What Can You Learn from Classified Ads?

Today, a wide range of online resources are available to people looking to find items for sale or to sell items themselves—from Craigslist to Facebook and beyond. But up until about twenty years ago, they usually turned to one place: their local newspaper classifieds. Newspaper classifieds provided a centralized location for individuals to make transactions: buyers could buy, sellers could sell, job seekers could find employment, and employers could find employees.

Livestock not allowed in the streets; Australia 1859When we read classified ads in newspapers from decades and centuries past, it gives us a glimpse into what life was like in other times. For instance, one city government ad in a classified section of an 1859 Australian newspaper paints a picture of what the streets of Melbourne must have been like at that time when it notifies its readers that “all Cows, Pigs, or Goats found Straying on any of the streets of the city after Wednesday next […] will be impounded.”

Similarly, the plethora of ads in a Philadelphia paper in 1784 offering rewards for runaway indentured servants hints at the prevalence of this type of labor in the city at the time. One such ad offers a reward for a runaway “Irish servant woman, named Sarah Welsh,” described as being “of a swarthy complexion, dark brown hair, mixed with grey, pitted a little with the smallpox, has a reserved dark look, and a remarkable protuberance or lump on her windpipe.”

Classified ads can also teach us about social attitudes of the time, through the types of employees requested in job ads. Job ads were historically quite specific in the gender, race, or religion requirements for potential employees. For example one job ad in 1867 New York paper requested a “girl, Protestant preferred, to do general housework,” while another ad in the same issue asked for “a colored woman to do housework,” and yet another from that issue stipulated “an American boy, one that is strong and not afraid to work.”

If you’re curious about what life was like in the town or city an ancestor lived in, try looking through the local paper’s classified ads to gain interesting insights. Who knows? You might even find a relative’s name in one of the ads!

Get started reading the classifieds on Newspapers.com!

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Find: Ads through the Ages

Since about the 1830s, newspapers have relied on advertising to pay for part of their operating costs. This meant that the more ads they ran, the more money they made. As a result, for a long time, newspapers were the main source people used to find out about new products and learn about sales at local business.

Listerine ad, 1957These ads make for interesting reading today, as they give us a glimpse into the products and services our ancestors and more recent family members may have used in years past. And some of those products might be surprisingly familiar, since some things we still use today have been around longer than we may have realized. For example, Coca-Cola has been around since 1886, Cream of Wheat since 1893, Arm & Hammer baking soda since 1867, Jell-o since 1897, Oreos since 1912, Cracker Jack since 1896, and Listerine since 1879.

Take a look at some of these ads from decades past found on Newspapers.com. Your ancestors may have used these ads to buy the same products you enjoy today!

Find many more ads from throughout history on Newspapers.com, either by searching for specific products or browsing through the pages of a particular paper. You might even want to try looking at ads in newspapers from the areas where your ancestors lived to get an even better idea of what types of products they may have used!

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How Many Ways Can You Cook a Turkey?

Newspapers.com News, Finds and Tips

Turkey timetables
How many ways can you cook a turkey? Quite a few, judging from the number of recipes found on Newspapers.com! If you’re looking for a new way to cook your Thanksgiving turkey this year, look no further than your Newspapers.com search results to find turkey recipes from over the decades and across the country. Below is a selection of recipes to get you started, though these are just the tip of the iceberg:

And need some help with carving that turkey? Or want to know how to deep-fry your turkey safely? Or curious how long you should thaw your turkey? Newspapers.com can help you with that too:

Not only can you find recipes for how to cook your turkey on Thanksgiving, you can also find recipes for your turkey leftovers:

And these are just the turkey recipes! We haven’t even gotten into all the Thanksgiving side dish and dessert recipes you can find on Newspapers.com. So if you’re cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year, take a look at some of the many recipes and tips you can find by searching Newspapers.com!

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Find: Three Controversial Elections in American History

Newspapers.com News, Finds and Tips

Anti-Hayes inauguration headlines
2016 is far from the first time America has experienced a contentious election. With Newspapers.com, you can learn all about the controversies of elections past from historical articles written by the people who had to vote in them. Let’s take a look at three of the most sensational elections in American history:


The election of 1800 created so much drama that it resulted in a Constitutional amendment. Under the original system, each person in the Electoral College got two votes: the candidate who got the most votes (as long as it was a majority) became president, and the person in second place would become vice president, whether or not the two were from the same party. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr (both of the Democratic-Republican Party) tied at 73 votes in the Electoral College. The election went to the House of Representatives for a decision, and Alexander Hamilton (former secretary of the treasury) convinced his fellow Federalists to vote for Jefferson. Although Hamilton disliked Jefferson, he disliked Burr more. Burr would eventually kill Hamilton in a duel a few years later.


The election of 1824 likewise had to go to the House of Representatives for a decision. All four candidates were Democratic-Republicans: war-hero Andrew Jackson, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, Secretary of the Treasury William Crawford, and House Speaker Henry Clay. Although Jackson won the popular vote, he only won a plurality of Electoral College votes (rather than a majority), so it was up to the House of Representatives to decide the election. Henry Clay (who got the least electoral votes and was thus no longer under consideration for president) got his supporters to switch to Adams, making Adams president instead of Jackson. Adams, in turn, made Clay his secretary of state in what Jackson called a “corrupt bargain.”


The election of 1876 was perhaps the most contested of the three elections. It pitted Republican Rutherford B. Hayes against Democrat Henry Tilden. Tilden won the popular vote but was one electoral vote short of a majority, with 20 electoral votes yet to be tallied due to various controversies. Congress appointed a commission to award the remaining votes, and all 20 were given to Hayes, which gave him the majority. When Democrats threatened to contest the results, the matter was settled with a behind-the-scenes agreement that made Hayes president but essentially ended Reconstruction in the South.

Learn more about elections throughout America’s history by searching or browsing on Newspapers.com!

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Find: WWII Letters Home

Newspapers.com News, Finds and Tips

Son's letter cheers parents with news he met kin in Italy: 1944
For family members on the home front during World War II, receiving letters from sons and daughters serving overseas was often a happy occasion, as it meant their child was still alive—at least for now. Some families received letters from their children, only to later receive a dreaded telegram informing them of injury or death. Though for a lucky few, the reverse was also sometimes true: the family erroneously received a telegram from the military, only to receive a letter from the serviceman dated after the telegram, letting his family know he was alive.

Due to military censorship, and the servicemen and women’s own desire not to worry the folks back home, the letters were often relatively vague, mostly just letting their family know that they were okay and giving very general details about where they were and what they were doing. Some of these letters were printed or summarized in local newspapers, where you can still see them today. Who knows? You might even find one written by a family member!

Start by exploring the selected letters and articles below:

You can find more WWII letters on Newspapers.com! Try a search like this one as a starting point to find some additional letters, or begin a new search using search terms and dates of your own.

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Find: America’s WWI Neutrality Debate

Newspapers.com News, Finds and Tips

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.

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Find: Clippings from the Dust Bowl

Newspapers.com News, Finds and Tips

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.

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Find: All-American Girls Professional Baseball League

Newspapers.com News, Finds and Tips

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.

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Find: Leap Year Clippings

Newspapers.com News, Finds and Tips

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.

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Find: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Newspapers.com News, Finds and Tips

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.

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