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38 big stories from 150 years of Boston Globe coverage

Lizzie Borden’s trial, WWII, busing, the Catholic Church scandal, and the Marathon bombing are just some of the historic events covered in the Globe’s pages in the 150 years since its inaugural issue.

Globe staff
Front page news about the Titanic sinking.

1. June 20, 1893: Lizzie Borden is Acquitted

If she were an ordinary woman she would have cried and cried, perhaps fainted, then smiled,” the Globe reported at the end of the trial of the century. “The difficulty is she is not an ordinary woman; she is a puzzle psychologic.”

2. April 15, 1912: News of the Titanic Survivors

At 2:30 a.m. on April 16, 1912, Globe yachting editor Winfield Thompson got the assignment: board a steamship to England leaving that morning, and as soon as he was within wireless range of Carpathia, which had rescued Titanic survivors, contact Carpathia’s captain for a head count. Thompson’s special dispatch in the April 17 evening paper: CARPATHIA HAS THE 705 SAVED.

3. November 7, 1916: Summer Street Trolley Tragedy

When a motorman failed to see the warning lights on the Summer Street Bridge, a car of the Boston Elevated railway plunged into Fort Point Channel, killing 47 people. “It was,” the paper said the next day, “the greatest catastrophe that has ever taken place in this city.”

A trolley car was lifted from the waters of Fort Point Channel after a deadly accident.Globe files

4. The 1918 pandemic, in three headlines

> “Influenza Adds 109 To Death List In Day. Boston Schools Close – Urgent Appeal Made of Nurses.” –September 25, 1918

> “Official order issued closing theatres . . . and forbidding public gathering in Boston.” –September 27, 1918

> “JOY-KILLING BANS LIFTED IN BOSTON. Theatres, Saloons, Soda Foundations To Be Running Full Blast Today — Schools Reopen” –October 21, 1918

Red Cross workers in Boston removing bundles of masks for American soldiers from table where other women are busily engaged in making them.PhotoQuest/Getty Images

5. November 11, 1918: World War I Is Over

“Armistice terms have been signed by Germany, the State Department announced at 2:45 o’clock this morning. The war will end this morning at 6 o’clock, Washington time.”

6. January 15, 1919: The Great Molasses Flood

Fifteen people were killed, and scores more injured, “when a huge tank of molasses located at the plant of the Purity Distilling Company” on Commercial Street in the North End exploded at about 12:30 p.m.

7. August 18, 1920: 19th Amendment Ratified

Globe headlines such as “‘Votes for Women’ Parade of 1,500 with Red Flag Precedes Hearing at State House” (1911) tell of efforts in Massachusetts, which was the eighth state to ratify the amendment.

The front page reporting the end of World War 1.Globe archive

8. August 23, 1927: Sacco and Vanzetti Executed

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Italian immigrants and avowed anarchists, were convicted of robbery and murder in 1921, at the height of the Red Scare. Protests around the world about their likely wrongful conviction did not stop their execution in 1927 at the Charlestown state prison. A 1967 headline, “Sacco and Vanzetti Still Inflame Emotions,” remains true today.

9. May 21, 1927: Lindbergh Crosses the Atlantic

On May 22, a Globe correspondent in France named Reginald Coggeshall cabled his report to Boston for printing in the Globe. This is an excerpt, condensed from the original:

“That huge crowd [of 25,000] at Le Bourget flying field made the most dangerous situation we faced,” declared Charles Lindbergh, the blond, blue-eyed Lochinvar who landed in Paris yesterday, having flown from New York in 33½ hours, breaking all existing air records. “We had good weather,” Lindbergh declared, “from the takeoff at Roosevelt across Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and along the Maine coast. There was a light rain during this part of the trip but it did not bother us at all.”

The greatest hero of the air always uses the collective “we” when speaking of his flight.

“I couldn’t have come without her, and she stood the test superbly.” Asked if he intended to fly his plane back to the United States, Charlie answered, “I don’t see any reason for that.”

10. October 29, 1929: Stock Market Crash — Black Tuesday

“The exciting and tense conditions at the Boston Stock Exchange yesterday proved to be too much for [clerk] Patrick Feeley, 27 . . . . Shortly after the market closed, he fainted and fell to the floor.”

Smoke rises from the battleship USS Arizona as it sinks during a Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. Uncredited/Associated Press

11. December 7, 1941: The Start of World War II

Japan’s “formal declaration of war against both the United States and Britain came two hours and 55 minutes after Japanese planes spread death and terrific destruction in Honolulu and Pearl Harbor at 7:35 a.m., Hawaiian time (1:05 p.m., EST), Sunday.”

“We are now in this war. We are all in it — all the way. Every single man, woman and child is a partner in the most tremendous undertaking of our American history.” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt on a December 9, 1941, radio address, printed in the Globe on December 10.

The main entrance to the Cocoanut Grove after a fire at the nightclub killed nearly 500 people and injured hundreds more. Unknown

12. November 28, 1942: The Cocoanut Grove Fire

The morning after, Bostonians woke up to find one of the city’s most horrific headlines waiting: “400 DEAD IN HUB NIGHT CLUB FIRE.” The story portrayed in unstinting detail the fire that roared through the Cocoanut Grove club in Bay Village, patrons trapped in the basement lounge, the burning roof collapsing on performers in their dressing rooms, Catholic priests performing last rites on the sidewalk, and in one particularly nightmarish image, “a checkroom girl who ran down Piedmont St., her clothes and hair in flames.” The death toll would rise to 492 out of the 1,000 people in the club that night.

The catastrophe led the city to enact new codes: Decorations would now be nonflammable, and after the tragic example set by the club’s cramped revolving door, exit doors would now open outward. And landlords could now be held criminally liable for violating safety codes, a precedent set by owner Barnett Welansky, who was convicted (and later pardoned) of involuntary manslaughter­ — he had locked emergency exits to keep customers from skipping out on their tabs.

– Matthew Reed Baker

13. May 8, 1945: V-E Day

“Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Allies today, completing the victory in the European phases of the Second World War — the most devastating in history.”

Bostonians celebrate the end of the war in Europe outside the Globe’s office.Globe file

14. January 17, 1950: The Brink’s Job

“In the biggest cash robbery in the history of the United States, seven gunmen in Halloween masks held up Brink’s Inc. [in the North End],” the story said, “and escaped with more than $1,000,000.”

15. April 11, 1953: The West End Will Be Razed

Mayor John Hynes announces a “redevelopment” project that will raze 682 residential buildings and displace 2,248 families. In 1959, the Globe speaks to a widow who won’t leave her home amid the rubble. “I have lived in this house for 30 years, and have lived in the West End since 1909,” said Mrs. Stella Waselewsky. “One gets attached to the place.”

16. January 20, 1961: John F. Kennedy Is Inaugurated

17. August 28, 1963: Civil Rights March on Washington

Front page of Globe after John F. Kennedy is inaugurated president.Globe archive

Globe front page after the March on Washington.Globe archive

18. October 27, 1964: Albert DeSalvo Arrested

During months of terror, 13 single women in the Boston area were assaulted and murdered in their apartments. The self-confessed Boston Strangler will go on to be stabbed to death in prison in 1973.

Assassinations Rock the Country, and the World

19. November 22, 1963: President John F. Kennedy

20. April 4, 1968: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

21. June 5, 1968: Robert Kennedy


″Robert Kennedy is dead. ... But society doesn’t really care. It puts on a sad face, for all to see, because it knows that this is what it should do. Previous assassinations — John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King—have established the procedural rituals that must be acted out. We know when we must cry, we know when we must remember, we know when we must praise, and we know what we must say. But we have forgotten how to feel — really feel. Will we ever again experience the agony, mental, and even physical, that every man should undergo when a fellow human being is deprived of his life?”

22. July 18-19, 1969: Chappaquiddick

“Senator Edward M. Kennedy . . . narrowly escaped death early yesterday when his car plunged into a pond on a sparsely inhabited island off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. A passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne [above], 28, of Washington, a former campaign worker for the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was drowned.”

23. July 20, 1969: First Man on the Moon

“Two men from the planet Earth landed on the surface of the Moon at 4.17.45 EDT, Sunday, July 20, 1969. It brought the dawn of a new era in the evolution of man.”

In this NASA image, astronaut Buzz Aldrin poses for a photograph beside the US flag deployed on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969. NEIL A. ARMSTRONG/NASA via AP

24. 1974: The Boston Busing Crisis

Looking back 40 years after busing. By Farah Stockman

I didn’t grow up in Boston, didn’t live through the riot and systematic violence that took place in the aftermath of school desegregation here. But I saw the scars on people all over the city. Everywhere, there were Black people who, as children, had ridden buses that had been attacked with bottles, rocks, and slurs. Everywhere were white people who’d dropped out of school during those tumultuous years. I realized how present the history was in 2014, when three Boston City councilors declined to vote yes on a symbolic resolution commemorating the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. They were the councilors from East Boston, Southie, and Hyde Park, three neighborhoods that had vehemently opposed busing. I asked one of them for an explanation. He apologized for the vote — he’d been widely criticized for it­­ — then told me the story of his freshman year of high school in 1974, the first year of busing. That was when I realized that the city was being run by people who came of age during this period and were forever shaped by it.

Farah Stockman, whose Globe series on the legacy of school desegregation won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, is now a member of The New York Times editorial board.

The Boston busing crisis in 1974 left a lasting mark on the city.Dixon, Charles Globe photo

25. August 9, 1974: Nixon Resigns

“Richard Milhous Nixon resigns at noon today, the first president in the nearly 200-year history of the Republic to do so,” Martin F. Nolan wrote from the Globe’s Washington Bureau.

26. April 29, 1975: US Withdraws From Vietnam

On the front page was the story about the airlift of US troops, but also this: The news arriving in Woburn that Marine Charles McMahon Jr. had been killed, making him one of the last Americans to die in the Vietnam War.

27. June 7, 1981: Chinatown Gate Groundbreaking

“Chinatown has been here for 100 years, and with this gate Chinatown will be here for another 100 years,” said William Chin, president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association.

28. January 28, 1986: Challenger Tragedy

“The space shuttle Challenger exploded into a huge fireball moments after liftoff yesterday morning, killing all seven crew members, including Christa McAuliffe, the New Hampshire high school teacher who was to be the country’s first private citizen to orbit the earth.”

29. January 4, 1990: Charles Stuart Leaps from the Tobin Bridge

One of the most heinous and divisive murders in Boston history. By Adrian Walker

Charles StuartAnonymous/ASSOCIATED PRESS

By the morning of January 4, 1990, Boston had been consumed by the murder of Carol DiMaiti Stuart for more than two months.

Stuart was a pregnant white woman from Reading who was shot in the head while driving home from a birthing class at Brigham and Women’s Hospital the previous October with her husband, Charles — the only known witness. He claimed the attacker was an unknown Black man. Boston police turned Mission Hill upside down, but found no suspect matching the description.

Charles’s story unraveled when his brother, Matthew, went to Boston police and fingered him as the killer. Charles Stuart leaped to his death from the Tobin Bridge early the next morning.

I walked into the newsroom that day having just heard the shocking news. No Internet then, or text messages. Even big news circulated more slowly.

“Was this guilt or grief?” city editor Peter Mancusi asked those of us who would cover the story.

Not grief, as it turned out — just one of the most heinous and divisive murders in Boston history.

Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist and associate editor

Election night results proved challenging for headline writers in 2020.David Butler

30. November 7, 2000: An Election Too Close To Call

Evolving news out of Florida on election night 2000 put headline writers everywhere to the test. Pictured above are several iterations of the next morning’s Globe front page, which kept needing to change with the news on the ground. The banner headline that print readers saw the next morning read “Florida counts, nation waits.”

31. September 11, 2001

When everyone begins working on the same story. By Stephen Kurkjian

In the 40-plus years I spent in the newsroom, there are only a few times I remember a breaking news event so important that literally everyone was working on the same story. On September 11, two of the four planes taken over by the terrorists had flown out of Logan. Matt Brelis, the Globe’s transportation reporter, got an airport contact on the phone and, within minutes, manifests of both planes were being faxed to him. Not only did we learn the identities of the terrorists, but also something of their strategy — all had purchased first-class seats, which gave them greater access to the cockpits. Sadly, Alexander Filipov of Concord, father of the Globe’s Moscow Bureau chief David Filipov, was among those names also on the American Airlines manifest.

Stephen Kurkjian, who won three Pulitzers as a member of the Spotlight team, retired from the Globe in 2008.

Ground Zero three days after the Sept. 11th attacks. Globe Staff,Dominic Chavez

32. January 6, 2002: Spotlight Investigation of Abuse in the Catholic Church

I’ll never forget the man from Millinocket. By Walter V. Robinson

Numbers matter, in any story. In the Boston Archdiocese, 10 percent of the priests sexually abused children. Their victims numbered in the thousands.

But what mattered most to Spotlight Team reporters were the individuals behind those numbers, and how their lives had been forever upended by predatory priests.

Like the man from Millinocket, Maine.

I took his call one day in early 2002, when we were being inundated with e-mails and phone calls from hundreds of victims. After I listened to his story and the call ended, I fought back tears. That night, driving home, I cried.

I’m a tough guy, or so I might come across. I’ve covered some horrific events in my decades as a journalist, and saw some things during my Army tour in Vietnam I’d sooner forget.

But I’d never cried until I got the call from Millinocket.

To this day I have trouble talking about him. Sometimes, speaking to audiences about the Globe’s investigation, I tell his story, hoping I don’t get choked up in public. But I do.

We never wrote about the man from Millinocket. We were overwhelmed with calls, most of them much closer to home. Indeed, I’ve long since forgotten his name.

But I’ll not forget what he told me. He had been raped by his parish priest in Millinocket when he was 12, and had been burdened ever since by guilt and shame. So, like so many other victims, the first person he’d ever told about it was a Globe reporter.

He had never told his parents. Or his siblings. Or his wife. Or his children. Or his grandchildren. Or his great-grandchildren.

The man from Millinocket was 87, and the rape had happened in 1927. In the 75 years since, he had fought his demons alone.

My eyes still well up when I think of him, and the lifelong hell on earth to which his church consigned him. Twenty years later, I pray that he has found peace.

Walter V. Robinson led the Spotlight Team that won the Pulitzer Gold Medal in Public Service, journalism’s highest honor. He is now a Globe editor-at-large.

Elizabeth NeufferGlobe file

33. May 9, 2003: Reporter Elizabeth Neuffer Dies in Iraq

“Neuffer, 46, who died on assignment in a car accident yesterday near Samarra, Iraq, was a reporter for The Boston Globe but also for all the world’s war-torn peoples, seeking to uncover the meaning of atrocity in the hope that could somehow prevent it from recurring.”

Front page after Barack Obama elected president.Globe archive

34. November 4, 2008: Barack Obama Elected

“Senator Barack Obama of Illinois was elected the 44th president of the United States and the nation’s first black commander in chief yesterday, his triumph ushering in an era of profound political and social realignment in America.”

35. June 22, 2011: Whitey Bulger Captured

“[T]he notorious South Boston mobster who eluded capture for 16 years, stood before a federal judge [in Los Angeles] yesterday and was ordered back to Boston to finally answer accusations in 19 slayings and years of untold mayhem.”

36. April 15, 2013: The Boston Marathon Bombing

At the finish line, five seconds later. By John Tlumacki

I’ve [photographed] 20 Boston Marathons; this [was] the fifth year I covered the finish line. It’s a sacred event­ — that all came to an end. I was standing on the finish line when the first bomb went off, maybe 40 feet away. My camera was jolted from my face. My first impression was a cannon salute. Then, maybe a manhole cover exploded. I’ve been at shootings and fires where people died. I’ve been to Uganda and covered war refugees. I’ve seen terrible things. I’ve never covered an event where a bomb went off. Everything you’ve learned not so much hardens your feelings but prepares you. All those things told me to instinctively run forward and not backward. Runner Bill Iffrig fell in front of me. That picture of him on the ground is within five seconds of the first bomb. Three police officers just ran right at me, and I ran toward them. I didn’t know how bad this was until I got to the railing and saw what I saw. That’s when I began to realize that this might be terrorism.

– This story is condensed from Globe photographer John Tlumacki’s late 2013 remembrance. His photo was republished around the world, and he was part of the staff awarded a Pulitzer in 2014.

Police officers with their guns drawn after the first explosion near the finish line. The first explosion knocked down a runner Bill Iffrig.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Front page featuring the Spotlight Team's 2017 series on racism.Globe archive

37. December 10, 2017: Spotlight’s racism series

“Little wonder that some comedians and athletes take aim at Boston, like Michael Che of ‘Saturday Night Live’ this year telling a global TV audience this was ‘the most racist city I’ve ever been to.’ Or HBO’s John Oliver suggesting that it took this summer’s anti-bigotry march on Boston Common to finally make Boston ‘unracist.’

The reputation is real, and pervasive — but, most important, is it deserved?

The Globe Spotlight Team analyzed data, launched surveys, and conducted hundreds of interviews, to answer just that question.

38. The COVID-19 pandemic, in three headlines:

> “Baker closes schools, restricts restaurants, bans gatherings over 25 as community spread of coronavirus seen in 7 Mass. counties” – March 25, 2020

> “As people gather for summer events, calls grow for public to wear masks, socially distance during COVID-19 pandemic” – July 26, 2020

> “‘Incredibly encouraging’: Coronavirus level in Eastern Mass. waste water is down 98 percent from peak” – February 16, 2022

Five significant developments in Globe journalism . . .

1. March 4, 1872 — First Globe printed

2. October 14, 1877: The first Sunday Globe

There were only a dozen Sunday editions in American newspapers by 1877. Why so few? Sunday had been reserved for rest and religious reflection. One newspaper editor was even expelled from his church for starting one. But the need for news of the Civil War brought change, and the Globe finally introduced its paper: 8 pages for 5 cents.

3. 1883: Election Tracking

The Globe system for predicting winners began in 1883. Results of the previous election from every precinct would be gathered months ahead, then meticulously compared with the votes rolling in on election night. Reporters would make calls “to try to speed up the returns” or find out why they were delayed, according to a history of the Globe. Where the numbers weren’t making sense, local correspondents weighed in.

A large crowd watched election returns in front of the Boston Globe office on Washington Street on Nov. 8, 1933. Boston Globe/file photo

4. 1898: The Globe printed 626,279 copies the day after the 1898 presidential election, the most on a single day up to that point

5. The days before push alerts

Bostonians once gathered outside the windows of the Globe and other publications on Boston’s Newspaper Row to see the latest headlines — and the latest game scores.

4 Political Trailblazers of the Past 10 years

Elizabeth Warren

Middle class advocate Warren tops Brown in Senate race” – November 6, 2012

Ayanna Pressley

‘Are you ready to bring change to Washington?’ Pressley stuns Capuano on historic night.” – September 4, 2018

Kim Janey

Kim Janey set to be first Black person, first woman to serve as Boston mayor” – January 7, 2021

Michelle Wu

Michelle Wu’s victory a ‘huge moment of hope and light’ after a year of hate and violence against Asian Americans” – November 3, 2021