22 August 2012

When Sylvia Plath Disappeared

Sylvia Plath went missing 59 years ago this week. Her disappearance was in more than 170 newspapers around the country and was reported on the radio and television, as well. The majority of the newspaper articles were understandably in Massachusetts.

Many, but not all, of the stories ran photographs of Plath. This was done to help readers identify the missing student and also to illustrate the adjectives such as "beautiful" that were used to draw in readers attention in the headlines and in the stories. In all, there were five-to-seven photographs/images of Plath used by the newspapers. More on this below...

One of the photographs appeared in The Boston Globe, in an article titled "Day-Long Search Fails to Locate Smith Student" on 26 August 1953. The photograph that ran was of Plath, her mother, and her brother.

One of the more sensational newspaper of the time, The Boston Daily Record, ran a number of articles on the missing Plath in several daily editions. In fact, they ran eleven articles over four days. Two on the 25th; three on the 26th; four on the 27th; and two on the 28th.

On the 27th, two of the editions used a photo of Plath, two did not. The photo of Plath was a close-cropped headshot from the same photo that ran on the 26th in The Boston Globe, mentioned just above. The caption to the image read: "Sylvia Plath / Stupified by drugs."

The Boston Globe must have passed on the image of the Plath family they used to the Boston Daily Record. Recently, I found for sale on eBay an archival stock photo from Plath's disappearance in August 1953 from Historic Images with "Boston Record" written on the back. The image, left, is an enlarged version of the Plath family photo, and on the back, below, gloriously, is an original clipping of the photograph that accompanied the Boston Globe's "Day-Long Search Fails to Locate Smith Student" article.

To read more about Plath's first suicide attempt; and to see a list of newspaper articles that I found on the disappearance, please read "They Had to Call and Call": The Search for Sylvia Plath" from Plath Profiles 3

One of the things I did not do in in "They Had to Call and Call: The Search for Sylvia Plath" was list those newspapers that ran images of Plath, and relatedly which list those images of Plath that were used. I think I might as well do that now... I have organized them by the photograph used, and then by newspaper, and within newspaper by date. Where two editions ran on the same day, unless it is explicitly discernible, I have just listed them randomly...


The photo as used on Hall's book on Plath.

"Home All Along." The Attleboro Sun. August 27, 1953: 1.

"Beautiful Smith Girl Missing at Wellesley." The Boston Globe. August 25, 1953: 1, 9.

"Wellesley Woods Searched: Police, Boy Scouts Hunt Missing Smith Student." The Boston Globe. Evening Edition. August 25, 1953: 1, 9.

"Smith Student Found Alive in Cellar." The Boston Globe. Evening Edition. August 26, 1953: 1, 6.

"Missing Co-ed Found." The Chicago Tribune. August 27, 1953: 5.

"Home All the Time." The Fall River Herald-News. August 27, 1953: 23.

"Home All Along." Haverhill Gazette. August 27, 1953: 6.

"Missing Wellesley Girl Found." The Evening Tribune. August 26, 1953: 1.

"Missing Girl Found Beneath Porch of Home." The Los Angeles Times. August 27, 1953: 18.

"Greater Boston Policemen." Manchester Union Leader. August 26, 1953: 40.

"Student Missing." Miami Daily News. August 26, 1953: 10.

"Missing Wellesley Girl, 20, Found Asleep in Her Cellar." The Standard-Times (New Bedford). August 26, 1953: 1, 12.

"Smith College Editor, 20, Hiding, Ill, Under House." New York Herald Tribune. Late City Edition. August 27, 1953: 32.

"Smith Senior is Found and Taken to Hospital." The Berkshire Evening Eagle (Pittsfield). August 26, 1953: 1.

"Home All Along." Taunton Daily Gazette. August 28, 1953: 1.

"Missing Girl Hunted at Wellesley." The Worcester Telegram. County Edition. August 26, 1953: 1.

"Missing Girl Hunted at Wellesley." The Worcester Telegram. Latest Edition. August 26, 1953: 13.


Family Photograph (shown above):

"Day-Long Search Fails to Locate Smith Student." The Boston Globe. August 26, 1953: 1, 11.

Headshot cropped from Boston Globe family photograph:

"Missing Smith Girl Found in Own Cellar." Boston Daily Record.Home. Edition. August 27, 1953: 5.

"Missing Smith Girl Found in Own Cellar." Boston Daily Record. Payoff Edition. August 27, 1953: 5.

"Trace Moves of Girl Felled by Sleep Pills." Boston Evening American. Cambridge Somerville Edition. August 27: 1953: 5.

"Trace Moves of Girl Felled by Sleep Pills." Boston Evening American. 8 Star Sports Edition. August 27: 1953: 5.

"Pill Girl 2 Days in Cellar." Boston Evening American. Sports Entries Results Edition. August 27, 1953: 5.

"Pill Girl 2 Days in Cellar." Boston Evening American. Sports Charts Entries Edition. August 27, 1953: 5.

"Sleeping Pill Girl 2 Days in Own Cellar." Boston Evening American. Final Edition. August 27, 1953: 5.

Plath in Lawrence House (Printed backwards, part on wrong side of head):


"Top-Ranking Student at Smith Missing from Wellesley Home." The Boston Herald. August 25, 1953: 1, 11.

"Posse Hunts Smith Girl." Boston Traveler. Blue Streak Edition. August 25, 1953: 1, 26.

"Sylvia Plath Found in Good Condition." The Townsman (Wellesley). August 27,1953: 1.


Smith Graduation photo (See Letters Home, the photo captioned "Sylvia's graduation photo from Smith"):

"Hunt for Missing Smith Honor Student Who Left on 'Long Hike' Fruitless." Daily Hampshire Gazette (Northampton). August 25, 1953: 1, 16.


Possible artist rendition (See below):

"Hunt Missing College Girl in Favored Haunts." Boston Evening American. Final Edition. August 25, 1953: 5.

"50 Sleep Pills Vanish with Missing Smith Girl." Boston Evening American. Sports Charts Entries Edition. August 25, 1953: 5.

"50 Sleep Pills Vanish with Missing Smith Girl." Boston Evening American. Sports Entries Results Edition. August 25, 1953: 5.

"Smith Girl Missing in Wellesley." The Boston Post. August 25, 1953: 7.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Don't think I've ever seen the first photo. Wonderful. Otto would have been proud!

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