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Fatty Arbuckle: Topics in Chronicling America

In 1921, Film Star “Fatty Arbuckle” is charged with murder and rape. This guide provides access to material related to "Fatty Arbuckle" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


"Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle." February 27, 1919. The Clovis News (Clovis, NM), Image 10. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

In one of the first major Hollywood scandals, the beloved and overweight film star “Fatty” Arbuckle is accused of raping and murdering Virginia Rappe. Although Arbuckle is unsuccessfully brought to trial on three separate occasions, the legal fees drive him to poverty and public disapproval drives his once booming reputation down the drain. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


1917-1921 Fatty Arbuckle enjoys an incredibly successful career, having his performances promoted in nearly every national newspaper.
September 1921 Arbuckle is charged with first degree murder and rape of Virginia Rappe. He is released on a $5,000 bail.
1922 After three different trials, including two hung juries and an acquittal, Arbuckle finally escapes the legal windstorm and begins trying to salvage his career and reputation.