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Newspapers, recorders of history...

It’s been exactly 100 years today since the Feb. 5, 1920 edition of the Donnybrook Courier was published and there are a number of things to point out that could be relevant today.

2/04/20 (Tue)

It’s been exactly 100 years today since the Feb. 5, 1920 edition of the Donnybrook Courier was published and there are a number of things to point out that could be relevant today.

Anyone who has read old newspapers or researched history, knows that the look of newspapers are vastly different today than they were 100 years ago.

However, the information presented then was as important to the local community as it is now as we can see in the Courier, which is a continuation of the Carpio Free Press.

Perhaps the most shocking piece of information is in the grain markets. Each week the Courier listed the local grain markets as The Kenmare News does today.

The Feb. 5, 1920 Donnybrook grain prices are as follows with all grain prices listed per bushel: No. 1 spring wheat, $3.75; durum, $2.08; oats, 71 cents; barley, $1.16; rye, $1.44; flax, $4.78. Eggs were also listed at 55 cents per dozen and new potatoes were listed at $2.25, but a unit of measurement wasn’t listed.

Now, contrast that with Monday’s grain prices; spring wheat, $5.05; durum, $6.50; feed barley, $2.50; flax, $8.60. Rye and oats aren’t listed in today’s markets.

So in 100 years, the price of wheat has increased $1.30. Durum has increased the most, going up $4.42 per bushel, while the flax increase is rather subtle at $3.82 and barley has largely been stagnant, seeing only a $1.34 increase.

There’s a lot of other information that’s in this four-page broadsheet newspaper.

One thing that is rarely done in today’s newspapers, but was common in 1920, was to put advertising on the front page.

At the time, the Donnybrook State Bank was soliciting business as was the State Bank of Aurelia. The Aurelia bank suggested opening an account and the business would be appreciated, while the Donnybrook bank was suggesting people open a checking account as a convenient way to pay their bills.

Another large ad, on page 2, was taken out by HJ Schmidt, presumably proprietor of a general store that sold everything from canned tomatoes and cranberries to underwear and fleece-lined shirts. Four pounds of cranberries were selling for 50 cents and men’s shirts were $1.

Over at the Lyceum Theater in Donnybrook, you could get in for 35 cents to see “In the Hollow of Her Hand,” a 1918 silent mystery drama starring Alice Brady.

Still another ad was from the Renville Telephone Co., in Donnybrook. The ad told of the service hours but also mentioned, “Unless you are a subscriber of the Renville or Gleaves telephone companies, you cannot talk over the farm lines unless you make a payment of 10 cents.”

The editorial side of Donnybrook’s official newspaper was very informative, humorous at times and like ads, obituaries were published on the front page.

One article on page 1 carried the headline “Sauerkraut for cows.” Silage was apparently a new item in 1920 and the article describes the fermentation process of the harvested corn.

Another article that seems as relevant today as it did 100 years ago was the Donnybrook School Board had just passed a bond issue referendum in the amount of $54,000 to build a new schoolhouse. Polls were to be open from 2-5 p.m., on Feb. 7.

As far as legal notices were concerned. The following appeared in the Courier:

Resolutions of Respect:

WHEREAS, The Angel of Death has removed from among us our beloved brother, Floyd M. Patterson,

RESOLVED  That we, the members of Donnybrook Lodge A. 0. U. W. No. 57, most sincerely extend to the bereaved family our heartfelt sympathy in their time of sorrow. God will comfort them as He alone can comfort.”

AND, Be It Further Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be presented to the bereaved family; that the same be published in the local paper and that we spread these resolutions on our records.

The Donnybrook basketball team held Bowbells to just 4 points in the second half to beat the “fast” Bowbells players, 25-13. Kenmare boys and girls teams were scheduled to come to Donnybrook the following week.

One article came out of Rugby explaining that a merchant had spent $400 on advertising in the local paper and made $175,000.

“Don’t think for a minute that the money you spend for advertising is strewn to the four winds,” the article stated.

It’s obvious the Feb. 5, 1920 edition of the Donnybrook Courier was important to the local population, which was listed officially at 267.

Steve Andrist, the executive director of the North Dakota Newspaper Association, and former publisher of the Divide County Journal, knows full and well the importance of newspapers to the local community and their historical value.

“Back in the ‘20s, newspapers were the only source of factual information for members of a community,” Andrist said. “Today, of course, there are many ways that information is shared in our communities, but most of them aren’t journalism and you have no way of knowing whether the information is factual, embellished or even fabricated.”

He added, “Amid all the tweets and shares and cries of fake news, newspapers even today remain a trusted source of information. They provide sourced information, often multi-sourced, giving weight to both sides of an issue and adhering to journalistic standards that are typically not present in many online formats.”

With today’s changing landscape of newspapers, it’s important to remember that the examples provided actually happened. The examples are what is relevant in today’s newspaper; editorial, obituary, ad, sports and legal notice.

And, the information in this newspaper article was all taken from just one, four-page edition from 100 years ago.

Forty years of Donnybrook’s history is written in the pages of the Courier that represented the community from 1901 to 1941.

It’s like any other community in North Dakota that had or has a newspaper; we can find those historical moments quickly and better understand what life was like.

In another 100 years, the question is not about what kind of information will be published, but if it will be published at all.

As Andrist said, newspapers are a trusted source which in turn, makes the history of that community as accurate as it will get... 

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