On May 7–9, 1945, exultant crowds poured into
streets across many Allied nations to celebrate the news of Germany’s surrender
and the Allied victory in Europe. For the 75th anniversary of V-E
Day, we used Newspapers.com to discover how this landmark moment was covered by papers in
the United States. Keep reading to see some of these incredible front pages!
May 7, 1945
News about the end of the European war broke in the U.S. on Monday, the 7th. So in many of the papers from that day, news of the German surrender and the end of the war in Europe were understandably the biggest headlines.
However, although Americans heard about the surrender on the 7th, V-E Day wouldn’t officially be held be until the next day (the 8th) in order to coordinate with other Allied nations. So stories of President Truman postponing V-E Day were also major news on the 7th.
April 22, 2020, is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Inspired by the anti-war movement of the 1960s, this now-global effort was first introduced by Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970. Nelson encouraged teach-ins on school campuses in the wake of rising awareness about pollution and its effect on public health and the planet, and millions of Americans joined in for the cause with classes, demonstrations, and projects.
The first Earth Day drastically raised public interest in conserving the environment and reducing pollutants. It’s considered to have begun the modern environmental movement. As the clipping below states, it is now the largest civic observance in the world.
Now a global effort each April, Earth Day is given a focused theme. The theme for 2020 is “climate action,” with a focus on digital involvement. Have you participated in observances before? How do you join in?
It’s 2020, which means another Leap Year is upon us once again! For an event that only shows up once every four(ish) years, traditions associated with it are fairly scattered and inconsistent. But if any one tradition is firmly tied to Leap Year, it’s that of women proposing.
Here’s some history on how that might have come to be.
What’s a single young man to do if he must say no to a proposal? Give the young lady an apology gift, of course. The payment of a silk dress is a common recurring part of the proposal tradition.
The idea of a payment for spurned proposals is reinforced in this next part of Leap Year lore. As the story goes, in the year 1288, Queen Margaret of Scotland made it law that a man who dared turn down a perfectly good proposal without proof that he was already otherwise spoken for must pay—quite literally.
Yet, despite the very specific year of 1288 and decades of dedicated historian research, no such law has ever been proven to exist. Not only that, but the actual Queen Margaret on whom this legend is based was born in 1283, making her 5 years old at the time of the law. So this bit of Leap Year history is almost certainly nothing more than a fun bit of mythical trivia.
The Scarlet Petticoat
Perhaps as a reaction to all of these rules for the proposee, a more recent bit of lore adds a restriction for the ladies. Sure, a man must still pay for refusing, but the whole transaction could be nullified for the lack of a bright red petticoat.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this tradition based on open season-style female proposals has often been derided in articles, cartoons, post cards and more over the decades. Men were considered, generally, to not be fans of the whole idea. Cartoonist Al Capp even played off the whole idea in his comic Li’l Abner, leading to the creation of Sadie Hawkins Day.
Many women looked down on it as well, thinking it made girls unbecomingly bold to the point of being embarrassing for all involved.
Now, as gender roles shift and progress, the idea of the “Leap Year Girl” doing things she could never otherwise do is fading into the past. Who knows but that the tradition will continue to change with it?
Groundhog Day 2020 is just around the corner (on February 2nd, for those curious). With it comes the usual hullabaloo surrounding the noble groundhog and his mystical weather predictions. But while groundhogs are firmly established as the main prognosticators in U.S. culture, they are fairly new to the centuries-old prediction game.
Groundhogs only have their current job thanks to their predecessors: badgers. It was only because groundhogs were more easily found in the United States that the groundhog entered the shadow-seeing spotlight.
BEARS OF ALL SORTS
Bears have also had their fair share of predicting the weather. How that worked, exactly, is unclear. It seems unlikely that crowds of people were standing around waiting for a bear to emerge as is done with the groundhog today.
This next clipping takes an entirely different direction. Shadows are cast aside in favor of a furrier approach. Unfortunately for Snow Star, the prognosticating zoo bear, her thin winter coat gave an unreliable prediction.
On June 6, 1944, newspaper front pages throughout the United
States were filled with one thing: D-Day. Huge headlines, countless articles,
and striking images all told the story of the critical invasion taking place in
But alongside the gripping news from overseas, newspapers also documented another side to D-Day, one closer to home: They captured how the people of their communities reacted to news of the invasion.
Below, we’ve gathered a sampling of 12 of these home front reactions from around the United States, as well as Canada, England, and Australia. Click on any image, article excerpt, or headline below to view the full thing on our site.
In late April of 1865, the steamboat Sultana chugged up the Mississippi river with over 2000 passengers weighing down its decks. Most were Union prisoners returning home from camps like Cahaba and Andersonville, weak and happy to be heading home after a hard and bloody war.
Payment and Patch-Jobs
With thousands of Union prisoners needing a way home, the U.S. Government paid steamship captains several dollars a head for every soldier transported north. The Chief Quartermaster at Vicksburg, Missouri, suggested a deal to Captain James Cass Mason of the Sultana: he’d get Mason a full load of 1400 men in return for some of that sweet government cash. Mason agreed, but didn’t expect over 1900 soldiers to crowd every spare inch of space on a boat only meant to carry 376.
Meanwhile, a leaking boiler on board had been quickly patched to allow the steamer to take on the massive load of passengers. With decks sagging under the weight and the boiler crack ominously nailed together with a metal plate, the Sultana continued on its way.
At 2 am on April 27th, the leaking boiler exploded and took out two more boilers along with it. The blast tore the steamer apart just north of Memphis, Tennessee, and within twenty minutes the ship was burning to the water line. Those who survived the blast found themselves trapped on the fiery decks or thrown into the river. Those in the river either drowned, weakened from their injuries, or watched in horror as the ship burned with their friends still on board.
In all, around 1200 passengers perished. To this day it remains the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history. But in the wake of events like the war ending and Lincoln’s assassination, this tragedy has been all but forgotten.
The Sultana disaster wasn’t as covered as other events at the time, but there’s more to find on Newspapers.com. Try a search for the steamship or Captain Mason for more about the incident and aftermath.
From an April 2nd paper comes this jazzy announcement. In 1957, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong attended a jazz concert to celebrate his birthday (actually his 56th). An earlier pneumonia scare lead to this great quote: “I know they wanted to get me up there to play first horn for Gabriel but I don’t think I’ll be up there for a long time yet.”
A year and a half earlier, the expedition that would claim his life began. Captain Scott’s expedition set sail in the summer of 1911 aboard the Terra Nova, the ship which gave the expedition its nickname.
They reached Antarctica in January, a few weeks later than planned. The early months of the expedition were spent laying depots and taking smaller scientific expeditions. Roald Amundsen‘s Norwegian Expedition was camped not far off, and Scott’s group felt the pressure to be the first to reach the South Pole.
Scott’s path to the South Pole took a different route than Amundsen’s, as seen in the clipping above. After enduring months of bitter cold and blizzards, Scott and the four men he’d chosen to make the full trek arrived at the pole. There they found Amundsen’s flag and a letter. The Norwegian team had beat them to the prize.
It was on the trip back to base that things quite literally went south. At first all went smoothly—weeks passed without trouble, and the men made good progress. But their health was quickly deteriorating as frostbite and general weariness took their toll. Petty Officer Edgar Evans was the first to die, one month after reaching the South Pole. Scott noted Evans’ poor condition, and it seems probable that Evans suffered a bad concussion from a fall.
Soon after, Lawrence Oates began to show signs of failing health. With his decline came Scott’s recognition that none of them would make it back.
It became clear that Oates would not make it. He deliberately walked off from the party to his death, saying, “I am just going outside. I may be some time.” When he did not return, the group continued on without him.
Scott and the two remaining explorers, Edward Wilson and Henry Robertson Bowers, were forced to make camp 11 miles from One Ton Depot. Lack of supplies from the base camp and terrible weather sealed their doom. Scott made his March 29 diary entry, and it is presumed that the three men died later that day.
Some months later the surviving expedition members formed a search party to learn the fate of Scott and his traveling companions. They found the three bodies of Scott, Bowers, and Wilson and erected a cairn as their final resting place. Speculation about whether they could have been saved circled among the survivors, and continues to be discussed today.