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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Lake Nyos Disaster: August 21, 1986

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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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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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A Nostalgic Look Back at the Sears Christmas Wish Book

For many children, the arrival of the Sears Christmas Wish Book heralded the official beginning of the holiday season. The catalogs were carefully studied, and toys longingly admired until the pages were dog-eared and tattered. The first Sears Christmas Book debuted in 1933 offering items like the “Miss Pigtails” doll, live singing canaries, fruitcake, and a Mickey Mouse watch.

Letter to Santa – 1933

Over the years, the pages of the Sears Wish Book were filled with toys and gifts that offered a historical snapshot of what was happening in middle-class America at the time.

In 1937, Sears advertised tractor sets and Shirley Temple dolls. Pedal cars were all the rage and sold for about $10. Just five years later, in 1942, the world was at war. The Sears Christmas Book urged Americans to send gifts to members of the Armed Forces. The Christmas Book also allowed families to do their Christmas shopping from home, filling a need when wartime rations on gasoline and tires prevented shopping excursions into town.

Roy Rogers Inspired Gifts 1949

In 1949, Western TV shows and movies exploded in popularity. Roy Rogers was known as the “King of the Cowboys” and that year, the Christmas Book offered a variety of Roy Rogers inspired Christmas gifts and even Roy Rogers school supplies

America entered the Space Race in the 1960s. Children everywhere dreamed of becoming an astronaut and in 1968 the Major Matt Mason astronaut action figure was a popular toy. That’s also the year that Sears embraced the nickname of its Christmas catalog and officially renamed it the Wish Book. Other popular toys during the 1968 holiday season included Hot Wheels cars and G.I. Joe.

In 1975 as Americans prepared to celebrate the Bicentennial, nostalgic American themed toys such as toy fife and drum sets, Colonial dolls and models of the USS Constitution were popular. In contrast, that was the same year that Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft. In a glimpse of the high-tech explosion soon to come, the Wish Book advertised the new electronic game Pong. It was described as a “fast-paced electronic ‘table tennis’ game you play on your own TV.”

Atari Pong Ad – 1975

Transformers exploded on the scene in 1984. The popular transforming robot toys proved wildly successful for kids. It was like getting two toys for the price of one. In 1984, a first-generation Optimus Prime sold for $22.99 in the Wish Book. That same toy is now highly collectible and according to some reports can sell for as much as $12,000

In 1993, as consumer shopping habits changed, Sears announced that it was dropping the Wish Book and getting out of the catalog business. Does the Wish Book bring back a flood of memories from your childhood? If you want to take a trip down memory lane, enjoy free access* to the Historic Catalogs of Sears, Roebuck and Co. on Ancestry through January 2, 2020; and search historic ads and news stories related to the Wish Book on Newspapers.com today!

*You can explore this amazing collection for free now through 11:59 pm MT on 02 Jan 2020.

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New Papers Added from Wisconsin

If you have ancestors from Wisconsin or an interest in Wisconsin history, we are excited about the addition of new papers from the cities of Kenosha, Lake Geneva and Viroqua, Wisconsin!

Kenosha News – March 1, 1919

Kenosha is in southeastern Wisconsin, on the shore of Lake Michigan, and just north of the Illinois state line. We have issues from the Kenosha News, the Kenosha News Courier and the Sunday News that date back to 1895. Originally a Native American settlement, Kenosha’s access to transportation lines brought white settlers in the 1830s. Later immigrants from Italy, Denmark, Germany, Poland, and Ireland came to the area.  

In the early 1900s, silent movies were a favorite form of entertainment. In 1914, the Burke Theatre opened on Market Street. When the film The Silver Horde opened in 1920, managers launched a treasure hunt to publicize the film. They hid 10 boxes of silver around Kenosha. The promotion created a stir as residents hunted the treasure. Four years later, the Burke was the scene of another kind when a skunk decided to visit the theater causing pandemonium with the audience.

About 30 miles away from Kenosha is Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and home of the Lake Geneva Herald and the Lake Geneva Regional News. Today Lake Geneva is a vacation destination, but when the Lake Geneva Herald began publishing in 1872, the population was just over 2,000 and the town had one school, a few churches and a smattering of small-town businesses. After the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, Lake Geneva attracted wealthy business moguls who moved to the area while Chicago rebuilt. Beautiful mansions like Stone Manor, Glanworth Gardens and the Wrigley estate line the shore and helped the area earn the nickname “Newport of the West”.

Glanworth Gardens – The Driehaus Estate

Residents living around the lake receive their mail by boat, a tradition that began in 1916 when roads were very primitive. The boat travels at a steady 5 mph, while a “mail jumper” jumps from the boat, races up the dock and swaps the incoming mail with the outgoing mail before the boat has traveled out of reach.

The Vernon County Censor is based in Viroqua and we have issues dating back to 1856. The paper was published weekly, however, on June 28, 1865, a deadly tornado swept through town destroying the printing office and leaving the town devastated. Two weeks later, the paper published an account of the damage. “Large houses were sucked into the air like a feather and tossed about like a wisp of hay in the air.” If you had ancestors from nearby communities like Harmony, Chaseburg, Newton or Westby, search the Vernon County Censor for updates from those towns.

Start searching our new Wisconsin papers today on Newspapers.com!

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Telephone Technology: Push Buttons and Party Lines

In the Spring of 1963, President John F. Kennedy sat down at his desk in the oval office. With cameras clicking, he picked up the handset of a telephone and pressed the numbers “1964”. The connection activated a countdown clock for the New York World’s Fair, set to open the following year. The photo opportunity was noteworthy, however, because Kennedy’s call showcased an amazing new technology – the push-button dial telephone

Later that year, on November 18, 1963, Bell Telephone officially rolled out push-button telephones to the public. A push-button interface meant customers no longer had to wind a rotary dial and wait for it to spin back when dialing each number. This technological achievement was the latest in a long line of telephone innovation that dated back to when Alexander Graham Bell received the first patent for a telephone in 1876.

Back then, Alexander Graham Bell and his colleague Thomas Watson shocked the world when they carried on a 30-minute telephone conversation from two miles apart. Their newly invented telephones converted sound into electric pulses that traveled along a wire connecting the phones.

The popularity of the telephone quickly grew and soon everybody wanted one. However, it wasn’t feasible to stretch a wire between every set of telephones, so inventors developed a telephone exchange. Each telephone connected to the exchange by wire. To place a call, a caller would pick up the phone and turn a crank. This illuminated a light at the switchboard at the central station and an operator would plug a wire into your jack and ask who you needed to reach. She then connected a wire to the appropriate customer and sent an electrical current down the line to alert them with a bell. 

Operators became a familiar voice to every telephone user. They generally worked with a relatively small group of customers and often knew each one. In 1903, one mother discovered a new use for her telephone when she opened the receiver and asked the operator to ring her at the neighbor’s house when her sleeping baby woke up! On any given day, an operator might soothe a frightened child, or even save a life. Rose Coppinger was an operator in Webber Falls, Oklahoma in 1914. When a fire raged through town, she refused to leave her post at the telephone exchange and warned neighbors of the approaching flames.

By 1918, ten million telephones were in use in the US. Rotary dials were the norm and party lines were common. A party line was a telephone line shared by more than one user and came at a reduced cost. It was not uncommon to pick up a telephone receiver and hear a conversation already occurring. The town’s news often traveled this way despite party line etiquette which dictated never listening in on another’s conversation. A party line presented challenges during emergencies, though, and tragedies occurred if users failed to yield the telephone during a crisis. The last operating party line in Woodbury, Connecticut shut down in 1991.

Technology has come a long way since party lines and push-button phones. Today, an estimated 5.3 billion people worldwide communicate daily using mobile devices. To learn more about the changing technology in telephone communication, search our archives today on Newspapers.com!

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New Papers Added From New Mexico!

Are you interested in the history of Rio Arriba County in New Mexico? We are pleased to announce the addition of the Rio Grande Sun to our archives. Based in the city of Espanola, the Sun is a weekly that began publishing in 1956. The paper competed with the Espanola Valley News until the Sun purchased the Valley News and shut it down. The Sun is known for its fearless old-school journalism and focus on local politics and issues.

The history of Espanola dates back to 1598 when it was founded as the capital of Nuevo Mexico. Some of the valley’s historic buildings remain, including La Iglesia de Santa Cruz de la Canada, a church built in 1733 that is still in use today.

In 1880, after the railroad expanded to northern New Mexico, the town took on the name Espanola. Early settlers described the town as “really wild and wooly, having eighteen saloons…” In 1943, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, located about 18 miles from Espanola, was founded as part of the Manhattan Project. The lab remained top-secret during the war and has provided many jobs in Espanola.

When the Sun published its first edition in the 1950s, the population of Espanola was about 3,000. The first issues were printed on an old press that required single sheets of newsprint to be hand-fed into the press one at a time. The population of the valley continued to grow and in 1957, local churches coordinated a door-to-door church census intending to document every resident.

As Espanola grew, some of the city’s historic buildings were torn down. In 1957, the city purchased a home that belonged to one of the valley’s early settlers and turned it into City Hall. Known as the Bond House, the historic home served as the city offices until 1979. After it was vacated, vandals broke in and did extensive damage. The Historical Society started a grassroots preservation effort and encouraged residents to donate $10 for repairs. In March 1982, the home was reopened as the Bond House Museum and celebrates the transition of Espanola from a frontier outpost to a modern city.

If you are researching ancestors that lived in Espanola, columns like Eavesdropping and the

Grapevine provides news on Espanola’s residents. You’ll also find birth announcements and obituaries like this one for one of Espanola’s oldest residents born in 1869!

Start searching the pages of the Rio Grande Sun today on Newspapers.com!

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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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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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