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Not-so-good old days
This week we'll check out some small items which all appeared in January, 1845 editions of the Oxford Democrat.
The following warning appeared in the Oxford Democrat of January 14, 1845.
A Warning to Farmers — Yesterday morning several loads of large well fatted, and well dressed hogs were brought into the market, but they were all more or less tainted. They were upon the sleds before the animal heat had entirely left the body, and though but a few hours had elapsed they had become tainted. It happens that hogs are brought into market frozen upon the surface while taint is working at the back bone on account of not being left to get clear of the animal heat. Haste in getting hogs to market in such cases is productive of great waste.
In those days nobody would have thought that government might have a role in inspecting meat to be sure it was edible. An event that still occurs from time-to-time was recorded in that issue of the paper as well.
Singular Phenomenon — Fish thrown a shore
A friend who has just returned from the sea shore of New Jersey, informs us that the whole shore for thirty or forty miles, is covered with dead fish, cast up by the sea. They are all kinds, from the smallest perch to the largest sturgeon, some rock fish weighing forty or fifty pounds, and rich sea bass. Many of the fish are thrown up before they are dead. So great is the number that a gentleman computed that on Learning's Beach alone there must be 10,000 bushels. What has happened among the fish, we cannot tell, as we do not know to what unwholesome influences they are liable in the deeps below, but something extraordinary must have been in operation to produce an evil so extensive. Was it a volcanic eruption? Phil. U.S. Gaz.
Meanwhile, the following seemed at first glance to be the tale of an eccentric elderly man. However, considering that there was no sort of retirement benefits, no nursing homes, no Medicare, the poor old fellow may have preferred finishing off his life span in prison to starving in freedom.
The Romance of Real Life
A Ghent Journal states that there is among the convicts in the prison in that city, a man who ten years ago, having murdered a schoolmaster from jealousy, was condemned to hard labor for life, and this man is now worth nearly a million of franks. He is clothed in the livery of the convicts, and is working as a bricklayer's laborer — In the same prison there is also living a man who, half a century since was pardoned, and to whom liberty has been offered many times. He, however, is so much accustomed to the life of a prison that he requested as a favor to be allowed to remain there until the time of his death. He is now almost 90 years old. He has lost all his relations and friends long since, and has no desire to mix again in a world in which he knows nobody. He is very kindly treated in the prison as his conduct was always good.
Here's another story that told more than it seemed. While the following, which is faithfully quoted as it ran in an 167-year-old Oxford Democrat, it would be rejected today as anything but an example of historic prejudice because of the racial overtones. However, when read and understood, it's clear that it's really a "turn-the-tables" gag in which the stereotyped "victim" becomes the winner at the expense of the bigot.
"Pompey, are you willing to be damned, if it be the Lords's will?" inquired a pious friend. "Oh yes, Massa, and more too; I'm willing to have you damned too," replied Pompey.
As we've often noted before, the Democrat was staunchly abolitionist, that is, against slavery, from very early on. but although the reasons cited were often legitimately based on moral outrage, there was something else that Yankees understood only too well — economics.
The Southern papers are urging the establishment of cotton factories in the Southern States. Slave labor is to be employed in them.
This small item was very important because the farmers up here made big money shipping food to feed the thousands of factory workers in Massachusetts and other New England locales. Cotton factories in the south manned by slave labor would spell an end to that economy in New England. It was a point few Yankees would have missed. On a lighter note, the attributed source of the following might be suspect. It could have been the prototype of what we'd call an "urban myth," but it's still sure to bring a smile, even to lawyers who've heard it hundreds of times.
March of intellect in England. — At the Sandwich session lately, "twelve wise men" returned a verdict of not guilty in respect to a charge against a female prisoner, but accompanied it with the hope that she would not do it again!
However, that said, the Democrat of the 1840s was on his toes in debunking a different porto-myth:
The report published in the papers, of an abolition riot in Georgetown, Ohio, on the occasion of a recapture of negro slaves by some Kentuckians is a hoax, afloat by some brainless wag. The hoax took, however, both in the North and South, and a great deal of indignation has been expanded on the subject.
Then, as now, when jokes were few the legislature could always be counted on for a laugh.
Funny Anecdote — The following anecdote told by the editor of the Concord (Mass)) Freeman is probably just as true now as it ever was, and is certainly too good to be lost. "Some years ago a bill was reported in the N. York House of Assembly, entitled — "An Act for the preservation of the Heath Hen and other Game." The speaker of the House, who was probably not much of a sportsman, gravely read it — "An Act for the preservation of the Heathen and other game," a blunder of which he, was not conscious, until an honest member from the North, who had suffered considerably by the depredations of the frontier Indians, moved an amendment by adding the words, "except Indians." After the mistake of the Speaker was corrected, the amendment of course became unnecessary, and was withdrawn.
A later great American humorist — Will Rogers — speaking of prohibition, summed up, "The trouble with Congress is, when they make a joke, it's a law. And, when they make a law....." On the same note, this gem, also from January 14, 1845, has a contemporary ring to it. The same could be said today, in fact:
A Political Joke — One of the last and best stories is told of a man at Williamsburg, N.Y., who previous to the election of Mr. Polk, had made a contract for the digging in a cellar. It is told of him, that when the result became known, he at once abandoned his intention, as there being no longer any protection to American labor, he would be enabled to import his cellars ready dug!
On that note, we'll end this look back and take a week to reflect.
As is our custom, we try to exactly reproduce the grammar, spelling, punctuation and style of the original. Commas might appear where least expected and remain absent where we’d expect them if the item was written nowadays. On the other hand, consistency was not considered of utmost importance, so variations of a spelling might appear within one story. In addition, some words were abbreviated differently than today. Where brief explanations of terms are considered necessary, they are presented in brackets  within the quote. Otherwise, explanations appear at the beginning or at the conclusion, without quotes. Parenthesis () used in a quoted passage appeared in the original.