PROFILE: 100 years ago
City council news. Court stories. Features on what young people are doing. These are staples of the 21st Century Tribune. What did newspapers 100 years ago offer readers? Some stories may seem familiar, others tell of another time when news was perhaps simpler fare. That time was Feb 24, 1910 — nearly 100 years ago today.
Who ran the show?
The precursor to The Tribune was the Ironton Register that operated from 1850 to 1926 when it merged with The Morning Irontonian to become The Ironton Tribune. It was published weekly at a princely sum of $1 per year. The president of the Register was none other than Col. H.A. Marting. F.A. Ross was listed as editor.
What was happening here?
Some stories were of national importance. The Register duly reported on a street car strike in Philadelphia.
There were also stories of legislative news from Columbus. But many of the stories were of what was happening on the home front.
One story in the Register reported that a new C&O ferry was being readied for service and would haul people and goods back and forth between Ironton and Russell, Ky.
“The Olive Foundry and Machine Works have an extra crew of men at work installing the new machinery and they say the boat will be ready for duty Saturday morning,” the article read.
Boats big and small were the sole means of getting people and goods back and forth across the river — The Ironton-Russell Bridge was still more than 10 years in the future. Bridges, in fact, were scarce sights in those days in this area.
“The Ironton-Russell Bridge was the first bridge across the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Wheeling (W.Va.),” said historian Virginia Bryant. “You think about that.”
Bryant said even when she was growing up, everyone had a boat and they used it.
“For one thing, it flooded and you had to have a boat to get out when it did,” she recalled. Spring rains often produced high water that made roadways impassable. A boat was the alternative to the buggy when that happened.
Payday must have been a big deal back then, too. An article noted “A great many thousands of dollars were distributed in Russell Monday morning among the employees of the C&O railway and their shop and yard terminals.
The payroll was very large, although not much of an increase over that of last month,” the story read.
The article also noted the payday affected not only those who earned the money but also “local merchants in every branch of trade.”
Perhaps a precursor to the modern business organization, farmers and fruit growers in the eastern end — called the upper end back then — were organizing to promote their products, as one story noted. They would be called The Rome Beauty Growers Association.
Oh, those ads
Advertisements were standard in newspapers then as they are today, though the lineup of businesses has changed.
In the last Register edition in February, the A.J. Brumberg and Co., which billed itself as “famous since 1881” hawked its end-of-the-season clearance sale. A boy’s fleece union suit was on sale for 38 cents; boy’s suspenders that were initially sold for 25 cents were on sale for 14 cents. Union suits were a fancy name for something perhaps a bit more humble, Bryant said.
“Union suits were long underwear,” she said.
There was a sale on knee pants, too. Men’s pants that regularly sold for $5 were on sale for $3.99. For 49 cents, a pair of Wright’s health underwear could be had.
Brumbergs, which closed its doors in probably the 1950s, was a staple of the Ironton business landscape for decades. Bryant worked at Brumbergs in the 1940s.
“It was one of the leading stores in its day. It was where the old Guy’s Floor Covering was (at Third Street and Park Avenue),” Bryant recalled.
Edelson’s clothing store, corner of Second and Center streets, encouraged folks to buy end of the season items now and lay away for wear next year. His ad was another Register offering from Feb. 24, 1910.
Stores back then were not big-box types with an impersonal feel. They were known for the name over the door and the store owner who knew his or her customers by name. Bryant recalled Mr. Edelson as “one of the nicest gentlemen I ever met. He was a fine, fine man,” she recalled.
An ad for Citizens National Bank, corner of Second Street and Park Avenue, lists among its directors a Marting, a Lintner, a McCauley, a Mittendorf, a Goldcamp and a Davies.
Market reports were included, too. A ton of hay could be had for $19, oats for 55 cents a bushel.
Just as they do today, the editorial board of the Register had a collective opinion on the news of the day and wasn’t afraid to espouse it. One editorial said the Ironton Board of Trade needed a new slogan to whip up enthusiasm for downtown business. The suggestion: “Two hundred members on good standing.” The newspaper chiefs exhorted everyone to get on board.
“A body of 200 live businessmen, like we have in Ironton, can accomplish wonders and that is just what we want and need,” the editorial said.
The softer side of news
Social news was as much of an offering then as it is now. One wedding announcement trumpeted the marriage of L. Franklin Kitts and Mabel F. Shafer, who were united in bliss Feb. 9 at the home of Rev. Sparks, pastor of Spencer Methodist Episcopal Church.
Some news that wouldn’t make it to print today were commonplace then and no endeavor was too small to be recorded in newspapers of the day. Orin Likens made a business trip to Huntington, W.Va., and that sojourn was dutifully included on the pages of the Register.
Even family matters made the news. One story read that little children of a widow who had just died would be “fondly cared for” by their grandparents and other relatives.
Are we speculating here?
School news was and is a journalistic staple.
One story described how Judge E.E. Corn spoke to a group of students at Ironton High School about the Spanish American War.
“Judge Corn made a splendid address and the high school pupils enjoyed it very much,” the story said.
Not just a modern matter
In court news, Edward Gilmore pleaded guilty to malicious destruction of property and discharging firearms in the city. He had first pleaded innocent to the charges but the Register noted at some point he had changed his plea.
After paying a $4.80 fine for each of the misdeeds he was let go. Gilmore was represented in court by attorney T.H. Neal. The misdeeds earned the guilty party a reprimand from the mayor, the story said.
The more things change
If weather is a problem now, it was perhaps more so then. One news story reported the CH&D train from Dayton was overdue, likely because of the snow drifts. Another reported that teachers in Burlington did not make their weekly home visits because of heavy snowfall.
You don’t see it today
One entry in the Register reported a man’s reaction to the death of his brother in an Athens hospital. The surviving brother was listed as “colored” — something we fortunately don’t see in modern newspapers.
The report of an Ironton man’s death in Kenova was perhaps equal parts of journalism and town gossip. The man died when he was struck by a train. The reporter’s description of the victim was more vivid than what editors of today would generally allow.
“He was of a rather wild nature and especially so when under the influence of evil companions,” the report said of the man.