Pretty sure some people must have given Mr. Hibbs the ol’ side-eye after this.
His name sounds fake, but his kingdom sounded real. Gregor MacGregor scammed hundreds with a dream of a new, bountiful Central American paradise called Poyais.
MacGregor’s success in his scheme no doubt came in part because people had heard tales of his service in distant battles. He returned to England a hero and as the “Cazique of Poyais,”and his stories of the new kingdom of Poyais were compelling indeed. MacGregor backed them up with maps and drawings and details, bringing to life an exquisite fantasy. The lure was irresistible. Hopeful dreamers like James Hastie, whose account is related below, put their fortunes—and lives—in MacGregor’s hands.
When their arrival revealed no kingdom, no other citizens, no supplies and left them without funds or means to return home, the new settlers did what they could to survive. Most didn’t succeed.
The Lord Mayor in the clipping below speaks for us all (with the benefit of hindsight, of course).
MacGregor had successfully bamboozled shipfuls of people in London and Edinburgh, and was going for another round in Paris when his deceit was discovered. He died around 20 years later having never truly received justice for the lives he ruined.
It feels great to find an ancestor in the newspaper—whether it’s in an obituary, marriage announcement, or other type of notice. But sometimes historical newspapers used abbreviations and terms that are no longer common, leaving some of us scratching our heads.
To help you get the most out of historical newspapers, we’ve come up with a list of some of the most common abbreviations and terms:
- Relict – This term is used to describe a surviving spouse, often a widow. It comes from the Latin term “relictus,” meaning “relinquished” or “left behind.”
- Née – This term is French and means “born.” It is used to indicate a woman’s maiden name.
- Instant (Inst.) – This is used to refer to the current month. For example, a newspaper article published in December that says “12th inst.” means December 12th.
- Proximo (Prox.) – Essentially meaning “next,” this is used in newspapers to indicate the upcoming month. So “12th prox.” in a December newspaper would mean January 12th.
- Ultimo (Ult.) – This refers to the previous month. A December newspaper that says “12th ult.” is referring to November 12th.
- Old style/New style (O.S./N.S.) – These terms refer to dates that are either prior to approximately 1752 (“old style”) or after about 1752 (“new style”). This is because in 1752, Britain (including its American colonies) adopted the Gregorian calendar, which resulted in skipping 11 days that year. To make matters even more complicated, the first of the year was moved from March to January. So to remove confusion, newspapers around the time of the change included “O.S” or “N.S” to indicate which system was being used for the dates they provided.
- Name abbreviations – Name abbreviations are common in old newspapers. Some abbreviations are merely the first few letters of the name followed by a period, while others are contractions (the first part of the name plus the final letter). Some abbreviations are derived from the name’s Latin equivalent, which makes them a bit trickier to decipher. Below are the most common name abbreviations:
- Chas – Charles
- Wm – William
- Geo. – George
- Jno – John
- Jas – James
- Thos – Thomas
We hope you found the explanation of these terms and abbreviations useful! Get started searching or browsing historical (and modern!) papers on Newspapers.com.
On April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders to Union General Ulysses S. Grant and the American Civil War is officially brought to an end.
Only five days later, President Abraham Lincoln is shot by Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth, making this quite a week for high-emotion headlines.
On this day in 1896, after a 1,500-year lull, the Olympics are reintroduced to the world.
The original Olympic games were banned by the Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius I in an attempt to crack down on paganism. It was a young French baron, Pierre de Coubertin, who in 1892 first proposed that the games be brought back. Thanks to his persistence, they were, and he guided them as president of the International Olympic Committee through the initial, less popular years when no one thought they would last.
The first games saw only 280 participants (in contrast to the 2016 summer Olympics, in which over 10,000 athletes competed), but by 1924 the games had regained their popularity of yore. Today, of course, the Olympics are the bees knees when it comes to international sports competition. Thanks, Pierre!
San Francisco and the surrounding area was struck by a destructive 7.8-magnitude earthquake,
whose epicenter lay just 2 miles west of the city. The earthquake was quickly followed by massive fires that, over the course of three days, burned a large
portion of the city. Three thousand people would be killed, and half of San Francisco’s population would become refugees.
the earthquake struck not long after 5 a.m. on Wednesday, April 18, most people were still in bed. A brief initial shock was followed by the main quake,
which lasted 45 to 60 seconds. In that minute, buildings throughout the city crumbled or sank into the ground, roads cracked, water and gas mains broke,
and thousands of people were killed, trapped, or injured.
It wasn’t just San Francisco that was affected; nearby cities such as Santa Rosa and San Jose were equally decimated by the earthquake, and tremors were felt as far north as Oregon and as far south as Los Angeles. A strong aftershock around 8 a.m. sent further buildings toppling.
The destruction caused by the earthquake was devastating enough, but within half an hour more than 50 fires had been reported in San Francisco. Despite the response of local firemen, some of the fires grew into massive conflagrations that burned through well-known neighborhoods, including the city’s downtown,
Chinatown, and Nob Hill. By the time the fires were finally put out on Saturday, 4.7 square miles, 500 city blocks, and 28,000 buildings had burned.
As a result of the earthquake and fires, more than 200,000 San Franciscans (out of a population of 400,000) became homeless. Initially, many camped in
parks or other open spaces, but soon many fled the city altogether—some
temporarily, others permanently. Organized relief efforts distributed food, water, and shelter to the refugees, and millions of dollars in aid and donations were given to the city.
The clean-up from the disaster would take two years, and rebuilding the city would take even longer. By 1915 San Francisco had recovered enough to host
the Panama—Pacific International Exposition. In some respects, however, the city never fully recovered from the earthquake: before the disaster, San
Francisco had been the leading city on the West Coast, but following it, Los Angeles took its place.
Do you have family members who lived through the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fires? Tell us about them! Or learn more about the disaster on
Here’s a bizarre news story for you today: in 1897 a man named Bob Fitzsimmons found himself in an unexpected boxing match against his (not so docile) pet bear.
Fortunately for the sake of not being mauled alive by a bear, “Fitz” had some experience in the realm of boxing. Just months earlier he had risen to fame with a well-publicized win against Gentleman Jim Corbett. He’d also go on make history as boxing’s first world champion in three weight divisions, and would later be added to The Guinness Book of World Records as the lightest heavyweight champion.
But before all of that came his ill-advised bare-knuckle boxing match (pun intended). The article below gives the details.
In the end there were no fatalities, not even for the animals involved. Still, it seems there’s a concrete lesson to be learned through this crazy story: it’s probably best not to keep bears as pets, no matter how much you like ’em.
If you have ancestors from southeastern Iowa or northwestern Illinois—or if you’re interested in the history of these two regions—come explore the Quad-City Times on Newspapers.com.
Newspapers.com also has a host of papers from the Quad-City Times family tree, including the Daily Leader, the Davenport Weekly Leader, the Davenport Weekly Democrat and Leader, Weekly Davenport Democrat, the Democrat and Times, the Daily Times, the Davenport Weekly Gazette, and the Democratic Banner. Some of these papers go all the way back to the 1850s, giving you more than 160 years of Iowa and Illinois history!
The Quad-City Times has existed under that name since 1975, but it was previously called the Times-Democrat because in 1964 the paper was formed by the merger of two papers: the Daily Times and the Morning Democrat (found on Newspapers.com under the Quad-City Times). The Daily Times‘ history was fairly straightforward, starting out as the Blue Ribbon News in 1878, before becoming the Northwestern News in 1879 and then finally the Davenport Daily Times in 1886.
The Morning Democrat, in contrast, had more than two dozen titles in its family tree, starting with a paper called the Democratic Banner, founded in 1848. The various papers competed, merged, and changed names over a 100-year period, until the Morning Democrat emerged as the sole surviving paper out of the bunch (at least until the Morning Democrat’s own merger with the Daily Times in 1964).
As its name implies, the Quad-City Times serves the Quad Cities area of Iowa and Illinois (Davenport, Bettendorf, Rock Island, Moline, and East Moline), as well as the surrounding counties. The Quad-City Times, along with the earlier papers it grew out of, has documented more than a century and a half of goings on in the region. From big events (like the 1901 fire that burned 8 blocks of Davenport) to smaller occasions (like weddings and school excursions), these newspapers were there to capture local happenings, making the papers a great resource for finding stories about your ancestors or learning more about area history.
Get started searching or browsing the Quad-City Times on Newspapers.com!
Pull out your green clothes and shine your shamrocks, for St. Patrick’s Day is here again. If you’re in need of a few solid recipes for your St. Patrick’s Day feast, look no further: Newspapers throughout the years are here to provide.
First up, a festive side for your dinner table: Shamrock rolls (1941):
Here’s something easy enough for the kiddos to make, from the Boys and Girls Newspaper in The Gazette and Daily (1950):
If you’re a bit more adventurous but like easy prep, you might try this salad or this casserole, which together fulfill the corned beef and cabbage requirements of a St. Patrick’s Day meal (1979):
That Emerald Salad doesn’t seem particularly appealing, but who knows? Perhaps it’s a hidden treasure.
For your show-stopping entree, this Pot of Gold Cabbage seems like an excellent thematic choice (2001):
And of course, what is a St. Patrick’s Day dinner party without the party? Here’s some surefire advice from domestic expert Lucy Lincoln to craft the perfect social event (1921):
(Though that last party game clue seems a little on the nose, wouldn’t you say?)
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Hope your parties are safe, fun, and full of delicious food. Let us know if any of these dishes make an appearance at your holiday table. There are more recipes to be found from years gone by with a search on Newspapers.com.
If you think reports of Bigfoot sightings are relatively recent phenomenon, guess again. Accounts of creatures similar to Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch, have been showing up in American newspapers for at least 200 years!
Take a look at these newspaper stories from the distant (and not-so-distant) past and decide for yourself whether you think Bigfoot is real!
- Long-Island Star, 1818: “He is described as bending forward when running, hairy—and the heel of the foot narrow, spreading at the toes.”
- Weekly Arkansas Gazette, 1851: “They were followed by an animal bearing the unmistakable likeness of humanity. He was of gigantic stature, the body being covered with hair.”
- Southern Shield, 1852: “He is described by them as being about 7 feet 2 inches high, and covered completely with black hair, interspersed now and then with gray.”
- Cincinnati Enquirer, 1895: “She was suddenly confronted by a naked giant, who sprang into the road in front of her horse, making savages gestures and yelling.”
- Boston Post, 1895: [https://www.newspapers.com/clip/17486340/wild_man_account_1895/] “…that this being had a hirsute growth on its face […]; that it uttered a loud howl or yell, and with amazing swiftness leaped into the recesses of the forest.”
- Florida Today, 1979: “…[saw] over 1,000 footprints ascribed to a crippled Bigfoot.”
- Town Talk, 1995: “He saw three of the creatures staring back [at] him. The creatures appeared to be large stumps, but Bryant could discern heads and shoulders.”
- Daily Record, 2012: “He looked like a human being with an ape head and had jet-black hair all over him.”
- Detroit Free Press, 2016: “[The creature was] standing on two legs and looking back at him from the woods with glowing eyes. […] And it just casually turned to the left, walked into the woods and it met up with […] three others.”
And don’t miss these images!
- Image of a frame from the famous 1967 Bigfoot film (from the Press and Sun-Bulletin, 1999), as well as a description of the creature in the film (from the Star Press, 1967)
- Photo of casts of Bigfoot footprints (Decatur Herald, 1967)
- Another photo of a Bigfoot footprint cast (Great Falls Tribune, 1967)
- A map of 50 years of Bigfoot sightings in New Jersey (Daily Record, 2012)
Want to read more? To find further installments of the stories above, try checking the next day’s issue of the paper the story was featured in (e.g., if it was in Monday’s paper, check Tuesday’s). If it’s not in that issue, try checking the next issue that falls on the same day of the week (e.g., if it was published on Sunday, check the next Sunday’s issue).