Bluestocking Journal

Real history, through the eyes of a fictional person

About This Project

This is the journal of a young girl in Urbana, Illinois, one hundred years ago, who reads the newspaper and writes about what she finds there. Occasional out-of-character posts will appear with a dark background like this.

All of the news is drawn from the Urbana Courier-Herald and the Daily Illini, which can be viewed at the excellent site of the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection.


Thursday, January 2, 1913

“County Supervisor Osman, bringing Edward Stromburg of Ludlow to the county hospital, Wednesday night, was surprised and horrified upon the train’s arrival in Champaign, to discover that he was sharing his seat with a corpse. He believed Stromburg to be asleep, but the latter was dead.”

Homer will not have an ice famine next summer. An entrerprising ice man has already filled his ice houses, even though the weather has not been very cold so far.

Wednesday, January 1, 1913

Today is New Year’s Day, and there is no newspaper.

Since taking up reading the papers daily in September of last year, I have learned so much. I have been appalled by acts of violence and hatred; I have been saddened by news of terrible accidents and loss; I have delighted in human ingenuity and wit. I know that 1913 will bring more of all of those things. Here’s hoping that the tales of wonder outshine the tales of woe in the coming year.

Tuesday, December 31, 1912

A delegation from Farmer City, seventy-five strong and headed by a brass band, marched through the streets of Champaign this morning, went to Congressman McKinley’s home, and requested a cannon for their new park.

In Bloomington, fifteen-year-old Adlai Stevenson, the grandson of former Vice-President Adlai E. Stevenson, gave an exhibition of the manual of arms during a holiday party. After examining an old army rifle to see that it was not loaded, he pointed the gun at Miss Ruth Merwin and pulled the trigger. The ball entered her forehead, killing her instantly. “The victim was a girl of great beauty and highly cultured and a member of one of the leading families of Bloomington. The youth who fired the shot is prostrated with grief.”

A seventeen-ounce baby was born in Aurora. “The infant is well formed and apparently strong. It is so small that the mother’s wedding ring can be placed on its leg.”

Monday, December 30, 1912

Here is the entirety of a front-page article about a man who is not dead:

“A rumor circulated on the streets Saturday evening was that Neil (Army) Armstrong, who until recently lived at 910 West Illinois street, this ciyt [sic], had been killed. There were different reports as to the manner in which he met death, but all agreed on the main issue—that ‘Army’ was no more. On Sunday the story was proven to be a canard. Its origin was traced to a North Market street habitue who was having alcoholic hallucinations.”

In Kankakee, a Miss Mary Crocker is suing the highway commissioner of that county for $2,000. “She alleges that he attempted to kiss her and placed one arm around her, greatly to her embarrassment.”

The “Suffragette Pilgrims” have reached Albany ahead of schedule, having walked 174 miles from New York in twelve days. They will present a message to Governor-elect Sulzer advocating votes for women.

Sunday, December 29, 1912

Since there is no newspaper today, I shall simply quote another joke from the Siren. This one is attributed to the Yale Record:

Sportive Student (in booth): “Hello, Central, give me hic-heaven.”

Acid tone from receiver: “If I wasn’t a lady I’d give you—”


Saturday, December 28, 1912

Local antiquities are now on display in the rotunda of the Champaign postoffice, including an old envelope bearing the postmark of West Urbana, the original name of Champaign. It is dated April 8, 1856.

A silver dollar was found in the brain of the father who was killed, along with his family, in the horrible Christmas train accident. The portion of the skull in which resided the dollar was overlooked at first, having been flung to a different location. “The coin will be kept by relatives as a sad, as well as curious, memento of the fatality.” The little girl who survived has regained consciousness and is improving; her first words upon awakening were, “Hurrah for Santa Claus!” The family was buried today in a single grave at Mount Hope cemetery.

A sixteen-year-old girl has confessed to having set fire to the same Brooklyn building seven times. “I don’t know why I did it, only I just love to watch the flames. The blaze is so pretty,” she said. “But I do not mean any harm by it.”

Friday, December 27, 1912

At the Thursday meeting of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, the fact was brought out, quoted from unnamed eminent scientists, that 94 per cent of the criminal class are drunkards.

Governor Clark of Alaska is gloomy because there is a marked decrease in population in his territory, which he attributes to the falling off of mining, inadequate land laws, the prohibition against the killing of seals, and “the remarkable public calumnies about Alaska.” He is asking Congress to enact legislation permitting the working of the Alaskan coal lands.

The Kellogg Toasted Corn Flake company is charged with fixing prices in violation of the Sherman law. For some reason, seeing the headline “U.S. WARS ON CORN FLAKE MONOPOLY” made me giggle.

End-of-Year Clearance Sale, 1912

stock up on Grape Nuts

This ad appeared in the Urbana Courier-Herald on December 27, 1912.

Thursday, December 26, 1912

FAMILY IS WIPED OUT IN HORRIBLE CHRISTMAS TRAGEDY” is set in the largest type I have ever seen on a Courier-Herald front page. “A family of four was wiped out of existence at 11 o’clock Wednesday night in the most complete tragedy ever occurring in this vicinity.” The family’s carriage was struck by a train at Savoy. A little girl, a friend of the family, was the only one to survive, but she was badly injured and may die. They had just been to a wedding near Staley. It is supposed that the carriage was closed and that the driver was unable to hear or see the train. The carriage was reduced to splinters, the bodies of the dead were scattered over a wide area, and the horses returned home, unharmed.

A Chinaman was buncoed by a stranger at his laundry on South Market street. The bunco man showed him a display ad clipped from a newspaper and “informed the washee-washee man that he could have a similar ad in the paper (not mentioning which one) for $2.” The laundryman paid and got a receipt. and later “became suspicious when a diligent search of the local papers failed to reveal his advertisement.”

An explorer named Guy de Villepion planned an expedition into the hidden countries of South America, but nine days after the start in Brazil, his guide stole his boat and supplies, leaving him lost in the jungle. He wandered for three days, subsisting on wild herbs and small turtles, eaten raw. A group of savages made him their prisoner, feeding him their best food for nine days to fatten him before roasting him for their dinner. He managed to escape, and after several days he stumbled into a camp of Portugese rubber planters, who helped him to return to the coast.

Wednesday, December 25, 1912

Today is Christmas, and so of course there is no newspaper. Santa brought me apples, oranges, raisins, a smart new suit, and a lovely pillow embroidered in lilacs (my favorite flower). Cousin Elsie sent a pair of kid gloves, and dear Aunt Miriam gave me a subscription for the Forerunner, a monthly magazine produced by Charlotte Perkins Gilman!

Of course I know that “Santa” is really Mother and Papa.