Tag: Old Newspapers

Historic Social Media Tidbits

It’s been a while since I’ve posted fun tidbits from historic Colorado newspapers. My daughter/blog editor pointed this out. I’d almost forgotten how entertaining old news could be. It’s a reminder that, as a society, we haven’t come as far as we thought.

Take, for example, the current trend of posting cute kitten videos. I found the following clip in a description of a church sociable. I want to call it a “social,” but the article uses “sociable.” Who am I to argue? I wasn’t there.

The January 4, 1879 edition of the Lake City newspaper includes the following item.

Apparently, we have always been obsessed with kittens.

One of the current trends is to post videos of pranks, like the Mannequin Head Drop Prank, which would be horrifying. I’m not a fan of pranks.

In 1879, Lake City’s newspaper published an article about a prank that some boys pulled. It was titled, “A Small Boy Has Some Fun.”

The boy climbed a tree and dropped the key next to an unsuspecting lady, making a clinking sound. He immediately pulled the key up. She stopped and searched for the item she’d dropped.

The article wraps up with the following comment.

This prank article is actually credited to another newspaper, the Rochester Express. As we would say today, it went viral.

I’m sure the old timers would envy our ability to add video to our stories. Check out this description of a snow funnel cloud.

It might have looked something like this.

Without video, the news reporters used poetic descriptors to bring the image to life.

Note the use of the words “hurled,” “floated,” and the comparison with diamonds. It’s enough to make a novelist proud.

As it turns out, we have always been concerned with healthy living. Here is some advice for minimizing the effects of overindulging in party food and drink. It was published on January 4th, too late for holiday revelry.

I would comment on the list, but I can’t even wrap my head around it. I’ll just leave it there. Perhaps it’s no weirder than things people would suggest now.

All of that to say, we’re not as progressive as we think we are. Except that now we can enhance the stories with pictures and video. No need to use expressive verbs like hurled and floated.

P. S. If you missed any of my earlier posts about old newspaper articles, check out the following links:


Historical Research – Not For The Fainthearted

Research is part of the fun in writing historical novels. For me it’s often an excuse to go on a rabbit trail—in other words, “squirrel!” The heroine of my story in Mending Sarah’s Heart (which releases in the Thimbles and Threads Collection in July) is a seamstress.

I typed the words. “Sarah pushed one last pin into the sleeve.”

But wait, did they have pins in 1884?

I Googled the history of pins. While not the most accurate resource, Google is a start.

The short answer is yes, my heroine would use pins. But I didn’t stop reading there. The design and manufacturing process caught my attention. Pretty soon, I found myself reading about something completely unrelated.

Google is a secondary source because it gathers information from other places and presents it in some type of order. I like order. Most reference books are also secondary sources. They present the information with some modern interpretation, whether intended or not.

I wanted to get information directly from the source. Primary source research. For the late 1800’s, newspapers give me a glimpse of everyday life. Not only do they contain local happenings, but most include national news, housekeeping tips and health advice. Advertisements give ideas of what people considered normal.

A wonderful archive of historic newspapers is available at coloradohistoricnewspapers.org. I can read them from my recliner.

I decided to set a story in Silverton, Colorado in 1877, two years after the town was founded. To pretend I was there, I could read all of the local newspapers for that year.

But those newspapers hadn’t been scanned to the website. So, I went to the local historic archive (which is only open on Thursdays) and met some nice people. They told me that the Silverton 1877 newspapers were housed in the library on Microfilm.

Then I went to the library, where I learned that the microfilm resided in the basement with the black mold. No public allowed.

A year later, I checked back. Still no luck.

This fall, I read in the current paper that the mold had been cleaned up. Yay.

So, I went back to the library and learned that the Microfilm now sits at the archive building where I started my search a few years before. It was a Wednesday and the archives are only open on Thursday.

Primary source research is not for the faint hearted.

Meanwhile, I gather tidbits from the newspaper in nearby Lake City because those are online. Some of the articles are confusing without context. And some of the papers didn’t scan very well, causing my eyes to cross.

Makes me appreciate the secondary source research, where someone else has already located and read the microfilm. They added background information and put it in a context that makes sense to me, the modern reader.

I will continue to study both and enjoy the meandering path they take me on. Because, who doesn’t want to know that Mrs. Green came into town for New Years’ Eve or the price of morphine laced tonic?

Roller Skating in the ‘80s – The 1880s

Apparently, roller skating was a big thing in the metropolous of Leadville, Colorado in the 1880s.

Who knew? With all of the historical novels I read, I should have run across this before.

But, there it is, in black and white.

I loved roller skating in the 1980’s. But the 1880’s?

After a little research, I learned that roller skating was a big thing in all major U.S. cities in the 1880’s. Roller skates had been invented about twenty years before and the technology had improved enough for mass adaptation.

Not only did everyone roller skate, but there were roller skating professionals. When the tax form asked for occupation, how many people put “Skatorial Star?”

Roller skating provided an alternative to saloons and dance halls. Just like in the 1980’s, where the roller rink was one of the few places I could hang out with my friends without parental supervision..

Our roller rink wasn’t first class like the one in Leadville. The ladie’s restroom would never have passed for a “large ladies’ reception room.” And anyone caught smoking in the men’s room would have been kicked out.

And, no brass band in the 1980’s. We skated to tunes like Roller Skating Mate and Disco Duck.

I tried to imagine skating in a long dress and old time clothing. Even looked it up on YouTube. This is what I found. Don’t know if it is historically accurate or just fun. Click on the picture to watch.

Roller rinks offered games and prizes.

Notice that the main prize is for most popular men and women, not the best skaters. Just like in the 1980’s, it wasn’t about skating at all. Although, the article above does offer a silver cup for actual skating ability.

Over time, the competitions evolved. Note the article below.

Now the prize is for most awkward skater. A prize I could win.

The makers of St. Jacob’s Oil hoped to profit from the dangers of roller skating in their 1883 advertisement.

I certainly wouldn’t want to be an enemy of St. Jacob’s oil if I were to get a cut nose or bruised body.

Here’s a poem about someone falling in their roller skates.

I didn’t think anyone used the term “dude” back then. And “dudely.” Oh, my.

And, finally, something that I could see in a viral video on social media.

The cymbals crash every time this man falls down. I’m sure he was mad.  It would have made for great video.

Some things never change.

Old Time Bloopers

Old Time Bloopers

People of modern times may think bloopers are a recent invention. They’re not. The name may be new, but early newspapers reported “curiously worded advertisements” for all to enjoy.

The January 3, 1884 edition of The Leadville Daily Herald reported these from a London paper.

“Mrs. And Miss May have left-off clothing of every description. An inspection is invited.”

Oh, my. I hope the inspection is of the clothing and not the ladies.

 “Wanted – A nurse for an infant between twenty-five & thirty, a member of the Church of England & without followers.”

Sounds like a pretty old infant. I’m not even sure what “without followers” means. Couldn’t be referring to Twitter, could it?


The January 16, 1896 edition of the Aspen Daily Times also reports items from a London paper.

“Annual sale now on. Don’t go elsewhere to be cheated – come here.”

“For sale – a pianoforte, the property of a musician with carved legs.”

Is this some kind of fancy peg leg?

“Mr. Brown, furrier, begs to announce that he will make up gowns, capes, etc. for ladies out of their own sinks.”

“Bulldog for sale; will eat anything; very fond of children.”

Is eating anything a selling point?

Old time bloopers went viral. These same bloopers showed up in the Fort Collins courier, February 4, 1897 and The Ouray Herald, February 14, 1901. Going viral took longer back then. No Share button. These items probably appear all over the country. Maybe the globe since they come out of London.

When I read the historic newspapers, I see things that look like bloopers. But who can tell with their odd humor and word usage?

From the January 6, 1884 edition of the Leadville Daily Herald, in a note about the need for a preacher.

“A live young man is needed for the onerous and multiplied duties of any Leadville pulpit.”

As opposed to a dead young man? And the word “onerous” won’t entice anyone.


Also, from the January 6, 1884 Leadville Daily Herald,

“- Detroit Michigan has a dog oil factory. The product is used by consumptives.”

I don’t even know what dog oil is. I Googled it and I still don’t know. Did they somehow use oil from dogs? Maybe I don’t want to know.

From the January 8, 1884 edition of the Leadville Daily Herald,

“Don’t forget that John Harvey has a fine lot of sleighs and cutters, which he is selling very low.”

And then there are articles which apparently seek to expand the public’s vocabulary.

The January 21, 1888 edition of the La Plata Miner includes the following phrase in an article about a murder.

“charging him with the crime of oxuricide (the killing of one’s wife)”

Why not just say the killing of one’s wife? And, did this happen so often that they needed to come up with a word for it?

Nice to know, as a writer, when I make a bloober. . . blooper. . . I’m in good company.

Because once the word has been pressed to paper, it lives forever.

Facebook Posts From Old Newspapers

In researching for my historical novels, I’ve read through old newspapers from Colorado’s early mining days. I planned fun trips to historical archives and libraries only to be told that the historic newspapers had been scanned and are available online. I could read them from the comfort of my easy chair. So much for writing off research trips as a business expense.

The easy chair is comfortable, but the print is tiny and scans can be hard to read. Still, the newspapers give a glimpse of everyday life in an old mining town. It turns out, people in the old days wanted to be connected in the same way we want to connect today.

A section in the Lake City paper reads just like Facebook and Twitter, except without pictures and modern terms.

I thought I’d translate a couple of the old bits of news into Social Media Speak.

From Silver World, Lake City Colorado, January 8, 1876

Mr. H.M. Rhoads, of the Mountaineer, has gone east to be married. The happy event is to occur about Christmas.

On Facebook, this would read:

H.M. Roads was tagged in a post.

Twenty days and counting. Soon I’ll be Mrs. Roads. Boston, here we come. #Christmaswedding #Bringonthegifts


From Silver World, Lake City Colorado, January 8, 1876

Sam Hougland has returned from Saguache.

On Facebook, this would read:

Sam Hougland added 35 photos to his album – Saugache trip.

Had a great trip to Saguache to visit my aunt and cousins. #Saugachetravel #Cousinpranks #Lovemyfamily


From Silver World, Lake City Colorado, February 19, 1876

A very pleasant party was had at the residence of J.H Surles on Last Monday evening.

On Facebook, this would read:

Loved seeing all these crazy friends again. Who says you can’t party on a Monday? And, Jules, next time, no wine for you. LOL. #Lovemyfriends #Toomuchchocolate


From Silver World, Lake City Colorado, January 15, 1876

People who have parrots ought to consider before they teach them bad language.

On Facebook, this would read:

Bwaaa Haa haa. Toby taught his parrot to say @@**@. Here is a video of unsuspecting old ladies walking past. #Parrotcusswords #Nevertrustaparrot


From Silver World, Lake City Colorado, January 29, 1876

Snow is several feet deep at timber line on Pikes Peak.

On Facebook, this would read:

Snow is several feet deep at timber line on Pikes Peak. #Mustbewinter

Some things never change.


From Silver World, Lake City Colorado, January 29, 1876

A little boy led his dog two miles recently to see if his hind feet would catch up with is front ones; and still some people think juveniles haven’t original theories.

I’ll just leave that last one, although I can think of lots of fun hashtags.

The ability to post high quality pictures and videos has undoubtedly altered our world, for better or for worse. And, the lack of censorship has changed the tone of the posts. But human nature and the need for community hasn’t changed.




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