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October 12, 2013

Infrastructure, social growth made news in October 1888

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The Daily Star

---- — If one could quickly describe Oneonta in October 1888, it would be that the village was experiencing growing pains. By looking through the pages of a recently started daily newspaper, The Oneonta Daily News, the news and some debates made it quite clear the growth had its effects on daily life. 

Only a few months earlier, Oneonta’s first trolley service had started. A year before that, there had been many naysayers about plans for such a trolley, arguing that it would not pay.  By the time the service started, there still were a few, but The Daily News of Monday, Oct. 1, 1888, begged to differ.

“Even now there are men in town who seem to doubt whether it is a paying investment. To such we would say, try and buy the stock. One poor deluded mortal was heard to ask, only last Friday, while standing on the sidewalk, ‘say neighbor, when do they intend to take up the track; can’t I get a job!’ Well, no! Sit down and calculate, an average of 400 people riding every day, at five cents per head, and then tell us if you think it is necessary to tear up the tracks.”

Unlike this year’s mild autumn, it was reported on Oct. 4, 1888, that there were snowflakes in the air and a “terrible cold day for the opening of the Morris fair, and but few people attended.” Oneonta’s trolley passengers had to shiver during their rides until Oct. 12 when stoves were placed in the cars, “making it very pleasant and comfortable for passengers.”

While the cold weather was settling in, the unpaved streets and sidewalks in the village were an issue, reported on Oct. 13.

“The trustees are drawing gravel to fill up the bad places on Main street. They can keep drawing, from now to dooms day, and it will make no difference. Pave the street, that is what is needed, procrastination is the thief of time.”

On Oct. 16, Daily News subscribers read, “A number of complaints have been forwarded to us of the miserable condition of the board sidewalk on Grand street, between Main and Division, and the absence of all evidences of a walk east of Division. The muddy season is upon us and the residents of that part of the village should be entitled to relief. We feel sure the Board will give this subject attention as soon as their attention is called to it.”

On a construction note in the late part of October, “The foundation of Doyle & Smith’s cigar factory is completed and ready for the timbers.” The 1889 Oneonta Directory showed that this was located at 32 Broad St., an area now occupied by the Clarion Hotel. The directory also showed Doyle & Smith employed between “40-75 hands.” Cigar manufacturing was quickly becoming Oneonta’s second largest industry, behind the D&H Railway.

While Oneonta’s infrastructure was growing in October 1888, so were the educational, social and clothing style trends of the time.

“The winter term of school taught by Mrs. Sergeant at her home, No. 13 Centre street, opens Oct. 15. For the convenience of those who are unable to take the day course she has decided to establish an evening course from 7 to 9 o’clock. Mrs. Sergeant is well known as a pains-taking and competent instructor and should have a large school.” What the courses consisted of was not published.

“An enthusiastic meeting was held last evening at F.E. Green’s music store,” it was reported on Oct. 20, “to organize a private dancing club. About thirty of our young men who have joined the club will be officered by an executive committee, a secretary and treasurer.”

Finally on Oct. 20 it was learned, “The tendency toward masculine attire goes on among the gentler sex. Suspenders are the latest adoption made by women from the male wardrobe. Just how the suspenders are made available by their new friends is not explained, but it is said that they fill ‘a long felt want.’ Women have adopted men’s collars, waistcoats, suspenders and canes. If they will take off their hats when they enter the theatre, all will be forgiven.”

On Monday: An attempt to save a shopper’s favorite in Oneonta in October 1978.

Oneonta City Text ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/Solid$ID/NothingText ColorText Color$ID/NothingText ColorText ColorHistorian 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 simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.