Social Media for the 19th Century Dummy

“There are lots of people who may be interested in you and your friends. You owe it to them to let [your] friends and their friends know of their doings.”

Sounds like the reason many people post to social media, doesn’t it? But this quote isn’t talking about social media—at least, not social media as we know it today. It actually comes from an 1899 editorial about newspaper social columns.

A Different Kind of Social Media
Long before we were posting everything about our lives on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and a host of other social media platforms, Americans in past centuries were sharing the same tidbits from their lives in their local newspapers. Illnesses, injuries, vacations, guests, anniversaries, birthdays, business ventures, children’s antics, surprising events . . . they all were reported in the local social column.

(From the Schuylkill Haven Call, 05.29.1903)

(From the Schuylkill Haven Call, 05.29.1903)

These columns went by a variety of names and descriptions—“local happenings,” “personal paragraphs,” “society notes,” “items of interest,” and “brevities,” just to name a few. They were a staple of American newspapers from small and mid-sized towns for nearly a century, starting around the 1880s.

These social columns were an important way residents of a town stayed connected with each other. People turned to the local paper for news about the people they knew, and the newspapers catered to that curiosity.

Wondering why the man down the street is always wearing dark glasses? A look in the paper would tell you that he’s receiving eye treatments. Or curious why your acquaintance didn’t show up to a club meeting? The newspaper might reveal that she was shopping in the city that day.

Social Sharing—19th Century Style
Notices about local residents’ lives made it into the social columns in a variety of ways. Some papers gathered content on local happenings through their editors, reporters, or correspondents, but others relied on local residents to provide the information themselves.

(From the Gaffney Ledger, 03.27.1908)

(From the Gaffney Ledger, 03.27.1908)

And many people did submit the events of their daily lives. Much like today, if a person wanted their neighbors to know about an event in their life, they would post it—just in the newspaper rather than on Facebook.

“Harry, little son of John Cashman, while sitting on the fence […] watching a game of ball, fell to the ground breaking his left arm. The lad is rather unfortunate, as only a few months ago he broke his right arm.”

Sure, the language from 1902 is dated, but it’s easy to imagine the boy’s mother in 2018 posting a photo to Instagram of little Harry and his two broken arms, with a facepalm emoji in the caption.

It seems that people, no matter the era, want to know what their friends are up to—and want share what they are doing themselves. So next time you’re scrolling through your news feed, remember that your great-grandma may have likewise perused her local newspaper’s selection of “Pertinent Paragraphs Pertaining Principally to People and Pointedly Printed.”

Check out some of our favorite social column clippings in the slideshow below!

(Harrisburg Telegraph, 06.06.1888) (Harrisburg Telegraph, 06.06.1888, via (Gaffney Ledger, 03.27.1908, via (Gaffney Ledger, 03.27.1908, via (Los Angeles Herald, 05.25.1893, via (Winfield Courier, 01.21.1897, via (Canonsburg Notes, 10.14.1892, via (Adams County Independent, 11.01.1902, via (Adams County Independent, 09.27.1902, via (Axtell Standard, 08.04.1932, via

Find more examples of social columns on And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more interesting historical content like this!

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This Week in History – D-Day

This week marks the anniversary of 1944’s famous D-Day. In the early hours of June 6th, thousands of Allied troops came from sky and sea to invade the beaches of Normandy, France, in hopes of finally regaining control of mainland Europe.

Allies Invade Nazi EuropeAllies Invade Nazi Europe Tue, Jun 6, 1944 – Page 9 · Kingsport News (Kingsport, Tennessee) ·

As with most plans in life and in war, it did not go exactly as hoped; the invasion of Omaha Beach was especially brutal and only narrowly avoided failure, and some supplies never made it to shore. But on the whole the operation was considered a definite success, a pivotal turning point in the war that would lead to the liberation of France from Axis control and pave the way for Allied victory the following year.

France InvadedFrance Invaded Tue, Jun 6, 1944 – Page 1 · The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) ·

Yank ParatroopersYank Paratroopers Wed, Jun 7, 1944 – 18 · Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut) ·

D-Day Puts War in FranceD-Day Puts War in France Tue, Jun 6, 1944 – Page 5 · Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota) ·

Find more on this important piece of WWII history with a search on

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Robert F. Kennedy Fatally Shot: June 5, 1968

Robert F. Kennedy Fatally Shot: June 5, 1968

Fifty years ago this month, Robert F. “Bobby” Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles moments after stepping off the stage where he claimed victory in the California presidential primary election. Kennedy died the next day. The gunman was 22-year-old Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan who later confessed to the crime.

Senate pays tribute to Robert F. Kennedy
The news stunned the world. Senators paid tribute to Kennedy, and religious leaders exclaimed, “Something’s wrong with us!” When word of the shooting made its way to Vietnam, one American soldier responded saying, “What the hell is going on back there?”

Kennedy campaigned aggressively in California, crisscrossing the state. He won with a narrow victory. The mood was celebratory the night of June 5, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel. Kennedy addressed the crowd shortly after midnight and exited the ballroom through a kitchen. Sirhan rushed towards him in a narrow corridor and shot him at close range.

The gun was wrestled away as Sirhan continued firing resulting in five others being wounded including William Weisel, Paul Schrade, Elizabeth Evans, Ira Goldstein, and Irwin Stroll. The cheers and applause heard seconds before quickly turned to screams and panic when the shots rang out.

Kennedy was rushed to Good Samaritan Hospital where doctors performed surgery but were unable to save him. At the time of Kennedy’s assassination, presidential candidates did not have Secret Service security. His death stirred Congress to pass a law providing that protection for future candidates.

Kennedy’s death came just five years after that of his brother, President John F. Kennedy. Robert Kennedy’s body was flown to New York, where he lay in repose at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral before burial. The nation mourned with Kennedy’s widow Ethel and his 10 young children. An eleventh child was born after Kennedy’s death.

In 2016, Sirhan was denied parole for the 15th time and remains in prison today. What do you remember about the day Robert F. Kennedy was shot? You can search our archives to find more articles on his life and death. You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for trending news and updates!

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Smoky the 4 Pound Military Dog

In an adorably unexpected moment of WWII, a tiny Yorkshire Terrier was found in a foxhole in New Guinea by an American soldier. Already fully grown to her total of 4 lbs this tiny little pup found herself in the company of Corporal William A. Wynne, with whom she stayed through the end of the war and for years afterward.

SmokySmoky Sun, Jul 14, 1996 – 24 · News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio) ·

The dog was named Smoky, and over the last two years of the war she accompanied Wynne on 12 combat missions and dozens of air raids, and entertained troops and the hospitalized wounded with tricks she learned during downtime. Those tricks served her well after the war too, used to entertain the world on tours and TV shows. Millions of people knew and loved Smoky the War Dog.

Mon, Apr 29, 1996 – Page 130 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) ·

About 50 years after Smoky’s death, a monument was made with a life-size sculpture of the photo that made her famous—Smoky sitting in an upturned steel helmet. It was placed over the spot where Smoky was buried, and stands in honor of Smoky and all dogs who have served in wars across the decades.

Smoky MemorialSmoky Memorial Fri, Nov 11, 2005 – 1 · News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio) ·

Find more on Smoky and Wynne with a search on

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This Week in History – Everest Conquered

On May 29, 1953, British expedition duo Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary accomplish a feat that had never been done before: they reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Tenzing and HillaryTenzing and Hillary Sun, Jul 12, 1953 – Page 29 · The Post-Standard (Syracuse, New York) ·

Hillary was a New Zealander, recruited for the expedition as part of the British Commonwealth. Tenzing was a Nepali Sherpa, chosen for his expertise in mountaineering. With the help of insulated clothing and oxygen systems, the two reached the peak shortly before noon, and the news quickly spread across the land.

The Final Assault on Mt EverestThe Final Assault on Mt Everest Mon, Jul 20, 1953 – Page 33 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) ·

Tenzing and EverestTenzing and Everest Wed, Jul 22, 1953 – Page 39 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) ·

Hillary's reactionHillary’s reaction Tue, Jul 21, 1953 – Page 33 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) ·

There’s a lot to find about this moment in history–both Tenzing and Hillary wrote first hand accounts that were included in the papers as the story of their success spread. Find more on Hillary and Tenzing’s successful trip up the mountain (and of the many successes and failures that happened before and since) with a search on

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The Mystery of the Mary Celeste

The story of the Mary Celeste is an odd one—an empty ship, a missing crew, and no explanation for either? Almost 150 years have passed since the strange day of the ship’s discovery, and while many theories have been presented to explain what happened, the mystery remains unsolved to this day.

The Mystery of the The Mystery of the “Mary Celeste” · Sun, Feb 7, 1943 – Page 31 · Arizona Republic (Phoenix, Arizona) ·

Lost Crew of the Mary CelesteLost Crew of the Mary Celeste · Sun, Mar 9, 1902 – Page 40 · The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) ·

The voyage of Mary Celeste began in typical fashion. She set sail from New York Harbor on November 5, 1872, headed to Genoa with a hefty cargo of industrial alcohol. It was the last time anyone saw the captain or crew who left with the ship.

A month later Mary Celeste was spotted by the crew of Captain David Morehouse, whose ship, Dei Gratia, was also on its way to the Mediterranean. He noticed the erratic movements of Mary Celeste and sent his first mate, Oliver Deveau, to investigate.

No answer, not a soul on boardNo answer, not a soul on board · Sun, Feb 7, 1943 – Page 31 · Arizona Republic (Phoenix, Arizona) ·

Deveau (referred to as Devon in the clippings below) was convinced he’d find signs of mutiny, sickness, or some other calamity that would explain why not a single person remained on board the almost perfectly seaworthy ship. Instead…

No signs found of sickness or mutinyNo signs found of sickness or mutiny · Sun, Mar 9, 1902 – Page 40 · The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) ·

Numerous theories have been put forth over the years to explain the crew’s abandonment of Mary Celeste. They cover the gamut of possibilities, from mutiny to murder to fear of shipwreck to forgetfulness. One popular theory was that the crew might have feared an explosion of the alcohol cargo.

The explosion theoryThe explosion theory · Sun, Mar 9, 1902 – Page 40 · The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) ·

But the ship never exploded, and regardless of their reason for going, the crew of Mary Celeste was never seen again. Captain Morehouse and his crew split the salvage money (though not without suspicion), the world moved on with no satisfactory conclusion, and only Mary Celeste ever truly knew the mysterious motivations of her vanishing crew.

This famous mystery is all over the pages of Try a search for more about David Morehouse, Captain Benjamin Briggs (of Mary Celeste) and his family who traveled with him, Briggs’ young son Arthur who remained behind, or the Mary Celeste herself.

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5 Unforgettable Eruptions in Kilauea’s History

Eyes around the world are on the ongoing volcanic eruption at Kilauea in Hawaii. But this attention isn’t new. The eruptions at Kilauea have been appearing in newspapers around the world for almost 200 years.

From the awe-inspiring rivers of glowing lava, to flying molten rocks, to the tragedy of lost property and injury, much of Kilauea’s recent activity has parallels with past eruptions. Here’s a look at five of the most unforgettable throughout history.

1924 Kilauea Eruption (from the Honolulu-Star Bulletin)

1924 Kilauea Eruption (from the Honolulu-Star Bulletin)

1790 – Kilauea Kills Hundreds of Hawaiians
Kilauea’s violent explosive eruption in 1790 killed hundreds of Hawaiians—most famously a party of warriors, who were likely killed by hot steam and sulfuric gases. In 1919, a geologist discovered footprints preserved in the volcanic ash of the 1790 eruption, and these footprints were long attributed to the Hawaiian warriors killed by the volcano. However, more recent research suggests that many of the footprints may have instead been made by women and children of that time period.

1840 – Kilauea Lights Up the Night
The 1840 eruption lasted about a month and is the largest on record in the East Rift Zone. The effusive eruption occurred from vents along 21 miles of the rift zone and was described as “glowing with extreme brilliancy.” One newspaper reported that it was so bright that for two weeks a person could read “the finest print” at night some 30 miles away. After the 1840 eruption, Kilauea became a tourist attraction.

1924 – Kilauea Spews Tons of Rocks into the Air
Over two-and-a-half weeks in 1924, Kilauea experienced more than 50 explosive events. These explosions, caused by steam buildup, shot tons of rock from the Halema’uma’u crater into the air, with some weighing as much as 14 tons. A shower of rocks from one of the explosions crushed the leg of a visiting Chicago man. Found covered by burning ash, the man was rushed to a hospital, where he died after having his leg amputated.

1959 Kilauea Eruption (from the Honolulu Advertiser)

1959 Kilauea Eruption (from the Honolulu Advertiser)

1959 – Kilauea Produces Record-Breaking Lava Fountains
In November and December 1959 the Kilauea Iki crater produced some truly awe-inspiring lava fountains. The initial lava fountains were impressive enough at 50 to 100 feet, but they soon were reaching 200 feet, 650 feet, 980 feet, even 1,247 feet. But then on December 17, the lava shot an incredible 1,900 feet high—more than three times the height of the Washington Monument. It was Hawaii’s highest recorded lava fountain in the 20th century.

1990 – Kilauea Destroys 100 Homes
The current Kilauea eruption began in 1983, and in 1990 it entered its most destructive phase. In March 1990, lava began to enter the community of Kalapana. By late June, 86 homes had been destroyed, and by the end of the year, Kalapana was gone. The lava flows had destroyed 100 homes, a church, and a store. The famous Black Sand Beach at Kaimu also disappeared.

Discover more images of Kilauea throughout history in our slideshow below!

Eruptions in Kilauea's History Kilauea takes a life, 1924 Kilauea hurls rocks like "skyrockets," 1924 Kilauea erupts, 1955 Kilauea 1955 Lava fountain at Kilauea, 1959 Kilauea lava fountain size comparison, 1959 Kilauea 1960 House buried in ash from Kilauea, 1960 Kilauea 1983 Flow of lava from Kilauea, 1990 Kilauea 1990

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