Jul 16, 2011

Trash Talk-1850s Style & All the News That's Fit to Print

I spent a few hours at the Stearns History Museum, reading 19th century newspapers on microfilm. My third great grandfather, Isaac Parks (1820-1894), opened up a brickyard in St Cloud, Minnesota in 1858 with a business partner, George Dunton. So far, I've gone through various St Cloud newspapers from 1858 to mid-1860, but to no avail. There are plenty of ads for different kinds of stores, attorneys, surveyors/engineers, carpenters, a mason/plasterer, and lime and other construction materials. If there was a need for a mason and lime, there must've been bricks, but apparently they didn't advertise much. I did find Isaac's death notice in The Avalanche newspaper from Sauk Centre, Minnesota, but it didn't provide any new information.

However, in the process of skimming the newspapers, I ran across several amusing articles. My favorite was a snippet from a Pennsylvania newspaper, announcing a hunter had killed a 140 lb deer. The subsequent trash-talking commentary is hilarious:1
We're justifiably proud of our deer in Minnesota–they're generally bigger than deer in other parts of the country.

The second story was kind of sad [but I didn't think to scan it]. Some conjoined twin girls (Siamese twins) were kidnapped from their family, and literally sold from one freak show to another. Eventually, they were reunited with their mother, and she was offered $50,000 to give up her daughters. Not a small sum of money in those days, but the mother didn't budge and the family was back together for good. At least it had a happy ending.

Finally, you may recall the Jackass cast member who killed himself and his passenger last month, driving over 130 MPH while drunk.2 One hundred fifty one years prior, this article shows people have always found ways to kill themselves when being careless:3
I think that would qualify for a Darwin Award, had they been around in 1860. But a larger point can be taken from this: newspapers have always printed sensational stories to attract readership. The old cliche, "if it bleeds, it leads," has been true for a long time. Radio, TV, and other media today have merely followed the same trend.

1. "Deer Hunting," St Cloud Democrat, St Cloud, Minnesota, 25 November 1858, page 2, column 6; microfilm, Minnesota Historical Society, St Paul, Minnesota.
2. Alan Duke, "Police: 'Jackass' star Ryan Dunn was drunk and driving over 132 mph," CNN, West Goshen, Pennsylvania, 22 June 2011 (http://articles.cnn.com/2011-06-22/entertainment/ryan.dunn.drunk_1_fiery-crash-jackass-star-car-crash : accessed 16 July 2011).
3. "Cut Off His Own Head," St Cloud Democrat, St Cloud, Minnesota, 23 August 1860, page 3, column 1;
microfilm, Minnesota Historical Society, St Paul, Minnesota.

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