Below are some ads, photos, and new reports that appeared in the
In 1916 William Jennings Bryan, known as “the Great Commoner” for his faith in the common people, was perhaps the best-known orator of his time. He was a dominant force in the populist wing of the Democratic Party during the first quarter of the twentieth century, running for president three times, serving two terms in the U.S. House, serving as secretary of state under Woodrow Wilson (1913-1915). But after a German U-boat sank the Lusitania in 1915, Wilson made demands on Germany with which Bryan disagreed. Bryan, a pacifist, resigned in protest. Thus, Bryan was back on the lecture tour in 1916.
On March 17 Bryan passed through Fort Worth, and although America would not enter World War I for another year, Bryan spoke on “The War and Its Lessons for Us” before an audience at the Chamber of Commerce Auditorium. Bryan also spoke at a reception at the Westbrook Hotel.
Bryan was controversial. Cadets at Central High School on Jennings Avenue had been scheduled to take part in a parade for Bryan from the Texas & Pacific passenger station to the Westbrook Hotel, but some of the cadets took exception to Bryan’s peace policies. Principal of Central High School was Robert Lee Paschal.
In the audience to hear Bryan, if not back stage to greet him, surely was J. Frank Norris of First Baptist Church, whose ad appeared on page 5 on March 18. (Norris often spoke to men-only audiences.) Norris was a great admirer of Bryan, had a photo of Bryan on the wall of his office. Norris once told Bryan that what Martin Luther was to the Reformation, Bryan was to fundamentalism.
Bryan spoke from the podium of Norris’s First Baptist Church more than once. When Bryan was in town in 1924 he and Norris posed for a photo.
Bryan and Norris were creationists. In 1925, after teacher John Scopes was charged with teaching evolution in Tennessee, at his trial Bryan argued for the prosecution. Bryan asked Norris to testify against the theory of evolution, but Norris had a prior commitment to address the Northern Baptist Convention.
Bryan won his case against Scopes but died five days after the trial.
William Jennings Bryan was a hard act to follow, but the American League’s Chicago White Sox followed him into town to play the Fort Worth Panthers. In left field for the Sox would be “Shoeless Joe” Jackson. In the Black Sox Scandal in 1919 Jackson and seven other members of the White Sox would be suspected of taking bribes to throw the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. The eight players would be acquitted in court but banned for life from baseball.
Every car in the automobiles classified ads of March 18, 1916 was a Ford. Note the L (Lamar) and R (Rosedale) phone exchanges.
If a Ford wasn’t your cup of T, you could go to the local Dort dealership and buy a five-passenger Hupmobile for $950 ($21,000 today). The Dort Motor Car Company of Flint, Michigan produced automobiles from 1915 to 1924.
In 1916 headlines identified African Americans by race.
Ten years earlier the Pure Food and Drug Act had been enacted to protect consumers, but in 1916 patent medicines continued to flourish. Mrs. M. Summers of Notre Dame, Indiana offered relief from sciatica and lumbago. (In 1907 the Journal of the American Medical Association had revealed that kindly Mrs. M. Summers was actually “patent-medicine faker” Gabriel R. Summers dba “Vanderhoof & Co.”) Foley’s Honey and Tar Compound was good for la grippe and croup. Foley’s, like many other patent medicines, contained alcohol (7 percent). Dr. King’s New Discovery prevented catarrh. Like Foley’s, Dr. King’s contained tar. Women took Dr. Pierce’s Favorite Prescription for dropsy. At one point early in the twentieth century this medicine contained alcohol and opium. Dr. Ray V. Pierce was a licensed physician and mail-order pharmacist. He also was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from New York but resigned at age forty because of “ill health.”
Let’s translate those medical terms: sciatica (leg pain), lumbago (low back pain), neuralgia (nerve pain), la grippe (flu), croup (upper airway infection), biliousness (nausea), catarrh (mucous buildup), dropsy (excess fluid). They just don’t make ailment names like they used to.
Take all the Dr. King’s and Dr. Pierce’s you want, but don’t ever take “nasty calomel”! “Calomel salivates.” “Calomel acts like dynamite on a sluggish liver.” (Oh, they could write ad copy in those days!) Take instead Dodson’s Liver Tone, which contains no calomel.
Ads for Dodson’s Liver Tone were ubiquitous in newspapers of that era. The Journal of the National Association of Retail Druggists said Sterling Products Inc. spent $100,000 ($1.3 million today) a year advertising Dodson’s Liver Tone in southern states. (In 1918 Sterling Products would buy the U.S. holdings of German pharmaceutical company Bayer and own its aspirin patent.)
Hyperbole aside, the Dodson’s Liver Tone ad, shockingly, spoke the truth: Calomel is mercurous chloride and is as likely to kill as to cure—by mercury poisoning. And yet early in the twentieth century calomel was an ingredient in some patent medicines. It was used to treat venereal disease. It was recommended for babies who were teething or constipated. Lewis Carroll is said to have gotten the idea for a “mad hatter” in Alice in Wonderland from the fact that mercuric nitrate, which was used in the fur industry to make felt, causes neural toxicity. (Calomel for Kiddies ad from the 1920 The Medical Council.)
In 1916, during the golden age of railroading, Fort Worth was served by ten passenger railroads. Every day the Star-Telegram published time tables for railroads and the interurban. On the interurban local trains left every hour on the hour, express trains on the half-hour.
The Texas & Pacific railroad offered California oranges on its trains. International & Great Northern and Houston & Texas Central offered special trains to Houston for the Texas Cattle Raisers’ Association convention, which followed the Stock Show in Fort Worth.
The war in Europe had inspired the 1915 silent movie The Battle Cry of Peace. Byers Opera House was built at the corner of East 7th Street and Commerce in 1908 to present live performances. Not until 1919 would the opera house be converted into a theater designed to show motion pictures and become the Palace Theater, the first of the three theaters on 7th Street’s Show Row. The Palace was demolished in 1977.
Meanwhile the Majestic Theater was presenting, in person, prima donna Caroline White and six other “star acts.”
America was not yet fighting in Europe, but America was fighting in Mexico. U.S. troops under General John J. Pershing were chasing revolutionary general Francisco “Pancho” Villa after Villa on March 9 had raided the U.S. border town of Columbus, New Mexico. Pershing and his men would be recalled when the United States entered the war in Europe.
On March 18 the war in Europe and Villa dominated the front page.
The war in Mexico on page 1.
The war in Europe on page 1.
The wars in Europe and Mexico on Wall Street. It’s an ill wind . . .