Old Newspapers Reveal What Was Newsworthy In Early 1900s Holidays

Amidst all the frustrations of a constant need to organize and preserve, workers in the Old Post Office at the Historical Park occasionally delight in a real find.

Last week researchers came upon two bound volumes (1912-14) of The Wheat Ridge News, a newspaper published by local luminary Samuel Johnson. Paging through the volumes, I found myself pausing over a holiday issue from Dec. 23, 1914. Six months earlier, Europe had become involved in a skirmish which later in the decade became known as The Great War. However, leaving international news for page three (of eight), page one focused on local news briefs: “Mrs. Tobias is staying with her sister in Denver,” followed by “Frank Pettigrew held quite a turkey shoot at his place Tuesday,” and two notifications of approaching high school basketball games.

Page two featured national news, offering that “Pollution of the Great Lakes and tributary rivers is becoming a serious menace to health,” according to the Surgeon General’s annual report. Below that bulletin, an interesting statistic, “There are 44 persons in the US with a net income of a million dollars a year or more, according to a compilation of income tax returns” in the Internal Revenue Commissioner’s annual report.

Page three concentrated on European war reporting. Headlines screamed “‘War to the Death’, cry of Premier; Supreme sacrifice demanded to end German invasion as deputies meet,” and “‘Allies take Trenches’; Fighting continues with little change in positions of opposing forces.” 

Further down the page a regional news headline stated, “Girl’s Hair Cut Off in Theater.” Apparently, a CU coed visiting locally became the third victim of hair thieves operating in local theaters for weeks. They removed three and a half feet of hair while she watched the pictures. The young woman fainted upon realizing her predicament, and a doctor had to revive her.

The next pages were filled with serialized novels, popular back then when not everyone could afford to buy books for pleasure reading. The back page contained a report of the Wannamaker Rodman Expedition upon its return to New York after a six-month tour of Indian reservations in the West. The story starts with leader Joseph Dixon’s summary quote: “If the US government had expended honest effort and money in the conservation and uplift of the North American Indian, there would have been produced from the race a remarkable line of thinkers and statesmen who would have added to the fame of our halls of Congress with their wisdom and fine ideals.”

Advertising sold for 10¢ per inch. Along with the ad for Fatima Turkish-blend cigarettes, a pack of 20 for 15¢, the most interesting ad featured a crow holding a banner for Carter’s Little Liver Pills under the headline “Don’t Persecute Your Bowels!” I was surprised until I reflected on subjects featured in current medical advertising.

Aside from amusing ad rates and the girl who lost her hair, the news 108 years ago sounds hauntingly familiar. What goes around comes around, and around, and around. True: Those who ignore history are destined to repeat it.

Happy holidays!

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