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Md. Family Finds 100-Year-Old Newspaper

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By E.B. FURGURSON III
The Capital of Annapolis

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The Adamecz family was going through old family papers and found a brittle connection to the beginning of the last century: a special edition published by The Evening Capital in 1908.

The “Historical and Industrial Edition: Portraying the Glorious Past and Future Possibilities of Annapolis, Maryland” was more of a guide to the community’s prominent leaders and businesses. But 105 years later, the special edition has historic significance.

Local historians, like Jane B. McWilliams and Ginger Doyel, have turned to it to glean a sense of the time.

Copies are at the Maryland State Archives and special collections section of the Annapolis Library. The lone original copy in a collection is believed to be in the special collections at the U.S. Naval Academy’s Nimitz Library, which McWilliams used researching her book, “Annapolis, City on the Severn: A History.”

“It is a wonderful resource providing a record of what is happening in town in 1908,” McWilliams said.

In the 1908 edition, she found the only photograph she had ever seen of J. Alfred Adams, an African-American businessman, mortician and city alderman.

Line drawings depicting the Annapolis homes of Maryland’s four signers of the Declaration of Independence, primarily used as filler material in the special edition, helped solve a problem posed by her editors at Johns Hopkins Press — how to depict those houses without using a modern photograph.

Historic tales fill up the first couple of pages: the founding of the city, the 1774 burning of the Peggy Stewart, a ship laden with tea in Annapolis harbor, a biography of Justice Roger Taney, and a brief history of the Maryland Line the 400 soldiers who held up the British while General Washington’s army retreated from the Battle of Long Island.

Aside from ads, the rest of the broadsheet is filled with short features on city fathers, businessmen and their concerns.

Of Louis H. Rehn, purveyor of dry goods, notions, and clothing, it was written: “Among merchants here none is more willingly given a first place than Mr. Louis H. Rehn … (who) keeps on hand constantly a most extensive stock of dry goods, hosiery, notions, carpets, mattings, oil cloths, men’s, … waists, corsets, fancy goods …”

As with most of the sketches of the city’s leading men, there also is mention of his fraternal interests, the Odd Fellows, Red Men and Knights of Pythias.

There’s Mayor Gordon Claude and his family posing for a photograph in the burnt hollow of Annapolis’ Liberty Tree, which survived nearly another 100 years.

And not to forget fine watering hole establishments such as Tyding’s Refreshing House at Main and Compromise streets.

“The modern saloon is the poor man’s club, for it is there that he meets his friends after a day of toil and passes a pleasant hour before retiring for the night.”

Or J.B. Martin’s Goodfellowship Cafe where “one knows that only the best of wines, liquors and cigars will be served,” at 102 Main St.

There’s also a quick accounting of city finances noting $170,000 in bond issues and a debt of $39,974.44.

Photographs include a shot of Mark Twain posing with Maryland Gov. Warfield, the (still standing) works of the Annapolis Water Company outside of town, a new Annapolis High School which became Green Street Elementary and the Stanton School, described as the Colored School House. The Evening Capital printing press and composing room are captured as well.

There’s a full-page ad for the new Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Electric Railway Co. “The greatest double track electric railway in America” cost $1.25 round-trip to either D.C. or Baltimore with near the White House and the Centre of the Shopping District” in Baltimore.

The edition was published in May 1908 part of a citywide effort celebrating the bicentennial celebration of the city’s charter.

A committee planned parades, speeches, music over a three-day extravaganza dubbed the “Bicentennial Big Boom,” McWilliams described in her book.

It was a great year in Annapolis — but not for everyone.

In 1908, Jim Crow laws disenfranchised African-American voters with a “grandfather clause” declaring only those holding $500 in property and whose grandfathers could vote in 1868, were eligible to vote. It pulled the right to vote from seven of eight African-American voters.

And that fancy new train? African Americans got to ride on it for a few weeks before laws passed forcing them to travel in a separate car.

No mention of those details of civic life is found in the special edition.

But for the Adamecz’s, who found the copy sorting through papers after both their parents died, it is a piece of family lore.

“I remember looking at it when I was a kid,” said Ron Adamecz, sitting with his sister Yvonne Cook at his late mother’s house. “My grandmother’s house burned in the 1930s and somehow this survived.

“There has got to be a reason, right?”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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