10 Stories: Look to the Skies! Chronicling America

In celebration of the release of the 10 millionth page of Chronicling America, our free, online searchable database of historical U.S. newspapers, the reference librarians in our Serials & Government Publications Division have selected some interesting subjects and articles from the archives. We’ll be sharing them in a series of Throwback Thursday #TBT blog posts during the next few weeks.

Today we return to our historical newspaper archives for reports of endeavors and antics in the air, mostly through powered, heavier-than-air machines. But sometimes a person just has to get shot out of a cannon.

Illustration of sky pirates

Sky Pirates! From the Salt Lake Tribune, May 12, 1912.

Ohio Boys Who Have Invented a Flying Machine Which Flies
It all started with Orville and Wilbur Wright. And before you mock the redundancy in the headline, please note that in those days, not all flying machines actually got off the ground. Tacoma (Washington) Times, Dec. 26, 1903.

Startling Feat Crowns Trip of Aviator Atwood
Pilot lands his plane on the White House lawn. Gets a medal and hearty handshake from President Taft. Does not get taken into custody. These were simpler times. Washington Herald, July 15, 1911.

Aviator Sees Sporting Chance to Reach Roof of World
While he was a long-lived aviator (d. 1974) known for his air speed records, we are not certain that Roland Rohlfs ever made it to Mount Everest. Odgen (Utah) Standard-Examiner, Jan. 17, 1921.

 ”Will It Be the Aeroplane Pirates Next?
A spate of murders and robberies by three “automobile pirates in Paris” leads a “great German scientist” to the obvious next step: sky pirates. Salt Lake Tribune, May 12, 1912.

100-Foot Drop, Nearly Drowned; About Cured Her of Air Game
“It isn’t often that a woman falls 100 feet, while strapped to the seat of an aeroplane, plunges into the ocean and after being held under the water for three minutes, is rescued and lives the tell the tale.” No, not often at all. Mrs. Florence Seidell had just learned to fly a few weeks back, too, according to the Chicago Day Book, Sept. 25, 1913.

Airplane Acrobatics
It’s the “very newest sport,” said the New York Tribune of April 20, 1919, but not for the faint of heart.

Things You Might Have to Do If You Acted in Motion Pictures
Including dangerous (and even fatal) stunts from airplanes, recounted in the Washington Evening Star, July 25, 1915.

Marooned 50 Hours on a Skyscraper
Not a pilot, but an unintentional denizen of the sky: A brave clerk leaps to save an important paper when the window closes behind him. Passers-by point and laugh. A typical day in New York City, as reported in the Rising Son (Kansas City, Mo.), May 18. 1907.

 ”Hazardous Feats the Thrill the Blood
Just a little before powered flight began, such feats might include an “aeronaut” taking to the sky via balloon and jumping out with a parachute. Whew! San Francisco Call, July 13, 1902.

Bonus Story: “100 Ways of Breaking Your Neck
In somewhat the same vein and with all of the perilous activity mentioned this week, it was hard for us to leave off this delightful piece from the Omaha (Nebraska) Daily Bee, April 16, 1905. To be fair, they only list six ways—but two of those entail being shot into the air (albeit without aeroplane or balloon).

Launched by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in 2007, Chronicling America provides enhanced and permanent access to historically significant newspapers published in the United States between 1836 and 1922. It is part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), a joint effort between the two agencies and partners in 40 states and territories. Start exploring the first draft of history today at chroniclingamerica.loc.gov and help us celebrate on Twitter and Facebook by sharing your findings and using the hashtags #ChronAm #10Million.


  1. Reported Times
    November 13, 2015 at 11:31 am

    A quite informational post. Thank you!

  2. Alessa
    November 17, 2015 at 10:14 am

    Fantastic snippets to read! I really enjoyed looking at some of these articles. The story about the woman falling 100ft from the plane, the man marooned on a skyscraper, and the things you need to do when you are a stunt person in a movie in the past, were particularly hair-raising. It’s a good job things are generally a little safer today…

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