Beale’s Ciphers

In the 1820s, a man named Thomas Jefferson Beale left a box with an innkeeper in Lynchburg, VA. The box contained three ciphers that would lead to the location of a great treasure: one would describe the treasure, one would explain the treasure’s location, and one would name the owners of the treasure.

Alas, Beale mysteriously disappeared before he could provide the keys to crack the code. The cipher that detailed the contents of the treasure was solved with the help of the Declaration of Independence, but the keys for the other two, like the treasure itself, have never been found. Beale’s treasure is just out there, somewhere, waiting for the right person to stumble on the key and solve the puzzle. 

At least, so the story goes.

The Beale TreasureThe Beale Treasure Wed, Nov 11, 1987 – 21 · The News Leader (Staunton, Virginia) · Newspapers.com

The ciphersThe ciphers Sat, Aug 24, 1996 – Page 8 · Indiana Gazette (Indiana, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

There’s a pretty hefty debate about the legitimacy of the whole thing, or whether Beale was even a real person. Most tend to fall on the side of disbelief, but some avid treasure-hunters have worked tirelessly on cracking the code. In many cases, attempts to read the cipher have been for nothing more than good fun and the satisfaction of figuring out if it says anything, even if the treasure doesn’t exist.

The Pot at the End of the CipherThe Pot at the End of the Cipher Tue, Dec 30, 1986 – 19 · The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) · Newspapers.com

With so many questions, suspicious clues, and dead ends, it seems the wisest course of action for those curious about the ciphers and their hidden treasure would be to listen to the words of the mysterious pamphlet author who brought this whole thing to light back in the 1880s:

Author's Warning: Beale CiphersAuthor’s Warning: Beale Ciphers Thu, Sep 2, 1999 – 39 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.com

There’s so much more about this story than can be wrangled into one short post—search Newspapers.com for more on Thomas Beale, the ciphers, the clues and the context of the whole bizarre business. Lots of really interesting stuff!

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This Week in History – Coney Island’s Coaster

On June 16, 1884, a thrill like none other opens to the public at Coney Island. Back then it was called a switchback railway, but we know it today as the first successful American roller coaster.

First Roller CoasterFirst Roller Coaster Thu, Nov 6, 1919 – 7 · The Mullinville News (Mullinville, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

The roller coaster was the concept of inventor and businessman LaMarcus Thompson, and earned him the nickname “Father of the American Roller Coaster.”

LaMarcus Thompson's ideaLaMarcus Thompson’s idea Sat, Jun 23, 1984 – Page 43 · Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York) · Newspapers.com

The coaster never went more than 6 mph—a good thing, since the invention of wheels that actually connected to the track was still a few years away—and drops were minimal. But the roller coaster was such a novelty that it found massive success with the crowds that regularly flocked to Coney Island.

They FreakedThey Freaked Sun, Jun 17, 1984 – 8 · Daily News (New York, New York) · Newspapers.com

It may not seem like much to us now, but it was only the beginning. We have the gentle ups and downs of that original “switchback railway” to thank for the the twisting, turning, stomach-churning rides we know and love—or hate—today.

Find more like this with a search on Newspapers.com. 

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This Week in History – D-Day

This week marks the anniversary of 1944’s famous D-Day. In the early hours of June 6th, thousands of Allied troops came from sky and sea to invade the beaches of Normandy, France, in hopes of finally regaining control of mainland Europe.

Allies Invade Nazi EuropeAllies Invade Nazi Europe Tue, Jun 6, 1944 – Page 9 · Kingsport News (Kingsport, Tennessee) · Newspapers.com

As with most plans in life and in war, it did not go exactly as hoped; the invasion of Omaha Beach was especially brutal and only narrowly avoided failure, and some supplies never made it to shore. But on the whole the operation was considered a definite success, a pivotal turning point in the war that would lead to the liberation of France from Axis control and pave the way for Allied victory the following year.

France InvadedFrance Invaded Tue, Jun 6, 1944 – Page 1 · The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

Yank ParatroopersYank Paratroopers Wed, Jun 7, 1944 – 18 · Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut) · Newspapers.com

D-Day Puts War in FranceD-Day Puts War in France Tue, Jun 6, 1944 – Page 5 · Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota) · Newspapers.com

Find more on this important piece of WWII history with a search on Newspapers.com.

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Smoky the 4 Pound Military Dog

In an adorably unexpected moment of WWII, a tiny Yorkshire Terrier was found in a foxhole in New Guinea by an American soldier. Already fully grown to her total of 4 lbs this tiny little pup found herself in the company of Corporal William A. Wynne, with whom she stayed through the end of the war and for years afterward.

SmokySmoky Sun, Jul 14, 1996 – 24 · News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio) · Newspapers.com

The dog was named Smoky, and over the last two years of the war she accompanied Wynne on 12 combat missions and dozens of air raids, and entertained troops and the hospitalized wounded with tricks she learned during downtime. Those tricks served her well after the war too, used to entertain the world on tours and TV shows. Millions of people knew and loved Smoky the War Dog.

Mon, Apr 29, 1996 – Page 130 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) · Newspapers.com

About 50 years after Smoky’s death, a monument was made with a life-size sculpture of the photo that made her famous—Smoky sitting in an upturned steel helmet. It was placed over the spot where Smoky was buried, and stands in honor of Smoky and all dogs who have served in wars across the decades.

Smoky MemorialSmoky Memorial Fri, Nov 11, 2005 – 1 · News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio) · Newspapers.com

Find more on Smoky and Wynne with a search on Newspapers.com.

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This Week in History – Everest Conquered

On May 29, 1953, British expedition duo Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary accomplish a feat that had never been done before: they reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Tenzing and HillaryTenzing and Hillary Sun, Jul 12, 1953 – Page 29 · The Post-Standard (Syracuse, New York) · Newspapers.com

Hillary was a New Zealander, recruited for the expedition as part of the British Commonwealth. Tenzing was a Nepali Sherpa, chosen for his expertise in mountaineering. With the help of insulated clothing and oxygen systems, the two reached the peak shortly before noon, and the news quickly spread across the land.

The Final Assault on Mt EverestThe Final Assault on Mt Everest Mon, Jul 20, 1953 – Page 33 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) · Newspapers.com

Tenzing and EverestTenzing and Everest Wed, Jul 22, 1953 – Page 39 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) · Newspapers.com

Hillary's reactionHillary’s reaction Tue, Jul 21, 1953 – Page 33 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) · Newspapers.com

There’s a lot to find about this moment in history–both Tenzing and Hillary wrote first hand accounts that were included in the papers as the story of their success spread. Find more on Hillary and Tenzing’s successful trip up the mountain (and of the many successes and failures that happened before and since) with a search on Newspapers.com.

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The Mystery of the Mary Celeste

The story of the Mary Celeste is an odd one—an empty ship, a missing crew, and no explanation for either? Almost 150 years have passed since the strange day of the ship’s discovery, and while many theories have been presented to explain what happened, the mystery remains unsolved to this day.

The Mystery of the The Mystery of the “Mary Celeste” · Sun, Feb 7, 1943 – Page 31 · Arizona Republic (Phoenix, Arizona) · Newspapers.com

Lost Crew of the Mary CelesteLost Crew of the Mary Celeste · Sun, Mar 9, 1902 – Page 40 · The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) · Newspapers.com

The voyage of Mary Celeste began in typical fashion. She set sail from New York Harbor on November 5, 1872, headed to Genoa with a hefty cargo of industrial alcohol. It was the last time anyone saw the captain or crew who left with the ship.

A month later Mary Celeste was spotted by the crew of Captain David Morehouse, whose ship, Dei Gratia, was also on its way to the Mediterranean. He noticed the erratic movements of Mary Celeste and sent his first mate, Oliver Deveau, to investigate.

No answer, not a soul on boardNo answer, not a soul on board · Sun, Feb 7, 1943 – Page 31 · Arizona Republic (Phoenix, Arizona) · Newspapers.com

Deveau (referred to as Devon in the clippings below) was convinced he’d find signs of mutiny, sickness, or some other calamity that would explain why not a single person remained on board the almost perfectly seaworthy ship. Instead…

No signs found of sickness or mutinyNo signs found of sickness or mutiny · Sun, Mar 9, 1902 – Page 40 · The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) · Newspapers.com

Numerous theories have been put forth over the years to explain the crew’s abandonment of Mary Celeste. They cover the gamut of possibilities, from mutiny to murder to fear of shipwreck to forgetfulness. One popular theory was that the crew might have feared an explosion of the alcohol cargo.

The explosion theoryThe explosion theory · Sun, Mar 9, 1902 – Page 40 · The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) · Newspapers.com

But the ship never exploded, and regardless of their reason for going, the crew of Mary Celeste was never seen again. Captain Morehouse and his crew split the salvage money (though not without suspicion), the world moved on with no satisfactory conclusion, and only Mary Celeste ever truly knew the mysterious motivations of her vanishing crew.

This famous mystery is all over the pages of Newspapers.com. Try a search for more about David Morehouse, Captain Benjamin Briggs (of Mary Celeste) and his family who traveled with him, Briggs’ young son Arthur who remained behind, or the Mary Celeste herself.

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This Week in History – The Brooklyn Bridge Opens

The Great Brooklyn BridgeThe Great Brooklyn Bridge · Thu, May 24, 1883 – 1 · The Daily Union-Leader (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

On May 24, 1883, the famous bridge connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan Island was officially opened for business. The ensuing celebration and ceremony was attended by thousands who came to witness the success of what was then the largest suspension bridge in the world.

The Big BridgeThe Big Bridge · Thu, May 24, 1883 – 1 · Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wisconsin) · Newspapers.com

The Brooklyn Bridge opensThe Brooklyn Bridge opens · Fri, Jun 1, 1883 – 2 · The St Johnsbury Caledonian (St Johnsbury, Vermont) · Newspapers.com

Effusive praise of the Brooklyn BridgeEffusive praise of the Brooklyn Bridge · Wed, May 23, 1883 – Page 3 · Green Bay Press-Gazette (Green Bay, Wisconsin) · Newspapers.com

Find more on the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge (as well as the accidents and deaths that happened during building and after it was opened) with a search on Newspapers.com.

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