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!

Ready to dive in and find your ancestors’ marriage announcements? Start searching Newspapers.com today!

Share using:

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.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more historical content like this!

Like this post? Try one of these!

Share using:

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!

Share using:

Egg Phosphates & Ice Cream Sodas: Visiting a 19th-Century Soda Fountain through Newspapers

Have you ever come across an old newspaper ad and wondered about the products listed? Take a look at this 1896 ad for the “finest” ice cream parlor and soda fountain in Blair, Nebraska.

Soda fountain ad, 1896 NebraskaSoda fountain ad, 1896 Nebraska Thu, Aug 27, 1896 – 5 · The Pilot (Blair, Nebraska) · Newspapers.com


While some of the offerings are familiar, the ad had us asking questions like: What’s a “phosphate”? Were milkshakes the same back then as they are now? How popular were ice cream sodas? And what exactly was a soda fountain in the first place?

To answer our questions, we headed to the historical papers on Newspapers.com to learn about 19th-century soda fountains and some of the vintage drinks they served. If you’re interested in making some of the drinks yourself, stay tuned till the end for some recipes!

A Quick History of Soda Fountains

First off, what were soda fountains? The simplest answer is that a soda fountain was an apparatus that dispensed carbonated water (known as “soda water” in the United States). But the term eventually expanded to also mean the area inside a business (often a counter) where a person could order a fountain drink.

The soda fountain machine was invented in Europe in the late 1700s, and by the early 1800s soda water had become a trend in the United States, with sellers adding fruits and syrups for flavor. But the late 19th century saw increased customer demand for fancier drinks beyond flavored soda water.

Soda fountains were frequently found at pharmacies but were also located inside department stores, bakeries, ice cream parlors, restaurants, and more. The employees who worked behind the counters were known as “soda fountain clerks” or “soda water jerkers” (and later “soda jerks”).

From their 18th-century origins, soda fountains remained popular in the United States through the 1950s, when drive-ins and car culture led to their decline.

Now that we have a better idea of what a soda fountain was, let’s go back to that 1896 ad and learn about some of the drinks!

What on Earth Was a “Phosphate”?

“Phosphates,” also known as “phosphate sodas,” were made by mixing acid phosphate (phosphoric acid and mineral salts) with soda water and flavoring. The acid phosphate gave the drink a tart or sour taste. This newspaper clipping from 1892 Missouri gives advice on the “proper” way to make a phosphate:

How to make a phosphate, 1892How to make a phosphate, 1892 Sun, Aug 7, 1892 – 11 · The Kansas City Times (Kansas City, Missouri) · Newspapers.com


Phosphate sodas came in a wide variety of flavors, but lemon phosphates, cherry phosphates, and egg phosphates were a few of the most common. Fruit flavors make sense given the tartness of phosphates, but egg?

Egg phosphates and other egg-based drinks were actually quite popular at 19th-century soda fountains. Egg phosphates were made of raw egg, soda water, phosphate, and orange, lemon, or chocolate syrup. Other common egg drinks a person could order included eggnog, egg flip, egg lemonade, and more.

Milkshakes . . . Hold the Ice Cream

While the milkshake listed in the Nebraska soda fountain ad may seem self-explanatory, it’s likely not the drink you’re thinking of. A milkshake’s name was originally much more literal—a beverage made of milk shaken together with crushed or shaved ice, flavoring, and sometimes raw egg. This 1888 clipping explains it:

The milk-shake, 1888The milk-shake, 1888 Sun, Aug 19, 1888 – Page 17 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) · Newspapers.com


Eventually, ice cream began making its way into the milkshake, creating the dessert we’re familiar with today. But as this ad from 1930 shows, some businesses still saw the need to specify that their milkshakes included ice cream well into the 20th century.

Ice Cream Sodas Take the Lead

While milkshakes had their moment of popularity, they were overshadowed by what was arguably the most popular offering at a 19th-century soda fountain: ice cream soda (now often called an ice cream float).

Photo: Ice cream soda, 1906Eating ice cream soda, 1906 Sun, Aug 12, 1906 – Page 24 · Omaha Daily Bee (Omaha, Nebraska) · Newspapers.com


While a version of ice cream soda existed before the Civil War, that older version was made of flavored soda water mixed with cream and ice. The new ice cream soda—likely created in the 1870s—replaced the cream and ice with ice cream. The drink quickly gained popularity and spread around the country, and by the 1890s no soda fountain’s menu was complete without it.

Other Soda Fountain Drinks

The soda fountain’s beverage options didn’t stop with phosphates, milkshakes, and ice cream sodas.

The plethora of soda fountains in any given city meant businesses competed for customers by offering an ever-growing menu of drinks—with upward of 50 (sometimes 100) options at the larger fountains. Some of the beverages (like the Moxie and Coca-Cola mentioned in our 1896 Nebraska ad) were commercially manufactured name-brand drinks. But many soda fountain offerings were invented and made in-house. This 1892 clipping gives an idea of a few of them:

Some of the drinks sold at a Kansas City soda fountain, 1892Some of the drinks sold at a Kansas City soda fountain, 1892 Sun, Aug 7, 1892 – 11 · The Kansas City Times (Kansas City, Missouri) · Newspapers.com


Since many beverages offered at soda fountains were served cold, it’s no surprise that soda fountains typically did their best business in the summer. But they attracted customers in colder months too with offerings like “hot soda water,” beef tea, coffee, and hot chocolate.

Vintage Recipes

If you’re interested in vintage soda fountain drinks, these newspaper clippings give some insight into how they were made!

Search on Newspapers.com to find more soda fountain history and vintage drink recipes! And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more historical content like this.

Like this post? Try one of these!

Share using:

Let Me Leave You My Calling Card

Want to take a peek into a fascinating social custom from the Victorian era? Calling cards (also called visiting cards or visiting tickets) were all the rage in the 19th century and represented an indispensable way to communicate. The cards did much more than just announce a visit, they relayed important social messages. For example, a calling card with a folded corner, or a card in a sealed envelope sent clear messages that accompanied strict etiquette protocols. By the early 1900s, calling cards fell out of fashion. Today’s business cards are a leftover relic from the calling card era.  

Calling Card of Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant

Calling cards first became popular in Europe in the 18th century and were favored by royalty and nobility. Their popularity spread across Europe and to the United States and soon calling cards became essential for the fashionable and wealthy. Society homes often had a silver tray in the entrance hall where guests left their cards. A tray full of cards (with the most prominent cards on top) was a way to display social connections.

Both men and women used calling cards and they were distinguishable by size. Men’s cards were long and narrow so they could fit in a breast pocket. Women’s cards were larger and during the Victorian era, became more ornate and embellished. According to this article from 1890, a typical society woman handed out nearly three thousand cards each year.

Victorian Calling Card

When wishing to arrange a visit, a caller generally waited in a carriage while a servant delivered the calling card to a household. If delivering the card in person, it was customary to fold the upper right-hand corner. This indicated that the caller made the effort to deliver the card personally. The visitor then returned home and within a few days would likely receive a calling card in return, sometimes with a short note written on the back. This usually extended an invitation to visit. Visits were generally short, formal, and at designated visiting hours. If a calling card wasn’t acknowledged, or worse, returned in a sealed envelope, it meant the offer to visit was rejected.

When leaving a calling card, different messages could be communicated by folding different corners of the card.

  • The lower left-hand corner to express condolences
  • The upper left-hand corner to express congratulations
  • The lower right-hand corner indicated the caller was planning a long trip and did not expect an acknowledgment

If the household contained more than one woman, a gentleman caller folded a corner to indicate he intended to visit the entire household. A woman also followed strict protocol when leaving calling cards. She never left her card at a home where a bachelor resided without also including her husband’s card. When leaving after a visit, a woman generally left two of her husband’s cards – one for the master of the house and one for the mistress.

The social rules were enough to make your head spin, but upper-crust society was schooled in the practice, and newspapers published calling card etiquette rules for others to navigate.

By the early 1900s, calling cards began to decline in popularity just as the use of business cards was on the rise. A change in formal social customs and new-fangled telephones led to a steady decrease in arranged visits. Businesses, which adopted the calling card custom, continue to use them today. If you would like to learn more about calling cards and their impact on the social customs from earlier days, search Newspapers.com!

Share using:

Unusual Drinks to Try this National Root Beer Float Day

“The soda jerk was a local folk hero” Sun, Jul 1, 1984 – Page 24 · The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois) · Newspapers.com

It’s National Root Beer Float Day!

Did you know August 6th is National Root Beer Float Day? This familiar summer favorite originated in 1893 Colorado, all thanks to Frank J. Wisner and his moonlight imaginings.

Frank J. Wisner's creation, the Frank J. Wisner’s creation, the “Black Cow Mountain,” is today’s root beer float Tue, Aug 19, 2003 – 2 · The Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Florida) · Newspapers.com “Black Cow” drink is root beer and a scoop of vanilla ice cream Sun, Jul 15, 1934 – 7 · Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) · Newspapers.com

Milk and Soda

Perhaps the success of the “Black Cow” inspired these other combinations. Take this 7-Up ad from 1948, which marketed its product with a surprising “health” angle. Have you tried this mix before?

7-Up and Milk ad7-Up and Milk ad Sun, Jun 13, 1948 – 9 · Casper Star-Tribune (Casper, Wyoming) · Newspapers.com

7-Up wasn’t the only drink to have gotten the dairy treatment. Fans of Laverne and Shirley may recall Laverne’s taste for Pepsi and Milk. Those who enjoy this mix compare the taste to a “melted” root beer float, so perhaps it’s not so hard to see the appeal.

Pepsi and milk in Pepsi and milk in “Laverne and Shirley,” and other milk flavor combos Mon, Jun 3, 1985 – 8 · The Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

Sweet and Creamy

Let’s step away from soda for the moment. Prunes, anyone? Prune milk and milkshakes may have been a popular refreshment choice in the 40s and 50s, though they seem to have fallen out of favor since.

Chilled prune juice and malted milk make a Chilled prune juice and malted milk make a “health and appetite inspiring” drink Wed, Jun 12, 1940 – 54 · Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com Nutritious prune milk shake for a hot summer's dayNutritious prune milk shake for a hot summer’s day Wed, Jun 12, 1940 – 54 · Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

Let’s Get Savory

Fruity milkshakes and creamy sodas may not be so odd, in the end, even if most haven’t had the staying power of the root beer float. But some combinations just seem bizarre. Please share if this recipe for “Beef Fizz” makes a regular appearance in your home.

Beef fizz drink recipe, 1964Beef fizz drink recipe, 1964 Sun, Aug 9, 1964 – 75 · The Ogden Standard-Examiner (Ogden, Utah) · Newspapers.com

Maybe it’s best to stick with the root beer float.

Root Beer Float Recipes

Not to worry! If this post has given you a craving, here are some tasty-sounding variations you might give a try today:

Tasty root beer float variations from around the country, 1984Tasty root beer float variations from around the country, 1984 Wed, Nov 14, 1984 – 32 · Intelligencer Journal (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

Do you have a favorite unusual drink that hits the spot on a summer evening? Tell us about it in the comments! And try a search on Newspapers.com for more recipes and articles like this.

Like this post? Try one of these!

Share using:

A Summer of Ghost Towns

Summer vacation plans have changed for many this year. If you’re headed out on a road trip, consider stopping by one of the hundreds of ghost towns across America. Deserted, rickety homes, and public buildings pique our curiosity and leave us wondering what life was like before they were abandoned. Fortunately, historic newspapers help reveal those secrets. We’ve scoured our archives to learn about a few ghost towns, but if your travel plans don’t include one of these, just bring along your device and access Newspapers.com to learn about others!

Bodie, California
Los Angeles Evening Express January 10, 1881

Bodie, California: In 1859, four prospectors discovered gold in the hills north of Mono Lake, 75 miles southeast of Lake Tahoe. The discovery brought a surge of prospectors but within a few years the gold ran out, and most moved on to seek their fortune elsewhere. In 1875, a mine cave-in revealed large amounts of the precious mineral and Bodie once again became a boomtown. At one point, the population numbered near 10,000. The town had a reputation for being lawless with frequent murders and crime. “Bad Man From Bodie” became a synonym for any rough-edged prospector. By 1881, the mine was running out of gold and the population of Bodie dwindled to just 800. Eventually, the small amount of gold mined couldn’t support the population and the town became a ghost town. In 1960, California announced that Bodie would become a state park, and today visitors can get a glimpse of what life was like in an 1800s California mining town.

Grafton, Utah

Grafton, Utah: The first settlers arrived in Grafton in 1859, sent by Brigham Young, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, to cultivate the Southern Utah territory. The town was built along the Virgin River where residents grew cotton and other crops. Grafton was prone to flash floods and irrigation challenges.

Deseret News – Feb. 12, 1862

In 1862, a raging flood destroyed most of Grafton, and the town was rebuilt about a mile upstream. Constant challenges plagued settlers who eventually abandoned Grafton. The picturesque ghost town, complete with adobe schoolhouse that doubled as a church has been the backdrop for numerous movies including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In 2000, a partnership purchased Grafton in order to preserve the historic ghost town.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in 1996

Cahawba, Alabama: Cahawba was an antebellum river town and the capital of Alabama from 1819-1826. When the capital was relocated to Tuscaloosa in 1826, scores of residents left town. A new railroad line brought people back to Cahawba in 1859, but during the Civil War, the Confederate government dismantled the railroad and used the rails to expand an area of track elsewhere. They also turned a cotton warehouse into a Union prison called Castle Morgan.

Union Prisoner describes Castle Morgan – The Racine Advocate April 26, 1865

In 1865, a flood forced many to leave Cahawba, and shortly after the war ended, Cahawba became a ghost town. Within 10 years, many of the buildings were dismantled and moved away. In 1973, Cahawba was added to the National Register of Historic Places and is now an archeological park. Efforts are ongoing to preserve its history.

Rhyolite Ghost Town

Rhyolite, Nevada: In 1904, about 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas, a couple of prospectors discovered a hillside covered with greenish rock with chunks of yellow. The rocks resembled the back of a bullfrog, but the metal was in fact gold! The ensuing gold rush brought thousands to the area known as the Bullfrog Mining District and the town of Rhyolite sprung to life overnight. In its heyday, the town had saloons, an ice-cream parlor, hospitals, an opera house, swimming pools, banks, hotels, and schools.

Los Angeles Herald – Oct. 28, 1906

One landmark building is the bottle house. It was built in 1906 utilizing 50,000 bottles. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the financial panic of 1907 restricted capital in the mining industry and within a few years, Rhyolite was on the decline. The lone remaining resident of Rhyolite died in 1924. Rhyolite is maintained by the Bureau of Land Management.

Kennicott, Alaska: In the summer of 1900, prospectors were exploring an area near the Kennicott Glacier when they discovered copper in an outcropping of rock. They staked a claim and opened the Kennecott mine (a worker misspelled the glacier’s name) Between 1911-1935 miners pulled nearly 600,000 tons of copper and 9 million ounces of silver from the mountain. A company-owned town with bright red buildings perched above the rubble field arose.

Daily Sitka Sentinel – October 25, 1989

Nearby, a second town called McCarthy sprung up. By 1938, both towns were abandoned. Many left their furniture and possessions in their homes, creating a sort of time capsule. The same year, the railroad discontinued service to the area. Many of the homes and mining buildings still remain, and in 1986, the mine was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Have you visited an awesome ghost town? Tell us about it in the comments below. Search Newspapers.com today to learn more about the history of ghost towns.  

Share using:

Before Ellis Island: Entering America Through Castle Garden 1855-1890

Since the founding of America, millions of people hoping for a brighter future left their home countries and immigrated to the United States. The number of immigrants increased dramatically after the Civil War with nearly 12 million arriving between 1870-1900. More than 70% of all immigrants entered through New York City. Castle Garden opened in 1855 as the primary immigration processing center and operated as such until Ellis Island’s opening in 1892 (though from 1890-1892, the center was moved to the U.S. Barge Office). We’ve scoured our newspaper archives to find the stories behind some of those immigrants’ arrivals.

Castle Garden Opens August 1, 1855 as “Emigrant Landing Depot”

The Arrival Experience: This story, published in 1855 described the arrival experience for immigrants. They registered their names, recorded the amount of money they carried, and were shown to a bathhouse where up to 24 bathed at the same time.

The Boston Globe – September 6, 1884

Children Traveling Alone: Like many families, the Slinsbys’ couldn’t afford passage for the entire family at the same time. In 1884, Maggie and Mary, 9 and 10-years-old, arrived at Castle Garden with their names painted on heavy cardboard signs attached with a “profusion of green ribbons” to their bodies. They were reunited with their parents in Ohio. In 1887, Irish immigrants living in Cleveland were finally able to send for their children who had been staying with a grandmother. Castle Garden sent a telegraph to their parents informing them that after a rough and stormy journey, the two children, ages 9 and 11, had arrived safely. In this clipping, the Superintendent at Castle Garden tagged three children after their arrival and shipped them to their father who was living in Chicago. This 1887 clipping tells the story of a 10-year-old girl who arrived at Castle Garden from Ireland. Her mother and two brothers left her in the care of nuns until they could afford to pay for her passage to join them six years later. This final clipping tells the story of a mother desperately searching for her daughters after they arrived at Castle Garden. We’re so anxious to learn what became of them, but we can’t find any follow-up stories (maybe one of you genealogical sleuths can help).

New-York Tribune – June 14, 1884

Beware of Swindlers: Sometimes unscrupulous individuals preyed upon new immigrants. Language barriers, poverty, and fear left many immigrants vulnerable. In this clipping, a swindler sold railroad tickets to several immigrants who later learned the tickets were fraudulent. This sad story tells the tale of an immigrant who showed up at Castle Garden hoping to find a way back to Hungary after he lost his fortune of $500 in America. 

Reunion with Loved Ones: In 1890, a woman from Russia arrived at Castle Garden to reunite with her sweetheart who arrived two years earlier and sent money for her passage. The journey took more than a month and her funds ran out. Thanks to the kindness of strangers, she finally made her way to Minnesota. Read her story here. In another instance, a Prussian man prepared for the arrival of his wife and five children in 1897. He rented a home in Maryland and purchased some furniture, but sadly suffered a fatal fall just hours after they reunited. This final clipping tells the story of Michael O’Brien, an Irish immigrant, who left his family to seek his fortune in America. He sent letters and money until one day when communication suddenly ceased. His worried wife and four children sailed for America, arriving at Castle Garden in 1878. The determined woman searched for O’Brien, only to learn that he had remarried and had another child. He undoubtedly had some explaining to do.

Do you have ancestors that arrived at Castle Garden? Use historic newspapers to learn about their experiences. Search Newspapers.com today!

Share using:

Vegetables & Victory: Why Gardening Was So Popular in WWII America

Wed, Feb 17, 1943 – 5 · The Times and Democrat (Orangeburg, South Carolina) · Newspapers.com


Would you “garden for victory?” During World War II, Americans were encouraged to grow vegetable gardens to help with the home-front war effort. These “Victory Gardens” flourished around the country during the war years, providing an estimated 40 percent of the fresh vegetables Americans ate.

Curious about these gardens? We looked through WWII-era papers on Newspapers.com to learn more about wartime Victory Gardens in the United States!

Victory Gardens before WWII

America’s World War II Victory Gardens were actually a revival of a World War I gardening effort supported by the U.S. government. Starting in 1917, the government had successfully encouraged Americans to grow vegetables at home to free up food for soldiers and allies overseas. When the war ended, however, many people no longer saw a reason to maintain their gardens.

Thu, Jun 6, 1918 – Page 2 · San Bernardino News (San Bernardino, California) · Newspapers.com


But when war broke out again in Europe in 1939, some Americans began to predict there would again be a need for more vegetable gardens, even though the United States hadn’t officially entered the war yet. Interest in wartime gardens began to grow, despite some opposing arguments that they were unnecessary and potentially harmful to farmers’ livelihoods.  

Revival of Victory Gardens

Then, with the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and the beginning of food rationing shortly afterward, war gardens began taking off in the United States. 1942 saw a sharp increase in the number of newspaper articles about growing wartime gardens—usually called Victory Gardens but also sometimes referred to as “war gardens” or “gardens for defense.”

Many of the newspaper gardening articles from the spring of 1942 focused on the need for efficiency. Numerous articles emphasized that Americans should avoid repeating the “mistakes” of World War I, when people were so enthusiastic about war gardens that they tore up lawns and parks to put in vegetable gardens without considering factors like soil quality. Some articles even discouraged inexperienced gardeners from planting Victory Gardens altogether to avoid inefficiency and waste.

Sun, Jan 18, 1942 – 43 · The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) · Newspapers.com


Victory Gardens Reach their Peak

But as World War II lengthened, even amateur gardeners were encouraged to grow Victory Gardens, and 1943 and 1944 saw home vegetable gardens reach their peak popularity.

During this time, Victory Gardens were often portrayed as a patriotic duty. Americans were told that growing a vegetable garden would help free up food for soldiers, and that eating local produce would reduce the strain on America’s transportation network. In many cases, Victory Gardens served as morale boosters as well, helping home gardeners feel they were contributing to the war effort.

Tue, Mar 30, 1943 – Page 6 · McComb Daily Journal (McComb, Mississippi) · Newspapers.com


As Victory Gardens grew in popularity, cities and states created their own committees and initiatives to support local gardening efforts, which were now actively encouraged by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and President Roosevelt. Some cities offered lower water rates for Victory Gardens, while other communities sponsored Victory Garden contests.

Newspapers published a huge amount of gardening content during these years—from how-to guides, to garden diagrams, to planting schedules. Newspapers also published helpful columns about how to can and preserve Victory Garden produce, and the Boston Globe even offered to test people’s garden soil for free. Inevitably, wartime gardening made its way into newspaper ads as well—with Victory Garden imagery and slogans being used to sell products from seeds to beer.

Wed, Mar 31, 1943 – 4 · Lancaster New Era (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com


Of course, not everyone had room to grow a backyard garden. City dwellers grew gardens where they could, from window boxes to rooftops. Other Victory Gardens were grown at schools and workplaces, or in community plots established both in and outside of cities. Some newspapers even pitched in to try to help people find places to plant gardens by publishing surveys to identify unused plots.

Victory Gardens’ Decline

1945 was the beginning of the end for Victory Gardens. With the war winding down, fewer people saw a need for home gardens, even though the government was still encouraging people to plant them. And once the war ended, Americans planted even fewer Victory Gardens in 1946 and 1947.

But wartime gardens had produced very real results. In 1942 there had been an estimated 16 million Victory Gardens in the United States; by 1944, this number had grown to 20 million. And these home gardens had produced a huge amount of food each year—roughly 8 million tons, or more than 40 percent of fresh fruits and vegetables eaten by Americans.

Sun, Apr 11, 1943 – Page 15 · Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada) · Newspapers.com


Do you have any memories or family stories about Victory Gardens? Share them with us in the comments!

Learn more about WWII Victory Gardens by searching Newspapers.com! And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more historical content like this!

Like this post? Try one of these!

Share using:

Memorial Day 1945

On May 30, 1945, the United States celebrated a Memorial Day full of conflicting emotions. The euphoria over the recently declared Allied victory in Europe brought hope to this war-beleaguered nation. There was also optimism that the war in Japan was winding down, bringing an end to WWII.

Fort Lauderdale Daily News – May 30, 1945

On the other hand, millions mourned their war dead, many soldiers were still missing or being held POW, and the country was reeling from the sudden death of wartime president Franklin D. Roosevelt weeks earlier. Let’s take a look at some historic newspaper clippings from Memorial Day 1945 to see how Americans honored their veterans.

Tucson, Arizona: Four-year-old Betty Jo Pacheco laid a wreath on the grave of her father, Pvt. Robert M. Pacheco, who was killed three months earlier in Germany. She was surrounded by veterans of four wars, including 105-year-old Civil War veteran Francis Mengoz.

Arizona Daily Star – May 31, 1945

Wilmington, Delaware: Memorial Day headlines brought happy news to Delawareans when The News Journal reported that seven POWs from Delaware had just been freed.

Munich, Germany: In Munich, American flags flew as soldiers from the 45th Infantry Division gathered at Konigsplatz to hear Memorial Day remarks from American military leaders. The square was the scene of an elite military parade several years earlier for Hitler and Mussolini.

Columbus, Indiana: Even with the war winding down, some were still being called to serve. On May 30, 1945, the Columbus Herald reported that William H. Burton had just been drafted into the Navy. The father of five served six months before being discharged.

Okinawa, Japan: There was intense fighting on Okinawa, and Marines from the First Marine Division moved towards Shuri ridge. Richard P. Ross, who had been aboard the USS Oklahoma when she sank at Pearl Harbor, braved sniper fire and hoisted a flag above a medieval fortress called Shuri Castle

San Pedro, California: In California, the San Pedro News-Pilot published a photograph of the fresh graves around the world and spoke of the millions of heartsick Americans. The paper noted that even though it was a holiday, work continued in war plants and government offices.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Capt. Joseph T. Marnell, serving in a medical detachment, sent a letter to his wife back home. It was printed on Adolf Hitler’s stationery and read, “You can see by this very personal stationery that conditions have improved some. I picked this up in Adolf’s private apartment in Munich when we arrived recently.”

Chicago Tribune – May 28, 1945

Rochester, New York: Sgt. James Ecksten, who had just been discharged from the war, rode alongside his great-grandfather, Civil War veteran William A. Hard, in the Memorial Day parade.

To see more headlines from Memorial Day 1945, search Newspapers.com today!

Share using: