How Victorian “Bachelor Girls” Revolutionized America’s View of Single Women

Members of a 1900 Kansas Bachelor Girls ClubMembers of a 1900 Kansas Bachelor Girls Club Tue, Aug 7, 1900 – 8 · The Sterling Kansas Bulletin (Sterling, Kansas) · Newspapers.com


If you were a single woman living 100 years ago, would you rather have been called an “old maid” or a “bachelor girl”?

Growing Opportunities for Women

In the late 19th century, a cultural shift was taking place among young American women. Empowered by growing educational and career opportunities, women increasingly saw marriage as one option rather than the only option for their futures.

They more and more often attended college instead of marrying immediately, creating a growing force of university-educated women seeking careers—not just “jobs”—in fields that had previously been unavailable to them. Though their opportunities were still far more limited than men’s, women began to work as stenographers, typists, secretaries, department store workers, academics, doctors, nurses, writers, artists, journalists, and more.

Professions of New York bachelor girls, 1894Professions of New York bachelor girls, 1894 Sun, Jan 7, 1894 – 13 · The Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Alabama) · Newspapers.com


And not only did these single women go to universities and support themselves financially, they also often lived in towns and cities away from the family home. Depending on their circumstances, some lived in homes of their own, while others lived with roommates or in boarding houses specifically for women.

No More “Old Maids”

This shift started to change the way people thought about single women. For most of American history, single women had been seen as “old maids” or “spinsters,” pitiable women who lived off the kindness and condescension of their family members.

But the changing prospects for women in the late 19th century created the more modern “bachelor girl”—independent, educated, cultured, and fashionable. As it slowly became less shameful for a woman to be single past a “marriable age,” some women even publicly celebrated their single status by joining “bachelor girls clubs.”

No more old maids, 1890No more old maids, 1890 Sun, Oct 12, 1890 – 10 · The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) · Newspapers.com


Even the name “bachelor girl” indicated their growing independence, as did other terms in use like “bachelor woman” and “bachelor maid.” Use of the term “bachelor”—a term typically used for men—reflected the perception that this new generation of single women had some of the freedom previously enjoyed only by their male counterparts.

Not a One-Size-Fits-All

Of course, there was no one-size-fits-all “bachelor girl.” Not every unmarried woman was single because she wanted to be. And while some women declined marriage altogether, others were simply delaying it by a few years. Additionally, some of those the world saw as “bachelor girls” were likely privately in committed relationships—just with other women, rather than men.

Bachelor girl photo, 1902Bachelor girl photo, 1902 Sun, Nov 2, 1902 – 6 · The Buffalo Times (Buffalo, New York) · Newspapers.com


Plus, the “bachelor girl” lifestyle of the time was largely (though not exclusively) a privilege of middle- or upper-class white women. Those of other socio-economic classes and ethnicities did not always have the same opportunities as their wealthier and whiter counterparts.

Society’s View

Still, there was a fascination in American society with the lives of these independent single women. Throughout the late 19th century and early 20th, there were numerous newspaper features and columns about the “bachelor girl.” While some of this newspaper coverage gave a realistic view of the lives of these women, far more painted what was surely an overly glamorous and stereotyped picture of their lifestyle.

1903 feature article about the bachelor girl lifestyle1903 feature article about the bachelor girl lifestyle Sun, Aug 30, 1903 – Page 42 · The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com


But while it may have entertained Americans to read about bachelor girls in the newspaper, many in wider society did not support this new lifestyle for unmarried women. Most people still subscribed to the traditional view that a woman’s place was in the home. They rejected the idea that a woman could find lasting meaning in a career, arguing that her only “real” fulfillment could come from being a wife and mother. Bachelor girls challenged the existing social conventions too much to receive immediate widespread acceptance.

Anti-bachelor girl opinion from 1902Anti-bachelor girl opinion from 1902 Fri, May 2, 1902 – Page 10 · The Commoner (Lincoln, Nebraska) · Newspapers.com


A Modern Perspective

Though the idea of the “bachelor girl” took off around the 1880s, it was most popular in newspapers from about 1900 through the end of World War I. But it remained prevalent in various iterations in the papers until around the 1960s, when progress in the women’s rights movement made it less novel for women to support themselves and live independently.

Today, the idea of the “bachelor girl” may seem antiquated and quaint, given the strides women have made in the century since. But they were quite revolutionary in their time, making it fascinating to look back on newspaper clippings about their efforts to gain more educational, financial, and social independence for women.  

Sun, Jun 28, 1896 – Page 13 · San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California) · Newspapers.com


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Madam C.J. Walker: America’s First African-American Female Millionaire

In the early 1900s, Sarah Breedlove Walker’s dreams came true – literally. She had a dream where a man appeared to her and told her what ingredients to use to make a line of hair products for African-Americans. Her hair products were wildly successful, and Walker became the first African-American woman self-made millionaire and philanthropist.

Born in 1867 on a cotton plantation near Delta, Louisiana, Sarah was the daughter of freed slaves and orphaned at just 7-years-old. She married at age 14 and found herself widowed and a single mother by the time she was 22.

Madame C.J. Walker in her Model T

Struggling to survive, Sarah and her daughter moved to St. Louis where she worked as a laundress. Sarah earned just enough to send her daughter to school and took evening classes whenever possible. She married a second time, but the marriage ended in divorce.

About that time, Walker developed a scalp condition that led to hair loss. She tried a variety of remedies to cure the condition without success. Sarah got a job selling hair products and moved to Denver, Colorado where she met Charles J. Walker, who would become her third husband. He worked in advertising and later helped promote her business.

One night, Sarah had a dream where a man appeared to her and told her what products to use to create a new hair product. When she woke up, she mixed up the concoction and worked it into her scalp. After a few weeks, she noticed her hair was coming in faster than it had ever fallen out. The scalp problems that had plagued her cleared up. Sarah formed her own company in 1903, calling it “Madam C. J. Walker”.

The Madam C. J. Walker Company revolutionized hair care for African-American women. The company developed a system of hair care known as the Walker System and sold products directly to African-American customers. Sarah also hired a team of saleswomen, known as Walker Agents who used that direct sales model and worked door-to-door in their own black communities across the country. The company opened a beauty school in Pittsburgh followed by additional schools in other locations.

As the company grew, so did Sarah’s net worth. One year before women had the right to vote in America, Sarah became the country’s first female African-American self-made millionaire. She bought luxury homes including one called Villa Lewaro at Irvington-on-the-Hudson in New York. It was designed by black architect Vertner Taney, the first African-American registered architect in that state. It was located in an exclusive neighborhood. She also gave generously to multiple organizations including the NAACP, the black YMCA and funded scholarships at the Tuskegee Institute. In addition, she championed female employees and encouraged her employees to donate to local charities in their communities.

About a year after moving into Villa Lewaro, Sarah became sick while traveling. She died in 1919 of kidney failure caused by hypertension. The life of Madam C. J. Walker will be celebrated in an upcoming series set to premiere on Netflix this March. If you would like to learn more about Sarah Breedlove Walker, her amazing life and her company, Madam C. J. Walker, search Newspapers.com today!

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Weather Predictions: Not Just for Groundhogs

Groundhog Day 2020 is just around the corner (on February 2nd, for those curious). With it comes the usual hullabaloo surrounding the noble groundhog and his mystical weather predictions. But while groundhogs are firmly established as the main prognosticators in U.S. culture, they are fairly new to the centuries-old prediction game.

Gus Ground Hog, Weather ProphetGus Ground Hog, Weather Prophet Tue, Feb 2, 1937 – 2 · () · Newspapers.com

Before Groundhogs, there were…

BADGERS OF YORE

Badgers to GroundhogsBadgers to Groundhogs Thu, Feb 12, 1931 – Page 8 · The Evening Standard (Uniontown, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

Groundhogs only have their current job thanks to their predecessors: badgers. It was only because groundhogs were more easily found in the United States that the groundhog entered the shadow-seeing spotlight.

BEARS OF ALL SORTS

Bears have also had their fair share of predicting the weather. How that worked, exactly, is unclear. It seems unlikely that crowds of people were standing around waiting for a bear to emerge as is done with the groundhog today.

Bear as weather prognosticatorBear as weather prognosticator Fri, Feb 2, 1923 – 2 · The Ottawa Citizen (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) · Newspapers.com

This next clipping takes an entirely different direction. Shadows are cast aside in favor of a furrier approach. Unfortunately for Snow Star, the prognosticating zoo bear, her thin winter coat gave an unreliable prediction.

Prognosticating Bear may be fired for inaccurate weather forecastPrognosticating Bear may be fired for inaccurate weather forecast Thu, Jan 16, 1964 – 3 · The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) · Newspapers.com

The Woolly Bear—a much different kind of bear—had its day in the sun when scientists looked to the caterpillars’ coloring for answers.

The Woolly Bear weather predictorsThe Woolly Bear weather predictors Tue, Oct 11, 1983 – 34 · Lancaster New Era (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

SAME DOUBTS AS GROUNDHOGS

Science-based or not, the thickness and color of an animal’s (or insect’s) fur is about as convincing for some as the sight of a groundhog’s shadow.

Animals Animals “predicting” weather with winter coats Sun, Dec 24, 1916 – 62 · The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) · Newspapers.com

Whether you stand by the predictions of shadows and fur, or find it all a “fairy story” like the zoo head quoted above, the prediction tradition still holds strong.

Happy Groundhog Day!

Find more on the traditions of Groundhog Day and the history of animal prognosticators with a search on Newspapers.com.

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The 100 Year-Old Plan to Light a Sunless Town

For almost half of every year, Norway’s valley town of Rjukan sees no direct sunlight. Cable cars to the mountaintop allow residents to seek out sun in high places, but in 2013 the town found a way to bring the sun to them.

Rjukan residents play in the mirrored sun, Norway 2013Rjukan residents play in the mirrored sun, Norway 2013 Thu, Oct 31, 2013 – A11 · The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

Sam Eyde

Though this project was completed in 2013, it actually began over a century ago with a man named Sam Eyde. Eyde’s name is very familiar to those living in Rjukan; his work using the Rjukan falls for hydropower and the development of saltpeter led to the creation of Rjukan as an industrial town between 1906 and 1916.

Sam Eyde, saltpeter, the Rjukan waterfall, and the development of RjukanSam Eyde, saltpeter, the Rjukan waterfall, and the development of Rjukan Thu, Sep 18, 1913 – 3 · Jamestown Weekly Alert (Jamestown, North Dakota) · Newspapers.com
Huge water wheel like the ones used at Rjukan circa 1912Huge water wheel like the ones used at Rjukan circa 1912 Sun, Oct 13, 1912 – Page 1 · The Washington Post (Washington, District of Columbia) · Newspapers.com


Seeking Sunlight

It wasn’t long before Eyde realized that the people had given up half a year of sunlight to work at Norsk Hydro. From necessity came this new and incredible plan: bring the sunlight to the people with giant mountaintop mirrors. Eyde supported early efforts to make this plan a reality, but nothing stuck.

Early efforts by Sam Eyde to reflect sunlight into RjukanEarly efforts by Sam Eyde to reflect sunlight into Rjukan Wed, Mar 2, 1955 – 15 · Star-Phoenix (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada) · Newspapers.com

In 1928, Eyde decided that if the sun wouldn’t come to the valley, he could bring the people of Rjukan to the sun. He had a cable car built. It gave access to magnificent views of the valley, and still does to this day. And at the time it was the residents’ only way to feel the sun on their faces during the long winter.

A Plan Realized

In the end, the cable car remained the sole method of getting some much-needed vitamin D for decades. But the mirror plan was not forgotten. Funding, tech, and time finally lined up to make it possible in the 21st century. And while some residents think it’s a bit silly—a tourist attraction more than anything else—the town square was filled with people ready to feel the sun’s rays at the official opening in late 2013.

Mirrors in RjukanMirrors in Rjukan Thu, Oct 31, 2013 – 15 · The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec, Quebec, Canada) · Newspapers.com
Gathering in Rjukan for the opening of sun-reflecting mirrors, 2013Gathering in Rjukan for the opening of sun-reflecting mirrors, 2013 Thu, Oct 31, 2013 – 15 · The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec, Quebec, Canada) · Newspapers.com

Find more on the history of Rjukan, Norway, with a search on Newspapers.com.

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225 Years of History from Pennsylvania!

Do you have ancestors from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania? You can now search the LNP Always Lancaster along with 18 other related Lancaster titles! The daily paper just celebrated its 225th anniversary and is one of the oldest newspapers still publishing in the United States! We have issues that date back to 1796 when the paper was known as the Lancaster Journal.

The Lancaster Journal – June 24, 1796

Lancaster is one of the oldest inland cities in the United States. It was originally called ‘Hickory Town’ but later renamed ‘Lancaster’ after a prominent citizen suggested naming the town after his former home in England. Though first inhabited by Native American tribes, white immigrants including Germans, Swiss, English, and Ulster-Scots moved into the area beginning in 1709.

At that time, Western Pennsylvania was wilderness inhabited by Native American tribes that often skirmished with the encroaching white settlers. Panther, bear and wolf attacks were common threats. As more settlers arrived, a road was needed to transport people and products to and from Philadelphia. The Great Conestoga Road opened linking the two cities but fell into disrepair during the decades around the Revolution. In the 1790s, the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike Company sold shares to raise money to construct a new road. When the turnpike opened, it was the first long-distance paved road in the country. The first issue in our Lancaster collection is dated June 17, 1796, and includes a notice from the Philadelphia & Lancaster Turnpike Company announcing shares were available to purchase.  

The paper covered hostilities between the United States and Great Britain during the War of 1812 where some 800 men from Lancaster County served. You can find some of their personal accounts of battles in this collection. Lancaster also served as an important munitions center during the war.

The fifteenth President of the United States, James Buchanan was a descendant of Ulster-Scots and a Lancaster resident. He started his law career in 1813 in Lancaster and when he was elected president in 1857 became the only person from Pennsylvania to hold that office. His estate known as Wheatland still draws tourists today.  

The railroad arrived in Lancaster in 1834, bringing commerce to the city and in 1879, the first F.W. Woolworth Company, a five-cent store, opened in Lancaster.

This collection of Lancaster newspapers is rich with history, covering more than two centuries of news including the settlement of Lancaster County and the growth of the nation. You can peruse obituaries, birth notices, wedding announcements, and information on the families that settled in this area. Explore the Lancaster collection today on Newspapers.com!

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Newspapers.com 2019 in Review!

We had an incredible year in 2019 and we owe it all to you – our amazing subscribers! Thank you for your passion and dedication to preserving historical newspapers. Our loyal customers have created more than 14.3 million clippings this year alone.

Thanks to your support we’ve reached the following milestones in 2019:

  • Added 100+ million new pages of content for a total of 555 million pages of content
  • 14.3 million clippings created in 2019
  • Added 5,000+ new newspapers to our archives
  • Updated nearly 7,000 existing titles with new content
  • We have newspapers from all 50 states and 10 countries, territories, or districts

We also teamed up with Ancestry® to develop a technology to scour every page in our archive looking for death notices. You have already clipped more than 1.5 million obituaries using this amazing technology.

The best is yet to come. What will you discover in 2020? We promise to keep working hard with our publisher partners, historical societies, and institutions to find new content so your subscription will continue to increase in value year after year. What did you discover using Newspapers.com in 2019? Share your discoveries in the comments below. Thank you! Together we will accomplish amazing things in 2020.

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January 30, 1945: The Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff

On January 30, 1945, the greatest maritime disaster in history occurred when the MV Wilhelm Gustloff, a German luxury liner turned military transport ship sank in the Baltic Sea after being torpedoed by a Russian submarine. The sinking ship resulted in the loss of an estimated 9,300 victims, including 5,000 children. Those on board included 9,000 civilians fleeing an advancing Red Army, German soldiers, and the crew. The fatalities were six times that of the Titanic.

The Ottawa Journal February 19, 1945

Three months earlier, in October 1944, the Russian Army broke through German defense lines in East Prussia, inflicting atrocities on German civilians. Fearing the approaching army, thousands began to flee west. The temperatures were freezing, and many suffered frostbite, exposure, and starvation. In January 1945, the refugees converged on the docks at Gotenhafen (today Gdynia, Poland) and tried desperately to obtain passage on transport ships appropriated by German officials. The Gustloff, which launched in 1937 as a luxury liner, was now transporting soldiers to western Germany but allowed refugees to board as well. The ship was built to accommodate roughly 1,900 people but quickly filled beyond capacity as some 10,000 boarded the ship. Shortly after noon, the ship set sail.

Just beyond the Gulf of Danzig, the Russian submarine S-13 under the command of Capt. Alexander Marinesko patrolled the waters. On the evening of January 30th, the sub surfaced and spotted the Gustloff sailing in deep waters to avoid the heavily mined area closer to the coast. Suspecting the ship held German combatants, Marinesko decided to attack. He maneuvered S-13 alongside the ship until shortly after 9:00 p.m., when he ordered the launching of three torpedoes. All three impacted the ship’s port side.  

Honolulu Star-Bulletin March 23, 1974

The torpedoes exploded and the initial impact likely killed hundreds. Startled passengers clambered to get up on deck and in the panic, some were trampled, while others drowned as water flooded in. As the Gustloff began to list, panicked passengers found the davits holding the lifeboats in place were coated with ice and inoperable. In the chaos, young mother Irmgard Harnecker clung to her baby daughter Ingrid. Suddenly, an icy wave swept over the deck ripping the baby from her arms. Harnecker also lost her sister in the tragedy. Another young mother had given birth to a baby boy less than 24-hours earlier in the ship’s hospital. She named him Egbert Worner. When the torpedoes hit the ship, she ran up on deck holding the newborn but struggled to descend a rope ladder to a rescue vessel. A nearby soldier called out, “give it to me, you’ll get it back right away.” She handed baby Egbert to the soldier, but the lifeboat was lowered before he handed the child back. She watched the ship sink and feared her child was dead. “I was quaking,” she said. When she boarded a rescue vessel several hours later, someone placed a bundle in her arms. Her baby had been saved!

Passengers recall the horrific screams as the Gustloff sunk below the surface within an hour of the torpedoes’ impact. Those in the sea quickly succumbed to the icy water. Rescue boats arrived and picked up as many as 900 survivors, but the surface of the sea was littered with the dead. The risk of enemy submarine attacks remained and rescue efforts abandoned after one navy barge was nearly struck by two more torpedoes, missing its hull by mere inches.  

The magnitude of the incident became somewhat lost in the headlines of war. World War II was months away from ending and Russia suppressed news of the disaster for another 50 years. The fate of the ship was not made public in Germany during the war and publishing tales of Germany’s hardship was prohibited in East Germany after the war. As we approach the 75th anniversary of the tragic sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, you can search for more news related to this maritime disaster on Newspapers.com today.

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Rutland Herald Celebrates 225th Anniversary!

The award-winning Rutland Herald in Rutland, Vermont, has reached a milestone that few papers in America can claim – they are celebrating their 225th anniversary! We are pleased to announce that we’ve added this collection of papers dating back to 1794.

President George Washington steps down, Rutland Herald – 1797

The Rutland Herald launched as a weekly in December 1794 when George Washington was president and just 11 years after the end of the Revolutionary War. The paper had the goal of providing a “useful and entertaining paper.” When searching early editions of the Herald, keep in mind that during this era printers often used Old English text and a letter called the ‘medial S’. The letter looks like an ‘f’ and is found throughout early editions. For example, this clipping from 1798 is an advertisement for the return of two apprentice boys that ran away from their keepers or subscribers. The text, however, appears to read “fubfcribers”.

In the mid-1790s, a yellow fever epidemic plagued the eastern United States. The Herald reported that scores of people were evacuating Manhattan and Philadelphia to avoid the disease. Cities along the eastern seaboard took measures to prevent the fever from spreading. About a hundred years later, in 1894, Rutland became ground zero for the first outbreak of polio in the United States. Dr. C. S. Caverly of Rutland carefully tracked the disease’s progression and published a paper to educate others.

Vermont’s marble industry dates back to 1784 and workers from countries including England and Ireland arrived in Rutland to work in the quarries. Master carvers and stone cutters came from Italy where Carrara was known as the center of the marble industry. Those immigrant communities brought their customs and traditions to Rutland and helped shape the community.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, the Rutland Herald published a letter asking the women of Vermont to sew white linen cap covers meant to reflect harsh sun and heat and keep soldiers from the Vermont 1st, 2nd and 3rd Regiments cool. The paper also reported on 11-year-old Willie Johnston. He enlisted as a drummer boy in the 3rd Vermont Infantry. In 1863, the Rutland Herald reported that Johnston had become the youngest recipient of the Medal of Honor for heroic actions taken during the Seven Days Battles.

In November 1927, the worst natural disaster in Vermont history occurred when devastating floods claimed 84 lives including that of Vermont’s Lt. Governor. More than eight inches of rain fell between November 2-3, creating raging torrents that washed out roads, bridges, and destroyed buildings.

Do you have ancestors from Rutland? The Rutland Herald contains birth announcements, wedding news, and obituaries. You can search for news from other cities in Vermont, New York, and even Canada. Start searching the Rutland Herald today on Newspapers.com!

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Life and Light in the Dead of Winter

From Kwanzaa candles to Christmas’s electric festoons, end-of-year holidays bring light to the northern hemisphere’s darkest months. Light crackling and twinkling merrily against a frozen winter backdrop is a promise of warmth to come, both physically and metaphorically, and humanity has many traditions to celebrate that promise.

Heat the Hearth

The tradition of burning a yule log to celebrate the winter solstice hearkens back to pre-medieval times. The practice cleared the air, so to speak, of the past year, and merry-makers welcomed the return of spring. Like many wintertime traditions, this one was eventually adopted into Christian celebrations. The logs grew smaller to match shrinking fireplaces, and for many the practice of baking log-shaped cakes replaced the original burning tradition.

Royal Christmas Card from Duke and Duchess of York:

Royal Christmas Card from Duke and Duchess of York: “Bringing in the Yule Log” Sun, Oct 31, 1926 – 133 · Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) · Newspapers.com

Candle Customs

Throughout the festival of Hanukkah, eight candles are lit in memory of a successful rebellion and a miracle of oil.

Hannukiah, Chanukah menorah, presented 1951

Hannukiah, Chanukah menorah, presented 1951 Fri, Mar 23, 1951 – Page 6 · The Times Record (Troy, New York) · Newspapers.com

Kwanzaa sees candles lit as well. Seven candles of red, black, and green, each one a reminder of Kwanzaa’s core principles.

Lightling the Kwanzaa candles, 1975

Lightling the Kwanzaa candles, 1975 Sat, Dec 27, 1975 – Page 7 · The Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) · Newspapers.com

Saint Lucia, a Christian martyr celebrated mostly in Italy and Scandinavian countries, is represented with a crown of candles to light the way and keep her hands free to help those around her.

Saint Lucia and her candle crown

Saint Lucia and her candle crown Thu, Dec 13, 1979 – 53 · The Vancouver Sun (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) · Newspapers.com

Christmas trees were traditionally lit with candles, despite the risk of fire and the fiddly nature of trying to place candles on unstable branches. One legend claims Martin Luther, historic figure of the Protestant Reformation, was the first to so trim a tree.

Lights in the tree like stars in the forest, Martin Luther legend

Lights in the tree like stars in the forest, Martin Luther legend Fri, Dec 23, 1904 – Page 1 · Breathitt County News (Jackson, Kentucky) · Newspapers.com

It’s Electric

In 1882, Christmas went electric when Edward Johnson, VP of the Edison Electric Light Company, displayed a tree in his New York home illuminated with electric lights. President Grover Cleveland’s family Christmas tree shone bright with multicolored bulbs in 1894.

Grover Cleveland's electrically lit Christmas Tree, 1894

Grover Cleveland’s electrically lit Christmas Tree, 1894 Tue, Dec 25, 1894 – 1 · () · Newspapers.com

The bright shine of festive electricity remained out of reach for most until the turn of the century, when slightly more affordable pre-wired string lights made an appearance. General Electric was the first to introduce them in 1903. But when their attempt to patent the invention fell through, the market opened to competitors and prices began to drop.

What yearly traditions bring light to your winter days?

Find more about light-centered traditions like those above with a search on Newspapers.com.

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Christmas Miracle: Mother Reunites with Kidnapped Son Missing 41 Years!

In December 1936, Camilla Warner reunited with her long-lost son 41 years after he was kidnapped and given away for adoption without her consent. She called it a Christmas miracle made possible by generous strangers across the country who were touched by her story.

In 1895, Warner, just 18-years-old, lost her young husband when he died in an accident. Pregnant with their first child, she worried about how she could provide for her son alone. She was also a new immigrant, having arrived from Denmark just two years earlier. Determined to keep her child, Warner got a job as a waitress and made arrangements with a maternity home to care for the baby while she was at work. In exchange, she promised to work for a year to pay her expenses.

One day I saw them taking the baby in the office,” she recalled. “He was the prettiest one in the nursery, and people were always wanting to adopt him. They told me they were just showing him to someone.”

When Warner went to pick up her son after work, they told her he’d been taken away by a man in a shiny carriage. A devastated Warner began searching for him vowing that she would never stop. “Nowadays there are kidnapping laws, but then the law of the six-shooter ruled Nebraska, she said. “I spent all the money I had searching for him.”

Weeks turned to months, then years, and finally decades. Warner never gave up hope. She later remarried and moved to California. In December 1936, she had a vivid dream where her son appeared to her. “He had a son with him. I said, ‘what a fine boy’ and my son kissed me,” she said. Later that day Warner found a letter under her doorstep. It included an advertisement placed by a 41-year-old Nebraska man who was searching for his mother and a note that asked, “Am I your son?” It was from Richard Douglas Foster, the baby she hadn’t seen in 41 years. He too had been searching relentlessly for her.

Anxious to reunite, neither of them had the money to make the trip to meet each other. The story was picked up by papers across the country and Canada, and as word spread, “a score of Santa Clauses made their appearance,” donating a railroad ticket, new clothing, and money to make the reunion possible. Camilla left Los Angeles and her son Richard started driving west from Scottsbluff. The two met in Yoder, Wyoming just before Christmas where they tearfully embraced. “From now on,” Warner said, “I will begin to live.” She lived out the final 13 years of her life with the love of her new-found family before passing away in 1949. Richard died two decades later in 1971. His obituary listed the name of his mother thanks to the reunion made possible by their Christmas miracle that occurred 35 years earlier.

Historic newspapers are full of more touching holiday stories like this one. To read more,

start searching Newspapers.com today!

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