Vera Menchik, Women’s Chess Champion

“Menchik Mate” from Menchik-Thomas chess game, London 1932 Sat, Jan 30, 1988 – 62 · The Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine) · Newspapers.com

The name Vera Menchik is not familiar to many people. But with her rise as a brilliant chess player in the 20s and 30s, and her success in tournaments against some of the greatest masters of the game, Menchik helped pave the way for women to enter a competitive world that too often failed to welcome them.

Early Life

Vera was born in Moscow, Russia, in 1906. She began playing chess at age nine, given a chess set and an understanding of the rules by her father. When her school formed a chess club, she joined.

The Russian Revolution upended the Menchiks’ home, business, and family, and Vera moved to England with her mother and sister. There she continued her chess education with the Hastings Chess Club, and later became a student of grandmaster Géza Maróczy.

Miss Vera Menchik, New WizardMiss Vera Menchik, New Wizard Tue, Feb 15, 1927 – 9 · Republican and Herald (Pottsville, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

In 1927, she won the first Women’s World Championship in London. She would go on to defend that title in every championship over the next twelve years, with seventy-eight wins, four draws, and only one loss.

Vera Menchik Club

Many considered chess too intellectually rigorous for women, an opinion that continued well into the latter half of the 20th century.

Bobby Fischer quote on the stupidity of womenBobby Fischer quote on the stupidity of women Wed, Jan 5, 1977 – 17 · Public Opinion (Chambersburg, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

When a woman proved that unflattering sentiment wrong by doing well in competitions, not everyone took her seriously.

Menchik entered the Carlsbad chess tournament in 1929, the only female competitor. Viennese master and fellow competitor Albert Becker found the idea so laughable that he proposed the creation of the “Vera Menchik Club,” where entry would be granted to anyone defeated by Menchik. Becker became the club’s first member.

The Vera Menchik Club - The Vera Menchik Club – “Society for Losers” Thu, Mar 28, 1974 – 61 · Calgary Herald (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) · Newspapers.com

Within a decade, the club that began as a mockery had been “joined” by some of the chess world’s most notable names, including Max Euwe, Edgard Colle, Mir Sultan Khan, Jacques Mieses, Samuel Reshevsky, and Frederick Yates.

Vera Menchik in high standing in chess worldVera Menchik in high standing in chess world Sun, Jul 23, 1944 – Page 38 · The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

World Champion

Women's Chess Champion, Vera Menchik, 21Women’s Chess Champion, Vera Menchik, 21 Sun, Sep 18, 1927 – 103 · The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) · Newspapers.com

Menchik defended her title as Women’s World Champion from 1927 until the end of her life. Sadly, that end came prematurely. At age 38, Menchik was killed by a bomb attack in London during World War II, along with her mother and sister.

Vera Menchik death announcement, 1944Vera Menchik death announcement, 1944 Fri, Jun 30, 1944 – 14 · The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) · Newspapers.com

Menchik did not effortlessly win every game. Many times she ranked low, or even last, in the list of competitors. But she played with such skill and knowledge that she took a male-dominated world by surprise. She holds a special place in chess history as the first Women’s World Champion, an example for all who followed. Today, the Chess Olympiad’s winning women’s team is awarded the Vera Menchik Cup in her honor.

Find more clippings on Vera Menchik and other important names in chess with a search on Newspapers.com.

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Stories that Haunted the Papers

The frosty fall season has once again settled over the northern hemisphere. For some that means warming up against the cold, while for others it’s prime time to get those goosebumps going. We’ve got the latter covered with today’s post, which features three ghost stories that have haunted past papers. Are the tales real, or just stories meant to thrill and chill? You can be the judge.

The Haunted Mine

There’s something about an enclosed space that lends itself to creepiness, isn’t there? And if you take that enclosed space underground, it only gets worse. This 1887 story recounts the harrowing experience of Mr. Bennett, whose qualifications as a reliable source speak for themselves.

Mr. Bennett is very truthful, and has feared Mr. Bennett is very truthful, and has feared “…No goblin or swart faery of the mine.” Sun, Nov 27, 1887 – 9 · The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) · Newspapers.com

Bennett worked in Nevada’s Yellow Jacket mine, which made the news nearly two decades earlier following a deadly fire. Stories had since been told of unexplained sounds and sights in the mine, but Bennet didn’t believe them. That is, not until the day he had to retrieve a pair of shovels from the empty 1000 level.

The Shovels

Bennett found the shovels and was descending the ladder back to the 1100 level when he heard footsteps. At first Bennet thought it was the foreman, Pete Langan. But Langan would have used a light, and the footsteps were approaching from complete darkness.

Mr. Bennett heard footsteps in the darkMr. Bennett heard footsteps in the dark Sun, Nov 27, 1887 – 9 · The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) · Newspapers.com Mr. Bennett on the ladderMr. Bennett on the ladder Sun, Nov 27, 1887 – 9 · The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) · Newspapers.com

He called out to ask who it was, and heard no answer but the footsteps coming closer. Suddenly, the two shovels held under his arm were “violently thrust forward and sent flying.” They tumbled down the ladderway until they came to rest 30 feet away.

Mr. Bennett describes being so badly frightened he felt a Mr. Bennett describes being so badly frightened he felt a “chilling, sickening shock.” Sun, Nov 27, 1887 – 9 · The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) · Newspapers.com

Made it to Safety

Bennett scrambled back to the other workers, who confirmed Pete Langan had been above ground throughout his experience. Bennett, who once “went by himself through all parts of the mine with no thought of fear,” refused to return to the haunted 1000 level ever again.

The full article can be read in these clippings: Part 1, and Part 2

The Haunted Lighthouse

This next story is also from the late 1800s and reads a bit like a Gothic horror story. The author, Tom, was hired to replace a lighthouse-keeper who had “deserted his employ” months before and hadn’t been heard from since. He was told the man had a pretty wife, and the two were suspected of having disappeared so effectively because they’d stolen some items of value from the lighthouse.

The First Night

Tom asked the temporary keeper, Morgan, to stay with him the first night and teach him the ropes. Morgan was reluctant, and Tom noted his face looked haggard and anxious, but he agreed. He skipped the tour of the cellars while showing Tom around the lighthouse, claiming they were never used anyway, and the night passed unremarkably. Morgan was all too eager to leave the next morning, and gave only one strange bit of advice.

Temporary lighthouse-keeper Morgan anxious to leave, advises Tom to load his revolverTemporary lighthouse-keeper Morgan anxious to leave, advises Tom to load his revolver Thu, Jan 26, 1871 – 6 · The Bradford Observer (Bradford, West Yorkshire, England) · Newspapers.com

A Ghostly Experience

It wasn’t until his second night spent alone in the lighthouse, a moonless Saturday evening, that Tom had his first taste of the supernatural.

Tom heard noises--heavy blows, curses, shrill screams and a dull thud--with no visible sourceTom heard noises–heavy blows, curses, shrill screams and a dull thud–with no visible source Thu, Jan 26, 1871 – 6 · The Bradford Observer (Bradford, West Yorkshire, England) · Newspapers.com

After some time spent frozen in terror, Tom worked up the courage to explore the cold, clammy cellar with his lantern (and revolver) in hand. Despite all that he had experienced, there was nothing unusual to be seen. He secured the cellar door and spent a sleepless night at the top of the lighthouse.

The next day he went back to shore to share what had happened with Mr. Thompson, the man who’d hired him. Thompson was skeptical, but sent a man named Wilson to stay a few days with him. Wilson helped him nail the cellar door shut, but of course the days passed with no further unexplained events. Wilson left, and Tom felt foolish…until that Saturday evening, when the events occurred again exactly as they had the week before.

Tom's second experience with the ghosts of the haunted lighthouseTom’s second experience with the ghosts of the haunted lighthouse Thu, Jan 26, 1871 – 6 · The Bradford Observer (Bradford, West Yorkshire, England) · Newspapers.com

The Final Vision

An exasperated Mr. Thompson once again sent Wilson to act as witness to any further oddities, and made plans to come himself the next Saturday evening. Aside from the unnerving discovery that the nails in the cellar door had been forcibly ripped out, Wilson and Tom passed that week quietly. On Saturday Thompson arrived, and all three men took up position directly outside cellar door.

As the clock chimed 11, they heard the shouting and blows begin. The door flew open, and the voice screamed as it had before. This time a violent vision played out before their eyes:

The ghostly vision in the lighthouseThe ghostly vision in the lighthouse Thu, Jan 26, 1871 – 6 · The Bradford Observer (Bradford, West Yorkshire, England) · Newspapers.com

Mr. Thompson arranged an investigation of the cellar and found the bodies of a man and woman, identified as a local farmer and the wife of the former lighthouse keeper. They tracked down the keeper and got his confession. He’d suspected an intimate relationship between his wife and the farmer, and had killed them both in a jealous rage despite his wife’s protestations of innocence.

And thus the ghosts of the wronged who had haunted that lonely lighthouse could rest, their mystery now solved. The full article can be read here.

The Haunted Tower

This story may be more familiar, especially to those who have visited the Tower of London before. The famous castle-prison has its fair share of grim history, perhaps most notably as the site of multiple royal executions during the reign of Henry VIII. His second wife, Anne Boleyn, is one of those. And according to several newspaper articles across the years, her ghost makes regular appearances at the Tower to this day.

Anne Boleyn's Ghost haunted Tower of LondonAnne Boleyn’s Ghost haunts Tower of London Sat, Sep 3, 1898 – 3 · The Brooklyn Citizen (Brooklyn, New York) · Newspapers.com

An Unconscious Sentry

One story says a sentry heard a scream during his rounds. He ran to the sound and found a fellow guard unconscious beside his rifle. When the affected guard came to, he was in such a state of distress that he was unable resume his post.

Under questioning, he finally revealed what had happened.

A sentry at the Tower of London recounts his experience with the ghost of Anne BoleynA sentry at the Tower of London recounts his experience with the ghost of Anne Boleyn Fri, May 5, 1933 – 5 · Deerfield Valley Times (Wilmington, Vermont) · Newspapers.com

The Haunted Chapel

Another favorite Anne Boleyn story centers the captain of the guard, who once saw a light coming from the Tower chapel. He climbed a ladder to investigate and saw a Locals and Tower sentries provide endless stories of Anne Boleyn's restless spiritLocals and Tower sentries provide endless stories of Anne Boleyn’s restless spirit Fri, May 5, 1933 – 5 · Deerfield Valley Times (Wilmington, Vermont) · Newspapers.com Anne Boleyn PortraitAnne Boleyn Portrait Mon, Dec 22, 1902 – 6 · The Chickasha Daily Express (Chickasha, Oklahoma) · Newspapers.com

Try a search on Newspapers.com for more on these and other ghost stories!

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Unusual Drinks to Try this National Root Beer Float Day

“The soda jerk was a local folk hero” Sun, Jul 1, 1984 – Page 24 · The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois) · Newspapers.com

It’s National Root Beer Float Day!

Did you know August 6th is National Root Beer Float Day? This familiar summer favorite originated in 1893 Colorado, all thanks to Frank J. Wisner and his moonlight imaginings.

Frank J. Wisner's creation, the Frank J. Wisner’s creation, the “Black Cow Mountain,” is today’s root beer float Tue, Aug 19, 2003 – 2 · The Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Florida) · Newspapers.com “Black Cow” drink is root beer and a scoop of vanilla ice cream Sun, Jul 15, 1934 – 7 · Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) · Newspapers.com

Milk and Soda

Perhaps the success of the “Black Cow” inspired these other combinations. Take this 7-Up ad from 1948, which marketed its product with a surprising “health” angle. Have you tried this mix before?

7-Up and Milk ad7-Up and Milk ad Sun, Jun 13, 1948 – 9 · Casper Star-Tribune (Casper, Wyoming) · Newspapers.com

7-Up wasn’t the only drink to have gotten the dairy treatment. Fans of Laverne and Shirley may recall Laverne’s taste for Pepsi and Milk. Those who enjoy this mix compare the taste to a “melted” root beer float, so perhaps it’s not so hard to see the appeal.

Pepsi and milk in Pepsi and milk in “Laverne and Shirley,” and other milk flavor combos Mon, Jun 3, 1985 – 8 · The Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

Sweet and Creamy

Let’s step away from soda for the moment. Prunes, anyone? Prune milk and milkshakes may have been a popular refreshment choice in the 40s and 50s, though they seem to have fallen out of favor since.

Chilled prune juice and malted milk make a Chilled prune juice and malted milk make a “health and appetite inspiring” drink Wed, Jun 12, 1940 – 54 · Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com Nutritious prune milk shake for a hot summer's dayNutritious prune milk shake for a hot summer’s day Wed, Jun 12, 1940 – 54 · Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

Let’s Get Savory

Fruity milkshakes and creamy sodas may not be so odd, in the end, even if most haven’t had the staying power of the root beer float. But some combinations just seem bizarre. Please share if this recipe for “Beef Fizz” makes a regular appearance in your home.

Beef fizz drink recipe, 1964Beef fizz drink recipe, 1964 Sun, Aug 9, 1964 – 75 · The Ogden Standard-Examiner (Ogden, Utah) · Newspapers.com

Maybe it’s best to stick with the root beer float.

Root Beer Float Recipes

Not to worry! If this post has given you a craving, here are some tasty-sounding variations you might give a try today:

Tasty root beer float variations from around the country, 1984Tasty root beer float variations from around the country, 1984 Wed, Nov 14, 1984 – 32 · Intelligencer Journal (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

Do you have a favorite unusual drink that hits the spot on a summer evening? Tell us about it in the comments! And try a search on Newspapers.com for more recipes and articles like this.

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Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary

April 22, 2020, is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Inspired by the anti-war movement of the 1960s, this now-global effort was first introduced by Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970. Nelson encouraged teach-ins on school campuses in the wake of rising awareness about pollution and its effect on public health and the planet, and millions of Americans joined in for the cause with classes, demonstrations, and projects.

“Good Earth: Across country, millions plead that it be rescued” Thu, Apr 23, 1970 – Page 1 · The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) · Newspapers.com

The first Earth Day drastically raised public interest in conserving the environment and reducing pollutants. It’s considered to have begun the modern environmental movement. As the clipping below states, it is now the largest civic observance in the world.

Earth Day world's largest civic observance, new global theme each year provides focusEarth Day world’s largest civic observance, new global theme each year provides focus Sat, Apr 13, 2013 – C1 · Fort Collins Coloradoan (Fort Collins, Colorado) · Newspapers.com

Now a global effort each April, Earth Day is given a focused theme. The theme for 2020 is “climate action,” with a focus on digital involvement. Have you participated in observances before? How do you join in?

Find more clippings and history about Earth Day through the years with a search on Newspapers.com.

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The Leap Year Privilege

It’s 2020, which means another Leap Year is upon us once again! For an event that only shows up once every four(ish) years, traditions associated with it are fairly scattered and inconsistent. But if any one tradition is firmly tied to Leap Year, it’s that of women proposing.

Here’s some history on how that might have come to be.

Up To The GirlsUp To The Girls Sat, Jan 2, 1904 – 2 · The Topeka Daily Herald (Topeka, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

St. Bridget’s Request

Legend says that St. Bridget, back in the 5th century, had some thoughts on proposals that led to the tradition as we know it today. The clipping below shares one version of what happened.

One version of the St. Patrick and St. Bridget origin of Leap Year proposalsOne version of the St. Patrick and St. Bridget origin of Leap Year proposals Mon, Feb 27, 1928 – 4 · Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Florida) · Newspapers.com

What’s a single young man to do if he must say no to a proposal? Give the young lady an apology gift, of course. The payment of a silk dress is a common recurring part of the proposal tradition.

Queen Margaret

The idea of a payment for spurned proposals is reinforced in this next part of Leap Year lore. As the story goes, in the year 1288, Queen Margaret of Scotland made it law that a man who dared turn down a perfectly good proposal without proof that he was already otherwise spoken for must pay—quite literally.

Queen Margaret's 1288 law, according to legendQueen Margaret’s 1288 law, according to legend Sat, Dec 30, 1967 – 15 · Edmonton Journal (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) · Newspapers.com

Yet, despite the very specific year of 1288 and decades of dedicated historian research, no such law has ever been proven to exist. Not only that, but the actual Queen Margaret on whom this legend is based was born in 1283, making her 5 years old at the time of the law. So this bit of Leap Year history is almost certainly nothing more than a fun bit of mythical trivia.

The Scarlet Petticoat

Perhaps as a reaction to all of these rules for the proposee, a more recent bit of lore adds a restriction for the ladies. Sure, a man must still pay for refusing, but the whole transaction could be nullified for the lack of a bright red petticoat.

Absence of a red petticoat cleared a man of paying a leap day proposal fineAbsence of a red petticoat cleared a man of paying a leap day proposal fine Thu, Jan 14, 1960 – 1 · The Brockway Record (Brockway, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

Leap Year Critics

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this tradition based on open season-style female proposals has often been derided in articles, cartoons, post cards and more over the decades. Men were considered, generally, to not be fans of the whole idea. Cartoonist Al Capp even played off the whole idea in his comic Li’l Abner, leading to the creation of Sadie Hawkins Day.

Many women looked down on it as well, thinking it made girls unbecomingly bold to the point of being embarrassing for all involved.

Some find Leap Years Some find Leap Years “Make a Girl Bolder Than Is Becoming” Mon, Mar 21, 1904 – 5 · Buffalo Courier (Buffalo, New York) · Newspapers.com

Now, as gender roles shift and progress, the idea of the “Leap Year Girl” doing things she could never otherwise do is fading into the past. Who knows but that the tradition will continue to change with it?

Find more clippings about Leap Year and the “Ladies’ Privilege” with a search on Newspapers.com. And follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for more historical content!

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Weather Predictions: Not Just for Groundhogs

Groundhog Day 2020 is just around the corner (on February 2nd, for those curious). With it comes the usual hullabaloo surrounding the noble groundhog and his mystical weather predictions. But while groundhogs are firmly established as the main prognosticators in U.S. culture, they are fairly new to the centuries-old prediction game.

Gus Ground Hog, Weather ProphetGus Ground Hog, Weather Prophet Tue, Feb 2, 1937 – 2 · () · Newspapers.com

Before Groundhogs, there were…

BADGERS OF YORE

Badgers to GroundhogsBadgers to Groundhogs Thu, Feb 12, 1931 – Page 8 · The Evening Standard (Uniontown, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

Groundhogs only have their current job thanks to their predecessors: badgers. It was only because groundhogs were more easily found in the United States that the groundhog entered the shadow-seeing spotlight.

BEARS OF ALL SORTS

Bears have also had their fair share of predicting the weather. How that worked, exactly, is unclear. It seems unlikely that crowds of people were standing around waiting for a bear to emerge as is done with the groundhog today.

Bear as weather prognosticatorBear as weather prognosticator Fri, Feb 2, 1923 – 2 · The Ottawa Citizen (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) · Newspapers.com

This next clipping takes an entirely different direction. Shadows are cast aside in favor of a furrier approach. Unfortunately for Snow Star, the prognosticating zoo bear, her thin winter coat gave an unreliable prediction.

Prognosticating Bear may be fired for inaccurate weather forecastPrognosticating Bear may be fired for inaccurate weather forecast Thu, Jan 16, 1964 – 3 · The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) · Newspapers.com

The Woolly Bear—a much different kind of bear—had its day in the sun when scientists looked to the caterpillars’ coloring for answers.

The Woolly Bear weather predictorsThe Woolly Bear weather predictors Tue, Oct 11, 1983 – 34 · Lancaster New Era (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

SAME DOUBTS AS GROUNDHOGS

Science-based or not, the thickness and color of an animal’s (or insect’s) fur is about as convincing for some as the sight of a groundhog’s shadow.

Animals Animals “predicting” weather with winter coats Sun, Dec 24, 1916 – 62 · The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) · Newspapers.com

Whether you stand by the predictions of shadows and fur, or find it all a “fairy story” like the zoo head quoted above, the prediction tradition still holds strong.

Happy Groundhog Day!

Find more on the traditions of Groundhog Day and the history of animal prognosticators with a search on Newspapers.com.

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The 100 Year-Old Plan to Light a Sunless Town

For almost half of every year, Norway’s valley town of Rjukan sees no direct sunlight. Cable cars to the mountaintop allow residents to seek out sun in high places, but in 2013 the town found a way to bring the sun to them.

Rjukan residents play in the mirrored sun, Norway 2013Rjukan residents play in the mirrored sun, Norway 2013 Thu, Oct 31, 2013 – A11 · The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

Sam Eyde

Though this project was completed in 2013, it actually began over a century ago with a man named Sam Eyde. Eyde’s name is very familiar to those living in Rjukan; his work using the Rjukan falls for hydropower and the development of saltpeter led to the creation of Rjukan as an industrial town between 1906 and 1916.

Sam Eyde, saltpeter, the Rjukan waterfall, and the development of RjukanSam Eyde, saltpeter, the Rjukan waterfall, and the development of Rjukan Thu, Sep 18, 1913 – 3 · Jamestown Weekly Alert (Jamestown, North Dakota) · Newspapers.com
Huge water wheel like the ones used at Rjukan circa 1912Huge water wheel like the ones used at Rjukan circa 1912 Sun, Oct 13, 1912 – Page 1 · The Washington Post (Washington, District of Columbia) · Newspapers.com


Seeking Sunlight

It wasn’t long before Eyde realized that the people had given up half a year of sunlight to work at Norsk Hydro. From necessity came this new and incredible plan: bring the sunlight to the people with giant mountaintop mirrors. Eyde supported early efforts to make this plan a reality, but nothing stuck.

Early efforts by Sam Eyde to reflect sunlight into RjukanEarly efforts by Sam Eyde to reflect sunlight into Rjukan Wed, Mar 2, 1955 – 15 · Star-Phoenix (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada) · Newspapers.com

In 1928, Eyde decided that if the sun wouldn’t come to the valley, he could bring the people of Rjukan to the sun. He had a cable car built. It gave access to magnificent views of the valley, and still does to this day. And at the time it was the residents’ only way to feel the sun on their faces during the long winter.

A Plan Realized

In the end, the cable car remained the sole method of getting some much-needed vitamin D for decades. But the mirror plan was not forgotten. Funding, tech, and time finally lined up to make it possible in the 21st century. And while some residents think it’s a bit silly—a tourist attraction more than anything else—the town square was filled with people ready to feel the sun’s rays at the official opening in late 2013.

Mirrors in RjukanMirrors in Rjukan Thu, Oct 31, 2013 – 15 · The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec, Quebec, Canada) · Newspapers.com
Gathering in Rjukan for the opening of sun-reflecting mirrors, 2013Gathering in Rjukan for the opening of sun-reflecting mirrors, 2013 Thu, Oct 31, 2013 – 15 · The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec, Quebec, Canada) · Newspapers.com

Find more on the history of Rjukan, Norway, with a search on Newspapers.com.

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Life and Light in the Dead of Winter

From Kwanzaa candles to Christmas’s electric festoons, end-of-year holidays bring light to the northern hemisphere’s darkest months. Light crackling and twinkling merrily against a frozen winter backdrop is a promise of warmth to come, both physically and metaphorically, and humanity has many traditions to celebrate that promise.

Heat the Hearth

The tradition of burning a yule log to celebrate the winter solstice hearkens back to pre-medieval times. The practice cleared the air, so to speak, of the past year, and merry-makers welcomed the return of spring. Like many wintertime traditions, this one was eventually adopted into Christian celebrations. The logs grew smaller to match shrinking fireplaces, and for many the practice of baking log-shaped cakes replaced the original burning tradition.

Royal Christmas Card from Duke and Duchess of York:

Royal Christmas Card from Duke and Duchess of York: “Bringing in the Yule Log” Sun, Oct 31, 1926 – 133 · Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) · Newspapers.com

Candle Customs

Throughout the festival of Hanukkah, eight candles are lit in memory of a successful rebellion and a miracle of oil.

Hannukiah, Chanukah menorah, presented 1951

Hannukiah, Chanukah menorah, presented 1951 Fri, Mar 23, 1951 – Page 6 · The Times Record (Troy, New York) · Newspapers.com

Kwanzaa sees candles lit as well. Seven candles of red, black, and green, each one a reminder of Kwanzaa’s core principles.

Lightling the Kwanzaa candles, 1975

Lightling the Kwanzaa candles, 1975 Sat, Dec 27, 1975 – Page 7 · The Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) · Newspapers.com

Saint Lucia, a Christian martyr celebrated mostly in Italy and Scandinavian countries, is represented with a crown of candles to light the way and keep her hands free to help those around her.

Saint Lucia and her candle crown

Saint Lucia and her candle crown Thu, Dec 13, 1979 – 53 · The Vancouver Sun (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) · Newspapers.com

Christmas trees were traditionally lit with candles, despite the risk of fire and the fiddly nature of trying to place candles on unstable branches. One legend claims Martin Luther, historic figure of the Protestant Reformation, was the first to so trim a tree.

Lights in the tree like stars in the forest, Martin Luther legend

Lights in the tree like stars in the forest, Martin Luther legend Fri, Dec 23, 1904 – Page 1 · Breathitt County News (Jackson, Kentucky) · Newspapers.com

It’s Electric

In 1882, Christmas went electric when Edward Johnson, VP of the Edison Electric Light Company, displayed a tree in his New York home illuminated with electric lights. President Grover Cleveland’s family Christmas tree shone bright with multicolored bulbs in 1894.

Grover Cleveland's electrically lit Christmas Tree, 1894

Grover Cleveland’s electrically lit Christmas Tree, 1894 Tue, Dec 25, 1894 – 1 · () · Newspapers.com

The bright shine of festive electricity remained out of reach for most until the turn of the century, when slightly more affordable pre-wired string lights made an appearance. General Electric was the first to introduce them in 1903. But when their attempt to patent the invention fell through, the market opened to competitors and prices began to drop.

What yearly traditions bring light to your winter days?

Find more about light-centered traditions like those above with a search on Newspapers.com.

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The War of the Worlds — Relevant a Century Later

H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds has been, since its publication in 1898, one of fiction’s most lasting science-fiction stories. In 1938 a radio broadcast of the novel famously caused real-life panic. Multiple movie adaptations have brought the horror of the tripods into modern settings. And this year’s new BBC television series takes the story back to 1905, just a handful of years after the book’s first publication.

H.G. Wells' Martian fighting-machine

H.G. Wells’ Martian fighting-machine Mon, Oct 31, 1938 – Page 1 · Press and Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, New York) · Newspapers.com

Setting this story in a time very like H.G. Wells’ own makes the technological superiority of the Martians all the more clear. It may also better emphasize the destruction of comfortable structure—a society of rules and customs—by a force that simply doesn’t care.

And yet the horror of The War of the Worlds transcends generations and even technology. Orson Welles, who directed and narrated the 1938 radio performance that made such a stir, expressed surprise at listeners’ reactions. He’d worried the story might seem “too old-fashioned.” But the frenzied fear of invasion that resulted just goes to show how pertinent such stories can remain decades—and centuries—later.

Orson Welles thought

Orson Welles thought “War of the Worlds” might appear “too old-fashioned for modern consumption” Mon, Oct 31, 1938 – 1 · The Huntsville Times (Huntsville, Alabama) · Newspapers.com

Perhaps the greatest reason for this was Wells’ emphasis on surrounding the fictional with the real. His stories were called “scientific romances,” an acknowledgement of the inspiration he found in scientifically-based speculation. He gave his aliens evolutionary traits, reasons for their existence and appearance, and even based their defeat on science we’ve witnessed in our own Earth-bound history. And among all this science was sprinkled a healthy dose of humanity, in which readers, listeners, and viewers see themselves and people they know.

Analysis of Wells' use of scientific and social inspiration in crafting realistic fiction

Analysis of Wells’ use of scientific and social inspiration in crafting realistic fiction Sat, Oct 27, 1962 – Page 19 · The Age (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) · Newspapers.com

H.G. Wells had flaws too, which are reflected in his work. Women play little part in his stories, a fact he acknowledged in this contemporary interview, and that is remedied in the new BBC series. He held many troubling beliefs on race and religion. And as the article above states, some found and continue to find his endings too sentimental, and some plot points irrelevant. Nevertheless, H. G. Wells and his stories continue to fascinate and inspire more than a century later, which is perhaps the best review an author can hope for.

Find more clippings about H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds and similar topics with a search on Newspapers.com.

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The Ghost of Clinton Avenue

From 1878 comes this real-life ghost story that even the skeptics couldn’t explain. With its ringing bells and rattling doors, this residence on Brooklyn’s Clinton Avenue became the talk of the town.

The Ghost of Clinton AvenueThe Ghost of Clinton Avenue Fri, Dec 20, 1878 – Page 1 · The Sun (New York, New York) · Newspapers.com


The residence’s owner, Mr. Smith, appeared to be a level-headed, logical sort of man. But when a skeptical reporter visited the house nearly a week later, as reported in the article below, Mr. Smith was too nervous to be interviewed and believed the disturbances to be the work of an evil spirit.

The Clinton Avenue Ghost follow up articleThe Clinton Avenue Ghost follow up article Thu, Dec 26, 1878 – 2 · St. Louis Globe-Democrat (St. Louis, Missouri) · Newspapers.com

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