One of the best ways to learn about events that occurred in the past is by looking through old newspapers. Sometimes, you can rediscover things that have been forgotten over time by reading the original stories and articles, as published in the periodicals of the day.
Today, it’s possible to go online and view many historical newspapers from around the world, including some of the ones published right here in Crowsnest Pass.
Crowsnest Pass would have been an interesting place to live during the first part of the 20th century. It was a time before radio and television. Few people owned a telephone, and not everyone had electricity, let alone hot and cold running water, or indoor flush toilets – things we take for granted today. If you needed to contact someone living outside the immediate area, you would write a letter, or head over to the local telegraph office. To learn what was happening around town or in any of the adjacent communities, and to keep apprised of national and world events, you read the local newspaper. Going to your barber for a trim may have also provided an opportunity to catch up on the latest news.
The first newspaper to appear in Crowsnest Pass was the Frank Sentinel, in 1901. It remained in Frank until 1903, before moving to Blairmore, where it became the Blairmore Times. Another newspaper, The Drill, moved into Frank in 1904, but was short-lived and replaced in 1905 by the Frank Paper. It wasn’t long before newspapers were published in other Pass communities, including Coleman (1908) and Bellevue (1910). They were weekly publications, with each edition containing 4-8 pages. An annual subscription might cost $1.50 – $2.00.
Some issues, such as those published a week or two prior to Christmas, might expand to a dozen pages, or more. These editions were often filled with advertisements by local merchants seeking to attract business for the Yuletide season. Their store’s shelves were sure to be stocked with a complete assortment of products for your “inspection and approval.” Whether you were looking for magic lanterns, musical instruments, Kodak cameras, ladies handkerchiefs, men’s caps and fancy suspenders, or toys for the little ones, they were all available for purchase in local shops. The proliferation of advertisements seen in early newspapers at Christmastime is a holiday tradition that continues to this day.
Some of the stories that made good copy in the early 1900s would probably not appear in newspapers nowadays, as they would be too mundane and unnewsworthy by today’s standards. Some of the news and images that appear in the papers of today would surely not have been printed back then, as they would have been considered unfit for publication. On the other hand, there are certain things that were published in those days that would be unacceptable in newspapers today, because of their discriminatory nature.
Something I find interesting when reading through early newspapers of Crowsnest Pass, and elsewhere, are the Of Local and General Interest columns. Most papers had them, in one form or another. The tidbits of news they provided were meant to inform people what others were doing, or what was going on in the community, in general. These columns would cover things like, who was visiting from out of town, who they were visiting, and for how long they might be staying. If you left town on business, or to visit relatives somewhere outside the community, that information would be passed on, as well. And if you were under the weather or recuperating from an illness, the paper might provide weekly updates, until your health improved. If you had recently married, or passed away – well, that would be covered here, too. It was common practice by newspaper publishers to insert short, one line advertisements between some of the news briefs and anecdotes. Could this have been an early form of subliminal print advertising?
Although these columns might seem humorous when we read them today, they provide insight on some of the characters and individuals living in Crowsnest Pass during its pioneer days. I wonder what sorts of things people will be writing about us a hundred years from now?
Newspaper images courtesy:
University of Alberta Peel’s Prairie Provinces.