Solar Eclipse – 100 years ago

Solar eclipses are remarkable natural phenomenons that reliably send humanity’s gaze skyward. The upcoming solar eclipse is particularly exciting, with the phrase “100 years” getting thrown around a lot. It’s not because this is the first solar eclipse to happen in 100 years—far from it. But it is the first solar eclipse in nearly 100 years to cross over the width of the United States, making it possible for millions to witness totality from within the arching pathway. The last time that happened, it was June 1918.

1918 Solar Eclipse

A description of the approaching solar eclipse, 1918

Traveling to the path of totality was just as expected then as it is now—and automobiles have definitely been in use for a while these days.

People will travel to the 1918 eclipse in now-universal automobiles

With any luck, good weather will allow clear observation of this century’s sequel to 1918’s eclipse, with all its similarities and differences.

Diagram of total eclipse

During the Eclipse

Remarkable because of the path

Safe travels to those making their way to the path of totality! Find more on the 1918 eclipse and reactions to it with a search on Newspapers.com.

Telephones and Tubes

Ah, romance. Methods of flirting sure have changed over the years, haven’t they? With the introduction of the internet, dating has become so impersonal, so informal. Just a glance at a face and a flick of the finger. So different from the way it used to be.

But perhaps not so different as it seems.

A mention of the 1920s brings with it visions of sparkling flapper dresses, ornate decor, city living, and some sweet jazzy tunes to dance to. Dating apps were a feature of the distant future, but in 1920s Berlin, the concept of dating from a distance was alive and well in the form of telephones and pneumatic tubes.

The idea behind the system

Two nightclubs in particular provided these handy services: The Resi and the Femina.

Femina and Resi

The Resi

Femina Tubes and Telephones

For the bold, there were the telephones—simply dial up the lady or lad who catches your eye and ask them to dance. For those more timid attendees, there were the tubes. Pencil down a message of admiration or wrap up a little gift, send it rocketing through the conveniently located tube to the table of your choice, and wait to see if they receive it well.

Sounds pretty familiar after all, doesn’t it?

Find more on these nightclubs and dating practices of the past with a search on Newspapers.com.

Remembering Marilyn

On this day in history, the discovery of Marilyn Monroe’s unexpected death spread across headlines.

Sleep Pills

Victim of Movies' Ballyhoo

Untimely Death

Though speculations and theories about her death spread like wildfire, the official cause of death was reported as a self-administered overdose of sedative drugs.

But before this sobering end of life there was a glittering and memorable career that—whether you care for her acting or not—turned Norma Jeane Mortenson (Baker) into a cultural icon whose memory and influence has yet to fade even 55 years later.

Marilyn Monroe

Seven Year Itch Review

Marilyn in The Seven Year Itch

On

Marilyn Monroe

Monroe's influence

Marilyn

Find more on Marilyn with a search on Newspapers.com.

Deaths of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane: August 2, 1876/August 1, 1903

Bonus Army Forced from the Capital: July 28, 1932

August marks of the deaths of two of the Wild West’s most famous figures: Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Hickok was killed August 2, 1876, at the age of 39, and Calamity Jane died of illness on August 1, 1903, at age 51; both died in South Dakota.

Headline announcing Calamity Jane's deathDuring his life, Hickok was a soldier, scout, stagecoach driver, lawman, gunfighter, showman, marksman, gambler, and more. He died after being shot from behind while playing poker in a saloon. Calamity Jane was a frontierswoman known for her men’s attire, hard drinking, and skill at profanity. She claimed to have been in love with Wild Bill Hickok and even to have gone after his killer with a meat cleaver—though there is no evidence to support this; she is, however, buried near him, as she requested.

Both Hickok and Calamity Jane were famous during their lifetimes, with their legends quickly outgrowing the actual facts of their lives. Hickok gained national fame in 1867, when he became the subject of an article in Harper’s Magazine. Calamity Jane similarly became well known around 1877, when she was used as the basis for a fictional character in the “Deadwood Dick” dime novels.

After the two gained fame, they were regularly mentioned in the newspapers of the time. An excerpt of one article about Hickok from 1870 reads:

“Wild Bill is a man of great physical power and an unerring marksman. He never comes out of a fight second-best. He was at one time surprised by ten guerrillas in a cabin, where he fought and killed them all, being himself pretty well cropped to pieces with their knives.”

While Hickok died at the height of his fame, Calamity Jane outlived hers. An article published in 1903, shortly before her death, describes it thus:

“It is not the Calamity Jane of today […] that you want to remember. She of today is old and poverty stricken and wretched. The country has outgrown her and her occupation is gone. […] It is the Calamity Jane of the old days, the Indian fighter, the scout, the mail carrier, the cow puncher, the man among men, who stands heroic.”

In both of the case of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, myth became more important than reality in the public’s perception of them, and they both still remain larger than life today.

If you’re interested in Wild Bill Hickok or Calamity Jane, look for more articles about them on Newspapers.com, especially in our South Dakota papers. Through cooperative projects with the Black Hills Pioneer and the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission, Newspapers.com has a large collection of papers from South Dakota, where both Wild Bill and Calamity Jane spent significant time.

Who Was “Smart Alec”?

Turns out, the term “Smart Alec” almost certainly exists because of a real life man named Alec Hoag. He was a crafty criminal who was a little too clever for his own good.

Hoag and

His usual method of thievery is described in the clipping above, but the “smart” part of Alec’s con was that he got the police in on it too, bribing them with shares of the stolen goods if they looked the other way. Of course, working out a way to cut the police out of their shares was probably not so smart, but that’s exactly what Alec did. The police eventually figured it out, and thus came the downfall of the original Smart Alec.

Find more like this with a search on Newspapers.com.

The Patriotic Deaths of Adams and Jefferson

On July 4, 1776, the founding fathers scratched their names onto parchment (and into history) as they signed the Declaration of Independence. Fifty years later, on a day of fireworks and celebration of the anniversary of that historic day, both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams took their final breaths.

Jefferson took the lead, reportedly happy to go once he had seen the morning of the 4th.

Thomas Jefferson Death

Thomas Jefferson

Adams succumbed about five hours later, unaware that Jefferson had preceded him in death.

Death of Adams

John Adams

Adams and Jefferson were the last living members of the original group of revolutionaries who fought for freedom from the British Empire. As death dates go, this seems a fitting one for two of the men who drafted the declaration which the United States celebrates every year on this day.

The striking coincidences of life

Find more on the lives and deaths of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams with a search on Newspapers.com, or seek out clippings on a topic of your choice with a search of interest to you.

The Radium Girls

Today we take a look at the frustrating and jaw-dropping history of the “Radium Girls.”

Radium Girl Awaits Death

If you’ve never heard of this particular incident before, the “Radium Girls” were factory workers who had the joy of unknowingly contracting radiation poisoning while doing the seemingly innocuous task of painting watch dials. This work was done in three United States factories—one in New Jersey, one in Illinois, and one in Connecticut—who used radium in their paint to make it self-luminous, and all the while the women were led to believe the paint was harmless.

The Girls' Work

They were paid per dial so time was of the essence, and the quickest way to get those paintbrushes pointed enough to paint such fine lines was by shaping the tip with one’s lips—a method encouraged by the instructors to avoid wasting excess time with other methods such as wet rags or a rinse in water.

Used their lips to point the brushes

Death of a young girl factory worker

It’s not known exactly how many women were affected by the radiation poisoning that soon spread through their systems, but as the death toll began to rise the connection between the radium paints and the deaths became more and more clear. Meanwhile, factories like the U.S. Radium Corporation maintained that the girls had died from unrelated causes. They insisted that the amount of radium used in the paint was so small as to be harmless, which was true—for the finished watches. Not so for the factory girls exposed to the dangerous substance day after day, stroke after stroke.

Many Deaths

In New Jersey, five women who worked at the United States Radium Corporation sued the company for the health problems—and, quite bluntly, the certain death—that they would suffer because of the factory’s negligence. These five were called the “Radium Girls” in the news stories that sprung up over the next several decades.

Radium Girl fourth to die of poisoning

Five Women sued, known as the

They eventually won, though the money was often used to pay for their funerals. The last of the five women died two years after their case was settled.

Some good did manage to come from the horrific and avoidable fates of these women. Laws regarding compensation for disease or injury from occupational hazards were improved, and the window of time in which an employee could collect such compensation was extended. The nation’s understanding of the dangers of radium increased exponentially, and within a decade new precautions had been put in place to avoid a slow-building disaster like this one from ever happening again—at least, not from radium.

Find more on this oft-untold piece of history with a search on Newspapers.com.

Berlin Airlift

On this day in 1948, the first U.S. and British pilots fly to Berlin bearing food, medicine, water, clothing and fuel in response to the Soviet Union blockade of the western section of the city.

Berlin Airlift

Eight-minute intervals

Blockade Motivations

U.S. Air Force C-47 cargo planes

Known as the Berlin Airlift, the operation brought around 2500 tons of supplies daily and continued to do so for four months after the blockade was lifted in May 1949.

Find more on this event in history with a search on Newspapers.com.