Hal Roth - August 2010


Old News from Delmarva:
August 1910

Hal Roth

You may recall from past reports that Maryland instituted a vehicle registration program in 1910, requiring all automobiles operating within the state to be licensed by the state.
“John T. Hendrick, of Washington, was arrested and charged with operating an automobile in Maryland without having procured a license from the Maryland Automobile Commissioner. The arrest was made at the instance of the National Automobile Association, that body having determined to test the law.
“Attorney Ralston moved to quash on the grounds that the law is contrary to the Constitution of the United States in that it constitutes an unlawful attempt on the part of Maryland to regulate commerce between the States, and imposes a direct burden on such commerce and intercourse between citizens of the United States.
“Justice Hunter overruled the motion to quash. The defendant pleaded guilty and was fined $25 and $15 in costs.”
I’ll wager that the following editorial note will cause you to scratch your head in bewilderment:
“The automobile is now being blamed for the high cost of living and the recent stringency on the money market. A number of bankers in the West have agreed to refuse money to borrowers who intend to use it to buy motorcars, and newspapers are affirming that automobile extravagance has become a countrywide evil that demands drastic treatment.”
A Caroline County resident called for a conference of automobile owners to address the matter of excessive speed on the county’s “splendid thoroughfares” which he believed were in danger of serious damage by the “auto scorcher, who dashes along without thought of damage to the valuable roads.”
The wand of political power changes hands from time to time and parties can even exchange ideologies, while journalists and editors have always been capable of reflecting a less than objective stance when it comes to reporting political news.
“What the Republicans need is harmony, and they can’t get it. What the Democrats need is cash, and they can’t get enough to pay office expenses, while Republicans have trust money to burn.
“The riotous totals of the appropriations bills should wake the American taxpayers up. They are now over a billion dollars a session and still growing like Jonah’s gourd vine. Hitherto – and even yet – when Democratic representatives have fought extravagance, we have been accused either of cheese-paring or of a desire to cripple the Government; but Republican extravagance has become so flagrant that even certain Republican leaders are scared and seeking to call a halt.”
The United States Postal Service has always been the brunt of criticism, and in the following editorial at least some of the blame is laid at the feet of a political party.
“A Chinese laundryman can mail a package all the way from Hong Kong, China, weighing eleven pounds, sending it to any post office in the United States at the rate of 12 cents a pound, but a resident of this country who sends a package from one post office to another, within our own country, not heavier than four pounds, pays 16 cents a pound. Why? Because our Republican brothers, a Trust, own the express companies, and it is to their interest to carry these small packages the short distance in the U. S., for which two and one-half times the ordinary freight rates are charged, of which only fifty percent goes to the railroads transporting the packages. There are no stocks in the U. S. which have paid such continuous large dividends as those of the express companies, and these have been earned or stolen from the people by manipulations of the Post Office Department by keeping it from carrying the small package usually used in trade, unless we, the citizens of the U. S., pay thirty-three and one third percent more for the service than our own Post Office charges foreigners, so the business is thrown into the hands of express companies, whose owners are Trusts of the most pernicious class. The American Express Company is said to have made 105 percent on its capital last year, and we have no doubt the United States, the Adams and the Wells Fargo Companies did as well. There are many things that call loudly for a change at the national capital, and the looting of the people in the matter of express charges is one of them.”
In the days before air conditioning and modern refrigerators, a refreshing summer drink was a most sought-after commodity.
“With the hot weather upon us there is a cry for the ideal summer drink. This is difficult to find, but in the following selection there will surely be one or other to suit the palate of all.
“Rhubarb Sherbet: As well as being a very refreshing beverage, this is a most wholesome drink for the children. Boil six or seven stalks of rhubarb in a quart of water for ten minutes. Strain the liquor into a pitcher in which you have put the thin rind of one lemon and two heaping spoonfuls of sugar. Let it stand for a few hours and it will be ready for use.
“Orangeade: Half a pound of sugar, two pints of water, four orange rinds and the strained juice of six lemons. Make a syrup by boiling the sugar in half a pint of water for 15 minutes. Pare the oranges very thinly, put the rinds into a pitcher and pour on them the boiling syrup. Let it stand until cold, and then add the juice of the lemons and the remainder of the water and strain.
“Strawberry Water: Take two cupfuls of ripe hulled strawberries, crush with a wooden spoon, then add five tablespoonfuls of sugar and one and a half cupfuls of ice water. Pour the mixture through a clean jelly bag and add the strained juice of one lemon and two pints of water. Mix and allow to get cold.
“Capillaire: Fourteen pounds of sugar, six eggs, three quarts of water, four drops of vanilla extract. Put the sugar into a large saucepan, add the eggs with the shells, stir in the water gradually, set it over the fire and boil it and take off the scum until only a light froth arises. Add the water and vanilla extract, then strain it through a jelly bag. When cold, bottle it and cork it tight. A wineglass of this put to a bottle of ice water is very refreshing. Slices of lemon, pineapple, crushed strawberries or ripe currants may be added.”
Capillaire is also a syrup prepared from the maidenhair fern and orange flowers, which supposedly contain medicinal properties.
The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 provided federal inspection of meat products and forbade the manufacture, sale or transportation of adulterated food products and toxic patent medicines, which had, for decades, literally poisoned people.
While the legislation provided some much-needed protection for the American public, many questionable products continued on the market for years afterward. One that I find widely advertised on Delmarva in 1910 was Dr. Miles Heart Remedy.
“‘At the time I began taking Dr. Miles Heart Remedy I was having sinking spells every few days. My hands and feet would get cold. I could scarcely breathe and could feel myself gradually sinking away until I would be unconscious. Those about me could not tell there was life in me. After these spells I would be very weak and nervous, sleepless and without appetite, had neuralgia in my head and heart. After taking the remedy a short time, all this disappeared, and in a few weeks all the heart trouble was gone.’ MRS. LIZZIE PAINTER, 803 3d Ave., Evansville, Ind.
“For twenty years we have been constantly receiving just such letters as these. There is scarcely a locality in the United States where there is not someone who can testify to the merits of this remarkably successful Heart Remedy.”
Exploitation by the Miles Medical Company is typical of the history of patent medicine in general. The “scare” technique is employed, and the public is presented with a personal statement of gratification and assurance that the product has cured people everywhere.
And what did Dr. Miles Heart Remedy contain? A small amount of iron and phosphate, about five percent glycerin, sugar, caramel coloring and… eleven percent alcohol. Whoopee! A few slugs and you were feelin’ good.

“The favorite swimming holes and diving resorts are almost deserted, for the ‘Dog Days’ are here with their accompanying dangers of disease. While many are firm in the belief that this season holds untold terrors for the swimmers, it is not easy to convert young America to this opinion when the cooling depths are so inviting as a resort from the dust-covered, sun-baked world.”
“Back to the farm is a popular slogan in Maryland these days. It brings a realization of the fact that many made a mistake in deserting the old homesteads years ago. But there is still much fine soil available hereabout at prices far below its real value – far less than its earning capacity. All who left the land can come back and be happy yet, you bet.”
Because of the excellent railroad service connecting Delmarva with cities to the north a century ago, Peninsula residents were more likely to conduct their business in Philadelphia than in Baltimore, the latter requiring connections between land and water transportation. In 1910, at the urging of consumers, businesses and government alike, transportation companies began to adjust their schedules to provide more time for Baltimore shoppers.
“On August 29th the Maryland, Delaware & Virginia Railway Co. will so rearrange its train schedule that passengers along its line can spend three hours and 55 minutes instead of three hours and ten minutes, as at present, on a round trip passage to Baltimore in one day.”
Poor connections between the Eastern Shore and Baltimore were even more problematic for growers and watermen. Railroads delivered their products to New York and Philadelphia in a night and to Chicago and St. Louis in the same amount of time it took to ship them to Baltimore by train and steamboat, where they had to be unloaded and reloaded a second time for shipment by rail.
“The new Pennsylvania Railroad steel bridge spanning the Nanticoke River in Federalsburg was placed in position a few days ago and used for the first time by passing trains.”
“It is claimed that the Western Maryland Railroad Company has recently been looking into the matter of building a railroad across the Eastern Shore from a point opposite Kent Island, through Easton, Cambridge, Salisbury and Snow Hill to the seaboard in the vicinity of Chincoteague Bay.”
“Quite a crowd of people from various sections went to Atlantic City from the Delaware and Chesapeake Road on Tuesday. The train started early and returned late, giving the excursionists a considerable stay at the shore.”
“A long train took about a thousand excursionists to Ocean City from the M. & V. Railroad on Wednesday.”
“Walking barefooted on the sands by the sea is the latest cure for nerves, so a well-known medical specialist insists. The good qualities of sea sand, which in many ways is as health giving as ozone, have been universally overlooked by holidaymakers. One of the most soothing and beneficial ‘cures’ a tired businessman can obtain is that of walking barefooted on the sand by the seashore.”
“Shortly after two o’clock on Sunday morning a great fire broke out in the business centre of Cambridge, and before it was extinguished more than a score of buildings were destroyed. For five hours every able-bodied man in Cambridge was busy fighting the flames. The fire started in a stable loft, caused by a spark from the engine of the merry-go-round operated on a lot near the stable. By the time the alarm was sounded the stable was ablaze and sparks had set fire to one or two nearby buildings. Cambridge’s fire department answered promptly, but before the engine could be gotten into service there was a mishap that put it out of commission. Volunteers were organized and bucket brigades were formed, but the water thus thrown upon the fire seemed to have no effect. Included among the buildings destroyed was Zion Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the best-known edifices of that denomination on the Eastern Shore.”
“Nearly 4,000 persons attended St. Joseph’s Church Tournament in Talbot County.”
“People are much incensed against the town commissioners of Centreville because of the replacing of public hitching racks around the courthouse, which lies in the heart of the town and the county square. The Centreville Record has made a fight against placing of hitching racks in the center of the town on the ground that unsanitary conditions would prevail. This stand was backed up by physicians.”
“Recent experiments show the wonderful possibilities of the wireless telephone, which indicate that this surpassing invention will soon be in common use. It has remained for the inventor of a wireless telephone, A. Frederick Collins, to perfect a system so wonderful as to carry the human voice not only through space without wires, but through walls of buildings and reproduce it in recognizable tones. One by one the inventors are bringing into perfect subjection all the elements of earth, sea and air, fulfilling the prophecy.”
“Justice Loden has rendered a decision in which all David Harums should find a useful lesson. He sent a man to the Criminal Court for selling a kicking horse without informing the purchaser.”
For young readers unfamiliar with the name, “David Harum” was first a best-selling novel, published in 1899, then the title of motion pictures in 1915 and 1934, and finally a radio serial that ran from 1936 to 1951.
Harum was a small-town banker and horse-trader who considered that dubious business practices were morally justified by the expectation that his adversary would employ similar practices. Harum’s version of the Golden Rule, “Do unto the other fellow the way he’d like to do unto you, and do it first,” was widely quoted, and the term “horse trading” came into use as an approbatory term for what others would deem ethically dubious business practices.
Many readers will consider the horse and buggy days to be a time of leisurely, safe transportation, but old newspapers contain frequent reports of violent accidents resulting in serious injury or even death.
“A pair of horses belonging to Joseph Berger, on Wing’s Landing Duck Farm, ran away, hitched to an iron drag, and ran into a buggy in which Mrs. Berger and her mother, Mrs. Worm, were riding. The drag caught the buggy, overturning it, and, together with its occupants, dragged it across the field until the buggy was completely demolished. Mrs. Berger escaped without injury, save a few bruises. Mrs. Worm received several severe lacerations from the drag teeth and was bruised badly.”
“Responding to the appealing hymn, ‘Bring Them in from the Fields of Sin,’ an army of black-headed bumblebees attacked the shining pate of Rev. S. C. Dickson, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, at the moment he was starting a hymn in a religious service. The service was broken up.”
“Miss Bessie Hardesty, a young lady living near Laurel, lost a fine suit of hair Friday of last week as the result of an encounter with a bat. The bat got into her bedroom, and in attempting to drive it out with a broom, it got lodged in her hair, and all attempts to get it out were useless. It was necessary to cut off her entire suit of hair.”
“Dan Friedman’s baby cried lustily for his milk earlier than usual, and Dan stumbled out in the darkness to the shed to seek out a gentle Jersey cow. In the dark he seated himself in the stall of a mule. Friedman was taken to the hospital.”
“Charles W. Fisher was in his chicken house gathering eggs when without the slightest warning a huge snake leaped at him and coiled itself around his legs. Unable to get assistance, Fisher began to pelt the snake’s head with eggs, whereupon the reptile became interested, and, in snapping with wide-open mouth at the eggs, unconsciously loosened his coil and gave the man a chance to free himself and run across the yard for a spade. The snake gave chase until Fisher chopped it to pieces with the spade.”
As someone with more than a small knowledge of snakes and their behavior, I have trouble swallowing Mr. Fisher’s tale. The admonishment that one cannot believe everything he reads has been valid since the invention of writing.
“The boldest robbery ever known at Seaford occurred shortly after 8 o’clock Monday night when yeggmen broke into the office of A. S. Wooley & Co. at the foot of Pine Street and obtained money and papers worth over $1,000. The burglars effected [sic] entrance to the building by prying open the front door.”
“W. S. Broklus’ aeroplane dropped into a throng of spectators and the aviator and seven others were injured.”
“The 13-year-old daughter of William Yonker died suddenly after eating too many cucumbers.”
“Birds of prey and foxes are said to be playing havoc with poultry in some sections.”
“Thieves near Staytonsville, Delaware have been using a wagon in stealing peaches.”
“R. M. Messick & Son, Bethlehem, have contracts to supply the army and navy with canned tomatoes. Capt. Marton J. Henry, of the army, was recently in Bethlehem looking after the government’s purchases.”
“The band concerts in the public square in Denton on Friday evenings are being enjoyed by many people.”
“Capt. Vivian Edwards, the tourist, is making a note of the condition of roads and reporting to the United States Good Roads Commission. He says that Maryland has the worst roads of any State in the Union, and Delaware next.”
“The blackbirds are flocking in the cornfields and in the marshes, and this is one of the signs that summer is almost gone.”
“Camp meetings are over.”
“Soon the glorious autumn days.”
And one small dash of century-old humor:
“The lady of the house was a handsome woman of a mature order of beauty, and when she had completed her toilet she gazed fondly at herself in the glass and remarked to her new maid, ‘You’d give a good deal to be as handsome as I am, wouldn’t you, now?’
‘“Yes’m,’ was the maid’s answer, ‘almost as much as you’d give to be my age.”

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