Bruce Coggeshall

About Author: 

Bruce has been at NewsBank since 1992. Today, he supervises a team researching topics in U.S. history to prepare entries for the Timeline Edition of America’s Historical Newspapers. His team also selects articles and writes lesson plans for NewsBank’s Special Reports and Hot Topics.

Posts by this Author

“Traveling Where the Air Is Like Wine”: The American Story of a White Buddhist Monk

One of the pleasures of using America’s Historical Newspapers is the ability to come across remarkable yet little known individuals like Theos Bernard. This Arizona native and Columbia University student went to India and Tibet in the 1930s to learn Tantric Yoga. 

The earliest newspaper article found to mention him begins:

"Across a gale-swept pass, 18,000 feet high in the Himalayas' perpetual snows, an Arizonian is struggling to bring out on the backs of yaks and 100 mules what he believes to be one of the world’s most precious cargoes.”

From the Sunday Oregonian, 17 October 1937

“Traveling Where the Air Is Like Wine”: The American Story of a White Buddhist Monk

From Salome to the Shimmy: Irving Berlin, Mary Garden and the Jazz Opera that Never Came to Pass

Irving Berlin, the great American songwriter, needs little introduction today, but the great singer Mary Garden is less well known. She was an opera star in the first three decades of the 20th century, ending her music career as manager of the Chicago Civic Opera. The image below is a delightful illustration of the way leading newspapers of the 1920s produced creative full-page layouts combining photos and original artwork. 

Alas, Berlin seems to have never written an opera for Ms. Garden, who performed Salome in New York. That's too bad. As the inset quote in the center of this Fort Worth Star-Telegram page says: "It's but a step from Salome to the Shimmy."

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From Salome to the Shimmy: Irving Berlin, Mary Garden and the Jazz Opera that Never Came to Pass

Washin' Away the Blues: Gene Kelly in American Newspaper Archives

Seattle Daily Times (April 8, 1952)

August 23, 2012, would have been Gene Kelly’s 100th birthday. While that would be reason enough to browse American Newspaper Archives for coverage of his life and work, 2012 is also the 60th anniversary of his beloved 1952 musical comedy Singin' in the Rain. So here’s a double shot of shout out to the Irish-American entertainer.

The three stars of Singin' in the Rain came to show business by different routes. Kelly was a dancer and choreographer who had been a chorus boy and then a Broadway star. Debbie Reynolds had won a California beauty contest before signing a movie contract. And Donald O’Connor was from a vaudeville family and had been on stage and screen from his youth. Regardless of their professional origins, they made a potent combination.

The Sunday Oregonian (Jan. 26, 1941)

Washin' Away the Blues: Gene Kelly in American Newspaper Archives

The "Sensational, Hair-Raising, Blood-Curdling, Penny-Awful" American Life of Ned Buntline

What activities might make up the archetypal life of a 19th-century American man?  Items on such a checklist could include: 

Samuel Clemens checked off many of these items: He was a sailor, if on the Mississippi. He went west to make his fortune. He had served briefly in the Civil War. He was a journalist and popular lecturer. He reinvented himself as the author Mark Twain. He became an entrepreneur, and he lost a fortune.

Ned Buntline (1821-1886) from Early American Newspapers

However, my vote for the individual representing the epitome of a 19th-century American life goes to Ned Buntline. Buntline checked off every one of these items during the arc of his life, which can be followed through Readex’s Early American Newspapers. 


Charles Dickens turns 200

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth. America’s Historical Newspapers contains hundreds of contemporaneous articles about this genius of English literature, as well as reviews of his works and advertisements for his books. Here are a few samples, supplemented by the menu of a banquet held in his honor, found in American Broadsides and Ephemera.

Albany (New York) Evening Journal, June 10, 1865

In this speech before the Newspaper Press Fund, Dickens recalls his days as a Parliamentary reporter: 

Charles Dickens turns 200

Amundsen, Scott and Their Race to the South Pole

The Morning Oregonian (Aug. 23, 1908)

It was 100 years ago this month that Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian explorer, reached the South Pole. For the first time, two expeditions were making attempts to get there in the same summer season. Amundsen had been a member of an earlier expedition to Antarctica and had led expeditions in the Arctic. Robert F. Scott had led an earlier British expedition to Antarctica, and he was back to make another attempt to reach the pole. Their expeditions and their leadership styles continue to fascinate us.

Here’s how a new business book excerpted by Fortune Magazine (Oct. 17, 2011), Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen, compares them:

Cleveland Plain Dealer (June 2, 1901)

Amundsen, Scott and Their Race to the South Pole

Pearl Harbor: As Reported the Day After

Today is the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Here's how four American newspapers reported it the next day on their front pages.  


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Pearl Harbor: As Reported the Day After

D.B. Cooper: An American Original

Artist's sketch of D. B. Cooper (Photo: Seattle FBI)

The first aircraft hijackings were political. Leave it to American ingenuity to monetize the action! D.B. Cooper, not his real name, did it in 1971.  

Dan Cooper bought a ticket on Thanksgiving Eve 1971 from Portland to Seattle on Northwest Orient Flight 305. During the brief flight, he passed a note to a stewardess claiming to have a bomb and showed her a briefcase containing eight red cylinders wired to a battery. His instructions were for four parachutes and $200,000 in $20 bills to be delivered to the plane at the Seattle Tacoma Airport and for the plane to be refueled.

This was done. He released the passengers and stewardesses. Flight 305 took off, headed for Mexico via Reno, Nevada. Somewhere along the way, over southern Washington, Cooper parachuted out of the plane. It was dark and rainy and he was jumping into a wilderness area wearing a trench coat and street shoes, carrying the money and his briefcase. He has never been found. Nor has his body.

D.B. Cooper: An American Original

Hello, Comrade Philby

Kim Philby on USSR commemorative stamp

In “Just Browsing: Cool Items from the Past,” I shared several unexpected items I recently stumbled upon in America’s Historical Newspapers. I don’t however expect to find such wonderful things in Foreign Broadcast Information Service Daily Reports. What’s cool there comes more from the benefits of hindsight than sheer surprise. And that backward look lets the propagandistic nature of some of the documents shine through. One I recently read is the somewhat hagiographic interview with Kim Philby, the former high-ranking member of British intelligence agent who spied for and later defected to the Soviet Union. The interview, first published in the Russian daily newspaper Izvestiya on Dec. 19, 1967, was translated into English for publication in FBIS supplement “MATERIALS ON 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF SOVIET STATE SECURITY ORGANS, FBIS-FRB-68-007-S on 1968-01-10. Supplement number 2” Titled “Hello, Comrade Philby,” the article starts with a street scene in chilly Moscow:

Hello, Comrade Philby

Ernest Hemingway: In His Time

Source: American Newspaper Archives / America's Historical Newspapers

July of 2011 marks 50 years since the suicide of American author and Nobel Laureate Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway ranged far from his Oak Park, Illinois roots as a journalist in Kansas City, an ambulance driver on the Italian front in World War I, an expatriate in Paris in the 1920s, and a war correspondent in the Spanish Civil War and World War II. He hunted for big game in Africa and went deep sea fishing in the Caribbean. Along the way he wrote a handful of stories and novels that defined his generation.

Hemingway’s celebrity was of a different order than the fame of other American writers of his time. He had homes in Key West and then Cuba, went hunting and fishing, made appearances in the gossip columns, had multiple wives and wrote celebrity journalism. He used his fishing vessel to hunt for German subs during World War II. What he did was news. Even when, strictly speaking, it wasn’t really news at all. Following are some examples.

Here he’s introduced in 1930 to readers of the Seattle Daily Times in a gossip column:

Click to read full page in PDF.

A visit to New Orleans in 1936 is front-page news in the Times-Picayune:

Ernest Hemingway: In His Time


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