Muscatine County, Iowa
Muscatine Journal & News-Tribune
Centennial Edition
31 May 1940

Section 3 - Page 21-22, Submitted by Charlene Nichols Hixon, May 4, 2012

Came in 1838
Photo of J. Adam Reuling

The year 1838 marked the arrival here of J. Adam Reuling. Born is Aiswede, Prussia I 1824, he came here at the age of 14 years and married on June 29, 1951. His death occurred on Nov. 7, 1898.

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Here in 1852
Photo of Mrs. John Barnard

The year 1852 marked the arrival of Mrs. John Barnard, the former Rebecca Rupp, in Muscatine. She was born Oct. 10, 1828, in Ohio, and she died on Dec. 10, 1904.

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Graphic Picturization of Times Told By Old Papers
By Louis Fitzgerald.

For accurate, detailed history and portrayal of folklore nothing beats old newspaper files. In them is the pulse and throb of a new settlement in all its rawness; the swelling pride in a growing community; vivid picturization of urban and rural life with its modern phases. Newspapers, past and present, “hold the mirror up to society and reflect with unflattering faithfulness the life and psychology of the times.” They present a candid picture of the day with all its incongruities, vulgarities and blemishes – not always pleasant, but for the most part a “speaking likeness” of the community.

One hundred years of Journal files are available in Muscatine, a priceless record of the days forever gone; an unfailing source of information about habits, actions, customs, even modes of thought of the day in which they were printed. In newspapers brittle and brown with age can be traced styles of clothing and behavior; of tools with which men worked and played; the evolution of society from when the veneer of civilization was spread exceedingly thin to when decorous conduct is the accepted mode.

The Journal was established in 1840 when “men wore their politics like chips upon their shoulders and established arsenals beneath their coat tails – with reference to the printing office.” The early ones reflect the times.

The Good Old Days.

Those were the “good old days when the militant editor got out a weekly four page sheet, with the assistance of an industrious but soiled and unwashable printer’s devil, a ditto towel, a god-eared and now vanished dictionary of classical vituperation, and a hell box where the used up type, exhausted by being made the vehicle of ultra vigorous language, fell into an early grave.”

In the beginning The Journal was a democratic “organ” and scoffed at efforts of the Whig party to change its name and platform. It made much of “Locofocoism” and the editor wrote lengthy columns of editorials about his own and opposing parties.

Most of the early news was from exchanges and the editor frequently published thanks to steamboat officers or the casual traveler for “eastern and St. Louis papers,” those from Galena, (Ill.) then one of the most important places on the upper Mississippi river, and even from far way California. Suel Foster gave him a Congressional Record which probably came in handy when the editor wanted a dry spot in all the rain and mud he frequently described.

Poetry Popular.

Each issue carried at least one poem of six or seven stanzas and column length fiction stories were lifted bodily rom magazines. News from the territorial and state capitol, first at Burlington, then Iowa City, was supplied through correspondents.

Advertisements show much of the manner of life in those days. Farm produce, especially pork, was in demand and a merchant advertised, “I will receive pork from those indebted to me, until the tenth of January next.” Cook stoves, a new article in the Iowa territory, were advertised as early as 1841 and many of the ads – not usually more than five or six lines of small type – announced that “the subscriber” had for sale groceries, especially “flour, salt, rum, gin and whiskey.”

Jeans and Cassinetts.

Some of the advertisements called attention to the merchant’s stock of clothing – “fur caps, buffalo robes and coats, jeans and cassinetts.” There was a demand for final payment of the 25 per cent installment on county owned lots; lists of letters uncalled for at the post office; notices of sale of public lands at government land offices in Burlington and Dubuque; and of sales of town lots in Burlington and Fort Madison.

In 1841 appeared the first meterological table for the year 1840 and a “Steam Boat Chronicle” for the same year, both prepared by T. S. Parvin. That same year saw appearance of the first professional cards and advertising on page one. Hotels also began to advertise “with large and well equipped stables in connection;” there were legal advertisements, mostly sheriff’s sales and assumpsits.

Intelligence By Telegraph.

From that far off day to the present, through Journal files, can be traced the mode of life in the Mississippi valley – from the days when eastern mail (via Burlington) was held up for a week because the stage coach broke through ice in the Iowa river, to when derailment of a mail train and consequent delay of three or four hours was considered a calamity.

Gathering of news can be traced when The Journal “learned from a traveler that fire had destroyed a Washington, Ia., livery stable last Thursday week,” through receiving of “intelligence by telegraph” to the present when the steel cord of the chattering telegraph extends into the newspaper office itself and within minutes after an important happening in Baltimore, Md., or Key West, Fla., the news is as hand.

Before the coming of the telegraph, and even during its early days, the editor had a hard time filling his columns. If three was an important function which demanded much of his time, the next issue of his paper was sure to contain an apology for the paucity of local news; sometimes he bemoaned the fact that nothing happened “not even a dog fight” worthy of mention in his paper.

Sermon and “Slush.”

As time went on he branched out in his writings. His paper contained philosophical paragraphs and such humorous gems as “If 27 inches of snow gives three inches of water, how much milk will a cow given when fed on rutabaga turnips? Ans. – Multiply the flakes of snow by the hairs in the cow’s tail; then divide the product by the turnip; add a pound of chalk, and ...

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    … the sum will be the answer.”

    Forerunners of the present day syndicated articles began to appear in the 1860s and among the first published by The Journal were sermons of DeWitt Talmage, then a popular minister in Brooklyn, N. Y., and later Washington, D. C.

    At odd moments the editor found time to clip or write lone paragraphs about edibles, including recipes and the information that “rear limbs” of frogs were considered a delicacy in France. Women’s attire, then as now, came in for a good bit of newspaper scorn. Bustles were referred to as “enlarging the sphere of women’s influence;” poems were published about hoop skirts and ridicule poked at “what the women call bonnets.”

    Front Page Advertisements.

    Perhaps the most interesting part of newspapers is advertisements appearing through the past century. Among newer books of the Muscatine library is one describing the nation’s folklore traced through mail order catalogues of 50 years. For concentrated folklore – that of the immediate community – the author could have drawn additional material from files of his local newspaper.

    Through The Journal files can be traced the mode of life and habits – the folklore of Muscatine and its environs –from almost its beginning as abode of white men. They show everything from the styles of clothing to types of homes; from household equipment to types of dress. Patent medicine advertisements, of the kind now appearing exclusively in pulp magazines were given double column spreads on the front page and insurance companies advertised their “rates for white persons.”

    Paid newspaper space shows the streamlining of almost everything in use today, from the bulky, key winding, four lever watch in its hunting case to monogramed note paper, and from case knives you could use to whack off a buffalo steak and not waste time, to a rapier like cutting tool that would make a good watch spring.

    Attire to Automobiles.

    They portray evolution from high-topped, long, pointed shoes all the way to open toed sandals; from ankle length overcoats in which men are pictured gripping a cane as though it were an instrument of defense to light weight top coats; from intimate ladies’ garments with yards of six inch ruffles to whatever it is they wear beneath street dresses now; from furniture that would adequately weigh down a trailer in a Kansas cyclone, to spindly legged things upon which a tea cup would impose a burden.

    There are advertisements of communications and travel, starting way back when “steam boats” were popular and most of the packet lines paid – or it is assumed they did – for printing of cards announcing their boats’ arrival and departure; through the era of the iron horse when railroads did the same, adding connections which could be made to almost any place in the country; on down to news stories and other advertisements of airplane routes and schedules.

    Along the line the glory of owning first your own horse and buggy, then automobile – the “horseless carriage” a rich man’s plaything – and later the low slung, high powered vehicles, which enabled you to go when you pleased and return the same way, was lauded in paid-for newspaper space.

    These things and many more are contained in files of The Journal. In all they constitute a priceless, detailed and vivid picture of Muscatine and the surrounding country for the past hundred years. Once destroyed they can never be replaced. Valuable now, and as the years roll on their age will not decrease their worth, but rather add to it so that by the time another century passes their importance will be even greater.

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    Page created May 6, 2012 by Lynn McCleary