Tricounty News

History Matters: Kodak snapshot

Last week's special edition of the Tri-County News celebrating 60 years of serving the Kimball community noted that earlier newspapers had served the settlers before the 1900s. We know very little of them until 1900. E.H. Atwood tells that the first was the Maine Prairie Gem, first published on Dec. 2, 1864. Atwood states, "It was a fine paper and a decided success" whose "editress" was his young wife. He suggests that it was more of a literary work, part of the Lyceum the early settlers organized, and paralleled two 'publications' in Fair Haven that he also describes. These were established, one for men and one for women, and the issues were read alternately at the meeting of the literary society. So they probably all focused more on poetry and short articles by local residents than on news, as we think of it. For world, national and local news, the earliest pioneers relied heavily on the St. Cloud Democrat, wherein were often news snippets from "The Prairie." Perhaps a variety of papers came and went during the settlement's first half-century before the Kimball Kodak arrived on the scene. Published first at the turn of the century, the Kimball Kodak served residents until into the 1930s. An effort by the Minnesota Historical Society to preserve all Minnesota newspapers resulted in a small collection of the Kodak on microfilm at the Minnesota History Center. The earliest issue available is from Nov. 22, 1907, 100 (and a half) years ago. After this one issue, there is a 22-year gap, until the Sept. 5, 1929, issue. In the 1907 issue, its postal registration lists: The Kimball Kodak by Bacon & Allison, published every Friday at Kimball, Stearns Co. Minn. Subscriptions, $1 per year. Its registration date with the post office lists December 1901. It appears the external four pages were printed locally, and wrapped around internal pages that were preprinted with national and state news, a copy approach for not just smaller papers, but many major ones. So, what was of publishable interest in the earliest news we have from Kimball? Advertisements shine a light on everyday life of residents. In a day when travel was far more limited, I was surprised to see the Soo Line advertised Christmas excursions to Europe via Allan Line Steamers. $40.75 would cover costs to Hamburg and Antwerp, while $52.50 would get the adventurer to Stockholm. Other ads, filled with as many spelling mistakes as the rest of the paper, include the one reproduced with this column for the Engel store, where a man's heavy blanket-lined duck coat could be had for $1.50. The "best grade of corduroy sheep lined throughout sleeves including knit storm wristlets" was proclaimed "an unusual good value for $16." Grocery items were priced similarly: Mince meat, three packages for 25 cents; cranberries, 2 quarts for 25 cents; cooking or eating apples per peck, 50 cents. The prospect of the coming winter might also have the locals enticed by the following: "Our stock in over shoes, high top rubbers, and leggings, sheep skins moccassions is very large. Buy a pair and keep your feet warm. Felt shoes for men and women." The columns of the Kodak were a mish-mash of news-hard and serious or boringly mundane-announcements of community meetings, and social commentary. Under the title "New Snap Shots taken by the Kodak" were brief items of local interest. Readers could learn of their neighbors' activities: Jackson Goodner was in town Thursday. A few of the young folks of this place attended the dance at Fair Haven Saturday night. Dr. Sherwood made a business trip to Minneapolis Friday. Sunday school at the U.E. Church at 10 o'clock and German preaching at 11. The skating is being enjoyed by the young people on the ponds near town. Just received: the best line of horse blankets we have ever carried, Arrowood Bros. Miss Pearl Linn of Maine Prairie was in town Monday. Such local gossip was intermixed with some rather significant news: "Frank Smith, who escaped from the St. Cloud reformatory in 1895, has just been recaptured in Berkley, California." Also, "Another band of bank robbers similar to the old James and Younger gang seems to be flourishing over in South Dakota. Seven of them shot up a town and robbed the bank of $6,000 one day last week. That class of tax collectors give Minnesota towns a wide berth." The vehement passions of a local writer are evident in this longer item: "A dastardly attempt was made to destroy the roller mill by fire last Saturday evening. That the attempt was not successful was due to the blundering and yellow streak on the part of the incendiary. Shortly after 7 o'clock as R. O. Morrison was feeding his horses which are stabled near the mill, he noticed a flickering light coming from one of the basement windows. He suspected that something was wrong and went over to the mill to make investigation. As he neared the structure he saw the flames. An alarm was immediately given. Several people were on the scene a few minutes later and through the good work of Leonard Engel and Ralph Guptill the mill and probably half of the business portion of the village was saved. After the smoke had been cleared the developments were rather startling. It was found that there was a large ball of carpet rags thoroughly saturated with kerosene place in the boot at the bottom of one of the elevators and set on fire." The clash of traditional ways and modern trends appeared in this diatribe, under the title, The Low Necks. "When God gave man a wife and six children he has done a great deal for a fellow. But when he gave him a society-woman and a poodle dog he has done him up. These society women look upon children as a nuisance. I have had some of the society women shake hands with me and I must say that I had as leave shake hands with a dead fish tail. I wouldn't give one sock darning woman for all the society women in the country. Between cutting off the tops of their dresses for the ball room and the bottom for the bicycle these society women will soon have no clothes. A man said to a society woman, 'I hope to see more of you.' She said 'Come to the ball to-night.' Some people say I shouldn't speak that way before a mixed audience. Your own sisters wear high collars around their necks-that are modest and comely but deliver me from the society women, who button their collars around their waists. Samsones." Our congratulations and thanks to the community journalists who have served and continue to serve the Kimball area, providing news, commentary, entertainment, and practical information. And a special thank you from those of us who love digging through these dusty leaves (or the not-so-dusty electronic records) to examine the footprints of history, recording from whence we have come. ********** "All in the grand summer of '08" - April 23, Historical Society meeting with special program; May 24, Maine Prairie Cemetery, refreshments, history, memories for visitors; June 24, Historical Society meeting with special program; June 28, Kimball area history display, historians at Fairhaven Old Settlers picnic; and Aug. 8-10, Kimball Days, city hall's birthday party, many specials, souvenirs. Bonus: Minnesota statehood 150th anniversary. Details on all of these can be found here with each "History Matters" column. ********** Invest in what our founding fathers, parents and grandparents gave us ... Become a member of The Kimball Area Historical Society. Established in 2000; astonishing in 2008. Our address is: Box 100, Kimball, Minn. 55353. We look forward to hearing from you. ********** See you March 29 at the Kimball 2008 Expo. Don't miss it. ********** "The past has never seemed more present."