This Week in History – Romanov Execution

Story on the Romanovs, May 1918Story on the Romanovs, May 1918 Thu, May 16, 1918 – 8 · Cherokee Harmonizer (Centre, Alabama) ·

In the early morning hours of July 17, 1918, the exiled Romanov family and loyal servants were murdered by Bolshevik guards under the orders of Vladmir Lenin. The executions were so concealed and misinformation so thoroughly woven around the event that for years no one knew what happened to the czar and his family.

Rumors of the death of the ex-czarRumors of the death of the ex-czar Sun, Dec 22, 1918 – Page 7A · The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (Fort Wayne, Indiana) ·

Suspicious details, but no proofSuspicious details, but no proof Sun, Dec 22, 1918 – Page 7A · The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (Fort Wayne, Indiana) ·

Nearly a decade later Soviet leaders confessed to the murders, though they absolved themselves of direct involvement and responsibility. The truth came out in patchy pieces. It wasn’t just the czar who had met a violent end, but his family as well, a fact which didn’t sit well even with detractors. The following clipping shares a (slightly graphic) account of the family’s last moments.

Graphic description of Romanov murdersGraphic description of Romanov murders Sun, Nov 11, 1928 – 119 · The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) ·

It took decades for the bodies to finally be found. In 1998, 80 years after their deaths, the family was buried together in St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint Petersburg.

Find more on the rough politics leading up to this moment and on the deaths of the Romanovs with a search on And of course there is much to be found about the youngest daughter, Anastasia, and the many impersonations that would follow speculations of her survival.

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5 of the Strangest Sports You’ve Never Heard Of

Bored? How about sticking ferrets down your pants or sitting on top of a flagpole? Strange as they may sound, these are real sports—there’s even evidence in the newspapers!

From the weird to the wacky, we’ve collected 5 of the strangest sports people have participated in over the years. Check them out!

Ferret Legging
Ever felt inspired to put two sharp-toothed, carnivorous, weasel-like animals down your pants and let them run around? No? Well, it’s a real thing people have done.

Called “ferret legging,” the sport was popularized in Great Britain in the 1970s. It entails putting the ferrets (who can’t be sedated or missing teeth) down your pants, which are tied at waist and ankle to prevent an escape. No undergarments are allowed, and you can’t be drunk (though the idea of someone attempting this without being drunk boggles the mind). Then you see how long you can endure the gnawing, clawing, and biting of the squirming, furry creatures. Amazingly, the record is five-and-a-half hours.

Ferrets put in pants to gain record, 1972Ferrets put in pants to gain record, 1972 Sat, Jan 29, 1972 – 3 · Orlando Evening Star (Orlando, Florida) ·
Balloon Jumping
Touted as the “next innovation” in 1924, “balloon jumping” (or “hopping”) was set to take off as the next big thing in the 1920s. Basically, you attach yourself to a balloon whose lift is slightly less than your own weight. (So if you weighed 150 pounds, you would use a balloon whose lift was 100 pounds.) Theoretically, this was supposed to allow you to “casually jump over lakes, trees, houses, moving automobiles, and almost anything else,” because you would essentially “weigh” only 50 pounds, while your muscles would be used to moving 150 pounds. The sport never really caught on, however, due to the dangers of the sport, including the high-profile death of one of its early adopters.

Balloon jumping photo, 1928Balloon jumping photo, 1928 Tue, Sep 18, 1928 – Page 24 · Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York) ·
Flagpole Sitting
Also a product of the 1920s was the baffling sensation of “flagpole sitting,” which was exactly what the name implies: set up a little platform on the top of a flagpole and see how long you can sit there. The stunt attracted crowds and made celebrities out of those daring enough to do it, such as Betty Fox and Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly. Kelly’s record for flagpole sitting was an astounding 49 days!

Shipwreck Kelly demonstrates flagpole sitting, 1928Shipwreck Kelly demonstrates flagpole sitting, 1928 Mon, May 21, 1928 – Page 1 · The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) ·
Snail Racing
No one really knows how long people have been racing snails, but mentions of it began cropping up in newspapers in the 1880s. At that time, it was said to be all the rage in Paris, where enthusiasts would race snails on a smooth board with a lighted candle at one end. The rules of later iterations of the sport got more intricate, with standardized course lengths, time limits, bait restrictions, and handicap guidelines. Reportedly, snail racing got so popular in Paris that in 1912 it had to be banned in governmental offices because the clerks were betting on the races.

Snail racing has seen resurgences in popularity over the years and remains a pastime today, with the annual World Snail Racing Championships taking place in England.

Snail racing, 1963Snail racing, 1963 Sun, Nov 10, 1963 – Page 58 · Press and Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, New York) ·
Toe Wrestling
If feet weird you out, this next sport is not for you. In “toe wrestling,” two competitors lock toes and then try to turn the foot of their opponent, though apparently the toe hold is often broken before either foot is turned. Another variation created in 1974 involves only locking big toes with your opponent. This type of “toe wrestling” is not to be confused with a popular older game by the same name in which two opponents seated on the ground used their feet to try to make the other player lose his  balance.

Toe wrestling, 1968Toe wrestling, 1968 Mon, Oct 7, 1968 – Page 8 · The Petaluma Argus-Courier (Petaluma, California) ·
Learn more about these sports and others by searching on And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more interesting historical content like this!

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Early Household Appliances

News, Finds, Tips of the Month

In 1910, it took 12 hours a day to do the housework (six hours for cooking alone)! Domestic chores were no walk in the park. Take a look at these ads for newly invented household appliances from the early 1900’s. These time-saving devices would revolutionize domestic life!

Hoover Suction Sweeper 1912
The Hoover Suction Sweeper: The first upright vacuum was invented by James M. Spangler, a janitor at an Ohio department store. He rigged a device to clean floors then filed a patent for his design. Spangler sold the patent to his cousin’s wife, William Henry Hoover. Hoover improved the design and started the “Electric Suction Sweeper Company.”

The Thor Washing Machine: In 1909, women swooned over Thor – the washing machine not the superhero! The Thor washing machine was an electric powered washing machine that took the place of galvanized tubs, washboards and elbow grease. It revolutionized wash day in America!

Drum-type clothes dryer invented by J. Ross Moore
Clothes Dryer: Tired of not being able to hang laundry out to dry in frigid North Dakota winters, J. Ross Moore invented the clothes dryer. The dryers were sold under the name “June Day” beginning in 1938.

Hot Point Iron: In 1910, a company called Hotpoint developed an electric iron that was hotter at the tip making it easier to iron ruffles and around button holes. Soon everyone wanted the iron with the hot point!

1913 Refrigerator
Refrigerator: This 1913 refrigerator shows the latest and greatest in refrigeration technology. These icebox type refrigerators kept food cool with blocks of ice that needed to be replenished regularly.

Electric Refrigerator: By 1918, Frigidaire started mass producing electric refrigerators for home use – and no ice required!

Electric Dishwasher: Tired of washing dishes? In 1920, you could wheel in this portable electric dishwasher, load it and press a button. Voila!

Electric Oven 1913
Electric Oven: For about $10, families could buy this 1913 “El Bako” countertop electric oven. It was 14-inches square and constructed of one-inch thick steel walls to maintain heat. It had three heat levels: low, medium and high.

Does your family have any of grandma’s old appliances kicking around? Tell us about it and search our archives for other fun finds!

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This Week in History – Long, Hard War Being Predicted

Found in a July 13, 1942 Connecticut paper, this article warns that 1944 would be the earliest possible end date for the ongoing war.

Long Hard War Being PredictedLong Hard War Being Predicted Mon, Jul 13, 1942 – Page 1 · Naugatuck Daily News (Naugatuck, Connecticut) ·

This was just one of many articles printed in papers throughout WWII that foresaw a slow end to the deadliest conflict in history, a war that had already been going on for years and promised to last for several more. As we know, the estimates were pretty accurate; Japan’s official surrender ended the war at last in August, 1945.

Find more on WWII and important headlines from the time with a search or browse on

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Emma Lazarus and The New Colossus

Most recognize the lines, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” as an excerpt from the plaque affixed to the base of the Statue of Liberty. But do you know the rest of the sonnet, or the name of the woman responsible for its existence?

Emma Lazarus, Poet of LibertyEmma Lazarus, Poet of Liberty Mon, Oct 27, 1986 – 26 · Wausau Daily Herald (Wausau, Wisconsin) ·

Emma Lazarus obituaryEmma Lazarus obituary Thu, Nov 24, 1887 – 4 · The Altoona Tribune (Altoona, Pennsylvania) ·

Lazarus’ poetic talent was recognized and encouraged by friends like Ralph Waldo Emerson, and often inspired by her concern for the plight of Russian Jews seeking refuge from the rampant antisemitism and political turmoil in Russia at the time. She was widely published and well-respected in her day, and in 1883 was asked to join in a fundraising effort to build the base of the yet-to-be-acquired Statue of Liberty. Though she initially declined, her passion for the topic led her to write “The New Colossus.”

Almost didn't write the poemAlmost didn’t write the poem Sun, Oct 26, 1986 – Page 4 · The Anniston Star (Anniston, Alabama) ·

The poem was well-received, but wasn’t yet as tied to the imagery of the statue as it is today. The statue arrived in 1885 and was unveiled, and two years after that Emma Lazarus died, having suffered from cancer for several years. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that her friend brought renewed attention to Lazarus’ poem and suggested a plaque be added to the statue in her memory.

Her friend brought recognition to the sonnetHer friend brought recognition to the sonnet Wed, Nov 5, 1986 – Page 21 · Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico) ·

Lazarus’ now-famous poem is shown in full in the clipping below:

Emma Lazarus' sonnet, Emma Lazarus’ sonnet, “The New Colossus” Thu, Jul 13, 1939 – Page 6 · The Des Moines Register (Des Moines, Iowa) ·

Find more on Lazarus and the history of the statue with a search on

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This Week in History – A Declaration

Happy Independence Day! In the weeks following the official adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, papers across the new nation shared the news.

In Congress, July 4, 1776. A DeclarationIn Congress, July 4, 1776. A Declaration Wed, Jul 10, 1776 – Page 1 · The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) ·

Find more on the declaration, its signers, and other early U.S. history with a search on

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July 5th: First Casualty of the Korean War

Robert F. Kennedy Fatally Shot: June 5, 1968

If your understanding of the Korean War comes from watching the TV show M*A*S*H, you’re not alone. The Korean War has been referred to as the forgotten war. July 5th marks the 68th anniversary of the first American casualty of the war. With North Korea dominating headlines again, we’ve explored our archives to give you a brief overview of the Korean War from the headlines as it happened.

Korean War Ends
At the end of WWII, Korea was divided into zones. The Soviets occupied North Korea where communism reigned, and the US occupied South Korea. Both Koreas longed for unification —but each on their own terms. The communist leader of the North, Kim II Sung, attempted to unify the Koreas by force when on June 25, 1950, he ordered 75,000 soldiers to spill over the 38th parallel line into the South. Five days later, President Harry S. Truman ordered US troops into action as America sought to stop the spread of communism.

By August, North Korean troops had taken control of Seoul and much of the country. In September, under General Douglas MacArthur, the US launched a major counter-offensive and drove Northern troops back to the 38th parallel line and continued across it until troops nearly reached the Chinese border. The Chinese government fearing invasion sent 200,000 soldiers to bolster North Korea.

With the help of China, and support from the Soviets, North Korea pushed US troops back across the 38th parallel again. Fighting was intense. Among significant battles were the Battle of Inchon and the Battle of Chosin. US losses and a disagreement in strategy spurred President Truman to fire General MacArthur. General Matthew B. Ridgway took over command.

Nearly three years after the war started, it ended right where it started – at the 38th parallel line. The US lost 36,500 soldiers. There was no clear winner and no peace treaty established. An armistice was adopted designating a DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) that separated North from South. Nearly 70 years later, the Korean peninsula remains divided.

Kim II Sung remained the North’s leader until his death in 1994 when his son Kim Jong II took over. After Kim Jong II’s death in 2011, Kim Jong Un, the son of Kim Jong II and grandson of Kim Sung II was named Supreme Commander.

Do you have a relative that fought in the Korean War? Tell us about it! You can search our archives to find more articles about the war! You can also access Korean War casualty records on

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The War Beneath the Trenches

Though it existed before WWI, trench warfare was so commonly used during that conflict that the two are now inexorably linked. Less well-known—in fact, barely known about at all—were the battles that took place even farther into the earth, in the dark, silent tunnels that stretched beneath the trenches.

Perhaps the most notable name to go along with this particular piece of history is that of John Norton-Griffiths, an MP for Wednesbury, Staffordshire, and, significantly, an engineer with a specialty in mining.

Sir John Norton GriffithsSir John Norton Griffiths Fri, Oct 10, 1930 – Page 15 · Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls, South Dakota) ·

It was his idea to form bands of skilled miners to tunnel into enemy territory (or more accurately, beneath it). Mining teams would deflect opposing tunneling teams and place mines under enemy lines themselves. It was slow, tense work. German tunnelers were digging at the same time, and neither side knew if or when they might stumble into the path of the other. Always there was the possibility of running out of oxygen, being buried alive, or being blown up by enemy miners.

Mining warfareMining warfare Sun, Jul 11, 1915 – 28 · The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) ·

The strength of this secretive style of fighting showed itself most in the early hours of June 7, 1917, at Messines Ridge in northern France. British tunnelers had managed to evade German opposition in the world beneath the surface and successfully used the tunnels to detonate mines directly beneath German trenches. The effect was devastating on German troops; 10,000 soldiers were killed and the rest quickly overcome in the attack that followed above ground.

John Norton-Griffiths mining schemeJohn Norton-Griffiths mining scheme Sun, Sep 28, 1930 – 18 · The Observer (London, Greater London, England) ·

Explosion at Messines RidgeExplosion at Messines Ridge Sat, Jun 16, 1917 – Page 1 · Fair Play (Sainte Genevieve, Missouri) ·

Mine explosions at Messines RidgeMine explosions at Messines Ridge Sat, Jun 16, 1917 – Page 1 · Fair Play (Sainte Genevieve, Missouri) ·

The blast was so profoundly loud that it was said to be heard as far as London, 140 miles away.

British premier David Lloyd George hears blast from LondonBritish premier David Lloyd George hears blast from London Sat, Jun 16, 1917 – Page 1 · Fair Play (Sainte Genevieve, Missouri) ·

After Messines the pace of the war outstripped the speed of the miners, and the tactic of tunneling fell out of significant and practical use. The skills of Norton-Griffiths’ tunneling companies were redistributed in other arenas, now mostly above ground. Only after the end of WWI did knowledge of this underground war begin to come to light.

Find more on John Norton-Griffiths, the mining companies of the Royal Engineers, and the Battle of Messines with a search on

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