Ann Arbor Argus July 6, 1888

(I decided to skip ahead in the months to match up with approximately where we are in the calendar year).

Dear People from the Past:
If somehow you are reading this (afterlife? time machine?), I have a question for you: how did you do it? How did you stand the heat during an Ann Arbor summer? It was a heat index of 97 today, I wore shorts and a tank top and spent most of the day in air conditioning and I still feel miserable. How did you do it wearing a ton more of clothes and having maybe a fan? Are you pissed off that we have air conditioning (I would be)? I want you to know that I think of you folks often, especially when I’m trudging up the hill on Fourth Avenue to go downtown. When I start to get fussy, I remember you. You had wooden sidewalks (if that), dirt roads and horse shit to deal with in addition to the hot weather and heavy clothes. I still complain–make no mistake–but I do think of you. I admire you greatly.

Your friend, Patti

Now, for the news of the day….

  • The city council did a “good hot night’s work”. (Did people have Council Viewing parties back then? I know they didn’t have TV but maybe they still went and had a council drinking game like we do?
  • Drinking games aside, a number of good citizens showed up to ask for new walks on Geddes and a new hydrant at the corner of Madison and Second. John Manning and 42 “tax payers and residents” showed up on behalf of the North Main people to argue against altering the grade of North Main. (I don’t live on Main Street proper but I think I am a “North Main” person, too! Glad to see you were keeping the fire alive, my friends). By the way, it looks like the council agreed and passed a resolution to leave Main Street as it was.
  • Oh, dear. Professor Loisette cheated a good many people out of $500 (how much is that today?!) when they signed up for his “memory lessons”. He was actually a fella named Larrowe who was a Yale graduate (he claimed) and a lawyer (another of his claims). He also bragged about making $500,000 that year (?!?!?!?). I feel badly for these nice folks who got swindled. We could have Googled his ass and found out he’s a cheat.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Caleb Krause are at it again! For the third time those two are marrying each other. Oy.
  • Strawberries will be out of the market in a day or so but raspberries are forthcoming. (I just bought some end of season strawberries at the market today. They are delicious!)
  • “Everyone” said it was one of the quietest fourths of July ever in the Deuce. The idiots who were letting off fireworks just two days ago obviously didn’t live here back then.
  • W.G. Snow’s horse Flora got a bad cut when someone ran his carriage into her (presumably on accident)
  • The circus will be in Ypsi in two weeks
  • Mrs. Bridget Clark died of cancer…in the forehead. ?
  • Anton Brahm has a restaurant and confectionery on Depot Street! Opposite the freight house, they serve warm meals at all hours of the day.
  • Dr. L.D. White, clairvoyant physician, relocated from our fair area to Detroit. He ‘treated” chronic diseases.
  • And the little son of Tony Schiappacasse (dealer in fruits, nuts and confections at No. 5 Main Street) fell down a flight of stairs at the opera house. While the force of the fall was enough to “break every bone in his body”, the plucky little guy was back up and around by Sunday.

Stay cool!

‘Twas a Dull Week: March 2, 1888 Argus

Above all else, I value people who are down to earth and honest. The Argus did not fail me as it tells you right there on the first page: ’twas a dull week. Rather than do what news outlets do today–make trivial stuff into “big news”–they just flat out said, Hey guys, sorry but not a lot happened this week. If you don’t expect too much, you might not be let down.

I admire that. But despite their protestations to the contrary, some stuff did happen:

  • A dozen or so “lucky teachers” were licensed. I’m not sure why they were lucky…was the licensing exam a game of chance like horseshoes? When I took my Michigan Teacher exams I didn’t rely on luck and when I passed them I felt grateful, but not lucky. Interesting choice of words.
  • Jacob Weidelich stabbed his friend John Weidemon in Pittsfield. Jacob wanted to spend the night there, John wasn’t having it, Jacob was drunk and had a jack-knife and…you can figure out the rest. Reports of John’s death were apparently exaggerated several times that week but the latest report said he would recover.
  • The vote on prohibition failed. The Argus reported that people drove miles over rough roads and in cold, harsh winds to cast their vote. So why can’t we walk across the street to do so? And it just dawned on me that when they said “people” they meant “men”.
  • The jail wasn’t full, with only 155 souls inside–six of whom were women. Two charged with being drunk and disorderly and four on vagrancy. Of the male inmates, the whopping majority (95) were in jail for being drunk and disorderly. One was in there for wife beating. (I wonder how bad you had to beat your old lady to get put in jail for it back in those days). All male prisoners over the age of 16 were locked in one room during the day and one room at night. (!!!!!) The basement was wet and needed to be drained.
  • If you had dyspepsia, you could buy a tonic at your local druggists! Made by (ahem) Phillip Best Brewing Company in Wisconsin, it was a “concentrated liquid extract of malt and hops”. It was the “most wholesome Table Beverage” and “priceless to nursing mothers”.

Those were the days, friends! And clearly not so dull at all.

Ann Arbor Argus February 3, 1888–Fire, Fire, I’m in the water, says a drunk guy and the cororner takes off

Some weird shit happenin’ in the old Ann Arbor town!

  • Mascot Bailey of the 5th ward went home “three sheets in the wind” and, well, it’s a little confusing. He made a fire at his house and then went to the spring for some water. He then thought it best to start yelling, “Fire! Fire! I’m in the water!” over and over again. He was taken out, says the Argus, but after a week the spring still isn’t providing palatable water. So…did he forget he made a fire and think his house was burning down? Did he drop a load in the spring? What?
  • Dr. O. C. Jenkins, one of our coroners, done took off. He has been in financial messes and his whereabouts are not known and he is not expected to return. The Argus then goes on to slam the doctor, saying he never should have been elected in the first place and was only on the ballot because no one wanted the job. Day-um.

But it’s not all weird…there is a chance of a post office going up! I must confess some confusion here because there is a picture of a beautiful post office at the corner of Ann and Main dating from 1882.;lasttype=boolean;lastview=thumbnail;med=1;resnum=1;size=20;sort=relevance;start=1;subview=detail;view=entry;rgn1=ic_all;q1=ann+arbor+post+office. 

(Sorry for that long link…I don’t want to take a picture from their site without permission and I wanted people to be able to see it. It is so gorgeous!)

Does anyone know anything about this?

Ann Arbor Argus, January 27, 1888

The regulation of alcohol was the topic of this week; specifically, a proposed law to allow prohibition of the sale or manufacture of intoxicating liquors in our county. An owner of a brewery asked a judge to file an injunction prohibiting the Washtenaw County Clerk from holding the election where voters would approve the law or not. By his own admission, passage of law would cause him financial ruin. Beyond that, he alleged that the petitions filed by the county clerk was composed of separate and detached petitions and some of the signors affixed only their initials and not their full signatures.

Judge Knowles denied the injunction for several reasons. The judge opined that the court could not proceed with too much caution as granting such an injunction must only be reserved for the cases where most serious and irreparable harm will be suffered. The matter of the signatures would not be considered because the clerk was vested with the power to verify them and the court could not review his actions. Besides the injunction, the complainant wanted the judge to decide the constitutionality of this law and he would not do that unless the matter was “free from doubt”, which he felt it was not. While the law may be oppressive and unpopular, an unwise calamity, that was not enough reason to find it unconstitutional. Essentially, the judge denies everything because he doesn’t want to undertake a political action of the executive branch…something he does not believe that the judicial branch has the right to do.

In other words, our brewer friend lost this round. Interestingly, alcohol was not the only “vice” to be targeted this week as elsewhere the Argus reported that the Ypsilantian commenced a “crusade against the cigarette”. In other news:

  • The new course of study at Chelsea’s Union School was not including any sort of study of music which, in the eyes of a great many patrons, is a great mistake
  • Prof. Swift’s lecture on Teloscopic Wonders was sparsely attended whereas a “nonsensical one horse show” in “this place” tends to be better attended (a little snark from our friends in 1888!)
  • A Leap Party was held at Hangsterfer’s Hall. This is not the first mention of Leap Parties that I have seen and this leads me to believe that Leap Year was a bigger deal then than it is now
  • High schoolers are going to take a sleigh ride out to Ypsilanti where they will have a “royal time”
  • There will be a minstrel show at the opera house next Wednesday. Comedians will be in cork and the rest will be in white face. This is really confusing to me…weren’t minstrel shows super offensive to black people with white folks wearing blackface? Was this something else?
  • Nellie, the little daughter of Thomas and Kay died at age three years, five days (it doesn’t say what she died of but other listings mention scarlet fever quite a bit)
  • Mrs. Levi Wines and Miss Jennie Wines were injured quite badly when in a sledding accident as the sledded down State Street hill. It has honestly never occurred to me that you could sled down the streets but I guess you could before cars! I hope they were okay!
  • The Misses Millers, of Packard Street, were surprised by a group of friends on Friday evening
  • The Washtenaw Pomological Society will meet February 4th to discuss fruit exchanges
  • James Brown is languishing in jail for being drunk on the street (the way this is written so familiarly makes me think that Jimmy B was in jail quite often)
  • The Opera House is a hoppin place, showing Memoirs of the Devil and My Aunt Brigett
  • Mr. A. R. Schmidt would like to remind us that there is a “vast difference” between Schmidt and Smith and HE was not the one who signed for the law to allow prohibition of alcohol

Ann Arbor Argus, January 20, 1888

Apparently, there was a huge snow storm out in “Dakota” that caused “great loss of life”. As a writer for the Argus noted, one might congratulate oneself for living in Michigan where storms that make it impossible to “see a few feet from you” or to “hear a man’s voice from six feet away” is “happily wholly unknown”. Indeed, perhaps the storms that batter Wisconsin and Minnesota “spend” themselves over Lake Michigan? No matter, it was a mild winter for Ann Arbor that year. So mild that Wagern & Co. Clothiers (21 South Main Street) had too many heavy suits and coats and needed to get rid of them. A chinchilla overcoat that was $12 was on sale for $8!

I’m glad that they had a mild winter that year and wonder how the summer went (guess we will find out in a bit!). One of the strangest days ever was last July during the obscene heat wave that gripped out fair city (and state). Downtown Ann Arbor is almost always bustling with people, smells from restaurants and music from passing cars or shops. Quite often, people make eye contact or offer a friendly hello or smile.

One Saturday the mercury topped out at well over 100 degrees. I had bought something from Ragstock that I later decided was way too young looking for me. The last day I could return it was that day so I had no choice but to trek downtown. As I walked up to Liberty Street, I was struck by how quiet everything was. There weren’t many people out and about (despite it being a Saturday and Farmers’ Market day) and it was silent except for passing cars. In fact, people were walking around and looking at the ground…. I had the sense of being in a post-apocalyptic movie where something horrible had just happened and people were just wandering around not sure what to do. I made my return as quickly as I could and then headed home. I had intended to visit an air-conditioned coffee shop but the sense of the downtown was so eerie that I just headed back home.

Was it ever so eerie for our friends in 1888? Or was it always quiet given the lack of cars and radios? We won’t know that but here are some things that were happening back then:

  • The Oak Leaf Club purchased the Pettee’s Grove which is 16 miles west of Ann Arbor and previously occupied by the Ann Arbor Sporting Club. The plan is to make this a summer resort.
  • Mrs. Lizzie King got a divorce from James King who got drunk a week after their marriage and remained away for three or four weeks. Within a year he began using “harsh words” towards her. The divorce was not contested by “confirmed drunkard” Mr. King
  • An Ann Arbor resident staying in Florida wrote to tell of the delicious fresh strawberries down there
  • Both York and Pittsfield describe good sleighing conditions
  • Benj Ashby of Ypsilanti, who has suffered from epilepsy for 36 years, was sent to the Pontiac Insane Asylum
  • Dexter school pupils will place a mirror in an under corridor (ed note: not sure what means exactly)
  • Willis Hardy is drawing stone to use for a foundation for his house
  • A “merry quartette” from Ann Arbor came a’sleighin to Saline staying just long enough to warm their noses with taffy (ed note: like Laffy Taffy taffy or does it mean something else?)
  • The ice harvest is beginning!
  • Peter Neis returned to Freedom from Traverse City
  • Workers in South Lyon hit a rock while digging a gas well and smelled a smell worse than “any old pair of socks we ever had a whiff of”

If you were looking for something to do, the Grand Opera House would be featuring a great cast of 50 artists in Rice’s beautiful Evangeline. Tickets were 50 cents, 75 cents, or $1.00 each. Happy opera-ing!

Ann Arbor Argus, January 13, 1888

In a way, old newspapers are like Facebook is today! Here are some tidbits from the Argus:

  • Prof. Axtell of the Salem School did not enjoy his vacation
  • Manchester’s night watchman, John Moran, got a new uniform from local businessmen
  • Six of Stephan Crane’s children had typhoid
  • If you want to pickle and preserve pickles, contact the paper because a facility in South Lyon might be opening
  • H.M. Rouse was in Ann Arbor last week
  • Mrs. Abbott is going to Canada on Friday…she might stay until spring but isn’t sure yet
  • B.F. Arms of Ypsilanti is visiting friends in Dexter
  • Pat McGinnis went to Hillsdale for a convention
  • Will Finnegan is the happy father of a 12 lb boy (no mention of poor Mrs. Finnegan!)

Sound familiar? My last few Facebook statuses have talked about going to various places to drink beer and to visit friends. Friends of mine have gone off on vacation or to conventions for work. And Lord knows I have friends who pickle and can!

If you were looking for goods and services, look no further than:

  • Lew Clement sells musical instruments and sheet music at 38 S. Main (having just moved from 25 S. 4th Street)
  • Schuh & Muehlig can hook you up (ha ha ha!) with steam hitting and plumbing if you see them at 31 S. Main and 1 1/2 E. Washington (does anyone know what’s up with this? Did folks have two close by locations back in the day?)
  • Duffy’s got your home goods needs covered at the corner of Huron and Main, across from the post office
  • M. Staebler’s got you some coal and coke
  • Coffee and tea is available at 3 S. Main courtesy of Wagner
  • Russell just opened a new confectionary at 5 E. Huron Street
  • And my personal favorite…Emil Baur at “West Huron Street” makes homemade wine for invalids

Kind of like Linked In back in the day, eh?

Perhaps not surprisingly, “work at home” scams were around back then, too. Two different outfits from the state of Maine told of riches and profit for folks who were willing to work hard! Either gender! Will bring you more money than anything else in the world! Young or old! No special skills needed! I have to wonder what on earth this work was….!

Thanks to the Ann Arbor District Library’s Old News page for this information!