Thursday, September 24, 2015

Eli Lilly -- famous Hoosier

There are probably very few areas of central Indiana that have not been affected by Eli Lilly. Countless millions of people around the world probably never heard of the guy but benefited from it all the same.

Lilly was a pharmaceutical giant.

His relationship to the history of Fairfield, the state, the country and the world ... difficult to measure. The Lilly pharmaceutical business is one of the most intriguing in all the world. Most "big pharma" is like that.

Lilly can be mentioned in the same conversation with Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie and, probably if Lilly were alive today, Bill Gates or Steven Jobs. When Lilly spoke, people listened. When he acted, people's lives were changed.

Lilly around 1900
Who was he? His history is well-documented and I will touch on some bits of it just to make the yarn a little more wow and little less yawn.

James H. Madison, Indiana University history professor and author who specializes in Hoosier life, wrote the Lilly biography in 1989, and the story is mesmerizing.

In 1930, Lilly and his associates developed an efficient process for the mass-manufacture of insulin, calling it in some of their advertising "An Epoch in the History of Medicine. A Boon to the Human Race." (Insulin had been "invented" about 10 years earlier in Canada.)

The Lilly name was instantly set aside as something slightly different from the average run-of-the-mill soothing salve salesman.

The Lilly family had begun their march to the top in the industry a decade or so before that time and, as Madison writes:

"The American pharmaceutical industry changed rapidly in the late 1910s and 1920s. World War I increased the demand for pharmaceuticals and cut off supplies of German drugs and chemicals, forcing American companies to speed up development of their own capabilities in production, research and development."

It stood to reason that the winners in that race would be those that could attract top people, invest money wisely and efficiently and produce medicines that could be afforded, dispensed and ... worked.

Lilly's father, Eli Sr., who had begun working with pharmaceuticals years earlier and was running the Indianapolis company when the war broke out, told his sons Eli Jr. and Joseph to ramp up production of a typhoid vaccine, according to Madison's biography. Old Eli Sr. realized he needed to produce something of value.

"Damnable Barbaric Germany" had come face-to-face with Eli Lilly and was about to lose.

Lilly found financial support from abroad as well when the supplies were reaching the front. Later, Joe Lilly enlisted and became a medical officer in the European theater.

But the stress of wartime production of medicines evidently taught the Lillys some lessons. After the conflict ended, they focused on refining production of their various products.

Insulin emerged and gave the company plenty of financial leverage.

By then, Eli Jr. had taken control of the company from his father.

Lilly was seemingly at the forefront for every crisis that the nation faced. When World War II broke out, it was the Lilly family which developed a useful blood plasma and a large-scale amount of penicillin. Lilly refused to profit from blood plasma production. "By war's end, the firm had dried over 2 million pints of blood, about 20 percent of the United States total," Madison reveals.

Inevitably, it was Lilly's attachment to efficiency in production that emerged as his strongest suit and established his company as one of the most influential of the 20th century, outside of the automobile industry.

After World War II ended, America began to find new ways of healing itself. The home remedy culture faded fast when the marketing of prescription medicine took root. Health insurance emerged as did the consumer's ability to "fix what ailed 'em" in a bottle.

Foreign markets emerged in the 1950s.

What remains fascinating about Lilly, who died in 1977, is his interest in philanthropy outside the business world. He invested vast sums of money in archaeology, historical preservation and the arts. He gave away millions of dollars through his endowment. His family home remains open to the public near the Indianapolis Museum of Modern Art (near Crown Cemetery).

Madison writes an intriguing story about Lilly, who showed a unique appreciation for the history of Indiana.

HISTORY OF INSULIN

CONNER PRAIRIE -- A LILLY PROJECT (Wikipedia)

WAWASEE -- A LILLY PROJECT 


Hello?

A book published by the Indiana Telephone Association is stashed somewhere next to one about Dillinger, old-time trains and the history of Indiana University's music department.

It's one of those books you pick up, flip through for a couple of seconds and ... wait! What?

Bell, younger years
Then you stop at a photo of Alexander Graham Bell and you're thinking ... this guy doesn't look like a geek inventor.

Meanwhile, "Hoosier Connections" (Stephen Shearer, 1992) starts churning out tidbit after tidbit about the history of the telephone in Indiana and, you're hooked. Put everything else on hold ... listen to the Thousand Violins do the Beatles.

"On September 21, 1877, an advertisement appeared in the Indianapolis News announcing that the general public was welcome to come and witness the wonder of the telephone and see firsthand the marvelous ability of this new contraption to carry human speech across a wire."

Press "2" if you want to read more.

"2"

The amazing new device was being demonstrated at the Engle & Drew Coal Company. For three weeks, the public was being lured in. The telephone had become an integral part of the future of Indiana.

Indeed, the entire nation.

Press "3" if you want to learn what happened next.

"3"

By 1880, telephone exchanges were being set up in larger communities, places where businesses and industries were beginning to thrive as the result of the expansion of the railroad, as well as the natural gas boom BLOG ITEM that was turning central Indiana into a bustling core of trade.

The book reveals that a telephone exchange had been set up as early as 1878 in Shelbyville. "The annual cost for the hand telephones and magneto bells totaled 30 dollars. The original 'lease of telephones' was found in some old papers ... in 1923."

In that first lease, the papers reveal, was for two telephone sets and two magneto bells for use on a line from the office of the Shelbyville Gas & Light Company and another firm.

At the time, nobody much cared who did what with the telephone. Stick up a pole, get some equipment and do your own telemarketing.

Press '4' to hear more about marketing opportunities.

'4'

By 1885, the state legislature began to regulate telephone rates despite strong opposition from the Bell Telephone Company and Western Union Telegraph Company. The legislation came from state Rep. Samuel W. Williams, aka "Telephone Sam."

Williams, from Knox County, evidently had a somewhat colorful history as a criminal defense lawyer but his life is anecdotal to this blog entry. I will include a link to him at the end of this piece.

Press '5' to learn more about how to save on local and long-distance calling.

Um ... '5'

A maximum of $3 a month for local service with toll charges capped at a dime ... and the telephone company said that was less than it needed to keep its investments practical.

The thrust of the legislation inevitably meant less competition for telephone service, which brings us back around to modern-day business. Call it the party-line effect. The phone company had opposed the very legislation that finally allowed it to become a monopoly, which led to legislation that ended its role as a monopoly.

And as business is peculiar, the demand for telephones served to enhance the appetite of those who were willing to invest in it. By 1895, "Hoosier Connections" reveals, there were "newly formed independent companies in Knightstown, Rochester, Tipton, Indianapolis and Valparaiso."

Later, a second wave of new exchanges were set up, one of them in Brookville, formed under management of Ray Goudie.

It had been only 20 years after A.G. Bell had beckoned Mister Watson to his room to discuss the need for new area codes.

Press '6' to repeat the menu options or stay on the line to speak to a customer service representative.

By the end of the 19th century, the overload was obvious ... dozens of independent telephone exchanges had been set up and there was no end in sight.

Telephone usage grew at a phenomenal rate. In 1895, about 5,000 phones existed in Indiana. By 1905, the number had increased to 104,000. Another 25,000 were added the following year.

By 1907, the complexities of the battle for wire time would begin to show up in basic economics, the book says. "Good business judgment and regulation by the state gradually eliminated the duplication of service in most communities."

The creation of a state Public Service Commission in Indiana in 1913 paved the way for a sensible approach to telephone service, one that would finally give Bell almost unchallenged authority for nearly 50 years.

Indiana Bell itself had been formally founded in around 1920, a merger of five stronger companies.

"The last dual service was abolished in the state during the late 1950s when General Telephone acquired both local exchanges which served the community in and around Clay City."

And so it went.

Press '7' to hear some juicy gossip.

' 7 7 7 7 7 7 7'

The book reveals that in 1917, "the length of telephone conversations became an issue, as evidenced by proceedings filed before the Public Service Commission of Indiana:"

Thank you for holding. Our customer service representatives are all busy serving other customers.

"The Whiteland Telephone Company had rural lines and connections with other companies. Some of its party lines were eight-party. The manager of the company filed a complaint that the unending gossip was detrimental to business and he asked permission to make a small charge for each call.

"When the commission took up the hearing, the whole countryside turned out. Many subscribers testified that they had no objection to the women talking at any length they wished so the commission ruled it could do nothing. Women could gossip over the telephone line as long as they liked and they could not be penalized by an extra service charge."

Para Espanol, marque el nueve.

By 1910, telephone service had become a reliable form of communication for thousands of Hoosiers. When service was out during storms or floods, the impact was noticeable. A sleet storm in 1937 tore out telephone communication ahead of the devastating flood on the Whitewater and Ohio rivers.

High water flooded many telephone exchanges. "Water destroyed any property that could not be moved to avoid it. Fresh water and electricity became rare commodities in cities where water was 20 and sometimes 30 feet above flood stage.

"Many towns were completely engulfed by the high water, and some exchanges were submerged entirely. Industrious telephone employees improvised in many different ways to maintain the service that the public desperately needed during that crisis."

We're sorry. The number you have reached is no longer in service.

S. W. WILLIAMS BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

ALEXANDER G. BELL

WATSON!

MA BELL (Wikipedia)


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

We don't need no stinkin' rats!

By the time 1934 rolled around, Franklin County was fed up.

With rats, that is.

A headline in the Democrat (if a headline could scream!) boldly proclaimed:

INTEREST IS HIGH IN
COUNTY RAT DRIVE

Banquet To Be Served
Rodents on Tuesday 
Night, Oct. 6

RED SQUILL IS BAIT

It's doubtful the rats received engraved invitations to the feast, but the story spelled out what was in store for the little vermin.

"Arrangements for the county-wide rat banquet have been completed and the number of people commenting on the campaign and inquiring about the bait indicates that an unhappy time awaits the rat population during the next two weeks."

A rat
The term "rat banquet" could be interpreted a couple of ways, I suppose, but we get the drift of it.

"Requests for the bait have been pouring in at the various places where it will be available on the banquet day, showing that people are determined to do their best to oust Mr. Rat, according to R.L. Zell, county agricultural agent."

Ousting Mr. Rat ... clever!

I've found nothing substantive to suggest that the rat population in Franklin County in 1934 had reached anything resembling epidemic proportions, but the story suggests strongly that the vermin were indeed a significant problem.

Drimia Maritima
As if rats are not a problem at any other time.

But for farmers, rats have always been carriers of disease, destructive to stored crops and a nuisance near livestock, especially hogs.

Turns out, "Richard Ashely of Whitewater Township, who used this type of bait two years ago, reported that he gathered up a half-bushel measure full of big rats, old rats, little rats and all kinds of rats following the banquet night."

Ewwwwwwwwwwwww ... a basketful of dead rats! Be still, my heart.

"Many questions have been asked the county agent about the prepared red squill bait. He refers to the authority on the subject, the federal Bureau of Biological Survey, who state that the main reason for using red squill is the fact that it is deadly to rats but relatively harmless to humans, pets, and livestock."

Whew!

So you could stash this stuff right up next to the cornmeal and be fairly safe. It's actually quite herbal, from what I've read. Only a rat could love this stuff, however.

"The prepared bait is put up in tight tin cans and all a person needs is a can opener and a teaspoon to serve the rats the evening of the banquet."

That's all you need? Whoa!

What's great about this stuff was that there were "three separate cans, containing fish, meat, and cereal, in a package. This is enough to bait the average premises."

Hardware, eggs, rat poison
Indeed, a banquet!

"Letters have gone out to all parts of the county announcing the campaign. Order cards were enclosed for the convenience of those who cooperate."

Price for this concoction of deadly gruel? A half-a-buck and available at several places around the county, including the Jinks Store in Fairfield.

Stores in nearly every community in the county offered the red squill in such notable outlets as Perdine's store in Blooming Grove, Wm. Hart's place in Sharptown, Fosler and Son in Laurel, Carroll's in Peppertown and at the elementary school in Bath.

What? The school?

Rats have ceased to be a problem in Fairfield.

RED SQUILL



Monday, September 21, 2015

History from the ground up -- Part 8

As was wont to occur in those olden days, the topics on the table were frequently discussed, debated and dissected in the weekly newspaper.

Evidently a discussion of sorts concerning the origins of the various religious sects had emerged in 1927 in the Brookville area, and the weekly Democrat allowed for exploration of the topic by none other than the fabled Dr. Abraham Preston of Fairfield.

Doc Preston's office was a somewhat unusual icon along Main Street in Fairfield, even to the end. It sat closed up, gathering whatever time and paper gather ... and we just walked past it every afternoon after school. (Yes, we have a photo!)

In any case, the Aug. 25, 1927, edition of the Democrat allowed Dr. Preston to elaborate on some of the nuances of that, which was headlined:

RELIGIOUS HISTORY
OF FRANKLIN COUNTY

Dr. Preston Gives Us More
Facts from the Pen of
Dr. Goodwin

"Editor, Brookville Democrat:

"For the benefit of the present day readers of your paper, I am moved to add more from the pen of Dr. Thomas A. Goodwin, which you have pleased to call 'Religious History of Franklin County'.

"Continuing, he remarks: --

"I have gone around the Whitewater Circuit as it was fifty years ago. I am indebted to Rev. Joseph Tarkington who traveled the circuit in 1833 on a salary of $148, for important data as to the list of appointments. At the Conference of 1835, all north of the north line of Franklin county was set off to the Liberty Circuit, and the remaining portion constituted the Brookville Circuit."

And so on went Dr. Preston in what Dr. Goodwin had revealed about the formation of various Methodist divisions in the valley.

"The first preachers on this Brookville circuit were Boyd Phelps and Samuel M. Reeves.

"From some cause I have no recollection of Mr. Phelps. He located soon afterward. Mr. Reeves was a very pleasant man. The preacher who followed the next two years was, taking him all in all -- one of the most useful men that had ever been on the circuit, and I doubt whether he has had any superior in the forty years that have since elapsed. The first year that Henry S. Dane traveled Brookville circuit, he was encumbered by a young man of high ambition but very moderate abilities."

Dane had come to Indiana from Vermont and apparently was supposed to "check in" in Bedford before being dispatched to his assignment.

As some juncture upon arrival in Franklin County, Dr. Goodwin write that "Christopher Masters at Fairfield gave him a home free of rent if he would live in Fairfield. During the two years he traveled the circuit, he did much toward building Wesley Chapel and the churches in Blooming Grove and Fairfield, and bought the parsonage in Brookville, and made preliminary arrangements to build the church in Brookville."

Meanwhile:

"The present wholesome moral atmosphere of Fairfield owes much to him, Dane was often eccentric -- perhaps always. He had a quaint way of saying things that (he) always told."

Confusing use of the language, to be sure. In a phrase, you probably just needed to be there to know what Doc Preston was sharing from the "pen of Dr. Goodwin."

Preston reveals in his treatise that there "was no Methodist meeting hose east of the East Fork until 1837, and there was no preaching on Sunday by local preachers except that occasionally the preacher who preached at 11 o'clock in Brookville went to Fairfield in the afternoon instead of to Ebenezer, once in two weeks."

Ebenezer Church was located a couple of miles north of Brookville on S.R. 1.

Without context, it's difficult to ascertain Doc Preston's motives, other than he was a scholarly sort, and clearly took an interest in the intellectual conversations of the day. Discussions about the origins and history of the Methodist Church were always in favor.

And as we know, the Methodist Church was quite important in the lives of most who lived in Fairfield, even at the end.

It's worth noting that Doc Preston's long and wordy "letter to the editor" was prominently displayed on the front page of the newspaper and was carried over to Page 3.


WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ...

Fairfield: Town Under the Lake reveals:

The December 2, 1967, Indianapolis News reported that “Prof. Warren Roberts, Indiana University Folklore Institute, dismantled the doctor‟s office, gently and gingerly. It will be shipped to Bloomington and reconstructed complete with many of the pioneer physician's instruments. The office is thought to be about 100 years old.”

Roberts and IU never got together on the project and the reconstruction of the office did not happen. In fact, the land was sold and it's likely that the building, in whatever shape it was in 50 years ago, is in slightly worse shape today. If it exists at all.

Ebenezer Church on St. 1 north of Brookville.
This wreck is not the original church
but it was abandoned sometime in the 1920s.



Tuesday, September 15, 2015

History from the ground up -- Part 7

By 1922, Indiana's attempts to improve its roads bordered on the unpredictable. Most winters yielded uncompromising discomfort the following spring and it's probably worth noting that Franklin County's roads were never much more than acceptable.

Maybe still aren't.

But the Brookville Democrat published a few articles in 1922 that suggested at least somebody was paying attention to the problem -- somebody who maybe didn't have to drive on the slabs of slop.

"The weather during the last few weeks has put the roads in bad condition. Even the state and county roads that had been frequently dragged during the winter became badly cut through in many places. It is going to require a great deal of work and and an expenditure of large sums of money to restore the roads to normal conditions. Running heavy trucks when the roads are soft caused much of the damage."

And in the nick of time, the federal government came to the rescue, sort of.

Of all bureaus, it was the Department of Agriculture that took the lead on presenting a plan to at least address the problem of bad roads.

The Democrat's article explained the plan.

TRAFFIC WEAR ON BRIDGES
New Instrument Measures With Scientific
Precision the Effect of Every Shock

"A new instrument devised by the bureau of public roads of the U.S. Department of Agriculture measures with scientific precision the effect of every shock and blow delivered by moving vehicles in crossing a bridge.

"Attached to any part of the bridge structure, this instrument makes a photographic record of the effect of the moving load. The amount of stretching or shortening of the part as a result of the shocks is represented by a fine black line on the photograph.

"It has never before been possible to measure the effect of such blows. Engineers have long been able to calculate the effect of standing loads very exactly; but because of their inability to measure the effect of quickly delivered blows or impacts, they have never been able to proportion the various parts of a bridge with absolute assurance."

One can presume from this article that the engineering required to make a stable bridge was enhanced by the device.

"It has been necessary to make a liberal allowance for this unknown quantity. In some cases the allowance has not been sufficient and bridges have collapsed under moving loads."

Whoa, no fun!

The article went on to say that many bridges were, at the time, probably too weak to handle the larger trucks that had begun to move commerce across a rapidly changing America. It was an era where truck commerce was unregulated. If you could get it on the trailer, you could haul it.

About all they had to go on in those days was a guess at how fast one ought to be driving when crossing a bridge.

"It is believed this new measuring instrument will soon do away with uncertainty. The knowledge gained by its use will enable the engineer to design bridges which are sure to hold up under fast-moving vehicles and to build such bridges without undue waste of material and money."

The USDA's control over roads during that time is perhaps peculiar but it was largely an agrarian economy that used the roads. And bad roads were bad for business.

The USDA estimated that farmers lost more than $300,000 in value in 1921 due to their inability to move their goods over shoddy roads.

"Roads that are impassable during part of the year cost farmers in every community thousands of dollars a week. When one stops to think that in every township laid out in sections, there are 72 miles of roads, it is easy to imagine the mileage of roads in this country," according to an essayist examining the problem for the USDA.

"It would be excellent if we could have all hard roads -- brick, concrete or macadam roads, which are good all-year roads. We should have more of them. But it is impracticable to pave every country road. However, it is just as important to have good laterals leading to the main roads. So we must do the best we can and properly maintain our dirt roads and streets."

MEANWHILE:

"Twenty-one thousand miles of roads have been built with federal aid in the last five years (1918-22), and these, of course, help out a whole lot, but progress may have to be even greater in road building unless the automobiles are to take turn about."

And ...

"Motortrucks ruin pavements about as fast as they are laid. As fast as pavements get stronger, trucks get larger and loads heavier."

Thursday, September 10, 2015

History from the ground up -- Part 6

"Mrs. Esta Whitman is helping to care for Mrs. Noree Cory, who is very sick."

"Clem Moore of Cincinnati spent Friday night with Theo Cromwell."

"The burning out of the chimney on the John Glaub farm house caused quite an excitement among the citizens Sunday evening."

"Dr. J.M. Linegar and family will move to his farm northwest of town the coming week."

"Arthur Lunsford and wife will move into the property vacated by Dr. Linegar and family."

"Shawnee Council No. 229 D. of P. Fairfield, will entertain the members only of Keokuk tribe No. 205, I.O.R.M., Saturday evening, April 18, at the Red Men's Hall."

"Leut Masters and family, of near Liberty, spent Sunday with Mrs. Rose Kingery and son Everett."

"Mrs. Rose Kingery and son Everett spent Saturday night and Sunday with Leut Masters and family near Liberty."

Meanwhile, this advertisement

Next Saturday night, Oct. 24, comes to your city highly recommended by press and public. Has played to capacity business all through the state of Indiana. The comedy situations are really funny, handled by capable comedians, headed by that well known musical comedy star, Harry (Happy) Moore, assisted by a clever cast.

Well-known Happy Harry!

And George Hildebrand, out at Laurel, has a coon dog for sale.

Ranging from the Pig Feeders Club, sponsored by the Kiwanis in Franklin County, to a county-wide tuberculosis clinic, the range of information that affected the lives of regular people in the 1920s is astonishing. If you had been born, you were a source of news.

But sometimes the news was VERY BIG.

This Democrat headline from the late 1920s:

Big Patriotic Meeting
By the Fairfield School

At a large patriotic meeting held in the M.E. Church, Fairfield, Ind., Tuesday evening, Oct. 20, Miss Bernice Loper and Miss Beulah Watler won the first and second local prizes by writing the best essays, "Why Will the Preservation of the U.S. Ship Constitution Promote Patriotism!"

Miss Loper also won the Bronze Medal, the first prize in the Connersville Elks District offered by Commander Marion Eppley, U.S. N.R on the same subject.

These meetings were held in almost every part of the country, by the school children, to help save and preserve the old ship Constitution now at the Navy Yard at Boston, Mass.

The Fairfield school children donated $9.20, and it is hoped from the excellence of Miss Loper's essay that she will win one of the two National medals offered by Commander Eppley. 

John R. Morton, P.E. Ruler of Newport News, Lodge B.P.O. Elks, presented the medals and delivered the oration.

---

In other news:

"Attendance at Sunday school last Sunday was 101. Collection $3.65."

And ...

"Mrs. Cinna Logan is in very poor health."

This item is peculiar.

"The Virginians Colored Quartette (sic) will give the fourth number of the Fairfield Lyceum Course on Thursday evening, February 23. Admission 25 and 50 cents."


History from the ground up -- Part 5

Sometime in the summer of 1925, Gatch Miller of Lawrenceburg visited friends in St. Leon.

That same year, Indiana's legislators came down hard on what had been the scourge of civilized society.

According to the Brookville Democrat, the Indiana House ... "with a single dissenting vote ... passed the most stringent prohibition enforcement act ever enacted into law in Indiana."

The 1920 Volstead Act outlawing the consumption, production and sale of alcohol, was a mere piker compared to what Indiana approved.

The newspaper report continues, explaining that unanimous approval of a co-operative marketing bill also passed the House, an agriculture measure that was also part of the Volstead Act, generally related to Prohibition.

The prohibition law included "provisions whereby a judge is prohibited from suspending sentence on third offense; accepting evidence obtained on faulty search warrants as valid, and generally strengthening the penalties for the violation of the prohibition enforcement act."

It's difficult to see how these changes qualified the Indiana prohibition law as "more stringent" but it's a cinch the abolition of booze was a work in progress for more than one state legislature as the decade inched along. Being politically against booze was something separate from being really against booze.

Volstead, of Minnesota
The cooperative marketing bill was a method for allowing farmers to move grain products that they were being prohibited from selling for production of whiskey or beer. Farmers had been typically opposed to Volstead for that reason.

In essence, the legislation of 1925 allowed for the corporate establishment of Farm Bureau cooperatives that exist today in modified forms. It's worth noting that specific years for specific legislation varied from state to state and the agriculture industry was more flexible than others, depending on ... well, the state of the crop from region to region.

The legislature also came down hard on folks who didn't pay their bills. A measure by state Sen. Denver Harlan of Richmond gained approval. "It is directed at those persons in all classes who do not pay their bills, or do not intend to pay them," Harlan said in the Democrat report.

Admittedly, not much about that competes with what Gatch Miller had on his mind when he trekked up the valley to St. Leon that summer morning.

But it is important to know that the weekly newspaper in those days did present state and national news of merit, aiming it at an audience that was keenly interested in the subject matter.

Meanwhile, the Jinks family:
  • Mabel went shopping Monday in Connersville.
  • Herbert has a sore foot.
  • Julia is recovering from her operation.
We thought you just needed to know that.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

History from the ground up -- Part 4

Rockin' the revival!
Our ongoing look at the history of Fairfield essentially from the town's own point of view:

Well into the 1960s when the town finally went out of business, the business of minding other people's business was nothing short of an art form.

In that regard, Fairfield was not unique. The mind-numbing tedium of the weekly town reports can be endlessly amusing.

Off and on, back in "the day," some real news came out of Fairfield, though it's difficult sometimes to evaluate it. Take this example from a 1920s Brookville Democrat:

Fairfield W.F.M.S.
Held Interesting Meeting
---
The W.F.M.S. of the Fairfield Church met with Mrs. Herbert Jinks for the January meeting. The opening song was "I love to tell the story," by the Victrola.

After prayer, Mrs. Preston read the hymn, "Where cross the crowded ways of life." The hostess had charge of the devotions "Your mecca and mine" from "The Rose Jar." 

Mrs. Preston presented the second chapter of "A study of the Master Personality," Mrs. Herbert Ward reading the same. Mrs. Buckley gave "Native measures of reform" from scripture lesson in connection with Moslem Women.

Mrs. Herbert Ward reported getting nicely started with Little Light Bearers.

The hostess served angel cake, wafers, fruit salad and coffee.

One member was reported sick, Mrs. George Personett.

Owing to sickness and unfavorable weather, only eight members were present, yet the meeting was much enjoyed.

---

Yes, mind-numbing. The man who set the type for this thriller was probably astonished to learn that the headline was a foreshadow of something truly great.

These women were perhaps in their 40s at the time of this meeting. They'd come from vastly different worlds than we live today.

It's also important to understand that Fairfield and towns like it were not considered tasteless backwaters. Women's organizations strove to maintain a dignity and sense of morality that gets lost during our attempts to trivialize it.

Could an "interesting" meeting of the Methodist women possibly have mattered? Dunno ... click "like" if you really appreciate the taste of Mrs. Jinks's fruit salad.

It does appear, however, that some components of the meeting were scarcely "Methodist" in nature. "Little Light Bearers" appear to be Seventh Day Adventists. The "Moslem women" reference is self-explanatory. Curious stuff.

"The Rose Jar" is a book of verse and musical lyrics published in 1906 by Thomas S. Jones. One search suggests a Mormon connection to this title, though it appears Jones was not Mormon. I can't reconcile that difference.

But we need more inspiration from the Victrola!

IN OTHER NEWS!

The old Democrats are sprinkled with "filler" news, which is the old newspaper trick of having enough type to fill the columns when all the really important stuff comes up short..

No shortage of this stuff.

WAY TO KILL DANDELIONS

Experts of University of Wisconsin
Announce They Have Found
a Method 
---
The University of Wisconsin lists as among its greatest achievements the discovery of an effective "death to dandelions" treatment.


Twenty-four hours after announcement of the discovery by the university horticultural experts, thousands of letters were received inquiring for the details.

The basis of the university's new discovery is from sulphate, commonly known as green vitriol. Full investigation has shown its efficacy, it is said. The spray is made by dissolving iron sulphate, which is obtainable at any drug store, in water at the ration of two pounds to a gallon of water. One gallon of this solution will spray 800 square feet of lawn. Three sprays are necessary every year, one in May, one in June and the third in the fall.


THE ROSE JAR

PDF DOWNLOAD OF THE BOOK

Friday, September 4, 2015

History from the ground up -- Part 3

It's rare to find first-person reports about Fairfield from the 19th century that tell the story as it really was.

Pulling your chain just a little on that, but an August 6, 1891 Brookville Democrat essay about Fairfield is nothing less than inspiring.

It's provided by Julie Schlesselman, genealogy director at the Brookville library. Julie is at the forefront in publication of all things Fairfield and has become an indispensable source of research materials.

All I know about this article is that it was written by a man named W.K.B.

Owing to the fact that it's about 125 years old (as of 2015), I will assume that copyright restrictions are somewhat in the ether-zone. In other words, I plan to type the damned thing verbatim.

So sue me.

The feature, presumably a regular feature of the newspaper, is labeled

HIGHWAY AND BYWAY

Some Interesting Things Seen and 
Heard While Interviewing Old 
and Making New Patrons of the Democrat

-----

Fairfield is well named. I am not sufficiently well acquainted with the history of the place to say who christened it such, but one readily recognizes its approtiateness (sic). Fairtown, however, might now be more suitably applied. Citizens and visitors alike dilate upon her picturesque and healthful situation. Not all of the former and few of the latter, however, fully realize the extent and importance of her manufacturing industries.

A few hours with note-book were spent there Tuesday of last week. The various departments of the Loper Carriage Works were visited. These works would be a desirable addition to the industries of any town and several have been attempted to secure them, Brookville among the others.

Some twenty hands are employed. About 500 jobs, consisting of carriages, buggies, surries, jaggers and phaetons, are turned out annually. The most skilled and painstaking workmanship combined with the best obtainable materials, make the Loper buggy what it is generally recognized to be; viz, the best on the market. The particular style of buggy most extensively manufactured is that having the "piano box" bed, with various patterns of springs. These works have large and well stocked warerooms at Fairfield, Liberty, Connersville, Fayettesville and Brookville. (Fayettesville?)

Blacksmith J. W. Whitney had been a resident of Fairfield since last April, moving there from Whitcomb. Jerry has purchased property and his skill at the forge is recognized in a large and growing trade. His shop is a roomy one, well appointed and equipped in every particular.

Allison Loper had long made the anvil ring at Fairfield. His ability and merit as an artisan are well established in a business of such proportions as will keep his muscles rigid and arm brawny as long as he may so desire. The shop of Vene Loper, wagon maker and woodworker, was visited and considerable in the way of his special work reported.

Fairfield has two saw mills, one belonging to Bruns & Weirs, the other to Frank Huested. Both are equipped with the latest and most approved styles of machinery, and do a large business. She also has a handle factory, owned and operated by the firm of Bruns & Snyder. Her buhr flouring mill, owned and operated by John Bruns, produces a standard grade of flour and is usually running its full capacity.

A broom is an article much in use and liable to continue in style as long as dirt and family jars exist. But few of its users pause to consider that it is a production exhibiting considerable in the way of ingenious and skillful workmanship, or that it most admirably is suited for the various uses and abuses to which it is put.

Time can be well spent in a visit to the Water Power Broom Co., at Fairfield. Usually, much o the work required in making a broom is done by hand or foot power. Here, a 12-foot water wheel, giving steady and constant power, is utilized. The various phases of the work make an interesting sight. Ten hands are employed--four "tiers," two "sewers" and four to prepare corn. At this factory are made some eight grades of brooms, which are sold to dealers at prices ranging from $.90 fo $3.25 per dozen. It may be interesting to know the names of these various grades.

The broom bringing the highest price is known as the warehouse; then come in point of value and quality; No. 1, extra; No. 1, soft top; No. 2, carpet; No. 8, common; toy brooms; brush or whisk brooms. Ten hands, distributed as above, can turn out 200 dozen brooms a week. This means about a 400-dollar business.

When the corn is brought to the factory, it must be carefully prepared before used. It is first soaked and put into a sort of kiln where it is bleached and made pliable.

This condition is brought about by burning brimstone in the kiln for a period of almost 12 hours. The corn is then assorted and cut into proper lengths, when it is ready for the handle. As the brooms turned out by the Water Power company, nothing more need be said than that they are uniformly pronounced by merchants and customers to be the best on the market.

BROOM CORN FACTS

In a related piece, W.K.B. also learned that the corn used for the brooms was not grown in Franklin County.

Jacob Bohlander, near Fairfield, has a field which will be harvested this fall. It brings from $60 to $100 a ton and in the corn belt of Illinois is reckoned that the production is about one ton to every three acres. The result of Mr. Bohlander's crop will be awaited with interest and if it proves profitable, considerable will be raised in that neighborhood next year.

I do not know how successful Bohlander was, but they eventually stopped making brooms in Fairfield. Witches, apply elsewhere!

MORE ON BROOM CORN

EVEN MORE ON BROOM CORN


History from the ground up -- Part 2

The beauty of news from the first third of the 20th century is that it's straightforward. There's no waffling, no rebuttal, no opposition, no debate.

If a citizen reported the news, there was news. Lying about it was simply not an option. Your name often appeared next to it and everyone who cared knew whether you were telling the truth.

The truth, as you knew it to be a fact.

Take, for example, the somewhat frightening episode that Mrs. Mary Pinkerton stared down in 1934. (Please note that she was referred to as Mrs. Mary, and with good reasons, since she was a widow, not a spouse.)

INTRUDER ALARMS
FAIRFIELD WOMAN

Aged Widow Awakens To Find Man
Standing By Bed

Mrs. Mary Pinkerton, 86, a widow living alone in Fairfield, had a terrifying experience Saturday night when she woke out of a sound sleep to find a man standing by her bed.

She screamed twice, but before neighbors could get to the scene the intruder escaped through a window. No motive is known for the act, which occurred about midnight.

The act had its counterpart in one committed about 5 years ago, when Miss Louranna (my edit: Laurana? died 1948) Yocum, an elderly woman living alone in Fairfield, was awakened by a man clutching her throat.

Citizens of Fairfield are outraged at these occurrences.

*   *   *

This report is so full of holes as to render it almost useless as believable news, but we'll run with it because it illustrates the simplicity of rural life in those days. According to the story, Mrs. Pinkerton only had to scream twice before neighbors (obviously awake and nearby at midnight) were able to rescue her.

The Democrat obviously obtained this report through its Fairfield correspondent, but one presumes the county sheriff was involved, though it's not mentioned. The convenient escape window makes the story even more compelling.

The connection with Mrs. Yocum's terrifying experience is interesting.

More basic is the naivete of the writer, the publisher and the public about the practicality of revealing such information to an anonymous readership. Both of these elderly women lived alone. Lucky for Mrs. Pinkerton, those well-placed neighbors served as a buffer against deviant behavior.

Deviant behavior didn't just start happening in the 21st century.

The correspondents (usually nosy women) who filed these weekly reports had little training in journalism, as if that was a prerequisite for gossiping about the neighbors. What results is endlessly fascinating reading that's better than a well-executed Steinbeck novel.

I didn't find very many examples of deviant behavior in Fairfield during my random searches of the county newspapers in Brookville (they are in the old high school at the clerk's office) but there were reporting trends.

In many cases, the writers (or correspondents) assumed that the baseline details were obvious. We all were (totally) aware that Mrs. Pinkerton was a lonely widow.

And if you didn't know her, you wouldn't know that.

We can therefore assume that the midnight intruder was ...

... and you can bet your last dollar that everyone in Fairfield could answer that question.

Despite, of course, their outrage.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

History from the ground up -- Part 1

It's safe to say that in the absence of excitement, we hazard on the side of being amused when it comes to the presentation of Fairfield's history after World War I.

The war itself provided its own drama and intrigue, particularly when we consider how many men who took part and, by extension, nearly everyone whose lives they touched.

The time frame after the war and the years leading into the Great Depression is best marked by the way it was presented in the local news media.

In those days, the media was essentially limited to the weekly newspapers that originated in Brookville. One presumes that similar news was printed in the nearby Liberty newspaper but for our purposes, the Brookville Democrat-American will suffice.

Newspaper publishing in those days was designed to tell the town about ... well, the town. Random sampling works nicely.

To be honest, thumbing through those old bound archives is a labor of love. It's easy to lose focus and easy to stop and say, "This stuff is amazing!" to almost anybody who's in the next room.

How

amazing

was

it?

To begin, the modern notion that the government and the mercantile industry are robbing us of our privacy -- bosh! In those days, you knew almost everything and only paid about 10 cents a week to know it.

"T.M. Conwill is very feeble as of this writing."

"Mrs. Jinks is recovering from injuries suffered in a fall at Thanksgiving while visiting her daughters in Richmond."

"The Browns are visiting friends in southern Indiana and won't be home until Friday." 

So, feel free to hop right on over and help yourself to the eggs in Heloise's chicken coop!

Random sampling suggests something rather odd ... dating back to about 1924, which was my place to start for no good reason. Some of the names of the people we knew toward the end of Fairfield's existence were the same names who appeared in those early community reports.

I have no idea who created those weekly town reports, but I have a hunch it was "Mrs. George Jinks," who would be "Julia." (If you remember Mrs. Jinks and the day she accidentally set fire to her barn, you are a true Fairfielder.)

Addressing, in third person, a woman by her husband's name (Mrs.) was traditional social etiquette until probably the 1970s. Unmarried women were "Miss" ... not "Ms."

So, "Mrs. Frank Husted" was how you knew her, unless you knew her. ("Old Goat" might be an alternative, I suppose.)

Most of the weekly reports are similar. They deal with people visiting, people having birthday parties, children being born ... mostly people visiting other people. What isn't news to you is a big deal if you have to cook two chickens for dinner or provide an extra serving of cornbread.

And you spent the next four days discussing what was discussed when the people who came to visit had topics they wanted to discuss. Remember, the telephone existed. If you had one, you probably shared it with all the other people who didn't, so visiting was about the only way to learn what was growing in the fields on the other side of Herman's hill.

You can spend all day on these old papers and come away with a sense of peace that just isn't allowed to happen now. Life was slower then, much more practical, and probably a whole lot more fun.

"Mrs. John Banning is better at this writing."

"Mrs. Andy Kelley is on the sick list."

The newspapers were not short on interesting tidbits. Some of that, in another blog item.

Meanwhile:

"Personette Sisters Concert Co. will give an entertainment at the Fairfield M.E Church, Oct. 30. Sponsored by the M.E. Church. Admission 10 and 20c."

How can it possibly get any better than that?

*   *   *

The newspaper archives are on microfilm at the Brookville library or are in bound volumes in the old high school on Franklin Street, in the clerk's office (once upon a time, aka the home-ec room).