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ADVENT OF 1900 WAS NO BIG DEAL IN 1899

Want to know how Buffalo celebrated the coming century 100 years ago?

It didn't.

Nary a word about the coming 20th century could be found on the front page of the last Buffalo Evening News of 1899.

The reason: According to the thinking back then, the 20th century wouldn't start for another year, on Jan. 1, 1901.

That's because the first year, presumably, was the year 1 A.D., not 0.

Unlike today, with Y2K concerns and everyone rushing the gun on the start of the new century, the Buffalonians of 1899 and 1900 realized that the new century wouldn't dawn until the start of 1901.

The pages of The Buffalo Evening News from 99 and 100 years ago provide a strong argument for any nitpickers who aren't buying the idea that a new century will be born Saturday.

The lead story on Dec. 31, 1900 -- 99 years ago today -- heralded the coming century, with plenty of cheerleading for the coming night's festivities, funded by something called the New Century Celebration Fund.

"Everybody Whoop It Up for 1901," the top headline gushed. The subheadlines proclaimed, "Tonight the Town Will Celebrate Largely the Coming of the New Century" and "Buffalo Will Inaugurate the Century and Exposition Year in Brilliant Style -- Let Everyone Be Generous."

The second paragraph of the story included an appeal from Mayor Conrad Diehl.

"This celebration means more to Buffalo than most people think," the mayor said. "Here we are at the beginning of the century with the eyes of the whole world turned our way on account of the Pan-American Exposition.

"This is the greatest advertising opportunity we have had since the Exposition was first talked about, and $1 spent for this celebration will bring in 20 times its value in publicity for Buffalo and the Exposition," the mayor added. "We want to make all the noise and display we possibly can. It means a lot for Buffalo's future. Let every patriotic citizen respond to the appeal for funds."

So much, obviously, has changed in 100 years. Other front-page stories on the last day of 1900 heralded William Jennings Bryan's possible presidential candidacy in 1904 and the arrest of 12 Buffalo men for gambling in a downtown room. ("The men all gave assumed names. There were no professional gamblers in the party. One of the prisoners is a well-known young attorney.")

But the way the new year was to be ushered in 99 years ago sounds incredibly similar to tonight's proceedings downtown:

"The exact second of the birth of the New Century will be announced by the clock in the tower of the Buffalo Savings Bank at Main and Huron streets. Green and Wicks, the architects of the building, which is now nearly completed, have arranged to have the clock darkened at 11:30 o'clock and then relighted exactly at midnight, by a special telegraphic signal from Washington. Crowds undoubtedly will congregate to learn the exact moment of the advent of the 20th Century."

No word whether rock disc jockey Snortin' Norton was expected for First Night 1901.

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