Eastland, Texas surged into the national spotlight in early 1928 when a time capsule, which had been entombed in the cornerstone of the old courthouse, was opened during the courthouse’s demolition. To everyone’s surprise out came a horned-toad lizard – still alive after 31 years! Hoax or not, a tour of the now legendary reptile included a visit to Washington, D.C. to meet President Calvin Coolidge. More can be read about Ol’ Rip via Wikipedia. The image shows the report of his “unearthing” which appeared in the New York Times dated February 20, 1928. Sadly, he would not survive another 12 months as he died of pneumonia on January 19, 1929 as reported in the New York Times of the following day.
The headline reads: “Fall of the Leaning Tower of Pisa”. Obviously it piqued my interest. I just had to read the report.
The letter was written by an eye-witness who was: “…an intelligent friend…now traveling…”. This report notes in part: “The building to which the extracts refer was called the Campanile…a gothic edifice at Pisa & was known to most Europeans as the ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa.’ It was finished in 1174…I was fortunate enough to be in Pisa during the earthquake…As I was an eye-witness, I hasten to communicate the description…about 7 o’clock in the morning…was suddenly awakened by shouts…The Campanile, or Leaning Tower…has now become, I may say, almost a total ruin, having fallen to the southward…The centre is a completely mutilated ruin…The marble pillars…were very much shattered…” and even more.
This was obviously a hoax, but it is interesting the extend of detail the writer shares in an attempt to make his report believable.
The writer concludes by noting: “…can hardly tell you how proud I feel at being the first to bring the news to Paris…and though my account has not been so descriptive as I could wish, you will at least have in your power to contradict any misstatement made…There were no lives lost…Reports were current in Leghorn that the Duomo or Cathedral had suffered, but this is wholly incorrect.”
See the hyperlink for the full report, found in “The Daily Union” newspaper, Washington, of Aug. 14, 1847.
A newspaper I came across recently was one I nearly tossed in the trash believing it to be only the back leaf of a four page newspaper. We have, unfortunately, many such remnants lying around the warehouse. But before tossing the issue aside I noted a heading (see below) near the top of the first column: “FORM PIED ! ” In printing parlance “pied” means the set type was reduced to a jumble by being knocked, dropped, etc. The text notes: “Going to press this afternoon the first and fourth pages of the Dispatch forms were pied by the carrier to the press rooms. We are, therefore, unable to issue more than half a sheet of the paper to-day.” (see) So, this single sheet, without a banner masthead, was a complete newspaper after all.
But even more intriguing is that just below this “pied” report is an early report of the San Francisco earthquake of 1868, headed: “The Earthquake” which begins: “The reports from different quarters show that the great shock yesterday morning was felt with more or less intensity all around the Bay, to a great distance. It appears to have been most severe in Alameda county & the damage to property was large. In this city, the loss has been great, though probably not to the extent that was feared yesterday. Many buildings have been damaged…” with more on both sides of the newspaper.
Of curious interest is whether the type was pied as a result of an aftershock, which always accompany earthquakes. Indeed, a report at the bottom of the page is headed “Shock” and notes: “Another shock of earthquake was felt this morning a few minutes before one o’clock. It was quite perceptibly felt & several left their houses thinking it was the prelude to a heavier one…”. So did the printer’s assistant drop the type for pages 1 and 4 due to an aftershock? We’ll never know, but the combination of the early earthquake report–from the city where it happened–and the reduced state of this edition due to the type being dropped makes for an intriguing newspaper.
Today’s journey, through The Christian Science Monitor dated August 26, 1910, took me on the train ride with Colonel Roosevelt as he was traveling across the states on his campaign tour. I found a segment a bit amusing… “At Erie the Colonel spoke to fully 5000 people. At Dunkirk a crowd nearly as large surrounded the train, and some one shouted, ‘Hello, Teddy!’ ‘I used to think it lowered my dignity to have them call me Teddy,’ the colonel said to his party in an undertone, ‘but do you know I am getting to like it now.'” A this point in time, one just somewhat “assumes” that he was always called Teddy.
While looking further into the issue, I found a one paragraph article with a headline “Mr. Edison Works On A New Device” and I just had to read it. “Moving pictures that talk, reproducing not only the action, but the spoken words of actors shown on the canvas, promise to revolutionize the moving picture business and the announcement that a machine that will combine the perfected phonograph with the present motion picture camera is being constructed in the laboratory of Thomas A. Edison in West Orange, has created a stir among inventors.”
This made me wonder just when were “talkies” invented and who invented it? Was this ground-breaking news? I did some researching through google. In the late 1890’s, there were some sound to movies but each person had to wear a listening device — early headsets?? Mr. Edison is mentioned as to be working on creating a special machine to make the “talkies” but the first talk was not to be until 1927 with the release of The Jazz Singer.
This week I did not select an issue of today’s date, instead I found the Connecticut Mirror dated August 13, 1810 instead. The front page of this issue begins with providing to the public the celebrated secret message of President Jefferson, on the 6th of December, 1805. This message was in respect of the relations of the United States with Spain and France concerning Louisiana. When I first saw this, I thought back to the 1970’s when Watergate occurred with the “missing minutes” of tape. Here they had secret messages that finally were revealed to the public five years later.
The story that was the eye-catcher was found on the back page, entitled “Ghost of a Dog”. This comes from a Dublin paper reporting of a lady who was scratched by a neighborhood dog, but she viewed it as a “breach of hospitality” that she demanded an order of execution on the dog. This was done, in a strange manner, and the dog’s body was retrieved by some friends. With some very unusual tactics over a course of about three weeks, the dog was able to run about as usual, make his rounds to visit his old friends, including meeting up with the lady he had scratched. She was so terrified that she fell into fits and at the time of the report was near death. Now… what’s the old saying… what goes around, comes around???
The “Sentimental & Masonic Magazine” from Dublin, Ireland, July, 1792, has an interesting article headed: “General rules for Behaving in Mourning”. It may have been written partially tongue-in-cheek, but you can decide.
The “Bradford Reporter” newspaper from the small town of Towanda, Pennsylvania, October 22, 1863, contains: “The Story of Two Bullets” which provides a somewhat poetic analogy to a hopeful conclusion to the Civil War.
The San Francisco “Daily Herald” newspaper dated March 30, 1854 has a brief report headed “Not Dead” (see below). It is reminiscent of the more famous–although much later–quote by Mark Twain in 1897 in which an illness of his cousin was confused with him, prompting him to write: “…The report of my illness grew out of his illness, the report of my death was an exaggeration.”
“The Connecticut Journal” of New Haven, Feb. 15, 1798 contains a report of two new born infants who were left at doorsteps. In today’s world news reports are given objectively without editorial comment–“just the facts”–whether the news item is horrible, tragic, or jubilant.
But this was not the style years ago. Note the editorial comment within the report. I doubt we would find such comments in today’s newspapers unless they were direct quotes from a person involved. Such reporting style certainly adds much flavor to reports of years ago, and equally interesting reading.
Collecting newspapers with unusual and/or displayable mastheads has been quite popular over the years. Here is a photo of just the name of a newspaper in the masthead of an 1852 newspaper from New York. Can you read it?