April 29, 1903: The Frank Slide

In the pre-dawn hours of April 29, 1903, a huge landslide broke loose from Turtle Mountain in Alberta, Canada. Residents in the town of Frank heard rumbling and wondered if there had been an explosion in a nearby coal mine. Within minutes, approximately 90 million tons of limestone crashed down, entombing more than 90 of the town’s residents under 150 feet of boulders.

Calgary Herald – April 6, 1906

Turtle Mountain is located in a picturesque section of Crowsnest Pass in southwest Alberta. In the 1880s, settlers discovered a seam of coal in the area. In 1901, American entrepreneurs Henry Frank and Sam Gebo opened a coal mine, and shortly after the town of Frank became the first incorporated village in the Pass. By 1903, 1000 people lived in Frank and a dozen nearby coal mines were operating.

Coal miners honeycombed tunnels through Turtle Mountain without realizing that they were further weakening the already unstable geological structure of the mountain. Layers of sedimentary rock had been tilted to almost vertical over time and erosion in the lower part of the mountain created a dangerous overhang of rock on top. For millennia, water seeped into cracks in the rock. Repeated freeze-thaw cycles caused the cracks to widen, creating more instability.

When the residents of Frank went to bed the night of April 28, 1903, they had no idea of the power of nature about to be unleashed in their town. At 4:10 a.m. on the morning of April 29th, a loud rumbling awakened them. The sound was reportedly heard by residents living nearly 100 miles away. An avalanche of rock broke free from the mountain and careened down, traveling over 180 miles per hour. It reached the valley floor in just 100 seconds

The Province, Vancouver, British Columbia – December 14, 1946

George Hie was a miner in Frank and recalled hearing a cracking noise coming from the mine about two weeks before the slide. “The pressure was so great at this place that a six-inch timber was broken,” he said. The morning the Frank Slide broke loose, Hie was sleeping in his bunk. “I was thrown violently out by pressure. I ran outside and was startled to see a gigantic mountain passing down only twenty-five feet away from me.” After the dust settled, Hie saw the corner of a house protruding from the rocks. He heard a cry for help and frantically helped dig out a trapped woman. Her two children died. Later, Hie found the bodies of two boys about 200 feet from their cabin. “They were clad in pajamas. Their bodies never had a mark on them.” Hie wondered if they had time to run or if the force of the blast carried them there. 

The Vancouver Sun – August 12, 1944

Three young girls were among the survivors, dug out alive hours after the slide. Sadly, their parents and brothers perished in the disaster. The three sisters were adopted by separate families and reunited for the first time in 41 years in 1944. The bodies of most of those killed remain buried under tons of rock in Frank, and the scar from the rockslide serves as a visible reminder of the tragedy that occurred 117 years ago this month.

If you would like to learn more about the Frank Slide, search Newspapers.com today!

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New Paper from Illinois!

We are pleased to announce that we’ve added the Breese Journal to our archives! Breese, Illinois, is located in Clinton County in South Central Illinois. We have issues dating back to 1923 when Breese had a population of around 2,000. The headlines back then announced the installation of the town’s first stop signs and plans to build a sewer system (although according to this clipping outhouses were still around for another 35 years!)

Breese Families Without Food During the Depression

The city of Breese was founded in 1855 and settled in part by German immigrants who were drawn to the area’s fertile farmland. It was named after Sidney Breese, a senator and contemporary to Abraham Lincoln. The city is located about 40 miles from downtown St. Louis, so if you have ancestors from Eastern Missouri you might find them mentioned in this paper.

During the Depression, Breese established a Mayor’s Relief Committee to provide food and clothing for the town’s unemployed. Several years later, in 1940, as the world became embroiled in war, Clinton County resident William August Klasing enlisted in the US Navy. He was serving on the USS Oklahoma when Pearl Harbor was bombed, becoming Clinton County’s first casualty of war. Using DNA, last year his remains were identified and returned home after 78 years.  

The Breese Journal is a wonderful resource for researching ancestors that lived in the area. This clipping shows all the births and deaths in Breese during 1930! The paper reported when residents spent time in the hospital or made a visit to grandma, and notable events like when the Westermann family purchased a new Studebaker. Each page provides a historical snapshot of the time.

Many of the area’s residents worked in the railroad and mining industry. You can learn about Breese’s first coal mine that opened in the 1800s, and mining tragedies such as the East Mine accident in 1906.

The Breese Journal includes news from nearby communities including Staunton, Trenton, Aviston, Germantown, Beckemeyer, Carlyle, and others.

Start searching the pages of the Breese Journal today on Newspapers.com!

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10 Words to Master When Researching Women in Newspapers

Researching your female ancestors is often tricky, but historical newspapers can help you break through those frustrating brick walls. So we’re launching a 3-part series on how to do newspaper research into the women in your family tree.

Last week, we shared our top search tips for finding your female ancestor in the papers on Newspapers.com. In this final post, we’ll be focusing on some vocabulary that you’re likely to come across while researching your female relatives.

Fri, Dec 8, 1911 – 1 · The McLouth Times (McLouth, Kansas) · Newspapers.com


Have you ever been reading about a female ancestor in the newspaper and seen them called a “relict”? Learning words like this can help us wring every last bit of information from a newspaper piece we find about our relative.

Brush up on 10 genealogy vocab words you might encounter while researching your female ancestors!

  1. Consort: Spouse.
  2. Dower: A widow’s legal share of her deceased husband’s estate.
  3. Executrix: A woman appointed by the deceased to carry out the terms, directions, and requests in a will. The feminine version of “executor.”
  4. Goodwife. A title (similar to Mrs.) used before the surname of a married woman. Or, the female head of a household.
  5. Granddame/grande dame: Grandmother. Or, an influential or prestigious woman, often elderly.
  6. Matron: A married woman, often of a mature age.
  7. Nee/née: “Born.” Used to indicate a woman’s maiden name.
  8. Relict: Widow.
  9. Spinster: An unmarried woman, often older than what is considered the usual marriage age.
  10. Testatrix: A woman who has written a will. The feminine version of “testator.”

Got any more genealogy vocab words you think might be helpful? Share them with us in the comments!

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What Can You Learn from Each U.S. Census?

Have you received your invitation to complete the 2020 Census yet? In 1790, about one year after George Washington was inaugurated, the United States conducted its first census. Since that time, the government has conducted a census every ten years. These decennial census records provide a historical snapshot of families and are key records for genealogical research. Check out some of the headlines surrounding the census over the years and find out what made each census unique!

News From the First Census – 1790

1790: Enumerators gathered the name of head of household; number of free white males 16 years and older; number of free white males under 16; number of free white females; number of all other free persons; number of slaves; and sometimes town or district of residence. 

1800: Name of head of household; number of free white males and females broken down into age categories; number of free white persons except Indians not taxed (Native Americans are referred to as Indians throughout these early records); number of slaves; town or district and county of residence.

1810: Name of head of household; number of free white males and females broken down into age categories; number of free white persons except Indians not taxed; number of slaves; town or district and county of residence.

1820: Name of head of household; number of free white males and females broken down into age categories; number of free persons except Indians not taxed; number of slaves; and town or district and county of residence; number of free white males to be naturalized; number engaged in agriculture, commercial, or manufacture; number of “colored” persons; and number of other persons except Indians.

1830: Name of head of household; number of free white males and females broken down into age categories; the name of a slave owner and the number of slaves owned by that person; the number of male and female slaves and free “colored” persons by age categories; the number of foreigners not naturalized; the number of deaf, dumb, and blind persons; town or district, and county of residence.

Census Marshall Says Those Who Take The Newspaper Make His Job Easier – 1830

1840: Name of head of household; number of free white males and females broken down into age categories; the name of a slave owner and the number of slaves owned by that person; the number of male and female slaves and free “colored” persons by age categories; the number of foreigners (not naturalized); the number of deaf, dumb, and blind persons within a household; town or district, and county of residence. For the first time, the 1840 census asked the ages of Revolutionary War pensioners and the number of individuals engaged in mining, agriculture, commerce, manufacturing, trade, and the navigation of oceans, lakes, and canals. Questions relating to education and learned professionals were also included.

1850: For the first time in 1850, enumerators recorded the name of every person in the household. Also included were: age; sex; color; birthplace; occupation of males over 15; value of real estate; whether married within the previous year; whether deaf-mute, blind, insane or “idiotic”; whether able to read or write for individuals over age 20; and whether the person attended school within the previous year. In addition, the 1850 and 1860 Federal Censuses included Slave Schedules that recorded age, sex, and color, and whether the slave was a fugitive, freed, deaf and dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic. However, the name of the slave was often omitted.

1860: Names of every person in the household; age; sex; color; birthplace; occupation of persons over age 15; value of real estate; whether married in previous year; deaf, dumb, blind, insane, a pauper, or a convict; whether able to read or speak English; whether the person attended school within the previous year. As noted above, 1860 also included Slave Schedules.

1870: Names of every person in the household; age; sex; color; profession; occupation or trade of every male and female; value of real estate; place of birth; whether mother or father were of foreign birth; whether born or married within the year and month; those who could not read or write; whether deaf, dumb, blind, insane or “idiotic”.

Residents Prepare for Census – 1870

1880: Name; address including name of street and house number; relation of each person to head of household; sex; race; age; marital status; ability to read and write; birthplace; birthplace of parents; occupation; whether blind, deaf, dumb, crippled, maimed, idiotic, insane, bedridden, or disabled.

1890: Most of the 1890 census records were destroyed in a fire. You can read about it here. There are very few surviving fragments. If you’re lucky enough to find your family, you’ll see that each family has an individual page. Enumerators gathered information including name; surname; relationship; race; gender; age; birthplace; birthplace of father and mother; and a Veterans Schedule that included information about military service.

1900: Name; address; relationship to head of household; color or race; sex; month and year of birth; age at last birthday; marital status; number of years married; total number of children born of mother; the number of those children living; places of birth of each person and parents of each person; if individual is of foreign birth, the year of immigration and the number of years in United States; citizenship status of foreign-born individuals over age 21; occupation; whether person could read, write, and speak English; whether home was owned or rented; whether the home was on a farm; whether the home was mortgaged.

Definition of a “Census Family” 1910

1910: Name; name of street; house number or farm; number of dwelling in order of visitation; number of family in order of visitation; relationship to head of household; sex; color or race; age; marital status; number of years married; for mothers, number of children born and living; place of birth, place of birth of father and mother; year of immigration; whether naturalized; whether able to speak English, or if not, language spoken; trade or profession, industry, employer, employee, or working on own account, whether person was out of work during 1909; whether able to read or write; farm or house, whether survivor of Union or Confederate Army or Navy; whether blind, deaf, or dumb. There were also separate Indian population schedules for 1910 in which the tribe and/or band was recorded.

1920: Name; name of street; house number or farm; number of dwelling in order of visitation; number of family in order of visitation; relationship to head of household; whether home owned or rented and mortgaged; sex, color or race; age; marital status; year of immigration; whether naturalized or alien; near of naturalization; whether attended school; whether able to read/write; place of birth; mother tongue; father’s and mother’s place of birth; whether able to speak English; trade or profession; industry or business; employer, salary or wage worker; number of farm schedule.

1930: Name; address; home owned or rented and value; whether home has a radio; sex; race; marital status; college attendance; ability to read and write; birthplace, birthplace of parents; language spoken before coming to the US; year of immigration; naturalized or alien; ability to speak English; occupation; military information.

It’s Census Time Again – Los Angeles Times 1940

1940: Name; address; home value and rented or owned; relationship to head of household; sex; race; age; marital status; education; place of birth; citizenship; residence in 1935; employment status; occupation; income in 1939; birthplace of father and mother; native language; veteran status; social security details; occupation; industry; class of worker; marriage information; number of children.

Genealogists are eagerly awaiting the release of the 1950 census which is scheduled for April 2022. To learn more about each decennial census and to see how newspapers reported on the census over the years, search Newspapers.com today or visit our Topics Page!

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Top 5 Tips for Finding Your Female Ancestor in the Newspaper

Researching your female ancestors is often tricky, but historical newspapers can help you break through those frustrating brick walls. So we’re launching a 3-part series on how to do newspaper research into the women in your family tree.

Last week, we suggested 10 newspaper sections for finding information about the women in your family tree. In this second post, we’ll be sharing our top search tips for finding your female ancestor in the papers on Newspapers.com.

Sun, Jul 4, 1915 – Page 11 · The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) · Newspapers.com


Anyone who’s tried to research a female ancestor in the newspaper learns quickly that it’s often much more difficult than simply looking for the woman’s legal name. We wish it were that easy! But the way women were written about in old newspapers can prove a challenge to those of us doing family history today. Even though Newpspapers.com has amazing search and filtering capabilities, you have to search for the right keywords to turn up matches for the woman you’re looking for.

But don’t despair! We’ve got 5 top tips to increase your chances of finding your female ancestor on Newspapers.com!

1. Search for every variation of her name.

And we mean every variation. The name recorded on a census or other government record may or may not be the name used in the newspaper. And even if it was, the newspaper may have misspelled it!

Start off by searching for the woman’s legal name, but also try alternative spellings, nicknames, name abbreviations, initials, common misspellings, married name, maiden name, middle name . . . all of them. If she has a relatively uncommon last name, try searching by surname alone. And if she had a step-father, try searching with his last name as well, even if she didn’t legally adopt it.

Once you’ve found a name that returns the search results you want, it’s tempting to stop there. But don’t forget to go back and search the other variations! Your female ancestor may have been referred to in more than one way in the paper.

And be sure to keep a running list of what names you’ve searched for so you don’t repeat or forget searches!

Mary Avaline Conner appears in a newspaper as “Avie Conner”Mary Avaline Conner appears in a newspaper as “Avie Conner” Thu, Aug 2, 1888 – Page 3 · Medicine Lodge Cresset (Medicine Lodge, Kansas) · Newspapers.com


2. Search by her husband’s or male relatives’ names.

Because of societal expectations and traditions, married women were often written about in historical newspapers using their husband’s name (e.g., Mrs. John B. Smith) or husband’s initials (Mrs. J. B. Smith). So if the female ancestor you’re looking for was married, try searching for her husband’s name. And if she was married more than once, search for the names of all her husbands.

You should also search using the name of her father, brothers, or other close male relatives. You might find her referenced in newspaper pieces as so-and-so’s daughter, sister, or mother. Plus, looking for her father gives you the added benefit of perhaps being able to learn about your female ancestor’s childhood. Was her father in a major accident when she was a child? That would’ve shaped the life of her and her family.

Obituary in which the woman is referred to by her husband’s nameObituary in which the woman is referred to by her husband’s name Mon, May 21, 1906 – Page 9 · The Scranton Truth (Scranton, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com


3. Research your non-direct ancestors.

When doing family history research, it can be easy to get caught up in only researching our direct ancestors. But when researching women in the newspaper, it can pay off to research people even in our non-direct (collateral) lines.

If you’re researching your great-grandmother, for example, don’t only look for her name in the paper; look for her siblings as well. Because even though her siblings aren’t your own direct ancestors, they were all closely related to your great-grandma, and information about her can turn up in articles about any of them.

4. Search by Address

At various points in the past, some newspapers included the address or street name of the person they were writing about. So if you know the address where your female ancestor was living, try a search using the address or street name, rather than a person’s name.  

Even if you don’t find your own ancestor mentioned, you might find something about a neighbor that helps you learn about your own family. For example, a newspaper piece about a next-door neighbor’s party may reveal that their neighbor (your ancestor!) couldn’t make it because they were in the hospital.

Plus, it never hurts to gain a better understanding of what the neighborhood where your ancestor was living was like. You may even discover information about the family that lived in the house before or after your ancestor that sheds some light on your own relatives.

Example of newspaper photo with address in the captionExample of newspaper photo with address in the caption Sat, Mar 10, 1928 – Page 6 · The Pittsburgh Courier (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com


5. Save your searches

Once you’ve found a search on Newspapers.com that returns results about your female ancestor, hit the “Save/Notify” button. Not only will this save the search so you can come back to it later, but it will also automatically notify you whenever Newspapers.com adds newspaper content that has matches for your search.

READ MORE: Learn how to save your search

Even if you can’t find a search that returns matches for the person you’re looking for, you’ll still want to save the search. This way, you’ll be notified if content is ever added to our site that does have a match.

If you prefer to check back on a search yourself, rather than being automatically notified, be sure to sort your search results by “Date Added.” By doing this, you’ll see new matches first, rather than older ones you may have already looked at.


We hope these tips give you some new ways to find information about your relatives! Come back next week to learn some common terms you might come across when doing newspaper research into your female ancestors.

Got any search tips of your own? Share them with us in the comments!

Get started searching for your ancestors on Newspapers.com! And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more historical content like this!

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10 Best Newspaper Sections for Researching Your Female Ancestors

Researching your female ancestors is often tricky, but historical newspapers can help you break through those frustrating brick walls. So we’re launching a 3-part series on how to do newspaper research into the women in your family tree. This is the first post in the series.

Sun, Feb 7, 1909 – Page 39 · Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com


You can find women mentioned in just about any section of historical newspapers—from big front-page headlines to small back-page classifieds. But the way women have historically been perceived and written about means there are some newspaper sections that are particularly valuable for research into our female ancestors.

Here are 10 of our favorite newspaper sections for uncovering information about the lives of women:

1. Birth Announcements. Finding the newspaper birth announcement for your female ancestor can reveal information like her birthdate, birth location, maiden name, and parents’ (and even grandparents’) names. Depending on the time period, you might even find her baby photo!

But don’t stop at just the woman’s birth announcement—look for the birth announcements for all her children and even grandchildren. Each announcement may reveal something new, such as where the family was living during that particular year.

2. Engagement & Wedding Announcements. If your female ancestor was married, a newspaper announcement for her engagement or wedding can help you discover quite a bit about her. Things you might learn include the wedding date and place, bride’s and groom’s names, parents’ names, family religion, members of the wedding party, wedding guests, name of the minister, where the couple planned to live, description of bride’s dress, and details of the ceremony/reception/shower. There could even be a photo of her in her wedding dress! If the family was relatively prominent in the community, the engagement or wedding announcement can be quite long and disclose a lot of information about the woman’s life.

As with birth announcements, you should also look for the engagement and wedding announcements for a woman’s children, as these might share information about her as the mother of the bride or groom.

Sat, Jul 14, 1934 – Page 8 · The Pittsburgh Courier (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com


3. Divorce Proceedings. As much as we hope our ancestors had happy marriages, this was not always the case. Newspaper accounts of divorces can help you learn her husband’s name, when they were married, when they were divorced, were they were living, and sometimes the details of what the marriage was like. Some high-profile divorces even got full-length articles written about the proceedings.

4. Obituaries. Finding an obituary for any ancestor is like hitting the jackpot, but they’re especially priceless for the women in your family tree. While the length of obituaries varies widely, you can often learn things like death date and place, birth date and place, occupation/interests, past places of residence, notable accomplishments, names and place of residence of close family, mortuary/cemetery used, burial date, and cause of death. If you’re lucky, a photo of the woman is sometimes included!

Don’t forget to search for the obituaries of anyone closely related to your female ancestor—such as parents, husbands, siblings, and children. Any of these obituaries might reveal information about the woman you are researching.

READ MORE: Learn more about newspaper obituaries

5. Anniversary Party & Family Reunion Recaps. If you’re trying to figure out how and if your female ancestor is related to another family, newspaper write-ups about wedding anniversary parties and family reunions can be a major help. These types of newspaper content often included lists of family and friends who attended the event, which can help you straighten out your family tree—and maybe even help you find a few new names as well.

You may also learn information like her husband’s name, the date and location of the marriage, how many children and grandchildren she had, and where she was living.

Family reunion photo with info about those picturedFamily reunion photo with info about those pictured Thu, Sep 13, 1917 – Page 5 · Lansing State Journal (Lansing, Michigan) · Newspapers.com


6. Local News-In-Brief Columns. A staple of small- and mid-sized towns starting around the 1880s, these local columns captured the doings of local residents—including illnesses, injuries, vacations, guests, anniversaries, birthdays, business ventures, and surprising events. If you’re lucky enough to find a female relative mentioned in one of these columns, you might discover where she went to visit a relative, who she spent holidays with, when she was admitted to the hospital, and more.

And we can’t stress it enough—be sure to look for her relatives and spouse too. A piece about the woman’s brother might not mention her by name, but it might say he’s visiting his sister in a such-and-such a town, which then lets you know where she was living!

READ MORE: Learn about the history of News-In-Brief Columns

7. Club, Organization & Church News. Did your female ancestor belong to a club, organization, or church? Many women did, and the newspaper is a great place to learn about the activities your relative was involved in.

Even if you only find your ancestor mentioned on a membership roster or in a list of event attendees, you can search the newspaper for more news of that club or organization to learn the types of activities your relative may have participated in. And if there’s a group photo included of an event or meeting, don’t forget to check it for your ancestor’s face, even if they aren’t mentioned in the caption.

Women's fencing class photo with list of membersWomen’s fencing class photo with list of members Wed, Jul 2, 1902 – Page 1 · The Evening Review (East Liverpool, Ohio) · Newspapers.com


8. Recipe & Household Hint Sections. If the female relative you’re researching was a good cook or housekeeper extraordinaire, you just might find a recipe or housekeeping tip that she submitted to her local newspaper. How amazing would it be to find a recipe from your ancestor in the newspaper that you then can try making?

9. Classifieds. Was your female relative selling something? Trying to buy something? Looking for work? Hiring household help? Renting a room? Looking for a lost item? Trying to gain new customers for a business? Find out in the classified section!

10. Police Blotters & Criminal Trial Accounts. We may be dismayed to discover that a woman in our family tree committed a crime or was arrested, but these unfortunate situations can actually provide us with all kinds of information about the woman. Newspaper criminal accounts can reveal where the woman was living, her age, family members’ names, and more. The article can also give us some insight into the kind of life she was living at the time.

Sat, Apr 24, 1886 – Page 6 · The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) · Newspapers.com


We hope these suggestions gave you some new ideas of newspaper sections you can mine for information about your female relatives! Come back next week to learn our top search tips for finding your female ancestors in the newspaper.

Got any tips of your own? Share them with us in the comments!

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March 14, 1942: First American Treated with Penicillin

In March 1942, 33-year-old Anne Miller lay near death in a Connecticut hospital, her body ravaged with a burning fever for weeks. She had developed septicemia, or blood poisoning, following a miscarriage. Doctors tried every known treatment, and in a last-ditch effort to save her life, decided to gamble on a new experimental drug called penicillin. The government released nearly half of its entire supply – roughly a tablespoon. Within a day, Anne’s temperature returned to normal and she was on the road to recovery. Anne became the first American treated with penicillin. This newly developed miracle drug would ultimately save the lives of millions, including countless soldiers during WWII.

In 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming was experimenting with the flu virus in a London hospital laboratory when he discovered the antibiotic properties of penicillin by accident. A staphylococcus culture plate inadvertently became contaminated with mold, and Fleming noticed the mold prevented the growth of staphylococci.

Fleming published his findings and Oxford researchers Howard Flory and Ernest Chain continued the research. After intense German bombings in London in 1940 made research difficult, Flory and biochemist Norman Heatley collaborated with the US government and the Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research and began work in a research lab in Peoria, Illinois. The first human trials involving penicillin started in London in 1941, but the US government didn’t approve a trial until Anne Miller’s doctor successfully lobbied for the drug in 1942. It was a huge success. After it became clear that penicillin could dramatically reduce infection, the US government ramped up production rapidly.

The use of penicillin to treat soldier’s wounds and amputations revolutionized combat medicine during WWII. Doctors reported that wounded soldiers who were weak and delirious began to improve almost immediately after being injected with penicillin. One soldier being treated at Bushnell’s Veteran Hospital in Utah lay sick in a hospital bed for 14 months. His festering wounds contained bits of uniform, missile fragments, and shattered bone. Doctors did not dare operate on the gangrenous wound. Once the soldier began receiving penicillin injections, he began to improve almost immediately. This soldier who suffered terribly for 14 months recovered in just 27 days.

Anne Miller may have been the first patient treated with penicillin in the US, but to date, penicillin is credited with saving the lives of millions and ushering in the age of antibiotics. These advances had a huge impact on medical care for wounded WWII soldiers, turning penicillin into the war’s miracle drug. Anne Miller went on to live another 57 years after that first dose of penicillin. She died in 1999 at the age of 90. To read more about the development of penicillin and its use during WWII, search Newspapers.com today!

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The Leap Year Privilege

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.

Up To The GirlsUp To The Girls Sat, Jan 2, 1904 – 2 · The Topeka Daily Herald (Topeka, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

St. Bridget’s Request

Legend says that St. Bridget, back in the 5th century, had some thoughts on proposals that led to the tradition as we know it today. The clipping below shares one version of what happened.

One version of the St. Patrick and St. Bridget origin of Leap Year proposalsOne version of the St. Patrick and St. Bridget origin of Leap Year proposals Mon, Feb 27, 1928 – 4 · Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Florida) · Newspapers.com

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.

Queen Margaret

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.

Queen Margaret's 1288 law, according to legendQueen Margaret’s 1288 law, according to legend Sat, Dec 30, 1967 – 15 · Edmonton Journal (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) · Newspapers.com

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.

Absence of a red petticoat cleared a man of paying a leap day proposal fineAbsence of a red petticoat cleared a man of paying a leap day proposal fine Thu, Jan 14, 1960 – 1 · The Brockway Record (Brockway, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

Leap Year Critics

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.

Some find Leap Years Some find Leap Years “Make a Girl Bolder Than Is Becoming” Mon, Mar 21, 1904 – 5 · Buffalo Courier (Buffalo, New York) · Newspapers.com

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?

Find more clippings about Leap Year and the “Ladies’ Privilege” with a search on Newspapers.com. And follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for more historical content!

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Solving a WWII Mystery Using Newspapers.com and Fold3

When Erik and Sonni Bornmeier purchased Sonni’s great-grandmother’s home several years ago, they had no idea that the military footlocker stored in the basement would take them on an incredible journey of discovery to find the remains of a WWII pilot shot down in France. The Bornmeiers’ used military records from Fold3, newspaper articles from Newspapers.com, numerous other sources, and some ingenious detective work to piece together the story of Sonni’s great uncle, 2nd Lt. George F. Wilson. He died in France in 1944 and to this day his remains have not been identified. Erik and Sonni are determined to bring him home. We share their journey in hopes that the tips and strategies they’ve learned along the way can help someone else in their research. 

2nd Lt. George F. Wilson

The journey to learn more about Uncle George began on Memorial Day in 2018 when the Bornmeiers’ watched Band of Brothers. Touched by the heroics of so many young soldiers, Erik and Sonni went to the basement and dusted off George’s footlocker. Inside they found a stack of letters from George to his mother. By the time they finished the last letter, they had come to know George and wanted to know what happened to him. 

The first answers came when Erik found a Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) on Fold3. The MACR revealed that George served in the 8th Air Force, 398th Bomb Group, 601st Squadron. On July 8, 1944, George was piloting a B-17 when enemy flak hit the plane severely wounding George. The plane was losing altitude and George ordered his crew of eight to bail out.

Seven crew members were captured and taken POW, and one escaped with the help of the French Resistance. All eight returned home after the war and all reported that George was gravely injured, never bailed out, and went down with the plane.

2nd Lt. George F. Wilson and Crew

Using the witness statements from the MACR, Erik learned that the German Army created a similar report to track all planes shot down. Those reports, called Kampf Flugzeuge (KU) reports, were captured by the US military after the war. Erik also learned French priests kept detailed reports of what they witnessed during the war. Using the information in the MACR, the KU report, and a French repository, Erik triangulated potential crash sites.

One witness in the MACR described that George avoided a small town and a castle before crashing into a field. The next step for Erik was to head to France and try to find the crash site.

Page From MACR Identifying Crew Members

Erik’s quest led him to the small town of Monchy-Cayeux. The town matched the criteria in the witness statement (town, castle and nearby fields). Erik met a local journalist and with his help, they started questioning the town’s older residents. They found three eyewitnesses who were young children during the war but remembered seeing a plane crash. One said, “I remember it as if it were yesterday.” They guided Erik to a field and before long Erik started to find pieces of debris. Word traveled and the town united to help Erik. A young man showed up with a metal detector. Before long, they found parts of a fuselage, gauges, bullets, and plexiglass from a windshield. They found a crash site!

Erik’s time in France was short, but he has since returned several more times. Each time he pieces together more of the story. The residents of Monchy-Cayeux have rallied behind Erik and are anxious to help him find answers. Two brothers who still live close to the crash site gave a detailed account of locals gathering up weapons from the plane and throwing them in the river. A local diver explored the river but failed to find anything. Another report said George’s body was moved to a nearby family graveyard. A third witness remembered a priest coming to bless a grave on the edge of the field. The search to find George’s remains continues.

Debris From Crash Site

In the meantime, back home in the US, Erik and Sonni started searching Newspapers.com to find information on George’s crew. They found clippings for many of the crew members, and before long, they learned that two of George’s crew members were still alive! Erik hopped on a plane and had a wonderful meeting with them. They provided Erik with personal accounts of that day and filled in many of the gaps.

Erick and Sonni Bornmeier

The Bornmeiers’ are working with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), the government agency charged with bringing home the remains of Americans unaccounted for. They continue to research and are anxious to return to France. Residents of Monchy-Cayeux have taken ownership of this project and have begun holding town meetings to research the town’s history and the role it played in WWII. George is one of more than 72,000 Americans that remain unaccounted for from WWII. Each day, efforts are being made to bring those soldiers home. To learn the story of your WWII soldier, start your search today using Fold3 and Newspapers.com!

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How Victorian “Bachelor Girls” Revolutionized America’s View of Single Women

Members of a 1900 Kansas Bachelor Girls ClubMembers of a 1900 Kansas Bachelor Girls Club Tue, Aug 7, 1900 – 8 · The Sterling Kansas Bulletin (Sterling, Kansas) · Newspapers.com


If you were a single woman living 100 years ago, would you rather have been called an “old maid” or a “bachelor girl”?

Growing Opportunities for Women

In the late 19th century, a cultural shift was taking place among young American women. Empowered by growing educational and career opportunities, women increasingly saw marriage as one option rather than the only option for their futures.

They more and more often attended college instead of marrying immediately, creating a growing force of university-educated women seeking careers—not just “jobs”—in fields that had previously been unavailable to them. Though their opportunities were still far more limited than men’s, women began to work as stenographers, typists, secretaries, department store workers, academics, doctors, nurses, writers, artists, journalists, and more.

Professions of New York bachelor girls, 1894Professions of New York bachelor girls, 1894 Sun, Jan 7, 1894 – 13 · The Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Alabama) · Newspapers.com


And not only did these single women go to universities and support themselves financially, they also often lived in towns and cities away from the family home. Depending on their circumstances, some lived in homes of their own, while others lived with roommates or in boarding houses specifically for women.

No More “Old Maids”

This shift started to change the way people thought about single women. For most of American history, single women had been seen as “old maids” or “spinsters,” pitiable women who lived off the kindness and condescension of their family members.

But the changing prospects for women in the late 19th century created the more modern “bachelor girl”—independent, educated, cultured, and fashionable. As it slowly became less shameful for a woman to be single past a “marriable age,” some women even publicly celebrated their single status by joining “bachelor girls clubs.”

No more old maids, 1890No more old maids, 1890 Sun, Oct 12, 1890 – 10 · The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) · Newspapers.com


Even the name “bachelor girl” indicated their growing independence, as did other terms in use like “bachelor woman” and “bachelor maid.” Use of the term “bachelor”—a term typically used for men—reflected the perception that this new generation of single women had some of the freedom previously enjoyed only by their male counterparts.

Not a One-Size-Fits-All

Of course, there was no one-size-fits-all “bachelor girl.” Not every unmarried woman was single because she wanted to be. And while some women declined marriage altogether, others were simply delaying it by a few years. Additionally, some of those the world saw as “bachelor girls” were likely privately in committed relationships—just with other women, rather than men.

Bachelor girl photo, 1902Bachelor girl photo, 1902 Sun, Nov 2, 1902 – 6 · The Buffalo Times (Buffalo, New York) · Newspapers.com


Plus, the “bachelor girl” lifestyle of the time was largely (though not exclusively) a privilege of middle- or upper-class white women. Those of other socio-economic classes and ethnicities did not always have the same opportunities as their wealthier and whiter counterparts.

Society’s View

Still, there was a fascination in American society with the lives of these independent single women. Throughout the late 19th century and early 20th, there were numerous newspaper features and columns about the “bachelor girl.” While some of this newspaper coverage gave a realistic view of the lives of these women, far more painted what was surely an overly glamorous and stereotyped picture of their lifestyle.

1903 feature article about the bachelor girl lifestyle1903 feature article about the bachelor girl lifestyle Sun, Aug 30, 1903 – Page 42 · The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com


But while it may have entertained Americans to read about bachelor girls in the newspaper, many in wider society did not support this new lifestyle for unmarried women. Most people still subscribed to the traditional view that a woman’s place was in the home. They rejected the idea that a woman could find lasting meaning in a career, arguing that her only “real” fulfillment could come from being a wife and mother. Bachelor girls challenged the existing social conventions too much to receive immediate widespread acceptance.

Anti-bachelor girl opinion from 1902Anti-bachelor girl opinion from 1902 Fri, May 2, 1902 – Page 10 · The Commoner (Lincoln, Nebraska) · Newspapers.com


A Modern Perspective

Though the idea of the “bachelor girl” took off around the 1880s, it was most popular in newspapers from about 1900 through the end of World War I. But it remained prevalent in various iterations in the papers until around the 1960s, when progress in the women’s rights movement made it less novel for women to support themselves and live independently.

Today, the idea of the “bachelor girl” may seem antiquated and quaint, given the strides women have made in the century since. But they were quite revolutionary in their time, making it fascinating to look back on newspaper clippings about their efforts to gain more educational, financial, and social independence for women.  

Sun, Jun 28, 1896 – Page 13 · San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California) · Newspapers.com


Discover more clippings about bachelor girls on Newspapers.com. And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more historical content like this!

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