The Johnstown Flood of 1889: May 31, 1889

The Johnstown Flood of 1889: May 31, 1889

On the afternoon of May 31, 1889, heavy rains caused the dam on Lake Conemaugh to fail, sending the water from the lake rushing downstream to devastate the city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. With a death toll upwards of two thousand, the Johnstown flood was the deadliest natural disaster in American history up to that point.

Johnstown Flood of 1889 headlinesLake Conemaugh was a manmade reservoir created in 1853. In 1879, the lake and the surrounding land were sold to the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club to create a getaway in the Pennsylvania mountains for Pittsburg’s elite, including Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and Andrew Mellon. Although warned in 1881 by an engineer that the lake’s dam desperately needed maintenance—improper repairs, among other problems, had weakened the dam—the club ignored the recommendations.

Fourteen miles downstream from Lake Conemaugh was Johnstown, a booming steel mill city. An unusually heavy rainstorm that began on May 30, 1889, caused nearby rivers to overflow their banks, and the streets of Johnstown filled with water; the storm also caused the waters of Lake Conemaugh to rise rapidly. Despite frantic last-ditch efforts to prevent the dam from failing, the dam collapsed around 3 p.m. on the 31st.

The water of Lake Conemaugh was sent hurtling into the valley below, wreaking havoc on the smaller towns in its path and wiping out houses, trees, railcars, animals, and people. By the time the water reached Johnstown about an hour later, it was still dozens of feet deep and moving at about 40 miles per hour.

As the water cut its destructive path through Johnstown, the massive amount of debris carried by the flood accumulated against a stone railroad bridge that stood on the edge of the city. Somehow, the mountain of debris caught fire that evening, and the resulting conflagration killed many people who had been trapped in the debris.

The water from the dam took only about 10 minutes to sweep through the city, but it left incredible damage in its wake. More than two thousand people were killed, including ninety-nine entire families, and 1,600 homes were destroyed.

When news of the disaster reached the outside world, money and supplies came pouring in to help the people of Johnstown and the surrounding communities rebuild their homes, businesses, and lives. Clara Barton and her newly created American Red Cross provided relief for five months. Although lawsuits were filed against the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, none of them were successful, and the club was not held legally accountable for the disaster.

Learn more about the Johnstown Flood of 1889 on Newspapers.com.

New Papers Added!

Newspapers.com has added issues* for three major papers: the Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel, and Hartford Courant! Since these papers each come from a different region of the United States (Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and New England), together they provide important coverage of the eastern half of the country.

Sample The Baltimore Sun front pageBaltimore Sun
The largest paper in Maryland, the Baltimore Sun was founded in 1837. From the beginning, the paper operated under the philosophy of “news for all,” not just the moneyed classes, and focused on hard facts. By 1872, the paper had an official Washington bureau, and over the ensuing years added bureaus across the country and around the world. Interested in technological innovation, the Sun was an early adopter of technologies from the telegraph to the computer. Newspapers.com has issues from 1837–2016.

Sample The Orlando Sentinel front pageOrlando Sentinel
The Orlando Sentinel, a major paper in central Florida, traces its roots back to the Orange County Reporter, which began publishing in 1876 and is recognized as the first regular paper in Orlando. Today’s Sentinel is a product of various mergers between the Reporter, Orlando Evening Star, and South Florida (Orlando Morning) Sentinel. After various name changes, it became the Orlando Sentinel in 1982. Newspapers.com has issues from 1916–2016.

Sample Hartford Courant front pageHartford Courant
Founded in 1764, the Hartford Courant is one of the oldest continuously published papers in the United States and the biggest paper in Connecticut. The Courant began publishing before the United States was even its own country, and the paper had the widest circulation in colonial America. The Courant was seen as so important that when its paper mill was burned down during the Revolutionary War, the Connecticut legislature approved a lottery to pay for it to be rebuilt. Newspapers.com has issues from 1764–2016.

Explore these and other papers on Newspapers.com!

*With a Newspapers.com Basic subscription, you can see issues of these papers through 1922; or, with a Publisher Extra subscription, access those early years and additional issues from 1923 onward.

Tip: Where to Look for Your Ancestors in the Newspaper

Newspapers can be a treasure trove of information about your ancestors. Unlike government records, which are often limited to forms, newspapers can typically include a wide variety of different types of information about the people who live in the towns and cities they serve. Newspapers often go beyond the facts to tell the stories about people’s lives.

If you’re just starting out looking for an ancestor in the newspaper, a common place to begin is with birth, marriage, and death announcements. Although the amount of information provided can vary widely, details you might find in these announcements include:

  • Birth Announcements: baby’s name, birth date, gender, place of birth, parents’ names, family religion, grandparents’ names, mother’s maiden name, sibling names, photos

  • Engagement/Wedding Announcements: wedding date and place, bride’s and groom’s names, parents’ names, family religion, members of the wedding party, guest list, name of minister, where the couple plans to live, description of bride’s dress, details of ceremony/reception/shower, photos

  • Obituaries and Death Notices: death date and place, birth date and place, occupation/interests, military service, past places of residence, notable accomplishments, name and place of residence of close family, mortuary/cemetery, burial date, cause of death, photos

However, births, marriages, and deaths are just the beginning of the places in the newspaper where you might find your ancestors. The possibilities are nearly endless, but some sections in which you may want to look for your family include:

  • Advertisements (business ads, personal ads)
  • Church activities, news, and events
  • Court dockets/jury lists
  • Disaster victim lists
  • Entertainment sections (local theater and performances, school/church productions)
  • Gossip columns
  • Land/home/farm sales
  • Legal notices (divorces, probate, dissolution of business partnerships, sheriffs’ sales, delinquent tax lists, lawsuits, civil and criminal trials, foreclosures, estate settlements, bankruptcies, public sales/auctions)
  • Letters to the editor
  • Local election news/political events
  • Military service information (enlistment, draft, injury/death, letters home)
  • News stories (accidents/wrecks, disasters, crimes)
  • Passenger lists (trains, ships)
  • Personal notices
  • Police blotters
  • School news (honor roll, graduates, teachers)
  • Social news and events (parties, club meetings, out-of-town visitors, hotel guests, community events, contests, holiday celebrations, vacations, fraternal organizations, reunions, anniversaries, memorials)
  • Sports news (local teams, school sports, community leagues)
  • Unclaimed letters lists

Get started looking for your ancestor’s by searching or browsing on Newspapers.com!

First Oklahoma Land Rush: April 22, 1889

Oklahoma land rush begins In March, President Benjamin Harrison had announced that land in Indian Territory called the Oklahoma District (land obtained from the Creek and Seminole that wasn’t currently assigned to a tribe) would shortly be opened up to non-Native American settlers. This move came after years of eager homesteaders known as “boomers” trying to illegally settle the land; they were repeatedly removed by federal troops, but eventually the pressure on Washington from boomers, western congressmen, and railroads proved strong enough for the government to agree to allow non-Native American settlers to stake claims in the Oklahoma District.

So on April 22, roughly 50,000 prospective settlers (though some estimates range as high as 100,000) gathered at the borders of the Oklahoma District, waiting for the signal—a gunshot in most places—to begin their race to claim land. At noon the signal was given, and the men (and a few women) moved on foot, on horseback, by wagon, and by train to try to get to the best spots of land first.

While some of these settlers staked out potential farms, others raced to the site of future towns to claim lots for businesses. The chaos led to some pieces of land being claimed by more than one person, or to claims that overlapped. The settlers were also frustrated to find that some of the best land and lots had already been claimed by “sooners,” people who had snuck in illegally beforehand to strike their claims early.

In a single day, almost 2 million acres of land were claimed. The city of Guthrie went from a population of zero to 15,000 on that day, and Oklahoma City similarly went from nonexistent to 10,000 inhabitants.

The land rush of 1889 was just the beginning of a series of land rushes that opened up most of Oklahoma to non-Native American settlement, with the largest occurring in 1893. Through the Dawes Act and other government actions during this time period, the Native American tribes in the region lost approximately two-thirds of the land the government had previously given them.

Learn more about the land rush of 1889 by searching Newspapers.com.

The Courier-Journal

Do you have ancestors from Kentucky? Then check out the Courier-Journal on Newspapers.com!

Sample The Courier-Journal front page The Courier-Journal was created in 1868 by the merger of two Louisville papers: the Daily Journal (founded in 1830) and the Daily Courier (founded in 1844 as the Morning Courier). Before their merger, the Daily Journal and the Daily Courier were at odds with each other politically, particularly during the Civil War when the Journal was anti-slavery and the Courier supported the Confederacy. The first edition of the combined Courier-Journal was published on November 8, 1868.

The paper temporarily ended up on rocky ground in the late 1890s due to its vocal opposition to the Democratic presidential candidate, William Jennings Bryan. When the historically Democrat Kentucky voted Republican in the 1896 election, local Democratic leaders blamed the Courier-Journal, and the paper lost advertisers and readers.

As the paper moved into the 20th century, it gained a reputation for supporting progressive causes, producing quality journalism, and standing by its sometimes unpopular convictions. The paper increased its coverage by setting up news bureaus throughout Kentucky while also emphasizing national and international news. It currently has been awarded 10 Pulitzer Prizes, the first in 1918 and the most recent in 2005.

As the main newspaper in Louisville and an important paper in the region, the Courier-Journal documented the city’s memorable moments, such as the first Kentucky Derby in 1875, the 1890 and 1974 F4 tornadoes, and the Great Flood of 1937.

If you have ancestors or other family members from the Louisville region, try looking for them in the Courier-Journal. The Sunday social pages of the paper are an especially good place to look for mentions and photos of locals. The paper also has the typical lists of births, marriages, deaths, divorces, and more.

With a Newspapers.com Basic subscription, you can view issues of the Courier-Journal from 1830 to 1922; or, with a Publisher Extra subscription, access those early years as well as issues between 1923 and 2016.

Get started searching or browsing the Courier-Journal on Newspapers.com.

What Can You Learn from Classified Ads?

Today, a wide range of online resources are available to people looking to find items for sale or to sell items themselves—from Craigslist to Facebook and beyond. But up until about twenty years ago, they usually turned to one place: their local newspaper classifieds. Newspaper classifieds provided a centralized location for individuals to make transactions: buyers could buy, sellers could sell, job seekers could find employment, and employers could find employees.

Livestock not allowed in the streets; Australia 1859When we read classified ads in newspapers from decades and centuries past, it gives us a glimpse into what life was like in other times. For instance, one city government ad in a classified section of an 1859 Australian newspaper paints a picture of what the streets of Melbourne must have been like at that time when it notifies its readers that “all Cows, Pigs, or Goats found Straying on any of the streets of the city after Wednesday next […] will be impounded.”

Similarly, the plethora of ads in a Philadelphia paper in 1784 offering rewards for runaway indentured servants hints at the prevalence of this type of labor in the city at the time. One such ad offers a reward for a runaway “Irish servant woman, named Sarah Welsh,” described as being “of a swarthy complexion, dark brown hair, mixed with grey, pitted a little with the smallpox, has a reserved dark look, and a remarkable protuberance or lump on her windpipe.”

Classified ads can also teach us about social attitudes of the time, through the types of employees requested in job ads. Job ads were historically quite specific in the gender, race, or religion requirements for potential employees. For example one job ad in 1867 New York paper requested a “girl, Protestant preferred, to do general housework,” while another ad in the same issue asked for “a colored woman to do housework,” and yet another from that issue stipulated “an American boy, one that is strong and not afraid to work.”

If you’re curious about what life was like in the town or city an ancestor lived in, try looking through the local paper’s classified ads to gain interesting insights. Who knows? You might even find a relative’s name in one of the ads!

Get started reading the classifieds on Newspapers.com!

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire: March 25, 1911

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire: March 25, 1911

On March 25, 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City caught fire and in about half an hour killed 146 people, the majority of them young women. It remains one of the deadliest workplace disasters in U.S. history.

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire headlinesThe Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was a sweatshop housed in the top three floors of a 10-story brick building in New York City. The factory was one of the top producers in the country of women’s shirtwaists, and it employed hundreds of workers, mostly young women in their teens and twenties who were Italian or Russian Jewish immigrants.

On March 25, a Saturday, workers at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory prepared to leave at the end of the day. Employees of other businesses in the building had mostly all already gone home. Around quitting time, smoke was spotted coming from a rag bin beneath a cutting table on the eighth floor at about 4:45 p.m. Workers tried to put out the fire, but it spread too quickly and soon traveled through the elevator shafts and shattered windows to the upper floors.

Workers on the eighth floor tried to escape via the two passenger elevators [https://www.newspapers.com/clip/8830401/elevator_operator_saves_fire_victims/] and two stairwells, and many succeeded. Likewise, many of the workers on the tenth floor were able to evacuate to the roof, where they crossed via ladder to a neighboring building.

The workers on the ninth floor, however, had a much harder time evacuating. The door to one of the stairwells was locked, and the other stairwell quickly became impassible due to smoke and fire. Some tried to use the fire escape, but it soon collapsed under the weight of too many people. Others tried to jump down the elevator shafts, and while some survived this, many others did not. As the fire intensified, dozens of workers began jumping out of the windows, dying upon impact on the ground below, despite the attempts of onlookers to catch them with life nets.

Though the fire department arrived quickly, their ladders only reached the sixth floor, and the fire burned too quickly for them to save many of the people trapped inside. Within about half an hour, the fire was put out, but of the approximately 500 people who worked at the factory that day, 146 died—in the fire, from smoke inhalation, or from jumping [] to their deaths.

The tragedy proved the impetus for reform, and legislation was passed in New York that improved safety and fire regulations. Although the owners of the factory were put on trial (for the locked door on the ninth floor), there was not enough evidence to prove guilt and they were acquitted.

Learn more about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire by searching Newspapers.com.

The Guardian

Newspapers.com now has issues of the Guardian, one of the United Kingdom’s leading national papers! With issues dating back to 1821, you can explore nearly 200 years of British news and history.

Sample The Guardian front pageThe Guardian was founded in 1821 in the industrial city of Manchester, where the paper would remain (as the Manchester Guardian) until the 1960s, when it moved to London. The paper first began with weekly issues (and later twice weekly issues), since a tax on newspapers made it too costly to publish more frequently. But after about 30 years, after the government dropped the tax, the Guardian began publishing daily in 1855.

Originally founded as left-leaning paper, the paper temporarily shifted right in its early years, before returning to the left, where it remains today (in the center-left). Though it was long an important regional paper, the Guardian first gained its reputation nationally and internationally during the 57-year tenure of editor C.P. Scott, which began in 1872.

The Guardian remains internationally respected today and is particularly known for its investigative journalism. The Guardian has been owned by a trust (now a limited company) since 1936, which allows the paper to maintain its financial and editorial independence. After the paper’s move to London in 1964, it faced greater competition and financial challenges, but a series of innovations and redesigns in the 1970s and ’80s (and in the decades since) allowed the Guardian to maintain its status as a leading national paper of the UK.

Since the Guardian was long based in Manchester, the paper can be a good resource for finding ancestors from that area, particularly if they were involved in any news-worthy events. Even if you don’t find mentions of your relatives, the Guardian is rich in information about what was going on in Manchester (and later, London) and the rest of the nation, enabling you to learn about local and national events that may have affected your family members.

With a Newspapers.com Basic subscription, you can view issues of the Guardian from 1821 to 1900; or, with a Publisher Extra subscription, view those early years plus issues from 1901 to 2003. Issues of the Guardian’s sister paper, the Observer, are also available (1791–1900 with a Basic subscription; 1791–2003 with Publisher Extra).

“War Time” Daylight Saving Begins: February 9, 1942

U.S. Presidential Inauguration: January 20, 2017

On February 9, 1942, “War Time”—a year-round daylight saving time—began in the United States. Passed by Congress and signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the year-round daylight saving time required that clocks be moved ahead one hour for the remainder of the war as a national defense measure to conserve energy.

Missouri votes on daylight saving time, 1947America first implemented a partial-year daylight saving time in March 1918, during World War I, and though there was popular support for the wartime measure, there was also disapproval, primarily from farmers and the railroads. The national daylight saving time was repealed after the war ended, but it continued on at the local level, especially in the North, East, and parts of the Midwest.

A national daylight saving time was again implemented during World War II, but this time, rather than lasting only part of the year, daylight saving time lasted all year. The purpose of “War Time,” as this form of daylight saving time was called, was to conserve power and provide extra daylight for war industries to increase production. As with World War I, after World War II ended, the national daylight saving time was quickly repealed, but it remained a local issue, with each state, city, and even business deciding whether it would adopt daylight saving time or not.

This patchwork form of daylight saving time caused much inconvenience and confusion, and in 1966 a national law was signed calling for daylight saving time to fall from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October, with the option for states to exempt themselves. The energy crisis of the 1970s once again prompted the adoption of a year-round daylight saving time beginning in January 1974, but it actually only lasted 10 months, as legislation was signed adjusting yet again the time period of daylight saving time.

Another bill was signed in 1986 that moved daylight saving time to the period from the first Sunday in April to the last Sunday of October. This remained the law for many years until the most recent daylight saving legislation, implemented in 2007, set daylight saving time from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November.

Daylight saving time has remained a contentious issue in the United States ever since it was first implemented during World War I, as people debate its effect on energy, safety, farming, and much more. However, most of the United States now follows daylight saving time, with the exception of Arizona, Hawaii, and the U.S. territories.

Want to learn more about the history of daylight saving time? Start a search on Newpapers.com!

800+ Newspapers Added in 2016!

2016 was a great year for Newspapers.com. We added over 800 new papers to our site, which adds up to an additional 100 million+ pages of new content! Can you believe it? That means Newspapers.com now has upwards of 4,400 papers, with more coming in 2017. Finding your ancestors in the newspaper has never been easier!

With so many titles added to our site in 2016, some of them may have escaped your notice. So here’s a look at four major papers added to Newspapers.com last year:

The Los Angeles Times. Explore 135 years of Southern California history! Established in 1881, the Los Angeles Times has been the leading paper in the City of Angels since the 1940s, winning 42 Pulitzer Prizes to date. Newspapers.com has issues from 1881–2016.

Sample The Los Angeles Times front page

The Philadelphia Inquirer. One of the oldest surviving papers in the United States, the Philadelphia Inquirer gained its reputation during the Civil War, when it became one of the best-regarded papers for accurate war news. One of the nation’s most prominent papers, the Inquirer focused on comprehensive news coverage for much of its history, making it a particularly valuable source for learning about the events and issues prevalent in your ancestors’ day. Newspapers.com has issues from 1860–2016.

Sample The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Arizona Republic. When the paper began publishing in 1890, there were already two papers in Phoenix, but by 1915 the Arizona Republic had become the largest paper in the state. The Republic boasted full coverage of the Associated Press wires, as well as coverage of news from the city of Phoenix and the rest of Arizona. Newspapers.com has issues from 1890–2016.

Sample Arizona Republic front page

The Des Moines Register. A daily morning paper for much of its history, the Des Moines Register grew to become the most influential newspaper in Iowa and an important regional paper. If you have ancestors from Iowa, the Des Moines Register is a great place to look for them, as the paper historically had strong local and statewide coverage and also published numerous photographs of locals. Newspapers.com has issues from 1871–2016.

Sample The Des Moines Register front page

To stay up-to-date with Newspapers.com’s newest additions, check out the New & Updated page.

*With a Newspapers.com Basic subscription, you can see issues of these papers through 1922; or, with a Publisher Extra subscription, access those early years and additional issues from 1923 onward.