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March 1, 2014

Local news, opinion often mixed in 1889 newspapers

The Daily Star

---- — Modern-day newspapers make it very clear where local news is found, as well as opinion, separated by their own pages in weekly or daily editions, including The Daily Star.

For The Oneonta Daily News in March 1889, there was no clear division at times between news and opinion, as both were hand set in type and placed in a section titled “Local Department.”

For example, mixed in with numerous short news items on March 2, 1889, was this entry.

“— Our citizens should feel ashamed of themselves, to see the firemen pull their very life out of them, and they walk quietly along on the sidewalk, and even laugh at them. By the time they got to the fire Thursday night, a mile away, they were so completely exhausted that they were not fit for duty on a fire. Remember, gentlemen, if it were your property how quick you would catch hold of the rope and say, come boys, we will help you. It is about time we had horses to haul the machine. The town is expanding every year, and something must be done in this direction.”

From March 7, “ — Binghamton is making rapid strides toward greatness. We see that dog fighting is talked of amusement now-a-days, in that wicked town.”

On March 14, “ — We wish to unite with our Oneonta contemporaries in urging a bridge to be built on Main street over the railroad track. We have often been greatly annoyed, and several times barely escaped an accident at that place. Morris Chronicle.”

The Morris newspaper referred to the lack of what is today’s Main Street viaduct. In 1889, there was only an at-grade crossing, and because the D&H Railway was so busy with railroad traffic passing through the village, the wait to get across the tracks was typically lengthy. A viaduct was finally built across the tracks in 1904.

Headlined “An Unwarranted Attack” came this entry on March 16.

“As the reporter of the daily NEWS was passing the Susquehanna house yesterday afternoon,” then found at the northeast corner of Main and Chestnut Streets, “he was accosted by the clerk of that house and threatening eternal vengeance, for publishing the following squib: ‘— Another knock down and drag out occurred at the Susquehanna house yesterday afternoon. How long will this kind of thing be permitted to exist in this town, where a moral status seems to prevail, but is afraid to assert itself.’

“The aforesaid minion, who gloats in the fact of his being connected with this house to do the bidding of one as bad as himself, told the reporter he would wipe the street with him, and then go before the Justice and pay his fine if it cost him $50. Is justice so cheap as that, in this town? We shall see. All this and other debasing language was used by him. We took it in short-hand, while he shot it out of his mouth on the front piazza and in broad daylight. We cannot, however, publish such filth, it would debase the lowest. And all for what? For squibbing about the dirty rackets, which are occurences (sic) there. Yes, you shall kick our paper out of your house. It has been under the contaminating influence long enough. But you shall not kick nor close the columns of the daily NEWS, especially when you knock down and drag out the face and eyes of the whole community.”

Finally, from March 19, “— A White Cap letter, of a vicious nature, was received in town yesterday by a lady, emanating, no doubt from an irate person who has some spite to gratify. We are quite sure we could trace the source of this loving epistle to its fountain head, if necessary. A coat of tar and feathers, with a long rail, would be a good thing for such parties. Woe be to him or her who is caught inditing (sic) these wicked letters. Justice is slow sometimes, but sure.”

White Caps, or Whitecapping could be defined as a violent, lawless movement in the late 19th and early 20th century, created by people to enforce community standards, appropriate behavior and traditional rights. The Whitecapping movement began in Indiana in the 1870s by the formation of secret societies to deliver justice independent from the state.

On Monday: Beauty and grooming thrived in Oneonta in March 1964.

Oneonta City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at His website is His columns can be found at