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Dec. 31, 1914: A look back at the news 100 years ago

A lot can change in 100 years. As we count down the hours and minutes to 2015, let's take a look at what, exactly, was worth printing in The Buffalo Evening News in 1914.

On the front page, readers 100 years ago were greeted by news from World War I: Allied forces were attacking their German enemies as Germany claimed to have taken 136,600 prisoners in Poland. The war had begun only five months earlier and nearly years away from ending, though readers had no way of knowing that.

"AMSTERDAM, Holland, Dec. 31, via London (4:52 p.m.) -- What is described as an unofficial telegram, but which, nevertheless, was issued today by the German army headquarters, has been received here. It reads:

" 'Our troops in Poland are pursuing the enemy. After the battles of Lodz and Lowicz we took more than 67,600 prisoners and many cannon and machine guns.

" 'The entire booty since the beginning of our offensive in Poland in November totals 136,600 prisoners, 100 cannon and over 300 machine guns.' "

Elsewhere on the cover, a story about the New Year detailed preparations that will sound familiar to readers today:

“Elaborate preparations have been made in every downtown hotel, restaurant and café for the proper introduction and christening of the infant 1915. Street vendors have laid in huge supplies of horns and other noise-producing instruments, paper dusters, etc., and the city impatiently awaits the slow turning hands of the clock. …

“On the stroke of midnight every factory whistle in Buffalo will blow a noisy salute, while church chimes will peal a glad welcome. Family parties will be held in hundreds of homes, where the advent of another year will be solemnly observed and thanks offered for the blessings of the past.

“Thousands of people will observe the occasion by attending dances, while still other thousands will visit the hotels for dinner so as to be on hand when the final burst of enthusiasm breaks at midnight. Heretofore imported wines have flown like water on this particular occasion, celebrators refusing to imbibe anything except the choice vintages of France, Belgium and Germany.

“It is quite possible that foreign thirsts will tonight be quenched with domestic wines, as millions of bottles of these grape concoctions have been strewn across France and Belgium by the raiding troopers.”

A remarkably short stock market table lists the opening, high, low and closing prices of the 31 stocks in Wall Street. Shares in Western Union opening at 57 and a fraction and saw no action; on Dec. 29, by comparison, Western Union shares closed at 18.06. Not far from the stock chart were listings on commodities such as grains, cotton and butter and eggs, some of which can be seen below.

Dec 31 1914

"News of the Markets."


Turning to the editorial page, the first issue discussed was whether New York State had overspent on $725,000 sent to San Francisco in anticipation of the upcoming world’s fair.

“If anyone asks whether it be just to spend so great a sum of money on the exposition at the other side of the continent, the NEWS can only answer that it does not know. It has an idea that the State might be adequately represented for less money.

“We remember that the State appropriated only $300,000 for the Pan-American exposition and that over $100,000 was returned unused. Now it appropriates $725,000 for San Francisco and probably every dollar of it will be used and there will be nothing to show for the investment afterward, as there is to show for the investment here in the shape of the magnificent Historical building.

“Still, it is best probably not to cavil at that which advertises the State in an effective manner. Everyone knows that the citizens who represent the State will have a good time and be beautifully cared for while in San Francisco. We are doing things on a great scale.”

An ad on the same page tried to entice travelers headed to that same exposition:

Rail travel

An ad for the Southern Pacific Sunset Route.


World War I may still have seemed a world away to the Buffalonians of 1914, but to many, the Civil War was a recent memory. The News recounted events from that war in a regular feature, and on Dec. 31, 1914, the News offered an overview of 1864.

Civil War

"The Civil War Fifty Years Ago Today."


“The military policy enunciated by the venerable General Winfield Scott at the outbreak of the war, of crushing the South as an anaconda crushes its prey in its fold, was being carried out under Grant, who at the beginning of the war had lived in obscurity, a broken ex-captain of the army, who had left the service under a cloud.

“Until Grant by steady steps had gained supreme command of the Federal armies, in the spring of 1864, the war had been carried on by the Federals without consistent method or adequate results.

“Grant, with the aid of the brilliant if excitable Sherman, began to conduct the war on scientific principles. The vastly preponderating strength of the North at once had been made to count for its full worth, for the first time since the struggle for the Union began.”

Readers with more domestic concerns could find advice in “Lucy Lincoln’s Talks,” a column offering assistance in “solving domestic and social problem.” People wrote in with advice on treating back pain, recipes for deserts and home remedies. (One suggestion, to give an example, is for using a teaspoonful of lemon juice in a cup of black coffee to cure a headache.) On this date, meal planners were offered a suggested menu for the New Year’s dinner (“Julian soup, olives, celery, salted nuts, baked rock bass, sliced lemon, fried chicken, cream gravy, mashed potatoes, creamed peas, tomato jelly in watercress, mayonnaise, pumpkin pie, cheese, ice cream, small cakes and coffee”) and instruction for how to serve guests and set a table.

On the same page as Lucy Lincoln was the “Daily Fashion Talks” feature, and according to that column, lace and fur were in style in 1914:


“The blouse with cape effect is one of the prettiest, newest and smartest of the winter. … It is never better than when made, as in this instance, of lace with trimming of fur, for these two materials combine most successfully, and both are in the height of fashion.”


More soberly, a brief story indicates the troubles faced by working mothers. In it is detailed a committee’s recommendation that “women teachers” in New York City be given a leave of absence for childbirth. That such a policy would be newsworthy is made clear by a fact shared toward the end of the story: “The special committee sent letters of inquiry to education authorities in 48 cities with a population of more than 100,000, and written responses showed that in 37 the marriage of a teacher automatically acts as a discharge.”


"Champions Who Will Meet in Relay Race."


Sports fans of 1914 were no doubt counting down to a large indoor competition to be held the following night in the 65th infantry armory (which, at this time, was located on Masten Avenue). Four hundred athletes were to compete in three sets of games. “As for events, there is hardly room for improvement,” The News wrote. “All of the favorite distances and contributing factors for a successful meet having received favorable consideration.

“The great relay between Buffalo-Toronto and All-New York city has excited widespread interest in the realm of the indoor fan, and justly so, as eight of the most important athletes now before the public will class in a medley relay of 220, 440, 660 and 880 yards. Unusual interest is evinced in this race, inasmuch as two of Buffalo’s prominent athletes, Joe Driscoll and Otto Mocach, will pair with the Canadians, Jack Tait and Jack Tresaider, in an endeavor to tower the world’s record for distance."

Closer to home in sports, a year-end wrap-up story details local athletic triumphs:

“With the Braves’ great dash for the National league championship and the even more thrilling grabbing of the world’s championship in four straight games the world is reasonably familiar. To analyze that double feat – walloping the haughty Giants and the peerless Athletics twice in the same year – is something which would be vain and profitless.”

We'll end in familiar territory: classified listings, where the entries run the gamut from the familiar and the unusual-for-today.

“Stout persons? The Winn special belts reduce the abdomen and prevent strain on the muscles; prices from $2 up. Chester B. Winn, 100 Niagara St.:

“$17. Upper, seven-room flat to let. 1585 Jefferson St.”

“Trucks, bags and cases repaired at Farel’s cheap trunk store, Main and [illegible] sts.”

“For sale – Good, true, young work horse, cheap. 173 South Division st.”

“WANTED – Refined capable woman wants position as housekeeper to widower, no objection to children or elderly couple.”


Some of the classifieds in the Dec. 31, 1914, paper.


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