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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: March 7, 2018

February 1901

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,



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When we cleaned up my father's home office after his death, we found a lot of odd and interesting things he'd collected (REALLY a lot.) Among them was a couple of crumbling old newspapers, torn and missing pieces. They smelled musty and were extremely fragile, but I kept them, as I thought it would be interesting to look through them and read what I could of what was left.

The papers were the "Daily Eagle," a Marinette paper, and the specific issue I will summarize today was dated February 2, 1901 " so this paper is 117 years old, which certainly explains its poor condition. Newsprint is inexpensive paper, meant to be read and thrown out, not tucked away who knows where for more than a century.

Even turning the pages as carefully as I could, more tears and even entire chunks fell from the wide sheets. But what I could see was fascinating.

Prices: Pairs of sheepskin mittens " 19 cents. Heavy woolen underwear, tops or bottoms " 20 cents. A furniture store advertised "fine couches, will pass inspection of even the most critical buyer, $5 to $30." The newspaper itself sold for three cents.

There are plenty of ads, full of hyperbole and grandiose claims " "Magnificent suits!" The Parisian Steam Laundry advertised its "Bachelor's Club Laundry service " we will even darn your socks! Your clothes will look like new!" The predominate ads were related to health and medicines. (Kind of like the commercials on TV now, ready to send you "Truckloads of Testosterone!") There are plenty of liquid medicines for "women's complaints," and a long ad for "Celery King" medicine, targeted for men. The ads use euphemisms and vague language, but assure the reader they will cure "Dyspepsia, constipation, nerve diseases, kidney and stomach disorders," among other issues. Nervita pills address the problems of men who have overindulged in "liquor, tobacco or opium," as well as "shrinking organs" and "loss of power."

There is national news " "Washington is hearing complaints that U.S. troops are torturing Filipinos." Our troops abroad still cause complaints of inappropriate behavior today, sometimes rightly so. Another story from New York is a breathless tale of a prominent Episcopal Devine (minister?) being shot and grievously wounded by "a man who was wronged," and who, it speculates, may die as a result.

A regional story titled "A Great Conspiracy" involved the closure of the Miller clothing store in Marinette and subsequent fire; with reports of clothing perhaps in anticipation of the conflagration removed from the store prior to the fire being sold in upper Michigan. Apparently the businessman associated with the store has been arrested, and the tone of the article implies everyone is on the edge of their seats to find out what is going to happen next.

Remember in those days there was NO TV or radio news, and few if any news magazines. The local paper's coverage of these kind of events was often all the news that was available other than person to person "gossip," and it is likely this news arrived in northern Wisconsin days after it actually occurred.

Finally the fascinating local news. There are lots of summaries of ladies having tea parties at 5 p.m. attended by from 30 to 60 women. There is flowerly coverage of how gracious the entertainment was and how delighted everyone was to attend.

There is a lengthy piece about athletic training for boys in school being started " there are three offerings: boxing, fencing and "Fancy Italian Club Swinging." The instructors are named and about 50-60 boys are enrolled in each class. These all sound like pretty manly pursuits; there is no mention of any classes for girls at all, the weaker sex was not thought to be in need of any physical activity.

Finally I summarize an article about the local livery owners getting together to set new prices. Liveries were stables where you could "rent" a saddle horse or a team and carriage. For those who didn't have their own horses, this was the taxi service of the day. The livery owners announced the new price of $1.50 for up to two couples for service if they were going to the same destination, but warned a new charge would be added for those abusers of the system who requested a livery until midnight or 1 a.m. but returned more than an hour late. Apparently those attending dances had developed this habit, and having someone at the stable to untack late return horses and feed them before retiring was a business challenge for the livery owners.

There are very few pictures in the paper; there are line drawings and crude illustrations. The state of the paper graphics was the state of the technology.

It is fascinating to see that in many ways news coverage is really not any different now. It's faster, more widely available, and more technologically advanced. But the things people are interested in has not really changed, and the hawking of quack medicines is alive and well.

I am having a hard time discarding the paper, as bad as it smells and as deteriorated as it is. But I have to say, I don't see this old relic lasting 10 more years; let alone another 117.

I received several well-written, fascinating and detailed responses to the column on outdoor bathrooms (Privey Musings.) I will summarize them in next week's column; they were fascinating.

Did you know that a privey seat, refinished, makes a wonderful home decoration?  Neither did I!  But the picture I got proved it!

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.


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Peshtigo, WI 54157
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