8 Easy Thanksgiving Desserts That Aren’t Pie

28 Nov 1923, Wed Chattanooga Daily Times (Chattanooga, Tennessee) Newspapers.com


Want something other than pie for Thanksgiving dessert? We searched the historical papers on Newspapers.com™ to find 8 vintage recipes for easy Thanksgiving desserts that aren’t pie!

(But if you want pie too, be sure to check out these fun pumpkin pie recipes!)

Note: We’ve included transcriptions of the recipes so they’re easier to follow. Click on any of the images to see the original newspaper recipe on our site.

1. Pumpkin Spice Cake (1936)

Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Cake (1936)Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Cake (1936) 30 Oct 1936, Fri The World (Coos Bay, Oregon) Newspapers.com


Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 3/4 cup canned or cooked pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon  
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon mace
  • 1/2 cup seedless raisins

Directions:

  1. Cream shortening, add sugar slowly, and beat well. Add beaten egg.
  2. Combine pumpkin and milk and add alternately with the dry ingredients sifted together. Add raisins and mix thoroughly.
  3. Pour in greased loaf pan and place in cold electric oven. Set temperature control to 350°. Turn switch to bake. Bake approximately 1 hour.

2. Baked Cranberry and Walnut Dessert (1949)

Recipe: Baked Cranberry and Walnut Dessert (1949)Recipe: Baked Cranberry and Walnut Dessert (1949) 06 Oct 1949, Thu The Edmonton Bulletin (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) Newspapers.com


Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnut meats
  • 1/3 cup melted butter or fortified margarine
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
  • 3 cups cranberry sauce
  • 1/2 cup cream, whipped

Directions:

  1. Mix together sugar, graham cracker crumbs, cinnamon, walnut meats, and melted butter or margarine.
  2. Pat 2/3 of this mixture into well-greased large yellow dish of heat-resistant glass refrigerator-oven set.
  3. Add grated orange rind to cranberry sauce; pour on top of crumb mixture in dish. Place remaining crumb mixture on top of cranberry sauce.
  4. Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees F) for 30 minutes.
  5. Cool and decorate top with whipped cream.

3. Apple Crisp (1948)

Recipe: Apple Crisp (1948)Recipe: Apple Crisp (1948) 04 Nov 1948, Thu Honolulu Star-Bulletin (Honolulu, Hawaii) Newspapers.com


Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chopped or sliced apples
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sifted flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter

Directions:

  1. Place in shallow 6×10 inch baking dish sliced or chopped apples and sprinkle with water, cinnamon, and salt.
  2. Work together the flour, sugar, and butter until crumbly. Spread crumb mixture over apples.
  3. Bake uncovered about 40 minutes in moderate oven (350 degrees).
  4. Serve warm with plain or whipped cream. Serves 6 to 8.


4. Top-of-Stove Carmel Dumpling Dessert (1937)

Recipe: Top-of-Stove Carmel Dumpling Dessert (1937)Recipe: Top-of-Stove Carmel Dumpling Dessert (1937) 13 Nov 1937, Sat The North Adams Transcript (North Adams, Massachusetts) Newspapers.com


Dumpling ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Dumpling directions:

  1. Sift dry ingredients, cut in butter, and add milk and vanilla.
  2. Drop by rounding teaspoon into the boiling carmel sauce. Cover, cook.
  3. Cook slowly for 20 minutes without removing cover. (Serves 5).

Carmel sauce for above dumplings:

  1. Combine 2 tablespoons butter, 1 ½ cups dark brown sugar, 1 ½ cups boiling water, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Simmer 5 minutes.
  2. Drop in dumpling batter.

5. Ginger Snaps (1908)

Recipe: Ginger Snaps (1908)Recipe: Ginger Snaps (1908) 15 Nov 1908, Sun The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) Newspapers.com


Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup lard
  • 3 tablespoons hot water
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 3 teaspoons ginger
  • 3 cups flour

Directions:

  1. Roll thin.

(*Estimated bake temperature & time: 350–375°F for 8–10 minutes. Shortening can be substituted for lard, if desired.)

6. Apple Tapioca Pudding (1923)

Recipe: Apple Tapioca Pudding (1923)Recipe: Apple Tapioca Pudding (1923) 24 Nov 1923, Sat Pawhuska Daily Journal (Pawhuska, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com


Ingredients:

  • 1 quart peeled apples
  • 1 cup tapioca
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract

Directions:

  • Quarter apples and fill bake dish. Sprinkle half sugar over apples.
  • Soak tapioca in quart hot water, 1 hour. Add salt, lemon extract, and rest of sugar. Pour over apples.
  • Bake until apples are tender. Serve with hard sauce.

7. Cheese and Fruit Tray (1936)

Recipe: Cheese and fruit tray (1936)Recipe: Cheese and fruit tray (1936) 20 Nov 1936, Fri Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.com


Cheeses:

  • Swiss
  • Mild American
  • Sharp American
  • Pimiento cheese
  • Genuine imported Roquefort
  • Cream cheese

Fruits:

  • Kumquat clusters
  • Pears
  • White grapes

Directions:

  1. On the cheese board in the center of the large tray, arrange the cheeses.
  2. Border this array with fruits.

8. Pumpkin Honey Milk (1942)

Recipe: Pumpkin Honey Milk (1942)Recipe: Pumpkin Honey Milk (1942) 21 Apr 1942, Tue The Dayton Herald (Dayton, Ohio) Newspapers.com


Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pumpkin
  • 1 ½ cups evaporated milk
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • Few grains cloves
  • Few grains salt

Directions:

  1. Stir to thoroughly blend pumpkin into evaporated milk and water.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients; chill and serve. 4 servings.

***

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How NOT to Be Buried Alive

07 Mar 1908, Sat The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) Newspapers.com


“Are you sure that your relative is actually dead, when the coffin is fastened, never to be opened”? –Louisville Daily Courier, 1868

What options did a person have over a century ago if they wanted to avoid being buried alive? A look through historical newspapers from both sides of the Atlantic gives us some answers!

Safety Coffins

One option for preventing “premature burial” (also called “premature interment”) was the safety coffin. Though designs differed, safety coffins typically included a signaling device that let people above ground know the person in the casket was still alive.

Numerous illustrations and articles about safety coffins appeared in newspapers of the time. One featured in the papers was designed by Russian count Michel de Karnice-Karnicki. According to the Stockton, California, Daily Record in 1901,

[The] apparatus consists of a tube four inches in diameter, a box, and a few appliances for signaling. The tube is placed over an aperture in the coffin, and the other end of it appears above the surface of the ground, where it is surmounted by the box. Through the tube passes a rod, on the end of which, inside the coffin, is a ball. The slightest movement of the body in the coffin is communicated to the rod, which in turn releases springs. The door of the hermetically sealed box flies open, the bell rings, and the signal ball rises above the grave to a height of six feet.

Karnice-Karnicki's safety coffin designKarnice-Karnicki’s safety coffin design 26 Apr 1901, Fri Stockton Daily Evening Record (Stockton, California) Newspapers.com


Other types of safety coffins were featured in newspapers as well, such as:

One safety coffin got quite a bit of newspaper attention in 1868 when its inventor, Franz Vester, gave a public demonstration in New Jersey about how it worked. In addition to the typical alarm system, newspapers noted that Vester’s coffin also included a “receptacle for refreshments.”

Beyond Coffins

But not everyone who feared premature burial wanted (or could afford) a safety coffin, so other methods focused on ensuring that a person was truly dead before burial.

One option frequently discussed in newspapers was to build “waiting mortuaries,” which were reportedly used in Germany. The ideal waiting mortuary was a closely monitored, comfortable institution where bodies could be kept until they showed signs of decomposition—or signs of life.

Description of waiting mortuariesDescription of waiting mortuaries 23 Oct 1896, Fri Belfast News-Letter (Belfast, Antrim, Northern Ireland) Newspapers.com


Newspapers also documented other suggestions for verifying death, including:

Some people’s fear of being buried alive even led them to request specific procedures prior to burial, such as asking that their head be amputated, their heart pierced with a needle, or their jugular vein cut.

Turning Anxiety into Action

Just how often people were actually buried alive during the Victorian era is unknown. Even at the time, its prevalence was hotly debated in the European and American medical communities—and in the press.

20 Dec 1899, Wed Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.com
13 Dec 1897, Mon Freeland Tribune (Freeland, Pennsylvania) Newspapers.com


Whether premature burials were common or not, the popularity of the topic reflects a real anxiety among some segments of the population at the time—an anxiety that certainly wasn’t diminished by the numerous “true” newspaper accounts of people being buried alive.

But in some cases, this concern led to action. Perhaps most noticeable were the associations that lobbied for regulation of death certificates and other aspects of the death verification process—hoping to prevent the “unspeakable cruelty” of premature burial.

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The New England Vampire Panic

In the late 1800s, a sense of panic invaded New England. An alarming number of people were dying of consumption, and residents became convinced that vampire-like creatures were the cause. They believed the vampires were gradually sucking the blood out of innocent victims. To combat the threat, locals sometimes exhumed the bodies of loved ones and ritually burned their organs. They believed this would stop the vampires and prevent the spread of the disease. One of the most famous vampire stories involved Rhode Island resident Mercy Brown.

The Boston Globe 1.27.1896

Consumption (now known as tuberculosis) is spread through bacteria and was one of the leading causes of death at the time. Those infected gradually became sicker and often spread the illness to other family members. Consumption hit the Brown family of Exeter, Rhode Island, especially hard. George Brown was a respected farmer, who along with his wife Mary Eliza, raised seven children. Mary Eliza contracted consumption and died in 1883. The following year, daughter Mary Olive, a 20-year-old dressmaker, also died. In January 1892, daughter Mercy, 19, died, and son Edwin, 24, was sick.

Superstitious neighbors approached George and convinced him that he should exhume the bodies of his wife and daughters. It was, they suggested, the only way to save Edwin. The superstition held that vampires slowly drained the blood from the living and put it into the hearts of the dead. Thus, a buried body with blood in the heart evidenced that vampires were at work. The only way to stop the vampires was to find corpses with blood still in their organs, remove the organs, and ritually burn them.

Boston Evening Transcript 1.18.1896

Hesitant but desperate to save his son, George agreed to the plan. On March 17, 1892, several men from the community went to work digging up the remains of the Browns. Mary Eliza had been dead nine years, and her remains were in an advanced state of decomposition. Mary Olive’s body had also decomposed. But when they disinterred Mercy, they found blood in her heart. She had died two months earlier, and the freezing temperatures had preserved her body.

They removed Mercy’s heart and liver and ritualistically burned them on a stone. The ashes were mixed with a tonic and given to Edwin to drink. The ritual proved ineffective, and Edwin died two months later. By 1899, George lost six of his seven children. Over the next few years, the belief in vampires waned. It took another 40 years until scientists carried out the first clinical trials for the treatment of tuberculosis.

If you would like to learn more about the New England Vampire Panic, search Newspapers.com™ today!

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The Rational Dress Society and Victorian Dress Reform

In 1881, a group of high society women gathered in London to form a new organization. They named their group the Rational Dress Society, intending to reform Victorian women’s dress. The group came up with criteria for the perfect dress. It included:  

  1. Freedom of Movement
  2. Absence of pressure over any part of the body
  3. No more weight than is necessary for warmth, and both weight and warmth evenly distributed.
  4. Grace and beauty combined with comfort and convenience
  5. Not departing too conspicuously from the ordinary dress of the time

Their ideas were revolutionary and controversial. Typical Victorian dress styles incorporated heavy fabrics, tight corsets, bustles, hoop skirts, and extravagant ornamentation. The women argued that dress reform would allow them to participate in activities like cycling. Bicycles had become a symbol of freedom for many women who found the sport liberating and emancipating.  

Lady Harberton

A founding member of the society was Viscountess Florence Wallace Pomeroy, also known as Lady Harberton. Lady Harberton, the daughter of wealthy landowners, married James S. Pomeroy. He later became the 6th Viscount Harberton. In 1880, Lady Harberton took up the cause of dress reform. She loved to cycle, but heavy, long skirts prevented her from enjoying the activity. She championed the reformed dress, which consisted of baggy pantaloons worn underneath a knee-length skirt. She also invented the divided skirt, which initially evoked jeers on both sides of the pond. Some feared that trifling with a traditional women’s dress was a step down a path to loosening moral values.

In 1883, the Rational Dress Society sponsored an exhibition held in London. The exhibit included shorter dresses, divided skirts, “costumes for climbing for lady mountaineers, and a costume for walking.” One man reported to The Times that the women in his family discarded their corsets and found new freedom in dancing, walking, tricycling, lawn tennis, and other open-air exercises. They vowed never to return to corsets and heavy skirts. Attitudes for many women (and men) were undergoing a seismic shift. The “woman of the future” wanted freedom in her clothing – and freedom within other aspects of her life.  

The struggle for rational dress came to a head after an incident in 1898. Lady Harberton went cycling in Surrey. She stopped for lunch at the Hautboy Hotel but was turned away for improper dress. Lady Harberton sued the hotel but lost the case because the hotel had offered alternative seating in the bar. Nevertheless, the case brought attention to rational dress and a victory for women who advocated for it. Lady Harberton spent decades promoting clothing that would make life easier for women. Later in her life, she also became an advocate for the women’s suffrage movement. Lady Harberton died in 1911. The Guardian eulogized her as an “enthusiastic and undaunted advocate” for dress reform.

If you would like to learn more about Lady Harberton, or the Rational Dress Society, search Newspapers.com™ today!

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Using Passenger Lists and Newspapers to Research Immigrant Ancestors

Passenger lists are important records for tracing immigrant ancestors. Before air travel became more common in the 1950s, ships were the primary mode of intercontinental travel. Passenger lists usually included passenger name, place of origin, birth date, departure date, arrival date, and the ship name. Using this information, a search through Newspapers.com may shed light on your ancestor’s immigration journey with new details not found in a passenger list. Here’s a couple of questions to ask yourself when researching ancestors that immigrated aboard a ship.

  • Why Did Your Ancestor Immigrate?

A search of newspapers might provide insight into the events that led to your ancestor’s decision to immigrate. For example, a search of Irish papers in the 1840s reveals countless articles about the Irish Potato Famine. The famine led to more than a million deaths between 1845-1849 and prompted many emigrants to leave Ireland.

  • What Was Your Ancestor’s Voyage Like?

Newspapers can yield details of your ancestor’s journey. For example, on August 24, 1848, the Ocean Monarch departed Liverpool, England, bound for Boston. A fire broke out on board, and after attempts to extinguish it failed, passengers began jumping into the sea. Several ships came to the rescue but not before 180 perished. The following month, Boston papers reported as survivors from the Monarch began arriving in Boston aboard a different ship. Search newspapers for the name of your ancestor’s ship, then search the departure and arrival dates. You might uncover a story about their journey.

  • Can Newspapers Reveal the Story Behind Those Who Were Born at Sea?

Thousands of mothers gave birth to babies during their immigration voyage. Babies born at sea are often listed at the bottom of the ship’s manifest or on the final page. This Boston Globe article from 1895 reported that a baby born at sea aboard a ship flying the American flag was entitled to automatic citizenship. In 1900, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch profiled nine city residents, all born at sea, and shared their individual immigration stories. If you have an ancestor born at sea, you might find details of their experience in the newspaper.

  • What Was Happening at their Port of Arrival?

If you had an ancestor that arrived in New York City in August 1906, you might learn that the city was experiencing a terrific heatwave. The New-York Tribune reported a temperature of 106 degrees and described the impact the heat was having on immigrants. At Ellis Island, immigrants from Russia arrived in heavy clothing, coats trimmed with fur, and cumbersome boots and shoes. Some collapsed from the heat, and the paper published a list of heatwave fatalities. Meanwhile, anchored in the bay, nearly 5,000 passengers waited in sweltering ship holds for Ellis Island to open after a Sunday closure. The paper described the “haggard faces of the immigrants and the almost physical collapse of many women and children” as they finally disembarked the hot holds of the ships. Search the news at your ancestor’s port of arrival to learn more about their experiences after arriving in America.

New-York Tribune 8.07.1906
  • Did Newspapers Publish Ship Schedules?

Yes! Newspapers can be used as a cross-check for immigrant departures and arrivals. Shipping companies endeavored to maintain a timetable, but sometimes unforeseeable circumstances led to delays. Newspapers reported on delays and when ships finally arrived at their destination.

Steamer Coptic Passenger List
  • What If you Can’t Find a Passenger List for Your Ancestor?

Sometimes you may be unable to find ship records for an immigrant ancestor, perhaps because the records no longer exist or were destroyed. One example is the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900 which flooded the island and destroyed the building that housed immigration records. If you can’t find a passenger list, you can search newspapers. Sometimes papers published the names of arriving passengers. You might also find immigration details in obituaries or other published stories. On a few occasions (and for various reasons), immigrants arrived as a stowaway or traveled under an assumed name. Newspapers may provide the clue necessary to unlock that immigration mystery.  

To learn more about your ancestor’s immigration experience, explore Newspapers.com™ today!

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Coupons & Canned Corn: What a WWII Shopping List Reveals about Rationing

Shopping for meat during rationingShopping for meat during rationing 16 Apr 1943, Fri Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) Newspapers.com


World War II permeated the lives of Americans on the home front, and wartime food rationing meant the global conflict reached even into routine errands like grocery shopping. When we discovered a WWII-era shopping list in the pages of a 1940s newspaper, we became curious how food rationing shaped Americans’ day-to-day lives during the war years. So we searched Newspapers.com™ to learn more!

But first, some background on rationing in the U.S. during World War II.

Food Rationing 101

Food rationing began in May 1942, with sugar as the first item. Next came coffee, starting in November 1942. Then March 1943 saw a major increase in the number of food products that were rationed, including processed foods, meat, cheese, fats, and more.

Each rationed food item required a certain number of “points” to purchase it, with low-availability and high-demand items requiring more points. Points came in the form of coupons (also called stamps) from government-issued ration books and had to be used within a specified timeframe.

Newspaper preview of War Ration Book No. 2Newspaper preview of War Ration Book No. 2 03 Jan 1943, Sun Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) Newspapers.com


When buying a rationed item, shoppers had to present their grocer with the correct coupons—in addition to paying the monetary cost of the item. But having enough points didn’t guarantee shoppers would be able to purchase an item, since local and national shortages limited availability of certain foods and could mean higher prices.

Grocery shopping during rationing was further complicated by the ever-evolving nature of the rationing system, with foods being added or removed and point values changing from one month to the next.

Let’s Go Shopping!

During World War II, the Detroit Free Press published grocery shopping lists to supplement its daily column of wartime dinner ideas. We’re going to explore the weekend shopping list from April 23, 1943—a challenging time for shoppers, since it was not long after stricter rationing restrictions had begun.

Let’s see what the list can tell us about life under rationing!

The top of this shopping list shows the total points needed to buy the rationed items included on it, since every American had a limited number of points allotted to them per rationing period.

At the time this list was published, Americans had recently begun using War Ration Book No. 2. Blue coupons from the book were required to buy processed foods, and red coupons were needed for meat, cheese, fats, and oils. In addition to being color coded, the coupons had their point value written on them, as well as a letter of the alphabet that indicated when the stamp could be used.

Meat rationing began in the spring of 1943, and different types and cuts of meat cost different numbers of points, based on availability. “Variety” meats, such as kidney and other organs, usually required fewer points than did other types of meat. When this shopping list was published, Detroit was experiencing a shortage of beef, pork, and lamb. 

Fresh fruits and vegetables weren’t rationed. Much of the produce included on this list could be found in “moderate supply” in April 1943. Radishes, however, were in “light supply” at the time. Other common food items that weren’t rationed included poultry, eggs, fresh milk, and gelatin.

Most processed foods were rationed starting in early March 1943, including canned, bottled, and frozen fruits and vegetables. Just before this shopping list was printed, however, the point values of frozen fruits and vegetables were lowered, and those new point values are reflected on the list. Americans were encouraged to grow “Victory Gardens” and then can their own produce so processed foods could be freed up for military use.

Sugar was rationed during the war, but it required a separate coupon not based on points. Due to sugar rationing, substitute sweeteners such as honey, molasses, corn syrup, and maple syrup were popular.

No points were needed to purchase black-eyed peas or prunes (and other dried fruit) in late April 1943, since both had recently been released from rationing.

Butter, lard, margarine, shortening, and cooking oils were added to the list of rationed items at the end of March 1943. Since butter required the most points, Americans were encouraged to cook with alternatives such meat drippings—even in their baked goods.

Beyond the Shopping List

The shopping list is fascinating enough, but when we looked through the surrounding newspaper pages, a few other items caught our eye—each revealing something different about what life was like under rationing.

Newspapers were key to helping Americans of the WWII era understand food rationing, but the usefulness of this wartime content didn’t end when the war did. It’s still valuable today in helping us learn how our family members lived during the war years!

Learn more about WWII rationing by searching Newspapers.com. And follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for more historical content like this!

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The Astonishing Adventures of Houdini’s Favorite Detective

Rose Mackenberg in disguiseRose Mackenberg in disguise 12 Mar 1939, Sun The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) Newspapers.com


“Hints of Seances at White House; Witness at Capital Asserts a Spiritualist Said Coolidge Family Attended.” –Tipton Daily Tribune, 1926  

Like other newspapers across America in May 1926, Indiana’s Tipton Daily Tribune was following news out of Washington DC about a congressional subcommittee hearing. Hearings of that variety didn’t typically get national attention, but this one featured elements sure to fascinate newspaper readers.

The famous illusionist Harry Houdini had pitted himself against psychic mediums in a spectacle that would ultimately expose the personal lives of high-ranking U.S. officials—including the president of the United States.

And the “witness” mentioned in the headlines? That was 34-year-old Rose Mackenberg, dubbed “Houdini’s Mysterious Girl Detective” by the papers.

Rose Mackenberg (right) in 1925Rose Mackenberg (right) in 1925 27 Aug 1925, Thu Daily News (New York, New York) Newspapers.com


Becoming Houdini’s Detective

Mackenberg (born 1892) had been an investigator for a New York detective agency when she landed a case involving suspected fraud by a so-called psychic medium. A mutual friend connected her with Harry Houdini, who at the time was engaged in a public campaign to debunk fake spiritualists claiming to communicate with the dead.

Mackenberg joined Houdini’s team of 20 investigators in the mid-1920s and became one of his best. She went undercover to visit spiritualists suspected of fraud, gathering evidence that Houdini then exposed publicly at his performances.

By 1926, Mackenberg had investigated more than 300 mediums and been ordained a spiritualist minister 6 times.

The 1926 Subcommittee Hearing

As part of Houdini’s crusade against fraudulent mediums, two congressmen (Senator Royal S. Copeland and Representative Sol Bloom) sponsored an amendment to a Washington DC law that would essentially ban fortune telling in DC. The proposal was met with stiff resistance from the spiritualist community, who charged that it would infringe on their right to religious freedom.

27 Feb 1926, Sat The Richmond Item (Richmond, Indiana) Newspapers.com


An initial hearing before a House subcommittee was held for the bill in February 1926, with three more days of testimony in May. And with a showman like Houdini at the helm, the hearing—unsurprisingly—was a spectacle.

According to Rose Mackenberg, the days were “filled with near riots, a welter of conflicting testimony, shouted objections, muttered oaths, [and] copious tears,” as Houdini and the spiritualists battled it out.

Like the entertainer he was, Houdini showed the fascinated committee how some of the mediums’ tricks were performed. And in an attention-grabbing stunt, he even offered $10,000 to any medium present who could demonstrate that their claims of other-worldly communication were true. The ruckus got so bad that one day’s hearing had to be adjourned to restore order.

Houdini (left) at the 1926 congressional hearingHoudini (left) at the 1926 congressional hearing 10 Mar 1929, Sun The Times (Shreveport, Louisiana) Newspapers.com


Mackenberg Takes the Stand

But the biggest bombshell of the hearing—at least as far as the news media was concerned—was dropped by Mackenberg herself.

Prior to the May hearings, Houdini had sent his undercover investigators, including Mackenberg, to visit suspected phony mediums in DC and gather evidence against them. During her testimony, Mackenberg alleged that two spiritualists had independently divulged that a number of their clients were U.S. senators, and she even went so far as to reveal the names of four of those senators while on the stand.

But most shocking of all, Mackenberg testified that one of the mediums, Jane Coates, had boasted that seances had been held in the White House, with President Coolidge and his family present.

19 May 1926, Wed The Des Moines Register (Des Moines, Iowa) Newspapers.com


The two spiritualists vehemently refuted Mackenberg’s account, and the Coolidge administration unofficially denied the seances. But the story was rich fodder for newspapers, which published headlines like “Washington Goes In For ‘Spook Stuff’” and “Houdini Agent Says Coolidge Held Seances.”

Life After Houdini

Ultimately, despite the theatrics, Houdini’s bill failed to garner sufficient congressional support, and the famed magician died just 5 months later.

Mackenberg, though, continued debunking fake mediums for another 30 years. She investigated cases on behalf of banks, chambers of commerce, civic groups, police, lawyers, district attorneys, insurance and trust companies, private citizens, and more.

As a widely acknowledged expert, she wrote newspaper and magazine articles exposing the trade secrets of fraudulent mediums, and even let a few journalists shadow her on the job in the 1940s. She also went on lecture tours and appeared on radio and television shows, at least through the mid-1950s.

Rose MackenbergRose Mackenberg 21 Aug 1937, Sat The Vancouver Sun (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) Newspapers.com


Rose Mackenberg passed away in 1968 at age 75, having investigated more than 1,500 mediums over the course of her career.

She always maintained that she had no problem with sincere believers in spiritualism; she simply wanted to expose the people who used it to con the grief stricken and desperate. In fact, Mackenberg herself was open to the possibility of communication with spirits. But as she said in a 1953 newspaper interview, “In 30 years of searching, I’ve never found solid evidence of it.”

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Tales of Heroism from a Forgotten Tragedy: The General Slocum Disaster

Same-day front page about the General Slocum disasterSame-day front page about the General Slocum disaster 15 Jun 1904, Wed The Evening World (New York, New York) Newspapers.com


While the PS General Slocum isn’t well remembered today, the burning of this passenger ship in 1904 with the loss of approximately 1,000 lives was New York’s deadliest disaster prior to 9/11, and it remains one of the worst disasters on a US waterway.

So it’s no surprise that the General Slocum tragedy was major national news when it occurred, making headlines in papers from coast to coast. But along with the big headlines emphasizing the truly tragic nature of the disaster, another kind of newspaper coverage also appeared—stories of awe-inspiring heroism from that heartbreaking day. A search of the historical papers on Newspapers.com™ reveals many of them.

The Disaster

On the morning of June 15, 1904, nearly 1,400 passengers from St. Mark’s German Lutheran Church boarded the paddlewheel steamer General Slocum. The excursion vessel had been chartered to take the group—almost all of them women and children—from Manhattan to picnic grounds on Long Island. But after the steamer was underway in the East River, a fire began in the forward cabin that quickly consumed the ship.

The captain beached the burning vessel on North Brother Island, but the stern of the ship, where most of the passengers had been forced by the fire, was left in 10 to 30 feet of water. Though there were life preservers and lifeboats aboard, poor maintenance and neglect had made many of them useless. So passengers had little choice but to jump overboard without them to escape the flames—despite many not knowing how to swim.

Weighed down by their heavy clothing and struggling against a strong tide, 400 to 600 passengers drowned after the ship was beached. Though estimates vary, a government commission’s investigation into the disaster reported 955 passenger deaths—or about 70 percent.

Mary McCann’s Story of Courage

Mary McCann (1909)Mary McCann 26 Mar 1909, Fri Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Newspapers.com


As soon as the fire became visible beyond the ship, bystanders from nearby boats and on shore rushed to aid the stricken steamer.

One rescuer story that got extensive newspaper coverage was that of teenager Mary McCann, a recent immigrant from Ireland who was recuperating from an illness at the isolation hospital on North Brother Island.

When the General Slocum came aground on the island, Mary ran to the shore and swam out time after time to pull as many children as she could to safety. Reports of the number she saved range from 6 to 20, depending on the newspaper account.

Though Mary’s story was written about in newspapers immediately following the disaster, she gained further admiration after her testimony at the coroner’s inquest a little over a week later. She appeared again in newspapers nationwide 5 years afterward, when she was awarded the Coast Guard’s Silver Lifesaving Medal in 1909 for her rescue efforts.

Other Tales of Heroism

But far more stories of bravery from the General Slocum disaster appeared in newspapers besides Mary McCann’s.

The New York Times wrote about the staff at the North Brother Island hospital, who immediately rushed to aid the beached ship. They not only pulled people from the water using ladders and human chains, but also resuscitated victims and provided medical care. The New-York Tribune described a story similar to Mary’s, in which a hospital employee named Pauline Puetz swam out multiple times to pull victims ashore, even rescuing a child who had been caught in the ship’s paddlewheel.

Rescuers on nearby vessels, from rowboats to tugboats, got newspaper coverage as well for saving lives. Henry George, for instance, saved four people from the water in a rowboat that had only one oarlock and was filling with water. He then returned to rescue others from beneath the side of the ship despite the risk of being caught under the listing vessel. The crew of the tugboat John L. Wade, which arrived within minutes of the General Slocum being beached, took their vessel so near the burning ship to rescue passengers that it caught fire itself.

Henry GeorgeHenry George 16 Jan 1910, Sun The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) Newspapers.com


Papers also included accounts of the heroism that occurred on the General Slocum itself. The New York Evening World wrote about 12-year-old Louise Galing, who jumped into the water with the toddler she was babysitting and managed to keep ahold of the child until they were pulled from the water. The World also recounted that when young Ida Wousky would have fainted, 13-year-old John Tishner kicked his friend in the shins to wake her up. John then managed to find a life preserver and put it on Ida, pushing her into the water when she wouldn’t jump. He held onto her by her hair until they were rescued by a boat.

After the Catastrophe

The stories of courage from that tragic day are numerous. Brooklyn’s Standard Union reported that six months after the disaster, the US Volunteer Lifesaving Corps awarded 250 people for their bravery. And those medals were well deserved: The government commission into the tragedy concluded that bystanders were responsible for saving 200 to 350 lives, and that without their aid possibly only 70 of the approximately 1,400 people aboard would have survived.

A century after the tragedy, in 2004, the last remaining survivor, Adella Liebenow Wotherspoon, passed away at age 100. Though her death marked the end of living memory of the disaster, the stories of the passengers and heroes of that day live on in the pages of historical newspapers.

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6 of the “Best Wartime Recipes” Shared during World War II

28 May 1943, Fri Oklahoma City Advertiser (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com


In late 1941, food columnist Mary Moore invited readers of Canada’s Windsor Star to send in their favorite recipes to be featured in her new weekly “Best Wartime Recipes” column.

“Star cooks! Amateur cooks need your help. Send in those recipes that you are hoarding against your lean days—share your depression or wartime ideas with all of us.”

Because Canada faced food rationing and shortages during World War II, the recipes published in Moore’s column reflected wartime food restrictions—such as the rationing of sugar, tea, coffee, butter, and meat. Still, Moore asked that the submitted recipes be not only economical but flavorful as well, and she tested many of them herself to ensure they were.

Her wartime recipe column ran from October 1941 until May 1945, when Moore replaced it with one about dinner preparation for novice home cooks. She would continue as a food columnist until her death in 1978. Having gotten her start in the late 1920s writing for the Edmonton Journal (which ran her wartime recipe column as well), Moore’s newspaper career lasted an astonishing 50 years and ultimately saw widespread syndication in papers across Canada.

Interested in these wartime recipes? Here are 6 intriguing dishes selected from the 100+ published in Mary Moore’s column over the course of the war—all found on Newspapers.com! Click any of the recipes to see it in the original newspaper.

1. Applesauce Cake (October 1941)

Best Wartime Recipe: Applesauce CakeBest Wartime Recipe: Applesauce Cake 25 Oct 1941, Sat The Windsor Star (Windsor, Ontario, Canada) Newspapers.com


2. Hot Red Cross (November 1941)

Best Wartime Recipe: Hot Red CrossBest Wartime Recipe: Hot Red Cross 01 Nov 1941, Sat The Windsor Star (Windsor, Ontario, Canada) Newspapers.com


3. Bacon Substitute (February 1942)

Best Wartime Recipe: Bacon SubstituteBest Wartime Recipe: Bacon Substitute 14 Feb 1942, Sat The Windsor Star (Windsor, Ontario, Canada) Newspapers.com


4. Jelly Roll (April 1943)

Best Wartime Recipe: Jelly RollBest Wartime Recipe: Jelly Roll 10 Apr 1943, Sat The Windsor Star (Windsor, Ontario, Canada) Newspapers.com


5. New Idea Beef Loaf (November 1943)

Best Wartime Recipe: New Idea Beef LoafBest Wartime Recipe: New Idea Beef Loaf 27 Nov 1943, Sat The Windsor Star (Windsor, Ontario, Canada) Newspapers.com


6. Molasses Cookies (April 1945)

Best Wartime Recipe: Molasses CookiesBest Wartime Recipe: Molasses Cookies 21 Apr 1945, Sat The Windsor Star (Windsor, Ontario, Canada) Newspapers.com


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The ABCs of Old Time Occupations

Have you come across an occupation in a census record that you’ve never heard of before? Many of our ancestors held jobs that are rare or no longer exist today. We’ve scoured our archives to learn more about those jobs and what our ancestors did to earn a living. Here are a few of the occupations we found:

AArtificial Flower Maker: This intricate job required long hours and a lot of skill. The detailed artificial flowers embellished bonnets, dresses, and hats.


BBath Attendant: In the early 20th century, school children in cities like New York and Chicago were bathed at school. Often the children came from tenements with no access to washing facilities. This 1909 article invited women to apply for the position and described the qualifications needed to become a bath attendant.

CCorset Factory Worker: Factories became common during the Industrial Revolution. In this 1910 help wanted ad, a corset factory was hiring women between the ages of 16-40 to work in the factory.


DDaguerreotypist: A daguerreotypist was an early photographer who used a now-obsolete process to create images on a silvered copper surface. In this 1846 article, a traveling daguerreotypist offered to create miniature likenesses in Joliet, Illinois.

EEsquire: Today the term esquire describes a lawyer, but that wasn’t always the case. If your 19th-century ancestor was an esquire, it meant that he held a title of office, such as a lawyer, sheriff, justice of the peace, etc.


FFellmongers: A fellmonger is a person who removes hair or wool from hides in preparation for making leather.


GGlazier: A glazier cut, installed, and removed glass in windows, display cases, and more.

HHokey-Pokey Man: The Hokey-Pokey man was a vendor with a pushcart that sold cheap, low-quality ice cream in the late 1800s through early 1900s. The Hokey-Pokey man was popular with children in tenement neighborhoods. In this 1910 article, a San Francisco Hokey-Pokey man found out he would likely inherit a fortune.

IIce Cutter: Before refrigeration was invented, ice cutters went to lakes and rivers during the winter and cut out blocks of ice for use in the summer. Workers transported ice to ice houses where it was kept cold with straw or sawdust. It would stay frozen for many months.

JJapanner: Japanned leather was a process to coat leather with a Japanese varnish and then dry it on a stove, producing a smooth, shiny surface like patent leather.


KKnocker-Upper: A knocker-upper was the equivalent of a human alarm clock. They roamed the streets with a tall wand used to tap on windows to awaken workers in the morning.


LLeech Collector: Leech collectors, often women, gathered leeches for medicinal use. Doctors believed that bloodletting could cure disease, so leeches were placed on patients to suck infected blood out. The practice was especially popular in Europe. 


MMillwright: A millwright was responsible for designing, installing, maintaining, and repairing mill machinery. This 1902 article reported on a labor dispute when millwrights demanded an eight-hour workday, but employers wanted ten.


NNeedle-Pointer: A needle pointer was a person who filed the points of needles. According to this 1822 article, breathing in steel dust caused health problems for needle-pointers, forcing most to end their careers by the age of 35.

OOrdinary Keeper: An Ordinary Keeper was an innkeeper. The terms “ordinary” and “tavern” used to be used interchangeably. Early records from Maine cautioned Ordinary Keepers about serving too much liquor.


PPinsetter: Bowling became popular in the 20th century and before automated pinsetters were invented, workers handset the bowling pins each time they were knocked down. This 1943 article describes how a pinsetter might set 132 games a night and be paid 9 cents a game.


QQuarrier: A quarrier was a quarry worker.


RRag Man: A rag man walked the streets with a cart, collecting old rags and other discarded items. He then brought them to a junk shop where they were resold. This 1894 article describes the job of a rag men and gives a detailed description of a junk shop.


SSaddler: A saddler was in charge of making, repairing, and selling saddles. This 1872 article describes what a saddler’s shop might have looked like.


TTeamster: A teamster drove a team of oxen, horses, or mules, pulling a wagon. A man who drove a team of oxen was called a bullwhacker. Teamsters transported cargo and supplies. This 1875 article described the duties of a teamster.


UUptwister: An uptwister was a textile industry worker that was in charge of winding yarn onto a revolving spindle.


VVitner: A vitner is a wine merchant. This 1859 article talks about the South Carolina grape industry and the oldest vitner in the South.


WWhitesmith: A whitesmith works with metals like tin, copper, and brass.



XXylographer: A xylographer is a person who makes engravings on wood, especially for printing.


YYeoman: A yeoman was a farmer that owned his land.


ZZincographer: A zincographer worked in the printing industry etching images on zinc plates. The line drawings used in newspapers before photography (like this 1893 example), were created by zincographers.


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