Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Your Own Time Machine

One interesting and easy way to explore history is to peruse issues of old newspapers.  This can be accomplished by visiting your local library, the Adams County Historical Society or at home by browsing the worldwide web.

In this inquiry I chose the November 16, 1918 issue of the Gettysburg Compiler to examine.  The major headline that day was "GERMANY SURRENDERS" which reports the terms of the Armistice which notably took effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.  November 11 became the national holiday of Armistice Day but it eventually evolved into Veteran's Day which now celebrates the contributions of all military veterans, living or dead, for any service. 

The second place story was the continuing death toll of the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918.  The paper listed twenty three deaths for the week in the general population, the vast majority of which were due to the flu and Camp Colt reported six soldiers succumbed to the deadly virus.  It was interesting to note that two of the civilian dead included two veterans of the Civil War reminding us that in 1918, the war was still a recent memory for many Americans.

A small notice told of the death of Colonel Robert Bruce Ricketts, seventy-nine years old of Lake Ganoga, Pennsylvania.  Ricketts had commanded the First Pennsylvania Light Artillery on East Cemetery Hill during the Battle of Gettysburg fifty-five years earlier. 

An advertisement relating to the flu epidemic was sponsored by The Vick Chemical Company of Greensboro, North Carolina.  The firm manufactured Vick's Vapo-Rub and the ad warned pharmacists to only order small batches of their product.  The supplies of the concoction were severely depleted due to the epidemic.  They insisted small batch orders would be filled and therefore more product would be available to more customers.

An intriguing ad by G. W. Weaver and Son of Gettysburg was found and its message was to buy union suits made by Munsingwear.  The cartoon in the ad depicts several doughboys clad only in union suits and campaign hats carrying bayoneted rifles as they advanced toward the enemy.  The caption below the sketch read, "The Battle Cry of Free "Em".  Further on, it was written, "In War Time as in Peace "the Munsingwear Line Holds."  Indeed.

An interesting border was given to that ad and two others that appeared in the newspaper that day.  The borders consisted of the repeating pattern of swastikas.  Through the centuries the swastika has been featured in many cultures in art, architecture and print.  It was a sign which meant to be good or of being higher of self.  In general usage, it was a symbol of good luck.

In 1918, the swastika symbol was used as a good luck symbol for the American troops sent overseas.  It was used in print associated with their heath and well being as well as being emblazoned across the American Bald Eagle on a good luck token.

The symbol became known as an emblem of shame and inhumanity because in 1920 the Nazi Party adopted it as their official party symbol. 

A short visit to yesteryear via old newspapers is interesting, entertaining and educational.  It also helps us to understand our past.  Enjoy!

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