Berlin Divided – This Week in History

On August 13, 1961, barbed wire fences are put up to divide the Soviet eastern half of the city from democratic West Berlin. This would later become the infamous concrete barrier known as the Berlin Wall.

Barbed wire barrier divides BerlinBarbed wire barrier Mon, Aug 14, 1961 – Page 1 · The Burlington Free Press (Burlington, Vermont) ·

Peace Pact Now Seen IrrevocablePeace Pact Now Seen Irrevocable Mon, Aug 14, 1961 – 3 · Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Florida) ·

Turned BackTurned Back Mon, Aug 14, 1961 – 8 · Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Florida) ·

Violate Big Four AccordViolate Big Four Accord Mon, Aug 14, 1961 – 3 · Daily News (New York, New York) ·

Wire put upWire put up Mon, Aug 14, 1961 – 1 · Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Florida) ·

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Historic causes of death and modern equivalents

News, Finds, Tips of the Month

Finding the historic obituary for your ancestor on is like hitting the jackpot in genealogical research. Sometimes the cause of death is something we’ve never heard of. Here’s a list of historic causes of death and their modern equivalents.

1856 Ad For Medicine To Cure Ague
Ague: Malarial Fever

Apoplexy: Unconsciousness resulting from a cerebral hemorrhage or stroke

Brain Fever: Meningitis

Bright’s Disease: Kidney failure

Childbed: Fever due to an infection after childbirth

Consumption: Tuberculosis

Canine Madness: Rabies caused by the bite of an animal

Consumption Cure? 1904
Chin Cough: Whooping cough

Diphtheria: Contagious disease of the throat

Dyspepsia: Indigestion and heartburn

Dropsy: Edema caused by kidney or heart disease

Falling Sickness: Epilepsy

Inanition: Starvation

Lockjaw: Tetanus disease that affects muscles in the neck and jaw

Milk Leg: Painful swelling after giving birth caused by thrombophlebitis in the femoral vein

Mania: Dementia

Memorial to 6000 Irish Immigrants Who Died From Ship Fever 1847-48
Mania-a-potu: A mental disorder caused by alcoholism

Quinsy: Tonsillitis

Ship Fever: Typhus

Spotted Fever: Meningitis or Typhus

Search our archives today to find the obituary for your ancestor!

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National S’mores Day

Happy National S’mores Day! Recipes for S’mores started popping up in papers around the 1930s. Back then they were often associated with scouting programs and summer hikes, and called other things like “graham cracker sandwiches” or the name from which the term S’more is derived, “Some Mores.”

In honor of such an auspicious occasion, here are a couple S’mores-related clippings from those early days of ooey-gooey goodness. 

Scouts' DelightsScouts’ Delights Thu, Sep 19, 1940 – 14 · The Dayton Herald (Dayton, Ohio) ·

Learned to make Learned to make “some mores” Fri, Oct 30, 1936 – Page 8 · The Oshkosh Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) ·

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4 Daring Wildfire Rescue Stories You Won’t Want to Miss

Wildfires are devastating, but they can also be scenes of amazing bravery and heroism. Check out these 4 incredible wildfire rescue stories:

Train Engineer Saves Hundreds from Forest Fire

In 1894, a massive forest fire burned through the pine forests of Minnesota, engulfing the town of Hinckley and other nearby settlements. Though more than 400 people perished in the fire, the death toll could have been higher if it weren’t for James Root, a train engineer.

Root’s train was headed south from Duluth toward St. Paul, and as it drew nearer the fire, it became increasingly filled with heavy smoke, making it difficult to breathe. Nevertheless, when desperate townspeople flagged down the train near Hinckley, Root stopped to get them on board. With the fire quickly approaching, Root began backing the train down the track.

Although Root increased the train’s speed, the fire finally caught up to them and surrounded the train. Still, he pressed on through the flames, until finally, they reached Skunk Lake, where the passengers were ordered to abandon the train and take refuge in the water. About 250 people were saved by the bravery of Root and the other train crew. [Read the newspaper account]

Forest Ranger Protects His Crew During Wildfire

Forest ranger Edward Pulaski was overseeing fire crews in the mountains of northern Idaho when one of the biggest wildfires in U.S. history burned through parts of the northwest in August 1910. Once the fire in his area had grown too dangerous to fight, Pulaski evacuated all the fire crew he could find.

He gathered 45 men and led them through the fiery, mountainous terrain to an old mine tunnel, where he ordered them to lie on the ground. When one panicked man attempted to rush out of the tunnel, Pulaski pulled his gun on the man and threatened to kill the first person who tried to leave.

With the fire raging outside, Pulaski hung wet blankets over the entrance and used his hat to scoop up water from the mine to throw on burning timbers inside the tunnel. His men eventually lost consciousness from the heat and smoke, and Pulaski finally did as well. When they came to, they discovered that although five of the men had died inside the tunnel during the fire, Pulaski’s strong leadership had saved the majority. [Read the newspaper account]

Hermit Leaves Fortune to Man Who Rescued Him from Fire

Around 1910, a young piano salesman named Eber Smith got on the bad side of a recluse named “Old Tom” Simpson, who lived in the mountains near San Bernardino, California. However, Eber eventually managed to befriend Old Tom by repairing his violin, and Eber began visiting Tom whenever he passed through.

When a wildfire swept through the area in 1914, Old Tom was laid up in bed with a broken leg. The firefighters were not willing to take the risk to reach Tom’s remote mountain cabin, but Eber braved the flames and carried Old Tom to safety above the timberline. About two years later, when Old Tom passed away, he left Eber his fortune of $500,000 (about $12 million today). [Read the newspaper account]

Sheepdog Proves Wildfire Hero

During a 1929 forest fire in southern Washington, a flock of sheep got trapped by the flames. The sheep panicked, and no attempts by the herders could get them out, so the sheep were finally abandoned. But they weren’t abandoned by a sheepdog named Laddie.

All on his own, Laddie herded the sheep to safety, and when the fire subsided the following day, the herders returned to find that not a single sheep was missing or injured. [Read the newspaper account]

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This Week in History – Voyage of the Kon-Tiki

This week in 1947, a balsa raft called the Kon-Tiki successfully ends its long voyage across the Pacific with a (rough) landing on the uninhabited island of Raroia. The precarious excursion was meant to prove that the Polynesian islands could have originally been settled by South Americans, a theory posited by Norwegian anthropologist and raft captain, Thor Heyerdahl.

Thor HeyerdahlThor Heyerdahl Sun, Jun 1, 1947 – Page 135 · The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) ·

the the “why” behind the trip Thu, May 8, 1947 – Page 25 · The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) ·

The Kon-Tiki route, and Thor (on the right)The Kon-Tiki route, and Thor (on the right) Sun, Feb 9, 1947 – 57 · The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) ·

The 4,300 mile trip took the six men on board the raft 101 days to complete. The voyage began in late April and was anticipated to last at least four months. The raft itself was constructed as close to the indigenous ancient Peruvian style as could be managed, and would bob along from Peru to Tahiti with the help of the Humboldt Current. As you might expect, an ocean journey on a raft no bigger than a modestly-sized living room had its share of dangers.

the six menthe six men Thu, May 8, 1947 – Page 25 · The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) ·

sea creature dangerssea creature dangers Sun, Feb 9, 1947 – 57 · The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) ·

The raft crashed into a reef off the coast of Raroia island on August 7—an almost comically bad ending to a long and difficult experiment. Fortunately, all of the crew were fine and made it back home safely afterwards. But on the bright side, they got there ahead of schedule! You win some, you lose some.

Aug 7, 1947Aug 7, 1947 Mon, Aug 11, 1947 – 11 · Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut) ·

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Charlotte Cushman

In the past, there have been many actresses whose talents and innate understanding of emotion and character have brought them fame and fortune. But perhaps none were quite as unique as the famous American actress, Charlotte Cushman. In the mid-1800s her ability to step easily into male roles was the talk of the stage and made her a celebrity whose name was known far and wide.

Cushman began her time on the stage as an opera singer, but was forced to make a change of career when her voice gave out. She stepped into the world of acting in 1835, to great success. But it was her performance as Romeo a few years later, with her younger sister Susan in the role of Juliet, that made her famous.

Cushman sisters as Romeo and JulietCushman sisters as Romeo and Juliet Sun, Oct 22, 1893 – Page 19 · The Times (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) ·

Charlotte Cushman as RomeoCharlotte Cushman as Romeo Mon, Sep 26, 1927 – 14 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) ·

Charlotte Cushman as RomeoCharlotte Cushman as Romeo Mon, Sep 26, 1927 – 14 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) ·
Romeo would be the role for which she was known and remembered even after her death, and one that she played for well over a decade. Her much-admired performances earned her reviews like the one below, by dramatist Sheridan Knowles:

Review of the performance of Miss Cushman as Romeo and her sister as JulietReview of the performance of Miss Cushman as Romeo and her sister as Juliet Sun, Feb 12, 1860 – 9 · The Era (London, Greater London, England) ·

Cushman was also successful in the role of Hamlet, and, more unusual for women of the time, as Cardinal Wolsey in Henry VIII.  She didn’t exclusively play male roles, either, often capturing audiences as female leads like Queen Katherine and Lady Macbeth.

Miss Charlotte Cushman as RomeoMiss Charlotte Cushman as Romeo Tue, Apr 20, 1858 – 2 · The Daily Exchange (Baltimore, Maryland) ·

When she died of pneumonia at age 59, papers praised her career and admirable life. But, as with many things, her fame has faded with time.

Charlotte CushmanCharlotte Cushman Wed, Feb 23, 1876 – Page 2 · The Daily Commonwealth (Topeka, Kansas) ·

Find out more about this extraordinary actress with a search through the archives of

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This Week in History – USS Nautilus Slides Over North Pole

On August 3rd, 1958, the famous nuclear-powered submarine USS Nautilus makes a historic journey beneath the ice caps of the North Pole. Here are a handful of clippings about the journey and crew from papers across the states during August 1958:

This Time He Made ItThis Time He Made It Sun, Aug 31, 1958 – 16 · Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut) ·

Commander and crew of USS NautilusCommander and crew of USS Nautilus Sun, Aug 31, 1958 – 16 · Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut) ·

Excerpt from letter of Nautilus crewman James IrvinExcerpt from letter of Nautilus crewman James Irvin Tue, Aug 26, 1958 – 4 · The Clinton Eye (Clinton, Missouri) ·

Excerpt from the letter of Nautilus crewman James JohnsonExcerpt from the letter of Nautilus crewman James Johnson Tue, Aug 12, 1958 – Page 2 · The Lincoln Star (Lincoln, Nebraska) ·

Commander Anderson awarded Legion of MeritCommander Anderson awarded Legion of Merit Sat, Aug 9, 1958 – Page 1 · Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada) ·

Find more on this unprecedented journey, the many records of the Nautilus, and Commander Anderson with a search on

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Lake Nyos Disaster: August 21, 1986

Lake Nyos Disaster August 21, 1986

On August 21, 1986, a rare natural disaster occurred in the West African country of Cameroon when a large cloud of carbon dioxide gas spewed from Lake Nyos and blanketed nearby villages killing 1,746 people and 3,500 livestock while they slept.

The event, known as a limnic eruption, occurs when carbon dioxide builds in colder, deep lake water creating a heavy layer on the bottom. The weight of the warmer, upper layer of water forms a lid that keeps the gas down — much like a cork on a bottle.

Carbon dioxide cloud kills 1746 people in Cameroon
Eventually the gas in Lake Nyos built up to a point that it was released in a massive eruption that created a 330-foot high column of water and a 200-foot wave. Scientists wondered what caused the cork to pop.

Sule Umare, a cattle herder from Cameroon described the event that killed 99% of the people in his village. “We thought that rain was coming,” he recalled. “I went out and saw the moon shining. I wondered how rain could come without clouds.” Sule was enveloped in a flood of carbon dioxide before he lost consciousness.

Another survivor, Margaret Wandia remembers she was, “breathing very hard and had no strength.” She woke to find three of her four daughters dead beside her.

Some scientists concluded that an underwater landslide disrupted the layers and caused the gas to bubble up that fateful day. Others wondered if volcanic magma below the lake caused the release.

While studying the lake, scientists realized gas levels were rising again. They concluded that gas was gradually leaking into the lake from deep in the earth. In order to prevent a future explosion, scientists started venting the gas with a 672-foot pipe, that when lowered to the bottom, performed like a big straw – sucking the gas upward where it vented gradually into the air.

A second Cameroon lake experienced a similar, but smaller eruption in 1984 and 37 people died.

If you’d like to learn more about the disaster at Lake Nyos, search our archives!

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A Besotted Man’s Terrible Confession

“My Sin” Sat, Oct 1, 1898 – 2 · The Weekly Bennington Banner (Bennington, Vermont) ·

From 1898, this page is dedicated nearly in its entirety to a man’s confession about the lengths to which jealousy drove him. It’s not called “My Sin” for nothing! The whole dramatic tale is worth a read, but here’s the cliffnotes version, (or should I say “clip” notes?)

First, the narrator falls in love.

He falls in loveHe falls in love Sat, Oct 1, 1898 – 2 · The Weekly Bennington Banner (Bennington, Vermont) ·

The situation is complicated by the arrival of a good-looking stranger.

Handsome Arnold enters the pictureHandsome Arnold enters the picture Sat, Oct 1, 1898 – 2 · The Weekly Bennington Banner (Bennington, Vermont) ·

Belle and Arnold’s marriage seems imminent, much to the displeasure of our still-besotted narrator. He begins to have jealous thoughts, and does petty things to annoy the couple. Soon he overhears a bit of information about Arnold’s past: his horse’s aversion to artists under white umbrellas.

Petty actions and dangerous knowledgePetty actions and dangerous knowledge Sat, Oct 1, 1898 – 2 · The Weekly Bennington Banner (Bennington, Vermont) ·

This is where the story takes an unexpected turn. One day he is wandering the fields and cursing “Handsome Arnold”—

He finds an artist under a white umbrellaHe finds an artist under a white umbrella Sat, Oct 1, 1898 – 2 · The Weekly Bennington Banner (Bennington, Vermont) ·

His words draw the artist to a spot where Arnold, passing on his horse, happens to see it. The horse reacts…but not as our narrator intended.

A tragic turn of eventsA tragic turn of events Sat, Oct 1, 1898 – 2 · The Weekly Bennington Banner (Bennington, Vermont) ·

Arnold lives, and becomes strong again in time. But “no one would ever call him handsome Arnold any more.” In the aftermath of the accident, Arnold felt that he was no longer worthy of Belle’s love. He asks our narrator to take a letter to Belle and prepares to leave town. The guilt-ridden narrator goes to Belle at once.

He goes to Belle, and tells herHe goes to Belle, and tells her Sat, Oct 1, 1898 – 2 · The Weekly Bennington Banner (Bennington, Vermont) ·

Love prevails! The couple are as much in love as ever, and our heart-broken narrator leaves them to their happiness.

A happy endA happy end Sat, Oct 1, 1898 – 2 · The Weekly Bennington Banner (Bennington, Vermont) ·

All’s well that ends well, as they say.

Find more like this with a search on or by browsing the collection. You never know what stories you might find!

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