BFP Volume 9

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Nerd's Fantasy

The Birmingham Free Press might be the greatest, most trustworthy, elegant, stylish, intelligent, dignified, etc. etc. broadsheet that this town has ever seen, but we are not the only one that it has ever seen. Yes, it’s true; there actually have been other newspapers in Birmingham. The Weekly Iron Age ran from 1884 to 1887. These were three years of stiff competition for the Birmingham Free Press, and let’s just say there were quite a few stiffs involved—if ya’ knows what I mean—by the time we got through dealing with this competition.

But putting aside the obvious negative of being in rivalry with us, the Weekly Iron Age managed to run some really, shall we say, interesting news articles. For instance on Sept. 8, 1887 they printed a feature called, “Don’t Infuriate Your Husbands,” above the fold on the front page. Here are the highlights:

This morning early there was a serious quarrel in the family of John Johnson, a negro living on the Wire road, two miles from the city, which may result in the death of one of the family. About 4 o’clock John Johnson desired breakfast, and his wife Jennie, who probably desired to enjoy her morning snooze a little longer, was somehow slow in her movements. This enraged Johnson and he commenced to abuse her. Jennie, being somewhat spirited, resented his abuse, and the result was a fracas.

With the ferocity of a tiger Johnson sprang upon the woman and drawing an ugly knife, hacked her horribly. The screams of the woman apparently increased his rage and he plied his weapon rapidly, cutting and stabbing her in a number of places. He cut her in the side of the neck, on the arms and in the breast, just above the heart, finishing his brutal work by nearly cutting her throat from ear to ear. The unfortunate woman, unable to resist longer, sank to the floor weltering in her own blood. Johnson, believing he had killed her fled.

Johnson succeeded in making good his escape. The police, however, are on the watch and if Johnson in the county tonight he will be captured.

Of course when the Birmingham Free Press covered the same event we didn’t use the words “negro,” “commenced,” or “fracas.” Neither did we make light of the grizzly murder, nor assume the motive was a late breakfast.

The Weekly Iron Age wasn't our only competition in past centuries. On May 21 1888 the Weekly Harold ran an article describing a meeting of state Republicans in Montgomery as a “wrangling mob of negroes.” How far the mighty have fallen. At least in the 1880s the Republicans had a little racial diversity and could manage to wrangle in a mob.

The same issue of the Harold ran a story on the front page entitled, “Bad Selma Tailor” The subhead reads, “He Borrows Money Under False Pretenses and Skips.” Now this is the sort of hard-nosed investigative reporting that is missing from most of today’s newspapers. The story goes like this (emphasis added):

One Carl Wolff, a German Tailor about 25 years of age, and who has been in the employee of E. A. Scott & Co. for the past six months has gone wrong!

He is charged with having obtained money under false pretenses!

On last Saturday evening Wolff drew his full wages and borrowed money from A. Aicardi and others under false pretenses and left Selma without anyone having any knowledge of it but himself!

On February 27, 1889 The Harold ran the cover story, “Hung in Effigy,” with the subhead, “Senator Milner Denounced by Calera Anti-Prohibitionists.” Even today it is unwise to come between the people of Calera and their alcohol.

A mass meeting was held this evening to condemn Senator Milner in failing to support the bill repealing prohibition. Dr. J. H. Gunn presided and W. N. Vernon was appointed secretary. Resolutions strongly condemning the action of Mr. Milner in deceiving the people and calling for his resignation were unanimously adopted.

The meeting the adjourned and proceeded in a body to the principal street corner of the town and hung Milner in effigy. The dummy is now swinging in the breeze with the words, “John S. Milner, the traitor,” plastered thereto.

If you are interested in reading some of the deceased and defunct former “competitors” of the Birmingham Free Press, many are archived by the Birmingham Public Library and available online at:

http://www.bplonline.org/resources/digital_project/IronAgeNews.asp

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January 2013

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