This Week in History – Romanov Execution

Story on the Romanovs, May 1918Story on the Romanovs, May 1918 Thu, May 16, 1918 – 8 · Cherokee Harmonizer (Centre, Alabama) ·

In the early morning hours of July 17, 1918, the exiled Romanov family and loyal servants were murdered by Bolshevik guards under the orders of Vladmir Lenin. The executions were so concealed and misinformation so thoroughly woven around the event that for years no one knew what happened to the czar and his family.

Rumors of the death of the ex-czarRumors of the death of the ex-czar Sun, Dec 22, 1918 – Page 7A · The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (Fort Wayne, Indiana) ·

Suspicious details, but no proofSuspicious details, but no proof Sun, Dec 22, 1918 – Page 7A · The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (Fort Wayne, Indiana) ·

Nearly a decade later Soviet leaders confessed to the murders, though they absolved themselves of direct involvement and responsibility. The truth came out in patchy pieces. It wasn’t just the czar who had met a violent end, but his family as well, a fact which didn’t sit well even with detractors. The following clipping shares a (slightly graphic) account of the family’s last moments.

Graphic description of Romanov murdersGraphic description of Romanov murders Sun, Nov 11, 1928 – 119 · The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) ·

It took decades for the bodies to finally be found. In 1998, 80 years after their deaths, the family was buried together in St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint Petersburg.

Find more on the rough politics leading up to this moment and on the deaths of the Romanovs with a search on And of course there is much to be found about the youngest daughter, Anastasia, and the many impersonations that would follow speculations of her survival.

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This Week in History – Long, Hard War Being Predicted

Found in a July 13, 1942 Connecticut paper, this article warns that 1944 would be the earliest possible end date for the ongoing war.

Long Hard War Being PredictedLong Hard War Being Predicted Mon, Jul 13, 1942 – Page 1 · Naugatuck Daily News (Naugatuck, Connecticut) ·

This was just one of many articles printed in papers throughout WWII that foresaw a slow end to the deadliest conflict in history, a war that had already been going on for years and promised to last for several more. As we know, the estimates were pretty accurate; Japan’s official surrender ended the war at last in August, 1945.

Find more on WWII and important headlines from the time with a search or browse on

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Emma Lazarus and The New Colossus

Most recognize the lines, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” as an excerpt from the plaque affixed to the base of the Statue of Liberty. But do you know the rest of the sonnet, or the name of the woman responsible for its existence?

Emma Lazarus, Poet of LibertyEmma Lazarus, Poet of Liberty Mon, Oct 27, 1986 – 26 · Wausau Daily Herald (Wausau, Wisconsin) ·

Emma Lazarus obituaryEmma Lazarus obituary Thu, Nov 24, 1887 – 4 · The Altoona Tribune (Altoona, Pennsylvania) ·

Lazarus’ poetic talent was recognized and encouraged by friends like Ralph Waldo Emerson, and often inspired by her concern for the plight of Russian Jews seeking refuge from the rampant antisemitism and political turmoil in Russia at the time. She was widely published and well-respected in her day, and in 1883 was asked to join in a fundraising effort to build the base of the yet-to-be-acquired Statue of Liberty. Though she initially declined, her passion for the topic led her to write “The New Colossus.”

Almost didn't write the poemAlmost didn’t write the poem Sun, Oct 26, 1986 – Page 4 · The Anniston Star (Anniston, Alabama) ·

The poem was well-received, but wasn’t yet as tied to the imagery of the statue as it is today. The statue arrived in 1885 and was unveiled, and two years after that Emma Lazarus died, having suffered from cancer for several years. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that her friend brought renewed attention to Lazarus’ poem and suggested a plaque be added to the statue in her memory.

Her friend brought recognition to the sonnetHer friend brought recognition to the sonnet Wed, Nov 5, 1986 – Page 21 · Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico) ·

Lazarus’ now-famous poem is shown in full in the clipping below:

Emma Lazarus' sonnet, Emma Lazarus’ sonnet, “The New Colossus” Thu, Jul 13, 1939 – Page 6 · The Des Moines Register (Des Moines, Iowa) ·

Find more on Lazarus and the history of the statue with a search on

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This Week in History – A Declaration

Happy Independence Day! In the weeks following the official adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, papers across the new nation shared the news.

In Congress, July 4, 1776. A DeclarationIn Congress, July 4, 1776. A Declaration Wed, Jul 10, 1776 – Page 1 · The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) ·

Find more on the declaration, its signers, and other early U.S. history with a search on

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The War Beneath the Trenches

Though it existed before WWI, trench warfare was so commonly used during that conflict that the two are now inexorably linked. Less well-known—in fact, barely known about at all—were the battles that took place even farther into the earth, in the dark, silent tunnels that stretched beneath the trenches.

Perhaps the most notable name to go along with this particular piece of history is that of John Norton-Griffiths, an MP for Wednesbury, Staffordshire, and, significantly, an engineer with a specialty in mining.

Sir John Norton GriffithsSir John Norton Griffiths Fri, Oct 10, 1930 – Page 15 · Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls, South Dakota) ·

It was his idea to form bands of skilled miners to tunnel into enemy territory (or more accurately, beneath it). Mining teams would deflect opposing tunneling teams and place mines under enemy lines themselves. It was slow, tense work. German tunnelers were digging at the same time, and neither side knew if or when they might stumble into the path of the other. Always there was the possibility of running out of oxygen, being buried alive, or being blown up by enemy miners.

Mining warfareMining warfare Sun, Jul 11, 1915 – 28 · The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) ·

The strength of this secretive style of fighting showed itself most in the early hours of June 7, 1917, at Messines Ridge in northern France. British tunnelers had managed to evade German opposition in the world beneath the surface and successfully used the tunnels to detonate mines directly beneath German trenches. The effect was devastating on German troops; 10,000 soldiers were killed and the rest quickly overcome in the attack that followed above ground.

John Norton-Griffiths mining schemeJohn Norton-Griffiths mining scheme Sun, Sep 28, 1930 – 18 · The Observer (London, Greater London, England) ·

Explosion at Messines RidgeExplosion at Messines Ridge Sat, Jun 16, 1917 – Page 1 · Fair Play (Sainte Genevieve, Missouri) ·

Mine explosions at Messines RidgeMine explosions at Messines Ridge Sat, Jun 16, 1917 – Page 1 · Fair Play (Sainte Genevieve, Missouri) ·

The blast was so profoundly loud that it was said to be heard as far as London, 140 miles away.

British premier David Lloyd George hears blast from LondonBritish premier David Lloyd George hears blast from London Sat, Jun 16, 1917 – Page 1 · Fair Play (Sainte Genevieve, Missouri) ·

After Messines the pace of the war outstripped the speed of the miners, and the tactic of tunneling fell out of significant and practical use. The skills of Norton-Griffiths’ tunneling companies were redistributed in other arenas, now mostly above ground. Only after the end of WWI did knowledge of this underground war begin to come to light.

Find more on John Norton-Griffiths, the mining companies of the Royal Engineers, and the Battle of Messines with a search on

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This Week in History – Route 66 Decertified

U.S. Route 66, famously dubbed the “Mother Road” by John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath, was officially decertified on June 27, 1985. In an age of interstates and speed, the long meandering route became obsolete, but its importance in cross-country travel and connection to automobile nostalgia have cemented its status as an American cultural icon.
Happy Trails to Route 66Happy Trails to Route 66 Sat, Jun 29, 1985 – 3 · Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wisconsin) ·

The story of Route 66 begins in 1857, when it was first traversed by a man named Beale and his troupe of camels. It became an official U.S. road in 1926.

Route 66 began in 1857, became an American legendRoute 66 began in 1857, became an American legend Sat, Jul 20, 1985 – Page 21 · Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico) ·

No one could have predicted the staying power of the route’s history and imagery when the road was first mapped. It is admired and beloved in a way that perhaps no other road in the world can claim to the point of becoming a tourist attraction, and by the time decertification came around in the mid 1980s, memorials were in the works to commemorate the old highway’s significance.

Memorials planned for Route 66Memorials planned for Route 66 Sat, Jun 29, 1985 – Page 24 · Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia) ·

Discarded Route 66 signs become collector's itemDiscarded Route 66 signs become collector’s item Thu, Sep 26, 1985 – Page 18 · The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, New Mexico) ·

A road that crosses from Illinois to California can’t help but be dotted with places of interest, as shown in the clipping below—a fun field trip for the Route 66 enthusiast!

“America’s main street” Route 66, and its attractions Sun, Nov 15, 1992 – 15 · The Herald-Palladium (Saint Joseph, Michigan) ·

Find more on the history of Route 66 with a search on

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Bees and Snails

For anyone interested in the workings of insects and gastropods, here’s an interesting nature fact about how bees might deal with an intruding snail.
:O:O Thu, Aug 23, 1906 – Page 3 · The Weekly Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colorado) ·
Neat and horrifying! And according to this article, snails aren’t the only ones to meet a waxy end. Isn’t nature fun?

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Flagpole Sitting

Ah, the 1920s: a time of flappers, bootleggers, insidious jazz music, and of course, that “newest and cleanest of all sports,” Flagpole Sitting.

Flagpole sittingFlagpole sitting Sat, Jun 25, 1927 – Page 5 · Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, The Evening News (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania) ·
When a trend meets a stunt, you get something like flagpole sitting. It began, most likely, as a publicity stunt for a department store or some such place, but it didn’t take long to become a sensation. Those with a competitive streak and enough stamina would set a little platform on top of a literal flagpole (thus the name), and see just how long they could sit up there.   Sun, Aug 7, 1927 – Page 60 · The Indianapolis Star (Indianapolis, Indiana) ·
Records were made and broken and made again, women and men competed against each other, and the most successful “sitters” earned the kind of fame that only comes by sitting on top of a pole for days at a time. Betty Fox was one of those people, whose beauty and endurance in the art/sport of Flagpole Sitting earned her a decent number of headlines in the late 1920s and early 30s.
Champion Flagpole SitterChampion Flagpole Sitter Thu, Oct 2, 1930 – Page 11 · Sioux City Journal (Sioux City, Iowa) ·

Betty FoxBetty Fox Mon, Sep 29, 1930 – Page 1 · Sioux City Journal (Sioux City, Iowa) ·

Betty FoxBetty Fox Mon, Sep 1, 1930 – Page 2 · The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) ·

Flagpole Sitting spectatorsFlagpole Sitting spectators Mon, Sep 1, 1930 – Page 2 · The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) ·

But perhaps the most famous name to be connected with the practice was Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly, the man who started it all. It was he who, for that publicity event or maybe just on a dare, first climbed the pole into national fame. His first sit in 1924 lasted 13 hours and some change, and years later he broke all the existing records with a 49 day sit in 1929.

Shipwreck KellyShipwreck Kelly Mon, May 21, 1928 – Page 1 · The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) ·

Alvin Kelly on the poleAlvin Kelly on the pole Thu, Jun 9, 1927 – 16 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) ·

Alvin Shipwreck KellyAlvin Shipwreck Kelly Mon, Jun 20, 1927 – Page 13 · Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, The Evening News (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania) ·

The Great Depression basically put an end to this particular kind of stunt, though not completely. Some stalwart fans of Flagpole Sitting brought it out of the era of its nascence, breaking records into the 50s and 60s and beyond. But for the most part, like flapper dresses and the Lindy Hop, it has been left behind in earlier decades.

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