Peggy Sanders: Confluence Chronicles – Where City & County Meet 1-9-12
The calendar says it’s winter, yet the thermometer says it hasn’t come yet.
Winter projects take over anyway and now that includes reading and researching in old newspapers – 1890s old. Back then the newspapers were honest about their political affiliations. They didn’t try and pretend to be balanced and they told it like they saw it. Editors of competing papers in the same town really took off the gloves when they talked about each other’s writings. Other times the jabs and comments are so obscure that when they are read now, the points go right over our heads, like an inside joke. The papers are great reading. Obituaries such as we have now were scarce, unless the deceased was well known in the community. If a person died a horrible death that was published along with all the gory details, and I do mean gory. Readers didn’t need photos.
On the other hand, the positive press, especially regarding town improvements, new businesses or old ones changing hands and tourism, bordered on silly with its enthusiasm and sometimes poetic flair. A few examples: “Now is the most appropriate time to visit. Nature is adorning herself with a mantle of green and fragrant flowers, and fall river is decked out in her festal robes. Those who are tired of the mud, dust, and turmoil of city life can here repose in umbraguous shade, upon velvet moss, beside the gurgling, limpid stream.”
“Mr. Frank Durlin of Council Bluffs, Iowa who is an engineer on the Northwestern Railroad has been visiting during the past week, investigating for himself the truth of the reports in references to the virtues of the water and the congeniality of the climate, and he says that the half has not been told in regard to the beauty and attractiveness.”
“The town has assumed a highly animated appearance during the past week, people from all parts of the world are flocking here. The public begins to realize the truth that we have the best and most powerful medicinal waters in America, right here in Hot Springs, S.D., the most beautiful scenery and most delightful and congenial climate (and people) in the world.”
It was called boosterism and newspapers were great at it. Every old paper I’ve read had the same take on things. Actually, it is rather refreshing to read such positive words, especially in a newspaper. Any mention of any progressive projects was written up in a manner that would modern day ad writers shake their heads. Every store was the most modern, up-to-date with the latest lines of whatever they sold. When store proprietors went to market, it was publicized so potential buyers could being salivating over new purchases to come. Naturally, the prices were, “the best” and the selections, “the finest.” Those ads haven’t changed much though some other verbiage has.
Back then, the word “hustler” was a favorable description, not a pejorative. Boosterism isn’t found in my spell checker because it’s no longer in our vocabulary. , but it is no less applicable. Let’s bring those words and their positive connotations back into use.
Peggy reads and writes at the family farm in southwestern South Dakota. She can be contacted through Peggy@PeggySanders.com.