In our latest issue: The exonerated executioner of a Native American sorceress; profiling a polymathic chess master; using a local newspaper archive to uncover an American city's past; and unremembered inhumanity that sparked a world war.
Murder! Or the Remarkable Trial of Tommy Jemmy, 19th-Century Seneca Witch-Hunter and Defender of Indian SovereigntyBy Matthew Dennis, Professor of History and Environmental Studies, University of OregonI never read murder and mayhem stories in the newspaper. Such sensationalist accounts have been a mainstay of the U.S. popular press since it was invented in the early American republic, and they remain a prominent feature today. But the tawdry details of homicidal doings, breathlessly recounted, hold little appeal for me. And yet a few years ago one such story caught my eye and drew me in, sending me on my own investigative journey. (read article)
Thousands of ships over centuries have lined the ocean floor, but even 100 years after it sank, the Titanic still fascinates. James Cameron’s 1997 critically acclaimed "Titanic"—the second bestselling film in U.S. history—was re-released this month in 3-D. The Titanic has also been the subject of several TV documentaries retelling and exploring the disaster. In its own time, no news event was more covered in exacting detail through the pages of the press. News of the Titanic’s shocking demise made front pages across the nation.
Old Evening Star Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. -- Source: Carol M. Highsmith Archive (Library of Congress)
This spring Readex will begin releasing a complete 70-year span of The Evening Star—one of the most influential newspapers in U.S. history. For more than a century, historians have regarded The Evening Star as the newspaper of record for the nation’s capital. Today, curators from leading newspaper repositories cite this long-running afternoon daily as one of their most heavily researched papers.
Lincoln J. Beachey (March 3, 1887 – March 14, 1915)
In the early 20th century, aviator Lincoln Beachey and his Curtis biplane amazed and delighted crowds with the “Dip of Death” and his mastery of “looping the loop.” Or by daring to fly upside down, which on one occasion shook $300 from his pocket and led him to quip,
I am willing to take a chance of losing my life flying upside down but it’s certainly tough to be torn loose from my bank roll, too.1
A groundbreaking aviator and breathtaking stuntman, he could boast of having performed for over 20 million spectators, or about one fifth of the U.S. population at the time. Yet 100 years later his name is largely unknown.
Downton Abbey, a drama that recently ended its second season on PBS about the English aristocracy and their servants during the Edwardian era, has become a cult hit in the United States. A great deal of its appeal is nostalgia for an elegant way of life unfamiliar to most of us. And there is likely not a woman alive who has not wished for a lady’s maid (of a nicer sort) than the dour and scheming O’Brien, lady’s maid to Lady Grantham (Cora Crawley). Ladies’ maids were part seamstress, masseuse, hairdresser, beautician and secretary. Unlike the rest of the servants, they reported directly to the lady of the house rather than to the housekeeper or butler, which set them apart from the others.
As Downton Abbey makes abundantly clear, a strict hierarchy ruled "below stairs" too. The butler, housekeeper and ladies' maids were at the top. Because of the close nature of the relationship between the lady of the house and her maid, maids were carefully selected. According to The Lady’s Maid: Her Duties and How to Perform Them, a manual published in 1870,
The Louisiana Historical Newspaper Archivehas proven to be an invaluable source for research for me. Currently, I am writing a historical novel set in New Orleans during the Civil War. Before access to this digital newspaper archive, I was able to find vague references to events that happened in the city during this period, but not many details. Once I started perusing the local daily newspapers of that era, I was able to find the missing key I needed to give my novel weight. For instance, several books and websites state that Mardi Gras did not occur during the Civil War. Yet local newspapers reveal that while there were no parades, Mardi Gras balls were held in 1862, 1864 and 1865, leaving 1863 the only year in this span with no mention of festivities.
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.