A Good Day for Flying

If you’ve a record to break in aviation, today’s the day to do it. On May 21, both Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart completed transatlantic solo flights, one in 1927, and the other five years later in 1932.

Charles Lindbergh Makes First Solo Nonstop Transatlantic Flight in the Spirit of St. Louis

Lindbergh made the flight first in response to the challenge set by Raymond Orteig, who offered $25,000 to whomever could fly from New York to Paris. Such a flight was nearly twice the distance of the first successful nonstop transatlantic flight, completed by British fliers John W. Alcock and Arthur W. Brown in 1919. And although others also took up the challenge, Lindbergh was the only one planning on a solo flight. At nearly 8 a.m. on May 20, 1927, a sleep-deprived Lindbergh took off on a journey that had already taken the lives of six people.

Thanks to pulling an all-nighter before he left, Lindbergh’s exhaustion set in pretty early. To keep himself awake he spent some time flying just ten feet above the water, and at another point held his eyelids open with his fingers. Nevertheless, at 3 p.m. for Lindbergh (8 p.m. local time), The Spirit of St. Louis had slipped into the air over France.

Lindbergh Lands

Thousands gathered to witness the landing of the solo pilot as he glided to a perfect landing at 10:24 p.m. local time. The flight had taken 33.5 hours, and Lindbergh hadn’t slept in 55 hours. His success instantly elevated him to celebrity status internationally.

In 1932 Amelia Earhart, already a beloved icon, set out to make the same grueling flight. She had crossed the Atlantic once before as one of a three-person crew, during which she kept the plane’s log. In an interview after landing she clarified that she’d done none of the flying, but said that someday she might try doing it again herself.

First Woman to Fly Atlantic, second pilot to repeat Lindburgh's feat

On May 20th that thought became a reality. She set off early in the morning from Newfoundland, planning to land in Paris as Lindbergh had. However her flight was beset with troubles, which Earhart recounts in the article below:

Amelia Earhart wished she'd made it to Paris

She landed in an unmarked pasture in Culmore, Ireland, after a difficult 15-hour flight. The landing was witnessed by only a couple of people rather than by throngs of fans, who still expected her in France. But even with the early landing, Amelia Earhart had done what only Lindbergh had done before: completed a transatlantic flight, alone and with no navigator or mechanic, in a single, nonstop trip. It was an incredible feat, and for her success she was given the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Cross of Knight of the Legion of Honor, and President Herbert Hoover presented her with the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society.

Blonde Flier Crosses Sea

Amelia Flies Atlantic in 15 Hrs

For more on Lindbergh and Earhart and their respective flights, try the following searches on Newspapers.com:
Charles Lindbergh
Lindbergh lands in Paris
Amelia Earhart (more here on her later disappearance)
Earhart lands in Ireland

And be sure to peruse the papers for more topics of interest using the search or browse pages.

The Slave Quilt Code

Underground Railroad Quilts

Have you ever heard of the code quilts of the Underground Railroad?

The idea of these quilts is a clever and exciting one. In the days of slavery, escaped or fleeing slaves could depend upon subtle signals in the form of quilts hung from porches or clotheslinse. Depending on the pattern, the escapee would know to keep off the road, or to confuse their path, or any number of instructions to better help them evade recapture. It was, in essence, a secret code hidden in plain sight.

Guiding Quilts

Quilt Messages

Quilt symbols

Most historians do not consider the idea of the slave quilt code to have any factual backing, and many have tried to debunk the entire idea. One historian, Dr. John Michael Vlach, has stated that though it’s a compelling thought, the quilt code would simply have been too much of a risk to be practiced in reality.

Quilt code wouldn't have been worth the risk

In the end, the quilts may not have been a code at all, but simply a story to stir the imagination. On that count, the quilts succeeded.

Read on about the quilt code in this article, or make a search of your own on Newspapers.com.

The Oak Island Money Pit

Oak Island Money Pit the Ultimate Prank?

In the late 1700s a teenage boy named Daniel McGinnis explored the inland areas of Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada, and found an unusual depression in the ground. Some reports also say he noticed an old block and tackle hanging from a sawed-off tree limb, just above the dip in the earth. The area was known to have been frequented by pirates in earlier years, an idea which had no doubt occurred to the eager young man. McGinnis found this reason enough to being digging with the help of two of his friends.

Oak Island

When they had dug through ten feet of soil, they hit a layer of wood that had been purposefully laid across the pit. Surely the treasure they dreamed of was under those timbers! But when they pulled out the wood layer there was nothing below but a two foot tall pocket of air…and more dirt. So they kept digging, disappointed but undeterred.

Hole is hundreds of feet deep

After digging another twenty feet down and finding two more layers of timbers—and no sign of any treasure—the three boys gave up. They would not be the last to try and fail.

With the discovery of the log platforms, it became clear that the pit had been made intentionally by some person—or more likely hundreds of persons—in the past. The promise of wealth hung in the air over Oak Island. Many more came to continue to dig, determined to find the treasure they knew must be buried deep in the earth and to claim the fame of success.

Oak Island Money PitA Fortune in Gold

Men and money were thrown into excavating the hole, and more log platforms and water traps impeded their progress. At 90 feet, diggers found something that renewed the effort…a stone with a strange inscription, decoded thanks to James Leitchi, a professor of languages. The wide, flat stone read, “Forty Feet Below Two Million Pounds are Buried.”

Thousands of dollars and even a handful of human lives were sacrificed in the search for the money pit’s treasures. Curious hopefuls tried draining the hole as they worked, digging new shafts parallel to the money pit, building dams, and any other method they could think of to get to the bottom of the pit. But even today, the mystery remains unsolved. The pit continues to attract treasure hunters and tourists alike.

Oak Island Money Pit

Still, it’s said that some small pieces of treasure have been found here and there over the decades. And there’s that mysterious stone that promised a fortune. Is there really a hidden secret at the bottom of the money pit, or could it be an incredibly elaborate hoax?

To read a fairly comprehensive summary of the Oak Island Money Pit mystery, take a look at the article on this page. More articles about this mystery can be found here. 

“May Day is a Very Fine Day”

As the first day of May, today is a day to celebrate the beauty of Spring and the coming of Summer. It is a day to be outside, enjoy the flowers, dance and frolic and leave little gifts for your neighbors—at least by some traditions. Found in the newspapers from May Days’ past are these drawings done by fourth graders in 1934.

May Day Drawing, Eunice V. Walter, 1934

May Day Drawing, Carol Vincent, 1934

There were May Day stories too, like this one from seventh grader Laura Waller which describes many traditional activities practiced on the first of May:

May Day Story, Laura Waller, 1934

And no one describes May Day better than little Kenneth Sayers in his prize winning story that same year:

May Day Story, Kenneth Sayers, 1934

Have a Happy May Day! And check out this search for more articles about this spring-loving day.

The Ghost of Zona Heaster Shue

Ghost Solved Crime

Once upon a time, a manly, talented blacksmith—Mr. Edward Shue—met a beautiful country girl—Ms. Zona Heaster. The two fell in love, and before long they found themselves at the altar of matrimony. A few weeks passed, and as far as anyone could tell the couple lived happy together. And were it not for the ominous image above and the rather tell-tale title of this post, you might think that’s where the story ends. But here’s where events take a morbid turn.

One day Shue sent a boy to his home to help his wife with chores. The poor boy arrived at the house only to find Mrs. Shue lying at the bottom of the stairs, laid out perfectly still as though sleeping.

Boy finds the woman dead

Of course, the woman wasn’t sleeping at all. A physician came to examine the body, but Shue became frantic with grief every time the doctor tried to examine the woman’s head and neck. The doctor gave up and declared that Mrs. Shue had died of heart failure. All through the funeral, Shue fussed with his late wife’s collar and how her head was placed, but everyone who noticed chalked up this odd behavior to the depths of his grief. Only Mrs. Shue’s mother, Mary Heaster, suspected her son-in-law of being false.

Mrs. Heaster, a very religious woman, spent many nights praying about her daughter’s fate. According to her testimony, it was during one of these nights of prayer that Zona Heaster Shue first appeared to her.

Zona Heaster Shue appears to her mother to reveal she was murdered

As the article above mentions, the dead woman’s ghost told her mother that she had been murdered by her husband. After this experience Mrs. Heaster demanded that her daughter’s body be exhumed and reexamined. Mr. Shue could do nothing to prevent a thorough examination this time, and it was found the the woman’s neck had been purposefully broken. Shue’s history didn’t help his case here, either: he had been married twice before and both of those wives had also died under suspicious circumstances. Shue was arrested for the murder of his wife, and after an hour’s deliberation the jury found him guilty. Shue died in prison eight years later.

 

A Day for Earth

Today is Earth Day, an environmentally-conscious, annual event that focuses on the state of our planet in the face of human pollution. The first officially celebrated earth day was in 1970, and many throughout the United States joined in with fervor. Here are some clippings from articles about the first Earth Day:

Earth Day
Earth Day has one goal

Earth Day Posters
Gas Masks on Earth Day

Many in the early years of Earth Day celebrated with peaceful demonstrations, often wearing gas masks (as in the picture above) as a foreboding warning against the slow poisoning of the planet. Today, Earth Day is generally recognized with activities like cleanup drives, tree planting, and demonstrations on recycling and composting.

Though Earth Day was originally started in the U.S., it became internationally recognized within a few years. This change-promoting day of awareness is now celebrated by over a billion people worldwide in nearly 200 different countries.

For general articles on Earth Day, take a look at this search. For articles from the first Earth Day in 1970, here’s a search specifically tied to that year. Be sure to look for other articles about family or events that interest you on Newspapers.com.

 

The “Fury of Hell” Hits San Francisco

Worst Earthquake in all History

At 5:13 on the morning of April 18, 1906, a rumble began in the area of San Francisco, California. For a full minute, the level 8 earthquake shook the ground, tumbling the brick and wooden buildings. Unforunately, the earthquake wasn’t even the worst part. After the shocks and shaking had subsided, the fires took over, sweeping throughout the city basically unchecked because the water mains had been destroyed in the quake. Firemen did what they could to stop the sweep of destruction, sometimes blowing up whole blocks to create firewalls, but the fires continued for five days before they were finally extinguished.

Fury of Hell, 1906

By the time the fires had been controlled, around 3,000 people had perished in the falling buildings and flames. Most of San Francisco’s homes and a significant amount of the business district had been destroyed, the equivalent of several hundred million dollars in damage today. Of those who survived, 250,000 were left homeless.

San Francisco Earthquake

Following the destruction of San Francisco, the city was able to recover fairly quickly. New buildings were constructed in a far more logical way than before, and the new set up allowed for more population growth in the coming decades.

For more articles about the Great San Francisco Earthquake, take a look at this search. Newspaper.com’s search and browse pages are also great for discovering new things and finding articles on any topic of your choosing.

 

“Jackie the Great”

Jackie Robinson, 1946 Baseball Star

This week in 1947, baseball great Jackie Robinson made history as the first African-American man to join a Major League Baseball team. In stepping on the field with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson shattered the segregation that had existed in the league for over 50 years and opened the sport to all races.

Fifty years later, on the same day Robinson joined the team (April 15), Robinson’s uniform number was retired during a well-attended ceremony in New York City. The number 42 was the first ever retired by all teams in the Major League.

Jackie Robinson's Number Retired

For more on Robinson’s legendary contribution to the sport of baseball, try this search from the year he was signed to the Dodgers, or this search for more general articles. Try the search or browse pages to look up topics of your choice.

Swansea Jack, a Canine Hero

Throughout the majority of the 1930s, an unassuming hero lounged on the docks of Swansea, Wales. But unlike many heroes in legend, television or comic books, this one had four legs and a thick coat of black hair.

Life-saving dog, Swansea Jack

Swansea Jack, as this brave dog came to be known, saved many from drowning in his seven years of life, which he spent in the River Tawe, North Dock area of Swansea.  One day, just a year after the pup had been born, a 12-year-old boy panicked in a nearby river. Jack leaped into the water without a second thought and was able to pull the boy to safety, saving his life.

Though this endearing rescue seems to have gone unnoticed by the community, it wasn’t long before Jack had another chance to prove his mettle. A crowd watched in suspense as Jack quickly responded to cries of help from a swimmer in distress off the docks. When the rescue proved successful, Swansea Jack was given a spot in the local paper and awarded a silver collar for his good deed.

Jack Always Got His Man

According to stories told throughout the area, Swansea Jack went on to save an incredible 25 more people from a watery death before he himself perished after eating rat poison. He still remains the only dog to have been given two bronze medals by the National Canine Defense League. A burial monument is located on Swansea’s promenade, dedicated to this lone canine hero.

For more on Swansea Jack, check out this search. Otherwise, see what finds you can discover on Newspapers.com through searching a topic of your choice or by browsing the selection of available papers.