Old News is Very Fun News, and Revealing

I really enjoy old newspapers because of the glimpse they give of life not-so-long ago. Only 100 years or so, just a single lifetime, and things were so vastly different it might be another planet.

Not just the toys that seem to mark life today: The omnipresent “smart” phone  (really a hand-held computer that also makes calls), the car, the airplane and so on. Fashions is too obvious. Just normal stuff: is it typhoid season yet? Did my neighbor’s horse die?  Hot weather is coming, how about a hammock for that front porch?

And so on.

Today, just for grins, I decided to look at a random newspaper from back then: The Morgan County Star. According to the Utah State University digital archive, this august publication started in 1912 and ceased in 1920,

Both USU and Utah State University’s digital archives have “The Star” on line.  You can access USU’s at this link:

USU Link

And U of U’s historic newspaper collection here:

U of U Link

One thing you will notice is that the newspapers are a lot larger than you would expect for a tiny place like Morgan. That’s because folks got ALL their news from the newspaper. They couldn’t watch TV or even listen to the radio, which was still in its infancy in 1912.

So the Morgan Star, a weekly paper, is 8 pages, and keep in mind these are the news pages of 100 years ago, which were about double what the Standard-Examiner tosses on your doorstep today. The type was smaller, there were few pictures, it could easily take a couple hours to read the whole thing.

How long does it take to read a typical daily paper today?

Anyway, let’s look at the Morgan County Star for August 10, 1912. What’s up?

The headline on what looks like the lead story is “We Don’t Pretend; We Do Things” but this is really a collection of several smaller stories.

In the first, J. J. Wadley is pulling some sort of ore out of Cottonwood Canyon. A recent load netted him $500, and the story hopes this will continue. “Who knows but that our county may become one of the best mining camps in the west?” the story speculates. “Who can tell what lies slumbering beneath these silent slumbering hills, thobbing for the touch of capital, and more of the right spirit, to give us our rightful place.”

Alas, there is no mining industry in Morgan today. Many people tried to get rich digging mines all through Northern Utah. None succeeded.

The next article discusses electricity coming to Morgan, with a generator temporarily installed at Como Springs. after that is receipts at the grain mill, and a note extolling the accuracy of the city’s recent audit.

I love columns like the one on the right side, titled “Did You Know That …” followed by bits of news. Apparently the Heiner Livery stable just got painted, and the local cannery received shipments of coal and cans.

There’s a little wisdom: “Many a girl is fond of sports until she marries one,” we are told. The next notes “No woman is so economical as to make her wedding dress do twice,” but that probably doesn’t apply so much any more.

I like this:  “That about the time our parents stop spanking us, experience takes up the job.”

The pages are so crammed with small news items that, in a weird sort of way, it feels like scrolling through Facebook today — tidbit after tidbit goes by. Nothing is too small to be of note. So-and-so is visiting his friend from Ogden. That guy’s horse died.

The inside pages are filled, mostly, with news from around the state and nation. When you are a small operation working out of a storefront in Morgan, the telegraph was a prime source of stuff to fill the paper. That and stories they simply stole from other papers the mailman brought.

So there’s several columns out of Washington DC, the latest on the war between Turkey and Italy, the National Progressive Party in Chicago is negotiating with Col. Theodore Roosevelt about being its standard bearer. Moving on we see sports and even the society pages, crammed with interesting reads. U.S. Grant’s daughter is marrying again, and baseball is all over everything, as usual.

Great stuff. You could spend a couple hours reading it all.