Hal Roth - July 2010


Old News from Delmarva
July 1910
Hal Roth


As shown by newspaper accounts of preparations to honor the 134th anniversary of the birth of our nation, oratory remained a popular form of celebration in 1910. Fireworks, of course, was another, but the tide was turning against individual handling of explosives.
“Fourth of July orators, glorifying the great achievements of the founders of our country and its cherished institutions, breathing a love for the nation and altruism for all its inhabitants, admonishing the citizens that these things should be handed down to generations yet unborn, unimpaired and secure, are always popular with the thoughtful and the good. They touch the heart, awaken the conscience and give a higher value – the true value – to the inheritance from the fathers. These sentiments should not be allowed to slumber too long or to ever give place to the superficial, the spectacular display becoming so general all over the country in these latter-day celebrations of the nation’s birthday. Real patriotism would be found a most fruitful field for the greatest sermons and most eloquent orations as in the days of yore. Such treatment would tend to free this beautiful land from full many a noxious growth which mars its beauty and menaces its political health, even if its foundations are not endangered.”
“Is it possible to celebrate our Nation’s birthday with heartfelt patriotic rejoicing without excesses and dangers and without extravagant outlay of money? Flags can float, national music can be played and sung, the Declaration read and inspiring addresses made, but the giant firecrackers, etc., which have so often sent the small boy on his life journey maimed, should not be tolerated. Many of the States have laid a firm hand upon the terrible dangers encountered on the Fourth of July, which have destroyed the lives of many hundreds of little boys and injured many thousands.
“Dynamite is not essential to patriotism, but neither is total abstinence from fireworks necessary to a sane Fourth. Washington, for instance, had a municipal fireworks display last year conducted by experts, lasting two hours and witnessed by forty thousand people, and will have another this year. The money was subscribed by businessmen, fireworks bought from a firm willing to send men to set them off, and the exhibition held in an open space where no damage to life nor building could, nor did result. Washington found it worthwhile, as Toledo has, and Chicago and Cleveland. New York City joins the procession this year. There will be no going back to the old ways.
“What Washington has done on a large scale, you and your neighborhood can do with equal effect. You may not be able this first year to change public sentiment in your community, but you can change it in your own circle.”
The largest celebration planned was the one in Salisbury.
“The Wicomico Fair Association has made arrangements for a big celebration on the 4th of July. A full program has been made out, starting in the morning at 10 o’clock with an automobile parade, in which it is expected that at least fifty automobiles will take part. It is proposed that these automobiles load up with children between the ages of four and ten years.
“In the afternoon the program will start at 2 o’clock and will consist of three races for purses, and one race known as the Farmer’s Race. The entries will be filled in all, and some of the best horses on the Shore will participate. Special interest is being taken in the Farmer’s Race, which is limited to horses in Wicomico County, to be driven by a farmer. It has aroused farmers who own fast horses to a great pitch, and every day we see horses in a lively tilt on our county roads or on the racetrack, preparing for the race.
“In addition to the races, the association has arranged for two balloon ascensions, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. In the afternoon ascension, two aeronauts will go up, and each will make triple parachute descensions from the balloon. One feature of the afternoon ascension will be the throwing out of envelopes containing close to $1,000 in cash and cash values.
“A band has been engaged for the occasion, and an acrobatic Vaudeville feature will help to keep the crowd amused during the heats of the races.
“A display of fireworks has been arranged for the evening and should prove one of the most attractive features of the day. A balloon ascension will also take place in the evening, ablaze with lights and fireworks, and a parachute descension will be made, the lighted parachute throwing out various kinds of aeronautic displays.
“Thousands of people are expected to participate in the pleasure. Special arrangements have been made for train service, hotel accommodations, refreshments and other things which go toward the comfort of the spectators.”
Typical of small town celebrations was that of Ridgely.
“The Fourth of July being an ideal day, large crowds began to gather in town as early as eight o’clock a.m. After viewing the parade, the next attraction was the ball ground. The Baltimore team was victorious in the morning, but the Ridgely team won the victory in the afternoon.”
The Shore was also buzzing about another event to be held in Atlantic City, with the Pennsylvania Railroad offering excursion tickets.
“It is not a far cry back to Darius Green and his flying machine, when aerial navigation was considered impossible. Atlantic City is preparing for a great Aviation Meet from July 2 to 11, when three of the greatest flyers of the modern world will demonstrate their mastery of the air.
“Glen H. Curtiss, the holder of the world’s record for speed, will fly daily from July 4 to 11, and Walter E. Brookins, who holds the record for high flying, will give exhibitions July 7 to 11 in a Wright aeroplane. This is the first contest between the Wright and Curtiss machines.
“It is also expected that Charles K. Hamilton, the great long distance aviator, will be present and race from July 7 to 11.
“There will be prize events each day, including a fifty-mile flight over a five mile circular course and high flying directly over the beach front and ocean.”
Several clippings, announcing the anticipated demise of a sport in 1910, may surprise readers today.
“There is to be a great prize-fight at Reno, Nevada on July 4th between Jeffries, a white man, and Johnson, a negro. They are giants, both skilled in the ‘art’ of knocking out. But such is the state of the public mind that it will likely serve a useful purpose; namely, it will put an end to such affairs in this country. State after State is forbidding the prize-fight. The coming contest will likely put them all strongly in line and ban the Marquis of Queensberry’s disgraceful game.”
“Mayor Mahool will prevent the exhibition of prize-fight moving pictures in Baltimore. Other cities will do likewise. This is one step toward the breaking up of prize-fighting.”
“Several hundred cities and towns have officially forbidden the showing of the Fourth of July prize-fight.”
Editorial notes continued to discuss the problem experienced by Eastern Shoremen trading with the city of Baltimore.
“There are things to be done before Baltimore City will gain the trade it ought to have with the Eastern Shore. What Baltimore needs to do is to wake up to the resources that can be commanded on the Eastern Shore and to stimulate trade conditions by doing more generous advertising and offering better business propositions. People will find a way to get to the best trade center. The thing is to show by practical proofs that Baltimore is the logical and best trading center, and when that is shown, the trade will go there. Printers ink will do more than a bay bridge, and the county newspaper will bring better results than a State ferry.
“One of the things easily provided to promote better business interests between Baltimore and a considerable section of the Eastern Shore would be a more satisfactory schedule between points on the M. D. & V. Railroad and that city. Why might we not have an earlier train to Love Point and prompt boat connections there so that passengers would not be delayed in reaching the city until noon, when there is a partial cessation of business? Then the time of leaving the city might well be changed to four-thirty, relieving travelers of the necessity to rush to the wharf.”
What did I say last month about everything old being new again?
“Many sound thinkers believe that this country is bound to experience a period of drastic economy to balance the rampant extravagance of the present time.”
The difference a century ago was that the Democrats were denouncing the Republicans for excessive spending. Following are some of the changes then being suggested.
“1. Make the President ineligible for a second term, either immediately or at any time thereafter.
“2. Cut down the President’s patronage wherever practicable.
“3. Let the Federal judges be elected by the voters of their respective circuits for a term of 15 years.
“4. Provide an appeal to the people, upon adequate popular demand, from any decision of the Supreme Court that declares void a law passed by Congress or by a State. In this way, and in this way alone, can vital force be given to the theory that sovereignty resides only in the people.”
Bands of Gypsies roamed Delmarva well into the twentieth century. Occasionally they were accused of kidnapping a child or attracting young citizens to their vagabond life.
“Lured from her home on a Maryland plantation by tales of gypsy life, Nellie Small, a belle of Talbot County and counted the most beautiful girl of the countryside, is being sought by the police of three states. John O. Small, the girl’s father, told authorities that the girl disappeared from her home several weeks ago, but believing she would write to him, he had avoided giving the matter publicity. The father himself has hunted over half of Maryland for the girl, and he has decided that he must have aid if his daughter is to be rescued from the snare of the gypsies with whom she is supposed to be traveling.
“The police think it probable that the band has gone northward and today wired the description of the missing girl to cities in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York. An appeal also was made to Emil Mitchell, the new king of the gypsies, whose election as head of the race in this country was confirmed last week. Mitchell is a reform leader, and it is hoped that he will not tolerate such acts by his subjects.”
“Miss Mary Glackin, of Cecil, is the modern Maud Miller. Miss Glackin, dressed in spotless white and a dainty sunbonnet, operated a huge binder drawn by three horses abreast and cut her father’s big crop of oats.”
The reference is to John Greenleaf Whittier’s “Maud Muller,” a poem that captures the melancholy of the human heart’s penchant for grieving over what might have been. The first two stanzas:

“Maud Muller, on a summer’s day,
Raked the meadow sweet with hay.
Beneath her torn hat glowed the
Of simple beauty and rustic

“Many automobiles have secured licenses. Those who have not are liable to arrest.”
“Eluding the entire force of State authorities and numerous organized posses, William J. Turpin, the colored murderer, who led four other prisoners in a sensational escape from the county jail at Georgetown Sunday, returned to Seaford and ended his life by drinking carbolic acid when about to be taken.”
I discovered this brief notation on July 23: “Records are being smashed all the time. Last Monday and Tuesday were the coldest 18th and 19th days of July for many years.”
That was followed in the same newspaper on July 30 by this statement: “The warm wave, which had not yet gone away, came back with renewed vigor.”
Maryland Senator John Walter Smith, Democrat, successfully amended the Appalachian Forest Bill to include money to employ engineers and provide surveys to drain the “swamp lands” of six states, including Maryland.
“There are said to be 185,650 acres of marshlands in Maryland which could be diked against high tides and made profitable. The cost of such reclamation is said to be from $10 to $75 per acre. When reclaimed, this kind of land produces enormous crops.”
This is one prediction the prognosticators of 1910 surely missed: “The labor problem is as troublesome as ever. Better condition in this respect ought to come gradually as the big farms are divided into smaller ones – when more people will occupy the land and there will be more farmers, each with most of his own labor.”
“Nothing strikes the foreigner more forcibly in traveling through our country than the fact that everybody is at work. There is no leisure class here as there is in most countries, and there is very little of the sentiment so powerful in most countries that puts an odium upon the man who works with his hands.”
“Why do apparently sensible people rush to cold, bleak Canada to settle when Maryland smiles like the Garden of the Lord and extends a cordial welcome that converts the stranger into a member of her family as soon as his foot touches her soil?”
“The great crowds at the seashore resorts noted in former years are said to be absent this year.”
“One of the finest stretches of dirt road is that between Concord and Chestnut Grove. The adjacent farmers propose to use the split-log drag on it and keep it in condition all the time.”
“At a cost of $150 per mile, the State Good Roads Commission has decided to cover the State road between Chestertown and Easton with Texas oil.”
“There is complaint that boys ride bicycles on the sidewalks, sometimes endangering small children, and the attention of the bailiff has been called to the matter.”
“There was a great gathering at the old campground at Sharptown on Thursday, when friends united to do honor to Hon. Jesse D. Price, the senator of Wicomico. Senator Price secured the passage of a law providing for the erection of a bridge across the Nanticoke River at Sharptown, and the people are grateful.”
“In a Wright aeroplane last Saturday an aviator went a mile high and did all sorts of stunts above the clouds. A trip of several hundred miles is growing to be a common occurrence. At the present rate of development of the skill of the bird-men they will be going across the ocean before the year is out.”
“A flying machine will be one of the attractions at the Wicomico Fair.”
Old newspapers carry many stories of lightning strikes involving the destruction of barns, homes, businesses and frequently lives. The following accounts appeared in a single edition of the Denton Journal.
“The residence of Mr. And Mrs. Isaac J. Moore was struck by lightning shortly before noon on Tuesday last, and Mrs. Moore was so seriously hurt that she died a little after eleven o’clock on Tuesday night. The electricity struck the back part of the building, and Mrs. Moore received the fatal shock while standing on the back porch. She was slightly burned, and one shoe was partly torn off. There were some red marks about the body. Mrs. Moore was unconscious when taken into the house, but Dr. Nichols applied restoratives, and for a brief time she was conscious. Soon, however, she relapsed, and thus her life ebbed away. A colored woman, Lottie Holland, employed at the home of Mr. Moore, was in the backyard hanging out clothes. She was knocked down and considerably hurt.”
“Lightning fired two barns on the farm of Mr. George J. Kibler, near Whitleysburg, during an electric storm Sunday afternoon, and both were consumed by fire. Mr. Kibler lost the contents of the barns, including forty tons of hay, a large quantity of corn, two carriages and nearly all his farming machinery and implements.”
“A dispatch dated the 12th from Vienna says a violent storm swept over the section and damaged buildings and crops to a great extent. A number of people were stunned. A terrific bolt of lightning struck a wire fence on the farm of D. H. Brinsfield, and running along the wires struck three trees and uprooted them. The Brinsfield residence was struck and the whole family stunned.”
“In Sunday evening’s storm, Mr. Rix Garey’s residence was struck by lightning. Mr. Gary was knocked down but was not seriously hurt.”
“A father and son were unharnessing a horse when lightning killed the horse. The men were knocked down but not seriously hurt.”
“Lightning tore holes in L. A. W. Vansant’s lard cans at Chestertown.”
“WANTED: A number of young women between the ages of twenty and thirty years to become nurses. Applicants must be of good physique, fair education and be well recommended. The compensation will be $16 a month, including board, laundry, etc., with increase of $1 per month for each year’s service. Graduates taking a two year’s course will receive an increase of four dollars per month after graduation.”
And we end with a little century-old humor.
“Teacher: ‘What class of birds does the hawk belong to, Tommy?’
“Tommy: ‘Birds of prey.’
“Teacher: ‘Now, Johnny, to what class does the quail belong?’
“Johnny: ‘Birds on toast.’”
And surely you know that lawyer jokes have been around for as long as there have been lawyers.
“‘I had a client,’ said the lawyer, ‘who was a pretty keen horse trader. I won a case for him by a close shave, and I thought I had a right to give him a little good-natured chaff.
“‘I suppose you know,’ said I, ‘that even though you have won this case, no seasoned horse trader could ever get to heaven.’
“‘Is that so?’ he sneered. ‘I know better. My father got there, and he was a horse trader like me.’
“‘How did he get there?’ I asked.
“‘He sneaked in,’ said my friend, ‘and they were about to put him out when he shouted, ‘If this place is on the level, I demand the heaven born right of a trial!’
“‘Well, sir, they looked and looked and looked, and, by jingo, they weren’t able to find a single lawyer in heaven to try the case.’”
You can reach Hal Roth at nanbk@dmv.com.