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Zodiac Craze: Topics in Chronicling America

In the early 20th century, the zodiac craze swept through America as people consulted the stars for guidance. This guide provides access to materials related to the “Zodiac Craze” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.

Introduction

"Mystery and Romance of the Zodiac" April 22, 1916. El Paso Herald (El Paso, TX), Image 30. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

A 1915 newspaper announces an outbreak of plague in France is imminent. The following year a Persian savant predicts a certain White House baby will go on to become “Magistrate Ruler of the World.” How do these prophets know? It’s written in the stars! From palm reading to Ouija boards to zodiac signs, Americans have exhibited a bizarre fascination with demystifying their destinies. Gaining recognition in the late 1800’s the reputation of horoscopes has morphed from an ancient pseudo-science into a respectable discipline—featured almost daily in U.S. newspapers by the early 1900’s. 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.

Timeline

1879 - 1890 Newspapers feature skeptical articles about the “so-called science” of astrology and its ancient roots.
1891 - 1894 The astrology trend takes off in London and high society American women begin to emulate the ancient tradition “sub rosa,” or in secret.
1895 - 1909 Astrology replaces palm reading as the new mystical fad. Newspapers publish more serious information about zodiac signs and Americans start consulting the stars for guidance in their personal lives.
1914 - 1921 The popularity of Astrology reaches an all-time high. Famous “prophets” or “astrologists” incorrectly predict major political and cultural events such as the end date of WW1, the birth of the future “World’s President,” and the reappearance of the Star of Bethlehem.