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.”

Read more news coverage about Rose Mackenberg and Harry Houdini on Newspapers.com™! And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more historical content like this!

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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.

Read more news coverage of the General Slocum disaster on Newspapers.com. And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more historical content like this!

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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


Find more of these wartime recipes on Newspapers.com™. And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more historical content like this!

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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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Civil War Soldier and Wife Reunite After 28 Years

Life on the American frontier presented unique challenges, and it was not uncommon for loved ones to lose track of one another as they moved from place to place. In 1889, an unbelievable story made headlines when a Civil War soldier who thought his wife was dead learned that she was alive – and they reunited after 28 years.

Abilene Weekly Reflector 2.7.1889

Frank H. Hall was born in 1837 in the Netherlands. He immigrated to America and settled in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where he got a job in a flour mill. There he met a young woman named Annie Rivers. Frank and Annie fell in love and married in 1860. Shortly after came the Civil War, and Frank was among the first to volunteer for his newly adopted country. He enlisted in the Illinois 42nd Infantry Regiment in 1861.

Annie accompanied Frank to the train station and wept as he boarded the rail car that would take him to his Illinois regiment. At first, Frank and Annie wrote letters regularly. In one letter, Annie informed Frank that she had given birth to their son. The Illinois 42nd fought in several battles including the Siege of Corinth, and the battles of Stones River, Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge. Annie’s letters became less frequent, and one day, Frank received a letter from a friend in Wisconsin informing him that Annie died.

Darke County Democratic Advocate 1.24.1889

Frank continued to serve, and in 1863, received a discharge in Atlanta for disablement. After recuperating, he reenlisted, serving in the Thirteenth Ohio. For an unknown reason, he served under an alias, Benjamin F. Berkley (possibly because Berkley paid him a bounty to serve in his place). When the war ended, Frank continued to serve in the Sixth Cavalry in Texas. When he finally left military service in 1869, he moved from Kansas to the Washington Territory, to Michigan, and then later Iowa. Along the way, Frank met and married a second wife named Julia Nelson in 1869. Frank and Julia later divorced.

In 1889, Frank decided to return to Waukesha and visit old friends. He hardly recognized the town, but after searching, he found Annie’s brother, Joe. He asked his shocked brother-in-law to take him to Annie’s grave. It was then that Frank learned that Annie was alive and living in the poor house. Joe and Frank immediately went to find Annie. Along the way, Frank learned that the letter he received about Annie’s death was a mistake. It was Annie’s brother who died – not Annie.

Public Ledger 1.19.1889

When Annie saw Frank for the first time in nearly three decades, she didn’t recognize him. Frank called out to her saying, “Don’t you know Frank, your husband?” Annie rushed into his arms. Frank told Annie that better times were coming, and the next day he collected her things and they moved to Iowa.

Annie didn’t live long after their reunion. She died sometime before Frank remarried for the third time in 1894. Frank spent the last years of his life in the Milwaukee Soldier’s Home. He died in 1916 at age 79.

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5 Pioneering Women Doctors You Probably Haven’t Heard Of

We searched the historical papers on Newspapers.com™ to find the stories of 5 pioneering women doctors you may not have heard of before!

1. Rebecca Lee Crumpler – First Black American woman licensed as a doctor

Rebecca (Davis) Lee Crumpler (1831-1895) was the first Black American woman doctor, graduating in 1864 from the New England Female Medical College, where she was the only Black graduate.

Rebecca Lee Crumpler graduates from New England Female Medical CollegeRebecca Lee Crumpler graduates from New England Female Medical College 15 Jul 1864, Fri The Aegis & Intelligencer (Bel Air, Maryland) Newspapers.com


After graduating, she practiced medicine primarily in Massachusetts and Virginia, focusing on the care of women and children. She also worked with the Freedmen’s Bureau to provide medical care to the formerly enslaved. She published A Book of Medical Discourses in 1883.

An 1894 piece in the Boston Globe described Crumpler as an “intellectual woman” who “as a physician made an enviable place for herself in the ranks of the medical fraternity.”

2. S. Josephine Baker – First American woman to receive a doctorate in public health

Sara Josephine Baker (1873-1945) graduated from New York Infirmary Medical College in 1898. Her career was largely focused on improving children’s healthcare in underserved New York communities and lowering infant mortality rates. Baker received a doctorate in public health in 1917, the first woman to do so.

Baker became known for her observation (as quoted in the New York Times in 1918) that it was “safer to be a soldier in the trenches in this horrible war than to be a baby in the cradle in the United States.”

S. Josephine BakerS. Josephine Baker 24 Nov 1923, Sat The Star Press (Muncie, Indiana) Newspapers.com


3 & 4. María Elisa Rivera Díaz & Ana “Anita” Janer – First Puerto Rican women to earn medical degrees

María Elisa Rivera Díaz and Ana “Anita” Janer both graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of Baltimore in 1909, making them the first Puerto Rican women to earn medical degrees. Both were at the top of their class, and both started medical practices shortly after graduating.

Their extremely high grades in difficult subjects earned them the 1908 newspaper description of “las más notables estudiantes de medicina en la ciudad” (“the most notable medical students in the city”).

Elisa Rivera and Anita Janer, with fellow medical student Palmira GatellElisa Rivera and Anita Janer, with fellow medical student Palmira Gatell 25 Oct 1908, Sun The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) Newspapers.com


5. Margaret Jessie Chung – First Chinese American female surgeon

Margaret Jessie Chung (1889-1959) graduated from the University of Southern California Medical School in 1916 and opened a clinic in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1920s. She provided medical care not only to the Chinese community, but also to celebrities and other prominent Californians. She became known as “Mom Chung” for the care and support she gave to hundreds of servicemen beginning in 1931.

A 1927 newspaper feature about Chung remarked that “she fought her fight until her achievements have earned for her the reputation of being both a physician and a surgeon of unusual ability.”

Margaret Jessie ChungMargaret Jessie Chung 08 May 1927, Sun The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) Newspapers.com


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5 Astonishing Cats That Were Famous 100 Years Ago!

Viral cat videos and memes aren’t the only things that create feline celebrities. In the winter of 1920–21, the Boston Post spotlighted more than 30 cats in what it called its “Famous Cats of New England” series.

While some of these cats were more famous than others, all the felines came with interesting life stories—from prowling the halls of state government to sailing on a Navy ship during wartime.

Here are our favorite 5 cats from the series, found on Newspapers.comTM.

1. Hindy, the Post’s cat

Tue, Dec 7, 1920 – Page 24 · Boston Post (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com


The Boston Post justifiably began its series with its own office cat, Von Hindenburg. Nicknamed “Hindy,” the feisty cat was a regular feature in the Post’s pages between 1918 and 1923.

From the article:

“He is known by name to millions, while hundreds every week recognize him on the street as the famous Post cat. He receives mail regularly from admirers and detractors. Von Hindenburg is a New England institution.” READ MORE.

2. Mike, Governor Coolidge’s cat at the State House.

Wed, Dec 8, 1920 – Page 7 · Boston Post (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com


Mike was a rescue kitten that started off in the boiler room of the Massachusetts State House but soon had the run of the whole building. He even laid claim to Governor (and future U.S. president) Calvin Coolidge’s chair. When a sergeant-at-arms attempted to eject Mike from the State House, one of the cat’s loyal supporters made such a strong argument that Mike got to stay.

From the article:

“Word reached the library [that Mike had to leave the State House]. Down came the librarian in fury. The State House simply could not get along without Mike. Since his arrival not a single book has had to be rebound. No rat or mouse lived long enough to set tooth in the precious tomes that contained the State’s records. Mike had seen to that. Previously hundreds of dollars had to be spent in repairing books. So Mike stayed.” READ MORE.

3. Napoleon, at Angell Memorial Hospital

Tue, Dec 14, 1920 – Page 9 · Boston Post (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com


Napoleon was the resident cat at a local pet hospital and was known for visiting the animal patients.

From the article:

“Whether it be a horse, dog, cat, monkey, parrot or squirrel that is ill matters little to the charitable Napoleon. With equal impartiality he visits them all. […] Through every ward he goes; has particular cats and kittens with whom he stays longer times than others. Black ones seem to be his favorites. Hours at a time he sits beside Inky, a little black kitten laid up with a strained shoulder.” READ MORE.

4. Squeak, the typical fireside sphinx

Wed, Dec 22, 1920 – Page 9 · Boston Post (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com


While less famous than the previous 3 cats we’ve mentioned, Squeak went down in Lake Boon history one summer when his refusal to be left behind prompted some decidedly uncatlike behavior.

From the article:

“It was [the family dog] Michael’s custom to swim after the canoe whenever Mrs. Hayward paddled out across the lake. Squeak followed only to the shore and stood there looking wistfully out to sea—decidedly out of it. Paddling as usual one morning, Mrs. Hayward looked back to assure herself that Michael was coming along in safety when she descried a smaller series of ripples emanating from a small dark object that was battling manfully with the current. Backing until she was closer Mrs. Hayward recognized Squeak, and at the peril of capsizing pulled the valiant little cat into the canoe, where it rested perfectly satisfied with having gone Michael one better.”  READ MORE.

5. Kiltie, who went through three submarine zones

Wed, Jan 5, 1921 – Page 9 · Boston Post (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com


Born in Scotland, Kiltie was adopted as a kitten by an American sailor during World War I. He was taken aboard the USS Ozama (a naval mine carrier) and crossed three submarine zones on his trans-Atlantic journey.

From the article:

“Adventure with a big “A” began for the six-day-old kitten from that day. He went through three submarine zones safely. He won the undying devotion of every gob [sailor] on board. Supplies were low and Kiltie remembers well the night when he heard there were only three cans of condensed milk aboard, and that it was to be no plain gob bill of fare, but was to be reserved for the little Scotch kitten.” READ MORE.

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