Remembering James Dean, Woody Guthrie & Janis Joplin with Newspapers

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott looks up profiles, news stories and obituaries in old newspapers to learn more about these three famous entertainers who died this week in American history.

During this week in history (30 September to 4 October) America lost three of its most iconic entertainment personalities. America, and indeed the whole world, lost film actor James Dean in 1955, singer Woody Guthrie in 1967, and singer Janis Joplin in 1970.

Newspapers are filled with obituaries and profiles that help us better understand the lives of our ancestors—and the famous people who lived during their times. The following newspaper articles about these three famous Americans are good examples.

James Dean (1931-1955)

Although he only starred in three movies in his short lifetime, James Dean was already being compared to Marlon Brando when he died. In 1955 Dean shot to stardom as a result of his starring role of Cal Trask in East of Eden, which earned him the first-ever posthumous nomination for an Academy Award. For most of us today, James Dean is best known for his role as Jim Stark in Rebel without a Cause. At the time of his death, Dean had just finished filming his now-famous role as Jett Rink in the film Giant, and had set off in his Porsche sports car to indulge in his passion for car racing at a racetrack in Salinas, California, in the upcoming weekend. Dean never made it to Salinas.

How did James Dean die so young? As you can read in this article from a 1955 Texas newspaper, a tragic automobile accident claimed the life of James Dean at the age of only 24.

Car Collision Kills Actor James Dean, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 1 October 1955

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 1 October 1955, page 1

Then just two days later, the Dallas Morning News again reported on the Dean tragedy, this time focusing on his funeral to be held in Dean’s home town of Fairmount, Indiana.

Funeral Services for Dean Planned in Indiana Saturday, Dallas Morning News newspaper article, 3 October 1955

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 3 October 1955, page 18

This newspaper article not only provides a fascinating look at the early life of James Dean, but also reports the stark reactions of his costars such as Elizabeth Taylor, who “took it the hardest” and was “crying unashamedly.”

I always thought James Dean was buried in Hollywood; now that I know he lies at rest just a couple hours from my home, I will be taking a future road trip to pay my respects to this marvelous actor and icon of youth angst. Interesting note: this same small Indiana town is also the hometown of another American cultural icon, Jim Davis, the cartoonist and creator of “Garfield.”

Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)

While some folks reading this might be more familiar with Arlo, the son of Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie, many musicians and music historians would agree with the claim in this 1971 New Jersey newspaper article that Woody is “generally considered America’s greatest balladeer.”

Okie Folk Poet [Woody Guthrie] Loved Underdog, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 27 June 1971

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 27 June 1971, page 102

Woody Guthrie wrote more than 1,000 songs, of which more than 400 are preserved in the Library of Congress (and dozens of which populate my iPad). He also wrote an autobiography Bound for Glory(also on my iPad), and has been acknowledged as a major musical influence on such modern-day musicians as Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, and dozens of others. His best known musical piece might well be “This Land Is Your Land.”

When he succumbed to his 15-year battle with Huntington’s disease on 3 October 1967, the news of Guthrie’s death was carried from coast-to-coast. This obituary from a 1967 Louisiana newspaper makes note of a fact still true about Woody today: “Many persons heard Guthrie’s songs without ever knowing his name. Among those who have recorded Woody’s songs are Bing Crosby, Harry Belafonte, Frank Sinatra, and Peter, Paul, and Mary.”

Folk-Singer [Woody] Guthrie Dies, Times-Picayune newspaper obituary, 4 October 1967

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 4 October 1967, page 8

Being a born and raised Clevelander (home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), it was especially nice to read a 1987 news article from my hometown Cleveland newspaper that reported the 1988 Class of inductees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: not only was Woody Guthrie being honored—but also a singer whom he greatly influenced, Bob Dylan.

Lads, Boys, Girls, Bob [Dylan] in Hall, Plain Dealer newspaper article 28 October 1987

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 28 October 1987, page 83

Oh, and just in case you are a fan of the website FindAGrave.com, I’ll let you in on a “secret.” There may be a memorial stone to Woody in his hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma, but Woody’s not there. His ashes were actually spread at Coney Island, New York.

Janis Joplin (1943-1970)

The year was 1970. America was at war; the Vietnam War was raging in its 11th year. The fight over the war raged across our nation’s home front. The divisions that this war caused throughout America were evident in families, public protests, college campuses, and beyond. Rock and roll music was a boiling caldron fueled by many of these divisions (for instance my parents would not allow rock and roll in my house). Into this scene burst some of America’s most noted rock artists.

One of these was one of my personal favorites, Janis Joplin. Her name is forever welded to “Mercedes Benz” in my mind, a song she recorded just two days before her untimely death in 1970 at the age of only 27. As you can see it was Page One news in this 1970 article from a Texas newspaper.

Singer Janis Joplin Found Dead in Hotel, Dallas Morning News newspaper obituary 5 October 1970

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 5 October 1970, page 1

As you can imagine there followed numerous articles that mourned the loss of this one-of-a-kind singer. Other newspapers seized the occasion to rail away at the excesses of America’s youth.

This 1970 article from a North Carolina newspaper reported that Janis had signed her will only three days before her death, and left half her estate to her parents and one quarter each to her brother and sister.

Janis Joplin Left Estate to Family, Greensboro Daily News newspaper article 22 October 1970

Greensboro Daily News (Greensboro, North Carolina), 22 October 1970, page 11

Janis had a unique voice and style. In this 1969 article from a California newspaper, reporter Carol Olten had this to say about Janis: “Janis Joplin never leaves doubts in anyone’s mind about being THE rock ’n’ roll woman. Any musicians who appear on stage with her have been more or less reduced to mashed potatoes.”

Janis Joplin Here Saturday, San Diego Union newspaper article 28 September 1969

San Diego Union (San Diego, California), 28 September 1969, page 78

Janis was indeed quite the woman of rock and roll. As reported in this 1994 article from an Illinois newspaper, she was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the 1995 Class of inductees.

[Janis] Joplin, [Frank] Zappa Join Hall of Fame, Register Star newspaper article 17 November 1994

Register Star (Rockford, Illinois), 17 November 1994, page 35

By the way, whenever you are in Cleveland, Ohio, pay a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Famewhere you can see some of Janis’s memorabilia and a whole lot more. From personal experience, I suggest you allow at least two days for your visit!

Obituaries provide personal details about someone’s life that we can’t find elsewhere—whether they are our ancestors or famous people we’re interested in. GenealogyBank features two collections of obituaries:

Dig into these obituary archives today and see what you can discover about your family and favorite celebrities!

What Can I Find in GenealogyBank about My Cousin Maid Marion?

No, I don’t mean Robin Hood’s love interest from the 16th century.

I’m referring to my cousin Marion Morgan Kemp (1862-1963) who owned villas in France, New York and Rome.

Years ago I contacted the authorities in Osmoy, France, where she died and received a copy of her death certificate.

photo of the death certificate for Marion Morgan Kemp (1862-1963)

Credit: Thomas Jay Kemp

Since Marion lived most of her life overseas, I wondered if I could find more details of her life in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

I quickly found many old newspaper articles about her that gave me a better sense of Marion’s social and civic activities. She not only hosted many events, but also during World War II—after the Allies retook Rome in June of 1944—she lent her personal villa for the use of President Roosevelt’s representative in Rome.

If you read the news article about the villa takeover carefully, you’ll see that her 60-room villa was highly sought after, causing “a scramble among high Allied officers who wanted it.” President Roosevelt’s personal representative, Myron Taylor, won the right to occupy her prized villa when he showed up with a personal letter from Marion—turns out they had known each other for many years.

collage of news articles about Marion Kemp, from GenealogyBank

Credit: GenealogyBank

Notice where the above three articles about Marion appeared:

  • “Mrs. Coolidge Honored,” Springfield Union (Springfield, Massachusetts), 14 August 1949, page 16.
  • “Sporting Tea in Stable,” Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 9 April 1905, page 8.
  • “Myron Taylor Wins Row over Mansion in Rome,” Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 4 July 1944, page 3.

These are terrific articles, published in newspapers from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Not locations where I had expected to find more information about my ancestor, but pleasant surprises nonetheless.

I had almost limited my record search to only New York newspapers, since that is one of the cities where she owned a home—but I went with a full search of GenealogyBank. It’s a good thing I did— I otherwise wouldn’t have discovered the interesting news articles I found that gave me a glimpse into her life.

Genealogy Search Tip: Cast a wide net when searching newspapers and gather in all of the articles about your family. You never know what you might find out about your ancestors.

Last Veteran of the War of 1812, Hiram Cronk—Died in 1905!

In the month of May we celebrate Memorial Day, a time to honor the men and women who died fighting our country’s wars—and, by extension, all veterans. During this week back in 1905 America was celebrating the remarkable story of a very special veteran—for on 13 May 1905, Hiram Silas Cronk died, the last surviving veteran of the War of 1812.

Hiram Cronk Featured in Duffy’s Whiskey Ads

On the day the old American solider turned 105, two weeks before his death, a whiskey company used Cronk’s longevity to help market its product. This newspaper advertisement was published by the Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 29 April 1905, page 2:

newspaper ad for Duffy's whiskey featuring Hiram Cronk, Evening Press newspaper 29 April 1905

Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 29 April 1905, page 2

The Death & Funeral of Hiram Cronk

The now famous Hiram Cronk died as he had lived, quietly on his farm in New York, but his death and funeral were reported in newspapers all across the United States. The city of New York lavished a state funeral on the venerable veteran, with full military honors. Tens of thousands paid their respects by filing past Hiram Cronk’s body lying in its coffin in the rotunda of New York City Hall.

Cronk’s death was seen as the passing of an era, for his lifetime embraced almost the entirety of the country’s history. He was born in 1800 during the administration of the nation’s second president John Adams; fought in the War of 1812; lived the entire length of the 19th century as the U.S. became a world power and one of the richest nations on earth; and died just nine years before the outbreak of World War I—with all its modern weaponry including tanks, airplanes and poison gas.

The Life & Family of Hiram Cronk

Until almost the very end of his life, Cronk received little publicity or fame for his U.S. military service in the War of 1812. After the war he earned his living as a shoemaker, then later bought some land in New York and became a farmer. In 1825 he married Mary Thornton; the couple had seven children and were married 60 years, Mary dying in 1885. He had 14 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren at the time of his death. One of his descendants, Jane, lived to over 100 years of age as well, making the two “serial centenarians.”

Cronk Finally Becomes Famous for His Good Genes

It was not until 1900, when the start of a new century coincided with his 100th year, that newspapers began to pay Hiram Cronk much attention. Typical of the notices that ran that year is this pension notice, published by the Springfield Daily Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 4 May 1900, page 11:

notice about Hiram Cronk being 100 years old, Springfield Daily Republican newspaper, 4 May 1900

Springfield Daily Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 4 May 1900, page 11

When Cronk was 101 the following article was published, emphasizing that he was the last surviving veteran of the War of 1812, and giving some interesting personal information—such as the fact that longevity ran in his family, and that he had used tobacco and strong liquor all his life!

This newspaper article was published by the Inter Ocean and reprinted by the Daily Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 3 June 1901, page 4:

article about Hiram Cronk being the last survivor of the War of 1812, Daily Picayune newspaper, 3 June 1901

Daily Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 3 June 1901, page 4

The news article goes on to report further on Cronk and his family’s genealogy:

“At the age of 101 years Mr. Cronk is still hale and hearty and, all things considered, remarkably active. He lives within a short distance of his birthplace. Except for his absence during the war, he has seldom left the vicinity.

“Cronk’s family is locally famous for longevity. Four brothers and a sister lived to be over 90 years old, and one to the age of 98. A family reunion was held on Hiram Cronk’s 100th birthday. It was attended by over 100 descendants and relatives.

“The veteran is a lifelong Democrat. He cast his first vote for Andrew Jackson and his last for Grover Cleveland. When asked why he has not since voted the old gentleman remarks good-naturedly: ‘When I got down to Grover I calculated it was time to quit and call it a half day.’

“From a very early age Cronk has been a habitual user of tobacco. He both chews and smokes. Recently he has threatened to break the habit. He is afraid, he says, that the use of the weed may become a habit with him. He has drunk strong liquor throughout his life, but always in moderation.

“The veteran has every attention and bids fair to live for some time yet. He makes his home with his youngest daughter, a mere chit of a girl of 80.”

Three days after Cronk turned 104 this newspaper article was published by the Boston Journal (Boston, Massachusetts), 2 May 1904, page 6:

article about Hiram Cronk turning 104, Boston Journal newspaper, 2 May 1904

Boston Journal (Boston, Massachusetts), 2 May 1904, page 6

Note that last line, a theme that reverberated when Cronk passed away the next year: “With his death will be broken a link that binds us to a glorious past.”

Publicity for Hiram Cronk—and the resulting fame—really increased in the winter of 1904-05, when the old man became seriously ill and death seemed imminent, as reported in this news article published by the Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), on the front page of its 24 December 1904 issue:

article about Hiram Cronk dying, Evening Press newspaper, 24 December 1904

Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 24 December 1904, page 1

The article about the old soldier goes on to say:

“He had run the whole gamut of personal and business vicissitude, has found some consolation in the lean years and a greater joy in the last years, and was a cheery old optimist through all. Since last April the sluggishness has made itself felt and a natural sleep has, from day to day, taken up a greater number of the hours. Now he is sleeping his life away to the last sleep of all.”

Conk’s Funeral Is Arranged while He Is Still Living!

Alarmed at Cronk’s deteriorating condition, New York City’s Board of Aldermen took the unusual step of arranging a grand funeral for the aged veteran—even though he was still alive! This newspaper article was published by the Duluth News Tribune (Duluth, Minnesota) on the front page of its 21 December 1904 issue:

article about arranging funeral for Hiram Cronk, Duluth News Tribune newspaper, 21 December 1904

Duluth News Tribune (Duluth, Minnesota), 21 December 1904, page 1

The news article goes on to say:

“…in the state of New York and in view of his honorable part in many battles of the War of 1812, it would be fitting that the chief city of the Empire State lead in honoring him by a soldier’s burial and that his remains lie in state in the City Hall.

“Alderman McCall said that while he approved of the spirit of the resolution he thought it would be better to wait for the hero to die before providing for his funeral. The resolution finally was adopted by the following amendment:

“ ‘That in the event of the death of Mr. Cronk, the president of the Board of Alderman take cognizance of the fact and appoint a committee to provide for a public funeral and other honors of the dead hero.’”

As you might expect, this business of arranging a funeral for a man still living was much remarked upon in the nation’s press, as the following humorous notices show.

This notice was published by the Springfield Daily Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 6 January 1905, page 13:

“The New York Board of Aldermen are planning to give a public funeral to Hiram Cronk when he dies. He is the only survivor of the War of 1812 in New York. The news of such an honor may prove so exciting to the old man that it will kill him.”

This notice was published by the Morning Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 23 April 1905, page 6:

“Hiram Cronk, the last survivor of the War of 1812, was 105 last Wednesday [correction: his birthday was April 29], but he refuses to die, although the New York aldermen have voted him a public funeral when he will accept. With such an inducement one would expect a rush for the tomb.”

This notice was published by the Daily Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 25 April 1905, page 6:

“Some months ago the New York Board of Aldermen voted to give Hiram Cronk, the last survivor of the War of 1812, a public funeral. In spite of this inducement to die, Mr. Cronk decided to remain among us a while longer, and celebrated his 105th birthday on Wednesday last [correction: his birthday was April 29]. He won’t lose the State funeral by declining to accept it at this time; he can have it whenever it will be convenient to him.”

There was a big celebration on April 29, 1905, when Cronk turned 105, as explained in this newspaper article published by the Sunday World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 30 April 1905, page 8:

article about celebrating Hiram Cronk's 105th birthday, Sunday world Herald newspaper, 30 April 1905

Sunday World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 30 April 1905, page 8

The news article goes on to say:

“Hiram Cronk, the only survivor of the War of 1812, was one hundred and five years old on April 29 and a patriotic celebration took place at his home at Ava, Oneida County, New York.

“Every society in the United States of the Sons and Daughters of the War of 1812 sent a delegation to Ava, and all patriots’ military bodies and American citizens sent him greetings, gifts or tokens to show that his services for the country were and are appreciated.

“Mr. Cronk was so weak during the winter that he was not expected to survive and elaborate funeral arrangements had been made, but he recovered thanks to Duffy’s Pure Malt Whiskey. By a special act of the New York City administration his remains, when he dies, will be interred in Mount Victory, a soldiers’ plot in Cypress Hills Cemetery.”

Hiram Cronk Dies at Age 105

Exactly two weeks after his 105th birthday, Hiram Cronk died. This newspaper article was published by the Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 13 May 1905, page 9:

article about the death of Hiram Cronk, Evening Press newspaper, 13 May 1905

Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 13 May 1905, page 9

The news article goes on to say:

“The body of Mr. Cronk will lie in state in the City Hall of New York and will be buried in Mt. Victory, Cypress Hills Cemetery, in Brooklyn, where more than half a hundred of his fellow soldiers in the War of 1812 have been laid at rest.”

The nation mourned the death of Hiram Cronk, recognizing it truly was the passing of an era, as expressed in this newspaper article published by the Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), May 15, 1905, page 8:

article about Hiram Cronk's death being the end of an era, Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, 15 May 1905

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), May 15, 1905, page 8

The news article goes on to say:

“It calls to mind the brevity of our national existence. The [nineteenth] century-born Cronk was born during the Presidency of the elder Adams, when the total population was about that of Pennsylvania today, and when the cost of government was far less than the total appropriations just signed by Governor Pennypacker. He fought in the ranks against the troops of the same George III who ruled when the Revolution took place, a fact which so many intelligent people seem to have forgotten. He completed his career as a soldier before Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo and at a time when this nation was still an experiment.

“Who could have imagined that this country would develop in wealth in the lifetime of a single man until it should become the richest on earth? That the population should grow to be the greatest of all non-Oriental nations, for we must place Russia essentially among the Eastern peoples? Who could have supposed that the life of one man would span that development in human activities which covered a period almost from the birth of steam as an active agent in human affairs?

“In view of these things what may not be the possibilities of the future?”

This comment was published by the Boston Journal (Boston, Massachusetts), 15 May 1905, page 6:

“The world of sentiment and patriotic affection seems poorer through the death of Hiram Cronk, the last pensioner of the War of 1812, and undoubtedly the final survivor. The one human link that bound us of today with that struggle for the defense of our rights on the sea has gone. Now let us carefully cherish the naval relics that are left to us.”

A grand parade escorted Hiram Cronk’s body to New York City Hall on May 17 so that it could lie in state for mourners to pay their respects, as reported in this newspaper article published by the Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 17 May 1905, page 10:

article about Hiram Cronk's body lying in state, Evening Press newspaper, 17 May 1905

Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 17 May 1905, page 10

The news article goes on to say:

“New York, May 17.—The body of Hiram Cronk, who lived to be the last survivor of the War of 1812, was brought here today from Boonville, N.Y., and will be laid away in Cypress Hills Cemetery with full military honors. The funeral will be held tomorrow and in the meantime the body will lie in state in the City Hall. Accompanying the body were Mr. Cronk’s three surviving sons and one daughter. They were Philander Cronk, 81 years old; William, 72 years old; John, 66 years old; and the daughter, Mrs. Sarah Rowley, 71 years old.

“As the funeral cortege moved from the Grand Central Station to the City Hall it afforded an imposing and unusual spectacle. Led by a police escort of mounted officers, a detachment from the United States regular Army, the Society of 1812 and the Old Guard in uniform, came the hearse bearing the old warrior’s body. Around it, in hollow square formation, marched the members of the U.S. Grant Post, G.A.R. Then followed the Washington Continental Guard from Washington, D.C., the Army and Navy Union, and carriages with members of the Cronk family. Carriages with Mayor McClellan and members of the city government brought up the rear.”

Details of Hiram Cronk’s body lying in state, as well as his funeral the following day on May 18, were reported in this newspaper article published by the Pawtucket Times (Pawtucket, Rhode Island) on the front page of its 18 May 1905 issue:

article about Hiram Cronk's funeral, Pawtucket Times newspaper, 18 May 1905

Pawtucket Times (Pawtucket, Rhode Island), 18 May 1905, page 1

The news article goes on to say:

“New York, May 18.—The body of Hiram Cronk, the last veteran of the War of 1812 to pass away, was buried today in Cypress Hills Cemetery with impressive military honors. Nearly threescore other soldiers who fought in the war of almost a century ago had lain for many years in the cemetery where their oldest comrade was placed today.

“Since yesterday, when it was brought from Boonville, the body has been in the City Hall. All day yesterday, last evening and this forenoon there was a constant stream of men, women and children moving past the flower and bunting-covered casket in the city building—the first which had rested there since the body of Gen. Grant lay in state. One hundred and fifty policemen were required to keep the crowd moving and to keep clear the plaza in front of the building.

“From the City Hall to the cemetery the body was escorted by a detail of mounted police, the Fourteenth Regiment, and a troop from the Second Brigade, National Guard of New York; delegations from U.S. Grant Post, G.A.R., and carriages containing relatives of the dead soldier and a committee from the Board of Aldermen representing the city. All along the route over which the funeral cortege passed the streets were lined with people. At the cemetery Marcus B. Taylor, chaplain of the Veteran Corps, conducted the burial service according to the Grand Army ritual.”

With a volley of military gunfire and the playing of taps, Hiram Cronk was finally laid to rest, as reported in this newspaper article published by the Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Illinois), 19 May 1905, page 2:

article about Hiram Cronk's funeral, Belleville News Democrat newspaper, 19 May 1905

Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Illinois), 19 May 1905, page 2

The news article goes on to say:

“More than 50,000 New Yorkers, with bared heads, filed past the flower-covered bier in which the dead soldier lay in the City Hall. The expenses of the unusual, but befitting honors to him, are borne by the city.

“The catafalque rested in the rotunda of the City Hall, draped with flags and flowers, while the building was draped in black. It was the first time since the death of Gen. Grant that a body has laid in state in the City Hall.

“After the body had been lowered into the grave, at Cypress Hills Cemetery, a squad of soldiers fired a volley over the grave and a bugler sounded taps. Hiram Cronk was with the army of the dead.”

Amazing Survival Stories of Last Moments on the ‘Titanic’ Ship

This week, the world is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the British passenger liner RMS Titanic. The massive ship went down at 2:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912, after striking an iceberg in the North Atlantic shortly before midnight. There weren’t enough lifeboats for everyone on board, and 1,517 passengers and crew lost their lives.

Another passenger ship, the Carpathia, picked up the Titanic survivors and brought them to New York City, docking on April 18. It was then that the world began to learn details of the disaster from some of the survivors, whose stories were published in the newspapers.

Here’s a newspaper article with some amazing survival stories from the last moments on the Titanic. This copyrighted news article was published by the Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina), 19 April 1912, page 1:

Graphic Stories of Real Heroism charlotte observer newspaper article April 19 1912

Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina), 19 April 1912, page 1

Graphic Stories of Real Heroism

Many of the Survivors Tell of Last Moment on Titanic

Skippers Were Told

Conduct of John Jacob Astor Deserves Highest Praise as He Gave His Life for His Wife

New York, April 18.—E. Z. Taylor of Philadelphia, one of the survivors, jumped into the sea just three minutes before the boat sank. He told a graphic story as he came from the Carpathia.

“I was eating when the Titanic struck the iceberg,” he said. “There was an awful shock that made the boat tremble from stem to stern. I did not realize for some time what had happened. No one seemed to know the extent of the accident. We were told that an iceberg had been struck by the ship. I felt the boat rise and it seemed to me that she was riding over the ice. I ran out on deck and then I could see ice. It was a veritable sea of ice and the boat was rocking over it. I should say that parts of the iceberg were 80 feet high, but it had been broken into sections probably by our ship.

“I jumped into the ocean and was picked up by one of the boats. I never expected to see land again. I waited on board the boat until the lights went out. It seemed to me that the discipline on board was wonderful.”

Saved at Last Moment

Colonel Archibald Gracie, U.S.A., the last man saved, went down with the vessel but was picked up. He was met tonight by his daughter, who had arrived from Washington, and his son-in-law, Paul H. Fabricius. Colonel Gracie told a remarkable story of personal hardship and denied emphatically the reports that there had been any panic on board. He praised in the highest terms the behavior of both the passengers and crew and paid a high tribute to the heroism of the women passengers.

“Mrs. Isidor Straus,” he said, “went to her death because she would not desert her husband. Although he pleaded with her to take her place in the boat she steadfastly refused, and when the ship settled at the head the two were engulfed in the wave that swept her.”

Colonel Gracie told of how he was driven to the topmost deck when the ship settled and was the sole survivor after the wave that swept her just before her final plunge had passed.

“I jumped with the wave,” said he, “just as I often have jumped with the breakers at the seashore. By great good fortune I managed to grasp the brass railing on the deck above and I hung on by might and main. When the ship plunged down I was forced to let go and I was swirled around and around for what seemed to be an interminable time. Eventually I came to the surface, to find the sea a mass of tangled wreckage.

“Luckily I was unhurt and casting about managed to seize a wooden grating floating nearby. When I had recovered my breath I discovered a larger canvas and cork life raft which had floated up. A man, whose name I did not learn, was struggling toward it from some wreckage to which he had clung. I cast off and helped him to get onto the raft and we then began the work of rescuing those who had jumped into the sea and were floundering in the water.

At Break of Dawn

“When dawn broke there were thirty of us on the raft, standing knee deep in the icy water and afraid to move lest the creaky craft be overturned. Several unfortunates, benumbed and half dead, besought us to save them and one or two made an effort to reach us but we had to warn them away. Had we made any effort to save them we all might have perished.

“The hours that elapsed before we were picked up by the Carpathia were the longest and most terrible that I ever spent. Practically without any sensation of feeling, because of the icy water, we were almost dropping from fatigue. We were afraid to turn around to look to see whether we were seen by passing craft and when someone who was facing astern passed the word that something that looked like a steamer was coming up one of the men became hysterical under the strain. The rest of us, too, were nearing the breaking point.”

Col. Gracie denied with emphasis that any men were fired upon and declared that only once was a revolver discharged.

“This was for the purpose of intimidating some steerage passengers,” he said, “who had tumbled into a boat before it was prepared for launching. This shot was fired in the air, and when the foreigners were told the next would be directed at them they promptly returned to the deck. There was no confusion and no panic.”

Contrary to the general expectation, there was no jarring impact when the vessel struck, according to the army officer. He was in his berth when the vessel smashed into the submerged portion of the berg and was aroused by the jar. He looked at this watch, he said, and found it was just midnight. The ship sank with him at 2:22 a.m., for his watch stopped at that hour.

“Before I retired,” said Colonel Gracie, “I had a long chat with Charles H. Hays, president of the Grand Trunk Railroad. One of the last things Mr. Hays said was this: ‘The White Star, the Cunard and the Hamburg-American lines are devoting their attention and ingenuity in vying with them to obtain supremacy in luxurious ships and in making speed records. The time will soon come when this will be checked by some appalling disaster.’ Poor fellow; a few hours later, he was dead.”

Conduct of Colonel Astor

“The conduct of Colonel John Jacob Astor was deserving of the highest praise,” declared Colonel Gracie. “The millionaire New Yorker,” he said, “devoted all his energies to saving his young bride, nee Miss Force of New York who was in delicate health. Colonel Astor helped us in our efforts to get her in the boat,” said Colonel Gracie. “I lifted her into the boat and as she took her place Colonel Astor requested permission of the second officer to go with her for her own protection.

“‘No, sir,’ replied the officer, ‘Not a man shall go on a boat until the women are all off.’ Colonel Astor then inquired the number of the boat, which was being lowered away and turned to the work of clearing the other boats and in reassuring the frightened and nervous women.

“By this time the ship began to list frightfully to port. This became so dangerous that the second officer ordered everyone to rush to starboard. This we did and we found the crew trying to get a boat off in that quarter. Here I saw the last of John B. Thayer, second vice president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and George B. Widener, a capitalist of Philadelphia.”

Colonel Gracie said that despite the warnings of icebergs, no slowing down of speed was ordered by the commander of the Titanic. There were other warnings, too, he said. “In the 24 hours’ run ending the 14th,” he said, “the ship’s run was 546 miles, and we were told that the next 24 hours would see even a better record posted. No diminution of speed was indicated in the run and the engines kept up their steady running. When Sunday evening came we all noticed the increased cold, which gave plain warning that the ship was in close proximity to icebergs or ice fields. The officers, I am credibly informed, had been advised by wireless from other ships of the presence of icebergs and dangerous floes in that vicinity. The sea was as smooth as glass, and the weather clear, so that it seems that there was no occasion for fear.

No Indication of Panic

“When the vessel struck,” he continued, “the passengers were so little alarmed that they joked over the matter. The few that were on deck early had taken their time to dress properly and there was not the slightest indication of panic. Some of the fragments of ice had fallen on the deck and these were picked up and passed around by some of the facetious ones who offered them as mementoes of the occasion. On the port side a glance over the side failed to show any evidence of damage and the vessel seemed to be on an even keel. James Clinch Smith and I, however, soon found the vessel was listing heavily. A few minutes later the officers ordered men and women to don life preservers.”

One of the last women seen by Colonel Gracie, he said, was Miss Evans of New York, who virtually refused to be rescued, because, according to the army officer, “she had been told by a fortune teller in London that she would meet her death on the water.”

A young English woman, who requested that her name be omitted, told a thrilling story of her experience in one of the collapsible boats which had been manned by eight of the crew from the Titanic. The boat was in command of the fifth officer, H. Lowe, whose actions she described as saving the lives of many people. Before the lifeboat was launched, he passed along the port deck of the steamer, commanding the people not to jump in the boats and otherwise restraining them from swamping the craft. When the collapsible was launched, Officer Lowe succeeded in putting up a mast and a small sail. He collected the other boats together; in some cases the boats were short of adequate crews and he directed an exchange by which each was adequately manned. He threw lines connecting the boats together two by two, and all thus moved together. Later on he went back to the wreck with the crew of one of the boats and succeeded in picking up some of those who had jumped overboard and were swimming about. On his way back to the Carpathia he passed one of the collapsible boats which was on the point of sinking with thirty passengers aboard, most of them in scant night clothing. They were rescued just in the nick of time.

Whether you had ancestors directly involved with the Titanic disaster or simply want to learn more for your own interest, historical newspapers provide stories and details you cannot find anywhere else. GenealogyBank’s online archive of more than 5,850 newspapers is full of interesting survival stories, family history facts and more!

Church History Library Opens in Salt Lake City – June 12th & 13th

After 15 years of planning, four years of construction and a million artifacts moved, Elder Marlin K. Jensen from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints placed the last historical item on the shelf in the new Church History Library in front of local media.

Jensen, the historian and recorder of the Church, explained that this last item was one of the 100 scrapbooks kept by President David O. McKay. “It is a personal record filled with photos, letters and journal entries that documented his travels as an apostle in 1921 to the far corners of the earth.” Elder McKay’s world tour took him 55,000 miles to such countries as Australia, France, England, Italy, Switzerland, Samoa, Palestine, India and Egypt to survey the Church’s missions. One photograph captured a moment in Egypt with Elder McKay and his traveling companion, Hugh J. Cannon, both sitting on camels in front of the famous Sphinx. Elder Jensen was joined by President McKay’s grandson, Alan Ashton, when the journal was placed in one of the many vaults of the Church History Library.

The scrapbook was the last item but certainly not the least of the priceless artifacts and records Elder Jensen and assistant Church historian Richard E. Turley presented to news reporters as part of a media tour on June 11, 2009. Assistant executive director Elder Paul K. Sybrowsky and managing director of the Church History Department, Steve Olsen, were also in attendance and shared their knowledge of Church history with members of the media.

The group was given a first glimpse of what the public can expect to see during the upcoming open house at the Church History Library on June 12 and 13.

In addition to a media presentation and tour of the library, journalists were given a rare look at dozens of one-of-a-kind and intriguing pieces of Church history treasures on display. Perhaps one of the most unique items was an early edition of the Book of Mormon that was printed in French and German — on alternating pages. This early edition, the only one in existence, was translated through the supervision of John Taylor, an apostle and the eventual third president of the Church, while he was serving a mission in Europe in 1852.

In keeping with the Church History Department’s efforts to collect modern and current history, Elder Jensen spoke of the significance of the newly published LDS first edition Spanish language Bible. Another important undertaking on display was the Joseph Smith Papers project; the second volume is due out later this year.

In an extraordinary operation, thousands of similarly valued documents, books, photos, diaries, microfiche and film were

moved from their old home at the Church Office Building across the street to the Church History Library. It took just 19 days to physically accomplish the move, but it took hundreds of volunteers a year and a half to tag and categorize each piece slated for the move. One project leader compared the mammoth undertaking to moving the Library of Congress.

The most priceless and sacred records and documents were the last to make the move, under heightened security measures. They now join more than 600,000 other historic records housed and preserved on nearly 50 miles of shelving in temperature-controlled vaults with fire and seismic protection. Items such as film will even be kept in sub zero chambers. Brent Thompson from the Church History Department says the new temperature-controlled vaults will ensure that “not only will the artifacts be available in 100 years but they will look good 100 years from now.”

The Church History Library not only houses priceless documents and artifacts but also provides the latest methods in

conservation, collection development and research. Conservators repair, restore and stabilize books, documents and photographs with a state-of-the-art Conservation Lab. The lab includes a darkroom, where conservators are able to turn acetate negatives into useable photographs, and a document cleaning room that enables them to wash historical records and apply age-slowing chemical treatments.

That state-of-the-art spirit is also found in the innovation of the Church History Library’s design. Great care was taken to make sure the building not only met, but surpassed building code and energy efficiency standards. That attention to a “green” building design is found in such areas as the filtering system, which eliminates allergens.

The paper, plastic and metal products used in the Church History Library will be recycled, and the heating and cooling systems have the highest efficiency ratings. The landscaping and plumbing will use less water, and the windows, blinds and insulation will preserve temperatures. These careful implementations have put the Church History Library on track for the prestigious Silver Design certificate given through the acclaimed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.

But perhaps one of the most notable aspects of the new library is that it is designed for public accessibility. The Church History Department’s previous accommodations were designed to be more of an internal archive, said Steve Olsen, managing director over Church history. “The Church in its foundational documents has a huge commitment to preserving history and to making history useful for members and others interested in learning about its history,” said Olsen. “It is the first time in the Church’s 179-year history that we have had a dedicated public building for this purpose. … It’s really quite significant.”

NY Student History Research Contest Deadline Approaching

New York State Archives Sponsors 19th Annual Student Research Contest Albany, NY

This is a terrific opportunity to encourage students to use historical records.
The deadline for the contest is July 1st.
Awards go to individual students and to class projects.

GenealogyBank.com has over 300 New York (1719-Today) newspapers.

Click here to search all New York newspapers.

Use GenealogyBank to win this award.

The New York State Archives, a program of the State Education Department, is sponsoring the 19th annual Student Research Awards. The deadline for entry is July 1, 2009 and the contest is open to all New York students in grades 4-12 who use historical records in their research projects.

Three awards are presented each year: grades 4-5, grades 6-8, and grades 9-12. The awards consist of a framed certificate, a check for $100 from an endowment established by Regent Emerita Laura Chodos and her husband Robert Chodos, an invitation to have lunch with the Regents in Albany, and a behind-the-scenes tour of the State Archives.

Eligible projects are computer-based entries, such as websites or PowerPoint presentations; exhibits; documentaries; performances; research for a historical marker, property or district; and traditional research papers.

Student Research Award winners for 2008, Grades 4-5, were: Walden Elementary School (Orange County) students Jenalee Amundsen, Sarah Baker, Brianna Canto, Nicholas Cavallucci, Annalise Cardish, Felix Cepeda, Isaiah Skyler Chapman, Alex Clum, Frank Cook, Jr., Ilyssa Daly, Michael Daly, Brandon DiSimone, Sara Donovan, Abigail Hardy, Antonio Jackson, John lamb, Shiann Malvasi, Joshua Metzger, Jad Moumen, Sammy Moumen, Anthony Newton, Alyssa Rosario, Nyle Rose, Sarah Savasta, Brianna Sheehy, and Mary Sherman for their entry Capron, He’s My Street.

Grade 6-8 winners for 2008 were Persell Middle School (Chautauqua County) students Mark Brombacher, Jennie Gross, Taylor Estrada, Michelle Ferry, Alex Hoagland, Justin Hodges, Holly Johnson, Nick Myers, Jacob Perkins, Marisa Pope, Lucas Raak, Lindsey Rensel, Olivia Sinatra, Johnna Vanstrom, and Ben Whitney for their entry The Lost Neighborhood Project.

The Grade 9-12 Student Research Award winner for 2008 was Alexandra Rheinhardt, a student from Cooperstown Central High School (Otsego County), for the documentary, Sounds of Conflict: A Cultural Divide.

Julie Daniels, coordinator of the awards program, explained that in order for an entry to be competitive, a substantial portion of the research should be based on historical records from archives, historical newspapers, museums, historical societies, libraries, local governments, or other organizations. She offered some examples of historical records: original letters, diaries, and photographs; meeting minutes; police and court records; ledgers, census records; and wills.

For information about this year’s program, click on “Education” at www.archives.nysed.gov, call (518) 474-6926 or email archedu@mail.nysed.gov.

So, did you hear the one about the girl and the snake?


Newspapers are packed with the stories documenting our ancestors.
Thankful Taylor of Murfreesboro, TN had quite a story to tell her grandchildren.

Her story appeared in the Inter-Ocean (13 July 1874) and the Indianapolis Sentinel (10 July 1874).

Here is just the first few paragraphs from the Inter-Ocean (13 July 1874). Click on the link to read the complete story.

Click here and start searching GenealogyBank.com now!

What will you find?

James L. Sorenson – DNA Pioneer Dies at 86

James L. Sorenson, a pioneer in DNA research has died. A self-made billionaire, he used his wealth in many causes.


Genealogists in particular are aware of his efforts with DNA and genealogy. In 1999 he started the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation. The group has collected more than 70,000 DNA samples, together with four-generation pedigree charts, from volunteers in more than 100 countries around the world.

His lengthy obituary and related newspaper articles appear in today’s Deseret News (UT) – you can read them in

GenealogyBank.

Here is the article (used by permission):
Deceased Name: Inventor, philanthropist James Sorenson, Utah’s richest man, dies at 86
James LeVoy Sorenson, whose success as an entrepreneur, real estate magnate and inventor of numerous medical devices made him Utah’s richest man, died Sunday, Jan. 20, at a Salt Lake hospital.

Besides his wealth and business acumen, Sorenson was renowned as a philanthropist.
Sorenson, whose wealth was estimated to be $4.5 Billion last year by Forbes magazine, was 86 years old. He was listed as the 68th-richest American in September 2007.
He was the owner of Sorenson Cos., a parent company to 32 corporations in industries including medicine, bioscience, investment/development and manufacturing.
Sorenson held more than 40 medical patents during his lifetime and is perhaps best known for co-developing the first real-time computerized heart monitor. He also invented the disposable paper surgical mask, the plastic venous catheter and a blood recycling system for trauma and surgical procedures, as well as many other medical innovations.
“I think success in his mind was someone that had ideas, that had a strong work ethic and a tenacity,” son James Lee Sorenson told the Deseret Morning News. “As you look at examples in the world today, those are important attributes. I think Dad was a calculated-risk-taker, and successful people generally are.”

The younger Sorenson said his father’s legacy will be as “a great American inventor, a man with a tremendous amount of innovation.”

Among his philanthropic endeavors is Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, which is creating a worldwide, correlated genetic and genealogical database used in ancestry research. His donations have helped a Washington, D.C., university for the deaf and hearing impaired and assisted in establishment of an outdoor performing arts pavilion in Herriman. He gave more than $30 million for restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ temple in Nauvoo, Ill.

After the tsunami of 2004 hit Thailand, he donated DNA testing kits to assist in identifying the dead, and Sorenson Genomics — one of his companies — analyzed their DNA, matching some victims with their relatives.

He donated land and money to help build the Sorenson Unity Center at California Avenue and 900 West, next door to the Sorenson Multicultural Center. The YMCA’s Camp Rogers in the Uinta Mountains also benefited from his generosity.
He and James Lee Sorenson reached out to help Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.; together they donated $5 million to the country’s largest university for the deaf and hearing impaired.

In April 2007, he gave $6 million to the new Intermountain Medical Center, raising his contributions to Intermountain Healthcare to $22 million. He pledged $500,000 during a fund-raiser for Primary Children’s Medical Center in June 2007. In September 2007, the nonprofit Sorenson Legacy Foundation donated $6 million to the University of Utah, toward the James LeVoy Sorenson Center, which will be dedicated to encourage innovation and discovery among students across Utah.

A crisis concerning the Legislature’s refusal to fund some items in the state Medicaid program was averted in 2006 when Sorenson and Intermountain Healthcare donated $1 million each. The next year, the Legislature picked up the tab.

Sorenson also was a poet and composer of LDS hymns, publishing some of them in a book titled, “Just Love the People, the World Is our Family.”

After beginning his career selling pharmaceuticals to physicians for Upjohn Co. in Salt Lake City, Sorenson started buying real estate in the Salt Lake area. In 1957 he co-founded Deseret Pharmaceutical, and the company became the foundation for the establishment of Becton Dickinson Vascular Access. In 1962, he founded Sorenson Research, which was sold to Abbott Laboratories, a Fortune 100 company, in 1980.

He founded LeVoy’s, a company that made lingerie for modest women and used Tupperware-style marketing with parties hosted in homes. He also owned and developed thousands of acres of commercial, residential and agricultural properties throughout Utah.

Sorenson, who was born in Rexburg, Idaho, and grew up in central California, is survived by Beverley Taylor Sorenson, his wife of 60 years, and two sons, six daughters, 47 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren.