This Week in History – Polio Vaccine Trials

It was this week in 1954 that the first trials of Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine began throughout the U.S., Canada, and Finland.

Anti-Polio Experiment StartsAnti-Polio Experiment Starts · Mon, Apr 26, 1954 – Page 1 · The Times Herald (Port Huron, Michigan) ·

Polio Shot Didn't Hurt a BitPolio Shot Didn’t Hurt a Bit · Mon, Apr 26, 1954 – 1 · Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio) ·

The trials were successful—the vaccine was declared to be safe and effective! At last, the huge, epidemic numbers of polio cases began to decrease, and within a few decades the ancient disease was nearly eliminated worldwide.

Brilliant Victory over Child PlagueBrilliant Victory over Child Plague · Tue, Apr 12, 1955 – Page 1 · The Terre Haute Tribune (Terre Haute, Indiana) ·

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Austin American-Statesman

Do you have ancestors from central Texas, particularly the Austin area? Or are you interested in newspapers from that region? Then come explore the Austin American-Statesman on! has issues dating back to 1871, the year the paper was first published. We also have issues of two related papers: the Austin American and the Austin Weekly Statesman.

The Austin American-Statesman got its start in 1871 as the Democratic Statesman, which was published thrice weekly. That same year, a once-weekly version of the paper, the Weekly Democratic Statesman, also began publishing (and would continue to publish under various titles until 1906).

In 1915, the Statesman (which by then had become a daily) combined with the Austin Tribune. Then in 1924, it was merged into a company with a paper called the Austin American, which had been around since 1914. However, the two papers continued to publish separately (except for a joint Sunday edition) until 1973, when they were combined to form the Austin American-Statesman. Today, the Austin American-Statesman is the main paper in Austin and central Texas.

Austin has long been a cultural, educational, and political hub, and this focus has been reflected in the American-Statesman’s content over the years. The paper has also traditionally had strong local and regional coverage, making it a valuable resource for learning about interesting and important events in Austin’s past. For example, you can read about the unsolved serial murders committed between 1884 and 1885 by a perpetrator dubbed the “Servant Girl Annihilator.” Or read about a dam collapse in 1900 that resulted in the deaths of 18 people.

The American-Statesman’s strong local coverage also makes it a great resource for genealogical research. Read about your ancestors’ births, marriages, and deaths, as well as stories from their daily lives, such as this piece from an 1883 issue about a local boy who narrowly avoided being killed by runaway horses.

Get started searching or browsing the Austin American-Statesman on! With a Basic subscription, you can access issues up through 1922; or with Publisher Extra, access those early years plus issues from 1923 and beyond.

The Solar Storm of 1859

In September 1859, a crazy thing happened. A solar flare occurred, bright enough to be observed with the naked eye (as it was by an English astronomer named Richard Carrington, after whom the event was later named). The flare was large enough to affect Earth in the form of a solar storm.

Carrington Event of 1859Carrington Event of 1859 · Thu, Jan 28, 2010 – 6 · The Signal (Santa Clarita, California) ·

As described above, the storm affected communications and existing technologies across the globe.

Auroral displayAuroral display · Sat, Sep 3, 1859 – Page 3 · The Louisville Daily Courier (Louisville, Kentucky) ·

The sky lit up, bright as dawn despite the late night hour, and brilliant red auroras shimmered in silvery swaths overhead. There’s a rather nice description of the event in this clipping below:

1859 Solar Storm1859 Solar Storm · Fri, Sep 9, 1859 – Page 3 · Newbern Daily Progress (New Bern, North Carolina) ·

Aside from the telegraph issues, which were resolved as the storm abated, and some fear that the world might be ending, the world was able to move on as normal after a few days. But the event was certainly a bizarre and magnificent display, something to be remembered for a lifetime.

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This Week in History – The American Revolutionary War Begins

On April 19, 1775, the “shot heard round the world” is fired at Lexington, and the uneasy, growing tensions between American colonists and British soldiers shatter into conflict.

Americans! Forever bear in mindAmericans! Forever bear in mind · Mon, May 8, 1775 – Page 2 · Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut) ·

British troops arrived in Lexington to capture patriot leaders and found armed minutemen waiting for them. The brief battle ended in eight deaths on the American side and none on the British, and word spread like wildfire. War had begun!

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The Scam of Poyais

His name sounds fake, but his kingdom sounded real. Gregor MacGregor scammed hundreds with a dream of a new, bountiful Central American paradise called Poyais.

MacGregor’s success in his scheme no doubt came in part because people had heard tales of his service in distant battles. He returned to England a hero and as the “Cazique of Poyais,”and his stories of the new kingdom of Poyais were compelling indeed. MacGregor backed them up with maps and drawings and details, bringing to life an exquisite fantasy. The lure was irresistible. Hopeful dreamers like James Hastie, whose account is related below, put their fortunes—and lives—in MacGregor’s hands.

When their arrival revealed no kingdom, no other citizens, no supplies and left them without funds or means to return home, the new settlers did what they could to survive. Most didn’t succeed.

The Lord Mayor in the clipping below speaks for us all (with the benefit of hindsight, of course).

MacGregor had successfully bamboozled shipfuls of people in London and Edinburgh, and was going for another round in Paris when his deceit was discovered. He died around 20 years later having never truly received justice for the lives he ruined.

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7 Common Historical Newspaper Abbreviations
and Terms

Tips, Hints and Helps

It feels great to find an ancestor in the newspaper—whether it’s in an obituary, marriage announcement, or other type of notice. But sometimes historical newspapers used abbreviations and terms that are no longer common, leaving some of us scratching our heads.

To help you get the most out of historical newspapers, we’ve come up with a list of some of the most common abbreviations and terms:

  1. Death notices describing many of the women as relictsRelict – This term is used to describe a surviving spouse, often a widow. It comes from the Latin term “relictus,” meaning “relinquished” or “left behind.”
  2. Née – This term is French and means “born.” It is used to indicate a woman’s maiden name.
  3. Instant (Inst.) – This is used to refer to the current month. For example, a newspaper article published in December that says “12th inst.” means December 12th.
  4. Proximo (Prox.) – Essentially meaning “next,” this is used in newspapers to indicate the upcoming month. So “12th prox.” in a December newspaper would mean January 12th.
  5. Ultimo (Ult.) – This refers to the previous month. A December newspaper that says “12th ult.” is referring to November 12th.
  6. Old style/New style (O.S./N.S.) – These terms refer to dates that are either prior to approximately 1752 (“old style”) or after about 1752 (“new style”). This is because in 1752, Britain (including its American colonies) adopted the Gregorian calendar, which resulted in skipping 11 days that year. To make matters even more complicated, the first of the year was moved from March to January. So to remove confusion, newspapers around the time of the change included “O.S” or “N.S” to indicate which system was being used for the dates they provided.
  7. Example of name abbreviations being usedName abbreviations – Name abbreviations are common in old newspapers. Some abbreviations are merely the first few letters of the name followed by a period, while others are contractions (the first part of the name plus the final letter). Some abbreviations are derived from the name’s Latin equivalent, which makes them a bit trickier to decipher. Below are the most common name abbreviations:
    • Chas – Charles
    • Wm – William
    • Geo. – George
    • Jno – John
    • Jas – James
    • Thos – Thomas

We hope you found the explanation of these terms and abbreviations useful! Get started searching or browsing historical (and modern!) papers on

This Week in History – Surrender and Assassination

On April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders to Union General Ulysses S. Grant and the American Civil War is officially brought to an end.


Only five days later, President Abraham Lincoln is shot by Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth, making this quite a week for high-emotion headlines.

Assassination of President Lincoln

Find more on Lincoln’s assassination here, or you can search on for either of these major headlines and other topics of interest.

Olympics Make a Comeback

On this day in 1896, after a 1,500-year lull, the Olympics are reintroduced to the world.

Revival of the Olympic GamesThe Olympic Games. Are About to be Revived

The original Olympic games were banned by the Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius I in an attempt to crack down on paganism. It was a young French baron, Pierre de Coubertin, who in 1892 first proposed that the games be brought back. Thanks to his persistence, they were, and he guided them as president of the International Olympic Committee through the initial, less popular years when no one thought they would last.

The Olympic Games

Questionable whether Olympic revival will be a success

The first games saw only 280 participants (in contrast to the 2016 summer Olympics, in which over 10,000 athletes competed), but by 1924 the games had regained their popularity of yore. Today, of course, the Olympics are the bees knees when it comes to international sports competition. Thanks, Pierre!

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