The Fulton History of Fulton County (New York) offers searching of more than 26 million historic newspaper pages. And, yes, I searched again for Sylvia Plath. The articles that were new to me were:
"Missing Wellesley Student is Found, Put in Hospital." Niagara Falls Gazette. August 26, 1953: 1.
"Smith College Senior Missing." The Times Record (Troy, N.Y.). August 26, 1953: 21.
"Girl Found Moaning in Cellar." Buffalo Courier Express. August 27, 1953: 1.
"Coed Recovering from Overdose." The Leader-Republican (Gloversville and Johnstown, N.Y.). August 27, 1953: 21.
"Missing Co-ed Found Alive Under Porch." Schenectady Gazette. August 27, 1953: 13.
"Home All Along." The Morning Herald (Gloversville and Johnstown, N.Y.). August 28, 1953: 1.
"Co-ed Recovers from Overdose." Utica Daily Press. August 28, 1953: 1.
I first found this site in March 2014; and re-searched the site in May. On the second visit, there were 276 articles where the exact phrase "Sylvia Plath" was found. These articles include book reviews, name-drops, etc. as well as articles from August 1953.
"Hunted by Posse, Girl Lies in Coma." Philadelphia Inquirer. August 27, 1953: 6.
This lead me to request via Interlibrary Loan the microfilm for this newspaper. A search of this did not find any additional newspaper articles other than the one that appeared on 27 August, but it was worth the effort to confirm.
While I was working on this post in June, I found quite by accident another article on Plath's disappearance from August 1953. Somewhat quietly in the summer of 2012, Olwyn Hughes donated to Pembroke College, Cambridge, a collection of items related to Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. Several items from this collection were displayed in February 2013. Largely composed of clippings of news paper articles and reviews, among them are some clippings that had to have belonged to Sylvia Plath as several date from before Plath and Hughes met. In Series 2, Life, Subseries 2.3 Sylvia Plath, there were four articles related to Plath's first suicide attempt. In reviewing the articles, I noticed one that was not familiar to me, based on the research I did for my paper "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath". I include the link, but please accept my apologies if it one day does not work... the journal in which it appeared annoyingly keeps changing its url).
The three that were familiar to me were: "Top-ranking Student at Smith Missing from Wellesley Home" from the Boston Herald; "Beautiful Smith Girl Missing at Wellesley" from Boston Globe; and "Day-Long Search Fails to Find Smith Student" also from the Boston Globe.
This is truly fascinating. Plath's Esther Greenwood describes three clippings and four photographs in The Bell Jar. The first two are spot on in their descriptions of actual photographs that ran of Plath that summer. In the article "Beautiful Smith Girl Missing at Wellesley" from Boston Globe, there is a photograph of Plath "showed a big, blown-up picture of a girl with black-shadowed eyes and black lips spread in a grin" (1963, 210). And in "Day-Long Search Fails to Find Smith Student", also from the Boston Globe, the photograph accompanying the article "showed a picture of my mother and brother and me grouped together in our backyard amd smiling" (1963, 210). The third photograph was of "A dark, midnight picture of about a dozen moon-faced people in a wood. I thought the people at the end of the row looked queer and unusually short until I realized they were not people, but dogs"; and the fourth "The last picture showed policemen lifting a long, limp blanket roll with a featureless cabbage head into the back of an ambulance" (1963, 211).
This photograph of the search party does not include bloodhounds and is not taken at night as Esther Greenwood describes in the novel, but it gives me some kind of Plathetic hope that perhaps there were at the time. It is evident there were more newspaper articles that ran than we will likely ever fully know, so it is not totally unreasonable to think that the other clippings Esther described actually were printed.
The other interesting aspect to these clippings is the fact that they are original, and that Olwyn Hughes had them. How did she acquire them? One possibility is that she obtained them from among Plath's papers that she left behind in England after her death. If this were the case, then it means that Plath had them on hand at the time she wrote The Bell Jar.
This brings the total number of articles on Sylvia Plath's first suicide attempt to 192. The large majority of these are AP news stories cut up from their original Boston appearances and sent out over the wire. I still find it fascinating to see how far and wide this story traveled. If you live in a city with access to microfilm from 24-31 August 1953, please consider going to look at it to see if any articles ran. If so, I (we, I dare to speak for this blogs' readers!!!) would love copies/scans of them to further extend the search for Sylvia Plath.
My thanks and deepest gratitude to Patricia Aske, Librarian, Pembroke College, University of Cambridge.
All links accessed 14 May 2014, 20 June 2014, and 15 August 2014.
You can see a bibliography of articles on Plath's first suicide attempt, and read PDF's of them, over at A celebration, this is.