Disney’s Aladdin: History & Trivia

Today marks the release of Disney’s newest take on Aladdin, an event that never would have happened without the success of its popular animated predecessor. In honor of the beloved original cartoon, here are five fun facts to mildly entertain your friends and family on the drive (or magic carpet ride) to the theater.

Disney's Aladdin

Disney’s Aladdin Wed, Nov 25, 1992 – 14 · The Daily Herald (Provo, Utah) · Newspapers.com

1. Aladdin’s character changed significantly during the writing process

Between the initial pitch and the film’s release, almost everything about Aladdin’s character completely changed. His age, his family situation, and even the choice of inspiration for his personality and looks shifted over the course of several years’ work.

Revisions included aging Aladdin up, writing his mother out of the film

Revisions included aging Aladdin up, writing his mother out of the film Wed, Nov 25, 1992 – 26 · The Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana) · Newspapers.com

Al’s lack of charisma and “on-screen” presence was a recurring problem in early versions. Between the self-assured Jasmine and the scene-stealing Genie, Aladdin had a hard time keeping up. Forunately, he went through several rewrites to make his character a stronger contender.

Early Aladdin drawings meant to resemble Michael J. Fox

Early Aladdin drawings meant to resemble Michael J. Fox Sun, Oct 10, 1993 – 35 · The Herald-News (Passaic, New Jersey) · Newspapers.com

Aladdin and Jasmine

Aladdin and Jasmine Fri, Nov 27, 1992 – 53 · The Ottawa Citizen (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) · Newspapers.com

2. Much of the story was based on the 1940 film, The Thief of Baghdad

The Arabian Nights story of Aladdin is a well-known source of inspiration for the movie we know and love today. But a fantasy film from the 40s about a scrappy young thief, a handsome king, and a (nameless) beautiful princess was also significant to the story. It even includes a deceitful adviser, Jaffar.

Aladdin heavily inspired by

Aladdin heavily inspired by “The Thief of Baghdad” Fri, Nov 27, 1992 – Page 78 · Northwest Herald (Woodstock, Illinois) · Newspapers.com

3. Artistic influences varied, from ancient art to modern caricature

It’s pretty fascinating to see what goes into a movie that, on the surface, can seem like little more than a children’s cartoon.

Inspiration for Agrabah

Inspiration for Agrabah Wed, Nov 25, 1992 – 14 · The Daily Herald (Provo, Utah) · Newspapers.com

Aladdin art influences

Aladdin art influences Sun, Nov 22, 1992 – 54 · Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wisconsin) · Newspapers.com

And here’s a bit of fun trivia about the film’s use of color:

Use of color in Disney's Aladdin

Use of color in Disney’s Aladdin Wed, Nov 25, 1992 – 14 · The Daily Herald (Provo, Utah) · Newspapers.com

Aladdin and his magic lamp

Aladdin and his magic lamp Wed, Nov 25, 1992 – 26 · The Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana) · Newspapers.com

4. Robin Williams’ star power secured success (against his wishes)

The biggest controversy of the film’s history has to do with its most recognizable talent, Robin Williams. The role of Genie was not just perfect for Williams’ incredible versatility—it was specifically written for him.

Robin Williams Steals the Show (Aladdin)

Robin Williams Steals the Show Sun, Dec 6, 1992 – 20 · The Times Recorder (Zanesville, Ohio) · Newspapers.com

Robin Williams is the no-so-secret weapon of

Robin Williams is the no-so-secret weapon of “Aladdin” Fri, Nov 27, 1992 – 53 · The Ottawa Citizen (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) · Newspapers.com

Williams was happy to take the part; he wanted to be involved in animation and help create something great for his children. Disney agreed to his one request: that they not to use his voice to sell merchandise or prominently feature his character for marketing. You can probably guess (or remember) how that went.

Robin Williams has public falling out with Disney

Robin Williams has public falling out with Disney Sun, Apr 14, 1996 – 21 · Santa Maria Times (Santa Maria, California) · Newspapers.com

All’s well that ends well. After a direct-to-video sequel (The Return of Jafar, 1994) and a change in Disney management, a public apology was made to Williams. The original Genie was back for Aladdin and the King of Thieves, and some Genie-led educational videos to boot.

5. Aladdin broke the record for animation

Shortly after its release, Aladdin surpassed Beauty and the Beast as the highest-grossing animated film. However, it would only hold that record for about two years before being smashed by 1994’s wildly successful The Lion King.

Aladdin becomes highest grossing animated film of all time

Aladdin becomes highest grossing animated film of all time Wed, Jan 27, 1993 – 25 · The Post-Star (Glens Falls, New York) · Newspapers.com

1992 New York Times Review of Aladdin calls it a

1992 New York Times Review of Aladdin calls it a “dizzying, elastic miracle” Sun, Nov 15, 1992 – 120 · The Odessa American (Odessa, Texas) · Newspapers.com

Do you have any fond memories of Aladdin, and are you planning to see the new adaptation? Tell us about it below! Try a search on Newspapers.com to find more on the movie, its influences, and its reception.

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Game of Thrones: Back to the Beginning

As the premier of Game of Thrones’ final season looms, fans are feeling the tension of years of televised build up. The fantasy phenomenon first came to the screen in April of 2011, and it was a hit from the very start.

A Stark Start

Below are some nostalgic clippings from the months following the season 1 debut.

Game of Thrones review following the TV debut, 2011

Game of Thrones review following the TV debut, 2011 Mon, Apr 25, 2011 – 32 · Calgary Herald (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) · Newspapers.com

Game of Thrones rave review, 2011

Game of Thrones rave review, 2011 Fri, Apr 15, 2011 – G24 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com

Arya learning to fight, photo from 2011 review of the Game of Thrones TV debut

Arya learning to fight, photo from 2011 review of the Game of Thrones TV debut Fri, Apr 15, 2011 – G24 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com

Review of Game of Thrones series debut, 2011

Review of Game of Thrones series debut, 2011 Sat, Apr 16, 2011 – D4 · Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wisconsin) · Newspapers.com

Peter Dinklage, season 1 of Game of Thrones, 2011

Peter Dinklage, season 1 of Game of Thrones, 2011 Sat, Jun 18, 2011 – G4 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com

Eight years later, the clipping below is starting to feel like a game of bingo that’s still ongoing.

Who's who in 'Game of Thrones'? April 2011

Who’s who in ‘Game of Thrones’? April 2011 Wed, Apr 13, 2011 – Page 33 · Philadelphia Daily News (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

One Book Began it All

Of course, the show wouldn’t exist without G.R.R. Martin’s books. The sprawling (as-yet unfinished) series first began nearly 23 years ago with A Game of Thrones, released in 1996. And the story was just as popular in print as it has now become on screen.

A Game of Thrones - 1996 review of series debut

A Game of Thrones – 1996 review of series debut Sun, Nov 24, 1996 – 58 · Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio) · Newspapers.com

Are you tuning in this weekend, or do you prefer the books? Find more on the decades-long journey of this popular story with a search on Newspapers.com.

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80 Years of Incredible College Basketball Headlines

Because 2019 marks the 80th anniversary of the best-known college basketball tournament, we’ve compiled headlines from every 10th championship game since the tournament began in 1939. How many of these games are you familiar with?

1939: Evanston, IL

Oregon Webfoots defeat the Ohio State Buckeyes, 46-33

Quick facts: First NCAA tournament; Oregon’s only national championship for men’s basketball to date

“Zippy Zone Defense Baffles Ohio” Tue, Mar 28, 1939 – 1 · The Coos Bay Times (Marshfield, Oregon) · Newspapers.com

(READ FULL ARTICLE)

1949: Seattle, WA

Kentucky Wildcats defeat the Oklahoma State Cowboys, 46-36

Quick facts: Kentucky’s second title in as many title games; Second year of Kentucky’s back-to-back winning streak (1948 & 1949)

“Kentucky Whips Oklahoma A. & M.” Sun, Mar 27, 1949 – 9 · The Owensboro Messenger (Owensboro, Kentucky) · Newspapers.com

(READ FULL ARTICLE)

1959: Louisville, KY

California Golden Bears defeat the West Virginia Mountaineers, 71-70

Quick facts: First title for the Golden Bears

“Bears Nip Mountaineers” Sun, Mar 22, 1959 – 33 · The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, California) · Newspapers.com

(READ FULL ARTICLE)

1969: Louisville, KY

UCLA Bruins defeat the Purdue Boilermakers, 92-72

Quick facts:  Part of the UCLA glory years, during which the team won 10 NCAA titles between 1964 and 1975

“Bruins Win Unprecedented 3rd Straight Title” Sun, Mar 23, 1969 – Page 51 · The San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, California) · Newspapers.com

(READ FULL ARTICLE)

1979: Salt Lake City, UT

No. 2 seed Michigan State Spartans defeat No. 1 seed Indiana State Sycamores, 75-64

Quick facts: First title game for both teams, and first title for Michigan State; Beginning of the Magic Johnson/Larry Bird rivalry; First tournament where all teams were seeded

“Magic Man Turns ISU’s Cinderella Story into Rags” Tue, Mar 27, 1979 – Page 6 · The Call-Leader (Elwood, Indiana) · Newspapers.com

(READ FULL ARTICLE)

1989: Seattle, WA

No. 3 seed Michigan Wolverines defeat No. 3 seed Seton Hall Pirates, 80-79

Quick facts: First title for Michigan; Overtime victory

“Michigan Wins First NCAA Title in OT” Tue, Apr 4, 1989 – 14 · The Herald-Palladium (Saint Joseph, Michigan) · Newspapers.com

(READ FULL ARTICLE)

1999: St. Petersburg, FL

No. 1 seed UConn Huskies defeat No. 1 seed Duke Blue Devils, 77-74

Quick facts: First title for UConn; Big upset, as Duke had an incredibly strong team, while UConn was a 9.5-point underdog

“Duke Stumbles on Its Last Step” Tue, Mar 30, 1999 – Page 27 · Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, North Carolina) · Newspapers.com

(READ FULL ARTICLE)

2009: Detroit, MI

No. 1 seed North Carolina Tar Heels defeat No. 2 seed Michigan State Spartans, 89-72

Quick facts: North Carolina had a 55-34 lead at halftime, which was the largest halftime lead in the tournament’s history as well as the most points scored in the first half

“UNC-onquerable: Tar Heels Rout Spartans” Tue, Apr 7, 2009 – 9 · Rocky Mount Telegram (Rocky Mount, North Carolina) · Newspapers.com

(READ FULL ARTICLE)

Find more newspaper coverage of your favorite college basketball championships over the years by searching Newspapers.com!

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3 Amazing Female Detectives You’ve Never Heard Of

Nancy Drew, Miss Marple, Veronica Mars, Lis Salander, Jessica Fletcher, Dana Scully, Clarice Starling . . . Female detectives are relatively easy to find in fiction. There’s even a brand-new Nancy Drew movie out.

But for all their growing prevalence on screen and in literature, women detectives are hard to find in history books. So we searched the historical papers on Newspapers.com to bring you the amazing stories of 3 real-life female detectives you’ve probably never heard of.

Maud West

Maude WestMaude West Fri, Mar 3, 1922 – Page 17 · The Charlotte News (Charlotte, North Carolina) · Newspapers.com


~Who was she?~

Maud West was a well-known private detective in London in the early decades of the 20th century. Reputed to be London’s only female detective, West opened her agency in 1905 and hired both male and female detectives. For the next 30 years, she investigated a host of crimes, from blackmail and theft, to cheating spouses and even German spies. She claimed to have investigated cases around the world, including in Paris, the South of France, Monte Carlo, Nairobi, and New York.

Famous as a master of disguise, West went undercover as a servant, society woman, nurse, secretary, waitress, fortune teller, and more. She excelled at disguising herself as a man and impersonated everyone from a lowly sailor to a titled Englishman. West reportedly said that she frequently took on male disguises because “A woman […] cannot stand about like a man may.”

~Notable Case~

In an article that ran in multiple newspapers in 1926, West recounted a case in which a young American woman hired West to investigate her husband. West, using various disguises, trailed him on a long journey that stretched from Paris, to Dover, to London, and then all the way to New York. In New York, she discovered that the “strange American’s eccentricity had turned to medical surgery,” and he had in fact traveled to New York to participate in an illegal human dissection.

~Read more about Maud West in the newspaper~

Isabella Goodwin

Isabella GoodwinIsabella Goodwin Mon, Mar 4, 1912 – Page 4 · Press and Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, New York) · Newspapers.com


~Who was she?~

Isabella Goodwin was New York’s first woman police detective. The widow of a policeman with four children to raise, Goodwin was hired as a police matron in 1896. Sometime around 1910, Goodwin was transferred to the detective bureau to assist in investigations, though there is newspaper evidence that she was already helping with investigations by 1902.

In the detective bureau, Goodwin primarily focused on investigating charlatans and swindlers, including fortune tellers, healers, spiritualists, mediums, and astrologers, sometimes going undercover. After proving instrumental in solving a robbery case in 1912, Goodwin was promoted to detective sergeant, first grade, and became the first woman in the New York police department to hold this position. She later also served as assistant to the Special Deputy Commissioner in charge of the Women’s Precinct.

Goodwin remarried in 1921, and in 1924 resigned from the police department after 28 years of service.

~Notable Case~

The case that made Isabella Goodwin famous occurred in 1912. A group of so-called “taxicab bandits” attacked two bank messengers in Manhattan in broad daylight and got away with $25,000 (more than $600,000 today). Goodwin went undercover as a servant in a boarding house and was able to gather the information needed for the police to arrest the men.

~Read more about Isabella Goodwin in the newspaper~

Frances Benzecry

Frances BenzecryFrances Benzecry Sat, Mar 2, 1912 – 3 · New-York Tribune (New York, New York) · Newspapers.com


~Who was she?~

Frances Benzecry was a detective for the medical societies of Brooklyn and Manhattan. A graduate of New York Normal College, Benzecry was hired as a medical detective sometime around 1905. She investigated all manner of fake medical practitioners and healers, who were often suspected of operating without a license.

To catch them, she frequently submitted to their phony treatments and thus gained a reputation as the “most doctored woman in New York.” Benzecry reportedly had more than 75 aliases, but her best known one was “Belle Holmes,” and she was sometimes mentioned in the newspapers by that name. Since her cases occasionally overlapped with those of Isabella Goodwin, the two worked together on multiple occasions. 

~Notable case~

In 1911, Frances Benzecry (along with Isabella Goodwin) gathered evidence and testified against Willis Vernon Cole, who was arrested and tried for practicing Christian Science healing without a medical license. Benzecry visited his office pretending to have trouble with her eyes and back and paid Cole to cure her through prayer. Cole was initially found guilty, but after a series of high-profile trials, he won on appeal, setting a legal precedent for religious healing.  

~Read more about Frances Benzecry in the newspaper~

Newspapers are full of accounts of female detectives in history. Search Newspapers.com to find articles, photos, and more on this topic. And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more interesting historical content like this!

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This Is How Newspapers Helped Us Find Love—And Deception—Before Online Dating

 “A good magician and magnetic healer wishes to meet a little blond song and dance or elocution lady, from 20 to 30 years; if suited will make you a kind husband and nice home in the West; give height and weight in first letter.”

If this profile popped up today on a dating website, would it be a hit or a miss for you? What if you were a single woman living in Minnesota in 1903, which is when and where this ad was published? Would your perspective be different?

Lonely Hearts’ Long History

Before the days of online dating and swiping right or left on dating apps, placing marriage ads in newspapers was one option for lonely Americans seeking companionship. Today, these ads are often called lonely hearts ads, but they used to be known as personal or matrimonial ads.

From the 1600s—when the first known lonely hearts ad appeared in a newspaper—through the 20th century, ads seeking marriage (and other types of relationships) flourished in the papers. The ads were as varied as the people who placed them:

(The Atlanta Constitution, 10.23.1898)
(The Atlanta Constitution, 10.23.1898)
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 04.16.1899)
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 04.16.1899)
(The Minneapolis Tribune, 01.31.1904)
(The Minneapolis Tribune, 01.31.1904)

Some ads weren’t placed by individuals at all, but rather by marriage agencies seeking spouses for their clients:

(The Anaconda Standard, 07.17.1904)
(The Anaconda Standard, 07.17.1904)

Scams, Murders, and Marriage Ads

However, seeking a spouse through the newspaper was inevitably a risky venture. In addition to running lonely hearts ads, newspapers also ran stories of people who were conned—and even murdered—because of marriage ads in newspapers. These headlines give the general idea:

READ THE FULL ARTICLE in the San Francisco Examiner, 11.29.1906
READ THE FULL ARTICLE in the San Francisco Examiner, 11.29.1906
READ THE FULL ARTICLE in the Nashville Tennessean, 01.23.1938
READ THE FULL ARTICLE in the Nashville Tennessean, 01.23.1938
READ THE FULL ARTICLE in the Austin Statesman, 05.08.1908
READ THE FULL ARTICLE in the Austin Statesman, 05.08.1908

Backlash and Criticism

Perhaps due to the number of people swindled though lonely hearts ads, newspaper columns criticizing the ads likewise abounded. The Chicago Tribune even went so far in 1884 as to fill more than 5 columns with “The Interesting Results of the Experiment of a Venturesome Reporter” who placed a fake marriage ad in the paper and then analyzed the responses of 36 women who replied to it.

That same article observed:

(Chicago Tribune, 12.28.1884)
(Chicago Tribune, 12.28.1884)

Presumably not all marriage ads ended in disappointment or disaster, though success stories are few and far between in the newspapers. But a woman in 1909 seemed happy enough with the results. According to an article in the Lincoln Daily Star, the woman traveled from Michigan to Nebraska in response to a matrimonial ad, and upon her arrival the potential husband “received her with open arms.”

Modern Lonely Hearts

Though not as popular today, lonely hearts ads are not entirely a thing of the past. Print publications (and websites) featuring these types of ads still exist, although the advent of online dating has made them less common.

Perhaps one takeaway from reading the lonely hearts ads of decades and centuries past is that we really aren’t all that different from our ancestors. Then as now, people sought relationships for companionship, stability, and comfort—among a host of other motivations, good or bad.

And whether it’s swiping right or answering a newspaper ad, either method is an easier route to marriage than this guy’s approach:

READ THE FULL ARTICLE in the Daily News (New York), 07.06.1931
READ THE FULL ARTICLE in the Daily News (New York), 07.06.1931

Search Newspapers.com to find out more about lonely hearts ads. And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more interesting historical content like this!

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Battle on Bric-A-Brac: America’s Changing Views on Clutter

If you’ve been tuning in to the new Netflix series Tidying up with Marie Kondo or read Kondo’s bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you’re familiar with her war on clutter. As part of her KonMari Method, she famously encourages people to keep only possessions that “spark joy.”

But Kondo’s decluttering philosophy wouldn’t have been popular in the U.S. in the mid- to late 19th century. In fact, the opposite philosophy seemed to reign—the more objects on display in your home the better, particularly if you were wealthy or aspiring to be so.

The Rise of Bric-A-Brac

If you could peek into the home of a wealthy Victorian-era American family, it would probably look cluttered to our modern eyes. Bare rooms were equated with poor taste, low morals, and poverty, while displaying expensive objects was a sign of style, culture, and status. Vases, figurines, decorative boxes, fans, teacups, miniature paintings, curios, and much more filled nearly any flat surface, from mantles to tables to sideboards.

An 1891 showroom for home furnishings, demonstrating the popular Victorian "cluttered" look (The Times—Philadelphia, 10.03.1891)

An 1891 showroom for home furnishings, demonstrating the popular Victorian “cluttered” look (The Times—Philadelphia, 10.03.1891)

The Second Industrial Revolution (roughly 1870–1914) was creating an abundance of “nouveau riche” in America, people recently made wealthy by railroads, steel, and other new industries. Eager to imitate the aristocracy of Great Britain and Europe—and to showcase their new wealth and worldliness—they filled their homes with costly objets d’art. These decorative objects eventually came to be known as “bric-a-brac.”

  • Go here to read an 1887 newspaper article about bric-a-brac selling for insanely high prices

Though items sold as bric-a-brac supposedly had historical ties, antique origin, or exotic provenance, realistically it was a term for expensive items with no practical use—which is probably why an 1875 New York Times article defined bric-a-brac as “elegant rubbish.” Still, bric-a-brac was in such high demand that an industry sprung up to procure and sell it. Newspapers carried stories of people spending incredible sums of money to expand their collections, and ads for bric-a-brac sellers abounded in the papers.

Bric-a-Brac’s Decline

This “bric-a-brac mania,” as it was sometimes called, had its acme in the 1870s and 1880s. But as is the case with many expensive things, a knock-off market of cheaper, inauthentic bric-a-brac came into being. This affordable, mass-produced bric-a-brac allowed people of the middle and even working classes to embrace the trend and buy bric-a-brac for their own homes.

  • Go here to read about the knock-off market for bric-a-brac in an 1885 newspaper

The wide availability of inexpensive bric-a-brac meant it no longer implied social status and wealth, however, and its popularity among the upper class began to wane. Around the same time, attitudes about ostentatious displays of wealth began changing, and interior design preferences shifted toward simpler and more utilitarian styles. On top of that, late 19th-century America was hit by a series of economic panics—perhaps putting more nails in bric-a-brac’s coffin. Gradually, the term “bric-a-brac” began to take on the connotation that it has today—nearly synonymous with “knick-knack” rather than “objet d’art.”

The rejection of the bric-a-brac trend can be clearly seen in newspapers from the late 1880s through the early 20th century.

One Pennsylvania newspaper wrote in 1895:

And this 1906 article even provided questions to help the reader cut down on bric-a-brac:

20th-Century Clutter

The end of the 19th-century bric-a-brac craze wasn’t the end of indoor clutter, obviously. In fact, there seems to have been somewhat of a resurgence of bric-a-brac in the 1920s, though the onset of the Great Depression likely had a dampening effect.

  • Go here to read a 1926 article about bric-a-brac’s 1920s comeback

But America’s post-war economic boom in the late 1940s through the early 1970s gave people more discretionary income than ever before. Perhaps as a result of this new post-war buying power, home decor trends in the late 1950s swung back toward a “controlled clutter” look. And articles promoting “clutter rooms” (rooms devoted to odds and ends) ran in the papers in the 1960s. So is it any surprise that decluttering articles became increasingly ubiquitous in newspapers in the decades after the economic boom?

The Pendulum

America’s views on the use of clutter in home decoration seem to be a pendulum, swinging back and forth between embracing a cluttered look and its rejection. Right now, our society appears to be firmly rejecting it, as typified by the incredible popularity of Marie Kondo and her method. (Related examples of this desire for simplification are found in the “tiny home” movement and the backlash against the “fast fashion” industry.)

But as history has shown us, who knows when the pendulum will swing back the other way? So you might not need to throw out grandma’s antique tea set just yet.

Learn more about bric-a-brac by searching Newspapers.com. Or if you’re interested in reading some vintage decluttering articles, start with these:

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Mary Poppins Popping Up in Papers

Winds in the east, mist coming in, like somethin’ is brewin’, about to begin. Can’t put me finger on what lies in store, but I feel what’s to happen all happened before. -Bert in “Mary Poppins,” 1964

Mary Poppins is blowing in on an east wind this week in the form of a new film, Mary Poppins Returns. But her tricks and triumphs earned her a place in the land of imagination long before her appearance on the big screen.

Literary Appearance

It all happened once upon a time in 1934. The name “Mary Poppins” popped up in ads and reviews for a new children’s book by the same name written by P. L. Travers. The book’s whimsy and magic didn’t just captivate children, though, as evidenced by the glowing reports.

“Mary Poppins” affecting adults who are “mere children at heart” Sat, Dec 15, 1934 – 15 · The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, San Francisco, California, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

“Let Mary Poppins cure you of your humpy-dumps.” Sun, Dec 16, 1934 – 52 · The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Poppins Flies into Film

Thirty years after the first book was released, she made her grand appearance on the big screen. A concerned P. L. Travers avoided movie deals for years, worried what might become of her story in the wrong hands. But with the help of Walt Disney, Travers relented. It seems she regretted it later, but viewers did not—the movie was an instant success. (Reluctant fans of all things sweet and charming will enjoy this review, which satirically bemoans the presence of plot, talent, and cuteness in the film.)

The 1964 movie was also Julie Andrews’ screen debut, taken on despite her own nervousness about performing before a camera instead of an audience. She needn’t have worried, of course—her charming performance won her an Oscar for Best Actress in 1965.

Mary Poppins is EnchantingMary Poppins is Enchanting Fri, Sep 25, 1964 – 111 · Daily News (New York, New York, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

The High-Flying NannyThe High-Flying Nanny Sun, Sep 6, 1964 – 103 · Daily News (New York, New York, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Snippets of Success

The success of the movie prompted merchandise, fashion, a musical, more books and a return to “fun shows.” Travers even wrote a story-cookbook, full of recipes that she says Mary Poppins herself would have used.

Mary Poppins Pops into StyleMary Poppins Pops into Style Sun, Nov 1, 1964 – 61 · The Honolulu Advertiser (Honolulu, Hawaii, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Mary Poppins musical revives Mary Poppins musical revives “fun shows” Sun, Apr 4, 1965 – Page 58 · Green Bay Press-Gazette (Green Bay, Brown, Wisconsin, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Both in words and on screen, Mary Poppins has become a beloved and unforgettable character. This latest film promises to be yet another magical success for her to tuck away into her endless carpetbag.

If you have any Mary Poppins experiences or stories, please feel free to share them in the comments! And for more articles on everyone’s favorite mysteriously magical nanny, try a search on Newspapers.com.

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People Used to Believe Aliens Built Canals on Mars. Here’s Why You Should Care.

“Scientists now declare that the many lines and spots on Mars represent verdure along a most wonderful canal system, which the inhabitants of the planet have constructed for purposes of irrigation.”

No, it’s not the latest finding from NASA’s InSight Mars lander, which successfully touched down on the red planet last month. Instead, the quote comes from a 1907 article in the Los Angeles Times.

While the idea of a Martian-made canal system on Mars seems laughable today, around the turn of the 19th century there was a group of astronomers and scientists who took the idea seriously. In fact, they believed they had proof.

  • Read the full 1907 Los Angeles Times article about Martian-made canals here.

Why Did Astronomers Think Mars Had Canals?

The popularization of the idea of canals on Mars began with the observations of a 19th-century Italian astronomer named Giovanni Schiaparelli. Schiaparelli believed he saw a system of straight lines on the surface of Mars, which he called “canali” in 1877. Although the Italian word can be translated to mean “channels”—which is closer to what Schiaparelli intended—the word got translated in to English as “canals.”

Map of the Mars canals [The Review, 10.27.1898]

Map of the Mars canals (The Review, 10.27.1898)

A wealthy American astronomer named Percival Lowell then performed his own observations of Mars and saw the same type of lines that Schiaparelli saw. But Lowell went one step further than his Italian counterpart. Lowell concluded that if there were “canals” on Mars, they must have been constructed, which in turn meant there must be intelligent beings on the planet who built them.

In the 1890s, Lowell funded the building of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, as a base for his intensive observations of Mars. He would remain convinced of the existence of artificially constructed canals on Mars for the rest of his life, even speaking about it a month before his death in 1916.

  • Read a Los Angeles Times account of one of Lowell’s last lectures about Mars here.

Did Everyone Buy This Theory?

While Lowell was far from the only astronomer to devote his time to the canals of Mars, not all astronomers agreed with his conclusions. A look through newspapers of the era shows a wide range of other theories.

Of the astronomers and scientists who believed there were canals on Mars, some were like Lowell and concluded the canals were made by intelligent beings. Others believed the so-called canals were actually fissures in the surface, perhaps caused by earthquakes or by collisions with Mars’ natural satellites.

Schiaparelli and Lowell (The Hartford Daily Courant, 08.24.1924)

Schiaparelli and Lowell (The Hartford Daily Courant, 08.24.1924)

Then there were those who didn’t believe there were canals at all. Some of these astronomers theorized that the lines were vegetation growing on the planet. Still others believed that the lines were merely an optical illusion. (This is optical illusion explanation is how the Mars canal phenomenon is most commonly explained today.)

  • Read a 1902 article from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle about the Mars canal optical illusion here.

The idea of canals on Mars didn’t fade away with Lowell’s death. Well into the 1930s—and even the 1960s to some extent—there were still people who argued for the existence of the canals. It wasn’t until the Mariner 4 space probe sent back the first photos of Mars’ canal-free surface in 1965 that the canal idea truly began to die. (Subsequent missions to Mars would reveal that there are indeed channels and valleys on Mars, but these would not have been visible to the early astronomers.)

Why Should We Care?

The story of the Mars canals is more than just an interesting bit of historical trivia. Its legacy has had a very real effect in areas like pop culture. Author H.G. Wells, for instance, wrote his incredibly influential Martian-invasion novel The War of the Worlds during the height of the Mars canal craze.

The imaginary Mars canals may have even influenced modern space exploration. After all, the people who ran Mariner 4 and other early missions to Mars grew up in the Mars canal era, with all its debate about Mars’ topography and potential to host life. Is it any surprise that people who came of age in this era sent out the first spacecraft that documented the planet’s surface?

Photos of Mars sent back by Mariner 4 (Casper Star-Tribune, 07.20.1965)

Photos of Mars sent back by Mariner 4 (Casper Star-Tribune, 07.20.1965)

The influence of the Mars canals also stretched beyond the red planet into other parts of the solar system. Remember how Percival Lowell built the Lowell Observatory in his quest to study the “canals” on Mars? In 1930, Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto at that same observatory.

  • Read an Arizona Republic article about the discovery of Pluto at Lowell Observatory here.

The story of the canals on Mars is also particularly relevant now, right as NASA’s InSight lander begins gathering new types of data from the planet. It prompts the question: Will InSight make a discovery about Mars that will turn our current understanding of the planet on its head? And if it does, will we look any different to people in the future than those Mars canal astronomers look to us?

Perhaps this advice by a respected astronomer and Mars-canal critic in 1904 still holds true today:

Quote by E. Walter Maunder (The Pittsburg Press, 07.15.1904)

Quote by E. Walter Maunder (The Pittsburg Press, 07.15.1904)

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Cowabunga! 8 of the Biggest Bovines to Udderly Amoose You

Have you been as fascinated as the rest of the internet with Knickers, the giant steer in Australia? Then do we have a blog post for you! We’ve gathered photos of some of the biggest bovines we could find in the newspapers from the last 100 years. How do these cows, steers, and bulls measure up to Knickers, who stands nearly 6 feet 4 inches and weighs more than 3,000 pounds? Read on to find out! We won’t “steer” you wrong!

If we start from the shortest of the bunch (which is still amazingly tall), first is Big Jim, who was once owned by Will Rogers. In this photo from 1936, the steer was 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 3,100 pounds.

Next is this giant Holstein bull from Kentucky in 1960. The newspaper didn’t report how tall he was, but he weighed in at a whopping 3,126 pounds and was the largest at the Kentucky State Fair!

From 1925, we have a Shorthorn-Hereford from Nebraska. The newspaper was unclear about whether it was a steer or a bull, but either way it stood 5 feet 7 inches high and weighed 3,200 pounds.

From 1930 comes this photo of a cow named Texas Pride. Though nearly 6 feet high at the shoulders, its horns added another foot and a half. The offspring of a Jersey cow and a Brahma bull, Texas Pride weighed in at 1 ton. [Read more about Texas Pride here.]

In 1933, you could’ve earned $500 if you managed to find a cow bigger than Lone Star, from Texas. Another Jersey-Brahma mix, this cow was 6 feet and 1 inch high and weighed 2,800 pounds. The distance from its nose to the tip of its tail was 15 feet! [Read more about Lone Star here.]

Then we have this giant steer from Kentucky, apparently also named Big Jim like the first steer on our list. This Big Jim stood 6 feet 2 inches and weighed 4,026 pounds.

Last up, we have two bovines that tie in height with Knickers. First is this Brahma-Shorthorn steer from 1973 named Satan. Though tying with Knickers in height, this steer outweighed him, weighing in at 2 tons.

The other 6 foot 4 inch bovine we found is Blosom, a cow from Illinois. In 2014, Blosom made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for her height. [Read more about Blosom here.]

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How Did Black Friday Become an American Tradition?

Black Friday shopping is a Thanksgiving tradition for most Americans. In 2017, more than two-thirds of American adults went shopping on Thanksgiving weekend, either in stores or online. But do you know how the tradition of Black Friday began?

Black Friday crowds in Philadelphia in 1968 (Philadelphia Inquirer, 11.0.1968)

Black Friday crowds in Philadelphia in 1968 (Philadelphia Inquirer, 11.0.1968)

The Early Years

In the decades after President Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as an annual holiday in 1863, it developed into the unofficial beginning of the holiday season. Then, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, various department stores began sponsoring parades on Thanksgiving, such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Known as “Santa parades” because they ended with the arrival of Santa Claus, these parades were used by the department stores to launch their Christmas campaigns and increase excitement for holiday shopping. It eventually became an unwritten rule that retailers wouldn’t begin their holiday sales until after Thanksgiving.

First Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1924 (Daily News, 11.28.1924)

First Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1924 (Daily News, 11.28.1924)

Thanksgiving became so intertwined with the holiday shopping season that in 1939, a year when Thanksgiving fell late in the month, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week, lengthening the holiday shopping season but also causing a major public uproar.

  • Go here to learn the full story of what happened when FDR moved Thanksgiving

Black Friday Is Born

Before “Black Friday” came to refer to the busy shopping day after Thanksgiving, it had long been used in other ways—such as to refer to the Panic of 1869 and as a name for Friday the 13th. How it shifted to its current meaning is a bit unclear.

It seems to have begun in the 1950s and ‘60s in Philadelphia, where the police used “Black Friday” to refer to the terrible traffic conditions after Thanksgiving caused by people coming to the city to shop and attend the Army-Navy football game.

  • Go here to see a 1967 Philadelphia newspaper using “Black Friday” to refer to bad traffic

Complicating this explanation, however, is the fact that the Philadelphia Inquirer reporter who helped popularize the term remembers first hearing it in Boston. And to make its origins even muddier, the term was also used in Rochester, New York, around the same time as in Philadelphia.

But despite the ambiguity of the term’s origins, one thing is clear: retailers hated the term “Black Friday.” They felt it had negative connotations, and, in Philadelphia at least, retailers tried to promote the term “Big Friday”—but it never took off.

“Black Friday” Spreads

For a while, “Black Friday” remained a regional term. In 1985, the Philadelphia Inquirer even ran a column discussing how “Black Friday” wasn’t used in other parts of the nation. But by the late 1980s, the term began seeing wider acceptance and was in use around the country in the 1990s.

  • Go here to read an excerpt from the 1985 Philadelphia Inquirer Black Friday column

By the time the term became popular, however, the story around its origins had shifted from the negative connotations of heavy traffic to the more positive explanation—pushed by retailers—that it referred to the day businesses turned a profit and went from being “in the red” to “in the black.”

Learn more about the history of Black Friday by searching Newspapers.com. And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more interesting historical content like this!

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