“She Used to be a Flirt and was Getting Young Again”

This “aged mother” wanted to be the flirt she once was again, but her daughters found the cost too high. Found in the papers of 1910:

Mother spending too much on bonnets, parasols, and a young new husbandMother spending too much on bonnets, parasols, and a young new husband Wed, May 4, 1910 – Page 11 · Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, Mercer, New Jersey) · Newspapers.com

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From Frog-Snake-Slug to Rock-Paper-Scissors

Some things are so culturally ubiquitous that we rarely think to wonder where they came from. Children’s games fall under this category quite often (Ring Around the Rosy, anyone?). When you and a friend have to choose who gets the last cookie, what’s the go-to game of choice? Very likely, it’s Rock-Paper-Scissors, or, as it used to be known, Jan-ken (or Janken, or Jan Ken Po/Pon).

Japanese game of Japanese game of “ken” (rock, paper, scissors) Thu, Jun 30, 1910 – Page 8 · Altoona Tribune (Altoona, Blair, Pennsylvania, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Rock-paper-scissors (or whichever version of the name you use) went through many historical variations before it became the game it is today. The concept of a game where a hand signal can always lose to one and beat another is quite old, originating in China. Earlier versions used gestures for various animals, or simpler signals using the thumb, index and pinky fingers.

Transition from single-finger gestures to paper, scissors, stone signalsTransition from single-finger gestures to paper, scissors, stone signals Thu, Apr 9, 1953 – 28 · The Honolulu Advertiser (Honolulu, Hawaii, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Today’s version has morphed from all of those to feature the familiar closed fist, flat hand, and scissor shapes. It didn’t appear in America until the 20th century, when Japanese immigrants introduced it in Hawaii. Today it’s as popular in the U.S. as it continues to be in Japan, and is a beloved go-to for all manner of disputes.

For example, these two girls…

Rock Paper Scissors solves seat disputeRock Paper Scissors solves seat dispute Wed, Jun 4, 1997 – 48 · The Honolulu Advertiser (Honolulu, Hawaii, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Find more articles on Rock-paper-scissors and other similar games with a search on Newspapers.com.

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Homestead Act Takes Effect: January 1, 1863

On December 31, 1862, Daniel Freeman made his way to the land office in Brownville, Nebraska. It was just before midnight, but Freeman, a Civil War soldier on furlough, arranged for an obliging clerk to open the doors. He planned to file the first homestead claim under the newly enacted Homestead Act which took effect on January 1, 1863.

At 12:05 A.M., Freeman successfully filed his claim. He was awarded a tract of land in Nebraska that he lived on and cultivated until his death in 1908. Later, to celebrate the most progressive land redistribution in American history, Freeman’s property became the Homestead National Monument of America.

The Homestead Act was US legislation that granted 160 acres of unappropriated public land to any American citizen or immigrant who declared his intention to become a citizen, upon the receipt of a small fee. Applicants agreed to live on the land, improve it, and build a residence. Those applying were required to be 21-years-old or the head of a family. Women and freed slaves were also eligible to apply.

Enacting homestead laws did not come easy. Southern states regularly voted against homestead legislation, fearing it would create an agricultural alternative to the slave labor system. Others argued the legislation was inevitable. When the Homestead Act finally passed, it opened up the Great Plains and western United States to settlement.

Mary Myer and her husband Philipp were German immigrants to the United States. In 1860, they made their way to the Nebraska frontier and settled on a piece of land, planning to remain there until owners forced them to leave. Philipp died in 1861, and when the Homestead Act passed in 1862, Mary realized she could apply to own the land she and her three children already lived on. On January 20, 1863, Mary filled out application number 20 and received homestead rights, possibly becoming the first woman to own land under the Homestead Act.

Six months after legislators approved the Homestead Act, the Pacific Railroad Act passed. By May 1869, the transcontinental railroad provided easy transportation and lured homesteaders further West. As more homestead land became available, eager settlers snatched it up. By 1934, the government processed more than 1.6 million homestead applications and awarded 270 million acres of land to citizens. In 1988, 125 years after the first homestead claim, Kenneth Deardorff received the last grant of land under the Homestead Act for 80 acres in Alaska.

Did someone in your family file a homestead claim? Is the land still in your family? Learn more about the Homestead Act on our topic page and research your family’s homestead roots on Newspapers.com.



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New Year’s Traditions Beyond Toasts and Resolutions

Toasts, resolutions, and kisses on the hour are some of the biggest traditions associated with New Year’s Eve. However, they are just some of many. Here are a few found in the Newspapers.com archive that you might recognize—and some you might not.

New Year’s Tree

This tradition sounds like a creative excuse for keeping your Christmas Tree up past its own holiday. But it actually originated as a separate tradition in countries like Russia and Turkey. It seems there are several ways now to incorporate this tradition into turn-of-the-year festivities. New Year's Tree

New Year’s Tree Mon, Jan 3, 1910 – 2 · Montpelier Evening Argus (Montpelier, Vermont, United States of America) · Newspapers.com
This is a more goals-oriented approach: hanging your resolutions from the tree like decorations.
New Year Tree at LaSalle UniversityNew Year Tree at LaSalle University Tue, Jan 10, 1928 – 11 · The Times (Munster, Indiana, United States of America) · Newspapers.com
Or you can set it up alongside your Christmas Tree with similar decorations.
New Year's TreeNew Year’s Tree Sun, Jan 6, 1963 – Page 83 · The Bridgeport Post (Bridgeport, Fairfield, Connecticut) · Newspapers.com

Traditions Rooted in the Family Tree

There are also traditions that only appeared in America when they were brought over from much older countries. First-footing is just one example of these, a somewhat superstitious practice that originated in Scotland.
First-Footing Scottish New Year CustomFirst-Footing Scottish New Year Custom Thu, Dec 30, 1926 – Page 8 · The Boyden Reporter (Boyden, Sioux, Iowa) · Newspapers.com

Off to First-footOff to First-foot Fri, Jan 1, 1897 – 5 · The Courier and Argus (Dundee, Tayside, Scotland) · Newspapers.com

Festive Foods

What holiday would be complete without traditional foods? And there are several to choose from. You can go with a traditional New Year’s Cake originating from the Netherlands:

New Year's CakeNew Year’s Cake Thu, Jan 4, 1990 – Page 62 · The San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, San Bernardino, California) · Newspapers.com

Or perhaps the 12 grapes tradition of Spain, still widely practiced today:
New Year's GrapesNew Year’s Grapes Mon, Dec 24, 1962 – Page 19 · The Daily Standard (Sikeston, Scott, Missouri) · Newspapers.com

Or the tradition of eating black-eyed peas, a tradition that hails from the Southern United States:

Southern U.S. New Year's tradition: Black-eyed PeasSouthern U.S. New Year’s tradition: Black-eyed Peas Wed, Jan 5, 1955 – Page 14 · El Paso Herald-Post (El Paso, El Paso, Texas) · Newspapers.com

.There are countless more traditions, big and small, to go along with the passing of the old year into the new. What are some of the more unusual ones you’ve heard of?

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

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Lingering Leftovers? Here’s How to Use ‘Em

With all the feasting that accompanies the holiday season, there are bound to be leftovers a-plenty. This newspaper article from 1945 has some tips and tricks to help an “ingenious cook” use them up!

Use Those Christmas Left-Overs!Use Those Christmas Left-Overs! Thu, Jan 4, 1945 – 13 · The Vancouver Sun (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) · Newspapers.com

Have you ever tried any of these methods before? Let us know if any of these recipes or tricks find their way to your dinner table in the coming weeks!

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

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Boxing Day: Why is it Called that Anyway?

Ever wonder about the origin of certain words or names? Boxing Day, for example, may conjure up images of rope-lined rings and gloved fists. But where did the name come from, really? This article from 1936 sums it up quite nicely (with a tidbit about “Yule,” as well):

Boxing Day name originsBoxing Day name origins Tue, Dec 22, 1936 – Page 33 · The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia) · Newspapers.com

Happy Boxing Day!

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“Treet” Your Cat for Christmas

If you are a fan of both Christmas and your cat, this one’s for you! A Christmas tree fit for a queen—or at least for a feline who acts like one. If you haven’t hung liver on your tree before….maybe now’s the time?

Cat's Christmas TreeCat’s Christmas Tree Wed, Jan 2, 1901 – Page 2 · The Tennessean (Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

Maybe you can dress ’em up like Santa while you’re at it.

Do you have special Christmas traditions for your furry friends? Find more ideas like this one with a search through past papers on Newspapers.com.

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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)

Learn more about the supposed canals on Mars by searching Newspapers.com. And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more interesting historical content like this!

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Get Your “Tall Hats” Good and Glossy in Chicago

The up-and-coming city of Chicago had the latest innovations for shiny, squeaky clean tall hats. Check out the clipping below for the perfect meld of technology and fashion in this article straight from the papers of 1892:

A new electric machine polishes silk hatsA new electric machine polishes silk hats Thu, May 19, 1892 – Page 1 · Arizona Weekly Republican (Phoenix, Maricopa, Arizona) · Newspapers.com

There are so many glimpses of the past like this one to be found on Newspapers.com—try a browse for more!

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