The old “Wayne Gazette,” part 2

Seventy-five years ago a columnist of the “Weekly Wayne Gazette” wrote of the new year of 1872 just coming into being: “It is midnight! Like a strange dream, warped with troubles and woofed with blood, the year eighteen hundred and seventy one has vanished over the brink of the Great Precipice, and around the corner–the bead in the stream of time–with merry bells we hear the coming of the Happy New Year. Still clinging to the bank while so many have gone by and down forever, waiting for the wave which shall unloose our hold, let us, in fancy, weave a mantle of silk from the dirty blood-stained rags of the past . . . One short year! It seems but like yesterday since we stood at the christening of the one now dead and on its threshold laid our varied gifts–a bundle of plans, hopes, promises and expectation of the future so many are ever dreading.”

Though it is a little difficult to follow our columnist of a bygone era with his many intricate and confusing figures of speech, we gather he was pleased neither with the year 1871 just ending nor with the prospects for the year 1872 just beginning. Indeed it took two columns to express all he felt! However the poet, writing in that same issue of the “Weekly Gazette”, had a much cheerier outlook as witnessed by the concluding verse of a long poem appearing on the front page:

“Whether we greet it with a smile
Or with the falling tear
Thank God for all, and from our hearts
Welcome the glad New Year.”

For the editors of the paper the year 1871 appears to have been a good one as they take stock of it with “the tin horns still blowing” under their window as they went to press . . . to remind them that “the holiday times have not yet passed away.” For the year had seen the birth of the newspaper for its three editors, John Campbell, Miss Sallie B. Martin and Miss Leta B. Bittle–and it had seen not only its birth, but its growth from a hand written sheet to a four page weekly which was “copied by leading journals throughout the States”–a fact which in the future should add “a deal of new energy to the pens and pencils” of these writers.

On December 23, 1871, the “Gazette” was presented to its readers in its new “Holiday Clothes” and “with bright and cheery face” bespoke for its many friends “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” These “holiday clothes,” which continued from that issue on, were the elaborate designs and pictures in the heading as described in last week’s column–up to that issue the simple heading of “Wayne Weekly Gazette” in large lettering, with a small design, under the word “Weekly” had sufficed. An editorial in this issue of December 23 states that “the increasing amount of readable matter accumulating upon our table, and the growing acquaintance of our paper among a reading and thoughtful people demands that our columns be again enlarged for their accommodation. As we are desirous of doing our duty in this age of ‘telegraphic living’ we must needs be up to the times in our labor of good to the people, at which hands it always finds a hearty welcome.”

So much for the year 1871 from the viewpoint of the “Wayne Weekly Gazette”, and so much for its good resolutions for 1872.

With Christmas but two days away as the paper went to press on December 23, a goodly amount of space was devoted to that happy season. There is a quaint two column cut of Santa about to descent a chimney that for once is pictured as large enough for his portly frame. Donner and Blitzen and all the other reindeer are there with “the sleigh full of toys.” And below the picture is the well known “‘Twas the Night before Christmas” with not a word of all its many verses omitted. There is a seven verse poem entitled “Christmas Carol” and another called “Little Children, Can You Tell.” There are “Christmas Side-Views” written for the “Gazette by the Reverend T. Hork.

Your columnist looked almost in vain for accounts of Christmas celebrations in churches and school. There is, however, one story of a Sabbath School party in St. John’s Episcopal Church in Lower Merion where “the youthful army, with their many warm friends, filled the church to repletion”. The account of the Christmas celebration in the school is worthy of almost full quotation. Under the title of “Kris-Kringle” the “Gazette” says:

“On Friday before Christmas St. Nicholas made sure of his visit to Wayne Lyceum School. Fire had been put out, and Kris had contrived to get down through the stove pipe in the absence of the old-fashioned chimney. We are not surprised that he comes from his solitude at least once a year to make himself happy with the sight of many children; and we know he will never want to discontinue his visits to the happy place of Wayne. Kris had trimmed the room with evergreens . . . there were gifts of beautiful figured candies and boxes of fruit . . . with a neat little speech a leader from the ranks of the children presented to the teacher a handsome gold pencil and pen and case.”

And with two verses of a poem written by ” J. T. S.” in the January 6 issue of the “Gazette” on the subject of “New Year’s Day” we close our account of the holiday season of seventy-nine years ago in Wayne.

“Poets have o’er it snug
Bells have been o’er it rung
Guns by eager watchers shot
As ‘old and ‘new’ changed about.
Be cheerful, unhappy soul
You will reach a happy goal
Ere many another year
Is laid on the dreadful bier.”