Local News from 1894; the Evolution of Vermont-Style Journalism
Byline: Diana West, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
FAIRLEE, Vermont. - One way to size up a local community is to buy its local paper. So I did, forking over $5 for a newspaper originally priced at 4 cents. The price represents quite a mark-up until you realize this particular paper is over 100 years old, and the junk store it came from is bilking the summer tourist trade as best it can before the snow flies which, judging by the air of mistrust with which true Vermonters regard even a sustained July heat wave, could come any time now.
One of 2,000 copies printed on Friday, October 5, 1894, this barely tattered and lightly sepia-ed edition of The United Opinion could be the only copy to have survived unburnt, uncrumpled even unrecycled the rest of the 19th century, all of the 20th, and the first couple years of the 21st. On the day this eight-page broadsheet was new, Grover Cleveland was into his second term as president, the Pullman strike had recently made labor history, Hawaii was a republic, and a border dispute between Venezuela and Great Britain was raising tensions between the United States and Great Britain.
None of which is mentioned in The United Opinion. "KILLED HIS SISTER," runs the headline to a story datelined Worcester, Mass., one of two that dominate the front page. The other lead story pertains to a now-forgotten war between China and Japan that China would lose, exposing both the weakness of the Manchu dynasty and revealing Japan to be the rising power in East Asia a rise that would continue unchecked until World War II.
Not that United Opinion readers had a crystal ball in which to see this. Besides, they were probably more taken with the details of the Carr murder story, a real-life tenement melodrama among the mill workers. "William Carr Expressed no Regret at His Awful Crime. But," the headline continues, "One Dollar Left Him In His Mother's Will It Filled Him With Rage Against Other Members of the Family." Which about says it all, given that Theodore Dreiser never decided to elaborate. Of course, when it comes to dramatics, nothing in the paper compares with the advertisements: "Can it be that Insanity is Staring Me in the Face?" Try: Dr. Greene's Nevura blood and nerve remedy.
Other front-page news consists of briefs stacked in columns as the Wall Street Journal does to this day covering fishing news, mill strikes, election returns, and a challenge by Bob Fitzsimmons to "Gentleman Jim" Corbett for the heavyweight championship of the world a title Fitzsimmons would win from Corbett in 1897. …