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Kidnapping of Ellen Stone: Topics in Chronicling America

In 1901, newspapers reported on Ellen Stone who was America's first modern hostage crisis. This guide provides access to materials related to the “Kidnapping of Ellen Stone” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


"Prominent actors in the story of Miss Stone's abduction." October 17, 1901. Akron Daily Democrat (Akron, OH), Image 1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

"American Woman at the Hands of Lawless Turks!," reports the Houston Daily Post on September 7, 1901. In September 1901, a gang of masked revolutionaries seize and hold for ransom Ellen M. Stone, a Congregationalist missionary. During her six months in captivity newspapers across the US report on her ordeal and on President Teddy Roosevelt’s attempts to free her. 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.


September 3, 1901 Ellen Stone, an American missionary, is captured in the Ottoman Balkans by members of a Macedonian revolutionary organization seeking independence from the Ottomans.
September 26, 1901 A missionary colleague of Miss Stone receives a letter from her. The letter states that the captors demand $110,000 in ransom.
September 28, 1901 The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions announces that it cannot pay the ransom. The U.S. government also announces that it will not pay the ransom.
October 5, 1901 Stone’s relatives and a group of Boston ministers appeal to the American public to raise money to pay the ransom.
October 1901 C.M. Dickinson, an American diplomat in Bulgaria begins negotiating with the bandits for Miss Stone’s release. Dickinson requests that the bandits accept a lower sum, arguing that it is impossible to raise $110,000.
February 1902 The captors, after initially refusing, accept the reduced sum, and Miss Stone is released.