Hal Roth - Noember 2009

Old News from Delmarva:
November 1909
by
Hal Roth

   The big news in November 1909 was political: “DEMOCRATS SUCCESSFUL IN STATE AND NEARLY ALL OF THE COUNTIES” was the headline on November 6 after the election. But there was little press attention to the defeat of the party’s attempt to amend the Maryland Constitution. Almost lost in the celebration of candidate victories was this sentence: “The amendment designed to elevate the electorate, proposed by patriotic citizens who have the good of the State at heart, was rejected, although a majority of about 34,000 of the white citizens of the State voted for it.”
   Later November editions noted: “A great many Democrats, including Governor Crothers, are favoring another suffrage amendment to be submitted to the voters in 1911. They say that the fight for restricted negro suffrage has not ended and will not end until the illiterate and unthrifty negro has been eliminated from politics.”
   “The Salisbury News cites the recent election, in which 34,000 majority of the white people were on the losing side by a minority of 16,000 against them, to prove that the great colored vote of the State can really dominate affairs.
   “The extension of the Wilson Ballot Law to many of the counties where the negro vote is heavy and menacing is advocated by leading Democrats.”
    The Wilson Ballot Law, avowedly designed to minimize the African-American vote by making it difficult for an illiterate voter to mark his ballot properly, was then operational in eleven tidewater counties.
    Woman’s suffrage was also in the news: “Discussion of the woman’s suffrage question grows more and more widespread. Many of the country’s great men believe the woman should no longer be denied the right of the ballot, and that their influence would greatly elevate politics. There are many others, including no doubt a majority of the fair sex, who object to the ballot in feminine hands. The majority of women, perhaps, do not care anything about the ballot, believing that homemaking is woman’s mission, and in that good work nothing should be allowed to interfere. Still, it is most likely that woman’s suffrage will be an accomplished fact in the next decade.”
    [By joint resolution, Congress approved the woman’s suffrage amendment and sent it to the states for ratification on June 4, 1919.]
    I wonder what the author of the following editorial comment thought of woman’s suffrage.
   “Women, in their ambition to be athletic, contend against innumerable difficulties. One of these is skirts, a second is waists and a third – almost insuperable – is hair, including hairpins. Watch a girl playing tennis, and after a more than usually brilliant effort she invariably puts her hands to her head, as if she expected something to fall off if she did not. Energetic play is usually attended by dishevelment of the unruly locks and a shedding of hairpins that cause the pretty athlete distress. Her pleasure in the game is marred by a sense of insecurity and a constant fear of consequences. No woman can wield a racket or essay a run with an undivided mind. Half her brain is occupied by the fearful surmise that her hair is coming down – a surmise, by the way, which is probably too painfully justified by the fact.”
    In the same Delmarva journal, Dr. Anna Giering, “Registered Physician,” placed the following ad.
   “Twenty-five years’ experience. Specialist in Diseases of Woman only. Private Sanitarium of high repute. Absolute privacy afforded. Female Regulative Pills: $2.00 per box. Advice by mail. 603 East Baltimore Street, Baltimore, Md. Vegetable Compound for Female Complaints: $1.00. Wives without Children, consult me.”
    Large advertisements placed by Baltimore businesses enticed Eastern Shore shoppers to consider a trip to the city. “Do Your Christmas Shopping in Baltimore. Do It NOW!” dictated one huge headline. “Your fare to Baltimore and return will be paid by the Retail Merchants of Baltimore if you make purchases amounting to $20 or more from any of the following firms:” Twenty store addresses were listed.
   “FREE FARE TO BALTIMORE” headlined another. “There is one store in Baltimore that is strong enough to stand alone – that does not need the assistance of other stores nor amalgamation with any organization. That store is Nathan Gutman & Co. Our offer to out-of-town shoppers is this: We will refund full fare to all out-of-town shoppers within a radius of 100 miles on purchases of $20 or more, and will refund half fare on purchases between $10 and $20. Further, we will pay freight on purchases of $5 or more to any distance within 200 miles. You will not be obliged to accept a certificate and waste time in hunting for a place to have it redeemed. If you value your time, your peace of mind and your money, you will do your shopping at Baltimore’s Nicest Store.”
    Trips to Baltimore were difficult single-day adventures in 1909, so Baltimore hotels also made their pitches to Delmarva residents. Does this one sound appealing?
   “20-22 E. Fayette St. near Charles, Baltimore, Md. Building (Concrete) Absolutely Fireproof. European Plan. Rooms $1 and up. Every Appointment Modern. Favorite Headquarters for Eastern Shore Business Men when in the City.”
    But would you want to stay at a place named “HOTEL JUNKER?”
    A few of the November 1909 “Dashes from Here and There”:
   “Concrete dwellings are growing in favor.”
   “It is probable that the Thirteenth Census will credit the United States, exclusive of the Philippines, [remember they were a U. S. territory in 1909] with a population of 90,000,000, an increase of 14,000,000 over the record of 1900.”
   “Even Republican newspapers are now admitting that the rising prices militate against the prospect of a young married man who adores his wife and loves to honor and adorn her.”
   “All of Denton’s practicing physicians use automobiles in visiting their patients.”
   “It now costs ten cents to register a letter. The old price was eight cents.”
   “There are many cases of measles in Ridgely.”
   “In the window at Druggist Redden’s store in Denton there is a sweet potato which weighs six pounds and ten ounces.”
   “Smyrna wants a search law to enable officers to examine places thought to be used in the illicit whiskey business.”
   “The price of eggs has been 36 cents a dozen this week, and our merchants say they will go higher before Thanksgiving.”
   “On Wednesday an eleven-year-old boy was electrocuted at Crisfield. His hat blew off in the gutter, and in picking it up he took hold of a live wire which had fallen.”
   “Discovering a bald eagle attempting to carry off one of her turkeys, Miss Clara B. Starkey, of near Ridgely, ran into her home, procured a shotgun and killed the thief.”
   “The days of unnumbered turkeys are numbered.”
   “Field & Willis are selling six loaves of best bread for 25 cents.”
   “Several cases of diphtheria in the vicinity of Newton are reported.”
   “Ridgely will have electric lights in operation this evening or early next week, and Greensboro is getting ready for the service before the holidays.”
   “Patrons of the railroad are asking the company to have electric lights placed in the depots.”
   “The big Auto & Supply Co. garage is now lighted by electricity.”
   “An arc light of thirty-four hundred candle power is in use at the corner of Main and Second in Denton. The powerful light can be seen a long distance from town.”
   “Marydel now has a moving picture exhibition on Wednesday evenings.”
   “A dog locked in the dining room of the Joshua Speakman residence, Farmington, compelled burglars to retreat by leaping at them through the window.”
   “Many thousands of birds and rabbits were killed this week on the Peninsula, the local hunters being aided in their work by scores of city sportsmen.”
   “State Forester Beasley says that forty-one percent of the forest fires in the past two years have been caused by sparks from railroad trains. He suggests that the railroad companies burn a fire line along their tracks through woodland.”
   “Woods fires have been raging in Dorchester.”
   “Dover now claims the distinction of being one of the best paved towns in America.”
   “Seaford proposed an ordinance to prevent the sale of toy guns, a little boy having been dangerously wounded by one of these weapons.”
   “A farm near Dover has just sold for $140 an acre.”
   “The mortality from typhoid fever is still high in the State.”
   “Thursday, St. Martin’s Day, was a mild one. Therefore, according to an old tradition, the winter will be a severe one.”
   “Nearly every daily paper tells of serious football accidents, and there have been a number of fatalities, but the games seem to be as popular as ever. The modern football game has the fascination and the brutality of a ring encounter.”
    Another edition carried the following commentary on the game: “Apologists for the fatal brutality which now attends the game of football have frequently advanced the pretext that the victims were ‘unseasoned’ boys or men who were physically unfit to participate in strenuous sports and should not have been permitted to take part in them. With contests confined to teams composed of trained and hardened men, they claim, there would be no fatalities and few serious accidents. But this theory has been exploded. The member of the Naval Academy team whose back was broken in a game about two weeks ago, leaving him in a paralyzed condition, was a seasoned athlete. So was the player on the West Point Military Academy team who had his neck broken during a game with Harvard on Saturday afternoon. This victim was a veteran player and physically as ‘fit’ as any man could be for tempting the deadly dangers of football as it is now played.”
There were comparatively few crimes reported in the newspapers.
   “As a result of the efforts of State Fire Marshall Col. Thomas J. Ewell and a Baltimore detective, Benjamin F. Hurlock, a young white man, was incarcerated Wednesday morning, and several hours later he confessed to having burned two buildings at Church Hill on October 31.”
   “A lone and helpless woman was attacked at midnight in her home on the outskirts of Centreville. After being assaulted, she was left bound and gagged. The victim is Mrs. Henrietta Meredith, aged 60 years.”
   “A judge recently imposed the following sentence upon three young men whose ages ranged from 18 to 20 years: ‘The sentence of the court is that you three boys attend church every Sunday, that you get work and keep it, and that you report to me on the second Saturday of March, bringing a report from your pastors.” Their crime was not stated.
    There was surprisingly little mention of Thanksgiving in the November news of a century ago. A search of every November page in the Denton Journal turned up only three small references to the holiday. The observation I reported earlier, that the price of eggs was expected to rise before Thanksgiving, appeared on November 6. The following notice was posted on the 13th: “In less than two weeks, Thanksgiving Day, set apart by the President and Governor, will be here, and there will be the usual observance of this ancient festival.” And finally, on the 27th: “Thanksgiving Day was observed appropriately by many people. There were services in the churches, and various places of business were closed, and there were enjoyable social gatherings at many hospitable homes.”
   “The latest application of wireless telephony to avert the danger of collision,” one 1909 article boasted, “will permit engineers and conductors on trains running at cannonball speed to maintain constant communication with all points within a radius of 1,000 miles.”
    So why, you ask, if the problem was solved a century ago, do train accidents continue to make headlines today? You must remember that cell phones and texting had yet to be invented in 1909.
    Perhaps the following two gentlemen could have used some wireless telephony.
   “Lost in the woods between Federalsburg and Georgetown last night, George Ingram and George Mason did not arrive home until morning. The men were hauling gravel and, becoming chilly in the night air, they jumped off the wagons. Walking along, they became so involved in a slight argument that they completely forgot their teams until they came to the forks of a road in the middle of the woods and found their teams had disappeared. Both listened, but not a sound of the wagon chains could be heard, and after some discussion, they separated, one taking one road and the other the opposite. But neither could find the teams, and in a short time could not find the other man. Mason wandered until he struck Bridgeville, where he hired a team and drove home, to find the gravel teams had arrived safely, making the distance without anyone to guide them. In the meantime, Ingram had spent the night desperately pushing through heavy underbrush, finding himself several times in a swamp. A farmer driving along a road to Georgetown about 7 o’clock in the morning was startled when Ingram burst from the woods and ran yelling down the road for him to stop. The farmer brought Ingram home, arriving at 9 o’clock.”
    Are you having trouble with leaky hot-water bags? Try this advice: “Do not throw them away. Get some clean sand, heat it in a tin pan and pour it into the bag by means of a funnel. The sand keeps its heat as well as water.”
    A lengthy article in one paper was titled “The Riddle Of Sleep – The Cavern Of Morpheus.” It claimed that sleep is a mystery that the mind of man is unable to penetrate. “We have no other knowledge of sleep than we have of death,” it concluded.
    Many old Delmarva newspaper articles were instructional in nature and copied from large city journals. Consider these headlines from November 1909: “TAMING A BIRD – Teaching a Feathered Pet to Trust You Is Not Difficult; OCEAN WAVES –    Curious Facts About the Irregularities of the Tides; QUICKSAND – How It Is Formed and Its Grewsome [sic] Characteristics; HOW A HORSE GALLOPS – The Natural Way and the Conventional Pose in Art; THEIR OWN DOCTORS – Remedies    That Animals When Sick Instinctively Select; EYE OF THE CAMERA – The Longer It Looks the More It Sees Within Certain Limits; WHAT IS A WHITE MAN? – A Puzzling Problem For the Racial Investigator.”
    There were frequent stories about historical figures. This one was titled “Washington’s High Priced Shad.”
   “Washington’s steward was a man named Fraunces, who liked good living and with whom Washington continually quarreled about the marketing. One time he bought a shad in February, and as Washington saw it coming into the dining room, he was charmed and asked what fish it was.
   “‘It is a shad,’ replied the steward, ‘a very nice shad. It was the only one in the market, and I bought it for you.’
   ‘“But what did you pay for it?’ asked Washington sternly.
   “‘It is a very fine shad,’ continued the steward, ‘and it is cooked to a turn.’
   “‘But I want to know the price!’
   “‘It cost $3,’ stammered Fraunces.
   “‘Take it away,’ said Washington as he raised his hand; ‘Take it away. It shall never be said that I set such an example of luxury and extravagance.’
   “And with that he drove the steward from the room, and the shad was eaten in the servants’ kitchen.”
    Each newspaper edition carried a little humor.
    Country folks will remember the days when rings of tar were painted around trees in the orchard to help prevent injurious insects from climbing up to the fruit.
   “A little girl was greatly interested in watching the men in her grandfather’s orchard putting bands of tar around the fruit trees and asked a great many questions. Some weeks later, when in the city with her mother, she noticed a gentleman with a mourning band around his left sleeve.
   “‘Mamma,’ she asked, ‘what’s to keep them from crawling up his other arm?’”
   “When Willie, aged six, returned home from school with an award for scholarship, a proud mamma beamed and asked, ‘How did you gain it?’
   “‘I was first in natural history,’ proclaimed the prodigy. ‘They asked how many legs a horse has, and I said five.’
   “‘Five?’ cried mamma. ‘But a horse hasn’t five legs, child.’
   “‘I know,’ explained Willie, ‘but all the other boys said six.’”
    Young folks today will not understand “The Courtship Gate.”
   “We have been shown a design for an upholstered front gate that seems destined to become very popular. The footboard is cushioned, and there is a warm soapstone on each side, the inside step being adjustable so a short girl can bring her lips to the line of any given mustache without trouble. If the gate is occupied at 10:30 p. m., an iron hand extends from one gate post, takes the young man by the left ear, turns him around, and he is at once started toward home by a steel foot. The girl can, if she likes, set this part at a later hour than 10:30.”

   If anyone has information or stories about Kitty Heathers, a spiritualist and fortuneteller who was born in Caroline County and died in Talbot County in 1899, please contact Hal Roth at nanbk@dmv.com.