August 2012 – The British Newspaper Archive Blog

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What Every Lady Driver Should be Wearing – the Story of the First Woman to Drive a Taxicab in London

A regular visitor to the BNA website kindly shared this wonderful story with us. At its heart, the report tells the story of Sheila O’Neill, as she sets off on her new career as the first female taxicar driver in London. With her portfolio of nursing and mechanical skills, she sounds like the ideal professional driver. Not only that, but her unique uniform sounds like a thing of rare beauty – not to mention tres chic! Still further, to reassure

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Stories of Stoke Mandeville Hospital and the Origins of the Paralympics

With the 2012 Paralympic Games now underway in London, we thought we’d post some stories about the pioneering sporting activities that Stoke Mandeville Hospital organised in the late 1940s, as well as some of the very moving reports about some of the patients who were admitted to the famous Spinal Injuries Unit. We were especially moved by the incredible story of Miss Nancy Windley. If you’d like to read further stories about Stoke Mandeville Hospital, just do a Phrase Search for ‘Stoke

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The First Duel Fought in Hot Air Balloons – Paris, 1808

Monsieurs Granpree and Le Pique fight for the hand of Mademoiselle Tirevit in the skies above Paris We love stumbling across quirky stories in the Archive! More often than not, we find these stories while looking for something else – our eyes always seem happy to read weird and wonderful tales in adjacent columns. This strange story reports on the first duel to be fought in hot air gas [Ed: Thanks to all that provided feedback. Correction made!] balloons, in Paris,

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The Burning of Washington DC and the White House by British Forces – 24 August 1814

On 24 August 1814, a British force led by Major General Robert Ross defeated the Americans at the Battle of Bladensburg, and then marched on Washington DC. Once Ross and his soldiers reached the capital, they set fire to many public buildings, including the White House and the US Capitol. The soldiers were under strict orders not to burn any private buildings. This episode was part of the War of 1812 between Britain and the USA, which lasted until the

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Rudolph Valentino, ‘the Great Lover’ – Died on 23 August 1926

The great Hollywood screen idol, Rudolph Valentino, died on 23 August 1926, aged only 31. Known as ‘the Great Lover’, ‘Valentino’ or ‘the Latin Lover’, he was one of the biggest stars of the silent era. He died from severe pleuritis, after developing peritonitis following an operation to remove his appendix and gastric ulcers. His death caused mass hysteria in New York, as fans rioted in order to view his body in the funeral parlour. There are 100s of stories

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‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ BBC1 Family History TV Series – Gregg Wallace, August 2012

We were greatly moved by the stories of Gregg Wallace’s family ancestors in last night’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ programme. In particular, the story of the child killed by fire due to the knocking over of a paraffin lamp was especially poignant. Indeed, a similar story was aired in the previous week’s episode when Samantha Womack was learning about her ancestors. We’ve been looking in the Archive and have found some of the stories and people mentioned in

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Dorothy Parker – born on 22 August 1893, and thrown out of Charlestown Prison in August 1927

‘Hustled out of prison – woman who got into the prison by a fraud’ Dorothy Parker, writer, poet and brilliant wit, was born in New Jersey on 22 August 1893. We found this fascinating, wee story in the Archive about her blagging her way into Charlestown Prison and then being promptly thrown out of the prison when an officer overheard her telephone conversation about the Sacco-Vanzetti trial. The Sacco-Vanzetti was a cause celebre in 1927, and many people thought that

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‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ – Gregg Wallace, BBC1, Wednesday 22 August, 21:00

We’re really looking forward to watching the episode two of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ tonight. In tonight’s programme, ‘Masterchef’ presenter, Gregg Wallace, looks to learn more about his family ancestors and, in particular, to solve the mystery of what happened to his great-grandfather, who seemingly abandoned his wife and children. In last week’s show, great use was made of old newspapers to shed light (and character) on the stories of Samantha Womack’s ancestors. So we’re hoping that old

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Theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre on 21 August 1911

On this day in 1911, somebody stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre Museum in Paris. It was a very famous theft, and even people like Pablo Picasso and the French poet, Guillaume Apollinairewere, were pulled in for questioning by the police. It was only two years later that the truth emerged – the painting had bene stoled by the Louvre employee, Vincenzo Peruggia – he was sentenced to six months in jail for the crime. The story we’ve posted

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Leon Trotsky – Attacked by Ramon Mercader in Mexico City on 20 August 1940

In Mexico City on 20 August 1940, Leon Trotsky was attacked by the Spanish communist and Soviet agent, Ramon Mercader. To mark the day and pay our respects, we’ve posted an old newspaper story about the attack on Trotsky. It’s interesting to note that the newspaper story wrongly reports the attack was carried out by a French Jew called Franck Johnson. The report also mentions that over 20 attempts had previously been made to kill Trotsky. Trotsky died of his

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