December 2014

An old newspaper from July 1901 dealt with three news items: the visit of William Jennings Bryan to Bristol, the arrival of the Secretary of Agriculture to consider a proposed Appalachian Park reserve and the death of a Blountville Civil War veteran.

Soon after William Jennings Bryan was scheduled to visit Bristol, it appeared that the city had been overrun with hoboes for several days prior to the visit. The transients' scheme was to conduct fleecing schemes on unsuspecting victims when the crowd gathered on that special day.

During the visit, about a half dozen of the suspicious characters were incarcerated and police were on the lookout for others who might embarrass the city. Two strangers were found feigning as cripples and begging for money from gullible residents.

Another, who refused to identify himself, was locked up on that Saturday night for assaulting a visitor with a stone. The gentleman, who was at the Union Depot, suffered a fractured skull. A witness to the attack stated that the stranger first demanded money from the victim but was refused.

Within an hour from the time the tickets for Bryan's  lecture went on sale, every seat in the reserved section of the Opera House had been taken. It was evident that hundreds of admirers of the noted Nebraskan would have to be content with seeing him from a distance. 

Postcard of William Jennings Bryan and His Running Mate

Mr. Bryan's voice still counted in all parts of the country, but probably more so in his own great section beyond the Mississippi. And it was no small service he rendered the Democratic Party in the west, while Democratic leaders in another sections, who had tried to drive him from the party, were knifing the party's candidate for President.

Many historians firmly believe that no public man in the country's history had been so heavily abused and belittled as William Jennings Bryan. However, he held it together with patience and forbearance that should have won the admiration of even his enemies.

The prohibition victory in Nebraska doubtless was very gratifying to Mr. Bryan, since he was a fearless and forceful foe of the liquor traffic and also for the fact that the substance had been driven out of his state due largely to his never ceasing labors to that end.

Perhaps Bryan is best remembered for joining the prosecution team in 1925 in the trial of John Scopes, a Tennessee schoolteacher charged with violating the Butler Act, which forbid teaching evolution in the public schools. Bryan took the stand and underwent a scathing cross-examination by Clarence Darrow. Although Bryan`s side won the case, it was later thrown out on an appeal. Furthermore, the famed politician paid a high price for the victory; he died less than a week later.

In other news, it was announced here that James A. Wilson, United States Secretary of Agriculture, was on a tour of inspection of the proposed Appalachian Park reserve. The land embraced a section of several states in the South. It required $5 million to buy the lands under contemplation and several more millions to build roads through the remote areas and otherwise improve them.

It was firmly believed that the next Congress would bring about the new Appalachian reserve, but that did not happen. The national park would come several years later. During Secretary Wilson and his party's visit, they spend four days at the Cloudland Hotel on beautiful Roan Mountain.

More news included a Civil War veteran, Mr. James P. Snapp, who died at his home at Blountville, Tennessee at the age of 78. He was described as being a useful citizen and left valuable property to his relatives. He never married, was a good soldier during the War Between the States and took a firm stand for the Confederacy. Mr. Snapp graduated from Emory and Henry College at the age of 20. Some of his many relatives resided in Bristol.

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During Christmas 1906, Gov. Bob Taylor submitted a depiction to The Comet newspaper, offering his views of what Christmas is all about, from both the spiritual and traditional sides of the holiday:

Bob L. Taylor in One of His More Reflective Poses

“The season of peace and good will joins upon us the command to love one another and this command all mankind cheerfully complies with during the time of cheer and good feeling. A man can love even his successful political opponents at Christmas.

“I love to think of that first Christmas in far off Galilee. I see the lovely maiden mother holding to her heart the Holy Babe, dazzled by the radiant purity of its angel face. The rapture of a young mother when she clasps her first-born to her breast is an ecstasy but little lower than the angels feel as they bow before the throne of the Most High.

“In that first exalted moment, she molds and shapes Him to a high, pure destiny, such as the mind of a man scarcely conceives and triumphantly spanning countless eons of eternity, she hears his name ringing ever louder and clearer through the ages and wraps herself with sublime humanity in the thought that she has given to his Maker's service a man.

“Thus mothers have brooded and dreamed since time began and their pure aspirations and high hope and enduring faith clear the world of sin and baseness. God walks with them in their communings and God's listening ear attends rather their prayers and supplications than to the records of mans' misdeeds.

“His power, which fashioned man in His own image, reaches out to touch our hearts and renew man's allegiance to Him at this blessed Christmas tide. I think He is nearer to us at this time than any other. His thought is manifest in every rock and hill and vale, in every brook and river, which bears upon its bosom crystal temples to His glory.

“The rustle of His wings is in every zephyr; His might is in every tempest. He dwells in the dark pavilion of every storm cloud and the heavens above us teem with His myriads of shining witnesses.

When I was a young man in my teens and twenties, the Christmas season was the brightest of the year. I used to take my fiddle under my arm at evening when the whippoorwill began to sing and the stars began to twinkle and hie me away to the merry makings in the mountains. We always gathered at the happy home of some jolly warmhearted old neighbor who threw open his doors to the young folks for an evening of mirth and pleasure.

“During the candy pulling and the country dance amid peals of laughter and shouts of merriment, we pulled the taffy into golden hanks and the glad hours floated away on silver waves of music that rippled out like mountain brooks from under the bridge of my fiddle.

“When the old-fashioned clock that stood on the floor struck 12, our carnival of candy and kisses and wheeling and whirling in the Old Virginia Reel had reached the high tide of unspeakable bliss and unutterable joy. The moonbeams danced in the air to the melody of the fiddle and the bow.

“The drowsy hills awoke from their slumbers and clattered back in echoes the jangle of the dwindling shoe soles. When the clock struck two, the sound of revelry had died away, the fiddle had fainted with exhaustion, the lovers scattered into dark corners where each Romeo sat and held his sweetheart's hand in silence until the chickens crowed for day and then we went home with the girls in the morning.”

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In the 1950s, many of us faithfully went to see western movies at the Liberty Theatre located at 221 E. Main Street. The building on the west (Fountain Square) side at 219 E. Main was the Darling Shop, a ladies clothing store. If we were to turn the clock back to Christmas 1914, we would have encountered another business operating from that site – the London-Kirkpatrick Hardware Company.

That year, the business issued an 8-page advertisement printed on slick high quality paper that was chocked full of ads, including pictures of their merchandise. In addition, there were 49 jokes to amuse the reader.

Today's feature is a nostalgic excursion through those eight pages. Along the way, you will encounter Christmas gifts that were exchanged exactly 100 years ago this month. The sales ad offered these comments: 

“The advantage in Christmas shopping is always with the early buyer. Firms make special efforts to provide desirable goods adapted for presents and many of these are sold almost exclusively at this time of the year.

“No merchant desires to carry over goods from one season to another, consequently their stock is adapted to meet the probable sale. Again, when stocks are depleted, it is frequently impossible to secure a further supply in time for the holidays.

“You have a certain number of Christmas presents that you wish to make and would feel miserable and mean if you did not. Therefore, do not put it off until the last minute, but make your selections at once.

“Our store offers exceptional advantages. Perhaps you do not realize the many thousands of articles that we carry and if you would only take the trouble to call on us and look around, you would not fail to find many which would be just the thing you are looking for. We will be glad to lay aside your purchases so that you may be sure to have them at the proper time.

“By purchasing in advance, you not only secure the advantage of complete stocks but you may be sure to receive the full attention of someone who is conversant with the goods and may be of real assistance to you in making your selections. You may depend absolutely on any statement which will be made.

“We carry the best makes procurable in each separate line and to have purchased from us is a recommendation for quality.

“Decide now to make us an early call and you will be surprised how large a proportion of your presents you can purchase from us.”

Gifts for the Family: “What to give the different members of the family, as well as our many friends who are closely associated with us, is always a difficult problem. Our stores offer exceptional advantages for procuring suitable presents for all. We shall not attempt to make a list as it would be out of proportion to the space, which we can devote to this purpose. Below, we provide a few suggestions which may be of value.”

Gifts for Mother: “Mother would appreciated any kind of present and it need not be expensive either, for it is the love and respect of the giver, which she cherishes most. To be remembered is the all important thing. Any article of household use, which she has felt the need, would be very acceptable, even though it might be nothing more than a paring knife. Of course, you will give mother as nice a present as you can afford and put her name down on the list first.”

Gifts for Father: “Any old thing will do for dad. He pays the bills and doesn't expect much in return, but all the same, he will appreciate any Christmas remembrance. Tools of many different kinds or a pocket knife, razor, strop of anything of this kind would be most appropriated.”

Gifts for Sister: “Sister is a little more particular than mother or father as to what she would like. It would probably be a nice set of scissors, a fancy pen knife, manicure set or something of this class. If she is very small, a little sadiron or other hardware  toy would tickle her.”

Gifts for Brother: “Brother is very decided in his wants. He has probably been making them known for some time before Christmas and it will not be difficult to make a selection. However, it is a good plan to encourage him in the use of tools. You could purchase a small set or select a few tools for his very own that would give him necessary groundwork. A pocket knife is a favorite present for a boy, but the things he wants are too numerous to mention here.”

Percolators and Bake Dishes: “The appearance of the dinner table seems to add or detract from the pleasure of the meal and that is one of the reasons that the recipient of a percolator or a bake dish would be very pleased. We have different patterns and finishes and the prices vary accordingly.”

Chafing Dishes: “Every girl and woman longs for a chafing dish and has visions of a luncheon at which she presides and serves dainties prepared in one. We have selected some beauties, which vary in price according to size and finish. We have chafing dish forks and spoons also.

Useful, Appropriate Gifts: “Articles for kitchens and household use make appropriate presents for housewives, especially for those who delight in such work. Having the tools to lessen or improve the work makes an otherwise irksome task a pleasure. There are many articles of this character, which you cannot fail to note at our store.”

For the Ladies: “Manicure files, cuticle and nail scissors are only a small portion of articles of real worth, which we can supply. We want to call attention to our first line of scissors, pen knifes and other articles.”

Buy Her a Washer: “The store wrote a little poem for those ladies whose husbands needed to give her the tools to lighten her household chores: 'When I think as I strive, Like a bee in the hive, Without tools to lessen the task, If hubby but knew, How much there's to do, He'd surely get all that I ask.'”

We Knew It All the Time: “Another rhyme challenged the husband to be more proactive in providing her with the things she needs to care for her family: 'When mother is in the kitchen, She always pleasure brings, So why should you deny her, She needs a lot of things.”

Cross-Cut Saws: “The speed with which a good saw will cut through a log is the best reason for being extra particular to get the right article. We carry all you can wish in this line in sizes to suit you with handles of different patterns, also designed for one or two men.”

Guns and Ammunition: “Do you recall to your mind the many pleasant hours spent in the open air, free from care? Does it call to mind a need for the future? If it is a gun, a rifle, loaded shells or cartridges, remember that we are in a position to aid you. Or if you are in need of a hunting coat, leggings, gun or file case or hunting equipment of any kind, right here is the place to purchase it.”

Air Rifles: “Whether he be a small boy or a youth in his teens, if he does not already own an air riffle, he dreams of being the proud possessor of one. There are pop guns for the small boys and many kinds of air rifles for the youth. The prices range from 25 cents up.”

Tools for the Boy: “Tools are always desirable presents for boys and young men. They encourage the inventive instinct but most of all tend to keep them from bad company or idleness at a critical stage of their life. Good tools are long lived and the money spent in a kit is the best investment parents can make.”

Wagons, Coasters and Go-Carts: “Only an empty purse can be offered as a valid excuse for denying children of these heart gladdeners. Express wagons are especially desirable because of the many uses they can be put to.

A coaster or an automobile wagon is the dream of every boy who does not possess one. A doll's go-cart will gladden any girl's heart.”

Roller Skates: “Whenever there are a few roads of good walk or pavement, roller skates are in demand. Children get a world of enjoyment out of the now well-established sport and an abundance of muscle-building exercise. It also aids largely in lung development. Good skates can be secured at almost any price you want to pay.”

Nut Picks and Cracks: “It is hard to find a present that combines so much real worth for the price as a set of nut picks and cracks made of steel, beautifully knurled and nickel plated. The are practically everlasting and may be had with the cracker wrapped in paper or in more expensive cases.”

Electric Flashlights: “Electric flashlights have proven to be wonderfully useful, convenient gifts and are always on the job. Push the button and you have a light. They are made in different shapes and sizes. Some are quite inexpensive. We carry batteries and lamps for renewing.”

Pen and Jack Knives: “We have pen knives and jack knives in great variety and of every description. They include knives with pearl, tortoise shell, celluloid, stag, horn, aluminum or bone handles. These splendid values sell for $.50, $.75 and $1.00.”

Ordinary and Safety Razors: “Ordinary razors are as popular they have ever been and our stock embraces every shape, size or style of grinding. A good razor can be secured for $1.00 and cost as much as $3.50, depending upon the brand, finish and grinding. Let us help you in the selection. We sell safety razors of merit. You can get a splendid one for $1.00. Silver of gold plating, extra fine cases and equipment cost $2.00 to $6.00 and higher.”

Carpenters' Tools: “A tool box, chest or cabinet, is a sort of central office where you may find what you wish as the beginning of a workshop. A set of tools is an investment that will repay many times the outlay. Good tool cabinets can be obtained for $7.50, $10.00, $15.00 and up.”

Sleds and Skates: “To illustrate our complete line of either skates or sleds would require more space than we can devote. If there is any particular style, quantity of finish you desire, you may be almost sure to find it in our stock. Call and be convinced.”

Aluminum Utensils: “Pure aluminum ware, because of its age-resisting qualities, make it particularly appropriate for Christmas presents. An article of such beauty, perfection in finish, that is not only good to look upon but will wear long, will be appreciated by any housewife.”

Silver Plated Ware and Table Cutlery: “In buying silverware, quality is the all-important consideration and on that you may depend if secured from us. We are prepared to furnish the latest patterns of knives, forks, spoons and fancy pieces, single and in sets, with or without cases.”

Scissors and Shears: “We carry 15 varieties of scissors and have many others in addition. Ladies' scissors range from four to six inches in length and in several different grades. We have embroidery scissors, buttonhole and pocket scissors, nail and manicure scissors, scissors with fancy handles, scissors in sets and fancy cases. Prices fare $.15 up. We can supply you with a pair of shears at almost any price you wish to pay.

“If you desire a pair that will last almost a lifetime, retain a good edge, cut smoothly and to the point, we can provide it. We carry a large assortment of the most celebrated shears to be had, which we guarantee. Sizes range from 6-12 inches and include straight, bent or draw cut. Splendid values from $.50 to $1.00.”

Carving Knives, Forks: “Let us show you our complete line of carving knives and forks, which includes carves of the most celebrated manufacture. We have beautiful handles of any material with or without a steel to match, packed in elegant covered and fancy-lined boxes or cases. A wide variation in values. Excellent carving knives and forks with prices ranging up to $15.00 and exceptional values from $1.50 to $5.00.”

Kitchen Knives: “We carry knives for the kitchen, including butcher, bread and cooks' knives of several sizes and prices. We have paring knifes in a large variety of shapes and finish, as well as cake knives, slicers, kitchen cleavers, cooking forks and many other similar articles for the kitchen. Splendid values are available from $.25 to $1.00.

For 10 Cents or Less: “You will find hundreds of useful articles in our stock that may be bought for ten cents or less which will fill a long-felt want in your shop, household or kitchen.”   

The Holiday Hints went beyond advertisements to make their publication entertaining as well as informative. It was loaded with 49 jokes such as this one: “A stranger entered a church in the middle of a sermon and seated himself in the back pew. After a short time, he grew tired and leaning over to an old member of the congregation whispered, 'How long has he been preaching?' '30 or 40 years,' the old man replied. 'I will stay then,' decided the stranger, 'he must be nearly finished with his message.'”

The next time you are in downtown Johnson City, stand in front of 219 E. Main Street and try to visualize Christmas shopping there in 1914. Imagine shopping there this Christmas for the items mentioned and the prices quoted. 

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The Comet newspaper offered a Christmas message for its readers in December 1909. Here is a paraphrase of it:

Furniture Store Ad from 1909

It would be hard to imagine a world without Christmas. This time of year is one of merrymaking, with each family choosing its own special way of celebrating the special day with mouth-watering feasts and eye-popping festivals.

Christmas belongs to no one nation alone, nor to one tongue, nor to one latitude or longitude, nor to one color or creed. Neither is it a movable feast, though it comes with the frost of winter and with the perfume of drooping blossoms in the southern hemisphere.

Although we associate Christmas with the jeweled and candled tree and the blazing Yule log, though the deer of St. Nicholas prance over the snow and young hearts are merry and old hearts are glad.

Yet even they are but the outcome and fulfillment of that deeper note which marks this day a note of good will to men that were sung first by the angels of Bethlehem.

It is the spirit of will to others that all men feel or should feel on Christmas. It is this spirit which makes the day distinct and pre-eminent. It is this spirit, which distinguishes the day from all other days? 

We have given it joyous ceremonials. We have given it services that have grown in beauty and sentiment through the centuries. Although we have done this for Christmas, Christmas has done far more for us. It has given to the world this one day, when all about its hemispheres like a finely wrought web, one thought is woven in the minds of men, inspiring the best and noblest actions of the year.

There is no one who does not feel its influence or in failing to feel it does not pity himself that his joy is dead. The poorest, the keenest sufferer, the happiest, the most prosperous of men all obey one common impulse. They give their best, poor as some their offerings may be for the joy of others.

It is this that Christmas has done for the world, stirring men to common action and with such a chain of thought about the world, growing stronger and wider with each one of these 1909 years. Who can doubt that in its spirit may be found the true secret those great philanthropic measure, which beyond all other events, mark the enlightened legislation of our day

There are self-appointed censors who see none of the joys and only the burdens of Christmas. They dwell on the obligations of the day and the burden of making gifts. But the spirit of Christmas is not with such as these and the gifts at which they murmur never belonged to the day.

It is one of gifts that one must think on Christmas, since it was on that day the greatest of gift was made to the world. A present must always be free, be untrammeled, impose no obligation and have no taint of selfishness in it, nor any spirit of barter or gain.

Giving must spring spontaneously from the highest and most noble impulse in ourselves. There is a joy and a blessedness in giving, but there is something even higher than this when the thought of the good belonging to others prevails over these. We have only to look at the world's greatest gift and draw our meaning from it

There lies in each one's hand a great privilege on Christmas day beyond all other days. Whether by word or good cheer, of hope and encouragement, whether by kindly greeting or a gentle act of courtesy, or whether by gifts or merrymakings, or by the simplest things we do or by the greatest, the privilege and power are ours of making another feel all the joy that is our own.

For joy is God-given and belongs by right to each and all of us and as through joy in Christ, we came to a knowledge of the common brotherhood of man, so through joy in each other we may learn to know Christ again, until all hands are joined and all heads are bent and the prayer of Tiny Tim is the prayer of each of us … “God bless us every one.”

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A comparison of letters written to Santa Claus today with those penned in 1909 shows noted similarities and differences. Let's sample a few. You just might recognize a relative or friend listed:

Robert & Charles Naff: “Please bring us a tricycle, candy, nuts, oranges, firecrackers, a little wagon to haul wood on, a little pig that we can wind up and it will run, a knife, some Roman candles and bring little Vaught a rubber ring to chew on. We are good little boys. We have to walk two miles to school.”

Kathleen Naff: “Please bring me a little bed, cloak and a go-cart for my doll. Her name is Edith. I want some candy, nuts, oranges and raisins. Don't forget Vaught. Bring him a rattle trap. I am a good little girl four years old.” (I bet Mom and Dad helped with your note.)

Thomas Love: “I want you to bring me a gun and I would like to have some more toys for Christmas. I would like a wagon too and a sled to ride down the hill on. I am bad in school, but I work hard.” (I love that.)

Leonard Millard Dunn: “I am a little boy 12 years old. I go to school every day that I can. My teacher is Miss Tomlinson and she is a good teacher. I want some books, and a sled, some raisins, apples and oranges, a pair of skates, a wagon, candy and a gun.” (One vote for Miss Tomlinson).

Frank Snodgrass: “I want you to bring me a little wagon and a little bicycle and some nuts, candy and oranges. I want some firecrackers to shoot Christmas night. Buy the poor children some toys too. I want you to bring everybody some nice things too.” (Nice comment, Frank.)

Elmer Ellsworth: “I would like a gun, a football, a steam engine, a balance bat, toolset, a wagon, a pencil box, a billy goat, a harness, some oranges, apples, bananas and some books to read.” (Nice variety, Elmer).

Stanley Harvey: “I have been good in school every day. You must bring me some oranges, candy, a gun that will kill rabbits and a wagon that I can ride down the hill on.” 

Guy Marten Young: “I am a good boy in school and I want a gun, bicycle, some candy, nuts, caps for my cap gun, a knife and a collar for my dog. Goodbye.” (Goodbye.)

Sam Harriss: “I am  a good boy in school and I want a Morrow Coaster Brake bicycle and some candy, nuts,  firecrackers and an apple.” (According to a sales brochure, the brake not only stopped the bike, it drove the wheel forward and gave a smooth, easy ride while coasting.)

Lawrence Brown: “I am a good boy in school. I want you to bring me a gun and a Studebaker wagon, candy, nuts, fruits and a tricycle. Your friend.”

Lyle Barton: I am going to tell you that I want a bicycle, a pony, a lot of candy and a box of cartridges. (Wow, a pony.)

Frank Humphrey: “I have been a good boy in school and tell you that I want a box of cartridges, apples and nuts. 

Charlie Keys: “First of all, I want a shotgun and cartridges to shoot in it. I want a magic lantern. Then I want all the other people to have a merry Christmas and I want firecrackers, Roman candles, sky rockets, candy, nuts, oranges and that is all for this time.”

Cecil Bolton: “I want a pony and little wagon, a gun, some candy, orange, apple and some fire crackers and that is all I want for this time.”

Charles L Ruffin: “I am not very bad at school. I like my teacher very much. Will you please send me some things that you think I want. Don't forget the poor people on Christmas Eve night. I want some oranges, nuts, dates, figs, and a big horn.” (Very thoughtful of you, Charles.)

Goldie Thomas: “I want a big doll that can open and shut its eyes. Bring my teacher a pair of button shoes and lots of pretty dishes and lots of things. My teacher's name is Miss Tomlinson. I want you to please bring me a pair of nice shoes and a story book and candy, oranges and nuts. So I will close. Bring all the poor children lots of things.” (Nice note, Goldie, and a second vote for Miss Tomlinson.)

I hope you enjoyed the letters from youngsters of 1909. I hope they got what they wanted.







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