status update

Professor DeScience

Midway through the year and happy to report I am still working on it!

Before the lockdown, I was gifted a microfilm reader from the Northeast Millerton Library as they were getting rid of their old one. I imagine that my grandmother, Clara Losee, who worked with the Northeast Historical Society might have used the same machine. It now resides in my dining room (this photo is from my living room where it sat in the winter). The wonderful folks at the Pine Plains Library let me check out the reel of the 1903 Pine Plains Register microfilm and I’ve been occasionally plugging away at reading the paper. I’m on October, now!

Microfilm Reader!
Microfilm Reader! In my house!

Actually, gotta tell you, admitting that I suck so hard at reading a ruddy newspaper is a lot for me. I’m super embarrassed about how long this is taking me and terrified that people think I’m an idiot. I’m not. I know I’m not. I do. Really. Yes. *sweats*

The front page did not contain any actual news.

Actually, most of the paper was devoid of what we might consider important news at all. If it did, it was often relegated to a quick mention on page 3. The longest articles were those reproduced from other papers or magazines about farming tips and women’s health/beauty/crafts.

But the jokes and short stories on the first page are still pretty priceless in terms of knowing what made the people of the era tick and I’m learning a lot from them.

There are blurbs that elicit the phrase “the more things change, the more they stay the same” interspersed with sexist, xenophobic, and racist jokes and opinions. Dumb people are poked fun at (usually Germans, or Irish, or Blacks), wives who can’t cook or clean to their husband’s liking are chided, mothers-in-law are vilified. The authors (be they local or nationally syndicated) complain that barn dances aren’t the same anymore, that the city folks come up and expect things to be a certain way, that women aren’t taking care of their houses the way they used to, and that it’s hard to keep young people on the farm.

And sometimes blurbs seem eerily topical to current events…

Scientists in Real Life. 

First Passenger – Who is that man drinking from that rusty mug chained to the watercooler? 

Second Passenger – That is Professor DeScience, author of Disease Germs in the Communion Cup.

Pine Plains Register, 10/2/1903

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