Newspapers subscribe to other newspapers and pick up the more interesting articles to re-run them. If the story is particularly interesting, a story re-run by one paper gets picked up by another that subscribes to that one. Here’s one from the South Bend Register of 1871 that got picked up by the Sidney Evening News way down under in Australia.
Unfortunately, “particularly interesting” does not always mean “true”. A search of public records and Bremen cemeteries, alas, finds no Jacob Methuselah (or similar name) anywhere near Bremen in 1871 or any other time. It’s very likely the South Bend paper just cooked it up on a slow day, perhaps using some genuine stories as inspiration, since there have in fact been Nussbaums and Nusbaums in the vicinity at least since 1860.
The “died laughing” news story was fairly common and perhaps sometimes true, since it remains plausible that convulsions of laughter could trigger some fatal episode. Just in Indiana newspapers, the idea has played numerous times. The Logansport-Pharos Tribune ran a story in 1896 calling laughter a disease (or a symptom of one) and citing an Austrian man. In 1903, the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette cited a woman overly-amused by comic dancers in 1741. In a more timely piece, the Fort Wayne Daily News of 1904 wrote about a woman who collapsed after heartily laughing in a theater during the St. Louis Exposition. And The Greenfield Daily Reporter ran a story in 1932 about a Los Angeles woman laughing to death during a comedy film.
But the Angola Herald wasn’t afraid of killing its readers with a joke of their own in 1957:
Wife — Mother says she nearly died laughing over those stories you told her.
Hub — Where is she? I’ll tell her some funnier ones.
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