The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

March 25, 1911, was a tragic day at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City. The business was woefully unprepared when a fire broke out and trapped many of the employees inside. In the end, 145 of the workers at Triangle Shirtwaist perished from fire, asphyxiation, or from falling to their deaths.

Gruesome Headline from Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

Max Blanck and Isaac Harris owned the 10-story Manhattan building, in which worked hundreds of employees, mostly teenage immigrant women. The workers were crammed together in whatever available space there was, which is bad enough. But the major safety issues came in the form of terrible escape route options. Two stairways led to the street below, but one ended in a door that was kept locked from the outside, and the other opened inward. There were also four elevators, but for whatever reason only one was functioning at the time and it held, at maximum, 12 people.

As the fire spread, hundreds found themselves trapped on the upper floors with no escape. Even the single working elevator made only 4 trips, packed with terrified women, before it too could no longer be used. Those left behind hung outside windows for as long as they were able before the fire burned their hands too badly to hold on. Most perished this way, falling to their deaths before they could be rescued. Some jumped down the elevator shaft and met the same fate. Others clung to ledges and were accidentally pushed off by others frantically trying to do the same thing.

Headlines following fire

Firemen arrived at the scene after several dozen had already perished, doing what they could with ladders that only reached the 7th floor and nets that broke under the weight of too many people jumping into them. Those who survived the fall from the upper floors were taken to hospitals to recover, but many of those trying to help in the rescue effort had to watch, helpless, as the horrific scene unfolded before them.

Harris and Blanck, who themselves were on the 10th floor when the fire started, escaped by climbing onto the roof and jumping to a nearby building. They already had a history with factory fires suspicious enough to narrow the eyes of even the most forgiving, having apparently set fire to some previous (and mercifully empty) workplaces deliberately to collect the insurance money. Though they did not start this particular fire, they had purposefully omitted certain safety features like sprinklers so that they’d have the option in the future. The two were put on trial for manslaughter but were acquitted. In fact, Harris and Blanck suffered no negative repercussions at all, much to the outrage of friends and family of the victims. 

Blanck and Harris Acquitted

There is one positive side to this horrible piece of history: as a result of so many completely preventable deaths, it became obvious that worker conditions and safety regulations were in dire need of reform, and these reforms were made within the year. The fire also led to the creation of groups that worked to improve conditions for women sweatshop workers in manufacturing. The Triangle Shirtwaist fire remained the worst industrial fire until 1993, when a toy factory in Thailand burned down, killing 188.

Newspapers catch humanity at its best and worst, both the pleasant and the tragic. To read more about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, the article in this clipping recounts the specific and sobering events of that day, or try this search for more about the fire and what happened as a result.

Paris Baby Raffle

Here’s a bit of bizarre news from Paris in the days of yore: in the early 1900s a raffle was held to find families for a large number of babies whose parents could not be located. The lottery was held not only to find homes for the wee babes, but also to raise money for charities. On the latter score they were apparently quite effective; multiple charities benefited from the funds raised by this unorthodox event.

Baby Raffle in Paris

A Baby Raffle in Paris

The raffle was cleared with authorities prior to the event, and the children’s new families were investigated to make sure they would be suitable to raise and care for their child. Nothing to worry about, right?

For more strange news, try a search on Newspapers.com.

Dogs of War

Dogs of War

In March of 1942, a letter was signed by Robert P. Patterson, Secretary of War, that officially authorized dogs to be inducted into the war effort. These dogs would be known as the K-9 Corps.

At first it was anticipated that only 200 dogs would be required, but it soon became obvious that the need for these unique members of the military was much greater. Thousands of dogs were sent to be readied for their place in the war effort. They were generally trained for 8-12 weeks before being sent out with their human comrades.

Some were trained as sentries, taught to give warnings through barking or other alerts, and were especially helpful at night. Some sentry dogs were even used in detecting enemy submarines with the Coast Guard. Others became patrol dogs and worked in silence, finding snipers, ambushes, and other sneaky goings-on. With their heightened sensitivities, these dogs often knew about enemy presence up to 1,000 yards in the distance, which was incredibly helpful in keeping their men safe.

First Enlistee from Kingsport Tennessee (K-9)

Nick, the first enlisted dog in the War Dog fund, Dogs for Defense, Inc, from Kingsport, Tennessee, and the city’s official recruiting officer

The dogs might also have been taught to carry messages as messenger dogs, learning how to move silently and quickly through small spaces and find their allies by scent or intuition. There were also mine dogs—taught to detect trip wires, booby traps, and (as the name suggests) mines—and attack dogs, who learned to attack in addition to being sentry dogs. Casualty dogs were also trained to find wounded men on the battlefields.

Dogs had been used in unofficial capacities before WWII. After World War I a dog known as “Sgt. Stubby” was lauded as a hero. During the war he’d saved his troops from mustard gas, found and comforted wounded men, and once even caught a German spy. The creation of the official K-9 Corps was partially inspired by Stubby’s bravery, fearlessness, and usefulness during that conflict.

War Dog Heroes

Stubby was not alone in his canine heroism. Other dogs became famous for their courage during World War II as part of the K-9 Corps. One German Shepherd mix named Chips was brought to the front to be trained as a sentry dog. At one point he broke from his handler to attack a bunker full of enemy gunners, and all four of the men fled only to be forced to surrender to the waiting U.S. troops. Chips continued in his duties that day despite a scalp wound and powder burns on his head where he’d been grazed by an enemy bullet. He was perhaps the most famous war dog of World War II; so famous, in fact, that a Disney movie was made about him called Chips, the War Dog.

Chip's heroism

The real-life Chips returned home to his original family, but was soon sent to live with his handler from the war. Many of the war dogs had to be “untrained” after months or even years of being in battles and learning how to exist in a theater of war. Many were successfully integrated back into society and lived happily with the families who had sent them to the corps.

Many other dogs lost their lives during their service, to the dismay of their handlers, troops, and families back home. But all canines in the corps were extremely helpful in protecting and saving the men they worked with.

K-9 Corps in the war

To find more about dogs in the K-9 Corps, as well as in police forces and other public service capacities, try looking at the articles found in this search. You can also try a search of your own on Newspapers.com for a subject or person that interests you.

The Mythical Man of Georgia Tech

If you were a student at Georgia Tech, you’ll already know of George P. Burdell, one of the establishment’s best-known graduates. Enrolled in 1927, Burdell received both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree before becoming an official alumnus of the school. Then he enrolled again. In fact, George P. Burdell kept enrolling over and over again for years, and remains a student there to this day.
George P. Burdell Lives OnThe funny thing is, George P. Burdell doesn’t exist. In 1927, another (real) student named William Edgar “Ed” Smith received two admission forms to Georgia Tech. He filled out both: one with his actual information, and one using the false identity of George P. Burdell.

Once Smith and Burdell were both accepted, Smith kept the joke running. He did all of Burdell’s schoolwork along with his own, changing it up here and there to ward off suspicion. By 1930 Burdell had been given a bachelor’s degree, and just a few years later a master’s followed. Every year since he’s remained an active student. When the school implemented a computerized enrollment system they thought Burdell would fade into oblivion, but students hacked the system and enrolled Burdell in every single class offered.

Burdell didn’t just stick around Georgia Tech, either. His name appears at other institutions; in wedding announcements; in attributions for magazines, T.V. shows, and productions; even in WWII records. And as you can see in the article above, George P. Burdell was alive and well in 1972, when he donated several thousand dollars to Furman University, earning him a bronze plaque.

“…If a man wants to pay this price to continue a myth, I’m happy to cooperate with him,” Furman’s vice president of development mentions in the article.

Check out Newspapers.com for more interesting history captured in articles like these.

Doth Mine Eye Deceive Me?

Last week the internet was drawn into a divisive debate over the perceived color of a dress. Was it blue and black? Or white and gold? What is the truth? The dress in question was essentially an optical illusion, and not the first by a long shot. Oh yes, the newspapers of past years show that humanity has long been fascinated with optical illusions and how they mess with our perception of reality. One truth remains the same through all the articles: don’t always trust what your eyes seem to see.

Optical Illusions

Lessons in Perspective

Don't Always Believe What You See!

If you love optical illusions and history, try looking for more like these on Newspapers.com. Or you can look for something more your style using the search page.

The Hills are Alive…

…with the sound of an anniversary!

Andrews and Plummer

Sound of Music to be released early next year

You may have heard by now that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the classic film, The Sound of Music. The monumental musical was released on March 2, 1965, with rising star Julie Andrews in the leading role. The movie’s success (including winning five Academy Awards) is proof of the film’s quality and explains why it is still so beloved today.

Some even went so far as to call it the “crowning achievement of motion picture musicals.”

After being passed over for established film actress Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (despite playing the role of Eliza for 3 1/2 years in Pygmalion), Julie Andrews earned notice with her dazzling performance in Mary Poppins, released in 1964. But it was the character of Maria that solidified Andrews’ fame and captured the hearts of viewers around the world.

Academy Award-winning Julie Andrews thrills audiences as Maria in the Sound of Music

Destined to be one of the biggest hits ever

Still, there will always be those who disagree. Some were not so spell-bound by the film. This article is particularly critical of the casting—except for Julie Andrews, of course!

Unhappy Over CastingBut Julie Andrews Magnificent

Is The Sound of Music one of your family favorites? Does it warm your heart? Or do you agree that “the rest of the cast is ludicrous” as Mr. Kleiner states above? Let us know. And if you’re interested to find more about The Sound of Music, seek articles on other films, or want to find something completely unrelated, take a look at Newspapers.com and try a search for some of your favorite things.

Pierced Nails—The Latest Fad

Nail Piercings - Titenia

Does the idea of piercing your fingernails strike your fancy? This fashion was once on the borderline of becoming popular thanks to the famous dancer Titenia, whose hand is pictured above. Each nail was pierced through and decorated with solitaire diamonds or other shiny things. Saying it was the “latest fad” is a bit generous, however, as nail piercings never really took off with the majority of ladies. Still, the practice is around today for those who wish to indulge in it, though commonly on just one fingernail instead of all.

Interested in more clippings like these? Try browsing through Newspapers.com and see what catches your eye.

Davies’ Heroic Rescue

Richard Bell Davies

This unassuming death notice marked the passing of military hero Richard Bell Davies. During World War 1, Davies was on a bombing mission with fellow British pilot Gilbert F. Smylie when Smylie’s craft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and he was forced to land behind enemy lines. Smylie dropped all but one of the bombs from his plane during the descent and managed to safely land, but he could not get the plane started again. To disable the plane, Smylie set it on fire.

The next part played out like a scene from a movie. Davies, having seen his fellow officer in trouble, immediately turned back to save him with little thought of his own safety. Smylie saw Davies coming as his own plane burned behind him. Knowing the last bomb might explode at the most inconvenient of times, Smylie took aim at his craft with a revolver and exploded the bomb himself. Under heavy fire from converging Turkish soldiers, Davies landed, pulled his comrade into the plane, and took off, leaving the Turks and the flaming wreckage of Smylie’s aircraft behind. Both men made it back to British lines unharmed.

For thinking on his feet, Gilbert Smylie received the Distinguished Service Cross. And, as the obituary above states, Richard Davies was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest of Britain’s military honors, for a skillful and daring rescue.

Interested in more articles like this? Military history is especially prevalent in history’s newspapers. Try a search that interests you on Newspapers.com.

Jackie Mitchell

Her Curves Fool 'Em

The story is surprising: 17-year-old amateur strikes out two of the best baseball players of all time? So goes the tale of Jackie Mitchell, one of the first girls to ever sign with a minor league baseball team. Many thought this was so unbelievable it had to be a hoax, but whether staged or sincere the story appears to be true.

Jackie grew up next door to eventual Dodger great Dazzy Vance, who taught her classic baseball tricks and throws. She thrived in the world of sports and played on both basketball and baseball teams depending on the time of year. Eventually she caught the eye of the chief scout of the Washington Senators and president of the Chattanooga Lookouts, Joe Engel. He gave her a coveted spot on his team in their exhibition game against the New York Yankees.

Mitchell can fool

Mitchell sped to Tennessee—with her mother as chaperone, of course—and signed a contract with the Lookouts, making her an official member of the class AA minor league team. She practiced like crazy, trying to warm up her pitching arm after months of playing basketball.

Before the game Mitchell posed for pictures with some intimidating competition: Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. She was put on the pitcher’s mound early on, and to everyone’s surprise, struck out Babe Ruth with two wicked curve balls—Ruth’s well-known weakness—and one straight across the plate. Lou Gehrig followed Ruth, and soon he too was sent back to the dugout after three strikes.

Girl Pitcher Who Once Struck Out Babe Ruth

Mitchell’s success against two major baseball greats certainly happened that day in 1931, but there are some who suspect Ruth and Gehrig were in on it all along. Ruth is known to have been a fan of pranks, so this is not necessarily an unfair speculation, but Gehrig was generally very unwilling to do anything that would make him look bad, even for a joke. But whether you believe Mitchell pranked the masses, got by on luck, or was just a skilled player, this unusual baseball story is certainly one for the news.

Check out Newspapers.com for more articles like this. Whether your interests be sports-related or not, there are hundreds of papers to look through using the search or browse features.

The Tastes of Valentine’s Day

Here’s a quirky centerpiece for your Valentine’s party. The “Heartbreak Cake” can be made broken or whole, a match for any Valentine’s sentiment. This gelatin-infused white cake will, as the article’s picture caption says, “win coldest of hearts.”

Heartbreak Cake

Of course, if chocolate’s more your thing, there’s plenty to go around on the holiday of love and romance. And the good news is, these articles are happy to give you reassurance that chocolate is good, even beneficial, whatever the motivation behind the indulgence.

Chocolate for heartbreak

Chocolate is good for you

Newspapers.com is filled to the brim with Valentine’s Day articles, ads, and recipes. Try a search for more like these or on a topic that matches your interests!