Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Signs of the Times - Part 1

It probably goes without saying that most, if not all of us are familiar with the basic layout of a contemporary newspaper. We know what to expect on any given day from any given section or page. The same could be said 100 years ago, even though many publications were significantly shorter (perhaps only the front and back of a single sheet of paper!).

What was included differed somewhat from today's publications a little too. Local papers had local news - but it might be a bit more intimate, especially in rural areas, where everyone knew everybody's business! Ads were not necessarily as vivid, and bylines (the author's name) may or may not exist on every article.

A seemingly popular trend were unattributed columns and snippets throughout publications that delivered news and commentary in a quick shot - one or two sentences. They might include anything from:

health and weather, to current events.

Or the economy and politics

These are common threads still followed today, though thrown together in tidbits on pages 3 and 4 of the February 17, 1910 edition of the Clay City Times. In their own ways, they reflect patterns from 100 years ago. Can you tell how and why? What makes these "reports" different from reports you might see in a modern-day newspaper?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

Today we celebrate the birth of one of Kentucky's best-known native sons, President Abraham Lincoln! Though he is sometimes more closely accredited to Illinois, he was born in 1809, near Hodgenville. The Lincolns didn't even leave the state until little "Honest Abe" was 7 years old!

He went on from the humble log cabin to achieve great things, as we all well know, but remembered his birth state connections through friendships and political contacts with such Kentuckians as Joshua Speed - a close confidante and contact during the Civil War. Soon after which, of course, he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.

There are as many dark stories as there are bright ones regarding Lincoln's life and activities. But today, as his bicentennial birth celebration comes to a close, we merely memorialize and celebrate the man and his life, as did the Earlington Bee, in 1897, and the Winchester News, in 1909, for the centennial of his birth.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


William Goebel - Kentucky governor for but a few days, all of which spent, quite literally, on his deathbed, died today, in 1900, of an assassin's bullet. But who was the killer? This remains one of the unsolved mystery's in the Commonwealth's past.

Goebel was born to German immigrants in 1856 Pennsylvania. The family moved to Covington after his father returned from the Civil War. William went on to law school and an on-again, off-again practice with eventual US Senator John Carlisle. But he also had quite the hand in political wheelings & dealings at the end of the 19th century, including through the state Senate.

When Kentuckians were in an uproar about toll roads & turnpikes, Goebel successfully campaigned to remove tolls. He was a delegate in the 1890-91 Constitutional Convention. He advocated to further civil rights for women and African-Americans. Possibly one of his most notable measures is the Goebel election law, which gave power to a 3-member Board of Election Commissioners to appoint county election commissioners, as opposed to the previous system, which he felt had been unjust.

But Goebel was no angel! Many were opposed to his methods, and believed he sought only to raise his own political power. Goebel even broke Kentucky Constitutional law when he fought an 1895 duel against John Sanford (Goebel won, killing Sanford, but was acquitted of charges). His gubernatorial election was also tainted with scandal. Although he won, accusations flew regarding corruption & stuffing of ballot boxes. The General Assembly ultimately decided Goebel had fairly won on January 30 - the same day he was shot.

As Goebel walked to the Capitol in Frankfort, an assassin shot him with a rifle (accounts claim it was likely from a window next door). He lay dying for nearly 5 days, until he passed on February 3rd. Before that, however, the GA had him sworn in as KY Governor on January 31, 1900. Sixteen men were accused of conspiracy in his murder; 5 went to trial; 3 were convicted; all maintained their innocence throughout!

To this day, no solid answer has been offered as to "Who killed Goebel?" He remains the only state governor killed while in office, even though he was technically shot before even being sworn in, and remained "Governor" on his death bed, for only a few short days.

Semi-Weekly Interior Journal. 6 February 1900. p 1.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Only the Shadow Knows...

A long-standing tradition, today marks Groundhog Day! People rush to Gobbler's Knob, in Pennsylvania, to learn from Punxsutawney Phil whether or not winter will sustain another 6 weeks. He and his shadow have been forecasting the weather for Americans since 1887, in secret, and then publicly since 1966. But there's much more to this tradition than many of us realize or even consider!

With debatable origins, this yearly celebration traces its roots further back than the last 125 years or so to the European Candlemas Day (also celebrated today). A poem regarding the holiday reads "If Candlemas be fair and bright,/May Winter have another flight." Hence, the shadow knows all!

Speaking of lights, Phil is not the only forecaster! Canada has their very own famous groundhog - Wiarton Willie! Similarly, there are other groundhogs around the US that share Phil's spotlight, at least to some extent - and other animals too! Texas has Bee Cave Bob, an armadillo, to forecast their spring every February 2nd, or "Armadillo Day." Just last year, Alaskan governor Sarah Palin, declared Feb. 2 "Marmot Day;" but there were no forecasting duties assigned.

Over the years, even Kentucky has shared in Groundhog Day festivities, as you can see in these 1910 Paducah Evening Sun articles. Though not official, Captain Mason Smith adopted a groundhog, dug a burrow for him the previous October (for hibernation, of course), and brought him out to predict the weather. It paid off - the unnamed adoptee's shadow predicted Spring! And then there's the Dickson, TN club who ran around all day searching out groundhog burrows and digging them up just to offer a weather report that evening! So which method is better?

Oh, and as for this year's prediction? Nothing from Bee Cave Bob or Wiarton Billie as of yet, but Punxsutawney Phil is calling for 6 more weeks of winter. And the shadow always knows... (or at least he does 39% of the time, according to the National Climatic Data Center)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Something to Chew On

Many quintessential American foods & treats have their roots, or at least some links to the state of Kentucky, whether its well-known, acknowledged, or not. This includes chewing gum, believe it or not!

Pharmacist John Colgan, born in Louisville, in 1840, went through the public school system there, and to college in Somerset, OH. He returned to Louisville and opened a drug store at the corner of 1oth & Walnut Streets. While Colgan didn't INVENT chewing gum (in fact, some form has arguably been around since Greek civilization, if not longer), he had a strong hand in developing its popularity.

Legend has it he saw children peeling the bark off trees & chewing on it, so he ordered the main ingredient for chewing gum (again, this product already existed in the US), which is from a South American tree, and improved upon the existing product by sweetening it with powdered sugar. This resulted in a sticky substance he called "Colgan's Taffy Tolu Chewing Gum." Fortunately, the ingredients & manufacturing process remained "pure" enough that they were not affected by the 1906 Pure Food & Drug Act.

He sold his drugstore, went into business with James A. McAfee, & advertised all over - including a presentation by his son, William, of Colgan's Taffy Tolu at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Check out these other advertising campaigns:

His version of the gum became SO successful, it was sold internationally in Canada & Australia! Thomas Adams (a huge NY manufacturer & distributer of chewing gum at the time) even took inspiration from Colgan's development when he created Tutti-Frutti, the first gum sold in vending machines!

John Colgan died today (February 1) in 1916. He is buried in Cave Hill Cemetery, in Louisville. But his legacy lives on in the modern treat many of us still love to chew on today, first made sweet by Colgan's addition of powdered sugar!