Newspaper Headlines: Labor Day, 1912

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:    

Monday, September 2, 1912:  Had to go to school, even if it is labor day. We had this day off last year.

Cold isn’t much better. Have to blow my whistle almost all the time, which constant usage make it rather sore and pink.

Labor Day, September 2, 1912 Chicago Morning Tribune Article
Source: Chicago Morning Tribune (September 2, 1912)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

It’s interesting that in 1911 the students didn’t have to go to school on Labor Day—but that in 1912 they did. Was Labor Day an important holiday in 1912?

A quick scan of newspaper headlines from September 2, 1912 shows that  in 1912 the nation was engaged in a debate over the role of labor and unions (as well as whether woman should be paid the same as men).

Representative Newspaper Headlines

Labor Day, September 2, 1912

Cathedral Packed for Labor Service: Mgr. Lavelle Points Out Socialism’s Weakness to Vast Throng of Union Men (New York Times)

Labor Day Parade: Large Squad of Police Detailed to Assist in Keeping Order-Line of March (Los Angeles Times)

Labor Will Parade Today, While City Lends Cheers: Predicted That 50,000 Persons Will Attend Celebration at Armory (Minneapolis Morning Tribune)

Minnesota State Fair to Open This Morning: Exposition Gates to be Thrown Wide to Northwest Visitors: Labor Program Planned (Minneapolis Morning Tribune)

Urges Pay Raise to Save Women: Bishop Samuel Fallows Advocates Putting Them on an Equal Basis with Men: Bar to Immorality (Chicago Daily Tribune)

Weather Forecast for Steamships

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:     

Thursday, August 29, 1912:  Was real nice going to school this morning. You see it rained last night. Had our first visitors at school today. They were Miss Cakes and Miss Bryson. We had our last class, while they were there.

Recent photo of building that once housed McEwensville High School.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

It sounds like the rain the previous night broke a hot spell.

Here’s what the weather report in the New York Times for August 29, 1912 said.

The Weather

. . . Temperatures remain below the seasonal average in the Northeastern States, the region of the Great Lakes, and the Upper Mississippi Valley, and continue high in the Lower Ohio and Middle Mississippi Valleys and throughout the South. . .  . .

Steamships departing Thursday for European ports will have moderate variable winds and overcast showery weather to the Grand Banks.

Cool—It’s amazing that there was a steamship forecast. How many steamships left the port of New York on a typical day? . . . How many people were on those ships? There must have been a lot or the New York Times probably wouldn’t have included the steamship forecast.


I’m not sure who the two visitors were. Miss Bryson might possibly refer to Blanche Bryson, She was a friend of Grandma and her sister Ruth.

What Courses Did High School Students Take a Hundred Years Ago?

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, August 27, 1912:  Brought home my Latin Grammar, all the time thinking I had my Caesar. Didn’t want the former at all. Must study some now, so I’ll soon be in the midst of my studies this evening.

Guess I will like Mr. Teacher.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Hmm. . . This is the first time that Grandma’s mentioned Latin during the year and a half that I’ve been posting her diary entries. . . . though she apparently had taken some Latin in previous years because she used the Latin term puella bona (good girl) in a diary entry that I posted a few days ago.

I was amazed to discover that a hundred years ago, most females who went high school learned Latin. According to the August, 1912 issue of Ladies Home Journal, here’s what females were studying in high school:

Latin, French, or German:  82 out of every hundred

Algebra and Geometry:  87 out of every hundred

English Literature:  57 out of every hundred

Rhetoric:  57 out of every hundred

History: 55 out of every hundred

Domestic Economy (sewing, cooking, and household economics): 3 out of every hundred

The article was making the point that few females took domestic economy classes—and that maybe more should.

A Victor Victrola Machine!

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, August 14, 1912: Ruth and I went up to Oakes’ this evening. We were treated to the pleasure of hearing a Victor Victrola. I enjoyed it very much. It being the first time I had ever heard one play.

Victor Victrola
Source: Wikipedia

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

The Oakes family lived on a farm near the Muffly’s. They had several children who were close in age to Grandma and her sister Ruth.

What a fun evening! I can almost picture 4 or 5 teen-agers and young adults gathered around the Victor Victrola machine listening to very scratchy music—while thinking that it was absolutely the most awesome thing ever.

The first Victor Victrola machine was produced in 1906—so the technology must have spread relatively rapidly if a farm family in rural Pennsylvania owned one by 1912.

According to Wikipedia:

Soon an extensive line of Victrolas was marketed, ranging from small tabletop models selling for $15, through many sizes and designs of cabinets intended to go with the decor of middle-class homes in the $100 to $250 range, up to $600 Chippendale and Queen Anne-style cabinets of fine wood with gold trim designed to look at home in elegant mansions.

Victor Victrola
Source: Wikipedia

One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about Grandma’s diary is when Grandma mentions the first time she experiences various new technologies.

In May, 1912 Grandma rode in an automobile for the first time.

And, in 1911, Grandma used a telephone for the first time and also rode a ferris wheel for the first time;

Percent of Crops in the World Produced by United States, 1912 and 2012

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:

Tuesday, July 30, 1912:  Nothing doing at all.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’d like to share some interesting statistics about world crop production in 1912 and 2012.

According to the  July 30, 1912 issue of the New York Times:

We Lead in Crops

The Bureau of Statistics of the Department of Agriculture concluded today a resume of the production of staple crops throughout the world which presents the latest information in such line of inquiry.

It shows that the United States stands first in the production of corn, wheat, oats, cotton, tobacco, and hops. The relative rank of the United States in the world’s exports is first in wheat, flour, cotton, cottonseed oil, tobacco, oilcake and oilcake meal, rosin, and turpentine.

The United States produces 19.8 per cent of the world’s wheat crop, 74.8 per cent of the world’s corn crop, 24 per cent of the oat crop of the world, 59 per cent of its cotton, 31 per cent of its tobacco, and 25 per cent of its flaxseed.

Click on figure to enlarge.

The US produces a lower percentage of the world’s total production of wheat, corn, oats, cotton, and tobacco now than in 1912—though of course the actual amount produced would be higher.  (A previous post provides data about actual crop yields a hundred years ago and now.)

Click on table to enlarge.

In both 1912 and 2012, the US was the largest producer in the world of corn.

If you care about the details about how I compiled the data in the figures–

If 2012 data wasn’t available for a crop, I used data from the most recent year available and assumed that it was the same in 2012.

If you’d like to dig deeper into crop current crop production data here are some useful resources:

United States Department of Agriculture–Economic Research Service

Index Mundi–Agriculture

AgMRC: Agricultural Marketing Resource Center

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Major Crops Grown in the United States

An Embroidery Pattern and A Balloon

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, July 25, 1912:  Spent nearly all afternoon in getting an embroidery pattern reversed so as to have the whole design. It’s finished now and stamped on the material.

For several evenings I’ve seen a balloon go up, but tonight I saw only the gas.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Help!! I don’t understand this diary entry—and am hoping that some of you can help me make sense of it.

Embroidery Pattern

How do you reverse an embroidery pattern and then stamp it on cloth?  I can remember using an iron to transfer the patterns to cloth when I was child—but I have no idea how Grandma reversed the pattern and then stamped it.


Was Grandma referring to a hot air balloon?

Hot air balloons were popular attractions at fairs and festivals in the early 20th century. Steve Shook has a wonderful picture of hot air balloons at a festival in Valparaiso, Indiana that was taken around 1910.

But what did she mean when she said that she only saw the gas?

Percent of Land Covered by Forests in US, 1912 and 2012

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, July 23, 1912:  Did the ironing this morning. I’ve decided at last to get through with a book I brought home from school last spring. I studied at it some this evening. By studying twenty-five pages a day I’ll be though it by the time school starts.

Source: Commercial Geography (1910)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

What could the book have been about? It doesn’t sound like light reading, but rather something serious . . .  more like a textbook.

I found a hundred-year- old geography book, and was surprised to discover that even back then people were really worried about the environment and the deforestation of the US.

In fact, millions of acres of the uplands in the United States, now denuded of timber would best serve the uses of man if permanently reforested. Already the proportion of forested area in the United States has fallen almost as low as in Germany (Fig. 9).

Commercial Geography (1910) by Edward Van Dyke Robinson

This made we wonder if more or less of the land in the US is forested today than it was a hundred years ago.

According to the US Forest Service about 33% of the land in the US was covered by trees in both 1912 and 2012.