Hal Roth - January 2011

 

Old News from Delmarva:
January 1911
by
Hal Roth

 

Delmarva weeklies in January 1911 did not carry an abundance of exciting news. Consider the headline: “VERY LATE PEARS.”
“Charles Shorter, Cambridge, has a pear tree in his yard that has ripe fruit on it despite the cold weather. Last fall, when gathering the pears, he was unable to get a number of them from the top of one of the trees and decided to let them remain for a while. When they failed to fall off in a reasonable time, he began to watch them carefully to see how long they would stay on the tree, and recently he took a number of men around to the house to show them the pears.”
What a shame that small newspapers had little access to photographs in 1911. I would really love to see those pears.
Another relatively common event, broadcast in our day and age only when a celebrity is involved, received widespread publicity a century ago.
“A Federalsburg dispatch dated January 20th says that country districts are considerably stirred up over the departure of pretty 15-year-old Ella Hill and Frank Wooters, 19 years old, both of whom live near Liberty Church. It is said they have eloped.”
Details of the article involve the sending of a note, a secret meeting, a “heart-to-heart” talk with parents, the procurement and cashing of a $7.00 check by Ella to finance the adventure, and this almost poetic last sentence: “It is said they boarded the westbound train.”
Delmarva politicians and partisan newspaper editors remained excited by Democratic gains in the November 1910 election.
“Under mild and equitable laws the Democracy [meaning Democratic Party] governed this country with little interruption for more than fifty years. This new year ushers in what promises to be another era of Democratic rule.”
Concern against frivolous spending by government officials was just as loud a century ago as it is today. Consider the following outrage:
“Vice-President James S. Sherman [Republican] drew on the people for $7,000 to maintain a touring car. He kept track of every puncture during the year and saw to it that the people stood the damage. It might be presumed that after the government had presented the Vice-President with a handsome car, the man of the sunny disposition would at least insist upon providing the driver. Mr. Sherman, however, not only charged the chauffeur’s salary up to the people, but permitted the taxpayers to reimburse him for the auto driver’s railroad fare between Washington and Utica, N. Y., Mr. Sherman’s hometown. But this isn’t all. The Vice-President made the people even pay for the chauffeur’s coat and pants. Turn the rascals out!”
As we have recognized in past columns, the Democrats effectively controlled government on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, with the exception of Somerset County. The same was true throughout most of the state, and the Democratic Party then had a long history of initiating legislation to restrict the rights of African American citizens.
“Some have overlooked the fact that next fall two constitutional amendments are to be voted upon. One of these amendments is the suffrage amendment signed by the Governor at the last session of the Legislature. This amendment provides that only negroes who own $500 worth of property [a lot to money in 1911] and have paid taxes thereon for two years prior to the election, or whose wives meet the same requirements, will be allowed to vote. The amendment will allow every white man, whether native or foreign-born, to vote without any property test.”
‘“HELLO!’ ON THE FARM – The special report on the telephone service of the country, recently published by the Bureau of Census, contains a comment on the influence of the telephone in life on the farm. It is asserted that no single factor has played so great a part in the amelioration of conditions of life on farms as has the telephone. The report locates the beginning of the rural service in Connecticut in 1881, when a company operating in the cities of that state arranged for the connection of isolated village systems with the company’s exchanges in the cities. This opened a new and almost limitless avenue of telephone service, but little was done in that direction for a number of years. The demand for service in the cities and larger towns kept the makers of the instruments so busy that little was done in the way of rural extension. The expiration of fundamental patents in 1893 and the fact that by that time the urban field was fairly covered brought the telephone into wider use in villages and country homes. Among the manifold uses of the instruments is noted the access given to farmers to the markets in which their products are sold. When approached by a buyer, the grain grower simply steps to the telephone and asks the prices on the Chicago market through the nearest exchange. Truck farmers in the neighborhood of large cities telephone the city market to find out whether there is a demand for their fresh vegetables or whether the market is glutted and prices low. If an animal of value falls sick, the veterinary surgeon is summoned by telephone. If a horse is stolen, word is sent to all the farmers on the circuit. In case of fire or accident, help is called with avoidance of the delay involved in the dispatch of a messenger, who cannot be well spared at such a time. On many of these country circuits a prearranged signal at or about some regular hour summons all subscribers to their instruments while central reads out the important news of the day and gives out the weather report. The instrument relieves the isolation of women on the farm. Their days are often spent in loneliness while men folks are at their work. A few minutes of chat or gossip is a measureless boon to many so situated.
“With the installation of the telephone, the extension of the interurban street railway, the rural trolley line and the rural free mail delivery, life on the farm has been greatly changed for the better.”
Advertisers a century ago had already learned the wisdom of connecting their ads to items of news, but I am amazed that the following ad fails to say a single word about texting, Internet connections, GPS, photography, etc.
“There is security. There is comfort. There is real pleasure in the telephone. And lastly – what is also of great importance – there is money in it.
“In time of illness, accident, fire or other danger, the phone is the quickest messenger to be had – and it is a RELIABLE messenger. In wintry or other disagreeable weather there is real comfort in staying by the fireside and transacting the important business at bank, public office or store – over the wires. The charm of social life of any community is very greatly enhanced when one has the use of the phone – always at hand. The phone is a big saving in the matter of time, and the wear and tear of vehicles, which, without it, have to be on the road so much. Nothing constitutes a greater betterment of life in country and town than the telephone.
“For this service, write to H. M. Thompson, Manager, Hillsboro, Md.”
After-Christmas sales were apparently as popular in 1911 as they are today, but where can a man find such variety under one roof in 2011?
“All goods at cost. Some less than cost. For the next 60 days we will sell all goods at a marvelously low price for cash or trade. We call your special attention to our large stock of Men’s Underwear, Horse Blankets, Lap Robes, Nails, Pitchforks, Shovels, Spades, Trace Chains, Etc. – Preston Bargain House, Preston, Md.”

Dashes From Here and There
“There has been a slight upward tendency in the prices of canned goods recently. The systematic effort being made to impress the housekeepers of the land with the desirability of using more canned tomatoes is expected to create a better demand for this valuable product.”
The above item was of local interest because a century ago there were numerous tomato-canning plants scattered across Delmarva.
“Messrs. G. T. Redden & Co. are contracting for tomatoes at $5 per ton, corn at $9 per ton, and peas at 2-1/4 cents per pound.”
“The machine men are taking advantage of the good weather to finish up their corn husking and shredding, which has been delayed on account of the early approach of winter.”
“Why do not consumers buy directly from the farmers, asks Secretary Wilson. A distribution of farm products in this simple way has already begun in England, where co-operative organizations of farmers are selling by direct consignment to co-operative organizations of consumers in cities.”
“Three healthy babies were the unusual New Year’s gift to Frank Wilson, near Sycamore Del., who found the New Year’s present when he returned home after being sent to market on Tuesday. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson have been married ten years and are the parents of nine children, three pairs of twins and one set of triplets, all living and doing nicely.”
I’m betting that Mr. Wilson made a lot of trips to the market.
“A good piece of advice to people who live in the country is to take up the habit of writing for the newspaper from their neighborhood. It is a pleasant diversion as well as a profitable one to the mind, and greatly facilitates the passing of leisure moments. Newspapers are pleased to hear from their friends in the country and take great pleasure in publishing the items of news they gather and send.”
“The assistant [Dorchester] county treasurer, who is well known as a gunner, came near exterminating a flock of blackbirds and incidentally to putting a friend out of business. At one shot he is said to have killed a bushel of blackbirds, struck three sheep, put two shot into his host and set fire to his straw rick. Fortunately he was not shooting heavy loads at the time.”
“There has been a sharp decline in egg prices lately.”
“28c. cash [paid] for eggs per dozen at W. J. Blackiston’s.”
And two weeks later: “Eggs are down in price. The quotation yesterday was 19c.”
“Mumps and whooping cough are interfering with school attendance.”
Consider carefully the age of these runaway boys and the sentence they received for their adventurous misdeed:
“Four boys, the oldest scarcely fourteen, who burglarized the store of R. F. Noble & Son Wednesday night, were captured Thursday by Constable Andrew as they were getting on a westbound passenger train. They gave their names as Houston Hurlock, Lloyd and Pierson Sheppard and Wash Ricketts. When arraigned before Magistrate Patchett, they admitted robbing the store and were sentenced to one year in the House of Correction [the state prison in Jessup, Maryland]. The boys pried open a window and robbed the store of $25. It was their intention to start West, having prepared themselves with two revolvers and quantities of cartridges with the stolen money.”
Cowboy country, here we come!
“We trust our progressive friends will remember to write to our U. S. Senators and Congressmen, urging them to give us the benefit of a parcels post for the delivery of packages at a nominal rate in the near future.”
“The explosions of gasoline engines and the hum of the saw are heard these frosty mornings as farmers are getting ready their future supply of wood.”
“On account of a diphtheria scare there was a stampede at Murphy’s Mill, one and a half miles west of Andersontown.”
“The farmer who thinks he can run his business without taking his wife into his council is pretty apt to run against a snag before he knows it. While women may not always understand all the fine points of farming, they are often able, through some divine instinct, to tell how things ought to be, and the man who trusts that instinct is not very apt to come out wrong.”
“Charles Omiger, colored, Burrsville, has pieced a number of quilts of beautiful design, which he proposes to sell. Charles has a skill with the needle seldom found among men.”
“Two twelve-ton rollers on the new concrete bridge at Federalsburg at the same time, starting and stopping without causing any appreciable tremor of the structure, afforded a great test of it. It certainly will hold safely any weight coming upon it.”
“Mr. A. C. Reber, one of our most progressive farmers, demonstrated last year that steam power ought to be called into service in plowing. He will use it this year again. Oftentimes, many acres are not seeded in wheat because the fallow lands cannot be turned with horses on account of dry and hard conditions of the soil. The earth never becomes too hard for the steam plow. With it, twenty acres can be put in order in a day. With a twenty-horse traction engine, Mr. Reber goes along easily with six plows, thoroughly breaking the soil and carrying also drag and roller, putting it in fine order for the drill at once. To drive the Reeves plows, with the drag and roller attached, takes about five dollars per day for coal.”
“Many are ruined by bad companionship! How large a part of drunkenness comes from the custom of social drinking?”
“The Charleston News and Courier says that in Charleston was the Garden of Eden once located. The Baltimore Sun says: ‘This is not the first attempt the Charleston paper has made to intimate that South Carolina was the scene of the Garden of Eden, when it is well known to all, and established to the reasonable satisfaction of every investigator, that the real site of the garden was on our own Eastern Shore.’”
“Automobiles will likely now be cheaper as the Selden patents, one of the causes for their high prices, have been upset by the courts.”
George Selden applied for a patent on his “Road Engine” in 1879, but sensing that the time was not yet right for a horseless carriage, he delayed issuance of the patent until 1895, by which time a young automobile industry was growing in the United States. Although he had no interest in manufacturing his invention, he was very interested in profiting from it. Under threat of suit, almost all of the manufacturers took out license from Selden for the next ten or fifteen years.
Winter use of automobiles a century ago was often limited.
“Some sections of public roads have been impassible on account of ponds formed by the recent heavy rains.”
And in another edition: “Fifteen thousand bushels of shells have been purchased with which to repair the road from Townsend’s Cross Roads to the pike.”
“Mr. Herzog, the great ball player, has signed a contract to play with the Boston club next season.”
The Herzog in question was Charles Lincoln “Buck” Herzog (1885-1953), who played for the New York Giants, the Boston Braves, the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago Cubs. He was a native of Maryland who owned a farm and lived for many years in Ridgely.
Electricity has not always been handily transported over great distances around the country.
“There has been a bountiful supply of water in the big pond of the electric light company for some time, and therefore an abundance of power.”
“If competition is the life of trade, that life should be very vigorous in Greensboro. There are four butcher shops besides twelve or more general stores.”
“A ten million dollar company has been chartered in Delaware, and has headquarters at Dover to insure deposits in all banks.”
“The winter is remarkable for its many cases of pneumonia.”
“Coal and wood dealers are not favored by this mild weather.”
As has become my habit, I shall share a bit of century-old humor to conclude this reminiscence.
“‘Do you believe in making a genuflection before you enter your pew?’ Asked Mrs. Oldenstie.
“‘Mercy, no! replied her hostess as she flecked a bit of dust from the grand piano. ‘If I have genuflections to make about people, I always do it outside the church.’”
“A woman went before the magistrate and modestly inquired: ‘Your honor, can I have a warrant for the arrest of my husband. He boxed my ears yesterday.’
“‘Certainly, ma’am,’ replied the judge, ‘I will make out a warrant on the ground of assault and personal injuries.’
“‘Can I fetch it in about a month?’
“‘In a month? Why won’t you take it at once?’
“‘Please your honor, when my husband slapped my face I took my rolling pin and hit him on the head, so that he had to be removed to the hospital. The doctors say, however, that he will be on his legs again in about a month.’”
“Physician: ‘Your daughter’s brain, madam, appears to be normal.’
“Parent: ‘Dear, dear, we’ve never had anything of that kind in the family before, I’m sure!’”

I want to thank Publisher Dave Pulzone and Editor Anne Farwell for fifteen years of consistent support and kindness, and for their generosity in allowing me to do “my thing,” whatever that happened to be at the moment.
And I want to also thank the readers who have written to me or called me on the telephone for your support and kindness, and for the many stories you have shared with me.
Times change, people change, and the demands of living change, and I need to announce, with no small amount of sadness, that this is my final contribution to this much-beloved Eastern Shore tradition called Tidewater Times.
Peace and love to you all.
–Hal