Find: America’s WWI Neutrality Debate

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WWI political cartoon
When World War I began in Europe in 1914, the majority of Americans wanted the United States to stay out of the conflict. Although there was a vocal segment of the population who favored “preparedness” (a strengthening of the U.S. military), support for neutrality and isolationism was strong. Industrialist Henry Ford even organized a “peace ship” to sail to Europe in December 1915 to try to encourage peace talks between the belligerents. However, despite the United States’ initial neutrality, many Americans personally sympathized with Britain, France, and their allies, and American institutions lent huge sums to the Allied governments, giving the U.S. a financial stake in the outcome of the war.

Public opinion began to shift away from neutrality following Germany’s sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915, which resulted in the deaths of more than a thousand people, including Americans. Reports of Germany’s atrocities against civilians in Belgium also changed Americans’ opinions, as did the resumption of Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare in February 1917. The final straw in the shift of American public opinion toward involvement in the war was the discovery of the Zimmermann Telegram, in which Germany encouraged Mexico to declare war on the U.S.

By the time President Wilson declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, many Americans had reversed their position on neutrality and instead supported American intervention in order to—as Wilson phrased it—make the world “safe for democracy.”

This shift in American public opinion was captured in the newspaper articles and editorials of the time. You can find a sampling of them below via clippings from Newspapers.com:

  • December 1914: A quote from President Wilson in support of neutrality
  • December 1915: Editorial in support of Henry Ford’s quixotic “peace ship”
  • January 1916: “Peace ship” satiric comic
  • February 1916: Pro-preparedness, anti-pacifism article
  • May 1916: Editorial defending pacifism and criticizing preparedness parade
  • June 1916: Excerpt from editorial defending neutrality
  • June 1916: Letter to the editor defending pacifism
  • April 1917: Political cartoon about America’s potential post-neutrality role
  • April 1917: Editorial associating pacifism with being pro-German and unpatriotic
  • July 1917: Article tracing President Wilson’s move away from neutrality
  • September 1917: Editorial criticizing the peace movement
  • January 1918: Article about pacifist teachers being fired in public schools

Find more articles from the debate surrounding America’s entrance into World War I by searching Newspapers.com.

Find: Clippings from the Dust Bowl

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Dust storm photo from the air
Seventy-seven years ago this month, in April 1939, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath was first published. The novel tells the story of the Joads, a struggling family that makes their way to California after being forced to leave their Oklahoma farm by financial hardship and the Dust Bowl. The Joads were representative of hundreds of thousands of Great Plains residents during the 1930s who struggled to make a living during the Dust Bowl, when massive dust storms caused by drought and poor farming techniques swept across the American and Canadian prairies, destroying crops and livestock and thus the livelihoods of many.

If you’re interested in learning what life was like during the “Dirty Thirties”—perhaps to get a better understanding of what your own Midwestern family members lived through—Newspapers.com has a wealth of articles written by the people who experienced it firsthand. Below are some examples of clippings of articles from the Dust Bowl:

Do you have family stories from the Dust Bowl? Share them with us! Or get started searching Newspapers.com for articles related to the Dust Bowl.

Find: All-American Girls Professional Baseball League

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Ad for All-American Girls Baseball League game
In 1943, worried that World War II and the draft would hurt baseball revenues, Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley decided to create a professional women’s baseball league to capture the public interest and bring in money.

The league, mainly centered in the Midwest, began playing in the spring of 1943 with four teams, though that number would grow over the 12 seasons the league lasted. Originally called the All-American Girls Softball League, the league underwent numerous name changes over the years and today is referred to as the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The rules of play also evolved over time, with the game initially being more like softball but by its final seasons having become nearly identical to men’s baseball.

In addition to having to make the transition from softball to baseball, players in the league also had to take charm-school classes where they learned grooming and etiquette. Uniforms included shorts covered by a short-skirted tunic, which made sliding to bases painful.

The women’s baseball league did well in mid-sized cities, reaching its peak attendance in 1948 with almost a million people in the stands over the course of the season. In the 1950s, the league began to decline, due in part to the decision to operate teams independently rather than under centralized league control, and the league was finally suspended following the 1954 season.

If you’ve seen the 1992 movie A League of Their Own, the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League may sound familiar, as the film is based on one of the teams in the league. To learn more about the true story behind the film—and see photos of the real-life players—check out these clippings from Newspapers.com:

  • A 1943 photo of the first woman to sign a contract with the league
  • A 1944 article about injuries sustained by league players
  • A 1944 photo of the woman who pitched the league’s first perfect game
  • A photo of the 1948 player of the year
  • A 1948 article (and photos) about the Fort Wayne Daisies team
  • A 1948 photo of a player arguing with an umpire
  • An account of a 1949 game between the Springfield Sallies and Chicago Colleens
  • A 1950 photo of a player that was almost scouted by a men’s team
  • A 1950 ad for a league game

Do you have any family stories about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League? Tell us about them! Or find more articles and photos pertaining to the league by searching Newspapers.com.

Find: Leap Year Clippings

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Ancient Egyptians connection to Leap Year
This year is a Leap Year, which means we get an extra day on February 29 for a total of 366 days in the year. Want to learn a little more about the origins and traditions of Leap Year? Newspapers.com has got you covered.

If you want to find out about the more about the history of Leap Year, check out the clippings below:

Or if you’re more interested about Leap Year traditions, try reading the following:

  • An article about Leap Year legends in different countries

One of the most common Leap Year traditions in the United States and Great Britain in previous centuries was the idea that during a Leap Year, women could propose marriage to men. Over the years, the tradition also grew to include the custom of holding Leap Year dances and balls, which were Sadie Hawkins-type events where the women were in charge and asked the men to dance.

Check out the following clippings from over the centuries about the “Ladies’ Law” Leap Year tradition:

Want to learn more about Leap Year and its traditions? Start a search on Newspapers.com.

Find: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

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April 1968: M.L. King Jr. is killed in Memphis
This year on January 18, the nation will celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., born on January 15, 1929. Though he was just 39 when he was assassinated in 1968, the civil rights leader made an indelible impact on the civil rights movement and on the country as a whole.

You can read thousands of articles about important events during the public life of Martin Luther King, Jr., on Newspapers.com. Below is a selection to get you started:

Do you have any personal stories about Martin Luther King, Jr.? Tell us about them! You can also find many more articles about Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil rights movement on Newspapers.com.

Find: Looking Back on the Original Star Wars

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Newspaper serializes Star Wars novel

When Star Wars (later retitled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) was released in the United States on May 25, 1977, it was an immediate sensation. Show after show sold out, with many viewers returning to see the film more than once. It received near-universal praise from film critics as well and went on to break all kinds of records for box-office earnings, attendance, and length of run. It surpassed Jaws as the top-grossing film of all time and retained that title until 1982, when it was overtaken by ET, though it still remains one of the most financially successful films.

People went wild for Star Wars, and its popularity is reflected in the plethora of articles and reviews newspapers published about the film. Below is a just a small sample of the tens of thousands of matches you can find for Star Wars on Newspapers.com:

Did you see the original Star Wars in the theater? Tell us about it! Or get started searching for Star Wars on Newspapers.com.

Find: Take Me Out to the Ball Game

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1960 World Series: Game 7

Game 1 of the 111th World Series kicks off this year on October 27. If you aren’t already in the spirit, here are some clippings pulled from Newspapers.com of some of the most memorable moments in early World Series history.

Do you have any favorite World Series memories? Tell us about it! Or start a search for World Series stories and images on Newspapers.com.

Find: Oh, Give Me a Home Where the Camels Roam…

Newspapers.com News, Finds and Tips The Camels Are Coming, 1927

Did you know that in the 1850s the American government brought camels to the Southwest to be used by the army and that 50 years later, feral camels were still being spotted in the desert?

In the late 1840s, Major Henry Wayne of the Quartermaster Department suggested the use of camels to the War Department, and in the mid-1850s Secretary of War Jefferson Davis convinced Congress to appropriate money to import the camels as pack animals for the army in the ever expanding West.

Major Wayne and Naval Lieutenant David Dixon Porter sailed to North Africa and the Middle East in 1856 and came home with some camel handlers and a few dozen camels, which were kept at Camp Verde, Texas. A year later, Porter returned for more camels, bringing the total to about 70.

The camel experiment in the Southwest was relatively successful, as camels were hardier than horses, mules, or burros, traveling farther, packing heavier weights, needing water less often, and being able to subsist on the native desert plants. However, the camels tended to spook the other pack animals, and most of the Americans assigned to them never learned to like them or handle them properly.

The camels’ downfall came with the Civil War. The Confederates took over Camp Verde, but when the US government regained control, it had lost interest in the camel experiment, so the animals were sold (though some had died or escaped during the war).

But that wasn’t the end of camels in the Southwest. Up through the early 1900s, there were occasional reports of sightings of feral camels roaming the desert.

Did you know that you can find articles about the army’s camels on Newspapers.com? Below is a selection of a few of the different articles you can find:

Have you heard of the Southwest’s camels? If you want to learn more about them, start a search on Newspapers.com!

Find: How Far Would Your Dollar Go in 1915?

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Grocery store ad, Allentown, PA, Jan 1915
Have you ever come across an old sales ad and been surprised at how inexpensive products seemed to be back then compared to how much they cost today? Eggs for $0.27/dozen? Seems cheap. But if you adjust those old prices to their equivalents today, you might be surprised at how they compare.

So let’s take some of the prices in a grocery ad from Pennsylvania 100 years ago (1915), adjust the prices for modern inflation,* and compare the adjusted prices to average 2015 prices.**

Pork chops

1915 ad price: $0.25/2-lbs ($0.125/lb)

1915 adjusted price: $2.95/lb

2015 average price: $3.99/lb

Bacon

1915 ad price: $0.20/0.5-lb ($0.40/lb)

1915 adjusted price: $9.45/lb

2015 average price: $5.59/lb

Peanut butter

1915 ad price: $0.25/2-lbs ($0.125/lb)

1915 adjusted price: $2.95/lb

2015 average price: $2.91/lb

Grocery store prices, Georgia, 1915
Eggs

1915 ad price: $0.27/dozen

1915 adjusted price: $6.38/dozen

2015 average price: $2.11/dozen

Potatoes

1915 ad price: $0.30/30-lbs ($0.01/lb)

1915 adjusted price: $0.24/lb

2015 average price: $0.67/lb

Rice

1915 ad price: $0.25/6-lbs ($0.042/lb)

1915 adjusted price: $0.99/lb

2015 average price: $0.69/lb

Those eggs for $0.27/dozen don’t seem so cheap now, do they? Interested in finding out how much other items cost back in the day? Search or browse on Newspapers.com for more ads.

* 1915 adjusted prices were calculated using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index (CPI) Inflation Calculator.

**Average 2015 prices were pulled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index (CPI) Detailed Report Data for January 2015, pg. 215, Table P4: “Average retail food prices, U.S. city average and four regions.”

Find: Women Get the Vote

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Prominent early suffragists
This August is the 95th anniversary of American women gaining the right to vote in all state and federal elections when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920.

Women’s suffrage in America was a divisive issue from the very beginning of the organized movement at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. Over the ensuing 72 years, while women gradually won the right to vote in some state and local elections, they continued to fight for full suffrage. Eventually, the suffragists of the 19th century gave way to the “suffragettes” of the 20th century, with their more confrontational tactics, influenced by the militant women’s suffrage movement in Britain.

Though what would become the 19th Amendment was first introduced to Congress in 1878, it took 41 years—and multiple rejections—for it to finally pass. After it was approved by Congress in 1919, it was sent to the states for ratification, where it would need to be approved by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states. Though women’s suffrage had always faced the biggest obstacles in southern states, Tennessee was the deciding 36th state to ratify the amendment by a slim margin on August 18, 1920.

As expected from such a controversial issue, the newspapers of the time were full of articles debating the suffrage question. On Newspapers.com you can follow both sides of the debate from its beginnings in the mid-19th century up through the day women’s right to vote became protected by the Constitution.

Examples of the articles and other features you can find about women’s suffrage include:

Did you have any ancestors involved in the women’s suffrage movement? Tell us about it! Or if you want to learn more about the movement, simply start a search on Newspapers.com.