Hal Roth - April 2006

Old News from Delmarva
Clippings from February 1899

     Many Delmarva residents are presently distressed by population growth and the recent sale of large tracts of land to outside developers, but a glance at the news from February 1899 shows that “come-heres” are not an entirely new phenomenon.
      The Cambridge News: “Not only are northern and western farmers buying up our lands, thus making it more difficult for the tenant farmers to secure good farms, but farm labor from those sections is also being imported to the counties east of the bay. Owners of some large farms in Somerset and Worcester express themselves as highly pleased with Pennsylvania labor, which they say is far more reliable than the average colored workers.
     “These things show us that the spirit of progress is abroad and that the survival of the fittest is a law of nature that we cannot escape. If the tenants will not improve their opportunities, the farm owners will sell the lands. If the laborers will not labor, others will take their places. Care, however, should be exercised in employing these strangers, for all of them are not to be trusted.”
      Most current residents of Delmarva do not realize that fox hunting, in the English tradition, was once a major sport on the Eastern Shore of Chesapeake Bay, or that the common red fox is not native to America. This 1899 article in the Denton Journal was titled “The Sportsmen of Auld Lang Syne.”
     “The first foxhunting in America, of which any record has come down to us, took place in Queen Anne’s County about 1650. From that time on, no Maryland homestead was complete without its pack of hounds and its racecourse. There was always a slave whose sole duty was to ‘tend hounds.’ The hounds of those days were very unlike the carefully bred and carefully groomed and fed hunters of the mother country, or of Maryland of today. At that time the foxhound needed great toughness and endurance, and these requisities [sic] were obtained by crossing the English foxhound with the Irish staghound. The result looked like a mongrel, but it suited the country far better than a blooded animal. The only fox hunted in those days was the gray one, an animal very different in many respects from his red brother of England. As the state was almost entirely settled by the English, it was more like a great English shire than a colony in the new world, and but for the general roughness of the country, it might easily have been mistaken for one.
     “As the settlers arrived here, they brought with them many local attachments, and not the least of these was their fondness for hunting the red fox. They could not become accustomed to his gray brother. It is to this fact that we owe foxhunting as it is today, and has always been in England. As tradition has it, one afternoon in the hot month of August, in the year of grace, seventeen hundred and thirty-eight, sleek and prosperous tobacco planters in the county of Talbot sat in the cool shade of a broad, rambling verandah, which, supported by massive pillars as it was and shaded by giant oaks of many generations in age, afforded a comfortable spot to discuss the sad difference between hunting the red fox in Merrie England, where four of them were born, and hunting the gray one in the land of their adoption. The Englishmen, with many a round oath and between sips of such fragrant mint juleps as an ‘Eastern Sho’ darkey alone knows how to concoct, were declaring that there was as much difference between hunting the two species as there was between a canvasback and a barnyard duck. The upshot of it was, according to an old tale printed not many years afterward, that the captain of the good ship Monocacy, a tobacco schooner owned by one of the party, was instructed to bring back with him on his next trip to Liverpool eight pairs of red foxes.
     “In due course of time the animals arrived and were liberated along the eastern shore of the Chesapeake. The occasion was one of much merriment, entertainment and sport. The daughter of the country gentry rode on a pillion [a pad or seat] behind her brother or cavalier to the great ball, which was given at Chestertown in honor of the occasion. They fastened their scarlet riding habits over their white, silk ball dresses and tied their hair, done in an amazing fashion with a lace kerchief, while their skirts were arranged in such a manner that they would not come in contact with the horse’s flanks. Everyone witnessed the festivities, from the ignorant country pumpkin in homespun jeans and white cotton shirt to the landed proprietor with his gouty foot done up in bandages. There were many races between the horses of Maryland and Virginia, and it is stated that the horses from the latter colony came off victorious. The hour these eight pairs of foxes were set loose in the barnyards of the Maryland farmers may be safely reckoned the birth of genuine foxhunting in this country. The way the foxes multiplied was marvelous, but they did not emigrate into Virginia until the hard winter of 1880-81, when all the waters of the state were a sheet of ice.”

     The Spanish-American War had ended by 1899 and American troops occupied the Philippines. Citizens were interested in this newly acquired territory, and newspapers responded with many articles about the island nation. You may find it curious, however, to read three apparently contradictory entries that appeared on the same page of one edition of the Journal.
     “The Filipino is artistic and his clothing is clean – two tremendous strides toward civilization. The men do clever work in wood, silver and brass. Their old war-knives are highly embellished. Their pottery is picturesque, and the clothing of the women, made of the indigenous fibre that abounds throughout the islands, is picturesque and has a jaunty, attractive style, which their straight forms and exposed shoulders carry off well. The fibre is often woven as finely as silk, and some of the drawn work of the Filipino lace-makers is most exquisite and expensive. I have seen single handkerchiefs that could not be purchased under $300. The Filipinos love jewelry, and some of the crude settings contain magnificent pearls, found along the shores of the islands. The women, as a class, are attractive – many are really pretty. While eschewing shoes, gloves and hats, they often wear dresses of the finest texture, beautifully embroidered and made with a flowing train. Both sexes love music, and the Filipino music is not the wild banging of tom-toms and the beating of cymbals and drums; nor is it the squeak of two-stringed violin and the pounding of sticks attune, as with the Chinese and Japanese; but it has melody and air, for the Tagal plays all the instruments of the European, and outplays him on many. Aguinaldo’s band of 60 pieces is one of the finest on the island.”
      Which was followed by these two separate clips: “By the ratification of the Paris treaty the United States acquired colonial possessions of near 170,000 square miles, cut up by rivers and rivulets into a thousand islands, inhabited by ten millions of semi-savage Asiatics, many of them without sense and decency.”
     “The American forces under General Otis are killing the Filipinos near Manila by the thousands, and if the present rate of disposing of them is maintained, it will not be such a Herculean task for our people to keep the Filipinos under subjection. There will be few Filipinos left.”

     1899 was six years before Senator Weldon Heyburn of Idaho introduced his pure food and drug bill in Congress and vendors of patent medicine became accountable for the content of their drugs and the claims they made about them.
     “THE RACE OF THE AGE: What a race. The train was just pulling out of Englewood, puffing and panting with its mighty efforts. As it slowly gained speed it came on a lot of tow-headed children roosting on a fence, who shouted and waved as the cars came up, and then, as if with a common impulse, every child leaped to the ground and began a race with the train. The race was of short duration.
     “As the machine left the panting little runners behind, a gray haired onlooker, smiling sadly, remarked: ‘Young America all over. Nothing too swift for them to race against. You couldn’t find a fitter exemplification of the familiar saying ‘The child is the father of the man’ than in that group of children racing against the train. It’s but a preliminary heat of the great race their parents are engaged in. As a physician I realize, as perhaps you do not,’ he continued, ‘the erroneous change that fifty years have made in our national life. People point back to grandmothers and great grandmothers and say, ‘Look at them. Compare them to the women of today. How straight they were and how strong; how hardy and how helpful they were; how heartily they ate and how heartily they laughed.’
     “‘Today, as men and women – millions of us – do in earnest what those children did in play, we’re keyed up to the straining point all the time, and the nerves won’t stand the daily strains and drains without protest.’
     “There is a ton of solid fact to reflect on, suggested by the statement just quoted. What are we going to do? This is the age of steam, the age of electricity. We must keep up in the great race.
     “But how long can we keep up? No longer, relatively, than the children kept up their race with the train. What we need is more brawn, more blood and better blood. Strength of body depends on a pure and plentiful blood current, for science has never advanced a fact beyond the statement of Moses that ‘The blood is the life.’ But every generation of investigation shows the statement to be true in a wider, deeper and broader sense than was dreamed of in the past. Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery begins at the beginning with the blood. It cures practically a wide range of diseases because many forms of disease have their origin in the blood. It is a scientific compound based not upon theory but upon the practical, common sense proof that if you purify, enrich, and vitalize the blood, you overcome disease in any organ. The ‘Golden Medical Discovery’ heals disease in just this way. It begins first of all to strengthen the body through the blood, and every ounce of new blood and pure blood counts against disease.
     “‘It was near the little town of Leroy, W. Va., and during the month of March 1896, that a young man lay pale and motionless upon (what the neighbors called) his dying bed. Disease of the lungs, liver complaint, kidney trouble and pleurisy were fast hastening him to the grave. The doctors had given him up to die. The neighbors said, ‘He cannot live.’
     “‘Oh, I would not care to die,’ he said, ‘were it not for leaving my dear wife and little child, but I know that I must die.’
     “‘A brother had presented him with three bottles of medicine, but he had no faith in patent medicines. But after the doctors had given him up to die and he had banished every hope of recovery, he said to his wife, ‘Dear wife, I am going to die. There can be no harm now in taking that medicine. I will begin its use at once.’
     “‘He did begin to use it, and at first he grew worse, but soon there came a change. Slowly but surely he got better. Today that man is strong and healthy and he owes his life to that medicine.
     “‘What was the medicine? It was Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery, and I, Luther Martin, am the cured man. Dr. Pierce, I thank you from the very depth of my heart for rescuing me from the grave.’”

     Some other clippings of interest from the February 1899 Journal:
     “Rev. Charles A. Hill, of Smyrna, last Sunday officially called attention to what he terms the evils of dancing. The Smyrna Call says: ‘We agree perfectly with him that no member of a Methodist Episcopal Church has a right to dance, as the discipline of the church forbids it, but when he asserts that all the spiritually-minded people of the churches are against dancing, he is making a broad statement indeed. Dancing is not the worst evil that might be discussed from the pulpit by Mr. Hill. A short sermon on the political work indulged in by members of the church – men who are shocked when a dance is mentioned – might be more beneficial, especially in getting the young men into the church.’”
     “A distinguished New York doctor is authority for the statement that, in ten years, cancer will be the cause of more deaths to human beings than consumption, typhoid fever and small pox combined. This opinion is based upon the presumption that no adequate remedy is found to prevent or cure cancer. The prevailing opinion now is that it is a germ disease and that a remedy will soon be discovered.”
     “Dover is soon to have electric lights.”
     “Capitalists are looking for suitable sites in Maryland for silk mills. A number of towns have been visited. Denton should offer inducements and secure one of the mills.”
     “The new national bankrupt act having repealed all the provisions of the Maryland insolvent law, there is now no way for insolvent debtors to secure a release through law of their obligations except by procedure in the United States Court. This is very troublesome, inconvenient and expensive, and it will probably result in lessening the number of such applications.”
     “LUNATICS’ LEGACIES: Perhaps one of the saddest things in connection with lunacy is the tendency of the insane patient to make his will, and his bequests usually take a very extraordinary form. Needless to say, the documents become mere waste paper, so far as their legality is concerned, but the doctors, in order to humor the afflicted ones, treat the wills with the greatest respect.
     “A patient drew up an elaborate will by which he left a section of his property to the Mikado of Japan, on condition that he (the Mikado) visit the testator’s grave once every year and plant it with chrysanthemums. The remainder of the estate was to be handed over to an imaginary charity called the Brotherly Love and Bounty Society.
     “Rather ludicrous perhaps was the bequest of the lunatic who devised that the whole of his fortune (and he possessed a considerable amount) should be divided between the possessors of Roman noses residing in and near Paris. He himself possessed a rather handsome nose of the shape in question, which nose he was constantly admiring.
     “Somewhat similar was the bequest of a patient who left his property to one of the attendants because he possessed the ugliest nasal organ that he (the testator) had ever seen.
     “One might laugh heartily at such vagaries as these, were it not that the sad condition of mind which prompted them forbids any semblance of mirth.
     “There was a lunatic who believed that he had been confined in the establishment unjustly, and he would constantly assert that he was as sane as the doctors themselves. One day, feeling somewhat indisposed, he resolved to make his will, and after many hours’ work he produced an elaborate document by which he devised his property to the commissioners of lunacy to enable them to engage a large staff of men for the purpose of visiting asylums with a view to discovering whether any sane patients were retained there. He declared that the staff of people appointed for the work of visiting insane establishments was not adequate for the work, and that if a proper body of men were engaged there would be less chance of sane individuals being kept in durance vile.
     “But perhaps the most extraordinary will on record in connection with mad people was the document left by an inmate who believed that he was the owner of the whole universe, and he bequeathed the same to a certain famous actor, whom he had often seen and admired. The actor in question had often metaphorically had the world at his feet, but probably never before had he received such a singular token of appreciation.”

     And in the same edition:
     “According to the annual report of the State lunacy commission the condition of many of the alms-houses in Maryland is a disgrace.”

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