This week I’ve been transcribing the front page of the Deseret Semi-Weekly News, a Salt Lake City newspaper from November 4, 1890. No idea why it’s even in our collection, to be honest, tattered incomplete thing that it is. (I’m looking at the digitally scanned version, which you can read yourself here).

It’s been full of exciting stories, so far. South American revolutions, an heiress running away with the coachman, an affair WITH a murder, ships sinking, and, my favorite, a story about a highwayman robbing two farmers, whom are laughed at by a couple lawyers, whom themselves are shortly relived of their possessions by the same highwayman. And also a long, boring article about the U.S. Census.

But then, finally, I get to the GOOD stuff. Yes, the entire reason I decided to work on this transcription was spying the headline “FIGHT ON ENGINE”. So here it is in full, with commentary.


The Engineer and Fireman Grapple in a Death Struggle.

A fight, to the death, between the engineer and fireman of an express train, speeding through the country at night, is a bold conception of a modern novelist [I know! It’s unbelievable!] . The fireman is jealous of the engineer; one night, crazed with drink, he heaps on fuel until the boiler is likely to explode. [Oh my gosh it’s already insane!] The engineer pleads with him, then expostulates, and at last attempts to prevent further addition [He’s crazy you can’t stop him!]. Then the fireman grapples the engineer and tries to throw him from the engine; a terrible struggle ensues. The fight is for life! They speak no word, but with teeth clenched, strive one to precipitate the other to the ground. [It’s just like a movie!] Meanwhile the train rushes on. [Who’s driving this thing?!] The engineer, finally growing weak, endeavors to reach the regulator, to stop the train and summon help. Too late! [Oh no!] The crazed fireman guesses his plan, stiffens himself to a superhuman effort, lifts the exhausted engineer from his feet, [Oh dang!] explaining: “Ah, you want to stop the train! Now, out you go.” [What an old timey catchphrase for a psychopath] With this he flings the engineer out- but the latter clings to him, he cannot shake him off, so both go out together! [Gasp!] Drawn under the wheels, they are found headless, two bloody trunks clinging in a death embrace! [Woah this got gruesome! It- wait. They’re both dead? Who’s the witness then?] And the train, ungoverned, rushes on in the darkness! [Is it going to crash in some town?!] Here the story ends; the fate of the train is left to the imagination. [What?] It is easy to see that the chances are a hundred to one it rushes to destruction. [What.] So with the person having chronic kidney complaint-


it is almost certain to result in Bright’s disease, then death, for the doctors admit they have no cure for it. But a certain cure may be had. Note what Sumpter Heard, of Frederick, Md., says, in a letter of May 19, 1890:


“For five years I had been the victim of Bright’s disease, at times suffering from the severest pains. I tried many kidney remedies, and consulted as many physicians, but was not benefited and at length became tired of what seemed to be and was useless expenditure.


I began taking Warner’s Safe Cure, and was relieved at once. The old symptoms recur occasionally, but I find relief only with the above remedy, which I regard as the best proprietary medicines.”

So there you go. “…is a bold conception of a modern novelist” was not to be taken metaphorically.

The lesson we take from this is, no matter how much money ad executives will be throwing at their 30 seconds in the Superbowl, their ancestors were trolling consumers directly in their newsfeed since well before their grandparents were born.

I hope Sumpter Heard gets hit by that runaway train, since he’s probably as much fiction.


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