For the occasion of this Christmas 2009 Ron Edge has pulled out the full four pages of Seattle’s Evening Dispatch for the Monday Evening of Dec. 24, 1877. For those with the steady temperament to insert themselves into a small community of well under 4000 citizens – and yet still with five churches and many more bars – a close reading of these pages will take them away.
The Dispatch was not the first newspaper in Seattle, but it was an early one. Clarence Bagley, the pioneer Seattle historian described its editor, Beriah Brown, as “one of the old school of newspaper men, a writer of editorials worthy of the great papers of the United States. He was a friend of Horace Greeley . . . His custom was to go to the case and put his articles in type as he composed them. It is hard to comprehend the difficulty occasioned by the dual processes of thought this brought into play.”
We will include now all four pages of this Dec. 24, 1877 issue, and separate them by short notices of some of what we found on each page. The reader may, of course, skip our comments and go directly to Brown’s Dispatch.
First – the first page.
In 1877, Christmas fell on a Tuesday. This made the call for profound messages especially taxing on the small community’s several preachers. They could not very well avoid the Christ Child with their Sunday the 23rd sermon, but they then would also be expected to come up with new materials, and roughly on the same subject, for Christmas Day services. Rarely, of course, did they have “new material” but were skilled for the great part in the twisting or adjusting of the old stories – most of them from the Bible. Still if you read the Page One Evening Dispatch accounts of some of Seattle’s Sunday services, you will find differences of tone or emphasis in how, for instance, Rev. D. Bagley of the “Brown Church” and Rev. I. Dillon of the “White Church” and visiting Congregationalist Rev. W. Steward handle their subjects. J. Ellis, the local Congregationalist, also took to the pulpit, Sunday evening. (The Baptists, Catholics and Episcopal churches were noted in other reports.)
Of these four, it was Steward, the visitor from the north, who after warming up gave the best example of a fire and brimstone sermon noting that “commonsense, sound philosophy and our home experience unite, in tones of thunder, ‘that heaven is no place for the ungodly. The very thought of the atheist, the Deist, the liar, the murderer or blasphemer going to heaven is absurd. There is nothing so much out of place and unfit, that would be justified for a moment by any respectable tribunal on earth, much less in the court of heaven, where nothing that defileth or maketh a lie can enter, and where ‘Holiness if the Lord’ is the imprint on every commodity.” Commodity!? Jumping forward to page three, we learn that Steward when relaxing with a cup of tea in the living room is a kindly “84 years of age. He is visiting with Dr. Weed, Mrs. Weed being his niece. Mr. Stewart has been an extraordinarily temperate (non-drinking) man all his life, and consequently is now in the enjoyment of a serene, healthful and happy old age.” (You will find an advertisement for Dr. Weed, Steward’s host, on page three below.)
It was Ellis, the other and younger Congregationalist, who was kinder to mankind – and progress too – with his sermon. Ellis told his congregation “Well, one thing is assured: (The coming of the Christ Child) is not a bolt from far aloft shot athwart the pathway of the race to smite it and cut if off from its onward march. Christ is not a force antagonistic to man – He is Man Himself. He gets the momentum of humanity, casts himself into a stream of life and comes to the surface a Babe!”
Also on page one and nearly directly to the right side of Dillon’s sober description of mankind is Fred Gasch’s announcement that he will open his “New Beer Hall” on Front Street (First Avenue) next to the North Pacific Brewery, and so also near the waterfront foot of Columbia Street. And for joyful encouragement Gasch includes in his advertisement his own sermon, of sorts, a rhyming one in song. It goes . . .
Come to the Fountain to-night, boys, / And fill with foaming beer. / What if your heads get light, boys, / The pleasure of life is here. / Eat, drink and be merry today, boys, / The old-time philosopher said, / Then go to the Fountain and stay, boys, / Till the shadows of the night have fled.
Compared to Gasch’s New Beer Hall, William Lawrence’s Office Saloon and Billiard Room might seem a bit swanky. It was on the south side of Mill Street (Yesler Way) opposite Yesler’s Mill. “It is the place to get genuine J.H. Cutter, Old Golden and Gaines’, Old Hermitage Rye Whiskies, Three Star, Hennesy, and Martell Brandies, and the Best Wines and Cigars; also to have a game of Billiards on a first-class table. We have a number of private Club Rooms for accommodation of guests.”
One more mention for Page one. The Seattle and Walla Walla Railroad is listed with a charming little graphic for the train, and a schedule for its Seattle-to-Renton runs. Of course, not once did it make it as far as Walla Walla.
(Please DOUBLE-CLICK to enlarge to a readable size.)
At the top of page two the Evening Dispatch’s editor, the crusading moralist Beriah Brown, with an editorial on “Political Fault-Finders” makes an analysis of Pres. Hayes administration’s failure, in spite of promises, to replace the spoils system with an apolitical civil service administration. Page two is also stuffed with advertisements including one for the watchmaker, jeweler and engraver Charles Naher, who is also selling the “largest and best selection of Musical Instruments in the Territory and will be sold at reduced prices. The public are invited to call and convince themselves.” The editor appears again on this page with “news” that he is the proprietor of patents of California, Oregon and Washington Territory for the “Great Invention. Lockwood’s Portable Steam Oven. The Best Cooking Utensil Ever Invented. Burning or Scorching of Food Impossible.” As witness to the still small size of Seattle, L. Reinig, a well-known pioneer baker, promised groceries, provisions, fruit and vegetables, bread, cake, crackers and goods delivered to all parts of the city free of charge.”
So much of page three is simply a “good read.” This begins with the far left column under the heading “The City, A Merry Christmas” and its spirited report on what to expect with Christmas, 1877. The page includes a number of shorter reports including one about a tunnel being built below Washington Street near Third Avenue in order to re-route spring water from First Hill directly to the tideflats rather than to the basements of the the homes and establishments in that often sodden part of town south of Mill Street (Yesler Way). Page three shows a number of notices – e.g. T. Couter asks that “all persons are hereby requested to call and pay up, as I need the money to pay my bills by the First of January. ” It includes a complete – we assume – list of “Hotel Arrivals.” There are also more church announcements and one report of a street corner religious service with an assembly of doubtful believers. When the service was interrupted by a “bunch of fire-crackers” the paper concluded that this “mischief was probably the work of a hoodlum as there were a number of them in the congregation at the time.” And page three also shows more small advertisements, although not as many as page two.
Page Four features more small ads – always enlightening of the times to read. The biggest among them is for Steel’s Pain Eradicator, which is described as “The Most Wonderful Discovery of the Age.” The jumbled lesson of this medicine is “The World moves, and unless we Progress we must go Backward. Nothing remains Stationary.” The producers claim no intention “to deceive the people” that their medicine is “a cure for every complaint on earth; but a really scientific article of the greatest merit, which will prove a boon to suffering humanity – both on account of its adaptability to both man and beast, [this part an appeal to farmers] its readiness of application, and the price being within the reach of all.” The list of “aches and pains” for which their solution is a great eradicator is wonderful – from “lameness” to gout and “soar throats.” (Persons who believe that such grandiose advertising is no longer possible are invited to listed to Seattle’s own KING FM through a few ad breaks.) For those Dispatch readers whose pains were not eradicated by this or any of the other promising solutions from bottled beer to Dr. Goulard’s “celebrated foot powders,” another ad on page four for John Keenen’s Seattle Stone Yard offers headstones and tombs.