Presidents’ Day isn’t a holiday that many Americans today
associate with major celebrations. Though some parts of the country hold parades
or other festivities, people are probably more likely to associate it with a
day off school or big sales.
But this wasn’t always the case. What we now commonly call Presidents’ Day was, until fairly recently, a holiday to commemorate George Washington’s birthday. And it turns out that in America’s early days, it was one of the nation’s biggest national holidays!
Curious how Americans of centuries past observed Washington’s birthday? Historical newspapers have got you covered!
This article, for instance, describes a celebration of Washington’s birthday in 1784, when he was still alive.
Though the popularity of public celebrations for Washington’s birthday was declining, people still hosted private parties. These party ideas come from 1905, and colonial-themed accessories, cherries, and miniature hatchets were the order of the day:
Happy Valentines Day! This day has its share of nay-sayers, and not without reason. Though some have more commercial concerns in mind, most find that lacking a significant other can really put a damper on a holiday centered around love. Such concerns are sprinkled throughout the papers, and with them come some rather unusual solutions. Some might call them superstitions, others call them spells. But all are said to be effective in leading you to love.
1. Scatter Something
The first method to snatching up a sweetheart involves hemp seed and, ideally, a church.
It comes as no surprise that flowers can play a big role in matters of the heart. They have long been associated with Valentine’s Day, often gifted as a token of love. This is about love too…but it comes at it in a slightly different way.
The following method works in much the same way that many mirror tricks do—mostly with a lot of staring. But while often such things are associated with visions of spooky ghosts, this one shows you the face of your future love.
In May 1827, Maria Marten left home to elope to Ipswich with a man named William Corder. As you may have guessed from the title of this post, the elopement was not quite the scene of love and companionship that Maria expected. Her sorry fate was so famous it has since earned its own name: The Red Barn Murder. Perhaps oddest of all was that the whole thing was uncovered because of a dream.
William and Maria
Maria and William’s decision to marry seems to have come of necessity. They had an illegitimate child together, and though the child died William still seemed committed to the marriage. Their town of Polstead, England, had a building landmark known as the Red Barn where William and Maria planned to meet for their elopement. At William’s suggestion she left her house dressed in men’s clothes to evade prosecution for her illegitimate child, and was last seen on the way to the Red Barn to meet her love.
Dreams of the Barn
Her family didn’t see or hear from her for months. William offered a slew of excuses when asked about her lack of letters or visits home. Over the nearly year-long absence of Maria, concerns became suspicions, and suspicions became dreams:
Despite his insistence that he was not the murderer, and that Maria had in fact died by her own hand, he was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. Many papers printed the detailed description of his execution and the confession of guilt that came with it. As a gruesome footnote to the whole terrible situation, William’s body was afterward cut open and put on public display before being transferred to a hospital for dissection.
As strange as it may seem, the dreams of Maria’s step-mother brought justice to her murderer, and resolution to her loved ones. Were they the result of logical conclusions coming together in the woman’s sleep? Or were they proof of something a bit more mystical?
During the mid-19th century, the abolitionist
movement gained strength in the Northern United States. Free states prohibited
slavery, but many of those living in slave states were forced to suffer backbreaking
work and constant forms of degradation. In 1847, one heroic mother, a freed
a letter from the master of her two daughters. She had given birth
to the girls while still a slave, making her daughters slaves according to the
law. In the letter, the master threatened to sell the girls and send them to
Louisiana unless she could raise $400 to buy their freedom. She had no way to
get the money but was determined to save her daughters. This is her story, told
from clippings from the Green-Mountain
Freeman in October
a few men who were sympathetic to her story, and able to help
transport and hide the girls after their rescue, the mother devised a rescue plan.
She immediately set out on foot, walking
about 35 miles to the home where her girls were kept. Arriving at
night, she waited in the woods until the following morning. Not wanting to
raise suspicion, she went
to the house as she always did when she visited her children. “I
stayed there on Saturday and Sunday, til Monday evening; cooked and washed for
them, and then bid my children goodbye, as if I should never see them again;
for I told ‘master’ that I could not raise the money.”
After leaving the house, the mother again hid in the woods
until 11:00 pm. As she quietly approached the house, two
dogs began to bark furiously. “I stopped a moment, and hid behind
the fence, and saw ‘master’ get up and open the window, and look out. Not
seeing anything, he shut down the window. I waited till I thought he was
asleep, and then went forward. I hurried quick into the cellar kitchen, where my
She waited until she heard
the master snoring, then quietly woke the children and told them not
to speak a word. “I got on their clothes as soon as I could, and fearing that
if I went out by the door the dogs would bark again, I determined to go out by
the back window. I found it fastened. I got up on the window sill to take out
the nail, and as I was pulling at it, I prayed, ‘O Lord, defend me and my dear
children this night; I commit myself and them to thee.’ At length I got out the
nail, and opened the window, and lifted my children out; and then got out
myself. The two dogs were there, but they only stood and looked at us, and
never even growled.”
The three of them ran
through the garden, over three different fences and palings, and
walked four miles to a waiting carriage, reaching it about 1:00 am. Boarding
the carriage, they drove as fast as they could towards the city, but had no
intention of going to the city, “For I knew that ‘master’ would be there as
soon as he could, after he waked up and found the children gone,” said the
Instead, the three were secreted in a series of safe houses
and transported first
to Pennsylvania and then to Boston. Once in Boston, the mother was
able to obtain work and her daughters enrolled
in school and learned to read and sew.
In January of 1947, the mutilated body of a woman, drained of blood and severed at the waist, was found in an empty lot in Los Angeles, California. Though the victim known as the “Black Dahlia” was eventually identified as 22-year-old Elizabeth Short, her killer was never brought to justice. The Black Dahlia case has since become one of the most famous unsolved mysteries in America.
The case was notable for the brutal details of the murder, and for the resulting decades-long investigation that yielded hundreds of suspects but no firm answers. The disturbing history of the LA doctor often linked with this case, George Hodel, makes him a grimly compelling suspect. His is a name well-associated with the case thanks mostly to his son, ex-detective Steve Hodel.
George Hodel may have been a successful doctor, but he was not a good man. In 1945, he came under suspicion as the potential murderer of his secretary Ruth Spaulding, though her death was listed as an accidental overdose. He became a prime suspect in the 1947 Black Dahlia case when Short’s injuries revealed the murderer probably had surgical expertise. In 1949, two years after the Dahlia murder, Hodel’s daughter, Tamar Hodel, accused her father of incest. He was tried and acquitted of those charges, but the whole situation strengthened the case against him as a suspect in the Black Dahlia murder.
There were a few other peculiarities that seem to point at Hodel’s guilt. His black 1936 Packard resembled descriptions of a black car seen near the empty lot the same day Short’s body was found. He had a delivery of cement bags sent to his house for remodeling the day Short disappeared, and similar bags were found near her body. And only three years after Short’s death, Hodel conveniently left the country to live in the Philippines, where he would remain until 1990.
Steve Hodel’s Investigation
After George died in 1999, Steve Hodel followed the trail of evidence that he felt proved his father’s guilt. Among his discoveries were photos that looked like Elizabeth Short, though it was never confirmed they were actually her. Perhaps most suspect of all, transcripts were found in old police files from surveillance conducted on George Hodel’s home in 1950:
As with all unsolved cases, there’s so much more to this story. There are more theorized connections between Hodel and Short, other suspects who might be responsible, and of course, a whole slew of facts and links lost to time that we will simply never know. For now, George Hodel is still only a suspect, and the Black Dahlia case remains unsolved.
Find hundreds of articles on the Black Dahlia murder and connected suspects, including George Hodel, with a search on Newspapers.com.
In early 1817, a mystery woman showed up in the town of Almondsbury in Gloucester, England. She seemed disoriented, and when she spoke her words were incomprehensible babble. The only thing anyone could discern was that she called herself “Caraboo.”
The young lady was taken in by a Mr. and Mrs. Worrall, who tried to make sense of her. Several days after her arrival, a man named Manuel Eynesso (conveniently) appeared and said he could understand Princess Caraboo’s strange language. Her remarkable story, which he “translated,” was a sensational one, complete with pirates, death, and daring escape.
The story certainly caught eyes; the princess Caraboo’s story gained her national attention and she became a favorite with local dignitaries. She enjoyed her fame for several months, but the very celebrity that gave her such a comfortable life proved to be her undoing. A woman named Mrs. Neale recognized “Princess Caraboo” as none other than her old serving maid, Mary Willcocks (sometimes called Mary Baker in contemporary reports). A (likely embellished) account of the shocking reveal is recounted in this 1924 article:
And so the jig was up. Caraboo’s inscrutable language had been an invention, cobbled together nonsense mixed with real words she’d learned on the road before her arrival in Almondsbury. Her convincingly foreign behaviors had been picked up here and there from sailors and travelers. The man who had “translated” her story had been in on the ruse all along.
The papers had a hey-day repeating the truth of the matter and having a laugh at the gullible Gloucester town. One article, with a bit more sympathy, even joked that Mary Willcocks’ beauty may have had something to do with it: