Hal Roth - June 2010


June 1910
Hal Roth

I opened last month’s column with the report of an Eastern Shore merchant who was purchasing his goods in Philadelphia because he could travel there, conduct his business and return in a single day, while the same transaction in Baltimore consumed at least two days due to complicated connections between trains and steamboats. It was interesting, then, to discover the following report in a June 1910 edition of the Baltimore Sun.
“The fact that the farmers and merchants of the Eastern Shore of Maryland are anxious to deal with Baltimore instead of Philadelphia and New York was shown Thursday of last week, when about 800 took advantage of a complimentary excursion to Baltimore from Queenstown and Love Point, under the auspices of the Queenstown and Love Point Transportation and Development Company. The steamer Dreamland left Queenstown at 10 o’clock in the morning with a large number of passengers aboard and stopped for others at Love Point. Samuel E. Young, the caterer, served luncheon on the boat.”
So if you pay their way and feed them, they will come. How do those old song lyrics go? “Everything old is new again / Everything under the sun,” and that can also apply to the news that folks in June 1910 were upset by a significant increase in government spending.
“In 1890, under Cleveland, the total annual appropriation for the expenses of the national government was $340,000,000 or $6 for every man, woman and child. In 1900 our expenses had increased to $600,000,000, or $8 for every man, woman and child. The last Congress appropriated the colossal sum of $1,044,401,857, or nearly $12 for every man, woman and child. This Congress threatens to spend $17,000,000 in excess of last year’s appropriation.”
As one interesting comparison, I recently saw figures indicating that the cost to manufacture four of our latest, single-seat fighter aircraft would have consumed the entire federal budget for 1890.
“Republicans appear reluctant,” the complaining article continues, “to concern themselves much about government expenditures in relation to the cost of living, but one thing is certain: Government does not pick up these hundreds of millions of dollars in the street. This money comes out of somebody’s pocket. Unlike city and state government, the national government has but one way of raising revenue to meet expense, and that is by taxing things eaten, worn and used by the people. Hence it is that increased cost of living is marching hand-in-hand with increased Republican extravagance.”
Of course the income tax had yet to become a reality in 1910, and the government had apparently not yet discovered they could simply turn on the presses and print more money or borrow it from China. Parties have switched chairs from time to time in the matter of spending, but there is much truth in those lyrics – that everything old is new again.
In the following article the correspondent is looking in both directions – to the past and to the future – and seems to suggest that progress was surging ahead too swiftly.
“Few men are alive today who can remember the running in the Thirties of the last century of the first train on the Baltimore & Ohio Railway. Seventeen years ago a grotesque-looking engine was conducted to Chicago as an exhibit, and all the people at the World’s Fair laughed at and admired it. There was no automobile there.
“Seventeen years from now it is quite probable that all the enginery locomotion to which we are now accustomed shall be abandoned and superseded by something astonishing, new and superior. Two or three years ago, to make the distance from New York to Philadelphia by air route, as Hamilton made it the other day, would have exceeded the hopes of the bravest imagination. We are annihilating distance by rail, by motor tire, by aeroplane. It may be a question whether we accomplish so very much in doing all this rapidly. The ancient mariners knew their stars, but their descendants forgot their whereabouts when the mariner’s compass was invented.”
Halley’s Comet had disappeared from the night sky, and most Delmarva citizens who had been awed by the spectacle knew they would not be around to witness its return in 1986. After a few final comments in June 1910, the comet would also vanish from our newspapers.
“Halley’s Comet has appeared and disappeared without having produced any wonderful atmospheric phenomena, except being talked about by everyone and putting the scientists in a great state of surprise as well as disappointment at the non-verification of their prognostications. Nothing unusual can be attributed to this visit unless the cool wet weather can be ascribed to its baneful influence, but such surmises are far-fetched and unreliable, for the meteorological records of a hundred years back show that our climate is not changing, for freakish spells of unaccountable weather have been frequently recorded during the century’s record.”
Still, there was this report: “An astronomer says there is to be a frost every month this summer as far south as North Carolina, as there was in 1835 when the comet passed the earth.”
“The comet! He is on his way,
And surging as he flies,
The whizzing planets shrink before
The spectre of the skies;
Ah, well may regal orbs burn blue,
And satellites turn pale,
Ten million cubic miles of head,
Ten billion leagues of tail!”

It made the news when P. E. Corkran, Easton automobile dealer, delivered three four-cylinder Reo automobiles to customers. Following is a Corkran advertisement for the Reo.
“1910 REO – 1, 2 and 4 cylinder chain and shaft – $500-$1,200. None better at $2,000, yet only $1,250. This is a bold assertion, but a careful inspection of point to point will prove it true, and the thinking man will want it explained before making his choice. It is adjustable in every part and accessible. A look will prove its superiority. Its oiling system is perfect. Guaranteed no smoke from rear and no miss firing from spark plugs. After months of use, plugs will not soil your handkerchief. The Reo can be changed from a touring car to a roadster or delivery car in 3 minutes. Does what you want it to be in all weathers and roads – snow, rain, good or bad roads, level or hill climb that will stop others, and the beauty is with much less expense. If the truth was known, they would tell you so. Chase 10 passenger wagonette (for delivery or passenger service), $1,350. Trucks, $750 up, carrying from 500 lbs. to 5 tons. I only ask a chance to explain. A card will bring you a demonstration.”
But automobiles were only for the well-to-do in 1910. Next to the Rio ad was another of more interest to the average family: “THE CELEBRATED DEERE VEHICLES – JOHN DEERE BUGGY and SPINDLE BUGGY, SURREY, DEARBORN, DAYTON and HACKNEY WAGONS (2-horse and 1-horse).”
Frank P. Barnhart, who advertised himself as “The Novelty Man,” posted an ad “To Automobile Tourists.”
“Automobilists traveling through Millington, Maryland, which is on the direct and best road to Wilmington, Philadelphia and other points North, can obtain gasoline, cylinder oil and transmission and cup greases, etc. at FRANK P. BARNHART’S.”
Would a business today call itself “Bullock’s Cheap Store?” Their ad headline read: “LOOK! LOOK! LOOK! for BULLOCK’S CHEAP STORE.”
And then you might do a double take when you read the ad itself: “Special 25¢ sale of 5 and 10¢ goods.”
The “special” was that you could purchase three ten-cent items or six five-cent items for twenty-five cents.
In the spring of 1910, Delmarva newspapers nearly all contained ads with the headline: “BOLGIANO’S Re-cleaned Cow Peas WILL MAKE YOU RICH!”
More correctly spelled “cowpeas,” they are more commonly known as “black-eyed peas” and are grown in the South, primarily as forage.
“Sow them for hay crops – for forage crops after grain crops – on vacant land,” the ad continued. “Put Cow Peas in every available piece of land you have. They will wonderfully increase the value and productiveness of your entire farm.”
Each issue of the Denton Journal contained the ad: “$1 pays for 52 issues of the JOURNAL and a year’s record of the county’s progress and community life.”
Think that was cheap? The Baltimore Sun charged $5.20 for an annual subscription and published thirteen issues per week.
Dashes from Here and There
“The graves of many thousands of brave soldiers who died on field and in hospital during the wars of 1776, 1812, 1847, 1861 and 1898 were decorated Monday. There was north and south no discrimination in the case of the veterans of the civil conflict – there were roses for the blue as well as lilies for the gray.”
“The prophecy that this would be a summer like that of 1816, without any warm weather, will have to be revised.”
1816 was known as “the year without a summer” in much of the Northern Hemisphere and was the last great subsistence crisis in the Western world. The climate anomaly was caused by the combination of a low in solar activity and a succession of major volcanic activities, capped off by the Mount Tambora eruption of 1815, the largest known eruption in over 1,600 years.
“Some businessmen have lately expressed the opinion that land prices have reached the highest possible point and that the tendency toward lower figures will soon be manifest. Present conditions, however, are against much cheaper lands in this section of the country, which possesses many attractions for the home seeker.”
“Quite a number of strangers have been on the Eastern Shore lately looking for farms for sale.”
I suppose I’m informing readers that my best years are behind me, but I actually remember events similar to the one reported in the next clipping.
“Mr. Jacob E. Ellwanger has a very fine phonograph, with many fine pieces of music, and occasionally entertains the people on the public square in the evening, his machine being placed in a third-story window of the Law Building.”
“Dr. A. B. Burris, a well known baseball enthusiast, is endeavoring to form a league, embracing the towns of Easton, Ridgely, Salisbury, Cambridge, Federalsburg and Seaford.”
“Glen H. Curtis flew from Albany to New York City in an aeroplane Sunday, winning the $10,000 prize offered by the New York World. He covered the distance of 137 miles in 2 hours and 32 minutes and came to earth as calmly and as lightly as a pigeon. The flight beats a whole list of man-birds on both sides of the Atlantic.”
“A woman burned her husband’s wooden leg as the only way to prevent him from going to a saloon. The judge upheld her.”
“A physician says: ‘The utter lack of originality in the human mind vexes me. Even the insane are not original in their delusions and manias, but they can be divided into classes, and each class has its one little uniform and unvarying set of aberrations. The insane cannot be other than imitative and commonplace.’”
“Persons who really wish to become angels should make a start in that direction while they are yet mortals.”
“Electric lights for Denton’s streets are being put in place.”
“Work on a Centreville sewerage system will soon begin.”
“A merry-go-round is stationed on the Foster lot in Federalsburg, adjoining the Academy grounds, and draws the usual crowd every evening but Sunday.”
“The first race of the present season at the fine Preston Driving Park was held last Saturday afternoon and was witnessed by a vast crowd, some coming from a distance.”
“There was a big fire at Laurel, Delaware, on Sunday morning, thought to be of incendiary origin. Two large warehouses of the Newton Ward Manufacturing Company, a branch of the Marvil Package Company, the office building of the company, all the lumber in its yard and three or four adjacent small residences were destroyed. Both warehouses were filled with berry crates. The loss is estimated at $250,000, with insurance less than half.”
“Not in years were the Easton churches as well attended as they were Sunday last. The great layman’s missionary movement was launched there that day most favorably.”
“Taking all denominations together, the average minister’s salary is $663 according to census figures.”
“The salary of the postmaster at Federalsburg has been increased from $1,400 to $1,500; Ridgely from $1,300 to $1,400.”
The salary figures above, I should explain, were annual incomes.
“The idea of teaching every girl to thump the piano and every boy to be a bookkeeper will make potatoes worth eight dollars per barrel in another twenty years.”
A price of $8.00 per barrel for potatoes in 1910 would have been outrageous. I assume the writer was implying that a more liberal education would deter our youth from farming, thus reducing available farm labor and raising the cost of produce.
“Our wheat fields bespeak a bountiful harvest, but some peach growers report a very heavy June drop.”
“Every merchant and most other business people as well feel the beneficent effect of the strawberry season. This effect is immediate, for it is pretty safe to say that the pickers will promptly put their money into business channels.”
“Miss Maud Anthony, teacher at Andersontown School, gave an enjoyable picnic on Friday of last week. The picnic was an up-to-date event and was a fitting close of a year of good work.”
“The porch carnival to be given by the ladies of the M. P. Church in Denton next Thursday and Friday evenings promises to be an event of much interest. Automobile and baby parades will be features.”
“H. H. Pearson, Talbot, sheared more than twenty pounds of wool from one sheep a few days ago, and he thinks this beats the record.”
“There is an abundance of water in the mill ponds.”
“Friend of the Birds” submitted the following letter to the editor.
“Have we such a person as a game warden? If so, there is work for him out on the stone road on rainy days and after 6 o’clock in the evening. It seems as though our ‘temporary citizens’ and road makers take delight in killing almost any kind of bird, regardless of nesting or young, and shoot anything in sight. If Maryland has laws for our song birds and officers to enforce them, let them put a stop to it, for it’s a shame.”
I find many small accidents reported in old newspapers that resulted in tragedy – injuries that would be inconsequential today. Such mishaps were especially sad when they involved children.
“A very serious accident happened on Sunday morning while Mr. J. L. Stevens and family were returning home from church, which proved fatal to his little daughter, Ada, aged 8 years and five months. The little girl was seated on the back seat of the carriage with her mother, while her father occupied the front seat and managed the team.
The family had attended service at Concord M. E. Church, and on their return trip after they left the church, Mr. Stevens was quietly driving along when a stick about one and one-half inches in circumference became fast in the wheel. The stick, flying up, came in contact with little Ada, piercing her limb above the knee. The loving father removed the stick, phoned for Dr. Nichols and rushed his team home, where Dr. Nichols was in waiting. The physician immediately went to work to revive the little sufferer and save her life. But his efforts were in vain. As a result of the wound, lockjaw set in, and on Friday, June 3, little Ada quietly passed from earth to glory, from human friends to the companionship of angels. The funeral services were held in Wesley Church at Burrsville on Sunday afternoon last.”
I have seen numerous articles scattered over the past three or four centuries announcing that a cure for cancer had been found. The following claim was widely published in June 1910.
“It is claimed that cancer can be cured, and this is the remedy being widely published: Put 207 drops of carbolic acid in a pint of glycerine. Put two tablespoonfuls of this in a tumbler of water, and of this mixture take one tablespoonful twice a day. Have the acid combined with the glycerine by a druggist, who will get the correct amount. This formula can be reduced to any quantity desired – 104 drops of acid in half a pint of glycerine – 52 drops of acid in one-fourth pint of glycerine, etc. This remedy is said to dissolve the cancerous cells and effect a perfect and painless cure. It is vouched for by those who have been cured of cancer by its use. There are said to be those now who are effecting the cure of cancer without the use of knife or plaster, and if this is one of the remedies used it will be a fortunate thing for those suffering from cancers to know of.”
And we end our journey back in time with a few samples of century-old humor.
“He: ‘There is a certain young lady deeply interested in me. While I like her, I could never love her. I want to put an end to it without breaking the poor girl’s heart. Can you suggest any plan?’
“She: ‘Do you call on her often?’
“He: ‘No, indeed. Not any oftener than I can possibly help.’
“She: ‘Call oftener.’”
Moral Suasion
“‘She seems to have abandoned her moral suasion ideas related to the training of children.’
“‘How did that happen?’
“‘Well, I was largely instrumental in bringing about the change. She has no children of her own, and I grew weary of her constant preaching and theorizing, so I loaned her our Willie.’
“‘You loaned her your boy?’
“‘Precisely. She was to have him a week on her solemn promise to confine herself entirely to moral suasion.’
“‘Did she keep her promise?’
“‘She did, but at the expiration of the week she came to me with tears in her eyes and pleaded for permission to whale him just once.’”

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