Saturday, September 13, 2008

Varying degrees of verbosity

Running a newspaper 100 years ago was the kind of business that required varying degrees of verbosity -- depending mostly on how much advertisement the paper was able to sell.
And it was true also, that even the ads could become long-winded.
Consider the following item appearing in the Pikes Peak Journal of Feb. 16. 1895.
‘There is one department of industry, which, by the general admission of those engaged in it, is exempt from the stagnation which so largely prevails. Indeed it is in a remarkably flourishing state, and the men and women employed at it are kept busy from morning to night. It is that which deals with the supply of artificial sinews and muscles in order to give to limbs the plumpness and symmetry which nature has denied. The great demand at the present time is for well shaped calves for the legs, and for some time the purveyors of the embellishments could not make out why so many of them were wanted, because the requirements of the ladies of the ballet and burlesque actresses are pretty much the same all the year around, and there was nothing going on to occasion an unusual request for the articles.
“But they have now found out the reason. They are required by lady cyclists who wear knickerbockers, and who, naturally enough, desire to exhibit to mankind the limbs which are not covered by these bulky garments in as shapely and attractive a form as possible. The stuffing required for the purpose must be of the best kind, and it is also necessary that the mold should be well fitting; otherwise the lady cyclist would become a kind of scarecrow on wheels instead of a thing of beauty. The articles, therefore, cost more than the ordinary calves, and it may accordingly be said that the latest fashion among women not only encourages cycle making, but also aids the artistic upholstery of the human figure in the highest form.”
But requirements for space varied wildly. A week later the following entry was more straight-forward and to-the-point.
“Ralph Aldrich, one of the carrier boys for the Journal was attacked Monday night on Ruxton Avenue by a pointer dog belonging to Henry Mueller, and badly bitten in the shoulder and side. The boy is the son Alderman Aldrich, and was delivering papers when attacked. Mr. Mueller took the boy to Dr. Oglibee, who dressed the wounds. The dog was shot.”

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