This Week in History – Polio Vaccine Trials

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

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

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

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

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

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The Solar Storm of 1859

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This Week in History – The American Revolutionary War Begins

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

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

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

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The Scam of Poyais

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

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

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

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

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

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This Week in History – Surrender and Assassination

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


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

Assassination of President Lincoln

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

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Olympics Make a Comeback

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

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

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

The Olympic Games

Questionable whether Olympic revival will be a success

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

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The Boxer and the Bear

Here’s a bizarre news story for you today: in 1897 a man named Bob Fitzsimmons found himself in an unexpected boxing match against his (not so docile) pet bear.

Boxing the Bear

Fortunately for the sake of not being mauled alive by a bear, “Fitz” had some experience in the realm of boxing. Just months earlier he had risen to fame with a well-publicized win against Gentleman Jim Corbett. He’d also go on make history as boxing’s first world champion in three weight divisions, and would later be added to The Guinness Book of World Records as the lightest heavyweight champion.

But before all of that came his ill-advised bare-knuckle boxing match (pun intended). The article below gives the details.

The Bear Boxing Match
Exhausting fight
Fitzsimmons after the fight

In the end there were no fatalities, not even for the animals involved. Still, it seems there’s a concrete lesson to be learned through this crazy story: it’s probably best not to keep bears as pets, no matter how much you like ’em.

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Recipes for St. Patrick’s

Pull out your green clothes and shine your shamrocks, for St. Patrick’s Day is here again. If you’re in need of a few solid recipes for your St. Patrick’s Day feast, look no further: Newspapers throughout the years are here to provide.

First up, a festive side for your dinner table: Shamrock rolls (1941):

Shamrock Rolls, 1941And from 1950, a subtly festive drink with just a hint of green:

Something to drink, St. Patrick's Day, 1950

Here’s something easy enough for the kiddos to make, from the Boys and Girls Newspaper in The Gazette and Daily (1950):

Junior Recipes: Cabbage-and-Pineapple Salad, 1950

If you’re a bit more adventurous but like easy prep, you might try this salad or this casserole, which together fulfill the corned beef and cabbage requirements of a St. Patrick’s Day meal (1979):

St. Patrick's Day Recipes

That Emerald Salad doesn’t seem particularly appealing, but who knows? Perhaps it’s a hidden treasure.

For your show-stopping entree, this Pot of Gold Cabbage seems like an excellent thematic choice (2001):

Pot of Gold Cabbage, 2001

And of course, what is a St. Patrick’s Day dinner party without the party? Here’s some surefire advice from domestic expert Lucy Lincoln to craft the perfect social event (1921):

St. Patrick's Party tips from Lucy Lincoln, 1921

(Though that last party game clue seems a little on the nose, wouldn’t you say?)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Hope your parties are safe, fun, and full of delicious food. Let us know if any of these dishes make an appearance at your holiday table. There are more recipes to be found from years gone by with a search on

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