Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Old News

Since my vacation, I have been trying to catch up on reading the news I missed. I started today by looking at the White Mountain Reporter newspaper from 1895. So I only have 120 years to go.

While some aspects of these papers are set in their time, it’s interesting to note how modern and familiar this newspaper seems today. The community correspondent reports (one from each section of town) are very much like today’s Twitter tweets or facebook posts. The text is short and the emphasis is on social interaction (who is doing what with whom, where).

Also like today, some of the posts are commercial ads or sponsored content set in among the news that “Mrs. Joseph Cheever of Portsmouth is spending a few weeks in town” and “B.F. Chadbourne of Biddeford has been at this summer residence here the past week” and the fact that it was “Poor hay weather” was the notice that “Jet ornaments, trimmings, silk and worsted gimps all to be closed out regardless of cost…”

You might have to google some of those phrases to understand their lost meanings to most of us today. Jet ornaments are made of black lignite, a type of fossilized wood. Carved or shaped on a lathe it has the look of black shiny plastic and was very popular during the time. A worsted gimp is a type of decorative fabric trimming used for borders of curtains, ladies’ dresses, and so on made by twisting fine smooth threads around a foundation thread to create a wide range of shaped patterns.  

There was a Church and Lodge Directory on the front page of each edition listing the times of many meetings. Not all the fraternal organizations are as prominent as they once were including the Grange, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, Free and Accepted Masons, and the Improved Order of Red Men.

Published each Thursday (same as today’s Carroll County Independent), it cost one dollar for a year’s subscription (that certainly has changed). There was a free year (six years) if you sign up for five years. Individual issues were three cents (eight pages usually). That would be $1.56 for a full year of 52 weeks. So you can save the more you spend.

There were also a lot ads that were not disguised among the social chronicle. J. B. Smith had his ad printed upside down to draw attention. It read “J. B. Smith, Conway, N.H. Manufacturer of Ladders and Chairs, Also dealer in Hay, Grain, Mill Feed, Oyster Shells, Scraps, and all kinds of Hen Feed. I handle the best quality of grain and my prices are as low as the lowest.” Sounds like my kind of place. Does anyone have a J.B. Smith ladder or chair made in Conway?

There is an attractive circular ad for “Bicycle Clothing.” It notes “We make a specialty of Patent Water-Proof Suits and Patent Elastic Back Shoes. These are just what every Bicycle Rider needs.”

Some things never seem to change. One headline read “Greece has a Hard Time” and reports it has political instability, its money is becoming worthless and it has a staggering debt (of $75 per capita).

Will someone in the future use your tweets and facebook posts to analyze your history and the historic trends of the time. According to some, they already are. … and that’s all the news that’s fit to print.

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