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Martians: Topics in Chronicling America

See how Martians were depicted in newspapers during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This guide provides access to materials related to “Martians” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


Sketch of Martians. February 8, 1920. New-York Tribune (New York, NY), Image 69. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Intelligent vegetables, or tall, Scandinavian-reminiscent super men? The size, shape, and intelligence of Martians was widely speculated by scientists and the public alike during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. After determining that certain colors on Mars revealed water and vegetation and the finding of “canals” on the planet’s surface, the hunt for life on Mars began. 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.


1870 Favorable coloring of the planet’s surface lead some scientists to conclude that vegetation exists on Mars.
1892 A triangle of lights beaming from Mars causes scientists to think that Mars is signaling to Earth.
1912 Some scientists speculate that life on Mars might not be physically advanced, but might take the form of highly intelligent vegetables.
1920 Martians are described as a “super race” and are thought to be more advanced than humans.