What would it cost today?

April 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

I recently came across a large advertisement for a newly built home in a Helena, Montana newspaper from 1892 (see below). After viewing the sketch of the home and reading the details of the listing, I immediately wondered what it might cost in today’s dollars. Thanks to the internet I found an easy-to-use inflation calendar, entered the needed data, and voila! I couldn’t have been more wrong. Just for fun, respond to this post with your guess, and then give it a try. I hope you have a better sense of the impact of inflation on the value of the almighty dollar-over-time than I.Blog-4-28-2016

Presumed guilty… Lizzie given the ax by some before the end of the trial…

April 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Blog-4-25-2016-Lizzie-BordenIt can be interesting to read headlines in newspapers of past centuries and note quickly how politically incorrect publishers were, and how there was little concern to presume a defendant guilty in the press before a trial even began.

The renowned case of Lizzie Borden, accused of murdering her parents, found coverage in The Memphis Appeal-Avalanche” issue of August 30, 1892. Even during the inquest the newspaper was quick to include column heads, almost poetically presented: “About Miss Lizzie Borden” “Nearer and Nearer Looms the Gallows-Tree Before Her” “Clearer and Clearer It Appears She’s a Murderess” and more (see). In today’s world publishers are quick to use words such as “alleged”, or “accused of” which make no inference of guilt of innocence. Not so in the 19th century.


Don’t believe everything you read…

April 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Blog-4-25-2016-TimThe Pennsylvania Packet issue of November 22, 1785 contains a curious report which puzzled me, for although admitting my knowledge of American history is far from where it should be, I do not recall reading of Ben Franklin being captured by Barbary pirates upon his return from France as Ambassador.

Page 2 of this newspaper has a letter from Captain Thomas Truxtun, later of Constellation fame, dated August 20, 1785 from Algiers–with Ben Franklin as a passenger no less–mentions an encounter with Barbary pirates: “…Our being entirely unprepared for such an attack, put it out of our power to make resistance, & after sending sufficient men on board to navigate the ship they put the whole of the crew and myself in heavy irons & bore away for this place…to suffer the cruel infliction of slavery, and God only know whether I shall ever have an opportunity of seeing or writing to you again. Poor Doctor Franklin bears this reverse of fortune with more magnanimity than I could have imagined.”

Ben Franklin taken away in irons? Really??

I turned to our friend/long-term customer/naval expert George Emery for some explanation of this report. He relates that in Eugene Ferguson’s biography of Trustun, “Truxtun of the Constellation” (1956) he mentions this rumor while explaining Truxtun’s decision to arm the London Packet (to be renamed the Canton) for a forthcoming voyage to China. And the source of this rumor was this very newspaper: the Pa. Packet of Nov. 22, 1785. Apparently some enterprising reporter, “confusing ” Truxtun’s reasoning for arming the Canton to rewrite the “future” as a scary & perilous event of the past, all–perhaps–to sell more copies of the newspaper. Or perhaps Truxtun himself was responsible for this letter’s presence in the Pennsylvania Packet to bolster support for arming American merchant vessels then sailing to Europe, and particularly the Mediterranean.

Ferguson goes on to mention in his book: “…while he was yet bringing Franklin home during the last voyage, it was rumored in London that Captain Truxtun’s ship had been captured by the Barbary corsairs and that all aboard, including the great Franklin, were consigned to slavery in Algiers…”.

The capture never happened.

The Traveler… ah, this bloody weather…

April 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Blog-4-18-2016-London-StormToday I traveled to England by The Post Boy dated April 17, 1716. I found a most intriguing report from Genoa, “On the 22d, about Eight in the Evening, we had a great Shower of Rain colour’d like Blood, which lasted above two Hours, and was follow’d with dreadful Thunder and Lightning, which struck People with a general Fright; and the more, because nine Persons were kill’d, and twelve wounded by it, in the Suburbs of San Pietrod’ Arena. It was very calm over Night; but the next Morning there arose such a furious Storm, that many Houses along the Sea-Coast were blown down…”.

I know for certain that I would not have wanted to experience those storms!

~The Traveler

What a pile of hooey… No seriously, what a pile of hooey…

April 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Blog-4-14-2016-Galapagos-IslandsEvery now and then, while browsing through rare and early newspapers, an article is discovered which causes one to take a second look – or 2nd read. Such is the case with a report in the New York Semi-Weekly Tribune of January 30, 1855. As I was scanning through slavery and Mormon related coverage, I discovered an inside report which described how Ecuador tricked the United States into signing a treaty in which the U.S. would provide protection for Ecuador’s ports and the Galapagos Islands (owned by them) in exchange for access to the supposed endless supply (by the ton) of guano on the Galapagos Islands. Apparently, Ecuador had produced samples of highly potent bird and bat dung which motivated the U.S. to sign the treaty. Later, upon investigation, it was found out that the tons upon tons of guano was simply a pile of hooey – that is, nowhere to be found – but the treaty had already been signed. Who signs such an agreement sight unseen? I must admit, the nature of the agreement stirs all of the middle-school boy sarcasm which I thought I had long-since put to rest. However, such is not the case. He’s in there.

They put it in print… “Liar, Liar”…

April 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

From a time before internet dating, the Dec. 30, 1791 issue of “The Morning Post from London contains an interesting–and hopefully tongue-in-check–report headed: “Advertisements Matrimonial” which provides amusing reading if nothing else. “Liar, Liar” in print – what if people desiring a mate through ads in newspapers had to write what they were really wanting??? Enjoy.Blog-4-11-2016-matrimony

What did they do to false prophets? 1929 predicted to be a banner financial year…

April 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Blog-4-6-2016-Stock-Market-1929-Good-NewsHow ironic… In what was to become known as the worst financial year in U.S. history, it is interesting to read  The New York Time, January 3, 1929 front page article headed: “Stock Market Opens 1929 With Buying Rush; 5,413,610-Share Day Stirs Hope of Big Year”. Could they have been more wrong? It sure is good this NY Times writer was not graded as a Hebrew prophet – or he/she would likely have joined the throngs who brought about their own demise in late October of the same year during The Great Stock Market Crash of 1929.

The Traveler… finally the end…

April 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Blog-4-4-2016-Proclamation-Civil-War-EndsToday I traveled to New York City by the way of The World (NY) dated April 3, 1866. The “Proclamation by the President of the United States” was presented on the front page of the issue. “…Therefore, I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, do hereby proclaim and declare that the insurrection which heretofore existed in the States of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Florida is at an end, and henceforth to be so regarded. In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and cause the seal of the United States to be affixed…”. This marked the official end to the American Civil War.

~The Traveler