One summer’s day in Rosewell, New Mexico, a ranch foreman found pieces of shiny metal scattered across his land. Air Force officials were contacted and soon announced that the metal pieces were wreckage from a downed “flying disk.” Suddenly, the relatively unknown town leaped into headlines. But it didn’t take long for the Air Force to take it all back, saying instead that the wreckage was actually a downed weather balloon.
50 years after that incident, UFO enthusiasts maintained that the weather balloon explanation was a cover up. And so on June 24, 1997, just a week before the 50th anniversary of the Roswell incident, the Air Force issued a 231-page report called The Roswell Report: Case Closed.
Most found the report to be confirmation of what they already knew: Roswell’s “flying saucer” had been nothing of the sort. But for those who believed that a UFO really had crashed in Roswell in 1947, the report fell on deaf ears.
Ever wondered why an alien aircraft would come tumbling down to Earth in the first place? Check out these theories:
For UFOlogists, The Roswell Report would be filed away as just another comical attempt to cover up the truth.
Find more on the Roswell incident and The Roswell Report with a search on Newspapers.com.
On this day in 1885, the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York harbor. The statue was transported in several hundred pieces that were reassembled into the towering lady we recognize today, a symbol of the success of the American Revolution and of friendship between the United States and France.
The statue was designed by Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, who fashioned the statue after his own mother’s image. In its early days atop the pedestal, the 450,000-pound, 305-foot tall statue was a penny-colored copper. It has since naturally oxidized into the familiar dusty blue-green we see now.
June 17th is also the anniversary of another event: the Battle of Bunker hill. This intersection of important United States history was noted even then:
For more on both the Statue of Liberty and the Battle of Bunker Hill, try a search on Newspapers.com.
On June 14th each year, we celebrate Flag Day. This day was set aside in the early 20th century as a day to recognize the flag of the United States and all that it stands for.
The day chosen to honor the flag is significant—on June 14th, 1777, the Stars and Stripes were adopted as the nation’s flag.
The first observed Flag Day was on this day in 1877, the 100th anniversary of the flag’s creation, and in the following years several states continued to practice the holiday.
In 1949 Congress made Flag Day official, and it is still celebrated today with flags galore on homes and in communities across the country.
For more on Flag Day, try a search on Newspapers.com.
In July, 1963, the 5-digit ZIP code was introduced throughout the United States. It was a slight departure from the system that had existed before, and with the simultaneous introduction of 2-letter state abbreviations (NY rather than New York, for example), the general public took some time to get on board with the change.
To help remind people to use the ZIP codes, and to teach younger generations this new system, a cartoonish mail carrier named Mr. ZIP made his grand debut. He made appearances on posters and in the corners of stamps, and generally helped the idea of ZIP codes really stick in people’s minds.
Do you remember Mr. ZIP and the arrival of ZIP codes? Let us know in the comments! You can also find more on Mr. ZIP and other historical innovations on Newspapers.com.
“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” These are the immortal last words of Nathan Hale, who at 21 was hanged as a spy by British forces during the Revolutionary War. Hale was born on this day in 1755.
Though the article above mentions one of Hale’s loyalist relatives as the reason for his capture, there is another story that someone unrelated recognized Hale and tricked him into revealing himself by masquerading as a fellow patriot. There is also some speculation about the exact things he said before his death. The succinct phrase attributed to Hale is thought to be a summarized version of a longer quote he referred to in his final speech. Regardless, all contemporary accounts remember Hale’s final words as eloquent, and most include some version of the quote attributed to him today.
The Alice mentioned below is a sweetheart added to a 1901 play on Hale’s life and sacrifice. She may be invented, but the sentiment in the article is not:
There’s much more in the newspapers about Nathan Hale, particularly around the turn of the century. Find those articles and more on Newspapers.com.
A comical find in a 1910 newspaper tells the story of a football star who couldn’t take the pressure. Not the pressure of a game, but of a corset.
According to the article, Edwin Judd of the University of New York wore the corset for a skit. A fellow named Jack Schultze laced it up without mercy, which Judd found to be the reason for his woes.
The article goes on to say that Judd was happy not to be a girl, but learned cynicism from seeing how much a corset can alter your shape. As Judd says in the article, “I realized what opportunities girls have for deception.”
Find more articles like this on Newspapers.com.
On this day in 1937, the now instantly-recognizable Golden Gate Bridge opened to the public.
In the years leading up to its construction, the bridge was considered a nearly impossible build. High winds and thick fogs often rolled into the strait, leading professionals to believe that construction would be dangerous and possibly futile. Still, after years of planning and revisions, the project began in 1933 under the direction of Joseph Strauss, who submitted the preliminary design. This design evolved and improved with a significant amount of help from architects Leon Moisseiff and Irving Morrow, and engineer Charles Alton Ellis. The community rallied to fund the bridge’s costly construction, an admirable feat in the height of the Great Depression.
Eleven workers died during construction, ten of which were killed in the same incident in which a scaffolding fell. Strauss had come up with movable safety nets that hung beneath the work zones, but the falling scaffold broke through the net and only 2 workers were recovered alive from the cold channel waters below. The nets did, however, save many other lives during the years it took to build the bridge.
After 4 years of construction and millions of dollars, the bridge finished ahead of schedule. Pedestrians surged onto the bridge as it opened that May morning, the longest suspension bridge main span in the world at the time. The next day, May 28, the bridge was opened for the use of vehicles.
Find more on the Golden Gate Bridge and the process of building it on Newspapers.com.
On this day in history, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis received a patent to create rivet-reinforced denim work pants. The result: blue jeans. Jeans have long since become a popular and oft-worn staple in casual outfits across the globe. In fact, denim and “casual” go pretty much hand in hand, which once got famous singer Bing Crosby into a bit of a tight spot.
(Click the images to see the full pages on Newspapers.com)
The tux was made from 501 denim—Crosby’s preference—and he was apparently pleased as punch by the gift.
Find more tidbits of history like this on Newspapers.com.
May 12th is National Limerick Day! It is annually observed on the birthday of Edward Lear, who was known for his nonsensical limericks and other poetry. So to celebrate both Lear’s special day and the existence of limericks in general, here are some topical clippings for your perusal.
The following three limericks are by Lear himself:
Apparently he liked to use the same first word as the last in his poems.
Here are a few more limericks—some from newspaper contests, some from stories, some from random articles that made use of limericks however they saw fit:
Example limerick for a contest about classified ads
And just for fun, a little tidbit of presidential history:
Find more limericks and limerick-adjacent articles on Newspapers.com.
This week in history, the very first telephone ever to grace the halls of the White House was installed there by President Hayes. Today’s blog focuses on another role played in the White House’s telephone history—a woman, who half a century later manned the White House telephone switchboard. This nimble-fingered lady’s name was Louise Hachmeister, but most people just called her Hackie.
Hackie was known for her warm manner, incredible memory, and unparalleled efficiency. She had her start as a “Hello Girl” in New York before she came to be on the staff of Roosevelt’s election campaign. Her ability to track down anyone, sometimes with nothing more than a first name, impressed everyone who knew her and eventually got her the job at the White House.
Her position at the White House was pretty unusual at the time. A woman had never been hired for the switchboard position, because—well, just read this article’s flattering explanation:
But Hackie proved them wrong, even as she scoffed at the idea that she knew any real secrets anyway.
Hackie worked as the White House’s chief telephone operator for 20 years, before she was eventually let go from the position a few months before she planned to retire.
Find more on Hackie (also spelled Hacky) with a search on Newspapers.com.