Find: Famous American Unsolved Mysteries

News, Finds, Tips of the Month

If you’re looking for some stories to make you shiver this Halloween, you don’t have to look farther than the newspaper, as real-life mysteries can often be the most spine-tingling of all. This being the case, we’ve gathered three famous unsolved mysteries from the papers that will be sure to send shivers up your spine this October.

Lizzie Borden

Free from GuiltDespite being immortalized by the rhyme “Lizzie Borden took an ax / And gave her mother forty whacks; / And when she saw what she had done / She gave her father forty-one,” Lizzie Borden was actually found not guilty of the ax murders of her father and stepmother. The pair was found murdered at their home in Massachusetts on August 4, 1892, the father struck with an ax 10 or 11 times and the stepmother struck 17. Lizzie, age 32 at the time, was the prime suspect, as she was one of the only people home at the time of the murders. She was arrested and tried but was eventually acquitted, since there was a lack of hard evidence. No one else was ever charged with the murders.

Read about it in the newspaper:

D.B Cooper

On November 24, 1971, an airplane passenger going by the pseudonym Dan Cooper hijacked a plane flying between Portland and Seattle. Using a bomb as a threat, Cooper requested that he be given $200,000 in cash and 4 parachutes. When the plane landed in Seattle, Cooper was granted his requests, and per his orders, the plane took off once again, headed toward Mexico City via Reno, Nevada. However, somewhere between Seattle and Reno, Cooper jumped out of the plane, likely in southern Washington. Despite a massive search operation, Cooper was never found, and the true identity of Cooper, as well as what happened to him, remains unsolved to this day.

Read about it in the newspaper:

The Black Dahlia

On January 15, 1947, 22-year-old waitress and aspiring actress Elizabeth Short was found brutally murdered in Los Angeles. Most notably, her upper body had been completely severed from her lower half, and her body had been drained of blood. The gruesome nature of her death made it a media sensation, and Short became known in the press as the Black Dahlia. Despite a plethora of suspects and false confessions, no one was ever tried for her murder, and it is still unsolved today.

Read about it in the newspaper:

Learn more about these and other unsolved mysteries on Newspapers.com!

Soviet Union Launches Sputnik: October 4, 1957

Soviet Union Launches Sputnik: October 4, 1957

October 4 marks 60 years since the Soviet Union launched Sputnik— the first manmade satellite—into orbit in 1957, one of the instigating events of the Cold War Space Race and one that ignited fears in the United States regarding perceived Soviet superiority.

Sputnik headline
In 1955, the United States—and a few days later the Soviet Union—announced that it would launch an artificial satellite during 1957, the International Geophysical Year, which was set aside as a time to focus on scientific research. Though the United States had the missile technology to launch a satellite, the Soviet Union beat them to it, launching Sputnik—a 2-foot sphere carrying a radio transmitter—on October 4 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, in what is today Kazakhstan. The satellite’s radio signals, heard as a series of beeps, could be picked up by amateur radio operators around the world as Sputnik orbited the earth.

Then, a month later, on November 3, before the United States could launch its own satellite, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 2, which carried a dog into space. The U.S. finally announced its own satellite, to be carried by the Navy’s Vanguard rocket, but the actual launch on December 6 ended in failure. It wasn’t until January 31, 1958, that the United States successfully launched a satellite known as the Explorer 1, using a Juno I rocket based on a pre-existing Army-designed missile.

The Soviet launch of Sputnik months before America launched its own satellite sparked what became known as the “Sputnik crisis,” as the American public grew worried that the launch of Sputnik indicated a Soviet technological and scientific superiority. Anxiety also grew over national security, as the Soviet satellite launch seemed to confirm a “missile gap” between the two nations, with the Soviets appearing to come out on top. In response to these fears, President Eisenhower announced the creation of NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration), and the U.S. also revamped its education system to emphasize math, science, and engineering.

The Space Race between the U.S. and Soviet Union peaked in 1969 with the United States’ moon landing, though it would continue with varying intensity until the USSR’s dissolution in 1991.

Do you have any stories about Sputnik? Share them with us! Or find more newspaper stories about the event by searching Newspapers.com.

The Albuquerque Journal

Ever wonder what life was like in old New Mexico? Or do you have ancestors from that area? Check out the Albuquerque Journal on Newspapers.com, with issues dating back to 1882.

Sample Albuquerque Journal front pageThe Albuquerque Journal’s history began in 1880, when the death of the publisher of a paper called the Golden Gate left Albuquerque without a daily paper, creating an opening for the launch of an evening paper called the Albuquerque Daily Journal. The paper (renamed the Albuquerque Morning Journal) became a morning daily in 1882, and it is actually from this date, rather than 1880, that the paper calculated its centennial celebrations held in 1982.

In 1887, the Morning Journal was absorbed by the Albuquerque Daily Democrat, but in 1899 the combined paper was renamed the Albuquerque Journal-Democrat. It claimed to be the only New Mexico paper at the time that published the full afternoon and night Associated Press dispatches. In 1903, the name changed once again—this time reverting to the title of Albuquerque Morning Journal. It was a self-proclaimed Republican paper, though it would later shed its party affiliation and become politically independent. The paper finally landed on the title it has today—the Albuquerque Journal—in 1926, the same year it merged with the Evening Herald.

In 1933, then-publisher of the Albuquerque Journal Thomas Pepperday changed the newspaper industry when he created the nation’s first joint operating agreement by combining the business operations of two papers (the Journal and the Albuquerque Tribune) but keeping their editorial staff separate. Other cities later followed suit and adopted this model, sometimes called the “Albuquerque Plan,” which allows cities to support two daily papers when they otherwise could only support one.

Throughout its history, the Albuquerque Journal has covered local, state, national, and international news. Today, it is New Mexico’s oldest and largest paper, with circulation throughout the state, as well as into parts of Texas, Colorado, and Arizona.

Get started searching or browsing the Albuquerque Journal on Newspapers.com!

* With a Newspapers.com Basic subscription, you can view issues of the Journal from 1882 to 1977; or, with a Publisher Extra subscription, access those early years as well as issues between 1978 and 2017.

Death of President Garfield: September 19, 1881

Death of President Garfield: September 19, 1881

On the night of September 19, 1881, President James A. Garfield died in New Jersey, largely due to infection that set in after he was shot in the back by an assassin more than two months prior.

Headlines announcing President Garfield was shotA former Civil War general and member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Garfield wasn’t even one of the candidates for nominee when he attended the 1880 Republican presidential convention. Instead, there were initially three other contenders: former president Ulysses S. Grant, Senator James G. Blaine, and Treasury Secretary John Sherman. However, due to fierce divisions within the party, Republicans were unable to come to consensus on a nominee.

Finally, after more than 30 ballots without a winner, Garfield’s name was suggested. Garfield was acceptable to all the various factions within the Republican Party and quickly won the nomination. In the general election later that year, he beat the Democratic nominee by a comfortable margin in the Electoral College, though his popular vote win was much more narrow.

Garfield took office as president in March 1881, but he did not have time to accomplish much. On July 2, just four months after his inauguration, Garfield was at a train station in Washington DC, when he was shot in the arm and back from close range by Charles A. Guiteau. Guiteau—who believed that it was God’s will that he kill Garfield to save the Republican Party—was apprehended at the scene and willingly admitted to shooting the president. He would be executed a year later.

The wounded Garfield was taken to the White House, where over the next two months he got worse and worse as he developed a serious infection in his back wound, likely due to the unsanitary treatment of his wound by his doctors. The public closely followed newspaper reports of his health, though Garfield’s doctors sugarcoated their accounts of his condition.

Finally, in September, Garfield was moved to New Jersey in hopes that the seaside air would improve his health. But the infection was too severe, and on the night of September 19, Garfield passed away in great pain at the age of 49. He was succeeded by his vice president, Chester A. Arthur, and would go down in history as the president with the second-shortest time in office (following William Henry Harrison, who served just 31 days).

Learn more about the shooting of President Garfield on Newspapers.com.

Newport News Daily Press

Do you have ancestors from the Tidewater region of Virginia, or are you interested in the area’s history? Check out the Newport News Daily Press on Newspapers.com, with issues dating back to 1898*!

Sample Daily Press front pageWhen the Daily Press began publication in 1896, Newport News was in the middle of making the transition from rural town to urban city. Fifteen years earlier, a railway had been built to allow coal to be shipped from the town’s port, and a few years after that, an influential dry dock and shipyard had opened on the waterfront—both of which led to an economic boom for Newport News.

The Newport News Daily Press started out as a four-page paper, sold for a penny a copy. The owner and first editor was Charles E. Thacker, who ran the paper for about 14 years. The Daily Press eventually became the primary daily morning paper of the Virginia Peninsula. In 1913, the new owners of the Daily Press also bought the Times-Herald (the area’s main afternoon paper), and the two papers were jointly owned but separately operated for many years (until 1991, when the Times-Herald ceased publication).

In 1930, the two papers were bought by William E. Rouse, and they stayed in the family for more than 55 years. From 1958 to 1973, the Daily Press was published in a 9-column format, making it the widest in the state. In 1986, the papers were finally sold to the Tribune Company (now Tronc, Inc., which continues to own the Daily Press). The Daily Press is today the main paper of the lower and middle peninsulas in Virginia.

If you’re looking for your ancestors in the Daily Press, a good place to look—as in many papers—is the society and personal columns. Over the years, as the Newport News got bigger and the paper got longer, so did the society column, which eventually evolved into a society section multiple pages long. Society news is wonderful for finding anecdotal information about your ancestors, such as whose card party they attended, where they traveled, whose funeral they attended, when they got sick or went to the hospital, where they went to school, and so on.

If you love old comics, the Daily Press is a great place to find them, as it expanded its Sunday comics section to 16 pages starting in February 1935.

Get started searching or browsing the Newport News Daily Press on Newspapers.com!

* With a Newspapers.com Basic subscription, you can view issues of the “Daily Press” from 1898 to 1922; or, with a Publisher Extra subscription, access those early years as well as issues between 1923 and 2017.

Find: Vintage Jell-O Recipes

News, Finds, Tips of the month

While many of us probably associate Jell-O most closely with the 1950s and ’60s, this gelatin dessert has actually been around since 1897. Recipes using Jell-O started appearing in newspapers not long after, which means there are roughly 120 years’ worth of Jell-O recipes out there! If you love Jell-O, Newspapers.com is a great place to discover vintage Jell-O recipes from decades past.

Jell-o TipsSome early Jell-O recipes include:

The number of Jell-O dessert recipes out there is truly astounding. Have you tried any of these?

Or have you ever tried a savory Jell-O recipe?

On Newspapers.com, you can also find tips and trivia about Jell-O, see some of the earliest Jell-O newspaper ads, and read about the Jell-O recipe a Kansas minister claimed was sure to make the fish bite.

Share your favorite Jell-O memories with us in the comments! Then get started searching for Jell-O recipes on Newspapers.com, or look for other recipes that interest you.

Deaths of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane: August 2, 1876/August 1, 1903

Bonus Army Forced from the Capital: July 28, 1932

August marks of the deaths of two of the Wild West’s most famous figures: Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Hickok was killed August 2, 1876, at the age of 39, and Calamity Jane died of illness on August 1, 1903, at age 51; both died in South Dakota.

Headline announcing Calamity Jane's deathDuring his life, Hickok was a soldier, scout, stagecoach driver, lawman, gunfighter, showman, marksman, gambler, and more. He died after being shot from behind while playing poker in a saloon. Calamity Jane was a frontierswoman known for her men’s attire, hard drinking, and skill at profanity. She claimed to have been in love with Wild Bill Hickok and even to have gone after his killer with a meat cleaver—though there is no evidence to support this; she is, however, buried near him, as she requested.

Both Hickok and Calamity Jane were famous during their lifetimes, with their legends quickly outgrowing the actual facts of their lives. Hickok gained national fame in 1867, when he became the subject of an article in Harper’s Magazine. Calamity Jane similarly became well known around 1877, when she was used as the basis for a fictional character in the “Deadwood Dick” dime novels.

After the two gained fame, they were regularly mentioned in the newspapers of the time. An excerpt of one article about Hickok from 1870 reads:

“Wild Bill is a man of great physical power and an unerring marksman. He never comes out of a fight second-best. He was at one time surprised by ten guerrillas in a cabin, where he fought and killed them all, being himself pretty well cropped to pieces with their knives.”

While Hickok died at the height of his fame, Calamity Jane outlived hers. An article published in 1903, shortly before her death, describes it thus:

“It is not the Calamity Jane of today […] that you want to remember. She of today is old and poverty stricken and wretched. The country has outgrown her and her occupation is gone. […] It is the Calamity Jane of the old days, the Indian fighter, the scout, the mail carrier, the cow puncher, the man among men, who stands heroic.”

In both of the case of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, myth became more important than reality in the public’s perception of them, and they both still remain larger than life today.

If you’re interested in Wild Bill Hickok or Calamity Jane, look for more articles about them on Newspapers.com, especially in our South Dakota papers. Through cooperative projects with the Black Hills Pioneer and the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission, Newspapers.com has a large collection of papers from South Dakota, where both Wild Bill and Calamity Jane spent significant time.

Arizona Daily Star

Do you have ancestors from Arizona? Or are you interested in Arizona history? Newspapers.com has added the Arizona Daily Star, with issues from 1879 to 2017.*

Sample Arizona Daily Star front pageThe Arizona Daily Star is a daily morning paper that began publishing in Tucson on January 12, 1879, more than 30 years before Arizona became a state. The paper was started as a complement to the already existing Arizona Weekly Star (which would publish until 1907). The Daily Star’s first editor was L.C. Hughes, who would later go on to become governor of the Arizona Territory. Though it was initially called the Arizona Star, within a matter of months the name was changed to the Arizona Daily Star, which it has kept ever since. Despite competition, the paper eventually grew to be a powerful force in Arizona politics and influential throughout the southwest.

Some items of interest from the Daily Star include:

  • 1880 editorial calling on Tucson authorities to improve sanitation in the city
  • Front page from when Arizona gained statehood in 1912
  • Front page from 1934 announcing the capture of John Dillinger and his gang in Tucson
  • The 1939 15th annual special rodeo edition
  • Article from 1981 announcing that Daily Star reporters won a Pulitzer Prize
  • 2011 front page reporting the Gabrielle Giffords shooting

If you have ancestors from southern Arizona or the Tucson area, you might just find them mentioned in the Daily Star. Likely places to find them include the personals column, society column, and local news briefs.
From these columns you can learn tidbits like “Miss Vida Cooper, daughter of Mrs. William F. Cooper, […] is spending the summer in San Francisco where she is continuing her vocal studies” and “Frank Tom Gibbings, graduate second lieutenant in the cavalry reserve has received promotion to grade first lieutenant.”

Get started searching or browsing the Arizona Daily Star on Newspapers.com!

With a Newspapers.com Basic subscription, you can view issues of the Daily Star from 1879 to 1922; or, with a Publisher Extra subscription, access those early years as well as issues between 1923 and 2017.

What Did Your Ancestors Wear?

When trying to find out more about an ancestor’s life, have you ever thought about what they wore? Many people already know to look in newspapers for things like birth, marriage, and death notices; but one way you can flesh out your ancestor’s day-to-day life is by discovering what they may have worn.

Advertisement for women's clothing patterns (Missouri, 1875)
Newspapers are a great resource for this, as papers have long carried ads for clothing—or for the fabric and patterns to make them. You can trace how fashions changed throughout your ancestor’s life—discovering what they might have worn as kids, as young adults, and as older adults. You can find out what these fashions would have cost your ancestors as well, and learn which clothing and accessories they could have afforded in their daily lives and which they probably would have bought only for a special occasion. You can search papers from across the nation during your ancestor’s life to get a general idea of the fashion of the time, or you can look in papers from the state or even town they were from to see if local fashion trends were any different from national ones. The possibilities are nearly endless.

Here are a few examples of the types of fashions you can find in newspapers. Who knows? Your ancestors may have worn them!

Start exploring what your ancestors wore by browsing Newspapers.com!

Bonus Army Forced from the Capital: July 28, 1932

Bonus Army Forced from the Capital: July 28, 1932

On July 28, 1932, U.S. troops expelled thousands of American World War I veterans—known as the Bonus Army—from their camps in Washington DC, after months of protests and marches by the Bonus Army failed to result in legislation that would allow them to receive promised government funds early.

Bonus Army after being evicted from DC In the years following World War I, Congress passed legislation that would pay veterans of the conflict an adjusted “bonus” compensation for their time in the service, to be paid out in 1945. However, when the Great Depression struck, many veterans were out of work and wanted the government to pay them the money immediately rather than in 1945.

Starting in May 1932, veterans from across the country made their way to Washington DC to lobby and show their support for a bill introduced in Congress that would pay them their money early. Soon, an estimated 11,000–20,000 veterans—who quickly became known as the Bonus Army, or Bonus Expeditionary Force—as well as some families, crowded the capital, setting up massive camps in the area.

On June 15, the bill was passed in the House of Representatives, but it failed in the Senate two days later. The veterans were disappointed, but they largely reacted peacefully and many returned home—though thousands still remained in the capital.

In late July, after Congress had adjourned, the government decided that the veterans should vacate the abandoned buildings they had occupied along Pennsylvania Avenue. However, the veterans refused to leave, and on July 28 violence broke out between veterans and police, resulting in the deaths of two veterans.

The district commissioners requested that federal troops intervene, and hundreds of infantry and cavalry were sent out, led by General Douglas MacArthur. The troops used tear gas, bayonets, sabers, and tanks to push the veterans out of the downtown area, and then MacArthur proceeded to likewise clear out the veterans’ main camp at Anacostia Flats, which went up in flames.

Though the government claimed that the troops only used minimal force, and alleged that many of the marchers who were routed were radicals and criminals rather than veterans, the public largely reacted negatively to the use of federal troops on the veterans. The incident increased the public’s dissatisfaction with President Hoover, who would lose reelection that fall. The early bonus payments the veterans sought would not be approved until 4 years later, in 1936.

Do you have any family stories about the Bonus Army? Tell us about them! Or learn more about the Bonus Army on Newspapers.com.