Arthur Conan Doyle and the Cottingley Fairies

One day in 1922, two young cousins named Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright took some remarkable pictures.The subsequent spread of the story was something neither girl anticipated. But what else could be expected for the first captured images of fairies?

Frances, Elsie, and their fairy friendsFrances, Elsie, and their fairy friends Sun, Oct 15, 1922 – 13 · New-York Tribune (New York, New York, New York, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Headline after headline from the early 1920s show the fervor of the debate. Were the photographs real or faked? Surely fairies could not be real, but the photographs showed no evidence of tampering. Besides, these were just two little girls—how deceitful could they be?

English Girls Snapshot Fairies at their GamesEnglish Girls Snapshot Fairies at their Games Sun, Jan 23, 1921 – Page 24 · New-York Tribune (New York, New York, New York, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Perhaps the most famous name amongst the believers was that of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes. His belief in the photos and fairies was so strong that he even wrote his own book to prove it.

Arthur Conan Doyle believes in fairiesArthur Conan Doyle believes in fairies Sun, Oct 15, 1922 – 13 · New-York Tribune (New York, New York, New York, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Poor Sherlock Holmes - Hopelessly Crazy?Poor Sherlock Holmes – Hopelessly Crazy? Sun, Nov 19, 1922 – 106 · The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Equally involved was a man named Edward Gardner, prominent leader of the Theosophical Society. He took it upon himself to investigate the photos, solicit expert opinions on their legitimacy, give lectures on the topic, and even visit the girls and the place where the fairies had been seen.

Fairies in YorkshireFairies in Yorkshire Mon, Feb 7, 1921 – 6 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.com

Of course, even Sir Doyle had to admit that this whole thing could be one of history’s greatest hoaxes.

The most elaborate hoax, or an event in human historyThe most elaborate hoax, or an event in human history Sun, Oct 15, 1922 – 13 · New-York Tribune (New York, New York, New York, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Sadly for fairy enthusiasts, the truth of the matter was revealed in 1983. Frances Griffiths came forward to admit that the whole thing had just been a trick of hatpins and cardboard cutouts. The Cottingley Fairies became, as Doyle had once grudgingly said, “the most elaborate and ingenious hoax ever played upon the public.” And that was the end of that.

Fairy confessionFairy confession Sat, Mar 19, 1983 – Page 6 · Arizona Republic (Phoenix, Maricopa, Arizona, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Just for fun, here’s a word search puzzle from decades after the Cottingley Fairy hoax.

Cottingley Fairies Word SearchCottingley Fairies Word Search Wed, Jan 2, 1991 – Page 31 · The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia) · Newspapers.com

Find more on the Cottingley Fairies and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s involvement with a search on Newspapers.com.

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Anna Atkins, Plant Photographer of the 1800s

In 1842, multi-talented astronomer Sir John Herschel introduced the world to his beautiful new photography process, cyanotype. He also taught this new process to a clever and avid botanist named Anna Atkins, whose father’s connections to the scientific community (and convenient neighboring location to Herschel’s own home) gave her the opportunity to become the first known female photographer.

Sir John Herschel's Sir John Herschel’s “beautiful blue pictures” (cyanotype) Fri, Oct 14, 1842 – 4 · The Royal Cornwall Gazette, Falmouth Packet, and General Advertiser (Truro, Cornwall, England) · Newspapers.com

Anna Atkins signed work Anna Atkins signed work “A.A.” Wed, Nov 3, 1976 – 15 · The Monitor (McAllen, Hidalgo, Texas, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Anna had been making accurate botanical drawings for years before learning the cyanotype process. It was the simplicity of the process that drew her to it, and because she learned from the master himself, her images were produced with a clarity and success that few were able to replicate.

Anna Atkins, Botanist Photography 1843-1853Anna Atkins, Botanist Photography 1843-1853 Sun, Jun 23, 1996 – 97 · The Observer (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.com

Her work was published in a book, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, which she signed “A.A.” For decades her identity remained anonymous and her contributions to photography and history unrecognized, until a scholar acknowledged her as the book’s author during a lecture in 1889. By then, new processes had long made cyanotype more or less obsolete. But Anna’s place in history and multiple unique copies of her remarkable book of blue prints still survive.

Find more about Anna Atkins and the cyanotype process with a search on Newspapers.com.

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October 1918: Outbreak of Spanish Flu Kills Millions

News, Finds, Tips of the Month

In 1918, the most severe pandemic in recent history spread across the globe. The Spanish flu, or the H1N1 virus, infected 500 million people (about a third of the world’s population). Before it was over, about 40 million people died worldwide!

Spanish Flu Pandemic
The Spanish flu arrived in three waves. It initially appeared in the spring of 1918. The first wave was mild. Symptoms included chills, fever and fatigue, but those infected recovered relatively quickly. By fall, however, the virus took a dramatic turn. The second wave was deadly, especially for people ages 20 to 40. In addition to the sudden onset of earlier flu symptoms, many developed a virulent strain of pneumonia. Their lungs filled with fluid and many victims died within hours or days after coming down with symptoms. The third wave hit that winter, and by the spring of 1919 the virus had run its course.

Though the origin of the virus is not known, it arrived during WWI, when troop movements and the living conditions in military camps helped it to spread. Governments were slow to report on the flu’s severity, for fear it could be seen as a military weakness. But when the flu arrived in neutral Spain, newspapers reported widely on it. As a result, the virus became known as the Spanish flu. It even infected the King of Spain. When it was over, the Spanish flu killed more than the war did. In fact, of the US soldiers who died in Europe, half of them died from flu and not the enemy.

Back on the home front, in an effort to contain the wildfire-like spread of the flu, gatherings of all types were cancelled, weddings and meetings postponed, and churches shuttered. Schools closed, prompting The Nebraska State Journal to offer students cash prizes for the best written entries on how they were spending their school break.

Unsure how to best combat the spread of the virus, Health Departments advocated fresh air as cure. Restaurants advertised new sterilization techniques, movie theaters required patrons to spread out with empty seats and rows, and drug stores advertised remedies to keep the flu away. Eventually many public gathering places closed altogether.

The human toll of the pandemic was astonishing. Children everywhere were left orphaned when parents succumbed to the virus. Families buried their loved ones one by one. Hospitals were overcrowded and undertakers and coffin makers were unable to keep up with demand. Homes of the sick were quarantined and family members often too sick to care for one another. Officials discouraged gatherings of any type, including funerals. Only close family members could attend the funerals of loved ones, and funerals were limited to 15 minutes!

The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 affected everyone in some way. One-quarter of the country became infected and 675,000 Americans lost their lives to the virus. How did it impact your family tree? If you would like to learn more about this pandemic, search our archives today!

Search our archives today to find the obituary for your ancestor!

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Lord Lucan’s Disappearance

This story could be considered a murder mystery, though not in the traditional “whodunit” sense. It features the wealthy John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan; a murder; and a disappearance that remains a mystery to this day.

Lord LucanLord Lucan Mon, Nov 11, 1974 – 6 · Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Pinellas, Florida, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

On November 7th,1974, the wealthy Veronica Duncan stumbled into a pub with a shocking tale. She accused her estranged husband, the Earl of Lucan, of murdering the family’s nanny, Sandra Rivett, before turning on her. She’d just managed to escape.

At once the search was on for Lord Lucan. However, the story was confused by the account of family friends, the Maxwell-Scotts. They said Lucan had come to their home after the incident and explained that he’d been trying to save his wife from a separate attacker. He fled because he knew his wife would suspect him, despite his innocence.

The most prevalent belief in the whole affair was that a murderous Lucan mistook the nanny for his wife in the dark and killed her by mistake. Whatever his intentions, it took a jury only half an hour to decide that Lord Lucan was, in fact, the murderer. A warrant was issued for his arrest.

Lord Lucan declared guiltyLord Lucan declared guilty Fri, Jun 20, 1975 – Page 5 · The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia) · Newspapers.com

Summary of the Lord Lucan troubleSummary of the Lord Lucan trouble Mon, Nov 11, 1974 – 27 · Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Lord Lucan’s whereabouts were never uncovered. He was declared dead in 1999, and his fate remains a mystery to this day.

Find more on the infamous Lucan case with a search on Newspapers.com.

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“Magnetism Affects Watch”

In this article titled “Magnetism Affects Watch,” we find the very definition of a “magnetic personality.”

Magnetism Affects WatchMagnetism Affects Watch Thu, Oct 24, 1935 – 1 · The Axtell Standard (Axtell, Kansas, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Do you think this article was intended as a charming joke about the young lady’s magnetic personality? Or was it written in all seriousness? Let us know what you think.

Find more like this on Newspapers.com with a search through the collection.

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The Cat Who Ran for President

Remember the cat who ran for president? If not, never fear. The newspapers have got you covered!

Morris the Cat was already famous in his own right as picky spokes-kitty of the 9Lives cat food brand. He—or more accurately, his successor—put his name in the ring for the 1988 presidential election. And the cat puns abounded.

Morris the CatMorris the Cat Fri, Aug 28, 1987 – 9 · The Dispatch (Moline, Illinois, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Morris the Cat running for presidentMorris the Cat running for president Fri, Aug 28, 1987 – 9 · The Dispatch (Moline, Illinois, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

“Morris’ Paw-licies” Fri, Aug 28, 1987 – 9 · The Dispatch (Moline, Illinois, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Morris would run for presidency again in 1992. He has yet to win, but perhaps some day in the future will see the first feline president. After all, cats are nothing if not persistent.

Find more on Morris’ impressive career with a search on Newspapers.com.

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The Great Stink of 1858

When insufficient waste disposal mixes with hot summer heat, it’s not going to be good. That’s exactly what happened in London in the mid-1800s, and it all culminated in the summer of 1858 with the “Great Stink.”

Dirty Old Father Thames

At the time, the city’s waste all ended up in the river Thames. The resulting sewer water and the “great stink” it produced was both offensive and unsafe. It was such a problem that the river god “Father Thames” became “Dirty Old Father Thames,” a filthy, sludgy being whose aromas spared neither the poor nor the prosperous.

Dirty Old Father ThamesDirty Old Father Thames Fri, Aug 3, 1855 – 6 · Glasgow Herald (Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland) · Newspapers.com

Dirty Old Father Thames' Dirty Old Father Thames’ “abominable exhalations” Mon, Jun 28, 1858 – 4 · The Standard (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.com

Poem about Father ThamesPoem about Father Thames Thu, Jul 29, 1858 – 6 · The Morning Chronicle (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.com

Parliament and Pestilence

Any solution to the issue would come at incredible expense. If the new Parliament building hadn’t been located on the Thames, fully engulfed in the disgusting miasma, the problem may have persisted even longer. But in 1858, summer temperatures and health concerns soared, and no amount of lime chloride could keep the stink out of the government’s meeting rooms.

Heat and the ThamesHeat and the Thames Sat, Jul 10, 1858 – 2 · Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut) · Newspapers.com

Thames is Thames is “an insupportable nuisance” in the excessive heat Sat, Jun 19, 1858 – 5 · The Leeds Intelligencer and Yorkshire General Advertiser (Leeds, West Yorkshire, England) · Newspapers.com

Each summer the stench is more intolerableEach summer the stench is more intolerable Mon, Jun 21, 1858 – 4 · The Morning Chronicle (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.com

A Solution to the Stink

Something had to be done about it. Enter Joseph Bazalgette, whose extensive plan for a new sewage system was accepted within weeks of the oppressive heat wave. Work began in 1859 and took several years to complete, but Dirty Old Father Thames cleaned up his act.  The Great Stink of 1858 became just another weird piece of history.

Sir Joseph Bazalgette's contributionsSir Joseph Bazalgette’s contributions Tue, Mar 17, 1891 – 5 · The Leeds Mercury (Leeds, West Yorkshire, England) · Newspapers.com

Find more on the Great Stink, the state of the Thames, and Joseph Bazalgette with a search on Newspapers.com.

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