Hal Roth - April 2010
Old News from Delmarva:
“Now every heart beats glad;
Here comes the noble shad.
We’ll watch him when he’s
We’ll eat him when he’s
Dashes from Here and There:
“Bees are humming and some trees are putting forth their foliage.”
“The month of March was the driest known for nearly a century, and the warmest recorded since the weather bureau was established early in the seventies, with a single exception.”
“With warm weather, great schools of herring are coming up the Indian River and big catches are being made daily. Nets have been stretched around the spawning places at the headwaters of the river here, and it is almost impossible for the herring to get away. The fish are being caught in such large hauls that wagons are loaded at the river edge.”
“Herring are selling at twenty-five cents a hundred in Dorchester and many farmers are salting them.”
“Pigs are very scarce and prices are very high.”
“Farmers are busy preparing for corn and tomatoes, and the outlook for all kinds of fruit is better than for years. If no killing frosts overtake the crop, both tree and vine fruits will yield heavily.”
“Mr. Cole, near Federalsburg, will plant eighty barrels of Irish Cobbler potatoes for early market.”
“Notice to farmers: On April 1 we will start buying milk at the ice cream factory and will pay $1 per hundred pounds.
–G. S. RAIRIGH & SON
“Easton is deeply interested in the question of sewers.”
“With a new fire engine, a fine one, a new piano for the Academy and a vacuum cleaner, Federalsburg is coming to the front fast. Mr. Earl Hudson is hauling cement blocks to his lot, opposite the Opera House, where he is to have an up-to-date ice cream parlor built.”
“The new ice wagon is crowding the coal cart out of business.”
“Much cord wood and valuable timber have been destroyed by fires in the woods near Ridgely.”
“Ray Hock, the baseball twirler, has resigned the principalship of the Goldsboro school, and Miss Mattie Moore was appointed to fill the vacancy.”
“With Halley’s Comet moving around in the celestial sphere and T. R. hitting only the high places on this one, the future looks squally but all fired interesting.”
As footnotes to the above quote, you may remember that Halley’s Comet was soon to become visible in the night sky, and there were dire predictions of earth’s destruction from some. Others anticipated benefits: “A professor says that the star dust emitted by the comet’s tail will clarify the minds of men, lead to higher thought and set all to studying the signs of the zodiac.”
Commonly referred to as T. R., Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, succeeded to the presidency on September 6, 1901 upon the assassination of William McKinley. After then winning the election of 1904, T. R. served as president until March 4, 1909. In April 1910, he returned from an extended hunting trip to Africa and made his famous “Man in the Arena” speech that month. He would run again for the presidency on the “Bull Moose” ticket in the bitterly contested three-way campaign of 1912.
During the same month of April, Dr. Woodrow Wilson, president of Princeton University, made a prophetic speech in which he said, “The political tide is now turning Democratic, and the day when the Democratic Party must take charge of this country’s affairs is almost at hand.” Wilson would go on to defeat Roosevelt in the election of 1912.
“Is This a Piece of Halley’s Comet?” was published on April 9, 1910:
“While Messrs. Charles I. Hobbs, Ord Rairigh and Irving Brumbaugh were returning home last Sunday night and were near the Zeigler farm on the Denton-Hillsboro road. They saw approaching them a big light which they at first thought to be that of an automobile, but which instantly showed that it was not because of its cannon-ball speed. It was near the ground – traveling west. The horse the young men were driving became badly frightened. The flying ball of fire struck the ground near the roadside, the light being immediately extinguished. The brilliance of the mysterious apparition and its roar greatly startled the young men, and one of the number visited the spot the next day. With little difficultly, the wanderer from some other sphere or some comet was found. The piece has the appearance of something like iron ore and charcoal. It is much lighter than the former and much heavier than the latter. Its shape is irregular, its greatest diameter being about six inches, and it weighs a little less than two pounds. It is possibly a fragment of some comet flying though space, disintegrating as it rushes, each particle partaking of the wonderful light that illumines the heavens when these celestial visitors sweep the firmament.”
On the legislative front, the Digges Bills, designed to prevent African Americans from voting in state and local elections, passed the Maryland Legislature the first week in April 1910. Some of the best attorneys in the nation had studied the question and decided that the United States Supreme Court would sustain such action on the grounds that the Fifteenth Amendment had never been adopted by two-thirds of the states, Maryland among the dissenters.
A week later, Governor Crothers, though personally favoring the legislation, announced that he would withhold his signature. This is part of the lengthy statement he released to Maryland newspapers:
“It seems to me that the people who are most afflicted with this perpetual race issue in politics have a right to have the question settled, and I feel constrained to say that I deem it unjust, in fact, little less that an outrage upon decency, that they should be denounced as they have been by some because of the expression which they have given to this desire in the passage of these bills.
“That is the way I feel about the matter. Nevertheless, after the maturest reflection, I have come to the conclusion that it would not be proper to enact this registration law in advance of a ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States upon the question of its constitutional validity. I feel that such action on our part might be regarded as putting the State of Maryland in an attitude of defiance toward the Federal Government and might do our people and the people of the South generally much harm.”
Local option laws that prevented the sale of alcoholic beverages in many areas a century ago were frequently circumnavigated by the fact that numerous patent medicines prescribed by physicians contained little more than alcohol.
To increase the effectiveness of Caroline County’s option law, State Senator Goslin initiated the following bill: “It shall be unlawful for any person or persons, firm or corporation, directly or indirectly, to sell or otherwise dispose of, by way of barter, or give away in any place of business within Caroline County, any spirituous, vinous, malt or fermented or other intoxicating liquors, medicated bitters or any compound of which alcohol is a chief or principal ingredient.”
Shortly after passage of the bill a representative group of physicians met with Caroline judges and State’s Attorney Deen. While the judges refused to officially interpret the act or predict what a jury might do, there was a general consensus that doctors could expect no interference on the part of the law with the dispensing of necessary “tinctures.”
Another act of legislation, reported in a brief notation on April 2, 1910, will surprise many readers today: “One of the recent bills requires that there be daily reading of the Holy Bible in the public schools.”
On the crime front: “The Middletown post office was robbed, the loss being about $1,500 in stamps, etc. It is thought the robbers came and went in an automobile.”
“John Adams, colored, who was charged with carrying concealed weapons, was sentenced to the House of Correction for six months. In sentencing the prisoner, Judge Pearce referred to the law against carrying concealed weapons. It was passed, he said, because many had carried them, and experience had proven that when carried, they are used without justification. But inasmuch as a plea of guilty had been entered, the court would make the sentence six months instead of twelve.”
“William Wisher, colored, indicted for larceny of chickens, admitted guilt and was sent to the penitentiary for one year.”
“Alexander Williams, indicted for larceny of chickens, admitted the charge and was sent to the penitentiary for one year.”
“Leonard Adams, colored, charged with striking his mother with a brick, was proven guilty and sentenced to the House of Correction for six months.”
An article titled “FARMER OWNS NATION – Crop Values Show Money Kings Are Not In Possession” appeared in the April 16 edition of the Denton Journal.
“The farmer, not the money king of Wall Street, is the real owner of the United States. This is the opinion of Isaac F. Marcosson, expressed in Munsey’s. ‘The gleam of his fields is another Aladdin Story,’ continues Mr. Marcosson, ‘only instead of rubbing a lamp he has simply scraped the ground.’
“The cereal crops last year were worth $3,000,000,000, which is sufficient to pay for all the tools, implements and machinery of the whole of American industry. While this sum seems huge as it stands alone, you have only to go back a few years in the story of our agriculture to see the miracle of steady increase that has been achieved. Eleven years ago the value of all our farm products for a single year was reckoned at $1,417,000,000. That figure was doubled by 1909. During these years the sum total that the soil has yielded the farmers is $70,000,000,000. The advance is so steady and sure that you can almost calculate upon it year by year.
“Compare this record with the ebb and flow of earnings in steel or any other industry and you will realize as never before how agriculture keeps the even tenor of its prosperous way, unmindful of panic or depression. Why? Simply because land is stable, and, given proper methods of farming, the more you take out of it the more valuable it becomes. It cannot be moved away; it is, in truth, the very foundation of the nation’s material welfare. It would take $24,000,000,000 to buy our farm lands, and their value is real and not watered, save by irrigation.”
And that wonderful new machine, the automobile, was making life all the more pleasant and profitable for the farmers of Delmarva and the nation.
“The automobile is rapidly becoming the most useful and popular farm hand that can be employed by the enterprising agriculturist. Its variety of uses is great. A man who has a large farm to look after finds that he can get around much more swiftly and comfortably in an auto runabout than by horse, buggy or Shanks’ mare. Some farmers use the auto in peddling chickens about town, while others fire up their motorcars early in the morning and speed away to town and deliver milk from door to door. For hauling light produce to market the automobile is unexcelled. When the children have a considerable distance to go to reach the country schoolhouse, they are happy if ‘pop’ or the hired man can crank up the auto and speed them on their way.
“More than seventy-five thousand farmers in this country own automobiles. With good roads, telephones and rural mail delivery, the farmer is coming to his own in the United States. He is to be the aristocrat of the future.”
As people purchased more and more automobiles, the demand for new and improved roads increased, and better roads further boosted the value of Delmarva property.
“Already the effect of State roads on values of land has been noted. In many cases prices are more than doubling. This can but result in extensive improvement to many farms heretofore neglected. Stretches of countryside considered undesirable in times past will blossom as the rose.”
But we learn in the same edition that Delmarva and the rest of the country still had a lot to learn about the value of good roads.
“In France, on roads that are as good as engineering skill can make them, a single horse will haul 3,300 pounds at a load as against 1,400 pounds per horse over the dirt roads in this country. There would seem to be abundant evidence in these figures that it pays a country or community to have firm and level highways.”
Advertisements are one of the first things I look at in old newspapers. In 1910, The Twice-a-Week American advertised itself as “The Cheapest and Best Family Newspaper Published.” $1.00 purchased a full year’s subscription.
“1 CENT FOR 4 MILES OF PLEASURE,” began another ad, and wouldn’t that attract some attention today?
“The motorcycle combines the attractiveness of bicycling and the comfort of automobiling. It offers you the cheapest method of mechanical transportation ever devised. One quarter of one cent a mile pays for both fuel and oil. Its first cost is low, and upkeep and running expenses are surprisingly small. The M. M. MOTORCYCLE is all of these things – and more. We have eliminated the noise entirely. The M. M. motor is one of the most highly developed and powerful engines for its size ever built. We want you to try an M. M. Let us send our agent to you with a demonstration machine. We know that one demonstration will remove any prejudice you may have. Battery Model: $200 – 3.5 Horsepower; Magneto Model: $225 – 4 Horsepower.”
“TIME was when a woman was forced to wear her old corsets to do housework – her new corsets were too stiff and uncomfortable, or they “cut” under the arms. Then we introduced the “HOUSEWIFE” Corset – and now thousands of women are wearing it. It is comfortable from the first minute – you can wear it at home and do your work in absolute ease – and its lines are so graceful that you can wear your best gown over it and look better than you ever looked before.”
“The Housewife” sold for $1.00 in all sizes from 18 to 30 and was promised to “outwear two pairs of the ordinary dollar corset.”
A competitor offered a wider variety of styles and prices:
“Medium and long dip hip models with hose supporters attached: $1.00 to $2.50.
“American Lady Corset: $1.00 to $2.00.
“Nemo Self Reducing Corsets for stout figures: $3.00 to $4.00.
“R & G Corsets: $1.00 to $2.00.
“Famous LaVida Corsets – all the new advanced models: $3.50 to $10.50.
“Aegeria Corsets: $3.39 to $10.50.”
If you were an avid reader in 1910, you could purchase your choice of “Popular Copyright Books” for $.45 each, and they were hardbound. A few of the advertised titles were: The Beloved Vagabond, The Weavers, Satan Sanderson, The Ancient Law, The Doctor, The Blonde Lady – Adventures of Arsene Lupin, The Fruit of the Tree, The Impersonator, Truth Dexter, The Mystery of the Hanson Cab, Emmy Lou, The Great Secret, David Harum, The Circular Staircase, The Four Fools Mystery, The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, The Balance of Power, The Old Homestead, A Gentleman of France, Light Fingered Gentry, The Lady of Cleeve and Old Wives for New.
The Caroline County Bank in Greensboro advertised payment of four percent interest to depositors, but you wonder how much of a business they had with capital of only $12,000 and a surplus fund of $18,000.
“Veteran Dust Exterminator, The Sanitary Sweeping Compound” advertised that it “Raises no dust in sweeping and acts as an excellent Disinfectant and Deodorizer. Will not injure hands or fabrics. Preserves carpets and rugs. Brings out faded colors like new. Kills Moths and other Insects and is looked upon as being an efficient GERMICIDE. Unlike any other preparation of its kind, THIS POWDER WILL NOT BURN, and hence IS ENDORCED BY THE INSURANCE COMPANIES.”
You could buy a “Large Tin Can” for 24 cents or get a “FREE SAMPLE” upon application.
A statement, “The services of the Peninsula Light and Power Company is very satisfactory, and electric lights are being put in for new customers every week,” was followed by this advertisement:
“ELECTRIC LIGHTS! If you want them, but without the poles and wires in your streets, you want the Low Volt “Safety” System. 110 volts is dangerous to man and animal, and has set thousands of buildings on fire. Don’t pay more than one-half cent an hour for 16-candle-power lamp. STORES should have the ‘Safety’ private plant. Fifty 16-candle power lamps for only 2 cents an hour.”
Newspapers a century ago commonly published tidbits of advice, frequently on page 1. Some were quite serious in nature while others were tinged with humor.
“Never add the burden of yesterday’s trouble to that of tomorrow. The one is past; the other may never come.”
“Economy, unlike charity, doesn’t begin at home. In fact, economy doesn’t begin anywhere as often as it should.”
“Life is not so short but that there is always time for courtesy.”
“A modest man isn’t one who has a poor opinion of himself. He merely keeps still about his good opinion of himself.”
“Be wide awake. Hustle and make tracks, but do not, on any pretext, make muddy ones on your wife’s best carpet.”
And a dash of pure humor to end our brief review of April 1910:
“Mrs. Smith – Are you taking much stock in this attempt that a lot of the women are making to get the vote for us?
“Mrs. Jones – I ain’t bothering my head about such things. I’m satisfied to let the boys do all the voting for my family, but I do think that a woman should get man’s pay.
“Mrs. Smith – Well, I can assure you that I get one man’s pay every Saturday night or know the reason why.”
You can reach Hal Roth at email@example.com.