I was lucky enough to do several speaking engagements regarding my book. (Oh, what’s that? Another one is coming up? Yes, yes it is! Please come if you can!) People have asked me what was my favorite discovery in my research. Without it doubt, it was discovering that this thing we call social media–the public sharing of our private information–is NOT NEW. It’s been around for a long, long time, and we can even read about it in our old Ann Arbor papers.

For example, our May 21, 1880 Ann Arbor Courier has a section called LOCAL. And it is what is purports to be–local stuff. For instance ~

Memorial Day was coming up on May 30th that year, and Ann Arbor planned to celebrate. Company A (in my book!) would be led by the city band (possibly Otto’s Band? also in my book!), along with city officials, clergy and citizens would march around the town. Starting at the courthouse square (OH MY GOD DO I WISH WE STILL HAD A COURTHOUSE SQUARE! I have to get over my irrational anger about this. I will, one day), they will march to the fifth ward, get decorated by the ladies decoration society, and then decorate the soldiers’ memorial at the cemetery, and then hear some speeches.We have a July 4th parade downtown, and I do wish we still had a Memorial Day parade.


  • There’s a new sprinkler on Huron Street (honestly, I had no idea that they had sprinklers back then. I hope kids ran through them like I used to in the 70s)
  • Mr. Gwinler is hosting the “Olympia”. There is nothing else said about it, but the use of the quotes makes me wonder exactly what Mr. G was up to.
  • The evening train now leaves at 9:55 instead of 9:38 (I can see and hear the train from my house…it runs a lot more than just 9:55, I promise you)
  • Alderman Mathewson is repairing his house. I can’t imagine our city council (many of whom I count as friends) skipping merrily to the news to share that they are fixing their houses, but maybe he was putting on some super fly addition?
  • Several bicyclists rode to Ypsi and back last Sunday. The paper says that this “animal” seems to be a favorite one for Sunday riding. So…is the bike the “animal” in question? Were there other animals that people rode on other days? I don’t get that.
  • The Grand Rapids review called the Courier the ablest paper in the state. Our friends replied that their “face was diffused with blushes”. Cute!
  • The Ann Arbor City Band owes $165 for instruments
  • Just in case we think it was all fun and games and blushing faces, there was a bit about a 15 year old “tramp” who was trying to hop on a freight train. He slipped and fell and had to have his leg amputated. Poor kid.

In lighter news, there were some personal notes that talked about people visiting relatives, people going to Illinois to find some good horses, a guy who fell and broke his knee caps, and a new sewer system for William Street. Facebook, 1880s style!


  1. It would be interesting to take this study back even further through human history. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that some sort of communal “social media” has existed for as long as mankind has had communicative abilities.. (I picture a Paleolithic cave painting translated to read “867 5309. For a good time…. For a good time call…”)

    1. teacherpatti says:

      That would be freaking awesome!

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