Destruction of the 1890 Census

1890 United States Federal Census Fragment sample image.

Genealogists and historians have lamented the loss of the 1890 census for more than a century. When researchers inquire about the 1890 census, their questions are quickly dismissed with the explanation that a fire destroyed the records. The truth, however, is more complicated. The 1890 census records did sustain extensive smoke and water damage in two different fires (1896 and 1921), but the damaged records sat languishing in a warehouse until the 1930s when Congress ordered their destruction.

The 1890 census was unique for several reasons. For the first time, officials decided to gather data on a separate schedule for each family. Families answered questions about race, immigration and naturalization, the number of children born and living, and questions relating to service in the Civil War. It was also the first census that used punch cards and an electrical tabulation system.

After enumerators finished the 1890 census, the Department of the Interior stored portions in Washington D.C. in the basement of Marini’s Hall. On March 22, 1896, a night watchman discovered the rear of the building was on fire and notified the fire department. Firefighters arrived to find dense smoke pouring from the basement. Though they extinguished the flames before sunrise, the fire damaged or destroyed the special schedules for mortality, crime, pauperism, benevolence, special classes (e.g., deaf, blind, insane) and portions of the transportation and insurance schedules. The general population schedules, however, were safe and stored in the basement of the Commerce Building.

The Washington Post, January 11, 1921

On the evening of January 10, 1921, an employee at the Commerce Building noticed smoke rising through the elevator shaft and sounded the fire alarm. For hours, firefighters soaked the building with water to quench the flames. When the smoke cleared, archivists found 25 percent of the 1890 census schedules destroyed, while half of the rest sustained serious water damage. Government officials debated whether the burnt and waterlogged records could be salvaged.

This tragic fire spurred discussion about the need for national archives to hold public records. While awaiting funding for an archive building, Census Director William Steuart warned the damaged records would continue to deteriorate. Not much is known about what happened to the census records between 1922-1932, but in December 1932, the Chief Clerk of the Bureau of Census sent the Librarian of Congress a list of documents deemed no longer necessary and scheduled for destruction. Included in the list were the 1890 damaged census records. The Librarian approved the list and forwarded it to Congress who authorized it and the damaged records were destroyed. Ironically, just one day before Congress authorized the destruction of these records, President Herbert Hoover laid the cornerstone for the new National Archives Building.

In 1934, the National Archives Building opened in Washington, D.C. In 1942, officials found a damaged bundle of 1890 census records from Illinois that escaped destruction. In 1953, they also found fragments of records from Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and the District of Columbia. These rediscovered records comprise just a tiny fraction of the 1890 census, leaving 99.99 percent of the original records lost forever. Visit Ancestry.com to see the surviving 1890 census fragments, or search Newspapers.com to see more clippings about their destruction.

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8 Steps for Telling Your Ancestor’s Life Story with Newspapers

Do you know your ancestors’ names but not their stories? Historical newspapers are an important resource for discovering who your ancestors were beyond names and dates. But if you’re not sure where to start, read on to learn how to use Newspapers.com to piece together your ancestors’ life stories.

1. Build a basic timeline with the facts you already know.

Before you start searching for your ancestor’s story in newspapers, it helps to have at least a rough knowledge of when and where they lived. These basics will serve as the backbone for the story that you build and help guide you in your newspaper search.

Image from the 1880 census on Ancestry®
Image from the 1880 census on Ancestry®

One way to do this is by locating your ancestor in as many state and federal censuses as you can. Write down the year of the census and the city/county/state where the person was living. It may also be helpful to note their occupation (if provided) and who else was living in the household at the time. These facts can help you identify your ancestor when you begin your newspaper search. You can also use dates and locations pulled from other records, such as those for birth, marriage, and death.

2. Begin your newspaper search.

Enter your ancestor’s name into the Newspapers.com search bar. Scroll through some of the results to see if there are any likely hits for your ancestor. If there are too many results for people who aren’t your ancestor, try adding date, location, and other filters to narrow down the possibilities.

Remember, however, that people didn’t always appear in newspapers by their legal name. Try searching for your ancestor using nicknames, alternative names, initials, and misspellings. In older newspapers, men were often referred to by initials or abbreviations, and women were often referred to by their husbands’ names (e.g., Mrs. John Smith).

And here’s a tip: When you find a search that returns results for your ancestor, use the Save/Notify feature to be automatically alerted when we add new newspaper pages that have matches for your search.

3. Sort your search results chronologically.

Image showing how to sort results chronologically
Image showing how to sort results chronologically

It’s often easiest to understand how the events of a person’s life tie together when you learn about them in the order they happened—just like reading a biography. So once you’ve found search results for your ancestor, sort the results chronologically. This will help you see more easily how the newspaper articles you find fit with the timeline you made in Step 1.

The default for search results on Newspapers.com is “Best match,” but you can easily order them chronologically by choosing to sort them by “Paper date (oldest first),” which is found under “Sort” in the upper left of the search results page.

4. Start reading!

You’ve got your search results, so now it’s time to start reading! Using the image thumbnails on the search results page as a reference, open up articles that seem like they might be about your ancestor. The timeline you made before you started searching will help you determine which articles are about your ancestor and which are not. As you find articles about your ancestor, you’ll become more familiar with their life, making it easier to spot which other articles are about them too.

5. Clip the articles you find.

When you find articles about your ancestor, use our clipping tool to save them to your Newspapers.com account.

It’s important not only to clip the article but also to title the clipping in a way that will make it easy to find again. For example, the clipping’s title could include your ancestor’s name and a brief summary of the article. Then when you need to find that article again, you can simply go to your clippings page and search for the person’s name to quickly pull up all the articles you’ve clipped about them.

Example of helpful information to include in a clipping
Example of helpful information to include in a clipping

When making a clipping, you can also use the “Add more details” field to make notes about the clipping. For example, you could use this field to indicate details in the clipping you want to research further or to specify how the clipping ties into a larger story.

Another great feature of clippings is that you can easily share them on social media or via email. So if you find an article about your ancestor, you can post it to social media and ask your family members if they know anything else about the story. You can also save clippings to your Ancestry® tree.

6. Take notes along the way.

As you start reading newspaper articles about your ancestor, they’ll likely spark ideas about other people or topics to research. Make sure to take plenty of notes about these so you can come back and search them later. It’ll be tempting to research them right away, but that can lead you down a rabbit hole that takes you far away from the person you were originally researching. So instead make a note to return to it in the future.

It’s also a good idea to take notes about ways you could adjust your search terms. For instance, if you find an article that uses an alternative spelling of your ancestor’s name, make a note to come back later and search using that alternate spelling. 

7. Branch out.

Once you learn everything you can about your ancestor’s life by searching for their name, try searching for their family member’s names. People don’t exist in isolation, so learning about the stories of their family members can help you understand your ancestor. For example, your ancestor might not be mentioned by name in an article about a tragic death in the family, but it nevertheless likely had a direct impact on their life.

News from an ancestor's childhood about his father and uncle (Chicago Tribune, 11.09.1865)
News from an ancestor’s childhood about his father and uncle (Chicago Tribune, 11.09.1865)

Searching by family members names (particularly parents’ names) is especially key to learning about your ancestor’s early life, since adults are more likely than children to be mentioned by name in a newspaper. By doing this, you might find out that their family moved when your ancestor was young or that their father was injured in an accident—events that would have shaped your ancestor’s childhood.

8. Explore the social history of your ancestor’s life.

Learning about the time and place in which your ancestors lived can also help you understand their life. Take time to look through their local newspaper to find out what life was like in the town or city they lived in. Try browsing through national and local news stories, ads, articles about the economy, the entertainment and leisure sections, war news, transportation schedules, and more to learn about the context of your ancestor’s life.

Social history research is also helpful if you weren’t able to find much about your ancestor when you searched for them by name. Researching the world around them can give you a pretty decent idea of what their life may have been like.

Happy searching!

We hope this has been useful in helping you uncover your ancestor’s life story. If you have any tips we missed, be sure to post them in the comments!

Get started finding your ancestors’ stories by searching Newspapers.com! And follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for more articles like this!

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Nancy Drew and the Attempted Banishment

It’s a testament to the lasting power of Nancy Drew that yet another screen reincarnation of the beloved book sleuth is on her way. The character may be closing in on 100 years of existence, but many readers today still fondly remember following Nancy through many mysteries. Not all have loved Nancy Drew from the beginning. But she couldn’t be taken down, thanks in part to the teenage girls who channeled their heroine and saved the day.

Not Just Nancy Drew

In the early 1900s, a literary war was being waged on “nickel novels.” Mostly aimed at boy scouts, these novels were considered by librarians to be a “menace of mediocrity.” Rather more graphically, they were thought to “blow out, shoot to pieces, or burn out boy’s imaginations.” It was thought the average 10-year-old ought to turn their sights to higher literature.

Nancy Drew would not be published until 1930, but this was just the beginning of a controversy that would dog series books for decades to come.

Nickel Novel is Peril of Youth

Nickel Novel is Peril of Youth Wed, May 27, 1914 – Page 6 · The Washington Herald (Washington, District of Columbia) · Newspapers.com

Nancy Comes to Life

The instant popularity of Nancy Drew novels painted a target on the series’ back. By 1933 there were already ten titles to her name, and young girls loved them. But these .50 novels, considered successors to the nickel and dime novels, were still being fought against primarily by librarians. One even called them “devices of Satan.” This article from 1944 shows librarians left them out of the stacks because of too-similar plots and impossible situations:

Library doesn't carry Nancy Drew because of

Library doesn’t carry Nancy Drew because of “similarity in plot” & “impossible situations” 1944 Sat, Nov 18, 1944 – Page 12 · The Des Moines Register (Des Moines, Iowa) · Newspapers.com

The 60s saw another wave of parent and librarian disdain for the popular series, while readers continued to be infatuated with Nancy’s cleverness and moxie. When papers shared negative opinions about the “literary garbage” that was Nancy Drew, readers gave back as good as they got:

“Nancy Drew books are not rubbish” 1964 Thu, Feb 6, 1964 – 4 · Edmonton Journal (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) · Newspapers.com

Teen defense of Nancy Drew series, 1959

Teen defense of Nancy Drew series, 1959 Sun, Feb 22, 1959 – 9 · Pensacola News Journal (Pensacola, Florida) · Newspapers.com

Group of High School Pupils Speak Out on

Group of High School Pupils Speak Out on “Series Books” Mon, Feb 1, 1965 – 8 · The Daily Herald (Provo, Utah) · Newspapers.com

The books were still removed from many libraries, but they could not be kept away from eager readers completely. In time the fervor of fans and changing attitudes toward literature would soften the fight for reform.

Nancy Drew making comeback following critical period

Nancy Drew making comeback following critical period Thu, Apr 8, 1976 – Page 27 · The Journal News (White Plains, New York) · Newspapers.com

Nancy Drew Endures

Ultimately, it’s hard to argue with the evidence of pure enjoyment, as this columnist found. Nancy Drew books got people reading; they were simply a good time. Decades have passed, times have changed, and now reading for fun is not so often considered a moral failing. In fact, Nancy has become a role model for many women across generations.

Nancy Drew an inspiration still in 1994

Nancy Drew an inspiration still in 1994 Sun, Apr 10, 1994 – Page 54 · Daily Record (Morristown, New Jersey) · Newspapers.com

There have been 5 feature films made about Nancy Drew, and October 9th’s new CW series will be the third attempt to bring Nancy to life on television. It just goes to show that 89 years has done little to dampen the love for literature’s favorite teenage sleuthing lass. Are you a fan?

Notice the Clues?

If you like solving puzzles and decoding clues, give this one a try to find a clipping of a real-life Nancy Drew situation on Newspapers.com:

1. Unscramble the bold letters in the “Not Just Nancy Drew” section for the month and date to search.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

_ _

2. Unscramble the bold letters in the “Nancy Comes to Life” section for the year and the name of the paper. (Hint: each paragraph contains one word)

_ _ _ _

_ _ _ _ _ | _ _ _ _ _ _ | _ _ _ _

3. Unscramble the bold letters in the “Nancy Drew Endures” section for the Find/Search term to look for on Page 7. (Hint: each paragraph contains one word)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ | _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

(Click here to skip the clues and go straight to the clipping.)

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The Texas Revolution

On October 2, 1835, ongoing clashes between American settlers in Texas and the Mexican government escalated into an open rebellion called the Texas Revolution, or the War of Texas Independence. Texas colonists led by Sam Houston fought against Mexican forces led by Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna of Mexico. The war resulted in Texas declaring independence from Mexico and the founding of the Republic of Texas which was later annexed by the United States.

The Richmond Enquirer October 23, 1835

In 1820, American Moses Austin asked the Spanish government in Mexico for permission to settle on a tract of land in Texas. Austin intended to establish a colony for 300 families to settle near the Brazos River. He died shortly after, and his son Stephen F. Austin took over the project. In 1821, Mexico won its independence from Spain and the Mexican government allowed American Colonists to occupy the land in its northern reaches that was primarily occupied by Native American tribes. They also suspended tariffs and taxes for the settlers under the Colonization Law of 1823.

In the following years, settlers poured into Texas until Americans outnumbered the Mexicans. Fearing the United States may want to annex Texas, the Mexican government sought to stem the tide of US citizens in Texas in 1830 by prohibiting any further immigration of US citizens. They also reinstated tariffs on the settlers already living there.

The Arkansas Gazette May 4, 1830

Unhappy with the new rules, in June 1832, American settlers clashed with Mexican military forces near modern-day Houston and the eastern bank of the Brazos River in the Battle of Velasco. They later organized conventions in 1832 and 1833 and asked the Mexican government to repeal the tariffs and immigration laws. During the conventions, Sam Houston was named commander-in-chief over Texan forces and David Burnet as provisional president. Americans were moving closer to a full-scale rebellion. Meanwhile, Gen. Santa Anna used heavy-handed tactics to suppress dissent and directed Mexican soldiers to move into Texas and retake a cannon that settlers had used in defense against Native Americans. When Mexican soldiers arrived, a skirmish ensued resulting in the first battle of the revolution, the Battle of Gonzales on October 2, 1835.

Additional battles were fought including the Battle of the Alamo, where Gen. Santa Anna’s forces overpowered a group of volunteer Texas soldiers occupying a mission near present-day San Antonio killing close to 200; and the Goliad Massacre, where more than 400 captured soldiers were executed by Santa Anna’s troops. The cruelty of the killings acted as a rallying cry for Texas troops who shouted, “Remember the Alamo!” and “Remember Goliad!” during the final battle of the revolution, the Battle of San Jacinto, fought on April 21, 1836. The battle lasted just 18 minutes. Texas soldiers captured Gen. Santa Anna as he tried to flee, and his army retreated south. Held prisoner, Santa Anna was forced to sign the Treaty of Velasco recognizing Texas as an independent republic. In 1845, the United States annexed Texas and it became the 28th state. If you would like to learn more about the Texas Revolution, search Newspapers.com today.

To see more headlines from Texas history, see our Newspapers.com topic page.

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5 Vintage Autumn Recipes You’ll Actually Want to Try

Lafayette Journal and Courier, 11.15.1921
Lafayette Journal and Courier, 11.15.1921

If you love to cook, historical newspapers are a great place to find recipes. But we’ll admit that sometimes the ingredients and flavor combinations in old recipes can be less than appealing to the modern palette. So we searched the newspapers on our site to find 5 vintage recipes you’ll actually want to try this autumn.

Beneath the original recipe, we’ve written it out in a way that’s a bit easier to follow. We’ve also used brackets to indicate our best estimates for cooking times, temperatures, and measurements when not provided by the original recipe.

Pumpkin Waffles – from 1919

Recipe: Pumpkin waffles, 1919Recipe: Pumpkin waffles, 1919 Sun, Oct 5, 1919 – Page 80 · New-York Tribune (New York, New York) · Newspapers.com


Ingredients

  • 1 scant cupful cooked and sifted [pureed] pumpkin
  • 1 tsp molasses
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1 large cupful flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 cupful milk
  • 2 Tbsp melted shortening
  • 2 egg whites, stiffly whipped

Directions

  1. Mix the molasses, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and lightly beaten egg yolks into the pumpkin.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and sugar.
  3. Gradually combine the mixtures, beating in the milk and melted shortening.
  4. Fold in the stiffly whipped egg whites last of all.
  5. Cook in hot, well-greased waffle irons.

Sponge Gingerbread – from 1905

Recipe: Sponge gingerbread, 1905Recipe: Sponge gingerbread, 1905 Sun, Nov 26, 1905 – 32 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com


Ingredients

  • ½ cup sugar (light brown recommended)
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup milk (either sweet or sour)
  • 3 cups pastry flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2-4 tsp ginger
  • 1 scant tsp cinnamon

Directions

  1. Combine ingredients. [Likely, mix wet and dry ingredients separately, then combine.]
  2. Pour into a 2-inch-deep 9×12 pan [or a 9×13 cake pan].
  3. Bake in a moderate oven [around 350 degrees] for about 30 minutes.

Note: If you do not like a decided ginger taste, use only 2 teaspoons.

Apple Slump – from 1916

Recipe: Apple slump, 1916Recipe: Apple slump, 1916 Sat, Oct 7, 1916 – 14 · Norwich Bulletin (Norwich, Connecticut) · Newspapers.com


Ingredients

  • [8] tart apples [e.g., Granny Smith, Pink Lady, etc.]
  • Water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Nutmeg, to taste
  • Pinch of salt
  • Rich biscuit dough, already prepared and cut out into biscuits
  • Hard sauce or cream

Directions

  1. Pare and quarter enough tart apples to fill a 4-quart stewpan half full. [Likely, about 8 apples, though it will vary depending on size of the apples.]
  2. Add the apples to the pot and cover with water.
  3. Add sugar, nutmeg, and salt and let come to a boil.
  4. Lay cut-out biscuit dough over the boiling apples.
  5. Cover the pan and steam for 25 to 30 minutes, without lifting the cover. The pan must not be placed over a very hot fire, as the apples will scorch. [I.e., reduce heat to a simmer.]
  6. Serve hot with hard sauce or cream.

Sweet Potato Soup – from 1921

Recipe: Sweet potato soup, 1921Recipe: Sweet potato soup, 1921 Wed, Nov 16, 1921 – 32 · Evening Star (Washington, District of Columbia) · Newspapers.com


Ingredients

  • ½ Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1 pint [2 cups] milk
  • 1 pint [2 cups] stock [chicken or vegetable are typically used]
  • ½ tsp onion juice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • Small stick of cinnamon
  • Sweet potatoes [already baked and then pureed; amount can vary according to preference, but likely about 2 cups]
  • Chopped parsley
  • Grated nutmeg
  • Croutons

Directions

  1. Put butter and flour into a saucepan or double boiler and blend [i.e., make a roux].
  2. Add milk, stock, onion juice, salt, pepper, and cinnamon.
  3. Stir carefully over the fire until the mixture is hot and beginning to thicken. [Be careful the soup does not boil as this can curdle the milk.]
  4. Add the sweet potatoes, stir well, and cook for 10 minutes longer.
  5. Strain into soup dishes, sprinkle chopped parsley over the top, and add a dash of grated nutmeg.
  6. Serve very hot with croutons.

Ham Sandwich Biscuits – from 1914

Recipe: Ham sandwich biscuits, 1914Recipe: Ham sandwich biscuits, 1914 Sun, Oct 25, 1914 – 42 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com


Ingredients

  • Biscuit dough, prepared stiffer than usual
  • Minced ham
  • Butter

Directions

  1. Roll biscuit dough out thin [likely, about ½-inch thick] and cut into rounds.
  2. Spread half of the dough rounds with a mixture of minced ham and butter, then cover with a second round. [Consider pinching the edges closed to prevent filling from leaking.]
  3. Bake far apart in a hot oven. [Likely, bake 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.]

Note: In baking biscuits, always place them far apart on the baking sheet so as to ensure crisp baking all round.

Let us know if you try any of these recipes! Are any of them similar to ones handed down in your family?

Find more vintage recipes by searching Newspapers.com. And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more interesting historical content like this!

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Spokane Falls for Historic Newspapers!

If you have an interest in the history of Spokane or ancestors from that area, we’re happy to announce the digitization of The Spokesman-Review 1968-2019; and other related newspapers including The Semi-Weekly Spokesman-Review 1883-1981; the Spokane Chronicle 1890-1992; the Spokane Daily Chronicle 1890; the Spokane Evening Review 1884-1885; the Spokane Falls Review 1885-1891; The Spokane Review 1891-1894 and the Spokane Weekly Chronicle 1944. The Spokesman-Review was named one of the 25 best newspapers in the country by the Columbia Journalism Review magazine in 1999!

Our archives date back to 1883 when Washington was still a territory and just two years after the railroad came to town bringing new settlers and growth to the area. Around that time the discovery of gold in Coeur d’Alene brought growth to Spokane (then called Spokane Falls) because the city acted as a service center for the nearby mines.

In 1889, a terrific fire engulfed the city. To prevent the spread of flames, officials blew up a row of buildings to prevent the fire from spreading. As the flames approached Cannon’s Bank at Wall and Riverside, a horse-drawn cab loaded the bank’s wealth into a carriage and drove it to safety. When the smoke finally cleared, the fire destroyed 30 downtown blocks and burned many businesses, homes, and several newspaper presses.

Japanese Balloon Bombs Land in Spokane During WWII

During WWII, the Spokane Army Air Depot (later known as Fairchild Air Force Base) opened to provide repairs for damaged aircraft. The depot attracted skilled workers and provided job opportunities for civilian workers. In 1945, the war hit close to home when the Japanese launched balloon bombs that landed near Spokane. News of the incendiary devices brought public concern. The newspapers tried to keep reports about the balloon bombs under wraps to bolster national security. The Semi-Weekly Spokesman-Review encouraged readers to refrain from spreading the news about balloon incidents.

Our archives contain great stories to help you piece together your family tree. For example, this 1909 story in the Spokane Chronicle tells the story of a father reuniting with his son after 47 years! The two became separated during the Civil War and had no way of contacting one another. One day, the son met a man who shared his last name and soon discovered it was his uncle. He was delighted to learn that his father was 79-years-old and living in Nebraska. Later, the two were joyfully reunited.

Do you have ancestors that filed a homestead claim in Spokane? The lure of homesteading, and the ability to travel on railroads and steamships brought more settlers to the Pacific Northwest. Newspapers reported homestead applications at the land office like this one in The Spokane Review in 1891.  When searching for your family, search through the newspaper birth announcements, wedding announcements, anniversary notices, and obituaries.

Start searching our archives for The Spokesman-Review today on Newspapers.com!

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Highclere Castle: The Real-Life Downton Abbey

This weekend’s release of the new Downton Abbey film will bring fans back to the sweeping grounds and grand halls of England’s Highclere Castle. This stunning edifice serves as the real-life setting of the fictional Crawley home. And if walls could talk, Highclere Castle would tell a few compelling stories of its own—especially about its best-known occupants: George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, and his wife, Almina.

Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle, setting of TV series Downton Abbey

Highclere Castle, setting of TV series Downton Abbey Sat, Jan 19, 2013 – 44 · The Leader-Post (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada) · Newspapers.com

Highclere was almost entirely rebuilt in 1842-1849 on the bones of an older house, which in turn was built on the foundations of a medieval palace. The castle, on it’s 5,000 acres of beautiful park-like land, serves as the country seat of the Earl of Carnarvon. Here George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon was born. Perhaps his birth was accompanied by the Highclere tradition where 500 gallons of beer are brewed to remain unopened until the heir “attains his majority. (The clipping below refers to the birth of George Herbert’s son, Henry Herbert.)

500 gallons of beer to celebrate the birth of an heir at Highclere Castle

500 gallons of beer to celebrate the birth of an heir at Highclere Castle Wed, Jun 28, 1899 – 3 · The South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Indiana) · Newspapers.com

Almina Herbert, Countess of Carnarvon

Lord Carnarvon married Almina Wombwell—the illegitimate daughter of millionaire Alfred de Rothschild—on June 26, 1895. Her connections left her with plenty of wealth, which would play a significant role throughout her life. Downton Abbey watchers may recognize Cora Crawley—an heiress who marries into a titled family—is loosely based on Almina. And the similarities don’t end there.

At the start of World War I, just as in the show, Highclere Castle was converted into a hospital.

Lady Almina's funds turned Highclere into a hospital

Lady Almina’s funds turned Highclere into a hospital Sun, Feb 3, 2013 – 59 · The Dispatch (Moline, Illinois) · Newspapers.com

But later wealth came, as it so often does, with scandal. In the mid-1920s, shortly after her husband’s death, Lady Carnarvon married a Colonel Dennistoun. Dennistoun’s ex-wife drew the wealthy Almina into a high-profile court case, demanding Dennistoun pay the alimony he owed her from their divorce. The case was splashed across papers for months, and every move Lady Carnarvon made was scrutinized (as seen by the clipping below). In the end, the jury ruled that no payment was required from the new couple.

Lady Carnarvon becomes the subject of speculation following the Dennistoun Case

Lady Carnarvon becomes the subject of speculation following the Dennistoun Case Sun, Jul 12, 1925 – 51 · The Semi-Weekly Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington) · Newspapers.com

George Herbert, Earl of Carnarvon

The most sensational story in this history is that of Lord Carnarvon. He was an avid Egyptologist who–with the help of his wife—funded the expedition that would discover Tut’s Tomb. Lord Carnarvon traveled to Egypt in late 1922. He was one of the first in modern times to see it opened, and to enter within.

Five months later he was dead, the victim of a bad mosquito bite gone wrong. But with his recent visit to Tutankhamen’s tomb on everyone’s minds (and with a little help from a certain superstitious author), the idea of a mummy’s curse entered popular culture. And Lord Carnarvon was its unfortunate poster child.

What Killed Carnarvon -- Tut-Ankh-Amen's Curse?

What Killed Carnarvon — Tut-Ankh-Amen’s Curse? Fri, Apr 20, 1923 – 2 · The Preston News (Preston, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

Lord Carnarvon himself may not be directly mirrored in any of the show’s characters, but his love of Egypt is. All of the fictional Lord Grantham’s four-legged companions have Egyptian names.

The history of Highclere Castle is, of course, much longer and more complicated than anything shared here. Perhaps the Downton Abbey film will provide further glimpses into the non-fictional past of its iconic castle backdrop and the real-life people who walked its halls.

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Newspapers.com and Ancestry® Launch a New Podcast!

Behind the Headlines of History

Have you ever read an old newspaper article and wondered what happened to the people mentioned in the story? Then check out the new Newspapers.com and Ancestry® podcast, “Behind the Headlines of History”!

Join hosts Brad Argent of Ancestry® and historian Michala Hulme of Manchester Metropolitan University as they share intriguing newspaper articles from the past, before putting on their genealogy hats and scouring records to find out more about some of the people involved in the stories.

In the first episode, Brad and Michala discuss the love story behind the Great Bullion Robbery of 1855 and also reveal how the theft of some hazelnuts in 1877 is linked to Downton Abbey!

Host Brad Argent shared his thoughts:

Historic newspapers are a treasure trove of great stories, and a fantastic resource for family historians to find out more about the details of their ancestors’ lives. With this podcast, we wanted to bring this to life, sharing weird, wonderful and sometimes tragic historic news stories to find out who these people were, where they came from and what happened next. Join us as we go behind the headlines of history!”

We’re excited to share “Behind the Headlines of History” with you! Whether it’s on your commute, at the gym, or while cleaning the house, this fun and fascinating podcast is a perfect way to pass the time!

“Behind the Headlines of History” will be released each week on Tuesdays for 10 weeks, beginning September 3. It is available on a range of platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts and more.

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The Development of the Polio Vaccine

In 1894, doctors in Vermont noticed a strange illness spreading throughout the state. Symptoms included fever, sore throat, aches, and difficulty breathing. In some instances, the disease caused paralysis or even death. The virus attacked the nervous system and seemed to hit small children especially hard. The outbreak resulted in 18 deaths and 132 cases of permanent paralysis in Vermont that year. After careful study, doctors finally identified the culprit as poliomyelitis – or polio. Polio ravaged the country and terrified Americans for more than fifty years until a 1955 vaccine promised an 80-90% success rate in preventing the disease. However, within two weeks of being inoculated with the new vaccine, six children developed paralysis and the vaccine was found defective. This incident, known as the Cutter incident, led to changes including increased government oversight in the manufacture and regulation of vaccines.

The 1894 polio outbreak shined a spotlight on polio, which was often referred to as infantile paralysis, and sparked scientists to search for a cure. In 1916, a large polio epidemic hit New York City infecting more than 9,000, resulting in more than 2,000 deaths. Perhaps the most public figure diagnosed with polio was Franklin D. Roosevelt. He contracted the disease in 1921 at the time when nearly 15,000 new cases were diagnosed each year.

Advances in polio treatment led scientists to develop the iron lung in 1928. Some patients lost the ability to breathe on their own when polio paralyzed their chest muscles. The iron lung acted as a respirator using air pressure to expand and contract a patient’s diaphragm, essentially breathing for them at the rate of 16 times a minute. In 2008, America’s longest-living survivor in an iron lung passed away after a power outage shut down her iron lung and a backup generator failed.

In the 1930s, early efforts to create a polio vaccine were unsuccessful. By the 1950s, Dr. Jonas Salk experienced a breakthrough and successfully developed a vaccine using an inactivated strain of the poliovirus (IPV). His vaccine was based on three virulent strains of the virus that were inactivated using a formaldehyde solution. Salk was so confident in his work that in 1953, he vaccinated his own family. A larger trial began in 1954 that provided vaccinations for more than 1 million children, and in April 1955, authorities announced the trial was a success and mass vaccinations could begin. That meant the vaccine needed large scale production and the pharmaceutical industry stepped up to help.

The cheers and relief experienced by Americans quickly turned to shock when within two weeks of receiving the vaccine, six children became paralyzed. Officials discovered that all six children had been inoculated using a vaccine created by Cutter Laboratories in California. The Cutter vaccine was recalled but not before 380,000 of the company’s doses had been administered. It was discovered that the formaldehyde solution Cutter Laboratories used was defective and did not inactivate the virus. Instead, the vaccines administered contained the live poliovirus. The defective vaccine led to 220,000 new infections and caused 164 to become severely paralyzed. Ten children died. The Cutter incident led to a dramatic change in government oversight of vaccine production and also changed medical liability lawsuits when Cutter was found guilty and liable without fault during the trial. Despite the tragic Cutter incident, Salk’s vaccine was successful in the fight against polio. However, the Salk vaccine was replaced in the 1960s when Albert Sabin introduced an oral polio vaccine (OPV) that relied on a weakened poliovirus and proved highly effective.

Do you have family members that suffered from polio? Learn more about polio and the development of a polio vaccine on Newspapers.com.

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The Surprising Evolution of Pumpkin Spice

Love it or hate it, pumpkin-spice season is here again. But do you know how this autumn flavor got its start?

Let’s head to the historical papers on Newspapers.com to see what we can learn. Click on any of the links in the post to see newspaper clippings that document the history of pumpkin spice!

An Age-Old Combination

1734 ad mentioning nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice for sale (Pennsylvania Gazette, 03.06.1734)
1734 ad mentioning nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice for sale (Pennsylvania Gazette, 03.06.1734)

“Pumpkin spice” is usually a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and/or cloves. Since some combinations of these spices date back to ancient days, for the sake of time, let’s jump forward to the 18th century United States.

By this time, spices were available in the U.S. and were being used in cooking and baking. A 1734 Pennsylvania newspaper advertisement, for instance, shows that spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice were being imported to the U.S. And a newspaper recipe for “soft cakes” from 1825 New York confirms that spices (nutmeg and cinnamon in this case) were used in early American baking.

For the Love of Pumpkin Pie

So it’s clear that the spices in “pumpkin spice” were used together, but where does pumpkin come in?

Americans have been flavoring their pumpkin dishes with spices for a long time. In fact, the first American cookbook (“American Cookery” from 1796) includes a pumpkin recipe that uses mace, nutmeg, and ginger.

But most of all, Americans loved pumpkin pie, and spices were an important part of the flavor of the dish. A 1839 newspaper recipe, for example, calls for cinnamon and ginger in the pie filling.

“Pumpkin Pie Spice” Proliferation

But when did this traditional spice combination become known as “pumpkin spice”?

1933 ad for T&T Pumpkin Pie Spice (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10.20.1933)
1933 ad for T&T Pumpkin Pie Spice (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10.20.1933)

In 1930, a spice company called Thompson & Taylor (T&T) introduced what they called “Pumpkin Pie Spice,” which combined all the spices a home baker needed to make pumpkin pie. Now, as the ads claimed, making pumpkin pies at home was more convenient and the pies themselves would be more consistent in flavor.

The idea of selling a pre-mixed pie spice caught on, and over the next few years more and more companies introduced their own pumpkin pie spices. The mix best-known today, by McCormick, went on the market in 1934.

With an increasing number of companies selling pumpkin pie spices, newspapers were inundated with ads around Thanksgiving time. As newspapers tried to save space, the mix was sometimes referred to simply as “pumpkin spice” instead of “pumpkin pie spice,” as you can see in this ad from 1931.

With pre-mixed pie spices now readily available and convenient, it was easy for creative home cooks in the 1930s and beyond to add it to other foods, from soufflés to cookies to gingerbread. McCormick even briefly marketed a “Pumpkin Pie & Ginger Bread Spice” in the mid-1930s. 

“Pumpkin Spice” Comes into Its Own

1957 ad for pumpkin spice ice cream (News-Messenger, 11.29.1957)
1957 ad for pumpkin spice ice cream (News-Messenger, 11.29.1957)

Around this same time, “pumpkin spice” began appearing in the names of recipes published in newspapers. For instance, based on the papers currently on Newspapers.com, recipes for “Pumpkin Spice Cake” began showing up in newspapers around 1935, though we found a brief mention in an ad from 1934.

From this time on, ads and recipes for “pumpkin spice” flavored foods appeared with increasing frequency in newspapers, and it became well-established as its own flavor in the decades that followed.

But, of course, despite pumpkin spice’s long history, the current flood of pumpkin-spice products can largely be traced back to Starbucks, which first introduced its popular Pumpkin Spice Latte in 2003. Spiced coffee has its own extensive history, but Starbucks’ branding of its new beverage as “pumpkin spice” kicked off a trend that seems to have taken over the autumn season. Whether you like it or not.

Search Newspapers.com for more pumpkin-spice articles and recipes. And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more interesting historical content like this!

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