While browsing the historical newspapers on Chronicling America, I was waylaid by a BSO (bright, shiny object) – the opportunity to read The Monett Times 8-page issue of 26 February 1909. Monett reported the news of Lawrence and Barry Counties, Missouri, home to my husband’s Sturgell family, and a bit of surrounding areas. It also carried a few national and state level news items.
First, how much did the newspaper cost back then? How much did the average worker make per hour, to put things in scale? The average worker in the United States in 1909 earned about 22 cents per hour or somewhere between $200-$400 per year.
Delivered daily, paying one year in advance, The Monett Times cost a family $3.50. I would say that was quite a reasonable cost. If you could settle for reading the paper a day or two later, mail delivery was $2.50 and, if you liked to sit and read a pile of papers at one time, weekly delivery by mail was a bargain price at $1.00.
What was happening in late February 1909?
Circuit Court was in session:
Circuit Court News
The legality of a sewer tax in Monett was being challenged and, if you were in the midst of a divorce, all your friends and acquaintances knew about it.
Social events were big news, but genealogists are treated to snapshots of day-to-day life. Our ancestors went to church socials, holiday parties and even traveled out of town to visit friends or family who had moved away.
Americans are a litigious group and, even back then, there was news of a lawsuit, filed against the Frisco Railroad.
Frisco Railroad Depot Platform
The plaintiff, Mrs. Alta Lee, was awarded $12,000 – a huge sum for the time, given that the average yearly pay was only a few hundred dollars.
There were plenty of advertisements, some of which looked much like modern ads:
Monett Train Trips
Perry & Hobbs Foods
Did you catch the phone number for Perry & Hobbs? Barry County was quite rural and I doubt there were many telephones there in 1909. A single digit phone number of “3” would tend to support that belief! By the way, you might know this if you are from the South, but I had never heard of chow chow. It’s a vegetable relish.
There were only a few telephones, perhaps a luxury most couldn’t afford, but there was an electric theater in town, presenting entertainment, both silent films and live performers:
Telephones were not in widespread use, but more and more homes were using some form of electricity:
Electricity at Home
Other ads were presented as actual news stories:
Doan’s Kidney Pills
Dr. Shoop’s Cough Remedy
It’s comforting to know that Dr. Shoop’s products didn’t contain opium (which was legal at the time) or CHLOROFORM!
The Cassville school announcement was another item I found interesting:
Cassville School Enrollment
I’m not sure what an “outside pupil” was unless it referred to a child who lived outside of the town lines. Apparently, those children who had no other access to schooling, likely living on farms, had to pay tuition.
Membership was up at the Baptist, Methodist and Methodist Episcopal Churches:
Revival Brings Upturns
Weather and crop news was super important for this farming community:
Wheat was looking good!
Finally, I love this play on words with Henry Badger’s name and the fact that he would be out courting in his new “rubber-tired buggy”:
I couldn’t help myself with this one – I just had to find Henry in the census. His parents were, indeed, Daniel Badger and Elizabeth Bear. Henry was born in 1888 and I’m not sure his new buggy brought him his wife, as he didn’t marry until 1919. However, Henry lived a long, full life, passing away not long before his 90th birthday in 1978. Curiosity satisfied.
If you’ve never taken the time to actually browse through an historical newspaper, look for one in an area where your ancestors lived. You might find some real gems, but at the very least, you’ll enjoy the day’s news.
Source for all clippings: Chronicling America