December 2010 - Hal Roth

 

Old News from Delmarva:
December 1910
by
Hal Roth

 

The brief notation of a government proposal published in several Delmarva newspapers during December 1910 will certainly raise a few eyebrows today. Consider what its success would have meant to development on the Western Shore.
“The proposition has been made that the Government acquire a considerable position [sic] of the country lying between Washington and Baltimore and convert it into a National Park.”
It is interesting to observe that a hundred years ago people still believed that things like marshes could “last forever.”
“Senator John Walter Smith has secured the passage of a bill authorizing a survey of the marshlands on the Eastern Shore counties in hopes to see vast tracts of these lands reclaimed and productive.”
That announcement was expanded by the following editorial.
“That there is immense profit in marsh reclamation, but that it is not necessary, as former President Roosevelt proposes, to have government aid, has been demonstrated by J. H. K. Shannahan at his Lake Richard Farm on the Miles River. He used a centrifugal pump, driven by gasoline power, and raised the mud from several small coves and threw it on a small marshy section at the head of the coves. By the same method, thousands of the most fertile acres of Dorchester and Caroline Counties could, with but little expense, be brought into the highest state of cultivation. Equipment of this kind could probably find work the year around on tidewater sections. In doing this, the new-made ground would be the richest, because the Chesapeake Bay receives the drainage of a vast and fertile land. For this reason it is sometimes called a great river valley. This drainage that is brought to the bay by so many different rivers is black sediment and sometimes called ‘oyster mud.’ This, together with the leaves and grasses of centuries, make land that if properly utilized will exceed any soil now being cultivated in productiveness.
“The marshes are said to be equal to any in the world, and, moreover, they will last forever. These counties have a large frontage on tidewater and contain thousands of acres of marshland that could be reclaimed at a moderate cost, but to this day little, if any, has been diked. There is also considerable marshland on the Tuckahoe River.”
It is sometimes difficult today to remember how little we knew of medicine and surgery a century ago. The following brief announcement concerning a native Delmarva surgeon followed the headline: “A GREAT SURGICAL TRIUMPH.”
“The Philadelphia North American gave an account of one of the greatest triumphs in surgery ever known. Dr. J. R. Rochester, formerly of Denton, has distinguished himself in his profession by performing an operation which saved a patient with a broken neck, the third case in medical annals.”
The United States Census Office reported in December that the population of the continental United States had risen to 91,972,266, an increase from 1900 of 15,977,691 or twenty-one percent. Including United States dependencies, at that time Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, the Panama Canal Zone, Guam and Samoa (some of which were estimated), brought the grand total to 101,100,000.
“There is still a strong tendency of the population,” reported one Delmarva editor, “to remove from the country to the cities and larger towns, and this in spite of the fact that the products of the farm bring higher prices. The back-to-the-farm movement urged by statesmen and the newspapers has not reached the proportions desired, and still further work along this line must be performed by those who have the welfare of the people and the prosperity of the country at heart. The task ought to be much more easily accomplished than in former times, before the coming of better roads, the rural delivery of mail, the telephone, improved farm machinery, etc., together with better compensation.”
Another editorial, using the 1910 report of the United States Secretary of Agriculture, had this to say: “At no previous time in the world’s history has a country produced farm products in one year with a value reaching $8,926,000,000, which is the value of agricultural products in this country for 1910. While the value of the corn crop is below that of 1909 and also of 1908, its amount belongs to stories of magic. It can hardly be reckoned at less that $1,500,000,000, a sum sufficient to cancel the interest-bearing debt of the United States, buy all of the gold and silver mined in all the countries of the earth in 1909 and still leave the farmers a little pocket money.”
One Eastern Shore county was not pleased with the census report.
“Public officials of Queen Anne’s County, convinced that their county has not decreased 1,500 in population in the last ten years, as shown by this year’s census, are vigorously demanding a recount. The new figures, if they stand, will reduce to two that county’s representation in the House of Delegates, and there will be the same reduction in strength at political conventions.”
A hundred years ago, the greatest threat to the earth was believed to be “global cooling.”
“All bodies in space are gradually approaching frigidity. The sun is steadily losing its heat and contracting, and the same is true of the planets and of every other body in space. Just as the arctic circle is ever encroaching upon the temperate and equatorial regions, so the final chill is steadily advancing upon the warmth everywhere.”
One thing that hasn’t changed from century to century is the fact that little girls write letters to Santa, and newspapers sometimes publish them.
“Dear Old Santa: My little Sister is a very little Girl and Don’t know much about you yet. So I guess I will have to write for her for I don’t believe you could understand much Of her writing. She dearly loves doll’s rubber cats and candy’s but poppa Says please bring her a Little knife and fork to eat with please sir. And don’t forget the rest for Little Willhelmina DeFord.”

Dashes From Here and There
“Egg prices are still rising.”
“37 cents per dozen for eggs. Cash paid at W. J. Blackiston’s.”
“In Kent County, Maryland, last week a dozen eggs were worth more than a bushel of corn. The oldest inhabitant could not remember such prices before.”
“Denton Jail is without a prisoner.”
“The Deputy Attorney General of Delaware will next week begin the examination of scores of people to try to find those who were engaged in violation of the Corrupt Practices Act in recent elections in that state. There will be a wholesale investigation”
“Considerable of the corn crops have not been husked, the farmers complaining that they have been greatly retarded in their work by the scarcity of good labor. The labor problem is responsible for many leaving agricultural pursuits, notwithstanding fair prices obtained for grain and other products of the land.”
“A new schedule of toll rates for messages to and from points where the Farmers’ and Merchants’ telephones are in use to and from points where the Chesapeake and Potomac or Bell are in use on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay has been put in force. The rate from Denton to Baltimore is now forty instead of fifty cents. The rate to Annapolis is twenty-five cents. The average reduction is about twenty-five percent.”
“Judging from last year’s receipts, Motor Vehicle Commissioner John E. George predicted that the 1911 automobile registration will increase the revenues of the State by the net sum of at least $50,000.”
Newspaper reports a hundred years ago contained many reports of railroad accidents: “Mr. Thomas A. Embert, a brakeman on the M. D. & V. Railway, was killed Thursday morning at the shifting yard at Love Point. His foot slipped and he fell between cars, his head on the track. Death was instantaneous. Mrs. Embert and three small children survive. A short time after Mr. Embert entered the employ of the railroad company he was caught between two cars and badly injured. Last summer a car wheel passed over one of his feet, mashing some of his toes off.”
“Housewives and others who own felines with grayish coats are warned, for the safety of said pets, to keep them housed or chained during the gunning season, as some of our over zealous young huntsmen, in the excitement of the chase, might, perchance, take off the tip of his nose for a bunny while he is quietly watching for mice under a brush pile. Such things have happened, you know.”
“Mr. Norman Faulkner has written a song entitled ‘From Halley’s Comet to Honey Moon,’ which he thinks ought to become popular. He will soon have it published.”
I regret to say that Mr. Faulkner apparently suffered a disappointment. I just Googled his song title, and the best they could come up with was “Honeymoon on Mars.”
“Seventy-one barrels of dressed poultry went from Easton Station to northern markets one day last week.”
After an early freeze and snowfall, additional snow fell in mid-December.
“There was good sleighing this week, the additional snow having been received on a foundation largely of ice on the public roads, and cutters glided very smoothly. The traveling on the snow was fine – better than it has been for several years. Scores of people made good use of their sleighs.”
Younger readers should understand that in the above clipping the writer is referring to large, horse-drawn sleighs that were used for transportation as well as recreation and not just the children’s sleds that are popular today.
“The snow has put all of the automobiles out of commission.”
“There is a semi-holiday down on the farm during all this wintry weather.”
“There was zero weather on Friday night of last week. Weather observer Mason’s records show it. This was the coldest weather since February, 1907, the 7th of which month showed a temperature of 3º below.”
“It is winter. One who was good and great once said: ‘The birds of the air have nests,’ but today the source of food of these same birds is covered with several inches of snow. The birds which were loved by the Christ are hungry. What shall we do about it? Every good man and woman and boy and girl will feed them. Will you?”
“An urgent appeal has been sent out to all parts of the State by the Maryland State Game and Fish Protective Association, requesting sportsmen to help take care of partridges while snow is on the ground. Unlike other birds, they roost on the ground, and when the ground freezes they are liable to become frozen or starve. Many farmers make it a practice to go to the woods and scrape the snow away in places, feeding the quail in a like manner as they do their chickens.”
Until recent years the bobwhite quail was a very common and popular bird throughout Delmarva, but modern agricultural practices have practically extirpated the species in many areas.
“There is strong women’s suffrage sentiment in Talbot and Dorchester, and Just Franchise Leagues are at work at Easton and Cambridge.”
“Folks hereabout are very busily occupied at the present. They are engaged in a variety of vocations, such as making holly wreaths, for which they are receiving fancy prices; making Christmas presents, for every one of which they expect to receive one in return; killing big hogs, about whose weight there is still a tendency to hyperbolate; sleighing, which is above average in quality and quantity; and getting married.”
A century and more ago, Christmastime was a popular season for marriage.
“William Bullock asks that all the holly wreaths possible be brought to his store next Monday or on Tuesday morning, as he expects to make a shipment.”
“Judging from the scarcity of holly berries and Christmas greens in Sussex County, where a great part of the Christmas decorations used in Philadelphia and Baltimore comes from, there will be few holly wreaths and green decorations this year. Dealers have never found the holly and berries so scarce and blame the shortage in the thinning of the thickets by the sawmills, claiming that the light and air are death to the holly bushes and the red berries which adorn them.”
Before I move on to other 1910 headlines, let me offer my usual taste of century-old humor.
1st lady: “Have you any faith in life insurance?”
2nd lady: “Yes, indeed. I’ve realized $100,000 from two husbands, and they weren’t very good ones either.”
“Do you believe in love at first sight?”
“Sure, it boosts my business.”
“How so?”
“I’m a divorce lawyer.”
An old man was sitting on a flat tombstone in a churchyard, deep in thought. It had been raining, and all the trees looked fresh and green. A passing traveler remarked: “Grand morning. Just the sort of weather to make things spring up.”
“Hush,” replied the old man, “I’ve got three wives buried here.”
Reviewing a few of the forgotten national headlines from 1910, I note that Federal spending reached $69 billion, unemployment stood at 5.9%, and the cost of a first-class postage stamp was $.02.
In January, the first junior high school in the United States opened in Berkeley, California, and the first international air meet in the United States was held in Los Angeles. 1910 would witness many aeronautical firsts.
The Boy Scouts of America were incorporated in February, and thirty-eight years before the founding of NASCAR, the first race was held in the nation’s first auto speedway – the Los Angeles Motordrome – on March 23.
President William Howard Taft started an American tradition on the Washington Senators’ Opening Day at Griffith Stadium in April 1910 by throwing out the first ball. Every President since, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, has thrown out at least one ceremonial first ball or pitch on Opening Day, at the All-Star Game or during the World Series. The first night air flight also occurred during April.
In May, Glenn Curtiss set a long distance flying record of 150 miles from Albany, New York to New York City, and the world did not end when Halley’s Comet attained its closest approach to Earth.
Father’s Day was first celebrated in Spokane, Washington, on June 19, and on the 25th it became illegal to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes.
In July, Walter Brookins became the first to pilot an airplane to the altitude of one mile, and Alva Fisher patented the electric washing machine on August 9.
The world’s first female cop, Alice Stebbins Wells, was appointed to the Los Angeles Police Department on September 12.
Blanche Scott became the first woman to solo in a public airplane flight in October, the same month that the first aircraft collision occurred. I could find no relationship between the two events.
In November, the first airfreight shipment was undertaken by the Wright Brothers and department store owner Max Moorehouse, flying between Dayton and Columbus, Ohio. The first election in which women could vote was conducted in Washington State, the first movie stunt witnessed a man jumping into the Hudson River from a burning balloon, the inaugural airplane flight from the deck of a ship was made in Norfolk, Virginia, and the first city ordinance requiring white and black residential areas was passed in Baltimore.
The first United States Postal Savings Stamps were issued in December.
In 1910, Vitamin B, teeth braces and neon signs made their debut, but sliced bread – 70% was still baked at home – had not yet been invented. Nor had bikinis, bras and ballpoint pens.
Henry Ford sold 10,000 cars in 1910, and Americans were singing “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” and “Down by the Old Mill Stream.” Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics won the World Series. And if you want to know something really scary (to me), I have attended games in Philadelphia and witnessed tall, lanky Connie Mack managing the Athletics – always wearing a business suit and tie. Connie Mack managed he Athletics for fifty years.
It was a good year for children. In addition to the Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Campfire Girls and National 4-H Clubs were founded. Beatrix Potter and Rudyard Kipling were writing children’s books, and two popular fictional characters, Tom Swift and Hopalong Cassidy, arrived on the scene.
In 1910 the average U.S. worker earned less than $15 per week and worked from 54 to 60 hours.
Just over half of Americans lived in cities and towns of 2,500 or more, up from 21% in 1860. Eight out of every ten African Americans remained in the eleven states of the old Confederacy.
Midwives still delivered half of all babies born in the United States.
The nation boasted 1,000 miles of concrete highways.
1910 was the year when banks began issuing personal loans. Credit cards did not exist.
An Army medic introduced tincture of iodine as a disinfectant for wounds. There were no such things as antibiotics and band-aids.
And that’s the way it was at the end of 1910, when one editor wrote: “It is Christmas. Its glorious music is in the still night air. It is in the human heart, too. It is and ought to be the gladdest season of all the year. The luscious cold persimmon and the tasty cider nog, the apple and the hickory nut, the blazing fire log; the mince pie and the pumpkin, the fruit cake and the wine, the sand tarts and the candy and the odor of pine; the rabbit and the turkey and the partridge plump and round, and figs and dates and oranges and fruits that now abound, all fill the thoughts with gladness and the heart with right good cheer, for these are surely tokens that old Santa Claus is near.”
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

You can reach Hal Roth at nanbk@dmv.com.