The Golden Gate

On this day in 1937, the now instantly-recognizable Golden Gate Bridge opened to the public.

Golden Gate Bridge Opens

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.

Victims and those rescued in the Golden Gate Bridge construction accident

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.

Golden Gate Bridge a shining triumph

Find more on the Golden Gate Bridge and the process of building it on Newspapers.com.

Classy Denim for Crosby

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)

Bing Crosby's Levi Tuxedo

Bing Crosby

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.

National Limerick Day

Everybody likes an old-fashioned Limerick!

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.

LearThe following three limericks are by Lear himself:

A Limerick from Book of Nonsense

Young Lady of Troy Limerick

Beard Limerick

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:

Classifieds limerick contest example

Example limerick for a contest about classified ads

Hunting limerickStay Single limmerick

And just for fun, a little tidbit of presidential history:

Woodrow Wilson's limerick history

Find more limericks and limerick-adjacent articles on Newspapers.com.

Leave it to Hackie

The Girl at the Switchboard

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.

Diplomat of the White House Switchboard

Chances are it's 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.

Efficiency Got Her Job

Hackie

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:

Hackie first woman to work the White House switchboard

But Hackie proved them wrong, even as she scoffed at the idea that she knew any real secrets anyway.

One Woman Who Keeps Secrets

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.

Happy Birthday, Audrey

Audrey Kathleen Hepburn was born on this day in 1929. In her 40+ years of acting, Hepburn played some of the most timeless and beloved characters in cinema. Though she died of cancer in 1993, she continues to be remembered for her grace and elegance and remains one of the most iconic figures in Hollywood history.

Take a look through these Audrey Hepburn clippings from Newspapers.com.

Audrey Hepburn was like a princess from a fairy tale

Audrey Hepburn - Gigi

Audrey Hepburn 1954

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn - My Fair Lady

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn, later life

Audrey Hepburn - UNICEF

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn - death

Find more on Audrey Hepburn, her career, and her humanitarian work on Newspapers.com.

May Day

At times the 8-hour workday feels unbearably long, doesn’t it? And yet it’s nothing compared to what many workers endured in the seventeenth century. It was not unusual for employees to be stuck at work-intensive jobs for 10-16 hours a day, and by 1884 America’s labor force had had enough.

Eight hour workday strike

In October 1884, a Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions convention came to the unanimous decision that an 8-hour workday should become standard on May 1, 1886. When that day came, thousands of workers went on strike to support the effort. Chicago led the movement, with over 30,000 strikers and perhaps twice as many general supporters flooding the streets to aid in the protest.

For several days the strikers surprised the populace with their peaceful marches and demonstrations. But on May 3, 1886, there was an incident at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company in Chicago. Despite strike leader August Spies’ pleas for calm, strikers surged toward the building to confront strikebreakers. Police fired into the crowd, killing two.

McCormick riot and revenge circular

The next day saw a rally at Haymarket square to protest the police violence. Movement leaders Spies, Albert Parsons, and Samuel Fielden spoke to the gathered crowd (on the condition that the violent speech be removed from the “Revenge!” fliers like the one described above) and for a while all remained peaceful. But then a police force arrived and ordered the rally to disperse. A lone protester lobbed a homemade bomb at them, killing one officer instantly and mortally wounding six more.

Public opinion turned against the 8-hour movement and the connected protesters, and a wave of arrests were made. Among the arrested were rally speakers Spies, Fielden, and Parsons. Five others who had not been at the rally were also arrested and included in the remarkably unjust trial that followed: Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Michael Schwab, Louis Lingg and Oscar Neebe.

Trial ends in death sentences

All were sentence to death but Neebe, whose punishment was 15 years in prison. Schwab and Fielden appealed for a life sentence instead, which they were granted. Lingg killed himself the night before the execution, taking his fate into his own hands. The remaining four were hanged. They became international martyrs for the cause, and many prominent people spoke out openly and angrily against the conditions of the trial and sentencing.

The whole Haymarket debacle was a hitch in the American labor movement’s progress, but it did strengthen the resolve to continue fighting for the 8-hour day. An international celebration was created, to be observed every May Day as a commemorative event for those who died and were executed during those May 1886 strikes.

International Workers Day

This International Workers Day is still an official holiday in many countries around the world, though it is rarely thought of anymore in the United States.

If you’re interested in learning more, search Newpapers.com for contemporary articles about the riots, strikes, and the “anarchist trial.” There’s a lot to be found on this topic and many others, and the browse page is great for stumbling upon history’s random tidbits.

 

Looking Back: Chernobyl

It’s been 30 years since one of Chernobyl’s four nuclear reactors exploded and spread radioactive particles miles in every direction. The April 26, 1986, disaster killed over 30 people directly, while thousands more were evacuated from the surrounding area. Decontamination and health care costs were and continue to be extensive, and the longer-term effects from the catastrophe continue to be seen today.

Take a look below at some articles published in the days and years following the incident::

Nuclear

Soviet Union's report

Early reports: 2 people killed

Chernobyl Cartoon

1986 cartoon reflects public sentiment on the disaster at Chernobyl

Chernobyl

No reason for concern

Chernobyl

Chernobyl: Disaster Continues

Find more on Chernobyl and other historic disasters on Newspapers.com.

Miss Perfect Posture

Beauty contests have been a tradition in the United States for nearly a century. Contests with names like “Miss Universe,” “Miss United States,” and “Miss [name of any city, really]” have attracted leggy and service-oriented ladies since the first Miss America pageant in 1921. But there have also been several other beauty contests with rather unique qualifications. One of these is Miss Perfect Posture.

Rib cage drawings show the effects of correct and incorrect posture

These posture-perfect competitions, sponsored by those in the chiropractic industry, sought out women with well-balanced stances and beautifully aligned spines.

Seeking perfect postures

Often contestants stood on two scales—one foot on each—and if the numbers came out even the lady in question had excellent posture. Sometimes the straight-backed hopefuls were also submitted to full-body x-rays to determine exactly how perfect their postures were, a practice which would not fly today.

Miss Perfect Posture Contest

In the end, only one could be named Miss Perfect Posture.

Miss Perfect Posture (1959)

Winner of Perfect Posture Contest

There were (are) a lot of other bizarre beauty competitions out there—Miss Drumsticks, Miss World’s Most Beautiful Ape, and Miss Atomic Bomb to name just a few. Search Newspapers.com for more on any of these pageants or browse to find articles and history that are more your style.

Titanic Disaster

In the frozen pre-dawn hours of April 15, 1912, the passenger liner RMS Titanic was swallowed by the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. Just two hours and forty minutes after an iceberg ripped through the rolled steel hull plates on Titanic‘s starboard side, the massive ship and most of her passengers sunk out of sight.

Giant Liner Titanic Sinks

1800 Lives Lost

Steamer Titanic

It was one of the most fatal maritime disasters to happen during a time of peace. The oversights that caused so many deaths, and the misinformation that followed, prompted outrage, particularly from family and friends who ached to know if their loved ones had survived—or why they hadn’t.

Titanic disaster

Wireless from the Carpathian

Not Enough Boats

The disaster cost thousands of lives, millions of dollars, and—fortunately—led to major improvements in maritime safety regulations, some of which are still around today.

Find more headlines from this infamous disaster on Newspapers.com.

Happy 100th Beverly Cleary!

Today, beloved children’s book author Beverly Cleary turns 100 years old.

Happy Birthday Beverly Cleary!

Beverly Cleary

Cleary worked as a librarian before turning to writing books. In her many interviews, some of which can be found in the newspapers linked here, she mentions that during her time tending the shelves she came to the realization that not many books represented children as they were—messy, imperfect, adventurous and clever. Children had trouble finding characters they related to, and she had trouble finding books to recommend. She decided she wanted to create characters who experienced childhood like she had, in a neighborhood much like the one she’d grown up in. And so Cleary’s characters—like Ribsy, Ralph, Henry, Beezus and Ramona—well-known now by so many, were born. And real-life children loved them.

Cleary turned the light bulb of reading on

In 1975 Cleary was thanked for her lasting impression on children’s literature when she was granted the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. It was the first of several more awards to come.

Beverly Cleary given Wilder Award, 1975

Perhaps her best-known character, and one of the best-known children’s book characters of all time, is Ramona Quimby, a spunky little girl with a whole bunch of curiosity. Did you grow up with Ramona? Try your hand at this quiz (click the image for a larger version):

Ramona Quimby Quiz

Though Cleary has since decided not to publish any more books, she has never stopped championing the importance of reading.

Cleary's advice

Find more on Beverly Cleary on Newspapers.com. Make a search on her name, characters, awards, or on something else entirely—it’s up to you!