Off the Record: Interesting history coming up in New Ulm

Off the Record

It has been nearly a year since The Journal began running a couple of pages of news items from 50 and 100 years ago. It takes a little work each week, but it has truly been an entertaining and educational function for me putting those pages together.

It’s interesting for me to look back at the 50-year-old papers and read about things that I lived through, like the Vietnam War, the state political battles over establishing sales tax and so on. It’s entertaining to read the old comic strips like Lil’ Abner (they don’t draw them like that anymore).

But the 100 year old papers are a real hoot. The florid writing styles, and the sniping between the old Brown County Journal and the New Ulm Review reflect a style of journalism that isn’t practiced anymore, except in online news outlets.

But it is starting to get serious in the century-old news. World War I has just begun, although of course they didn’t call it World War I. It is the War in Europe. We are starting to get into the angst that people in New Ulm felt about entering the war against Germany, conflicting with the desire they felt to prove their loyalty to the United States.

Last week we reprinted two very different editorials from the two papers. The New Ulm Review decried the push so many people had to have a loyalty oath and the erroneous conclusion that those who didn’t take it were traitors. The Brown County Journal countered with an editorial stressing that America was now at war, and that Americans needed to put their country first at such a time.

The next few months will bring some truly interesting news from 100 years ago, news that is being recounted in a special exhibit at the Brown County Historical Museum as well. New Ulm’s rallies concerning the draft, the Minnesota Commission on Public Safety’s trampling of civic rights and removal of elected officials were a tense time in New Ulm’s history. It will be interesting to see it unfolding in the pages of the city’s papers.

It is true that today’s news is tomorrow’s history. I wonder what New Ulm residents in 50 or 100 years will be thinking about us as they read the 50 and 100 year old news pages from today? In fact, I wonder what format they will be reading it on? I assume newspapers and maybe even smart phones will have gone the way of clay tablets and papyrus scrolls by then.

I am certain, however, that they will be interested in the way things used to be. People’s clothes, cars and communications devices may change, but people’s curiosity about the past is something that doesn’t change.

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