When looking for a quick laugh to rest your mind or a brainteaser to stretch it, it’s practically second nature for us to turn to the countless jokes, puzzles and other diversions available on the Internet. But have you ever looked in an historic newspaper for amusement? Newspapers were great sources of entertainment for our ancestors and often published conundrums, enigmas and other word games. Although some were intended for children, they were likely read, solved and shared by people of all ages.
In an article that claims that they “have met worse conundrums than the following”, editors of the Weekly Lancaster Gazette ask “What winds would a hungry sailor wish for at sea?” and “When is a hedge dangerous to walk in?” Through the Ohio Historical Society’s latest contributions to the National Digital Newspaper Program and Chronicling America, even more of these riddles of the past (and their answers—click here for the ones above) are easier than ever to access, giving you yet another online resource for humor. Issues from the following Ohio papers are now freely available and keyword searchable at Chronicling America:
From Ashland (Ashland County):
· From Ashland (Ashland County):
· From Canal Dover and New Philadelphia (Tuscarawas County):
· From Cincinnati (Hamilton County):
· From Cleveland (Cuyahoga County):
· From Eaton (Preble County):
· From Ironton (Lawrence County):
· From Lancaster (Fairfield County):
· From Pomeroy (Meigs County):
· From Portsmouth (Scioto County):
· From Steubenville (Jefferson County):
· From Wellington (Lorain County):
· From Woodsfield (Monroe County)
These papers join over seven million newspaper pages and more than 1,200 newspapers from all over the nation, including over 40 from Ohio, to chronicle United States history from 1836 to 1922.
To find your own riddles, puzzles and other entertainments, type one of the following terms into the Search Pages box on Chronicling America: conundrum, enigma, puzzle, youth department. And while some of the jokes you’ll find will fall flat and the enigmas may seem impenetrable, it is still enjoyable to read the puns and other items that amused our ancestors over one hundred years ago.
The National Digital Newspaper Program is a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities, Library of Congress and state projects to provide enhanced access to United States newspapers published between 1836 and 1922. National Endowment for the Humanities awards support state projects to select and digitize historically significant titles that are aggregated and permanently maintained by the Library of Congress at Chronicling America. As part of the project, the Ohio Historical Society contributed over 200,000 newspaper pages to the project between July 2008 and August 2012 and will contribute an additional 100,000 pages by the end of August 2014.
Jenni Salamon, Project Coordinator, NDNP-OH