8 Easy Thanksgiving Desserts That Aren’t Pie

28 Nov 1923, Wed Chattanooga Daily Times (Chattanooga, Tennessee) Newspapers.com


Want something other than pie for Thanksgiving dessert? We searched the historical papers on Newspapers.com™ to find 8 vintage recipes for easy Thanksgiving desserts that aren’t pie!

(But if you want pie too, be sure to check out these fun pumpkin pie recipes!)

Note: We’ve included transcriptions of the recipes so they’re easier to follow. Click on any of the images to see the original newspaper recipe on our site.

1. Pumpkin Spice Cake (1936)

Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Cake (1936)Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Cake (1936) 30 Oct 1936, Fri The World (Coos Bay, Oregon) Newspapers.com


Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 3/4 cup canned or cooked pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon  
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon mace
  • 1/2 cup seedless raisins

Directions:

  1. Cream shortening, add sugar slowly, and beat well. Add beaten egg.
  2. Combine pumpkin and milk and add alternately with the dry ingredients sifted together. Add raisins and mix thoroughly.
  3. Pour in greased loaf pan and place in cold electric oven. Set temperature control to 350°. Turn switch to bake. Bake approximately 1 hour.

2. Baked Cranberry and Walnut Dessert (1949)

Recipe: Baked Cranberry and Walnut Dessert (1949)Recipe: Baked Cranberry and Walnut Dessert (1949) 06 Oct 1949, Thu The Edmonton Bulletin (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) Newspapers.com


Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnut meats
  • 1/3 cup melted butter or fortified margarine
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
  • 3 cups cranberry sauce
  • 1/2 cup cream, whipped

Directions:

  1. Mix together sugar, graham cracker crumbs, cinnamon, walnut meats, and melted butter or margarine.
  2. Pat 2/3 of this mixture into well-greased large yellow dish of heat-resistant glass refrigerator-oven set.
  3. Add grated orange rind to cranberry sauce; pour on top of crumb mixture in dish. Place remaining crumb mixture on top of cranberry sauce.
  4. Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees F) for 30 minutes.
  5. Cool and decorate top with whipped cream.

3. Apple Crisp (1948)

Recipe: Apple Crisp (1948)Recipe: Apple Crisp (1948) 04 Nov 1948, Thu Honolulu Star-Bulletin (Honolulu, Hawaii) Newspapers.com


Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chopped or sliced apples
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sifted flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter

Directions:

  1. Place in shallow 6×10 inch baking dish sliced or chopped apples and sprinkle with water, cinnamon, and salt.
  2. Work together the flour, sugar, and butter until crumbly. Spread crumb mixture over apples.
  3. Bake uncovered about 40 minutes in moderate oven (350 degrees).
  4. Serve warm with plain or whipped cream. Serves 6 to 8.


4. Top-of-Stove Carmel Dumpling Dessert (1937)

Recipe: Top-of-Stove Carmel Dumpling Dessert (1937)Recipe: Top-of-Stove Carmel Dumpling Dessert (1937) 13 Nov 1937, Sat The North Adams Transcript (North Adams, Massachusetts) Newspapers.com


Dumpling ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Dumpling directions:

  1. Sift dry ingredients, cut in butter, and add milk and vanilla.
  2. Drop by rounding teaspoon into the boiling carmel sauce. Cover, cook.
  3. Cook slowly for 20 minutes without removing cover. (Serves 5).

Carmel sauce for above dumplings:

  1. Combine 2 tablespoons butter, 1 ½ cups dark brown sugar, 1 ½ cups boiling water, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Simmer 5 minutes.
  2. Drop in dumpling batter.

5. Ginger Snaps (1908)

Recipe: Ginger Snaps (1908)Recipe: Ginger Snaps (1908) 15 Nov 1908, Sun The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) Newspapers.com


Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup lard
  • 3 tablespoons hot water
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 3 teaspoons ginger
  • 3 cups flour

Directions:

  1. Roll thin.

(*Estimated bake temperature & time: 350–375°F for 8–10 minutes. Shortening can be substituted for lard, if desired.)

6. Apple Tapioca Pudding (1923)

Recipe: Apple Tapioca Pudding (1923)Recipe: Apple Tapioca Pudding (1923) 24 Nov 1923, Sat Pawhuska Daily Journal (Pawhuska, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com


Ingredients:

  • 1 quart peeled apples
  • 1 cup tapioca
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract

Directions:

  • Quarter apples and fill bake dish. Sprinkle half sugar over apples.
  • Soak tapioca in quart hot water, 1 hour. Add salt, lemon extract, and rest of sugar. Pour over apples.
  • Bake until apples are tender. Serve with hard sauce.

7. Cheese and Fruit Tray (1936)

Recipe: Cheese and fruit tray (1936)Recipe: Cheese and fruit tray (1936) 20 Nov 1936, Fri Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.com


Cheeses:

  • Swiss
  • Mild American
  • Sharp American
  • Pimiento cheese
  • Genuine imported Roquefort
  • Cream cheese

Fruits:

  • Kumquat clusters
  • Pears
  • White grapes

Directions:

  1. On the cheese board in the center of the large tray, arrange the cheeses.
  2. Border this array with fruits.

8. Pumpkin Honey Milk (1942)

Recipe: Pumpkin Honey Milk (1942)Recipe: Pumpkin Honey Milk (1942) 21 Apr 1942, Tue The Dayton Herald (Dayton, Ohio) Newspapers.com


Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pumpkin
  • 1 ½ cups evaporated milk
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • Few grains cloves
  • Few grains salt

Directions:

  1. Stir to thoroughly blend pumpkin into evaporated milk and water.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients; chill and serve. 4 servings.

***

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How NOT to Be Buried Alive

07 Mar 1908, Sat The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) Newspapers.com


“Are you sure that your relative is actually dead, when the coffin is fastened, never to be opened”? –Louisville Daily Courier, 1868

What options did a person have over a century ago if they wanted to avoid being buried alive? A look through historical newspapers from both sides of the Atlantic gives us some answers!

Safety Coffins

One option for preventing “premature burial” (also called “premature interment”) was the safety coffin. Though designs differed, safety coffins typically included a signaling device that let people above ground know the person in the casket was still alive.

Numerous illustrations and articles about safety coffins appeared in newspapers of the time. One featured in the papers was designed by Russian count Michel de Karnice-Karnicki. According to the Stockton, California, Daily Record in 1901,

[The] apparatus consists of a tube four inches in diameter, a box, and a few appliances for signaling. The tube is placed over an aperture in the coffin, and the other end of it appears above the surface of the ground, where it is surmounted by the box. Through the tube passes a rod, on the end of which, inside the coffin, is a ball. The slightest movement of the body in the coffin is communicated to the rod, which in turn releases springs. The door of the hermetically sealed box flies open, the bell rings, and the signal ball rises above the grave to a height of six feet.

Karnice-Karnicki's safety coffin designKarnice-Karnicki’s safety coffin design 26 Apr 1901, Fri Stockton Daily Evening Record (Stockton, California) Newspapers.com


Other types of safety coffins were featured in newspapers as well, such as:

One safety coffin got quite a bit of newspaper attention in 1868 when its inventor, Franz Vester, gave a public demonstration in New Jersey about how it worked. In addition to the typical alarm system, newspapers noted that Vester’s coffin also included a “receptacle for refreshments.”

Beyond Coffins

But not everyone who feared premature burial wanted (or could afford) a safety coffin, so other methods focused on ensuring that a person was truly dead before burial.

One option frequently discussed in newspapers was to build “waiting mortuaries,” which were reportedly used in Germany. The ideal waiting mortuary was a closely monitored, comfortable institution where bodies could be kept until they showed signs of decomposition—or signs of life.

Description of waiting mortuariesDescription of waiting mortuaries 23 Oct 1896, Fri Belfast News-Letter (Belfast, Antrim, Northern Ireland) Newspapers.com


Newspapers also documented other suggestions for verifying death, including:

Some people’s fear of being buried alive even led them to request specific procedures prior to burial, such as asking that their head be amputated, their heart pierced with a needle, or their jugular vein cut.

Turning Anxiety into Action

Just how often people were actually buried alive during the Victorian era is unknown. Even at the time, its prevalence was hotly debated in the European and American medical communities—and in the press.

20 Dec 1899, Wed Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.com
13 Dec 1897, Mon Freeland Tribune (Freeland, Pennsylvania) Newspapers.com


Whether premature burials were common or not, the popularity of the topic reflects a real anxiety among some segments of the population at the time—an anxiety that certainly wasn’t diminished by the numerous “true” newspaper accounts of people being buried alive.

But in some cases, this concern led to action. Perhaps most noticeable were the associations that lobbied for regulation of death certificates and other aspects of the death verification process—hoping to prevent the “unspeakable cruelty” of premature burial.

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“More Horrors Yet to Come”: How Newspapers Covered the Belle Gunness Murders

Belle Gunness & childrenBelle Gunness & children 03 Dec 1908, Thu The Salina Daily Union (Salina, Kansas) Newspapers.com


It started with a tragedy. In the early morning of April 28, 1908, a farmhouse near La Porte, Indiana, burned to the ground with a woman and three children inside.

Then it got unimaginably worse. As local authorities investigated the fire, another body was discovered—this one buried in a hog pen on the property. Further digging would unearth numerous other corpses and body parts in the days that followed.

The farmhouse had belonged to Belle Gunness, at the time simply believed to be a widowed Norwegian immigrant but now infamous for being one of the most prolific female serial killers in the United States.

Though estimates vary widely, Belle Gunness is believed to have killed at least a dozen people (and possibly upwards of 40) between 1884 and 1908.

Belle Gunness in the Headlines

When her crimes were finally discovered in 1908 after the Indiana farmhouse fire, the gruesome murders understandably made newspaper headlines nationwide for weeks.

What would it have been like to read about those shocking events as they unfolded each day? We turned to the Indiana papers on Newspapers.com™ to experience how people of the era would have learned about Gunness’s appalling crimes.

A Farmhouse Burns

The first of the news stories appeared in Indiana papers on April 28, 1908. They reported that a house fire in the pre-dawn hours was believed to have killed Belle Gunness and three children.

28 Apr 1908, Tue The South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Indiana) Newspapers.com


By the next day, the papers identified Ray Lamphere as a suspect in the deaths. Lamphere had worked for Gunness as a farmhand, but the two had recently had a falling out. Gunness repeatedly reported Lamphere to the authorities in the weeks leading up to the disaster, and shortly before the fire she visited her attorney to draw up a will—purportedly because she feared for her life.

29 Apr 1908, Wed The South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Indiana) Newspapers.com


More Corpses Appear

Then, a week later, on May 5, newspapers began breaking the news that multiple dismembered corpses had been unearthed on the Gunness property.

The discovery had come almost by chance. A man named Asle Helgelien had arrived in La Porte looking for his brother, who was known to have visited Belle Gunness. A search for clues about the missing brother on the burned Gunness property led to an examination of unusual depressions in the ground in a hog pen. Men started digging—and discovered one body after another.

05 May 1908, Tue Evansville Press (Evansville, Indiana) Newspapers.com


Newspaper coverage of the gruesome discoveries exploded the following day, May 6. Practically overnight, papers shifted from portraying Belle Gunness as a victim to identifying her as a killer who had lured countless well-to-do bachelors to their deaths using newspaper marriage ads.

06 May 1908, Wed The Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana) Newspapers.com


The body count only grew as the week progressed. “More horrors yet to come,” predicted one Indiana paper. And it was right. The corpse of Gunness’s teenage foster daughter, Jennie, was found among the buried bodies, as was Helgelien’s brother, and a number of unidentified victims.

The total number of murders ascribed to Gunness varies, though it’s suspected to be at least a dozen. After the bodies buried on the farm were found, people also began to suspect that Gunness was responsible for the deaths of her two husbands, who had both died under suspicious circumstances.

08 May 1908, Fri The South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Indiana) Newspapers.com


The Mystery Deepens

The investigation was complicated by conflicting evidence about whether Gunness had actually been killed or if she had faked her own death and escaped. Lending credence to the theory that Gunness had survived was her supposed corpse, which was mysteriously missing the head. Additionally, some who saw the body felt it was too small to be Gunness.

06 May 1908, Wed The South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Indiana) Newspapers.com


Other news coverage, however, reported that the body had indeed been Gunness, based on dental work and jewelry found at the scene.

12 May 1908, Tue The Fort Wayne Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Indiana) Newspapers.com


With so much about the Gunness case unresolved, newspaper coverage eventually slowed. The story did return to the papers later that year, however, when Ray Lamphere was convicted in November of setting fire to the house, though not of murder.

01 Dec 1908, Tue The Hamilton County Ledger (Noblesville, Indiana) Newspapers.com


Even today, we don’t know much more than they did in 1908 about the Gunness murders. The total number of victims, the extent of Lamphere’s involvement, whether Gunness died or escaped, and much more is still a mystery. The question posed by one newspaper in 1908 still stumps us more than 110 years later: “Is she dead or a murder fiend?”

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Coupons & Canned Corn: What a WWII Shopping List Reveals about Rationing

Shopping for meat during rationingShopping for meat during rationing 16 Apr 1943, Fri Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) Newspapers.com


World War II permeated the lives of Americans on the home front, and wartime food rationing meant the global conflict reached even into routine errands like grocery shopping. When we discovered a WWII-era shopping list in the pages of a 1940s newspaper, we became curious how food rationing shaped Americans’ day-to-day lives during the war years. So we searched Newspapers.com™ to learn more!

But first, some background on rationing in the U.S. during World War II.

Food Rationing 101

Food rationing began in May 1942, with sugar as the first item. Next came coffee, starting in November 1942. Then March 1943 saw a major increase in the number of food products that were rationed, including processed foods, meat, cheese, fats, and more.

Each rationed food item required a certain number of “points” to purchase it, with low-availability and high-demand items requiring more points. Points came in the form of coupons (also called stamps) from government-issued ration books and had to be used within a specified timeframe.

Newspaper preview of War Ration Book No. 2Newspaper preview of War Ration Book No. 2 03 Jan 1943, Sun Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) Newspapers.com


When buying a rationed item, shoppers had to present their grocer with the correct coupons—in addition to paying the monetary cost of the item. But having enough points didn’t guarantee shoppers would be able to purchase an item, since local and national shortages limited availability of certain foods and could mean higher prices.

Grocery shopping during rationing was further complicated by the ever-evolving nature of the rationing system, with foods being added or removed and point values changing from one month to the next.

Let’s Go Shopping!

During World War II, the Detroit Free Press published grocery shopping lists to supplement its daily column of wartime dinner ideas. We’re going to explore the weekend shopping list from April 23, 1943—a challenging time for shoppers, since it was not long after stricter rationing restrictions had begun.

Let’s see what the list can tell us about life under rationing!

The top of this shopping list shows the total points needed to buy the rationed items included on it, since every American had a limited number of points allotted to them per rationing period.

At the time this list was published, Americans had recently begun using War Ration Book No. 2. Blue coupons from the book were required to buy processed foods, and red coupons were needed for meat, cheese, fats, and oils. In addition to being color coded, the coupons had their point value written on them, as well as a letter of the alphabet that indicated when the stamp could be used.

Meat rationing began in the spring of 1943, and different types and cuts of meat cost different numbers of points, based on availability. “Variety” meats, such as kidney and other organs, usually required fewer points than did other types of meat. When this shopping list was published, Detroit was experiencing a shortage of beef, pork, and lamb. 

Fresh fruits and vegetables weren’t rationed. Much of the produce included on this list could be found in “moderate supply” in April 1943. Radishes, however, were in “light supply” at the time. Other common food items that weren’t rationed included poultry, eggs, fresh milk, and gelatin.

Most processed foods were rationed starting in early March 1943, including canned, bottled, and frozen fruits and vegetables. Just before this shopping list was printed, however, the point values of frozen fruits and vegetables were lowered, and those new point values are reflected on the list. Americans were encouraged to grow “Victory Gardens” and then can their own produce so processed foods could be freed up for military use.

Sugar was rationed during the war, but it required a separate coupon not based on points. Due to sugar rationing, substitute sweeteners such as honey, molasses, corn syrup, and maple syrup were popular.

No points were needed to purchase black-eyed peas or prunes (and other dried fruit) in late April 1943, since both had recently been released from rationing.

Butter, lard, margarine, shortening, and cooking oils were added to the list of rationed items at the end of March 1943. Since butter required the most points, Americans were encouraged to cook with alternatives such meat drippings—even in their baked goods.

Beyond the Shopping List

The shopping list is fascinating enough, but when we looked through the surrounding newspaper pages, a few other items caught our eye—each revealing something different about what life was like under rationing.

Newspapers were key to helping Americans of the WWII era understand food rationing, but the usefulness of this wartime content didn’t end when the war did. It’s still valuable today in helping us learn how our family members lived during the war years!

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The Astonishing Adventures of Houdini’s Favorite Detective

Rose Mackenberg in disguiseRose Mackenberg in disguise 12 Mar 1939, Sun The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) Newspapers.com


“Hints of Seances at White House; Witness at Capital Asserts a Spiritualist Said Coolidge Family Attended.” –Tipton Daily Tribune, 1926  

Like other newspapers across America in May 1926, Indiana’s Tipton Daily Tribune was following news out of Washington DC about a congressional subcommittee hearing. Hearings of that variety didn’t typically get national attention, but this one featured elements sure to fascinate newspaper readers.

The famous illusionist Harry Houdini had pitted himself against psychic mediums in a spectacle that would ultimately expose the personal lives of high-ranking U.S. officials—including the president of the United States.

And the “witness” mentioned in the headlines? That was 34-year-old Rose Mackenberg, dubbed “Houdini’s Mysterious Girl Detective” by the papers.

Rose Mackenberg (right) in 1925Rose Mackenberg (right) in 1925 27 Aug 1925, Thu Daily News (New York, New York) Newspapers.com


Becoming Houdini’s Detective

Mackenberg (born 1892) had been an investigator for a New York detective agency when she landed a case involving suspected fraud by a so-called psychic medium. A mutual friend connected her with Harry Houdini, who at the time was engaged in a public campaign to debunk fake spiritualists claiming to communicate with the dead.

Mackenberg joined Houdini’s team of 20 investigators in the mid-1920s and became one of his best. She went undercover to visit spiritualists suspected of fraud, gathering evidence that Houdini then exposed publicly at his performances.

By 1926, Mackenberg had investigated more than 300 mediums and been ordained a spiritualist minister 6 times.

The 1926 Subcommittee Hearing

As part of Houdini’s crusade against fraudulent mediums, two congressmen (Senator Royal S. Copeland and Representative Sol Bloom) sponsored an amendment to a Washington DC law that would essentially ban fortune telling in DC. The proposal was met with stiff resistance from the spiritualist community, who charged that it would infringe on their right to religious freedom.

27 Feb 1926, Sat The Richmond Item (Richmond, Indiana) Newspapers.com


An initial hearing before a House subcommittee was held for the bill in February 1926, with three more days of testimony in May. And with a showman like Houdini at the helm, the hearing—unsurprisingly—was a spectacle.

According to Rose Mackenberg, the days were “filled with near riots, a welter of conflicting testimony, shouted objections, muttered oaths, [and] copious tears,” as Houdini and the spiritualists battled it out.

Like the entertainer he was, Houdini showed the fascinated committee how some of the mediums’ tricks were performed. And in an attention-grabbing stunt, he even offered $10,000 to any medium present who could demonstrate that their claims of other-worldly communication were true. The ruckus got so bad that one day’s hearing had to be adjourned to restore order.

Houdini (left) at the 1926 congressional hearingHoudini (left) at the 1926 congressional hearing 10 Mar 1929, Sun The Times (Shreveport, Louisiana) Newspapers.com


Mackenberg Takes the Stand

But the biggest bombshell of the hearing—at least as far as the news media was concerned—was dropped by Mackenberg herself.

Prior to the May hearings, Houdini had sent his undercover investigators, including Mackenberg, to visit suspected phony mediums in DC and gather evidence against them. During her testimony, Mackenberg alleged that two spiritualists had independently divulged that a number of their clients were U.S. senators, and she even went so far as to reveal the names of four of those senators while on the stand.

But most shocking of all, Mackenberg testified that one of the mediums, Jane Coates, had boasted that seances had been held in the White House, with President Coolidge and his family present.

19 May 1926, Wed The Des Moines Register (Des Moines, Iowa) Newspapers.com


The two spiritualists vehemently refuted Mackenberg’s account, and the Coolidge administration unofficially denied the seances. But the story was rich fodder for newspapers, which published headlines like “Washington Goes In For ‘Spook Stuff’” and “Houdini Agent Says Coolidge Held Seances.”

Life After Houdini

Ultimately, despite the theatrics, Houdini’s bill failed to garner sufficient congressional support, and the famed magician died just 5 months later.

Mackenberg, though, continued debunking fake mediums for another 30 years. She investigated cases on behalf of banks, chambers of commerce, civic groups, police, lawyers, district attorneys, insurance and trust companies, private citizens, and more.

As a widely acknowledged expert, she wrote newspaper and magazine articles exposing the trade secrets of fraudulent mediums, and even let a few journalists shadow her on the job in the 1940s. She also went on lecture tours and appeared on radio and television shows, at least through the mid-1950s.

Rose MackenbergRose Mackenberg 21 Aug 1937, Sat The Vancouver Sun (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) Newspapers.com


Rose Mackenberg passed away in 1968 at age 75, having investigated more than 1,500 mediums over the course of her career.

She always maintained that she had no problem with sincere believers in spiritualism; she simply wanted to expose the people who used it to con the grief stricken and desperate. In fact, Mackenberg herself was open to the possibility of communication with spirits. But as she said in a 1953 newspaper interview, “In 30 years of searching, I’ve never found solid evidence of it.”

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Tales of Heroism from a Forgotten Tragedy: The General Slocum Disaster

Same-day front page about the General Slocum disasterSame-day front page about the General Slocum disaster 15 Jun 1904, Wed The Evening World (New York, New York) Newspapers.com


While the PS General Slocum isn’t well remembered today, the burning of this passenger ship in 1904 with the loss of approximately 1,000 lives was New York’s deadliest disaster prior to 9/11, and it remains one of the worst disasters on a US waterway.

So it’s no surprise that the General Slocum tragedy was major national news when it occurred, making headlines in papers from coast to coast. But along with the big headlines emphasizing the truly tragic nature of the disaster, another kind of newspaper coverage also appeared—stories of awe-inspiring heroism from that heartbreaking day. A search of the historical papers on Newspapers.com™ reveals many of them.

The Disaster

On the morning of June 15, 1904, nearly 1,400 passengers from St. Mark’s German Lutheran Church boarded the paddlewheel steamer General Slocum. The excursion vessel had been chartered to take the group—almost all of them women and children—from Manhattan to picnic grounds on Long Island. But after the steamer was underway in the East River, a fire began in the forward cabin that quickly consumed the ship.

The captain beached the burning vessel on North Brother Island, but the stern of the ship, where most of the passengers had been forced by the fire, was left in 10 to 30 feet of water. Though there were life preservers and lifeboats aboard, poor maintenance and neglect had made many of them useless. So passengers had little choice but to jump overboard without them to escape the flames—despite many not knowing how to swim.

Weighed down by their heavy clothing and struggling against a strong tide, 400 to 600 passengers drowned after the ship was beached. Though estimates vary, a government commission’s investigation into the disaster reported 955 passenger deaths—or about 70 percent.

Mary McCann’s Story of Courage

Mary McCann (1909)Mary McCann 26 Mar 1909, Fri Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Newspapers.com


As soon as the fire became visible beyond the ship, bystanders from nearby boats and on shore rushed to aid the stricken steamer.

One rescuer story that got extensive newspaper coverage was that of teenager Mary McCann, a recent immigrant from Ireland who was recuperating from an illness at the isolation hospital on North Brother Island.

When the General Slocum came aground on the island, Mary ran to the shore and swam out time after time to pull as many children as she could to safety. Reports of the number she saved range from 6 to 20, depending on the newspaper account.

Though Mary’s story was written about in newspapers immediately following the disaster, she gained further admiration after her testimony at the coroner’s inquest a little over a week later. She appeared again in newspapers nationwide 5 years afterward, when she was awarded the Coast Guard’s Silver Lifesaving Medal in 1909 for her rescue efforts.

Other Tales of Heroism

But far more stories of bravery from the General Slocum disaster appeared in newspapers besides Mary McCann’s.

The New York Times wrote about the staff at the North Brother Island hospital, who immediately rushed to aid the beached ship. They not only pulled people from the water using ladders and human chains, but also resuscitated victims and provided medical care. The New-York Tribune described a story similar to Mary’s, in which a hospital employee named Pauline Puetz swam out multiple times to pull victims ashore, even rescuing a child who had been caught in the ship’s paddlewheel.

Rescuers on nearby vessels, from rowboats to tugboats, got newspaper coverage as well for saving lives. Henry George, for instance, saved four people from the water in a rowboat that had only one oarlock and was filling with water. He then returned to rescue others from beneath the side of the ship despite the risk of being caught under the listing vessel. The crew of the tugboat John L. Wade, which arrived within minutes of the General Slocum being beached, took their vessel so near the burning ship to rescue passengers that it caught fire itself.

Henry GeorgeHenry George 16 Jan 1910, Sun The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) Newspapers.com


Papers also included accounts of the heroism that occurred on the General Slocum itself. The New York Evening World wrote about 12-year-old Louise Galing, who jumped into the water with the toddler she was babysitting and managed to keep ahold of the child until they were pulled from the water. The World also recounted that when young Ida Wousky would have fainted, 13-year-old John Tishner kicked his friend in the shins to wake her up. John then managed to find a life preserver and put it on Ida, pushing her into the water when she wouldn’t jump. He held onto her by her hair until they were rescued by a boat.

After the Catastrophe

The stories of courage from that tragic day are numerous. Brooklyn’s Standard Union reported that six months after the disaster, the US Volunteer Lifesaving Corps awarded 250 people for their bravery. And those medals were well deserved: The government commission into the tragedy concluded that bystanders were responsible for saving 200 to 350 lives, and that without their aid possibly only 70 of the approximately 1,400 people aboard would have survived.

A century after the tragedy, in 2004, the last remaining survivor, Adella Liebenow Wotherspoon, passed away at age 100. Though her death marked the end of living memory of the disaster, the stories of the passengers and heroes of that day live on in the pages of historical newspapers.

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6 of the “Best Wartime Recipes” Shared during World War II

28 May 1943, Fri Oklahoma City Advertiser (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com


In late 1941, food columnist Mary Moore invited readers of Canada’s Windsor Star to send in their favorite recipes to be featured in her new weekly “Best Wartime Recipes” column.

“Star cooks! Amateur cooks need your help. Send in those recipes that you are hoarding against your lean days—share your depression or wartime ideas with all of us.”

Because Canada faced food rationing and shortages during World War II, the recipes published in Moore’s column reflected wartime food restrictions—such as the rationing of sugar, tea, coffee, butter, and meat. Still, Moore asked that the submitted recipes be not only economical but flavorful as well, and she tested many of them herself to ensure they were.

Her wartime recipe column ran from October 1941 until May 1945, when Moore replaced it with one about dinner preparation for novice home cooks. She would continue as a food columnist until her death in 1978. Having gotten her start in the late 1920s writing for the Edmonton Journal (which ran her wartime recipe column as well), Moore’s newspaper career lasted an astonishing 50 years and ultimately saw widespread syndication in papers across Canada.

Interested in these wartime recipes? Here are 6 intriguing dishes selected from the 100+ published in Mary Moore’s column over the course of the war—all found on Newspapers.com! Click any of the recipes to see it in the original newspaper.

1. Applesauce Cake (October 1941)

Best Wartime Recipe: Applesauce CakeBest Wartime Recipe: Applesauce Cake 25 Oct 1941, Sat The Windsor Star (Windsor, Ontario, Canada) Newspapers.com


2. Hot Red Cross (November 1941)

Best Wartime Recipe: Hot Red CrossBest Wartime Recipe: Hot Red Cross 01 Nov 1941, Sat The Windsor Star (Windsor, Ontario, Canada) Newspapers.com


3. Bacon Substitute (February 1942)

Best Wartime Recipe: Bacon SubstituteBest Wartime Recipe: Bacon Substitute 14 Feb 1942, Sat The Windsor Star (Windsor, Ontario, Canada) Newspapers.com


4. Jelly Roll (April 1943)

Best Wartime Recipe: Jelly RollBest Wartime Recipe: Jelly Roll 10 Apr 1943, Sat The Windsor Star (Windsor, Ontario, Canada) Newspapers.com


5. New Idea Beef Loaf (November 1943)

Best Wartime Recipe: New Idea Beef LoafBest Wartime Recipe: New Idea Beef Loaf 27 Nov 1943, Sat The Windsor Star (Windsor, Ontario, Canada) Newspapers.com


6. Molasses Cookies (April 1945)

Best Wartime Recipe: Molasses CookiesBest Wartime Recipe: Molasses Cookies 21 Apr 1945, Sat The Windsor Star (Windsor, Ontario, Canada) Newspapers.com


Find more of these wartime recipes on Newspapers.com™. And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more historical content like this!

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No Matches? 5 Strategies to Try Next on Newspapers.com™

Newspapers.com homepage

Have you ever searched for an ancestor’s name on Newspapers.com™ but not gotten a hit, even though you suspect a match should be there?

There are a few reasons why this can happen: Maybe the person wasn’t mentioned in the paper by the name or spelling you’re searching for. Or maybe our site doesn’t currently have the paper where their name appears. But another possible reason has to do with OCR.

What is OCR?

All the newspaper pages on Newspapers.com have been indexed using Optical Character Recognition (OCR). This means that a computer has tried to identify the words on each page and produce a digital version to search. When the newspaper image is clean and in good condition, this process is very accurate and can make searching papers easy. For older papers or other papers where the image is less clear, the OCR processing may miss words or read them incorrectly.

In the majority of instances, the Newspapers.com Search can correctly locate the names and words you’re searching for—thanks to OCR. However, given the condition of some historical newspapers, OCR has limits as it tries to decipher text from papers dating back as far as the 1600s!

So is it a lost cause if one of your Newspapers.com searches doesn’t return the matches you want due to the idiosyncrasies of OCR?

No! We’ve gathered our top 5 strategies for those occasional times when the OCR can’t identify the name you’re searching for.

1. Substitute letters (and numbers) with similar shapes.

Depending on the newspaper’s typeface and the quality of the image, the OCR might mistake certain characters for others that look similar. The trick here is to make an educated guess about what the OCR thinks it’s seeing and then adjust your search terms to reflect that. This often means substituting letters (and numbers) that have a similar shape.

Common letter & number substitutes

Common substitutes to try include y & g, b & h, c & e, t & f, l & 1, and s & 8. 

Keep in mind that this might extend to multi-letter combinations as well, such as rn & m and rr & n.

So while your ancestor’s name may have been C-a-r-r-i-e Smith, the OCR might read it as C-a-m-e Smith in some instances. Searching for both variations will likely return more matches in your search results.

2. Search with wildcards.

In addition to searching with similarly shaped letters and numbers, you can also try using a “wildcard” to replace a letter (or multiple letters) that the OCR might be misreading.

              READ MORE: Learn about using wildcards

Two wildcards you can use on Newspapers.com are the question mark [?] and asterisk [*].

Use a question mark to replace a single letter. For example, if the person you’re searching for has the surname “Johnson” but you think the OCR might be misinterpreting the lowercase h as another letter, you can search [Jo?nson] to return a wider set of results.

Use an asterisk to replace multiple letters. If you think there’s a possibility the OCR may be misreading a multi-letter combination, try searching with an asterisk. For instance, with our earlier “Carrie Smith” example, you can try searching for [Ca*ie Smith] to account for a possible OCR issue.

3. Search without quotation marks.

Although placing quote marks around multi-word search terms is useful in many cases, it can be less helpful when dealing with a potential OCR issue.

Using quote marks around your search terms forces Search to return results for that exact phrase. But if the OCR is misreading one (or more) of the letters in your search terms, searching for an exact phrase may actually cause it to miss a match. Removing the quote marks around your search terms will give the search more flexibility, increasing the chances of finding what you’re looking for.

4. Search for other names or for related terms.

Sometimes when OCR is the issue, you may need to use a different search strategy altogether. If the OCR isn’t picking up a name you’re searching for, instead try searching for the name of someone else who is likely to have appeared in the same newspaper article. For example, when trying to find someone’s obituary, try searching for the name of their spouse, parents, children, siblings, or another relative. While the OCR might have missed the name you were originally trying to find, the odds are good that it will still pick up a different name on the same page.

A similar approach is to search for a word or phrase that might be used in an article about the person, such as the name of an organization, club, or church they belonged to. Then use the Newspapers.com search filters to narrow your results by time and location until you find a likely match.

5. Browse the paper.

As convenient and accurate as Search is on Newspapers.com, in rare cases you might need to browse a newspaper instead. So if a search isn’t locating a match you suspect should be there, determine which newspaper editions seem like the best candidates and then go through them page by page until you find what you’re looking for.

Newspapers.com makes browsing easy as well. Select the “Browse” tab at the top of the site, then narrow by location, paper, and date until you find the issue you want to browse. Once you’ve started reading, use the arrows or film strip at the bottom of the Viewer to move to the next page of the paper.

              READ MORE: Learn about browsing on Newspapers.com

Newspapers.com Browse
Newspapers.com Browse

We hope you find these strategies and tips useful! If you have any to add, share them with us in the comments!

Get started searching for your ancestors on Newspapers.com™! And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more content like this!

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5 Pioneering Women Doctors You Probably Haven’t Heard Of

We searched the historical papers on Newspapers.com™ to find the stories of 5 pioneering women doctors you may not have heard of before!

1. Rebecca Lee Crumpler – First Black American woman licensed as a doctor

Rebecca (Davis) Lee Crumpler (1831-1895) was the first Black American woman doctor, graduating in 1864 from the New England Female Medical College, where she was the only Black graduate.

Rebecca Lee Crumpler graduates from New England Female Medical CollegeRebecca Lee Crumpler graduates from New England Female Medical College 15 Jul 1864, Fri The Aegis & Intelligencer (Bel Air, Maryland) Newspapers.com


After graduating, she practiced medicine primarily in Massachusetts and Virginia, focusing on the care of women and children. She also worked with the Freedmen’s Bureau to provide medical care to the formerly enslaved. She published A Book of Medical Discourses in 1883.

An 1894 piece in the Boston Globe described Crumpler as an “intellectual woman” who “as a physician made an enviable place for herself in the ranks of the medical fraternity.”

2. S. Josephine Baker – First American woman to receive a doctorate in public health

Sara Josephine Baker (1873-1945) graduated from New York Infirmary Medical College in 1898. Her career was largely focused on improving children’s healthcare in underserved New York communities and lowering infant mortality rates. Baker received a doctorate in public health in 1917, the first woman to do so.

Baker became known for her observation (as quoted in the New York Times in 1918) that it was “safer to be a soldier in the trenches in this horrible war than to be a baby in the cradle in the United States.”

S. Josephine BakerS. Josephine Baker 24 Nov 1923, Sat The Star Press (Muncie, Indiana) Newspapers.com


3 & 4. María Elisa Rivera Díaz & Ana “Anita” Janer – First Puerto Rican women to earn medical degrees

María Elisa Rivera Díaz and Ana “Anita” Janer both graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of Baltimore in 1909, making them the first Puerto Rican women to earn medical degrees. Both were at the top of their class, and both started medical practices shortly after graduating.

Their extremely high grades in difficult subjects earned them the 1908 newspaper description of “las más notables estudiantes de medicina en la ciudad” (“the most notable medical students in the city”).

Elisa Rivera and Anita Janer, with fellow medical student Palmira GatellElisa Rivera and Anita Janer, with fellow medical student Palmira Gatell 25 Oct 1908, Sun The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) Newspapers.com


5. Margaret Jessie Chung – First Chinese American female surgeon

Margaret Jessie Chung (1889-1959) graduated from the University of Southern California Medical School in 1916 and opened a clinic in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1920s. She provided medical care not only to the Chinese community, but also to celebrities and other prominent Californians. She became known as “Mom Chung” for the care and support she gave to hundreds of servicemen beginning in 1931.

A 1927 newspaper feature about Chung remarked that “she fought her fight until her achievements have earned for her the reputation of being both a physician and a surgeon of unusual ability.”

Margaret Jessie ChungMargaret Jessie Chung 08 May 1927, Sun The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) Newspapers.com


Learn more about these 5 amazing women and many more on Newspapers.com™! And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more historical content like this!

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A Step-By-Step Guide to Newspaper Family History Research

14 Jul 1934, Sat The Pittsburgh Courier (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) Newspapers.com


Newspapers can be an incredible resource for family history research. Not only do they have birth, marriage, and death announcements, but they are a valuable source of stories, photos, and more.

If you’re just learning how to use newspapers to do family history research, we’ve come up with a step-by-step guide to help you get started. This guide will help you organize your research before, during, and after your newspaper search!

(Our guide is meant to provide general suggestions to help you organize your newspaper family history research. Be sure to personalize our advice to fit your own research needs. And for help learning about Newspapers.com™ site basics, visit our Help Center.)

Before you get started: Pick one ancestor to research at a time.

We recommend researching just one person at a time to help focus your research and minimize distractions. You will often need to try a variety of newspaper searches to find the ancestor you’re looking for; and when you stick to one person, it becomes easier to keep track of potential searches you want to try.

Tip: If you discover information about another ancestor while researching your focus person, be sure to clip or save that newspaper article and make a note to come back to it when you have time to research that other ancestor.

Step 1. Write down what you already know about your ancestor.

Write down the things you already know about your ancestor. Gathering the known facts will allow you to narrow your newspaper search and help you differentiate your ancestor from other people who have the same name. For example, if you already know your ancestor was born in 1880, you can filter out newspaper matches for their name in the years before their birth, making the number of search results more manageable.

23 Jan 1921, Sun The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Newspapers.com


Facts to write down before you start newspaper research (if you know them) include:

  • The person’s full name and any known nicknames
  • Important dates in their life (birth, marriage, death, military service, immigration)
  • Names of close family members or other key individuals in the ancestor’s life
  • Locations they lived (you’d be surprised by how many discoveries are made by searching an address!)

Step 2. Consider what you want to learn about your ancestor.

Setting goals and objectives is often helpful in family history research. So before you start searching newspapers, consider what you want to learn about your ancestor. Is their birthdate a mystery? Are you not sure of their father’s name? Is there a family story you’ve always heard and want to substantiate?

Clarifying what you want to find out will help you decide the best way to set up your newspaper search. For example, if your goal is to find your ancestor’s marriage date, you may want to start by searching for a marriage announcement in the Newspapers.com Marriage Index collection.

Examples of things you may want to learn:

  • Dates of important life events
  • Locations of important life events
  • Names of your ancestor or their parents/siblings/etc.
  • Life stories and anecdotes
  • The general history of the time and place they were living

Step 3. Choose strategies for how you plan to learn about your ancestor.

Now that you know what you want to learn about your ancestor from newspapers, it’s time to plan how you’re going to find it. This includes thinking about things like which specific newspapers or cities you want to search in first. Though you may need to adjust your strategy as you go along, starting out with a plan in mind will help provide structure and organization to your research.

In forming your research strategy, consider things like:

  • In which geographic locations am I most likely to find newspaper mentions of my ancestor? (e.g., cities, counties, states, countries)
  • Am I aware of a local newspaper that my ancestor is likely to be mentioned in?
  • What year range am I most likely to find my ancestor mentioned in?
  • What are alternative search terms I might need to try if my first search doesn’t work? (E.g., what are nicknames, alternative spellings, or name abbreviations that my ancestor might be mentioned under?)

LEARN MORE: Tips for searching with name and spelling variations in newspapers

Tip: Keep in mind that people can be mentioned in newspapers in locations you’d never expect and from years long after their deaths. For instance, one young woman was born in West Virginia and died in Idaho in 1893. But her marriage announcement appeared in a Pennsylvania newspaper! Her parents had lived in Pennsylvania before their deaths, and a paper there published news of her engagement. 

Step 4. Document (and clip!) what you are learning from your newspaper search.

Once you begin finding newspaper mentions about you ancestor, be sure to document what you’ve learned! It would be frustrating to discover something about your ancestor, only to forget the specifics later because you didn’t document your discovery!

When researching on Newspapers.com, one easy way to document your discoveries is through our clipping tool. If you think you might want to refer to a newspaper article in the future—clip it! Even experienced newspaper researchers sometimes come across a discovery, fail to clip it, and then can’t find it again. (If you find yourself in this situation, you can select “Recently Viewed” in the dropdown box below your username to see the last few newspaper pages you viewed).

Making a clipping on Newspapers.com
Making a clipping on Newspapers.com

You can view all your clippings on your Clippings page (accessible under the “Clippings” tab at the top of our site, or by clicking your username and selecting “My Clippings” from the dropdown box). And if you title your clippings—which we always recommend—you can search for them on your Clippings page, making locating them again a snap. You can even filter your clippings by options such as date or newspaper. You also have the option to adjust the privacy settings on your clippings.

LEARN MORE: How (and Why) to Use Our Clipping & Embed Tools

Discoveries you’ll want to document include:

  • Names, dates & locations
  • Stories & anecdotes
  • Photos
  • Local/national news events that may have affected your ancestor’s life
  • Clues that might lead you to further avenues of research

And don’t forget to save what you find to your tree on Ancestry® if you have one!

LEARN MORE: How to save a clipping to Ancestry

Step 5. Reflect on what you want to learn in the future.

When you’ve gone through all your newspaper search results, it’s time to think about what else you can do to learn about your ancestor in the newspaper.

Things to consider:

  • Are there other names or search terms you might be able to use to find your ancestor?
  • Are there any parts of your ancestor’s life that need more research?
  • Is there anything you couldn’t discover now but may want to come back to in the future?
  • Did any new questions about your ancestor come up as you were researching?
  • What next steps can you take to discover more about your ancestor?
  • Has something you’ve learned in a newspaper suggested a non-newspaper record you could search? (e.g., a marriage announcement leading you to a marriage registry)
24 Dec 1927, Sat Honolulu Star-Bulletin (Honolulu, Hawaii) Newspapers.com


Other things to keep track of

Other things you’ll want to keep track of while you do newspaper family history research include:

  • Citations! Make sure you keep track of where you found your information. Clippings and downloaded PDF images on Newspapers.com come with the newspaper title and date included, but you may want to keep track of this information separately as well.
  • Tech-y stuff. Did you save all your newspaper downloads in a particular file on your computer? Did you title all your clippings a consistent way so that you could search for them later? Make a note so you’ll remember.

More resources

We hope this guide has been helpful. Family history research is challenging at times, but newspapers can provide richness and depth not available with traditional records!  

Here are some of our other family history blog posts that may help you in your newspaper research:

Get started searching for your ancestors on Newspapers.com™! And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more content like this!

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