The Atlanta Constitution

If you have ancestors from Georgia, or you’re interested in Civil War history or Georgia history, we’re thrilled to add The Atlanta Constitution to our growing newspaper archives. We have issues dating back to 1868!


The Constitution started in 1868. The nation was just emerging from the Civil War. The city of Atlanta had been virtually destroyed just four years earlier when General William T. Sherman’s troops set fire as they left, burning 4,500 homes. Only 400 homes survived. The smoldering ruins had cooled but wounds were still raw. Atlanta was operating under martial law.

Three partners got together to buy a small newspaper, The Opinion. Carey Wentworth Styles, James H. Anderson, and W.A. Hemphill decided it was time to lift martial law and return to a constitutional form of government. They changed the paper’s name to The Constitution.

The population of Atlanta was small back then. The entire city could fit in SunTrust Park with seats to spare! Atlanta welcomed new arrivals with open arms. Help was needed to rebuild. When a ship full of immigrants from Germany was blown off course and ended up in the South instead of Baltimore, an article reprinted in the Atlanta Constitution said, “We extend a hearty welcome to the new comers.” They are “just such as are needed at this time to rebuild broken fortunes of our beloved State and City.”

Evan P. Howell, a great rebuilder of the city, bought a controlling interest in the paper in 1876. In 1887, The Constitution introduced the South’s first women’s page called “Society Salad.” It announced marriages, cotillions, anniversaries, and news from outlying communities like Buford and Conyers. It’s a wonderful resource for piecing together the family tree of early citizens.

Today, Atlanta is Georgia’s largest city and a center of culture and industry. Coca-Cola was founded here in 1891. One of the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International, started out as the tiny Candler Field in 1925. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born and is buried here, and the city hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics.

The Atlanta Constitution, as the paper came to be known, attracted top notch talent like Clark Howell and Henry W. Grady who helped shaped the paper and the city. In 1950, The Atlanta Constitution and The Atlanta Journal merged ownership but continued to operate separate papers until 2001 when they combined publication. Today Cox Media Group maintains The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s dominant position as the largest daily newspaper publisher in the Southeast. The paper has been awarded numerous Pulitzer Prizes.

You can access issues of The Atlanta Constitution through 1922 with a basic subscription; issues between 1923-2001 are copyrighted and accessible with Publisher Extra. Search The Atlanta Constitution archives here.

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Beale’s Ciphers

In the 1820s, a man named Thomas Jefferson Beale left a box with an innkeeper in Lynchburg, VA. The box contained three ciphers that would lead to the location of a great treasure: one would describe the treasure, one would explain the treasure’s location, and one would name the owners of the treasure.

Alas, Beale mysteriously disappeared before he could provide the keys to crack the code. The cipher that detailed the contents of the treasure was solved with the help of the Declaration of Independence, but the keys for the other two, like the treasure itself, have never been found. Beale’s treasure is just out there, somewhere, waiting for the right person to stumble on the key and solve the puzzle. 

At least, so the story goes.

The Beale TreasureThe Beale Treasure Wed, Nov 11, 1987 – 21 · The News Leader (Staunton, Virginia) · Newspapers.com

The ciphersThe ciphers Sat, Aug 24, 1996 – Page 8 · Indiana Gazette (Indiana, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

There’s a pretty hefty debate about the legitimacy of the whole thing, or whether Beale was even a real person. Most tend to fall on the side of disbelief, but some avid treasure-hunters have worked tirelessly on cracking the code. In many cases, attempts to read the cipher have been for nothing more than good fun and the satisfaction of figuring out if it says anything, even if the treasure doesn’t exist.

The Pot at the End of the CipherThe Pot at the End of the Cipher Tue, Dec 30, 1986 – 19 · The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) · Newspapers.com

With so many questions, suspicious clues, and dead ends, it seems the wisest course of action for those curious about the ciphers and their hidden treasure would be to listen to the words of the mysterious pamphlet author who brought this whole thing to light back in the 1880s:

Author's Warning: Beale CiphersAuthor’s Warning: Beale Ciphers Thu, Sep 2, 1999 – 39 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.com

There’s so much more about this story than can be wrangled into one short post—search Newspapers.com for more on Thomas Beale, the ciphers, the clues and the context of the whole bizarre business. Lots of really interesting stuff!

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Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

News, Finds, Tips of the Month

What do Chef Brockett, Mr. McFeely, King Friday and Daniel Striped Tiger have in common? If you’re humming “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” then put on your sneakers, zip up your cardigan, and let’s take a magical trolley ride down memory lane.


Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood first aired February 19, 1968, on black-and-white television screens. At that time, nobody could have predicted that the show would continue on for 33 seasons and nearly 1,000 episodes. Fred Rogers, with his kind and soft-spoken voice, won the hearts of children and their parents. He embraced “make believe” with his puppets and explored things that might seem strange or threatening to a child, like a visit to the doctor or physical handicaps. He promoted values and wanted children to feel safe. Early on in his career, Rogers told The Decatur Daily Review, “We are trying to build the imagination of the child. There is no real work or sport for preschoolers. Their sport and their work is their imaginative play,” Rogers said.

Rogers saw his first television in 1951 during his senior year of college. He immediately recognized that TV could be a powerful educational tool for children. In 1953, Rogers developed his first show, The Children’s Corner, for WQED Pittsburgh. He was the puppeteer, composer, and organist. The success of The Children’s Corner later led to the creation of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. As the show prepared to wrap its final season, Rogers gave an interview to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pointing to a framed quote on the wall that read “Life Is For Service,” Rogers said it was based on a favorite sign from Rollins College, his alma mater. “I’ve never tried to make a decision that had to do with selfishness. I think we certainly have done the kind of work I have wanted to do for children and one of the avenues has been the Neighborhood,” he said.

Rogers passed away on February 27, 2003, of stomach cancer, but his legacy continues. A documentary film commemorating the life of Rogers called Won’t You Be My Neighbor premiered in select theaters on June 8. You can find many more newspaper articles about Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood in our archives. Do you have any memories of Mr. Rogers? Share them with us!

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This Week in History – Coney Island’s Coaster

On June 16, 1884, a thrill like none other opens to the public at Coney Island. Back then it was called a switchback railway, but we know it today as the first successful American roller coaster.

First Roller CoasterFirst Roller Coaster Thu, Nov 6, 1919 – 7 · The Mullinville News (Mullinville, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

The roller coaster was the concept of inventor and businessman LaMarcus Thompson, and earned him the nickname “Father of the American Roller Coaster.”

LaMarcus Thompson's ideaLaMarcus Thompson’s idea Sat, Jun 23, 1984 – Page 43 · Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York) · Newspapers.com

The coaster never went more than 6 mph—a good thing, since the invention of wheels that actually connected to the track was still a few years away—and drops were minimal. But the roller coaster was such a novelty that it found massive success with the crowds that regularly flocked to Coney Island.

They FreakedThey Freaked Sun, Jun 17, 1984 – 8 · Daily News (New York, New York) · Newspapers.com

It may not seem like much to us now, but it was only the beginning. We have the gentle ups and downs of that original “switchback railway” to thank for the the twisting, turning, stomach-churning rides we know and love—or hate—today.

Find more like this with a search on Newspapers.com. 

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Social Media for the 19th Century Dummy

“There are lots of people who may be interested in you and your friends. You owe it to them to let [your] friends and their friends know of their doings.”

Sounds like the reason many people post to social media, doesn’t it? But this quote isn’t talking about social media—at least, not social media as we know it today. It actually comes from an 1899 editorial about newspaper social columns.

A Different Kind of Social Media
Long before we were posting everything about our lives on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and a host of other social media platforms, Americans in past centuries were sharing the same tidbits from their lives in their local newspapers. Illnesses, injuries, vacations, guests, anniversaries, birthdays, business ventures, children’s antics, surprising events . . . they all were reported in the local social column.

(From the Schuylkill Haven Call, 05.29.1903)

(From the Schuylkill Haven Call, 05.29.1903)

These columns went by a variety of names and descriptions—“local happenings,” “personal paragraphs,” “society notes,” “items of interest,” and “brevities,” just to name a few. They were a staple of American newspapers from small and mid-sized towns for nearly a century, starting around the 1880s.

These social columns were an important way residents of a town stayed connected with each other. People turned to the local paper for news about the people they knew, and the newspapers catered to that curiosity.

Wondering why the man down the street is always wearing dark glasses? A look in the paper would tell you that he’s receiving eye treatments. Or curious why your acquaintance didn’t show up to a club meeting? The newspaper might reveal that she was shopping in the city that day.

Social Sharing—19th Century Style
Notices about local residents’ lives made it into the social columns in a variety of ways. Some papers gathered content on local happenings through their editors, reporters, or correspondents, but others relied on local residents to provide the information themselves.

(From the Gaffney Ledger, 03.27.1908)

(From the Gaffney Ledger, 03.27.1908)

And many people did submit the events of their daily lives. Much like today, if a person wanted their neighbors to know about an event in their life, they would post it—just in the newspaper rather than on Facebook.

“Harry, little son of John Cashman, while sitting on the fence […] watching a game of ball, fell to the ground breaking his left arm. The lad is rather unfortunate, as only a few months ago he broke his right arm.”

Sure, the language from 1902 is dated, but it’s easy to imagine the boy’s mother in 2018 posting a photo to Instagram of little Harry and his two broken arms, with a facepalm emoji in the caption.

It seems that people, no matter the era, want to know what their friends are up to—and want share what they are doing themselves. So next time you’re scrolling through your news feed, remember that your great-grandma may have likewise perused her local newspaper’s selection of “Pertinent Paragraphs Pertaining Principally to People and Pointedly Printed.”

Check out some of our favorite social column clippings in the slideshow below!

(Harrisburg Telegraph, 06.06.1888) (Harrisburg Telegraph, 06.06.1888, via Newspapers.com) (Gaffney Ledger, 03.27.1908, via Newspapers.com) (Gaffney Ledger, 03.27.1908, via Newspapers.com) (Los Angeles Herald, 05.25.1893, via Newspapers.com) (Winfield Courier, 01.21.1897, via Newspapers.com) (Canonsburg Notes, 10.14.1892, via Newspapers.com) (Adams County Independent, 11.01.1902, via Newspapers.com) (Adams County Independent, 09.27.1902, via Newspapers.com) (Axtell Standard, 08.04.1932, via Newspapers.com)

Find more examples of social columns on Newspapers.com. And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more interesting historical content like this!

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This Week in History – D-Day

This week marks the anniversary of 1944’s famous D-Day. In the early hours of June 6th, thousands of Allied troops came from sky and sea to invade the beaches of Normandy, France, in hopes of finally regaining control of mainland Europe.

Allies Invade Nazi EuropeAllies Invade Nazi Europe Tue, Jun 6, 1944 – Page 9 · Kingsport News (Kingsport, Tennessee) · Newspapers.com

As with most plans in life and in war, it did not go exactly as hoped; the invasion of Omaha Beach was especially brutal and only narrowly avoided failure, and some supplies never made it to shore. But on the whole the operation was considered a definite success, a pivotal turning point in the war that would lead to the liberation of France from Axis control and pave the way for Allied victory the following year.

France InvadedFrance Invaded Tue, Jun 6, 1944 – Page 1 · The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

Yank ParatroopersYank Paratroopers Wed, Jun 7, 1944 – 18 · Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut) · Newspapers.com

D-Day Puts War in FranceD-Day Puts War in France Tue, Jun 6, 1944 – Page 5 · Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota) · Newspapers.com

Find more on this important piece of WWII history with a search on Newspapers.com.

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Robert F. Kennedy Fatally Shot: June 5, 1968

Robert F. Kennedy Fatally Shot: June 5, 1968

Fifty years ago this month, Robert F. “Bobby” Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles moments after stepping off the stage where he claimed victory in the California presidential primary election. Kennedy died the next day. The gunman was 22-year-old Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan who later confessed to the crime.

Senate pays tribute to Robert F. Kennedy
The news stunned the world. Senators paid tribute to Kennedy, and religious leaders exclaimed, “Something’s wrong with us!” When word of the shooting made its way to Vietnam, one American soldier responded saying, “What the hell is going on back there?”

Kennedy campaigned aggressively in California, crisscrossing the state. He won with a narrow victory. The mood was celebratory the night of June 5, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel. Kennedy addressed the crowd shortly after midnight and exited the ballroom through a kitchen. Sirhan rushed towards him in a narrow corridor and shot him at close range.

The gun was wrestled away as Sirhan continued firing resulting in five others being wounded including William Weisel, Paul Schrade, Elizabeth Evans, Ira Goldstein, and Irwin Stroll. The cheers and applause heard seconds before quickly turned to screams and panic when the shots rang out.

Kennedy was rushed to Good Samaritan Hospital where doctors performed surgery but were unable to save him. At the time of Kennedy’s assassination, presidential candidates did not have Secret Service security. His death stirred Congress to pass a law providing that protection for future candidates.

Kennedy’s death came just five years after that of his brother, President John F. Kennedy. Robert Kennedy’s body was flown to New York, where he lay in repose at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral before burial. The nation mourned with Kennedy’s widow Ethel and his 10 young children. An eleventh child was born after Kennedy’s death.

In 2016, Sirhan was denied parole for the 15th time and remains in prison today. What do you remember about the day Robert F. Kennedy was shot? You can search our archives to find more articles on his life and death. You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for trending news and updates!

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Smoky the 4 Pound Military Dog

In an adorably unexpected moment of WWII, a tiny Yorkshire Terrier was found in a foxhole in New Guinea by an American soldier. Already fully grown to her total of 4 lbs this tiny little pup found herself in the company of Corporal William A. Wynne, with whom she stayed through the end of the war and for years afterward.

SmokySmoky Sun, Jul 14, 1996 – 24 · News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio) · Newspapers.com

The dog was named Smoky, and over the last two years of the war she accompanied Wynne on 12 combat missions and dozens of air raids, and entertained troops and the hospitalized wounded with tricks she learned during downtime. Those tricks served her well after the war too, used to entertain the world on tours and TV shows. Millions of people knew and loved Smoky the War Dog.

Mon, Apr 29, 1996 – Page 130 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) · Newspapers.com

About 50 years after Smoky’s death, a monument was made with a life-size sculpture of the photo that made her famous—Smoky sitting in an upturned steel helmet. It was placed over the spot where Smoky was buried, and stands in honor of Smoky and all dogs who have served in wars across the decades.

Smoky MemorialSmoky Memorial Fri, Nov 11, 2005 – 1 · News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio) · Newspapers.com

Find more on Smoky and Wynne with a search on Newspapers.com.

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