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December 28, 2013

Today's news had similarities to stories in 1888

The Daily Star

---- — Bullying, gun control, smoking, mischievous behavior by youngsters and downtown Oneonta lighting may have made news locally during 2013. These same topics made news as well as few amusing others in 1888. Each wasn’t  lengthy enough for a stand-alone column, so just as we’re dealing with leftovers from our holiday feasts this week, we can call this a leftover collection of 125 years ago.

As I find these stories, I often say to myself, “Wow, you couldn’t print that today.” Some of the content may be considered politically incorrect by today’s standards, but that’s how it was published back in the day. These come from both The Oneonta Herald and Oneonta Daily News.


From Jan. 5, 1888, it was reported, “Quite a little commotion was caused in the post office last Thursday evening as the mail was being distributed, by a boy darting into the crowd of people, closely followed by Sam Sing, the Chinese laundryman. Sam succeeded in catching the boy, who shouted lustily to the bystanders to ‘Take him off,’ which they finally did, when Sam grabbed the boy’s hat and sped back to his laundry. It appears that some of the smart youth with which Oneonta abounds have been in the habit of pestering Sam, who is a wholly inoffensive fellow, usually ready to return a smile for a blow, and on this particular evening a stone was fired thro’ Sam’s window. This was more than his good nature could stand, and with his pigtail flying in the air he sailed out, hatless, after the offender, and after a lively run captured him at the stated post office. He would only relinquish the boy’s hat on being paid for the broken window. If Sam would administer a good thrashing to some of these unruly youngsters he would win the approbation of the mass of the people, and at the same time relieve himself of further persecution.”


“The carrying of pistols and other firearms by small boys has become a dangerous nuisance in this village,” it was reported on April 19. “Our law makers at Albany could do some sensible work by a general law in which severe penalties should be meted out, not only to the delinquent boys, but also to their parents.”


“Over one hundred boys of the Sidney school have pledged not to use cigarettes or tobacco in any form during their minority. Even the editor of the Sidney Record has foresworn the use of tobacco,” came news in The Oneonta Herald of Jan. 12.

The Daily News of Dec. 31 noted, “We would call the attention of our peace officers to a gang of boys who are in the habit of congregating evenings on Deitz (sic) street, creating all kinds of depredations and making themselves a terrible nuisance to this vicinity. Two nights last week while the Theatre was engaged for balls these boys made the night hideous with their howls of profanity, cigarette smoking and a general disregard for decency until the wee small hours.”

The theater referred to was the Metropolitan Theatre, which was then found on Dietz Street near the present lower level of Huntington Park.

“Officers do your duty, make arrests without fear of favor and you will meet the approbation of a much annoyed community.”


From Aug. 9 readers learned, “The arc lights about town are great exterminators of insects. Not less than a quart of dead moths, beetles and gnats is taken from each of the twenty-five lamps every morning.”

Then on Aug. 16 came news, “A California Chinaman has found a use for bugs and beetles attracted by the electric lights. He pickles them in brandy. ‘Heap good for cold,’ he says.”


“The newest fad among young ladies is the ‘tip,’” it was reported on Nov. 22. “They count every time a gentleman tips his hat to them and the one hundredth gentleman is supposed to be the one the lady receiving the tip will marry.”

On Monday: A look at our local life and times in December 1963.

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