4 Daring Wildfire Rescue Stories You Won’t Want to Miss

Wildfires are devastating, but they can also be scenes of amazing bravery and heroism. Check out these 4 incredible wildfire rescue stories:

Train Engineer Saves Hundreds from Forest Fire

In 1894, a massive forest fire burned through the pine forests of Minnesota, engulfing the town of Hinckley and other nearby settlements. Though more than 400 people perished in the fire, the death toll could have been higher if it weren’t for James Root, a train engineer.

Root’s train was headed south from Duluth toward St. Paul, and as it drew nearer the fire, it became increasingly filled with heavy smoke, making it difficult to breathe. Nevertheless, when desperate townspeople flagged down the train near Hinckley, Root stopped to get them on board. With the fire quickly approaching, Root began backing the train down the track.

Although Root increased the train’s speed, the fire finally caught up to them and surrounded the train. Still, he pressed on through the flames, until finally, they reached Skunk Lake, where the passengers were ordered to abandon the train and take refuge in the water. About 250 people were saved by the bravery of Root and the other train crew. [Read the newspaper account]

Forest Ranger Protects His Crew During Wildfire

Forest ranger Edward Pulaski was overseeing fire crews in the mountains of northern Idaho when one of the biggest wildfires in U.S. history burned through parts of the northwest in August 1910. Once the fire in his area had grown too dangerous to fight, Pulaski evacuated all the fire crew he could find.

He gathered 45 men and led them through the fiery, mountainous terrain to an old mine tunnel, where he ordered them to lie on the ground. When one panicked man attempted to rush out of the tunnel, Pulaski pulled his gun on the man and threatened to kill the first person who tried to leave.

With the fire raging outside, Pulaski hung wet blankets over the entrance and used his hat to scoop up water from the mine to throw on burning timbers inside the tunnel. His men eventually lost consciousness from the heat and smoke, and Pulaski finally did as well. When they came to, they discovered that although five of the men had died inside the tunnel during the fire, Pulaski’s strong leadership had saved the majority. [Read the newspaper account]

Hermit Leaves Fortune to Man Who Rescued Him from Fire

Around 1910, a young piano salesman named Eber Smith got on the bad side of a recluse named “Old Tom” Simpson, who lived in the mountains near San Bernardino, California. However, Eber eventually managed to befriend Old Tom by repairing his violin, and Eber began visiting Tom whenever he passed through.

When a wildfire swept through the area in 1914, Old Tom was laid up in bed with a broken leg. The firefighters were not willing to take the risk to reach Tom’s remote mountain cabin, but Eber braved the flames and carried Old Tom to safety above the timberline. About two years later, when Old Tom passed away, he left Eber his fortune of $500,000 (about $12 million today). [Read the newspaper account]

Sheepdog Proves Wildfire Hero

During a 1929 forest fire in southern Washington, a flock of sheep got trapped by the flames. The sheep panicked, and no attempts by the herders could get them out, so the sheep were finally abandoned. But they weren’t abandoned by a sheepdog named Laddie.

All on his own, Laddie herded the sheep to safety, and when the fire subsided the following day, the herders returned to find that not a single sheep was missing or injured. [Read the newspaper account]

Find these wildfire stories and others by searching on Newspapers.com. And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more interesting historical content like this!

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Beyond Shark Attacks: 3 Unusual But True Shark Stories

Take a break from the typical shark attack stories with these 3 unusual—but true—shark encounters!

Sailor Says Shark Saved His Life
When a seaman is forced to jump from a sinking ship into shark-infested waters during World War II, you don’t normally expect his story to end with a shark saving his life. But that’s what happened to Charley Matthews.

After a series of explosions sank his ship, 17-year-old Matthews hit the water only to hear others shouting “Sharks! Sharks!” He was about a block-and-a-half’s distance from a lifeboat, which he managed to reach despite torn ligaments in his knee. But when he reached the lifeboat, it was already overcrowded, and the man in command refused to let him on. That’s when Matthews noticed a shark approaching him.

But before the shark could reach him, a bigger shark blocked it. Matthews gave up hope, believing that the big shark would attack him itself, but instead he felt hands dragging him into the lifeboat. The big shark that had unintentionally saved him (which Matthews named Wilbur) and other sharks followed the lifeboat until the men were rescued 5 days later.

Shark Eats the Evidence
Important evidence for a trial can be found in all manner of unexpected places, including the belly of a shark.

It was 1915, relatively early in World War I, and officials of the Hamburg-American Steamship Line were set to go on trial in the United States for violating American neutrality laws.

Important to the government’s case were the ships’ clearance papers, but there was a problem. When one of the Hamburg-American ships had put in to port in Brazil, the captain dropped the papers overboard in a waterproof bag and then claimed they were lost.

But luckily for the U.S. government, a shark happened to eat the papers when they were tossed overboard. Then that same shark was later caught by the crew of a Brazilian warship, who, when they opened up the shark, discovered the papers in its stomach. This chain of events might sound a little too convenient, but nevertheless, there was a government witness prepared to testify to it under oath at the trial.

Bitten by a Dead Shark
You might think that if a shark is dead, it no longer poses a danger, but in 1950 23-year-old Lola Allison of Australia learned differently.

The daughter of the proprietor of a “man-eating sharks” sideshow, Lola was trying to pry open the jaws of a 7-foot nurse shark when the stick she was using snapped. The shark’s jaws clamped down, and she suffered deep puncture wounds to her right hand.

Similarly—and also in Australia—9-year-old Leonard Balmer was taking a shark’s jaw to school in 1961, when he slipped, and the shark’s teeth gashed him on the leg.

And lest you think these things only happen in Australia, in Florida in 1935, a county commissioner was prying open the jaws of a dead shark for a photograph, when the jaws snapped shut and caught the man’s finger.

Find these shark stories and others by searching on Newspapers.com. And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more interesting historical content like this!

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5 of the Strangest Sports You’ve Never Heard Of

Bored? How about sticking ferrets down your pants or sitting on top of a flagpole? Strange as they may sound, these are real sports—there’s even evidence in the newspapers!

From the weird to the wacky, we’ve collected 5 of the strangest sports people have participated in over the years. Check them out!

Ferret Legging
Ever felt inspired to put two sharp-toothed, carnivorous, weasel-like animals down your pants and let them run around? No? Well, it’s a real thing people have done.

Called “ferret legging,” the sport was popularized in Great Britain in the 1970s. It entails putting the ferrets (who can’t be sedated or missing teeth) down your pants, which are tied at waist and ankle to prevent an escape. No undergarments are allowed, and you can’t be drunk (though the idea of someone attempting this without being drunk boggles the mind). Then you see how long you can endure the gnawing, clawing, and biting of the squirming, furry creatures. Amazingly, the record is five-and-a-half hours.

Ferrets put in pants to gain record, 1972Ferrets put in pants to gain record, 1972 Sat, Jan 29, 1972 – 3 · Orlando Evening Star (Orlando, Florida) · Newspapers.com
Balloon Jumping
Touted as the “next innovation” in 1924, “balloon jumping” (or “hopping”) was set to take off as the next big thing in the 1920s. Basically, you attach yourself to a balloon whose lift is slightly less than your own weight. (So if you weighed 150 pounds, you would use a balloon whose lift was 100 pounds.) Theoretically, this was supposed to allow you to “casually jump over lakes, trees, houses, moving automobiles, and almost anything else,” because you would essentially “weigh” only 50 pounds, while your muscles would be used to moving 150 pounds. The sport never really caught on, however, due to the dangers of the sport, including the high-profile death of one of its early adopters.

Balloon jumping photo, 1928Balloon jumping photo, 1928 Tue, Sep 18, 1928 – Page 24 · Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York) · Newspapers.com
Flagpole Sitting
Also a product of the 1920s was the baffling sensation of “flagpole sitting,” which was exactly what the name implies: set up a little platform on the top of a flagpole and see how long you can sit there. The stunt attracted crowds and made celebrities out of those daring enough to do it, such as Betty Fox and Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly. Kelly’s record for flagpole sitting was an astounding 49 days!

Shipwreck Kelly demonstrates flagpole sitting, 1928Shipwreck Kelly demonstrates flagpole sitting, 1928 Mon, May 21, 1928 – Page 1 · The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) · Newspapers.com
Snail Racing
No one really knows how long people have been racing snails, but mentions of it began cropping up in newspapers in the 1880s. At that time, it was said to be all the rage in Paris, where enthusiasts would race snails on a smooth board with a lighted candle at one end. The rules of later iterations of the sport got more intricate, with standardized course lengths, time limits, bait restrictions, and handicap guidelines. Reportedly, snail racing got so popular in Paris that in 1912 it had to be banned in governmental offices because the clerks were betting on the races.

Snail racing has seen resurgences in popularity over the years and remains a pastime today, with the annual World Snail Racing Championships taking place in England.

Snail racing, 1963Snail racing, 1963 Sun, Nov 10, 1963 – Page 58 · Press and Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, New York) · Newspapers.com
Toe Wrestling
If feet weird you out, this next sport is not for you. In “toe wrestling,” two competitors lock toes and then try to turn the foot of their opponent, though apparently the toe hold is often broken before either foot is turned. Another variation created in 1974 involves only locking big toes with your opponent. This type of “toe wrestling” is not to be confused with a popular older game by the same name in which two opponents seated on the ground used their feet to try to make the other player lose his  balance.

Toe wrestling, 1968Toe wrestling, 1968 Mon, Oct 7, 1968 – Page 8 · The Petaluma Argus-Courier (Petaluma, California) · Newspapers.com
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Murder or Suicide? The Mysterious Death of Annie Dorman

The girl was found dead on the bedroom floor, lying in the blood that pooled from two bullet holes marring her body.

The Times of Philadelphia, 10.06.1897

The Times of Philadelphia, 10.06.1897

Her name was Annie Dorman, and she died September 1, 1897. Accounts of the investigation into her death filled up newspaper columns for weeks, not only in the Pennsylvania papers near where the event occurred, but also as far away as South Dakota.

Why so much coverage of the death of an obscure teenage girl in the rural outskirts of Philadelphia?

Perhaps because no one could conclusively prove whether her death was suicide or murder.

The Facts
The facts of the case (as told by nearby Philadelphia newspapers) were these:

  • Annie Dorman, about 18 years old, had been living with her half-brother (John) and his family off and on for 5 years, working for them as a nanny and all-around maid. She was described by most who knew her as having a happy disposition.
  • On the day of Annie’s death, her sister-in-law, Lizzie, went to Philadelphia, and her half-brother was working outside, leaving Annie alone in the house with the four children.
  • In the afternoon, Annie put the baby to sleep downstairs and sent the other children outside to play in the fields.
  • Around 3:30 p.m. one of the farmhands heard four gunshots, the first two almost a minute apart and the second two in quick succession.

    Philadelphia Inquirer, 10.10.1897

    Philadelphia Inquirer, 10.10.1897

  • Around 4:30 p.m., one of the children found John in the barn and told him that Annie was dead. John rushed to the house and found Annie in his bedroom killed by gunshot wounds—one under her jaw and one in her chest. The one to her chest was later determined to be the cause of death. There were also two bullet holes in the ceiling and one in the wall.
  • John called for the coroner, who found Annie’s clothing undisturbed, except for her bodice, which had been unbuttoned. A later examination would show that she had not been sexually assaulted.
  • An old family revolver was found by Annie’s side. The gun was old-fashioned and rusty but had been sitting loaded on a shelf in the bedroom for two years.

The Investigation
As the investigation into Annie’s death progressed, more questions seemed to arise than were answered, leaving no one sure whether it was a homicide or suicide.

Supporting the claim of suicide was the fact that although Annie was generally described as happy, there were also accounts of her being “sensitive” and having “gloomy periods.” Annie had reportedly been having problems with her boyfriend, and she apparently hated her work situation with her half-brother’s family. Her sister-in-law had even reportedly choked her and chased her with a broom in the past.

The Times of Philadelphia, 09.07.1897

The Times of Philadelphia, 09.07.1897

There were smaller details that seemed to point to suicide as well: Like the fact that the dogs hadn’t barked, implying no stranger had entered the home. Or that the room was in nearly perfect order, and that no blood had been tracked through the bedroom or house.

But those who believed it was murder also seemed to have ample evidence. The gun was old-fashioned and hard to cock, which made it seem unlikely that Annie could have used it to shoot herself multiple times. And after shooting herself in the jaw, would she have been able to shoot herself in the chest as well? Not to mention that if it were suicide, how were the other bullet holes in the ceiling and wall to be explained? And what about the fact that the Dormans had cleaned up Annie’s blood and burned her clothes before the evidence could be investigated?

Theories ran wild.

The Conclusion
Ultimately, an inquest was held on October 5, more than a month after Annie’s death, but the results were not very satisfying. The jury gave an open verdict, ruling simply that Annie had died of wounds “inflicted by some person or persons unknown.”

Though murder had not been ruled out, the investigation into Annie’s death never went any further, due to a lack of funds, manpower, and evidence. If there was a murderer, he or she was never found.

Perhaps the closest we’ll ever get to an explanation of Annie’s death is this scenario proposed in an Philadelphia Inquirer editorial:

Philadelphia Inquirer, 10.10.1897

Philadelphia Inquirer, 10.10.1897

What do you think? Was it murder or suicide?

Read the newspaper accounts of Annie Dorman’s death on Newspapers.com. You can also view Annie’s memorial on Find A Grave.

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Social Media for the 19th Century Dummy

“There are lots of people who may be interested in you and your friends. You owe it to them to let [your] friends and their friends know of their doings.”

Sounds like the reason many people post to social media, doesn’t it? But this quote isn’t talking about social media—at least, not social media as we know it today. It actually comes from an 1899 editorial about newspaper social columns.

A Different Kind of Social Media
Long before we were posting everything about our lives on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and a host of other social media platforms, Americans in past centuries were sharing the same tidbits from their lives in their local newspapers. Illnesses, injuries, vacations, guests, anniversaries, birthdays, business ventures, children’s antics, surprising events . . . they all were reported in the local social column.

(From the Schuylkill Haven Call, 05.29.1903)

(From the Schuylkill Haven Call, 05.29.1903)

These columns went by a variety of names and descriptions—“local happenings,” “personal paragraphs,” “society notes,” “items of interest,” and “brevities,” just to name a few. They were a staple of American newspapers from small and mid-sized towns for nearly a century, starting around the 1880s.

These social columns were an important way residents of a town stayed connected with each other. People turned to the local paper for news about the people they knew, and the newspapers catered to that curiosity.

Wondering why the man down the street is always wearing dark glasses? A look in the paper would tell you that he’s receiving eye treatments. Or curious why your acquaintance didn’t show up to a club meeting? The newspaper might reveal that she was shopping in the city that day.

Social Sharing—19th Century Style
Notices about local residents’ lives made it into the social columns in a variety of ways. Some papers gathered content on local happenings through their editors, reporters, or correspondents, but others relied on local residents to provide the information themselves.

(From the Gaffney Ledger, 03.27.1908)

(From the Gaffney Ledger, 03.27.1908)

And many people did submit the events of their daily lives. Much like today, if a person wanted their neighbors to know about an event in their life, they would post it—just in the newspaper rather than on Facebook.

“Harry, little son of John Cashman, while sitting on the fence […] watching a game of ball, fell to the ground breaking his left arm. The lad is rather unfortunate, as only a few months ago he broke his right arm.”

Sure, the language from 1902 is dated, but it’s easy to imagine the boy’s mother in 2018 posting a photo to Instagram of little Harry and his two broken arms, with a facepalm emoji in the caption.

It seems that people, no matter the era, want to know what their friends are up to—and want share what they are doing themselves. So next time you’re scrolling through your news feed, remember that your great-grandma may have likewise perused her local newspaper’s selection of “Pertinent Paragraphs Pertaining Principally to People and Pointedly Printed.”

Check out some of our favorite social column clippings in the slideshow below!

(Harrisburg Telegraph, 06.06.1888) (Harrisburg Telegraph, 06.06.1888, via Newspapers.com) (Gaffney Ledger, 03.27.1908, via Newspapers.com) (Gaffney Ledger, 03.27.1908, via Newspapers.com) (Los Angeles Herald, 05.25.1893, via Newspapers.com) (Winfield Courier, 01.21.1897, via Newspapers.com) (Canonsburg Notes, 10.14.1892, via Newspapers.com) (Adams County Independent, 11.01.1902, via Newspapers.com) (Adams County Independent, 09.27.1902, via Newspapers.com) (Axtell Standard, 08.04.1932, via Newspapers.com)

Find more examples of social columns on Newspapers.com. And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more interesting historical content like this!

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5 Unforgettable Eruptions in Kilauea’s History

Eyes around the world are on the ongoing volcanic eruption at Kilauea in Hawaii. But this attention isn’t new. The eruptions at Kilauea have been appearing in newspapers around the world for almost 200 years.

From the awe-inspiring rivers of glowing lava, to flying molten rocks, to the tragedy of lost property and injury, much of Kilauea’s recent activity has parallels with past eruptions. Here’s a look at five of the most unforgettable throughout history.

1924 Kilauea Eruption (from the Honolulu-Star Bulletin)

1924 Kilauea Eruption (from the Honolulu-Star Bulletin)

1790 – Kilauea Kills Hundreds of Hawaiians
Kilauea’s violent explosive eruption in 1790 killed hundreds of Hawaiians—most famously a party of warriors, who were likely killed by hot steam and sulfuric gases. In 1919, a geologist discovered footprints preserved in the volcanic ash of the 1790 eruption, and these footprints were long attributed to the Hawaiian warriors killed by the volcano. However, more recent research suggests that many of the footprints may have instead been made by women and children of that time period.

1840 – Kilauea Lights Up the Night
The 1840 eruption lasted about a month and is the largest on record in the East Rift Zone. The effusive eruption occurred from vents along 21 miles of the rift zone and was described as “glowing with extreme brilliancy.” One newspaper reported that it was so bright that for two weeks a person could read “the finest print” at night some 30 miles away. After the 1840 eruption, Kilauea became a tourist attraction.

1924 – Kilauea Spews Tons of Rocks into the Air
Over two-and-a-half weeks in 1924, Kilauea experienced more than 50 explosive events. These explosions, caused by steam buildup, shot tons of rock from the Halema’uma’u crater into the air, with some weighing as much as 14 tons. A shower of rocks from one of the explosions crushed the leg of a visiting Chicago man. Found covered by burning ash, the man was rushed to a hospital, where he died after having his leg amputated.

1959 Kilauea Eruption (from the Honolulu Advertiser)

1959 Kilauea Eruption (from the Honolulu Advertiser)

1959 – Kilauea Produces Record-Breaking Lava Fountains
In November and December 1959 the Kilauea Iki crater produced some truly awe-inspiring lava fountains. The initial lava fountains were impressive enough at 50 to 100 feet, but they soon were reaching 200 feet, 650 feet, 980 feet, even 1,247 feet. But then on December 17, the lava shot an incredible 1,900 feet high—more than three times the height of the Washington Monument. It was Hawaii’s highest recorded lava fountain in the 20th century.

1990 – Kilauea Destroys 100 Homes
The current Kilauea eruption began in 1983, and in 1990 it entered its most destructive phase. In March 1990, lava began to enter the community of Kalapana. By late June, 86 homes had been destroyed, and by the end of the year, Kalapana was gone. The lava flows had destroyed 100 homes, a church, and a store. The famous Black Sand Beach at Kaimu also disappeared.

Discover more images of Kilauea throughout history in our slideshow below!

Eruptions in Kilauea's History Kilauea takes a life, 1924 Kilauea hurls rocks like "skyrockets," 1924 Kilauea erupts, 1955 Kilauea 1955 Lava fountain at Kilauea, 1959 Kilauea lava fountain size comparison, 1959 Kilauea 1960 House buried in ash from Kilauea, 1960 Kilauea 1983 Flow of lava from Kilauea, 1990 Kilauea 1990

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Poison Squad: The Men Who Ate Poison So You Don’t Have To

A group of young men volunteered to eat poison for dinner. All in the name of science.

The press dubbed them the Poison Squad, but the man in charge—Dr. Harvey Wiley—called the experiment the “hygienic table trials.” The trials, which lasted from 1902 to 1907, were part of Wiley’s crusade to prove that common chemical preservatives then in use were not fit for human consumption.

More than 100 years later, the preservatives in our food are once again a hot topic. Many food packages now declare they are preservative-free to boost sales, and an internet search for the question “Are food preservatives bad for you?” returns more than 2.5 million results.

Is there anything we can learn from Harvey Wiley and the Poison Squad?

Dr. Wiley’s Crusade
At the time of the table trials, Wiley was chief chemist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. One of his passions was pushing for federal regulation of food “adulteration”—in other words, he wanted to stop food manufacturers from adding potentially dangerous substances to food and misleading consumers about ingredients.

In 1902, Wiley received money from Congress to study the effects of chemical food preservatives on humans. For the next five years, Wiley conducted experiments in which he fed groups of young men common food preservatives of the day—like borax, salicylic acid, copper sulfate, and formaldehyde.

Fully informed of what they were getting into, the volunteers received three square meals a day—in exchange for eating doses of the preservatives along with their meals. Throughout the experiment, their vital signs were recorded, and urine and stool samples were collected and analyzed.

Careful notes were taken about any symptoms the men developed. Borax, for instance, was found to cause headaches and stomach aches, while the formaldehyde test had to be ended early because the men got too sick.

The Public Joins the Cause
The press eventually caught wind of these experiments, and the so-called Poison Squad became a national sensation. Article after article appeared in newspapers around the country, generally praising the efforts of Dr. Wiley and his volunteers. “The food consumers of America owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Wiley’s ‘poison squad,’” read one such article in the Salt Lake Telegram in 1903. “Congress should give every one of them a gold medal.”

Ad for Ceylon and India Tea (from the New York Tribune)

Ad for Ceylon and India Tea (from the New York Tribune)

The high visibility of Dr. Wiley’s preservative experiment increased public awareness of food safety, an issue that women’s groups had long been championing. Because of this growing awareness, some food and beverage companies began advertising their products as being free of risky substances. A 1902 ad for Ceylon and India tea, for instance, boasted the product was “not mixed with adulterants or coloring matter”—a shift from just two years prior, when that product’s ad made no reference to food safety.

Although Dr. Wiley’s methods seem somewhat suspect today, his experiments paid off. His findings from the Poison Squad ultimately enabled him to work alongside other activists to push through the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act—the nation’s first real federal food regulation law.

The Debate Lives On
Today’s debate about food preservatives revolves around some of the same issues as in Dr. Wiley’s day. One side emphasizes preservatives’ role in prolonging the shelf life of food and making it cheaper and more accessible, while the other criticizes chemical preservatives for their potential dangers. It’s a complicated issue.

But if there is one thing either side can learn from Dr. Wiley’s story, it’s the power that passionate and persistent individuals have to shape the national conversation on food safety. Just without a Poison Squad this time.

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The Gloves Are Off: What Happens When Two Powerful World Leaders Go Head-to-Head?

Two opposing world leaders agreed to meet against a backdrop of heightened nuclear tensions and belligerent rhetoric. No, it’s not President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. We’re talking about Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev.

East Meets West
At the time, the arms and space race between the U.S. and Soviet Union was in full swing, and Cold War tensions were high. But the two nations agreed in late 1958 to hold cultural exhibitions in each other’s countries. Before the American exhibition officially opened in Moscow in July 1959, Vice President Nixon traveled to Russia to act as host to Khrushchev as the Soviet premier toured the exhibits.

Khrushchev and Nixon talk in a model kitchen at the American exhibition in Moscow (via the Lincoln Journal Star)

Khrushchev and Nixon talk in a model kitchen at the American exhibition in Moscow (via the Lincoln Journal Star)

The two men’s informal discussions that day are collectively known as the Kitchen Debate, since (as the Daily News put it) “their battleground was the narrow space between the stove and the washing machine in a model American kitchen.” Though their conversations touched on topics like modern appliances, the affordability of housing, and the exchange of ideas between the two nations, the real subject was capitalism versus communism—and their discussions sometimes grew quite heated.

The Kitchen Debate
When Nixon bragged that the model house they were looking at cost $14,000—a price tag he claimed was affordable for most American World War II veterans—Khrushchev replied that American houses were built to only last 20 years, while Soviet houses were built to last for generations. When Khrushchev boasted that everyone was guaranteed housing in Russia, Nixon shot back that America had diversity and choice.

Following their exchange in the model kitchen, Nixon and Khrushchev moved to a TV studio demonstrating new color television technology. There, Nixon suggested that advancing technology would increase the possibility of communication between the nations, facilitating learning on both sides. “Because after all,” he could not resist adding, “you don’t know everything.” To which Khrushchev replied, “If I don’t know everything, then you know absolutely nothing about Communism, except for fear!”1

The American Public’s Reaction
When news of the exchange hit U.S. newspapers, the American public—for the most part—applauded Nixon for standing up to the famously bellicose Khrushchev. An AP article carried by the Lincoln Journal Star reported that “Nixon stood toe-to-toe with Khrushchev batting back his arguments one by one.” The Belleville Telescope admiringly wrote that the meeting between Nixon and Khrushchev “developed into a world-shaking bluff and bluster in which the Russian Premier came out second best.”

Nixon called a "secret weapon in the cold war" (via the Chicago Tribune)

Nixon called a “secret weapon in the cold war” (via the Chicago Tribune)

And when, a few days later, the video of the conversation was aired on American TV, Nixon gained further popularity. An editorial in the Evening Sun, written in the weeks after the Kitchen Debate, lavished praise on Nixon, saying “In every assignment he has drawn, he has turned in a distinguished performance. He is the despair of opponents who wait for him to stumble so they can push him out of sight.” (Of course, Nixon would later stumble—quite spectacularly.)

Questions for Today
But while the gloves may have come off during the Kitchen Debate, it did little to actually resolve any of the problems of the Cold War. The showmanship between the two leaders resulted in little besides popularity and propaganda within their respective countries.

However, the Kitchen Debate does spark some questions about the potential meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un. If Trump is seen as standing up to Kim Jong Un, will he get a similar boost in domestic popularity as Nixon did? And will the meeting between Trump and Kim have any lasting effect on relations between the two countries? Or, like the Kitchen Debate, will it be a temporary blip on newspaper front pages?

For more articles about the 1959 meeting between Nixon and Khrushchev, search Newspapers.com. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more interesting historical content.

1. The Kitchen Debate – Transcript. Cia.gov. 24 July 1959.

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“I Could Not Do Without it”: Things You Didn’t Know about America’s Struggle with Opioids

“You see the drug was so deceptive that while under its influence I could work and be free from pain, so instead of laying up and letting Nature do her work and cure me, I kept taking the injections until the pain would grow worse when I was completely from under the influence. […] The first thing I knew I could not do without it. I was compelled to take it night and morning to be at all comfortable. Then as I used it, I was not content to simply have enough to keep me free from pain. But like that fire, when once kindled, it grew in force and strength.”

These are the vivid words of a man struggling with opioid addiction. However, they don’t come from the pages of a modern newspaper. They come from an 1878 issue of the Chicago Tribune.

Americans in the 1800s struggled with their own opioid crisis. An estimated 1 in 2001 people were addicted to opioids by the end of the 19th century, not that far off from the approximately 1 in 1542 Americans who were dependent on or addicted to opioids in 2016.

What were the causes of the 19th-century opioid crisis?
Over-prescription by doctors and easy access to opioids—remarkably similar to the causes of the modern epidemic.

19th-century woman buys morphine from a druggist. From the Philadelphia Times, 1899

19th-century woman buys morphine from a druggist. From the Philadelphia Times, 1899

In the 19th-century, opium-based patent medicines such as laudanum and paregoric were popular solutions to a wide-range of ills, from coughs, to aches and pains, to diarrhea, to the euphemistic “female complaints.” In fact, many of the opioid addicts during the late 19th-century were women, particularly white women of the middle and upper classes, who became addicted after being prescribed opium-based medicines by their physicians.

These opioid-saturated medicines were widely available, with ads for them appearing in newspapers around the nation. One such medicine, Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, was geared toward young children and promised to not only soothe teething babies but also claimed it “corrects acidity of the stomach, relieves wind colic, regulates the bowels, and gives rest, health, and comfort to mother and child.” The fact that it was laced with opiates wasn’t mentioned.

The Civil War introduced a new demographic of opioid addicts: soldiers. Morphine, derived from opium, had been around since the early 1800s, but the introduction of the hypodermic syringe into mainstream medicine around the time of the Civil War made it possible for military doctors to easily treat wounded soldiers without the side effects of orally administered opioids.

When the soldiers returned home, some of them returned addicted to the morphine administered to them in hospitals, while others became addicted after the war as a way to treat the chronic pain resulting from war wounds.

So how was the 19th-century opioid epidemic resolved?
In the late 19th century, medical professionals began to realize the detrimental effects of opioids. “Who is responsible for […] morphine victims?” asked a doctor in an 1892 issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He then answered his own question: “The physician and the druggist, most largely.”

The role of physicians and druggists in morphine addiction. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1892

The role of physicians and druggists in morphine addiction. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1892

As awareness of the dangers grew among doctors and pharmacists, opioids were prescribed less often and became less freely available, which helped lower the number of new addicts. This, combined with state and federal regulatory legislation, helped eventually end the epidemic.

Of course, just because the 19th century epidemic ended, it didn’t mean opioid abuse was completely eliminated. Abuse continued on a smaller scale, complicated by the introduction in the late 19th century of an opioid marketed as a safe alternative to morphine: heroin.

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1. Report of The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, 2017, p. 113.
2. Number calculated from data provided by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the US Census Bureau for 2016.

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The Great Chicago Fire

President McKinley Shot: September 6, 1901

Cow cause of Chicago Fire?
The Great Chicago Fire—a fire that would ultimately kill 300 people and destroy more than 17,000 buildings—started in a cow barn owned by Patrick and Catherine O’Leary around 9 p.m. on October 8, 1871. Although folklore states that the fire began when Catherine’s cow kicked over an oil lamp, no one really knows how the fire actually began.

It had been unusually hot and dry in Chicago, and in a city predominately built with wood, that meant the fire spread quickly. Despite the efforts of the fire department, the fire raged throughout the night, even jumping the river. Firefighters tried to fight the massive flames with their fire hoses until the city’s waterworks burned, cutting off the hydrants’ supply of water.

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Destruction caused by Chicago Fire
The huge fire burned for about another 24 hours essentially unchecked—consuming a large portion of the city, residential and business districts alike—until it began to burn itself out on the night of the 9th. A light rainstorm that same night helped douse the remaining flames. When the fire was finally out, on the 10th, an area about 4 miles long and almost a mile wide had been burned to the ground, leaving 100,000 people homeless.

Nationwide, newspapers kept their readers up-to-date on this major disaster and its aftermath, reporting the latest fire news they had received by telegraph. The papers also reported on relief efforts, as cities, businesses, and individuals across the country donated money and food to the beleaguered city.

Very latest news on the Chicago FireOn the 11th, the Chicago Tribune published an issue packed with details of the fire, calling it “a conflagration which has no parallel in the annals of history.” (Though in fact the same day as the Chicago fire, October 8, the deadliest fire in U.S. history burned in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, killing more than 1,500 people; but that fire was largely overlooked by newspapers outside Wisconsin in favor of covering the Chicago blaze.)

Despite the devastation of Chicago’s fire, reconstruction (this time using less wood) began almost immediately and businesses quickly reopened, though many in new locations. Within a little more than 20 years, Chicago would rise from its ashes to become a booming city deemed worthy of hosting the 1893 World’s Fair.

Find more articles about the Great Chicago Fire on Newspapers.com. You might even find your Chicago ancestors in the lists of people missing or “lost and found” following the fire.

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