles and clippings like this one, or browse at your leisure for plenty of random and interesting finds.



The Plague of Philadelphia

This week in 1793, Yellow Fever hit Philadelphia hard. Mortality rates hit their peak between October 10th and October 13th, contributing massively to the overall count of 4000+ people who died during the months that Yellow Fever ravaged the city.Number of persons carried off by the Yellow FeverPerhaps you noticed the next paragraph in the clipping above. It’s true that people of color were commonly thought to have a sort of immunity to the fever, and were thus often asked to be nurses and caregivers to the sick. The truth is there was no actual immunity—unless one had previously had yellow fever—so the black population of Philadelphia was just as susceptible.

Surrounding cities and those along trade routes did their best to quarantine the fever before it spread. Some were unsuccessful, but many managed to avoid the epidemic.

The Fever in London

Yellow Fever in New YorkDr. Benjamin Rush was an apprentice living in Philadelphia at the time and initially recognized the outbreak of the fever. He was a leading voice in treatment and prevention theories…not that his ideas were universally respected, then or now; in fact, the theories of Dr. Rush brought him a significant amount of ridicule.

Yellow Fever: Dr. Rush's DirectionsInstructions to treat the Fever



All attempts to clean the city and eradicate the fever were not exactly successful. Mosquitos were the true culprits, and they bred in the standing water that could be found in every street and alleyway. It wasn’t until temperatures cooled throughout the end of October and beginning of November that the epidemic was finally killed off. Those who’d fled the city returned, shops opened, families and friends mourned those they’d lost in those terrible months, and time pushed on.

Find more about the Yellow Fever with a search on Newspapers.com.



Truman on Air

Truman on AirOn this day in 1947, television saw its first presidential speech. President Harry Truman took to radio and screen to urge citizens toward conservation, hoping to provide food aid to a still recovering Europe in the wake of WWII.
Televised speech on conservationThe speech aired across the nation, but most Americans missed it—those who had TVs could be counted in thousands rather than millions. Still, the move to television set the tone for a future relationship between president and people that continues to this day.

President spoke over televisionOne last thing to note: in fairness, Franklin Roosevelt was actually the first president to appear on TV. He spoke at NYC’s World’s Fair nearly 10 years before Truman’s screen appearance. But since his speech was only shown at the event itself and at Radio City in Manhattan—a very limited audience—Truman’s television debut is considered the first in the history of presidential speeches.

For more on this speech and other comings and goings of US Presidents, try a search on Newspapers.com.






Welcome, Little Women

Happy publishing day to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, released in 1868.

New BooksThe novel is a popular one, and saw immediate success even at the time of its publishing.

the Little Women seem to be very interesting folks.Technically the book released in 1868 was only half of the story—the second part of Little Women wasn’t released until the following year. It followed the lives of the March sisters a few years after the first part, when they’d grown and begun individual lives of their own.
Little Women, Part Second.Little Women’s second part was as well-received as the first, and Alcott would go on to write several more novels featuring the spunky sisters and their friends and families.

Try a search on Newspapers.com to find more on Alcott and her novels.


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.