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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Crazy Headlines of 1900 -- a Weirder and Deadlier San Francisco

Posted By on Wed, Aug 15, 2012 at 11:59 AM

That's how they did it back in 1900...
  • That's how they did it back in 1900...

This week's cover story is the tale of the deadliest sports tragedy in American history -- which is something they don't tell you about in San Francisco travel brochures.

Researching the Nov. 29, 1900, disaster required days of sifting through the newspapers of the era. This was an unexpectedly lurid affair; even apart from the articles about hundreds of football fans crashing through a factory roof and onto a furnace, San Francisco of 1900 was a pretty rough-and-tumble place. For one thing, newspapers of the day reveled in covering the suicides of prominent men. These deaths were invariably due to sour business dealings, melancholia, or, most commonly, tainted love. "DEATH ENDS HIS ROMANCE," read a typical headline.

Deaths and misfortunes of all sorts were covered in a literary style that would work its way out of newspaper writing over the next several decades, and adorned with headlines that commonly lacked an ostensible subject ("DROPS DEAD ON THE BOAT").

So, come with us for a sentimental journey to a filthier, nastier, more bigoted, more dangerous, and more mind-boggling San Francisco as we tour the banner headlines of 1900. Click on the images to read a larger version: 

click to enlarge rsz_viewscan_0027.jpg

This story got a lot of press for a few days in mid-December, 1900. "Their Vicious Assailant" did indeed make a getaway -- even though he was depicted in stunningly lifelike pen and ink in the pages of the San Francisco Call:


Papers of the day featured both illustrations and photographs. It was clearly an intermediate technology, sort of like old ships with both sails and paddle wheels.

Meanwhile, here's some health advice that really caught on:

To reiterate Hoy's advice: "A business man should get all the exercise he needs from the requirements of his business. A long walk only further calls upon his reserve. Violent golf or tennis only put a greater strain upon his system. If he says he needs fresh air, oxygen, he can get it in his office, if the latter be properly ventilated. He does not need to exercise to breathe fresh air."

Yes, the only way to make the notion of "violent golf" funnier is to read the above article in the voice of Margaret Dumont from the Marx Brothers films.

Coming next: Did you realize LOLcats existed back in the 19th century? It's true:
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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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