January 15, 1919: The Great Molasses Flood

Does the scent of molasses linger in your home long after the holidays? The Great Molasses Flood of 1919 left residents from one city claiming they could smell molasses for decades. On January 15, 1919, a giant tank holding 2.3 million gallons of molasses burst open in Boston’s North End neighborhood. It flooded the streets creating a 15-foot wave of molasses that carved a path of destruction. The sticky quagmire killed 21 people and injured 150, paving the way for more stringent safety standards across the country.

During WWI, molasses was distilled into industrial alcohol and used to produce military explosives. The Purity Distilling Company set up shop in the densely populated North End neighborhood in Boston. The area was home to many immigrants, and the company encountered little opposition when they constructed a 50-foot tall, 90-foot diameter molasses tank, just three feet from the street in 1915.

Days before the deadly explosion, a ship delivered a fresh load of warm molasses. It was mixed with cold molasses already in the tank, causing gasses to form. With the tank filled to near-capacity, a later structural engineering analysis revealed that the walls were too thin to support the weight, and there was too much stress on the rivet holes.  

Around 12:30 p.m. on January 15, 1919, workers stopped for lunch and a group of firefighters in a nearby firehouse sat down for a game of cards. Suddenly firefighters heard a strange staccato sound. It was the rivets on the molasses tank popping off. Other witnesses described a low rumbling sound. Before anyone could react, the tank of molasses burst, sending a rush of air that hurled people off their feet. A tsunami of sticky syrup poured over bystanders and horses, and knocked buildings off their foundations. The resulting river of molasses ran through streets and passageways, filling cellars and basements. A one-ton piece of steel from the vat flew into a trestle of elevated railroad tracks, causing the tracks to buckle.

First responders rushed to help but were slowed down by knee-deep sticky molasses that had become thicker in the cold air. They labored to find survivors and recover the dead. Initially, there were concerns that the bursting tank was caused by sabotage or an outside explosion (a claim that Purity Distilling Company clung to). Officials later determined that faulty tank construction was the cause. Workers spent months cleaning the molasses mess by sprinkling sand and hosing down the streets with saltwater.

The tragedy led to many lawsuits and more than 100 damage awards. It also spurred changes in building codes with more stringent building regulations, first in Boston, then in Massachusetts, and then across the country.

If you would like to learn more about the Great Molasses Food, search Newspapers.com today!

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8 Delicious Holiday Dishes to Try This December

Looking for some vintage recipes to try this holiday season? We searched the historical papers on Newspapers.com to find these 8 recipes for delicious December dishes!

(Click on any of the recipes below to see a larger version on our site.)

1. Biscochitos (from 1967)

Biscochitos (or bizcochitos) are anise-flavored cookies from New Mexico that are popular during Christmas.

Recipe: Bizcochitos (1967)Recipe: Bizcochitos (1967) Tue, Nov 28, 1967 – Page 14 · Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico) · Newspapers.com


2. Cheese Blintzes (from 1959)

Similar to a filled pancake or crepe, cheese blintzes are a part of some Hanukkah celebrations.

Recipe: Cheese blintzes (1959)Recipe: Cheese blintzes (1959) Fri, Oct 9, 1959 – Page 5 · The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) · Newspapers.com


3. Risgrynsgröt (from 1959)

Risgrynsgröt is a Swedish rice pudding eaten during the winter months, especially around Christmas.

Recipe: Risgrynsgrot (1959)Recipe: Risgrynsgrot (1959) Sat, Sep 19, 1959 – 4 · The Herald-Press (Saint Joseph, Michigan) · Newspapers.com


4. Lebkuchen (from 1934)

Lebkuchen are a traditional German Christmas spice cookie.

Recipe: Lebkuchen (1934)Recipe: Lebkuchen (1934) Fri, Feb 2, 1934 – 2 · Iron County Miner (Hurley, Wisconsin) · Newspapers.com


5. Sweet Tamales (from 1959)

Sweet tamales are a dessert made in parts of Mexico (and elsewhere), particularly at Christmastime.

Recipe: Sweet Tamales (1959)Recipe: Sweet Tamales (1959) Thu, Dec 24, 1959 – Page 6 · Arizona Republic (Phoenix, Arizona) · Newspapers.com


6. Applesauce Cake (from 1958)

Apple-based dishes and desserts are a common feature of Hanukkah meals.

Recipe: Applesauce cake (1958)Recipe: Applesauce cake (1958) Fri, Oct 3, 1958 – Page 7 · The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) · Newspapers.com


7. Christmas Pudding (from 1896)

Christmas pudding is a boiled or steamed pudding traditionally served at Christmas in the United Kingdom.

Recipe: Christmas pudding (1896)Recipe: Christmas pudding (1896) Wed, Dec 2, 1896 – 4 · The North-Eastern Daily Gazette (Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, England) · Newspapers.com


8. Bonelos Dago (from 1966)

Bonelos dago (or Buñelos dagu) are yam-based fried donuts popular in Guam during the Christmas season and are typically eaten dipped in syrup.

Recipe: Bonelos Dago (1966)Recipe: Bonelos Dago (1966) Sun, Dec 11, 1966 – 9 · Guam Daily News (Agana Heights, Guam) · Newspapers.com


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Letters to Santa Found in the Newspapers

Nothing is more magical than seeing the holidays through the eyes of a child. For nearly 150 years, letters to Santa have appeared in newspapers. Some are sweet, some are funny, and some tug at your heartstrings. We searched our archives to share just a few examples:

Daily Press: Newport News, Virginia – 1932: “Dear Santa Claus: I am a little girl eight years old. Mother told me that I had been very good, so please bring me a bicycle, pair of shoes for dolly. Please don’t forget the oranges, nuts, apples and candy. Don’t forget my little cousins, Billy and Norman. Your little friend, Lauretta Crockett.”  

Davenport Weekly Republican: Davenport, Iowa – 1901: “My name is Ray Sindt, and don’t forget our house number; it is 1222 Gaines street corner Thirteenth, for Irene’s letter did not have it. And no date, dear Santa Claus, on it, either, then we won’t get our presents. I would like very much to have a live pony and a cart to go with it; then I can take Irene and our kittens out next summer. I would like to have a gun—but well, I’m not big enough, then I’ll take a sled and skates, and a few nuts and candy, if it is just the same to you. And if you have candy canes, Irene would like to have one, too—red and white striped ones. Please don’t forget Irene’s letter, for she felt very sad when she read it. We will hang up our stockings. Be sure and don’t forget our number this time, and don’t forget the pony. I can take good care of it. Good-bye Santa. I am 7 years old. Merry Christmas. Ray Hamilton Sindt. Don’t forget ma and grandma.”

Tampa Day Times: St. Petersburg, Florida – 1925: “My Dear Mr. Santa Claus: I take the liberty of writing you at this seemingly early date to remind you that I have changed my address from Boston Mass., to St. Petersburg, Florida, and should be quite up set, Mr. Claus if you by some error, perhaps not of your own, but of one of your many assistants, took my gifts to our old address. I hope you will not think me greedy for I am told you dislike that in all small boys, when I ask you to leave in or rather around my stocking or stocking’s a complete addition of the “Book of Knowledge,” and “in Tune With the Infinite.” My parents whom you have probably encountered in their youth have been for the past ten years connected with Harvard college, and I feel sure that they would be charmed to have you make your annual visit to us here in St. Petersburg. I will be twelve my next birthday, and while I have never mingled with other small boys my age, I am sure that I shall not feel the lack of any young companions if you accede to my request. Hoping you and Mrs. Claus are in the best of health and that you will enjoy your trip south. I remain, Horace Percy Greenapple.”

In 1992, a letter was dropped in a mailbox outside the Clallam County Courthouse in Port Angeles, Washington. The heartbreaking contents prompted a desperate search for its author, a boy named Thad. Newspapers across the country, including the Chicago Tribune, reprinted Thad’s letter. The young writer was never identified and donations, which poured in from the U.S. and Canada, were eventually turned over to the United Way. Thad’s letter read:

“Dear Santa Clas, Please help my mom and dad this Christmas. My dad is not working anymore. We don’t get many food now. My mom gives us the food she would eat. Please help my mom an dad. I want to go to Heven too be with the angels. Can you bring me to Heven? My mom an dad woud not have too by things for me no more. That would make them happy. Plese bring my dad a job an some food. I live in my house like last year. We got candils. A city man took the lights a way. It looks like we don’t live heer no more. We do. I will wate for you too come in my room. I will not slep. Wen you give my dad a job and some food too my mom I will go with you and the rain deer. Merry Christmas too you Mrs. Clas too the elfs too. Thad.”

Fortunately, most letters to Santa are filled with child-like anticipation and thoughts of toys and sweets. They also offer a historical snapshot of what was happening in America at the time. Many letters from the 1930s included a request for a Shirley Temple doll. In the 1950s children wanted a Slinky or Play-Doh, and G.I. Joe topped many lists in the 1960s.

Journal Gazette: Mattoon, Illinois – 1966: “Dear Santa—I’m a little boy, five years old, so my mother is writing this for me. I’ve been a pretty good boy all this year. I would like to find under the tree, a GI Joe space capsule and space suit, a GI Joe crash crew set, and a GI Joe flagman set. A green Beret doll. A Johhny Eagle Red River set. A Hands Down and Tip it game A table and chair set for my room. Thank you for all the presents you left me last year. There will be cookies and milk under the tree for you! Your friend Robbie Metcalf, 808 S. 9th St.”

Wouldn’t it be fun to find a letter that one of your family members wrote to Santa in our archives? To see more Letters to Santa from across the decades, search Newspapers.com today!  

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Vera Menchik, Women’s Chess Champion

“Menchik Mate” from Menchik-Thomas chess game, London 1932 Sat, Jan 30, 1988 – 62 · The Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine) · Newspapers.com

The name Vera Menchik is not familiar to many people. But with her rise as a brilliant chess player in the 20s and 30s, and her success in tournaments against some of the greatest masters of the game, Menchik helped pave the way for women to enter a competitive world that too often failed to welcome them.

Early Life

Vera was born in Moscow, Russia, in 1906. She began playing chess at age nine, given a chess set and an understanding of the rules by her father. When her school formed a chess club, she joined.

The Russian Revolution upended the Menchiks’ home, business, and family, and Vera moved to England with her mother and sister. There she continued her chess education with the Hastings Chess Club, and later became a student of grandmaster Géza Maróczy.

Miss Vera Menchik, New WizardMiss Vera Menchik, New Wizard Tue, Feb 15, 1927 – 9 · Republican and Herald (Pottsville, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

In 1927, she won the first Women’s World Championship in London. She would go on to defend that title in every championship over the next twelve years, with seventy-eight wins, four draws, and only one loss.

Vera Menchik Club

Many considered chess too intellectually rigorous for women, an opinion that continued well into the latter half of the 20th century.

Bobby Fischer quote on the stupidity of womenBobby Fischer quote on the stupidity of women Wed, Jan 5, 1977 – 17 · Public Opinion (Chambersburg, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

When a woman proved that unflattering sentiment wrong by doing well in competitions, not everyone took her seriously.

Menchik entered the Carlsbad chess tournament in 1929, the only female competitor. Viennese master and fellow competitor Albert Becker found the idea so laughable that he proposed the creation of the “Vera Menchik Club,” where entry would be granted to anyone defeated by Menchik. Becker became the club’s first member.

The Vera Menchik Club - The Vera Menchik Club – “Society for Losers” Thu, Mar 28, 1974 – 61 · Calgary Herald (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) · Newspapers.com

Within a decade, the club that began as a mockery had been “joined” by some of the chess world’s most notable names, including Max Euwe, Edgard Colle, Mir Sultan Khan, Jacques Mieses, Samuel Reshevsky, and Frederick Yates.

Vera Menchik in high standing in chess worldVera Menchik in high standing in chess world Sun, Jul 23, 1944 – Page 38 · The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

World Champion

Women's Chess Champion, Vera Menchik, 21Women’s Chess Champion, Vera Menchik, 21 Sun, Sep 18, 1927 – 103 · The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) · Newspapers.com

Menchik defended her title as Women’s World Champion from 1927 until the end of her life. Sadly, that end came prematurely. At age 38, Menchik was killed by a bomb attack in London during World War II, along with her mother and sister.

Vera Menchik death announcement, 1944Vera Menchik death announcement, 1944 Fri, Jun 30, 1944 – 14 · The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) · Newspapers.com

Menchik did not effortlessly win every game. Many times she ranked low, or even last, in the list of competitors. But she played with such skill and knowledge that she took a male-dominated world by surprise. She holds a special place in chess history as the first Women’s World Champion, an example for all who followed. Today, the Chess Olympiad’s winning women’s team is awarded the Vera Menchik Cup in her honor.

Find more clippings on Vera Menchik and other important names in chess with a search on Newspapers.com.

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10 Vintage Thanksgiving Recipes Perfect for Small Gatherings

Tue, Nov 22, 1921 – Page 3 · The Logansport Morning Press (Logansport, Indiana) · Newspapers.com


Will your Thanksgiving gathering be smaller this year? Your favorite recipes might make too much food for a dinner with fewer guests. So we searched the historical papers on Newspapers.com to find vintage Thanksgiving recipes for small groups. Check them out! One of them just might become a new favorite!

(Click on any of the recipes below to see it in the original newspaper.)

1. Roast Half Turkey with Apple Stuffing (from 1959)

Roast Half Turkey with Apple Stuffing recipe, 1959Roast Half Turkey with Apple Stuffing recipe, 1959 Sat, Nov 28, 1959 – Page 11 · The New York Age (New York, New York) · Newspapers.com


2. Stuffed Broiling Chicken (from 1948)

Stuffed Broiling Chicken recipe, 1948Stuffed Broiling Chicken recipe, 1948 Sun, Nov 21, 1948 – Page 95 · The Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, Ohio) · Newspapers.com


3. Glazed Ham and Sweet Potatoes (from 1959)

Glazed Ham and Sweet Potatoes recipe, 1959Glazed Ham and Sweet Potatoes recipe, 1959 Thu, Mar 26, 1959 – 5 · The Hydro Review (Hydro, Oklahoma) · Newspapers.com


4. Marmalade Stuffed Yams (from 1959)

Marmalade Stuffed Yams, 1959Marmalade Stuffed Yams, 1959 Wed, Nov 11, 1959 – 38 · The Times (Munster, Indiana) · Newspapers.com


5. Squash, New Style (from 1937)

“Squash, New Style” recipe, 1937 Fri, Nov 19, 1937 – 8 · Republican and Herald (Pottsville, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com


6. Panned Broccoli—plus, Wilted Spinach & Cranberry Coleslaw (from 1951)

Panned Broccoli, Wilted Spinach & Cranberry Coleslaw recipes, 1951Panned Broccoli, Wilted Spinach & Cranberry Coleslaw recipes, 1951 Sun, Nov 18, 1951 – 71 · Johnson City Press (Johnson City, Tennessee) · Newspapers.com


7. Spiced Raisin Stuffing (from 1937)

Spiced Raisin Stuffing recipe, 1937Spiced Raisin Stuffing recipe, 1937 Tue, Nov 23, 1937 – 35 · The Times (Munster, Indiana) · Newspapers.com


8. Cranberry Glazed Biscuits (from 1956)

Cranberry Glazed Biscuits recipe, 1956Cranberry Glazed Biscuits recipe, 1956 Thu, Dec 27, 1956 – 25 · The Record (Hackensack, New Jersey) · Newspapers.com


9. Baked Fresh Pears (from 1953)

Baked Fresh Pears recipe, 1953Baked Fresh Pears recipe, 1953 Thu, Nov 12, 1953 – 22 · The Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine) · Newspapers.com


10. Pumpkin Pie (from 1948)

Pumpkin Pie recipe, 1948Pumpkin Pie recipe, 1948 Thu, Nov 18, 1948 – Page 22 · The News-Review (Roseburg, Oregon) · Newspapers.com


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Uncovering Hidden Treasure

Who doesn’t love a good hidden treasure story? The newspapers are filled with stories of ordinary people who uncover extraordinary treasures in the most unusual places. Whether found in a hidden secret compartment or buried in the ground, these stories might leave you wondering if there is a hidden treasure in your house! Here are a few fun treasure stories we’ve uncovered.

In 1924, the owner of a house built in 1860 made plans to demolish it. The house was originally owned by a bank president. During the demolition, workers found a concealed compartment containing $100,000 in gold coins. That is equivalent to $1.5 million today!   

In 1928, George Maher invented a metal detector. While scanning the ground on a farm near Natchez, Mississippi, he discovered a cache of coins buried two feet deep. The money was buried shortly before the fall of Vicksburg during the Civil War. Maher’s find validated his invention and allowed him to deposit more than $1,000 in the bank.

In 1986, two workmen found a hidden room on the third floor of a 140-year old Italianate home overlooking Cayuga Lake in New York. The door to the room didn’t have a handle and was disguised by wood paneling matching the room. A desk and shelves further guarded the doorway. Once inside the secret room, the men discovered three steamer trunks filled with 19th-century toys, historical items, and at least $10,000 in coins.

In 1935, after the death of an Oklahoma pioneer, his four daughters inherited his valuable estate. An attorney representing the daughters visited a farm owned by the pioneer to take an inventory. An aged caretaker told the attorney that additional valuables were hidden in an old office building in Wheeling, West Virginia. The treasure, he said, dated back to the Kings of France. Traveling to West Virginia, the attorney discovered a partition and false fireplace inside the office building. He removed them and found a dim passageway to an attic where he discovered three brass chests filled with a fortune in gold and silver. The treasure once belonged to Louis S. Delaplaine, the U.S. consul in British Guiana. Delaplaine kept a luxurious apartment in the West Virginia office building. The discovery added to the valuable estate inherited by the four daughters who were related to Delaplaine by marriage. They also received an island in Lake Huron gifted to Delaplaine by Queen Victoria.

Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln daguerreotype

Not all treasure is money. In 1929, a man was examining the contents of an old wooden chest found in the attic of a home in Westport, Connecticut, when he came upon a rare daguerreotype. Further examination revealed the image was that of Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln.

Another historical treasure was discovered in 1998 by C.P. Weaver. She had papers and documents passed down through her family stored in her attic. After seeing the movie Glory about a troop of Black Civil War soldiers, it stirred something in Weaver’s memory. She went to the attic and retrieved the stash of papers and discovered the fragile diary of Union Col. Nathan W. Daniels, commander of the Second Louisiana Native Guards, one of the first Black regiments organized in the Civil War. The diary was eventually published and provided priceless historical understanding.

In 1998, a Florida couple bought a painting at the thrift store for $1.99. The painting turned out to be an original by Auguste Rodin, sculptor of the masterpiece, The Thinker. Their $2 investment was valued at $14,000 and earned them an invitation to appear on an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show about uncovered hidden treasures.

Have you ever discovered a hidden treasure? Tell us about it in the comments below, and search Newspapers.com for many more treasure stories.

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Stories that Haunted the Papers

The frosty fall season has once again settled over the northern hemisphere. For some that means warming up against the cold, while for others it’s prime time to get those goosebumps going. We’ve got the latter covered with today’s post, which features three ghost stories that have haunted past papers. Are the tales real, or just stories meant to thrill and chill? You can be the judge.

The Haunted Mine

There’s something about an enclosed space that lends itself to creepiness, isn’t there? And if you take that enclosed space underground, it only gets worse. This 1887 story recounts the harrowing experience of Mr. Bennett, whose qualifications as a reliable source speak for themselves.

Mr. Bennett is very truthful, and has feared Mr. Bennett is very truthful, and has feared “…No goblin or swart faery of the mine.” Sun, Nov 27, 1887 – 9 · The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) · Newspapers.com

Bennett worked in Nevada’s Yellow Jacket mine, which made the news nearly two decades earlier following a deadly fire. Stories had since been told of unexplained sounds and sights in the mine, but Bennet didn’t believe them. That is, not until the day he had to retrieve a pair of shovels from the empty 1000 level.

The Shovels

Bennett found the shovels and was descending the ladder back to the 1100 level when he heard footsteps. At first Bennet thought it was the foreman, Pete Langan. But Langan would have used a light, and the footsteps were approaching from complete darkness.

Mr. Bennett heard footsteps in the darkMr. Bennett heard footsteps in the dark Sun, Nov 27, 1887 – 9 · The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) · Newspapers.com Mr. Bennett on the ladderMr. Bennett on the ladder Sun, Nov 27, 1887 – 9 · The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) · Newspapers.com

He called out to ask who it was, and heard no answer but the footsteps coming closer. Suddenly, the two shovels held under his arm were “violently thrust forward and sent flying.” They tumbled down the ladderway until they came to rest 30 feet away.

Mr. Bennett describes being so badly frightened he felt a Mr. Bennett describes being so badly frightened he felt a “chilling, sickening shock.” Sun, Nov 27, 1887 – 9 · The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) · Newspapers.com

Made it to Safety

Bennett scrambled back to the other workers, who confirmed Pete Langan had been above ground throughout his experience. Bennett, who once “went by himself through all parts of the mine with no thought of fear,” refused to return to the haunted 1000 level ever again.

The full article can be read in these clippings: Part 1, and Part 2

The Haunted Lighthouse

This next story is also from the late 1800s and reads a bit like a Gothic horror story. The author, Tom, was hired to replace a lighthouse-keeper who had “deserted his employ” months before and hadn’t been heard from since. He was told the man had a pretty wife, and the two were suspected of having disappeared so effectively because they’d stolen some items of value from the lighthouse.

The First Night

Tom asked the temporary keeper, Morgan, to stay with him the first night and teach him the ropes. Morgan was reluctant, and Tom noted his face looked haggard and anxious, but he agreed. He skipped the tour of the cellars while showing Tom around the lighthouse, claiming they were never used anyway, and the night passed unremarkably. Morgan was all too eager to leave the next morning, and gave only one strange bit of advice.

Temporary lighthouse-keeper Morgan anxious to leave, advises Tom to load his revolverTemporary lighthouse-keeper Morgan anxious to leave, advises Tom to load his revolver Thu, Jan 26, 1871 – 6 · The Bradford Observer (Bradford, West Yorkshire, England) · Newspapers.com

A Ghostly Experience

It wasn’t until his second night spent alone in the lighthouse, a moonless Saturday evening, that Tom had his first taste of the supernatural.

Tom heard noises--heavy blows, curses, shrill screams and a dull thud--with no visible sourceTom heard noises–heavy blows, curses, shrill screams and a dull thud–with no visible source Thu, Jan 26, 1871 – 6 · The Bradford Observer (Bradford, West Yorkshire, England) · Newspapers.com

After some time spent frozen in terror, Tom worked up the courage to explore the cold, clammy cellar with his lantern (and revolver) in hand. Despite all that he had experienced, there was nothing unusual to be seen. He secured the cellar door and spent a sleepless night at the top of the lighthouse.

The next day he went back to shore to share what had happened with Mr. Thompson, the man who’d hired him. Thompson was skeptical, but sent a man named Wilson to stay a few days with him. Wilson helped him nail the cellar door shut, but of course the days passed with no further unexplained events. Wilson left, and Tom felt foolish…until that Saturday evening, when the events occurred again exactly as they had the week before.

Tom's second experience with the ghosts of the haunted lighthouseTom’s second experience with the ghosts of the haunted lighthouse Thu, Jan 26, 1871 – 6 · The Bradford Observer (Bradford, West Yorkshire, England) · Newspapers.com

The Final Vision

An exasperated Mr. Thompson once again sent Wilson to act as witness to any further oddities, and made plans to come himself the next Saturday evening. Aside from the unnerving discovery that the nails in the cellar door had been forcibly ripped out, Wilson and Tom passed that week quietly. On Saturday Thompson arrived, and all three men took up position directly outside cellar door.

As the clock chimed 11, they heard the shouting and blows begin. The door flew open, and the voice screamed as it had before. This time a violent vision played out before their eyes:

The ghostly vision in the lighthouseThe ghostly vision in the lighthouse Thu, Jan 26, 1871 – 6 · The Bradford Observer (Bradford, West Yorkshire, England) · Newspapers.com

Mr. Thompson arranged an investigation of the cellar and found the bodies of a man and woman, identified as a local farmer and the wife of the former lighthouse keeper. They tracked down the keeper and got his confession. He’d suspected an intimate relationship between his wife and the farmer, and had killed them both in a jealous rage despite his wife’s protestations of innocence.

And thus the ghosts of the wronged who had haunted that lonely lighthouse could rest, their mystery now solved. The full article can be read here.

The Haunted Tower

This story may be more familiar, especially to those who have visited the Tower of London before. The famous castle-prison has its fair share of grim history, perhaps most notably as the site of multiple royal executions during the reign of Henry VIII. His second wife, Anne Boleyn, is one of those. And according to several newspaper articles across the years, her ghost makes regular appearances at the Tower to this day.

Anne Boleyn's Ghost haunted Tower of LondonAnne Boleyn’s Ghost haunts Tower of London Sat, Sep 3, 1898 – 3 · The Brooklyn Citizen (Brooklyn, New York) · Newspapers.com

An Unconscious Sentry

One story says a sentry heard a scream during his rounds. He ran to the sound and found a fellow guard unconscious beside his rifle. When the affected guard came to, he was in such a state of distress that he was unable resume his post.

Under questioning, he finally revealed what had happened.

A sentry at the Tower of London recounts his experience with the ghost of Anne BoleynA sentry at the Tower of London recounts his experience with the ghost of Anne Boleyn Fri, May 5, 1933 – 5 · Deerfield Valley Times (Wilmington, Vermont) · Newspapers.com

The Haunted Chapel

Another favorite Anne Boleyn story centers the captain of the guard, who once saw a light coming from the Tower chapel. He climbed a ladder to investigate and saw a Locals and Tower sentries provide endless stories of Anne Boleyn's restless spiritLocals and Tower sentries provide endless stories of Anne Boleyn’s restless spirit Fri, May 5, 1933 – 5 · Deerfield Valley Times (Wilmington, Vermont) · Newspapers.com Anne Boleyn PortraitAnne Boleyn Portrait Mon, Dec 22, 1902 – 6 · The Chickasha Daily Express (Chickasha, Oklahoma) · Newspapers.com

Try a search on Newspapers.com for more on these and other ghost stories!

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Newspaper Marriage Announcements: Using the Language of Love to Break Down Genealogical Walls

Have you found a marriage announcement on Newspapers.com that led to a genealogy breakthrough? For some of us (like me), uncovering long sought after information is like opening a gift on Christmas morning! Marriage announcements can be short and succinct or long and rich in detail. As a genealogist, I’ve spent hours poring through marriage records on Newspapers.com. I have some tips that might help you read between the lines of your marriage announcements and might help you make new personal discoveries within your family tree.

The Bride’s Maiden Name: A marriage announcement is often a great way to uncover the holy grail of genealogy for women – her birth name! A birth name can open the door to further research for the bride and her family. Here’s a marriage announcement from London revealing the bride’s birth name that dates back to 1701!

Parents’ Names: Marriage announcements often include the name of the parents for both the bride and groom. Now you can go back one more generation in your research!  

Photographs: The first photos started appearing in newspapers in the late 1800s, and by the 1900s, many papers included a picture of the bride. What a treasure to find a photo of your ancestor!

Address: It’s hard to imagine now, but it used to be common to give an address for the bride and/or groom, like in this announcement from 1875. An address allows you to search land records, census records, and nearby relatives – remember families often stuck together back then. (Pro tip: enter the address in Google Earth to see if the house still stands. If it does, you can explore the neighborhood virtually)!

Wedding Announcement 1933

The Wedding Party: I love a wedding announcement full of lots of juicy details like this one. I mean, who doesn’t want to know how many yards of silk it took to make the wedding gown? A detailed wedding announcement often mentions everyone in the bridal party, and sometimes even guests. Chances are, many of those named are relatives. I’ve gone so far as to build a tree for everyone mentioned, and each time, I have discovered new cousins and siblings. It takes effort, but if you’re up against a brick wall, it just might lead to a breakthrough. Pay special attention to those who have traveled from out-of-town to attend the wedding. They are probably family!

Who Performed the Wedding? Marriage announcements usually give the name of who officiated at the wedding. You aren’t likely to find church records in the newspapers, but if you have the name of the person who performed the wedding, you can research the congregation, and that can lead to church records. Church records often list the name of the bride and groom’s parents and sometimes the mother’s birth name. This can unlock new research possibilities.

The Seattle Star: January 18, 1917

Then and Now, Weddings Can be Full of Drama: While searching for family wedding announcements one day, I came across this dramatic clipping! It shares the story of a young immigrant who left Greece for an arranged marriage in America. The groom ended up rejecting her, and she sued him for $5,000 for breach of contract. The article is full of genealogical information for the family – both in Greece and in the United States. This article is more of an announcement for the wedding that didn’t happen!

One Final Tip: While searching for wedding announcements, we sometimes tend to search in a limited range of dates. You might be missing out on so much more. For example, I’ve come across dozens of clippings like this that describe women’s groups getting together to model old wedding dresses. These women modeled their mother’s, grandmother’s, and great-grandmother’s dresses. In many cases, they give the names of the original bride and the year she was married. Who would have thought to search for a wedding more than a hundred years after it happened? What a treasure trove of information!

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Unsolved: The Wallingford Shoebox Murder

A mutilated corpse in a shoebox. Nationwide press coverage. A possible connection to a major historical event. Not to mention, a ghost . . .  

A baffling 130-year-old unsolved murder from Connecticut has all this and more.

Is your interest piqued? Join us as we use the historical papers on Newspapers.com to uncover the details of the strange and tragic Wallingford Shoebox Murder mystery.

Mon, Aug 9, 1886 – 1 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com


A Strange & Gruesome Discovery

On Sunday, August 8, 1886, Edward Terrell took his dog out berry hunting on the outskirts of the Connecticut town of Wallingford. They were on a little-used wooded path when the dog discovered a large wooden shoebox partially hidden in the bushes and became agitated. As Terrell neared the box to investigate, however, he was overwhelmed by the stench coming from it.

Perhaps with the memory of a dead body he had discovered a few weeks prior on his mind, the man left the box unopened and returned with a few others. When the group of men pried opened the box, they at first thought it held a dead animal. What it actually contained would send shockwaves through Wallingford for weeks.

Inside, wrapped in tar paper, was the nude torso of a man, with the head, arms, and legs cut off. Bloody straw lined the box’s interior.

The authorities were quickly sent for, and word of the discovery spread like wildfire among the town’s population of approximately 6,000.

Tue, Aug 10, 1886 – 2 · The Morning Journal-Courier (New Haven, Connecticut) · Newspapers.com


What the Body Revealed

The medical examiner’s autopsy determined that the torso likely belonged to a man around age 25, weighing approximately 150 pounds. The time of death was placed 5-10 days prior.

From the amount of blood in the box, it was believed that the body had been placed inside immediately after the head and limbs were severed, and the cuts appeared to have been done by a knife or other non-serrated blade. Apart from the obvious dismemberment, there were no other visible wounds on the corpse. Speculation in the press that it had been the work of medical students was quickly discounted.

The body was buried the day after the discovery, but first the stomach was removed and sent to New Haven for examination. The analysis of the stomach would later reveal the presence of arsenic, leading to the conclusion that the man had been poisoned.

Sat, Aug 28, 1886 – 4 · The Morning Journal-Courier (New Haven, Connecticut) · Newspapers.com


Possible Victims

With no head, the corpse proved impossible to identify. At first, the most common theory was that it was Albert J. Cooley, a veteran who had recently collected a large sum of pension money and hadn’t been seen since. (Cooley would soon be spotted alive, eliminating him as a possible victim.) Another potential victim was Charles Hall—an arsonist speculated to have been killed by his accomplices. Other missing men were investigated as well, but none were ever identified as the body.

Potential Clues

Over the following days and weeks, the investigation turned up a variety of potential clues.

The main piece of evidence was the box the torso was discovered in. It was a large wooden shoebox, about 30×18 inches (sometimes reported as 30×12 inches). Marked on the outside was the type of shoes it had originally contained. Also on the exterior were the remains of an address, but most of this had been removed, leaving only the manufacturer’s mark.

A week or so after the discovery, the constable on the case found pieces of scalp with dark hair near the box’s original location. Almost 2 months later, a farmer discovered arms and legs wrapped in tar paper that were assumed to belong to the corpse.

But these and other potential clues ultimately led nowhere. For instance, reports that a mysterious bag had been discovered in a local well came to nothing, because by the time the authorities had arrived to investigate, the bag had disappeared—if it had ever actually been there.

Thu, Aug 19, 1886 – 2 · The Morning Journal-Courier (New Haven, Connecticut) · Newspapers.com


Prospective Witnesses

People claiming to have information relevant to the case came forward, but their stories didn’t provide any useful leads.

One was a boy who claimed to have seen the box more than a week before Terrell discovered it. Another was a young woman who reported that a stranger dressed in bloody clothes and carrying a large bundle had knocked on her door about a week prior, asking for the location of a certain pond. Never having heard of the pond in question, the woman directed him to a nearby river and reportedly saw him pass by a while later in clean clothes and without the bundle.

In October, a local woman was arrested and questioned but was released after it was determined she couldn’t shed light on the case.

A Startling Chicago Connection

The mysterious story made the local news every day in the first weeks, also getting coverage from major papers as far away as California. However, as is often the case in historical newspapers, the details of the murder differed from paper to paper.

After months of no solid leads, the murder dropped out of even local newspapers, except for occasional articles teasing new leads—which never seemed to actually materialize.

Sat, Aug 21, 1886 – 2 · The Morning Journal-Courier (New Haven, Connecticut) · Newspapers.com


Then 6 months after the murder, in February 1887, the Wallingford Shoebox Mystery made it back into national newspapers. Investigation into the provenance of the shoebox—and of a valise (small suitcase) thought to be connected to the case—had led detectives to Chicago.

Seizing on the Chicago connection, newspapers speculated that the dead man was a suspect in the infamous Haymarket bombing of May 1886. The theory, which was tenuous at best, claimed that the man had been killed in Chicago after the bombing and his body shipped to Wallingford for disposal—supposedly because Connecticut had a reputation for unsolved murders.

Mon, Apr 25, 1887 – 4 · The Meriden Daily Republican (Meriden, Connecticut) · Newspapers.com


The Case Goes Cold

After the rush of articles trying to tie the dead man to the Haymarket Riot, the Shoebox Murder mostly faded from newspapers in the following decades—apart from an annual mention in local papers on its anniversary and its being used as a comparison for other baffling local cases. In all, the state spent $686 (roughly $20,000 today) on the case but never discovered the identities of the murderer or the victim.

Then 40 years after the murder, in 1926, the police chief who had worked the case claimed in a newspaper interview that he knew the truth behind the unsolved mystery. However, he refused to reveal what he knew, allegedly to protect the murderer’s family. Although his claim didn’t reveal the perpetrator, it did lead one woman to come forward to question whether the victim could have been her father.

Sat, Aug 7, 1926 – 8 · The Journal (Meriden, Connecticut) · Newspapers.com


After the murder passed out of living memory, it only sporadically appeared in the papers until its 100th anniversary in the mid-1980s. However, reminders of the case lingered in local newspaper mentions of Wallingford’s “Shoe Box Road,” which had been named for the grisly discovery.

A Haunting in Wallingford

Most recently, in 2016, the murder was featured in an episode of the ghost-hunting reality show Kindred Spirits, which investigated a haunting in Wallingford. But unfortunately, the shoebox ghost didn’t use his television debut to reveal who he was or who had murdered him, leaving the case unsolved to this day.

Read news coverage of the Wallingford Shoebox Mystery on Newspapers.com. Or explore our archive of true crime stories.

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Boomers and Sooners: The Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889

In 1889, as many as 50 thousand settlers poured into Oklahoma hoping to stake claim to a portion of nearly two million acres opened for settlement by the U.S. Government. Many had campaigned the federal government to open the land for settlement and were known as Boomers. The land, formerly occupied by Native Americans, was considered Unassigned Lands after the federal government forcibly relocated many Native American tribes. On April 22, 1889, at noon sharp, a bugle sounded, and hopeful settlers surged across the territory line. The number of settlers surpassed available land and they soon realized that some snuck into Oklahoma ahead of the April 22nd open date. This gave them a leg up on the law-abiding settlers and first in line for the most desirable land. Those early homestead seekers were known as Sooners.

In 1887, the Dawes Act was one of many federal laws that slowly stripped Native Americans of their tribal lands and paved the way for the Oklahoma Land Rush. It authorized the government to break up the tribal lands and allot them to individual Native Americans in parcels of 40, 80, and 160 acres. Only Native Americans who accepted the land could become U.S. citizens and any remaining land would be made available for public sale.

The Indian Appropriations Act of 1889, also known as the “sooner clause,” opened these Unassigned Lands to settlers, but specified that anyone who entered Indian Territory ahead of time would be denied land. There were, however, a group of “legal Sooners” who had permission to enter the territory ahead of time. This group included government employees, railroad workers, and others with special permission. In some instances, legal Sooners took advantage of their position to drive off early settlers, sending them back to the line, only to turn back and stake claim to the same property.

In the weeks leading up to the land grab, wagon trains snaked through neighboring states, many making their way to border towns. One newspaper reported a line of wagons 60 miles long! It wasn’t just men hoping to stake a claim, women were among those hoping to establish a homestead on some of the best unoccupied public lands in the country.

The mood was jubilant in border towns as crowds awaited the noon hour on the 22nd. Some abandoned their horses in favor of trains, hoping to get there faster. One newspaper reported that men packed the roofs of rail cars after the coaches filled up. Settlers had two ways to initiate a claim. The first was to file a claim at the land office, the second was to personally settle on a piece of land. If a conflict arose between two parties trying to claim the same land, priority went to those physically on the land.

When the clock struck 12:00 on the 22nd, the mad rush began. Those who snuck into the territory early concealed themselves in ravines and bushes, and when the bugle sounded “seemed to rise right up out of the ground” to claim the property. Thousands poured into Guthrie, Oklahoma, which saw it’s population go from 10 in the morning to 15,000 by nightfall.  Oklahoma City experienced similar growth and there were more than 11,000 filings for homestead land by the end of the day. Bitter resentment arose towards Sooners who entered the territory early. This led to many court cases for years to come where litigants protested hundreds of claims. The loss of tribal lands further marginalized Native Americans who saw additional land rushes take more tribal lands in subsequent years.

In 1890, the Unassigned Lands became the Oklahoma Territory and in 1907, Oklahoma became the 46th state. To learn more about the Oklahoma Land Rush, search newspapers.com today!

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