Monday, January 14, 2013

Lines of History: An Old Newspaper

One of my goals for this year is to delve more into the history of this house.

And by delve, I mean do some actual research. Our community has a local historical society and I'm hoping to find some traces of this house there. But with the two jobs I haven't had a lot of time. It will happen in March after my temporary job ends and life calms down a little.

In the meantime, I'm happy to share the little bits of history that simply fell into my hands. Here's a little story that I know:

Early in the morning of Feb. 22, 1948 (the house at that time was 9 years old), a fresh copy of the Des Moines Register hit the snowy doorstep of my home, most likely by a paperboy who was also a neighbor. When the owners were done with it for its original purpose, "The News Iowa Depends Upon," it was laid aside for reuse. Newspapers weren't some sad little tabloid size fold-up back then. They were full broadsides, 16-by-24 inches of heavyweight, useful paper. This particular edition, or parts of it anyway, became a handy shelf liner for the upper shelves of the linen closet in the first floor hallway. Decades passed.

Fast-forward to June, 2011, when the new owner (that would be me) found a leak in the upstairs shower supply line that rained moisture through the floors, through the ceiling inside the linen closet,  onto the upper shelves, and onto the newspaper. In addition to being thankful there were no linens in the closet (I hadn't moved in yet), this newspaper geek was thrilled to find the old (if damp) newspapers, and instead of tossing them out, hung them up to dry.

I find newspapers to be incredibly telling snapshots of daily life in a certain time and place, and I think the advertisements are almost more telling than the news stories.

We got our milk delivered:

Though it was Post-war America and the economy was booming, we were still looking for thrifty meals: 

We were still sewing our clothes, and worrying about looking our age. Don't be dowdy now, girls!

Things were still traditional, but we were starting to see the modern styles and clean lines that would dominate the next decade. Check out the tradition wallpaper and frilly slipper chair next to the modern cube table, updated armchair, and Chinese kitsch lamp! 

And Younker's, the department store in Des Moines, offered several Philco brand radios for sale. In 1947 there were an estimated 40 million radios in the U.S., but only 44,000 televisions, according to the Early Television Foundation. It would be a few years yet before televisions started showing up in every middle class home: 

If you're thinking that little Philco in the lower left hand corner is a bargain at $19.95, consider that in real terms it cost the 1948 purchaser a little over $192. 

I also love scanning the lines of newspapers to find stories that connect with our present. Of the chunks left of this paper left over (most of it classified and sales advertising), I found this: 

The Main Library at what is now the University of Iowa in Iowa City still stands today, though its facade was overhauled in later decades (and not for the better, in my opinion). The article is historical evidence that large public projects, stalled or slowed by wartime frugality, were now picking back up again. 

Have you found old newspapers, clippings, or other items that tell a story about your house? 

1 comment:

  1. I love things like this! In my first house, I found an old letter when we tore off some wallpaper. I felt like I was living in a Nancy Drew story. I would love to find something hidden away in our house like this. Thanks for sharing.