America's Historical Newspapers


The Rite of Spring: As Seen in America’s Historical Newspapers

On May 29, 1913, at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris, a dance and orchestral performance was given that has reverberated throughout the American art world for the past 100 years. Ballet Russes, the ballet company founded and directed by Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev, performed a dance choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky to an orchestral piece composed by Igor Stravinsky. That performance, The Rite of Spring, portrayed a pagan Russian celebration of spring which culminated in the sacrifice of a young girl chosen to dance to her death.

Nijinsky’s choreography departed from the contemporary idea of ballet by incorporating pigeon-toed, knock-kneed, repetitive, stamping and jumping. If that wasn’t disconcerting enough, Stravinsky’s dissonant music, with its powerful, pulsating, irregular rhythm, was.  Confronted by this combination of the primitive and the modern, which confounded current ideas of beauty, many in the audience jeered and hissed.  

The Rite of Spring: As Seen in America’s Historical Newspapers

Forty Sports Champions of 1913: A Photo Montage from the Harrisburg Patriot

This newspaper page from a century ago features a complex layout of amateur and professional sports heroes, established and up-and-coming, two- and four-legged. Found among the 40 photographs are baseball legends Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and Christie Mathewson as well as young golfer Francis Ouimet, the surprise winner of the 1913 U.S. Open. Women pictured include tennis players Marie Wagner and Mary Browne, golfer Gladys Ravenscroft, and Mrs. W.H. Dewar, U.S. National Fencing Champion, Women’s Foil. Other sports represented are boxing, billiards, harness racing, polo, long-distance running, and many more.

 

For more information about the Harrisburg Patriot and other American Newspaper Archives, please contact readexmarketing@readex.com.

Forty Sports Champions of 1913: A Photo Montage from the Harrisburg Patriot

Walt Whitman's "America": As First Published in The New York Herald

Walt Whitman's poem "America" was first published in The New York Herald on February 11, 1888. This short but significant work appeared on page four in the middle of a column-long article headlined "Personal Intelligence,” almost as "filler."

From a surviving 19th-century wax-cylinder recording, you can listen today to a remarkable reading of "America," widely believed to be spoken by Whitman himself, as captured by Edison circa 1890.

Walt Whitman's "America": As First Published in The New York Herald

Just published — The Readex Report: February 2013

In this issue: A robust African American resource populated by patrons; the humanity and heartache of an unsung Pulitzer Prize winner; using technology and newfound texts to flesh out classic reference works; and a cross-dressing female marine anchors a 19th-century bestseller.

A Patron-Grown Reference Tool: The Notable Kentucky African Americans Database

By Reinette F. Jones, Librarian, University of Kentucky

The Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (NKAA) is a continuously updated reference tool for studying African Americans in and from Kentucky from the 1700s to the present day. The database is freely available online, and receives well over 100,000 hits each year. It was created by librarians Rob Aken and Reinette Jones, both at the University of Kentucky Libraries. Entries focus on relevant people, places, events, or activities. (read article)

Just published — The Readex Report: February 2013

“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.”

“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."

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

Freedom by Express: The Life and Daring Escape of Henry Box Brown

 

New York Globe; June 23, 1883.

Henry Brown was born into slavery, circa 1815, 45 miles outside of Richmond, Virginia. As a young man, he was taken to work in the Richmond tobacco factory of his owner, William Barret. Well-regarded by Barret, Brown was generally treated kindly, but soon grew acutely aware of the cruelties visited on his fellow slaves. 

Brown fell in love with a slave woman named Nancy who was owned by a local banker. Both owners consented to the marriage. Although Nancy’s owner pledged to never sell Brown’s wife and break up the family, she was sold twice during their marriage. Nancy’s third owner, Samuel Cottrell, extorted Brown, requiring him to pay $50 a year to prevent the sale of Nancy and their three children.

One evening in August 1848, Brown returned home to find his wife and children gone. Cottrell had sold them, and they were being held in the local jail awaiting transport to North Carolina. As his family was taken from Richmond, Brown followed, holding his wife’s hand for four miles. He never saw Nancy or his children again.

Freedom by Express: The Life and Daring Escape of Henry Box Brown

"Native Son" Serialized with Illustrations in African American Newspapers during 1942

One of the most significant pieces of African American literature, “Native Son,” was serialized in the Kansas Plaindealer, Arkansas Free Press and other African American newspapers in 1941-42. These newspaper re-printings of Richard Wright’s novel featured powerful drawings by pioneering African American cartoonist Oliver Harrington. Revisit Wright’s groundbreaking work about institutional racism and its impact on the individual in the illustrated pages of the Plaindealer, as found in America’s Historical Newspapers.

"Native Son" Serialized with Illustrations in African American Newspapers during 1942

Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" reprinted in the Alexandria Gazette

Poe sold his poem, “The Raven,” to The American Review and it appeared in its February 1845 issue under the pseudonym "Quarles." The poem's first publication with Poe's name was in the New York Evening Mirror on January 29, 1845. Shortly after its publication in the Evening Mirror, "The Raven" appeared in publications across the country, including in the Alexandria (Virginia) Gazette on February 8, 1845, as seen below. 

For more information about America's Historical Newspapers, please email readexmarketing@readex.com.

 

Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" reprinted in the Alexandria Gazette

War of the Dictionaries

War of the Dictionaries

By Barbara Shaffer, unofficial historian of Springfield, Massachusetts

The Georgian brick building of the Merriam-Webster company on Federal Street in Springfield, Massachusetts, is considered by some world headquarters of the English language.  Scholars, heads of state and judges alike often deem the Merriam-Webster dictionary the final authority in spelling, pronunciation and definition.  That standing is the outcome of winning a long-fought conflict over a century ago. The company’s founders were brothers George and Charles Merriam, young printers who settled in Springfield in 1831 to print and sell books.  Their shop specialized in school books, Bibles and, curiously, wall papers.  The second-floor presses produced titles stocked by stores in Boston, New York and Philadelphia.
Engraving of Noah Webster

 

War of the Dictionaries

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