As a new year starts, a look back to newspapers on January 1 of 1870, 1920, and 1970. (While people may debate whether those years marked the start of a decade or not – no one can argue they were new years, and were 150, 100, and 50 years ago, respectively.)
150 Years Ago
The Arkansas Gazette of 1870 was four pages. It was still, as it had been up to that point in time and would be for a decade or so, largely a combination of delayed national news and advertisements. Of the four pages, there was probably only about half of one page that was actually local news.
There were two articles in the Gazette about the requirements for Georgia to be readmitted to the Union. There was also an update on the adoption of the 15th Amendment. Locally, the Arkansas River had risen eight inches on December 30 and 31. There was also discussion about the Little Rock Police Department, which consisted of a chief, two sergeants, and ten privates. As the Arkansas Democrat was eight years away from being founded, the Gazette was the only Little Rock daily newspaper in 1870.
100 Years Ago
The January 1, 1920, editions of the Arkansas Gazette and Arkansas Democrat covered pretty much the same stories. Prices were going up, Bolsheviks were getting deported from Chicago, the League of Nations was being debated in Washington DC.
Local news in both papers included word that a trace of oil had been found in El Dorado (foreshadowing the boom which would occur later in the decade), and that Jack Dempsey was arriving in town to box. Both papers carried similar editorial cartoons on the front page of the paper with a Baby New Year theme.
The Gazette noted that planning for the 1920 Census was underway and that women’s clothes were going to be cheaper because with changing fashions, they would be wearing fewer clothes.
The Democrat (an afternoon paper) ran an article stating that New Year’s celebrations in DC were somewhat muted, perhaps because of concerns about the health of President Wilson, who had suffered a stroke in October 1919. There was also an article about planning being underway for the 300th anniversary of the Mayflower with events set for England, Holland, and the US.
The Democrat also noted that Arkansas had seen 12 lynchings in 1919 (though the Elaine massacre was no doubt not included in this number).
50 Years Ago
As 1970 dawned, the Gazette and Democrat both carried stories about Vietnam and the Department of Justice seeking a delay in implementation of school desegregation. Locally, it was announced that KATV was purchasing the old Worthen Bank Building at Main and Fourth Streets. The Hogs were getting ready to face Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl (which the Razorbacks would lose by a score of 27 to 22 to the Archie Manning led Rebels).
The Gazette carried stories about Roy Cohn being indicted in Illinois for financial fraud, the US Supreme Court being asked to define obscenity, and flooding in Appalachia. The Democrat had a story about five US soldiers being killed during a 24 hour cease fire, which brought the total number of American casualties in Vietnam to more than 40,000 in nine years. That same day, Vice President Spiro Agnew had visited troops in Vietnam.
Teamsters Union president Jimmy Hoffa, in the middle of an eight year prison term, had indicated he would share information with authorities in return for President Nixon commuting his sentence. In local crime news, City Hall and the municipal garage behind the building had been broken into. While there had been a failed attempt to pry open the Collector’s office, thieves had apparently only been able to get a small amount of cash by breaking a vending machine in the building.
The Gazette and Democrat both ran editorial cartoons (though no longer on the front page) which dealt with the start of a new decade. The former’s merely featured a calendar with “Happy New Decade.” The latter noted that Communism had been a focus of the 1960s, but that the environment looked to be a focus of the 1970s.