A Royal Assassination

Ferdinand

Pictures of the Archduke and his wife in the Washington Herald (Washington, D.C.), June 29, 1914.

100 years ago this weekend, on June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, Sophie, were assassinated in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist. This act not only sparked immediate shock throughout all of Europe, it also triggered a rapid series of domino-like events leading to the outbreak of the First World War.

Word of the assassination quickly reached the United States as newspapers began picking up the story. For weeks, headlines were dedicated to the timeline of the fatal event; the life and legacy of Ferdinand; the culprits and their motives; and what it all meant for the future of European diplomacy.

The South Carolina newspapers were no exception; on July 1, just three days after the incident, the Watchman and Southron included a story on the “royal assassination” (although it didn’t appear until the last page of the issue). The same day, the Keowee Courier printed a similar story on its front page. By July 3, the Anderson Daily Intelligencer ran a front-page story with more details on the assassins as well as the funeral arrangements of the royal couple. Over the following months, the newspapers closely followed and reported on the turmoil in Europe and the eventual declarations of war.

Headline in the Watchman and Southron (Sumter, S.C.), July 1, 1914

Although the United States would not formally go to war for a few more years, the tales and events of the war were heavily documented by newspapers around the country. Coming into the centennial anniversary of World War I, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers can be an invaluable resource for finding contemporary, first-hand accounts of the war. Our topics guide on WWI provides some starting points such as key terms, important dates, and search strategies for getting the most out of historical newspapers. Also on this topics guide are some selected articles from South Carolina newspapers to help give a sense of how South Carolinians experienced the war.

Some other great resources for learning about the nationwide experience during the war would be the topics guide put together by the Serials and Government Publications Division of the Library Congress, “Topics in Chronicling America: The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.” as well as the blog post from EDISTEment, “The 100th Anniversary of the Great War.”

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