Happy New Year a Century Ago: From Aledo to Zanelli

One hundred years ago today readers of the Star-Telegram began the new year with these news articles and ads:

The first front page of 1920 was dominated by news of a collision between two Texas & Pacific trains near Aledo.

This cartoon enumerated some of Fort Worth’s economic highlights of the year just ended: Amon Carter, W. C. Stripling, and others raised $2.8 million to build the Hotel Texas, and thanks to the oil boom the city had nine refineries and six wholesale supply houses.

In fact, three years after William Knox Gordon’s strike on the McCleskey farm, oil remained such a big business for Fort Worth that each edition of the Star-Telegram devoted a full page to oil news.

Here are three more traditional depictions of the old year and the new year in the January 1 edition.

Cattleman Marion Sansom held his annual birthday party for Burk Burnett. After 1920 Sansom would host just one more birthday party for Burnett, who died in 1922.

The Haynes automobile company went out of business in 1925, the Auburn in 1937.

J. Frank Norfleet, the man who dotted the i and crossed the t in tenacious, had gone to California to identify two of the conmen who had swindled him out of $45,000 ($600,000 today) in 1919.

One person in Dallas and six in Baltimore were wounded by bullets fired by New Year’s Eve celebrants.

On the other hand, New Year’s Eve in Cowtown was relatively quiet: “[steam] Whistles blew, guns were fired, [fire]crackers exploded.” Masonic lodge no. 148 held a watch party. Glen Garden and River Crest country clubs held dances. And the Metropolitan Hotel held a dinner-dance and watch party.

Soviet revolutionary and Marxist theorist Leon Trotsky was rumored to have been assassinated in Helsinki. This was not the first time Trotsky had been reported to have been killed. Indeed, the 1920 report of his death also would prove to be false, although twenty years later Trotsky finally would be assassinated for sure and no foolin’.

The Waples-Platter wholesale grocery company by 1920 had twenty outlets in three states.

Fakes Department Store on Houston Street had the latest in Victor ten- and twelve-inch records. Popular recordings included “Wait Till You Get Them Up in the Air, Boys” by Billy Murray and selections from “Pagliacci” by Renato Zanelli.

Finally, no edition of a newspaper of a century ago would be complete without ads for patent medicines.

For example, a woman in Nashville raved about the benefits of Tanlac, which was marketed as “a splendid, effective stomach medicine.”

But in 1915 the American Medical Association had declared the claims made for Tanlac to be “fraudulent.” And in 1918 an analysis of Tanlac by a university had found that Tanlac did not contain “sufficient medicinal remedies” to deliver “a therapeutic dosage” but did contain 17.7 percent alcohol, making Tanlac essentially “patent medicine booze.”

Y’all have a happy and healthy (hic) new year.


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