Hal Roth - April 2007

A Porpourri of Clippings


Hal Roth

   A report published on July 20, 1878 in the Denton Journal remains a timely piece of advice, but I suspect that wives, daughters and other children might urge the good doctor to underline “everybody” in his last sentence and skip the emphasis on them, which might be construed as giving a pass to hubbies and big brothers.
    Dr. Noble, of the Federalsburg, Maryland, Courier, gives the following advice in regard to bathing: With the mercury well up in the nineties, one’s thoughts naturally turn to the subject of baths, their utility and comfort. Without bathing it is simply impossible to keep clean, and unless dirt and impurities are removed and the action of the skin promoted, health is impossible. Every house, whether in town or country, should be supplied with a bathtub. They can be made of wood lined with zinc and be placed in the dwelling house, wash house or wherever it is most convenient. A small suction pump costing about $3.00, attached to the bathtub and made to communicate by means of leaden pipe fastened to wooden stock let down into a well, completes the necessary arrangement for a supply of cold water. Warm water may be added from the teakettle or boiler to make the bath either tepid or hot. The cleanliness, comfort and health of everybody, especially of wives, daughters and children, would be promoted by the erection of bath houses and the introduction of bathing facilities.

   I wonder if “old man Lord” and “gay and dashing Mrs. Hicks” read a copy of this January 26, 1878 article.
    Old man Lord, who at the age of eighty-three or eighty-four married the gay and dashing Mrs. Hicks, of half that age, the other day, is said to be worth about $88,000,000. [In 1878, that figure almost has to be a typo.] He is not young and stout as he used to be and may drop off at any moment. Mrs. Lord may be happy yet, but then, again, she may not.
    Once upon a time, another girl married just such a wealthy old booby of some seventy odd years, confident that he would do her the kindness to die in a few years and leave her a rich, young widow, but she was fooled. In the whole of his superannuated anatomy there was not one solitary bowel of compassion for his wife, who nursed him for thirty years, and then she died, leaving him a widower upward of a hundred years old. Never since the world began was a more disgusting fraud practiced upon a poor, unsuspecting girl. It is no wonder that her venerable father, then nearly a hundred himself, threatened the old scoundrel to his face that if he ever treated another of his daughters in that way, he would wear him out against the ground if it took him twenty years to do it.

   I’ve been toying with the math on what must have been some other winter/spring marriages.
    March 3, 1897––Seven women are still drawing pensions as the widows of men who saw active service in the war of the Revolution, women whose husbands served under Washington more than a hundred and twenty years ago.

   It was fairly common practice at one time for citizens who felt the need to set some record (or someone) straight to purchase space in their community newspaper. The following “Card” was posted on August 1, 1914 in the Denton Journal.
    To the certain few members of the fine old Wesley M. E. Church at Burrsville, who objected so strongly and unexpectedly and publicly to my singing, on July 19th, the grand old piece of music my mother was so fond of, it not being sufficiently up-to-date, perhaps. I wish to say publicly that I am under no obligation to such members, nor can I longer affiliate with those responsible for such public and unmerited rebuff suffered at their instigation. I cannot overlook such unchristian-like interference with an act of praise. The pastor, Rev. Mr. Price, was in no wise to blame.
––Hebron Outten
    And another card.
    March 22, 1879––Some people have the vulgar habit of calling me Bill. That is not my name, nor any part of it. My name is William Palmer. I forgive past offences, but if any person ever calls me Bill again after the publication of this letter, I shall take it as a downright insult, and just as much of an insult as though he had called me by any other hateful name that is not my own.

   I suspect that Max O’Rell, who was quoted on September 1, 1900 under the headline “Good Temper of Americans,” must have led a very sheltered life.
    I have never seen an American lose his temper, not even under the most trying and provoking circumstances. If in a railway station you were to lose your temper with the baggage man, for instance, you would get the crowd to gather around you and have a good time. Once a baggage man threw a valise of mine on the platform with such force that it broke open and spread my belongings about. I gave that man a piece of my mind, but I was sorry I had not set more value on my time than that. A crowd of baggage men and passersby gathered to bet whether I was going to be able to put all my things together or not. I felt I was giving a free show. I collected my goods and chattels and went to buy a new trunk.

   I remember my mother telling me as a child to be careful around bunches of bananas because a tarantula might be lurking there. Fascinated by the possibility, I wasted a lot of time looking and eventually came to discount the threat, but apparently she was right.
    July 2, 1898––H. E. Aldrick, of Easton, was bitten on the hand by a tarantula, which jumped out of a bunch of bananas a few days ago, and in a few minutes his hand was swelled to thrice its natural size.

   Here is a movement reported in the August 31, 1897 Journal that apparently never got up to speed.
    Mrs. Charlotte Smith has started a crusade against bachelors. “Bachelors,” she says, “have always been failures as chief magistrates and legislators in this and every other country. Bachelor politicians are narrow minded, selfish, egotistical and cowardly.
   “It is about time to organize antibachelor clubs. It should be the purpose of every young woman to look up the record of each and every man who is looking for votes, and should his moral character be such as would unfit him for office; his shortcomings should then be the point of attack by the antibachelor women.

   With too many men practicing bachelorhood, it stands to reason there will probably be some virgins around, and what young woman wants to risk the kind of disgrace proposed in a news clip posted on July 1, 1893. But will someone please expand on the penalty: “her light will go out?”
    Something new is advertised by the pastor of the colored M. E. Church at Marydel for Independence Day. “On the Fourth of July,” the handbills say, “there will be a contest of thirty virgins. Every virgin who fails to raise $10, her light will go out and she will be numbered among the foolish.”

   And I thought it was only mothers-in-law that behaved like this.
    November 5, 1898––A man in Sussex County sold to his son-in-law one-half interest in a cow and then refused to divide the milk, maintaining that it was only the front end of the cow that he sold, and he obliged his son-in-law to provide food and water the cow twice a day. Recently the cow hooked the old man and he is now suing his son-in-law for damages.

   Some July 15, 1893 health advice, when “excessive ice water indulgence” was apparently a national health threat.
    One good way to lessen the risk of excessive ice water indulgencies is to have only a small glass at the cooler. A wine glass is recommended.

   You have to admire those old reporters for getting out in the field and turning over every stone for the news, and for being so succinct about it.
    April 26, 1902––The quartet of crate makers, Harry Noble, Alfred Fisher, Fred Harlow and John Meluney are turning out between 200 and 300 crates a day for the Hickman Manufacturing Company.
    Mrs. Mary Harlow, while preparing basket stock last Wednesday, drove a large splinter through the fleshy part of her little finger and had to have it taken out at the White Front Drug Store.
    The Hickman brass band serenaded Mr. and Mrs. Charles Stevens last Saturday night and were in turn pleasantly entertained.
    A number of dwellings in our town are being improved by the addition of front porches.
    Mr. Rufus Noble is having his storehouse painted. He was absent in Baltimore during the week.
    After the adjournment of the extra session, Comptroller Herring discovered that a few members of the legislature had collected $26 for stationery. He at once put a stop to it. The Comptroller is to be congratulated.
    Trackmen on the P. W. & B Road and branches now receive $1.42 per day. They heretofore received $1.10.
    The Rev. A. W. Lightbourn of Easton has bought the pacer Lady Russell.
    Mr. Harry Frampton is now a clerk in Mr. John L. Evergreen’s store.
    The Wicomico News says “haul seining” instead of “seine hauling.”
    R. G. Anklam advertises a traction engine for sale.
    Western Shore farmers are plowing up locusts.

   And a few more tidbits of old news to round out this month’s column:
    May 3, 1902––Ernest Thompson-Seton––he of animal story telling and converted name fame––was describing to a clergyman the other day some of his experience with various animals, particularly squirrels.
   “It is an astonishing fact,” said Mr. Seton, “that I found, after some few tests, that I could attract squirrels, howsoever wild, by singing to them. Whenever I sang, they would come out of their holes or down from the trees, and though at first showing some timidity, sit and listen intently and apparently with enjoyment. I remember one day, however, when, after singing them various songs–ragtime and others––I tried ‘Old Hundred’ [a hymn first published in the Anglo-German Psalter of 1561] on them. Would you believe it, the instant they heard it they scampered off, nor could I induce them to return that day? And to this day I can’t understand why.”
    The clergyman, a far-away look in his eye, suggested very briefly: “Probably they were afraid you would next proceed to take up a collection.”
March 1, 1906––Public attention is being directed to the wholesale manner in which the materials that keep us warm during the day and the blankets that cover us at night are adulterated.
    The silk dress of the lady of a hundred years ago rustled as she moved on account of the genuineness of the fabric. Now it rustles with 36 percent of salts of tin used to commercialize it. The lady of the period in her silk dress is, indeed, a sort of “woman in armor.”
    Epsom salts, instead of being used for medicinal purposes, as formerly, are now employed for loading flannel. The so-called table linen of today is not pure linen such as delighted the hearts of the housewives of olden times, but is made largely of cotton filled with china clay and starch. So, too, collars are often of cotton merely faced with linen.
    In a word, nearly every kind of fabric sold is adulterated in some form or other, and the public, in blissful ignorance of the truth, finding how poorly the things wear, lays the blame upon the laundryman, the dyer or the cleaner instead of upon the real culprit, the manufacturer.
It is believed that there is some danger of the skin being attacked by disease as a result of the really poisonous substances which are set free by the action of perspiration upon the metallic compounds contained in apparently innocent wearing apparel.
    February 26, 1881––The astrologers who predicted devastation, death and revolution during the year 1881, because of the malefic planetary conjunctions, are warranted in feeling a certain complacency since the new year has opened so satisfactorily for them with floods and storms and wars and disasters on land and sea. And now it seems likely that the pestilence that stalks amid the frosts and flourishes in the winter season––small pox––will claim its share in fulfilling these prophesies. During the past year this disease has prevailed in Europe, and it has lately reached this country, establishing itself in many of our seaboard cities.
    May 16, 1885––A good story is told in which former Dorchester people figure. Two young men, one a six footer and the other but little over four feet in height, though born and reared together, were deadly enemies because they loved the same woman. She was a comely lass living on the banks of the Choptank River, and she was the sister of a schooner captain, a bachelor who hated marriage. She kept house for him, and the old seadog swore a great oath that he would kill any man who went to his house a-courting her. The people in the neighborhood believed he meant it, and young men were in mortal fear of him.
    One day the captain sailed away for Baltimore. The lovers resolved to take advantage of his absence. The little chap was the first to reach the girl’s house in the evening. Soon the big man knocked on the door. To prevent trouble, the young lady made the little fellow get in an empty flour barrel and covered it over.
    In a minute or so after the big lover was seated, the captain entered with the scowl of a thundercloud on his face. The big man hastened to explain that he wanted to send some potatoes to a friend in Baltimore and came over to borrow an empty barrel. The captain was not altogether satisfied, but he pointed to the barrel in the room and reminded his guest that it was getting time to turn in, stating that he had met a dead calm on the river and had walked five miles to sleep in his own house.
    The big lover shouldered the barrel and hastened out of the house. It was heavy, but he walked briskly, for he had great strength. When he had proceeded about a quarter of a mile, he put the barrel down, saying, as he wiped his perspiring face: “Good old barrel, you saved my life!”
   “And mine, too!” said the little chap, raising himself out of the barrel.
    They shook hands on the spot and vowed eternal friendship.

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