Choose Your Own Adventure

You are browsing through the internet, the square of your screen casting a bluish-white glow on your face. In your World Wide Web wanderings you come upon a blog that has just published a new post, ready to be perused.

If you decide to move on to some other corner of the internet, click away.
If you realize you’ve been online for far too long and you are starting to feel hungry, close the browser and find a snack.
If you are intrigued by the blog post, keep reading…and maybe grab a snack anyway.

CYOAChoose Your Own Adventure books are now a familiar (or at least nostalgic) part of children’s literature, but really they’re a pretty recent addition to the literary scene. The concept of a reader-protagonist who makes decisions every few pages to change the story’s outcome was pretty much unheard of before Edward Packer, the man who turned bedtime stories to his daughters into a new book genre in the 1970s.

Though his first book, The Adventure of You on Sugar Cane Island, was repeatedly rejected during the first decade of Packard’s attempts to publish, his idea finally took off once it was picked up by Bantam Books under the newly created genre of “gamebooks. It spread like wildfire, with Packard and other (contracted) authors writing dozens upon dozens of titles for young readers to enjoy.

The Choose Your Own Adventure books had their shining moment throughout the 80s, but by the end of the 90s computer and video games took over with their own, similarly addictive interactive formats. The popularity of the Choose Your Own Adventure books waned, but they set the standard for innovative storytelling and book series for years to come.

Did you read any of the Choose Your Own Adventure series? Which were your favorite? Find more on the history of CYOA books with a search on Newspapers.com.

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The Pedestrianism Craze

In the late 1800s, the spectacle of competitive walking was all the rage. Sometimes it took place in arenas with other pedestrians in the form of hours- or days-long “races,” and sometimes it was performed solo as feats of distance and time.
Ada Anderson, famous female pedestrian

Not everyone was a fan, particularly when pedestrianism spectacles took place on the Sabbath:

Not Everyone Pleased with PedestrianismNot until the invention of the safety bicycle (the sort we’re familiar with today) did the thrilling sport of pedestrianism fade into history.

It was the bicycle which killed pedestrianism

Find more on pedestrianism in the pages of Newspapers.com.

The Bobbed-Hair Bandit

Her crimes and her style made her an iconic figure in 1920s New York. Stop anyone in the street to ask them their thoughts and some might say she was a figurehead of women’s liberation. Others might say she was a prime example of the corrupted “modern woman.” All would say she was called the Bobbed-Hair Bandit.
Bobbed-Hair BanditIt seems Celia Cooney’s lawless career began rather simply. She and her husband, Ed Cooney, disenchanted with their meager circumstances, first began robbing stores with a misguided “get-rich-quick” kind of philosophy. Celia only ever wanted to be a proper housewife with her own home and furnishings and to take care of the child she was pregnant with at the time (who, sadly, passed away only days after birth). The Cooneys kept their crimes small and simple—no shots fired, no injured parties. Just hold ups and extra cash.
Bobbed-Hair Bandit SummarizedThe Cooney’s final robbery, described in part above, ended up being witnessed by enough people that the “Bobbed-Hair Bandit” was discovered. Her true name was revealed, along with that of her “tall companion,” and their three-month adventure in crime came to an end with long sentences in separate prisons. 
(Sensationalized) Account of their CaptureEd Cooney tried to help Celia by confessing that he was the reason for it all, but Celia denied this, saying, “if it had not been for me Edward would have gone straight. I was the cause of all the trouble.”
Not Much Romance to the Girl BanditAlienist (noun): former term for a psychiatrist.

Find more on Celia and Edward Cooney with a search on Newspapers.com, or check out this great article on the topic by Atlas Obscura.

The Red Cross School for War Brides

In the years following WWII, many U.S. soldiers were stationed in Japan as the country came under Allied occupation. Despite differences in culture and resentment on both sides for atrocities committed during the war, thousands of romances blossomed between the G.I.s and Japanese women. To help numerous Japanese brides learn the customs of their husbands’ country before they moved to their new homes, organizations like the Red Cross created bride schools.
Red Cross brides' school

The schools focused primarily on teaching the “war brides,” as they were called, some fundamentals of American culture. Cooking, etiquette, homemaking, and fashion were the main focus, while history and politics—though present in the lessons—took up the rear due to prevailing gender roles of the time.

The schools’ ethnocentrism often came off a bit patronizing, especially in retrospect, but the American teachers did occasionally learn some things themselves.

brides' school

Instructed in American hair-dos

Occasionally the teaching went both ways

Find more on these schools for War Brides with a search on Newspapers.com.

The Amazons, the Bodyguard…the Suffragettes

When you think of the original suffragettes, what comes to mind? Pinned up hair and modest dresses? Marches and lifted signs? Jiu-jitsu?
She Teaches Jiu Jitsu to the SuffragettesA woman named Edith Margaret Garrud, having previously learned the art of jiu-jitsu from instructors Edward William Barton-Wright (the first jiu-jitsu teacher in Europe) and Sadakazu Uyenishi, used her knowledge to teach classes of her own for the Women’s Social and Political Union in the UK. The object of “suffrajitsu,” as it was called by journalists, was to help suffragettes resist police interference in meetings and protect against arrests and rearrests.
Jiu-Jitsu for the SuffragettesThe article above does not exaggerate. This particular group of suffragettes were themselves quite militant, breaking windows and setting fires. This led to some rough handling by the police trying to arrest them despite desperate resistance. Once jailed, many of the women engaged in hunger strikes and were force fed through tubes. Later, introduction of the Cat and Mouse Act allowed for suffragette leaders to be released from jail so they would eat again, only to be rearrested for the same crimes once they’d regained their health. These sorts of rearrests were just one of the things fought against by “the Bodyguard” or “the Amazons”—the women who learned jiu-jitsu and used it to defend Suffrage leaders.
They surprised their World War I slowed the movement significantly, but Garrud’s jiu-jitsu and self-defense classes continued until her retirement in the mid-20s. She lived another 50 years and died at the age of 99. Speaks well for the practice of martial arts, don’t you think?

Find more on Garrud and her jiu-jitsu suffragettes with a search on Newspapers.com, or try browsing through at your leisure for clippings of interest to you.

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The Greatest Lawman in the Old West

U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves is the subject of today’s blog post, and a worthy subject he is. He was one of the first black deputy marshals west of the Mississippi, and thus had the authority to arrest any and all who deserved it, regardless of race or gender. Tough, fearless, and practically invincible during his 32-year career, he was the absolute best at what he did.
Bass ReevesReeves was a clever and honorable man who was unfailing in his devotion to his duty. Once a warrant found its way into his hands, he was tireless in his efforts to see the criminal brought to justice. And Bass Reeves always got his man. Stealth and disguise were his companions in many of his arrests:
Disguise and Deception: Bass ReevesHe claimed to have brought some 3,000 felons to justice during his work in Arkansas and the Oklahoma territory. Though he was responsible for the deaths of fourteen men, he was said to have only ever killed in defense of his own life (despite finding himself in many dangerous situations):
Close calls, but he never shot a man if he could help itOne instance that perhaps best demonstrates Reeves’ convictions was the arrest of his own son, Bennie Reeves, for murder:
Arrested his son for murderIllness led to Reeves’ retirement in 1907. He died three years later from nephritis at the impressive age of 72, having never been wounded in the line of duty.
True American HeroFind more on this fascinating character of Old West history with a search on Newspapers.com. He was also a primary character in the most recent episode of Timeless, “The Murder of Jesse James”. Though the show claims the Lone Ranger was based off of Reeves, there is no evidence to solidify this link. Still, it can confidently be said that Bass Reeves was about as close to a real-life Lone Ranger as a person can get.

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The Murder Castle

Herman Mudgett is the worst man you have probably never heard of, unless you happen to be familiar with his alias, H. H. Holmes.

Holmes made an appearance on Timeless this week as the show gave us a peek into the history of the World’s Fair Hotel—or as it would later be known, the Murder Castle. No spoilers about the show here, but you can probably guess from the morbidly straightforward nickname that this story isn’t going to be pretty.
Murder CastleThe Murder Castle was originally just your usual impressive, 3-story hotel. It was built by Holmes in Chicago as lodging for visitors to the Chicago World’s Fair, scheduled to take place a handful of years after construction. But—and this is where things get weird—Holmes filled his hotel with stairs that went nowhere, soundproof and airtight bedrooms, and doors that opened onto walls, among other oddities. He was constantly firing the construction workers and hiring new ones so that no one would know the full scope of his bizarre plans. Once the hotel was built he did the same with his employees, making sure they were in constant rotation to prevent anyone learning about the alarms that tracked guests’ movements, the gas lines in the bedrooms, the sealed up brick room that was only accessible through a trapdoor in the ceiling, or what he called the “secret hanging chamber,” which needs no further explanation.

H. H. HolmesAs you might expect, Holmes used his nightmarish fun house to murder people through hanging, asphyxiation, or sometimes starvation or thirst. Unbelievably, the basement of the hotel was his own personal post-murder medical chamber complete with large furnaces, lime pits and acid baths. He sold his victim’s organs to medical professionals and disposed of the remains, and somehow managed to not get caught doing any of this, for years. The World’s Fair came and went, and still he was not discovered.

He was finally arrested in Boston for another murder that was unrelated to the hotel, and authorities followed his trail back to Chicago. They discovered the Murder Castle, with its horrific rooms and secret chutes, and found human and animal bones and bloody women’s clothes inside.
Holmes's Secrets Coming to LightHolmes was connected to nine murders and confessed to several others. He was hanged for these crimes in May 1896, but it’s possible that during his time as a con man and murderer he may have killed up to 200 people in total. We will never know for sure. Holmes was one of the first documented serial killers, before the term serial killer even existed. And he was entirely unapologetic about it, even until the end.

Holmes' words

Holmes's QuoteIf you’re interested in this bit of history, give it a closer look. The details only get more and more unbelievable. Search for Holmes or his murder hotel on Newspapers.com for contemporary or modern accounts.

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The Luckiest Day of the Month?

Happy Friday the 13th, everybody!

Today is perhaps the most unlucky of days, the bane of the superstitious. The number 13 is avidly avoided by many in the world, and when combined with a Friday? No thank you.

However, a search on Newspapers.com regarding the unluckiness of Friday the 13th brings up a surprising trend of results: people who insist it’s quite the opposite. Here are just a few:

13 Unlucky? Opposite For Some.
Friday the 13th a perfect day for Jerry Myrup
Nothing especially unlucky about Friday the 13th

So go forth and make today whatever you’d like it to be. And good luck!

Find more on Friday the 13th history, opinions and more on Newspapers.com.

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