Category Archives: 1900s newspapers

Newspapers in the 1900s were full of opinion and misinformation. They usually contained personal tidbits about local people

Local News

1904 Sioux Valley News

1904 Sioux Valley News

The Sioux Valley News, Canton’s weekly newspaper, delivered both national and local news. It kept its readers abreast of world affairs, and also reported the goings-on of Canton citizens in detail, going far beyond important events like births and deaths. On February 10, 1913, the paper reported:

— A blue card on the A. B. Carlson residence notifies the passing public that “Laddie” has the measles.

— I. O. Steensland and John Marston on last Monday shipped sixty head of extra fine cattle to Chicago.

— Rev. F. G. Wood pastor of the Baptist church held a religious service at the Indian Asylum on last Sunday afternoon, which was very much enjoyed and appreciated by the Asylum management and inmates as well.

— E. D. Warner has been entertaining LaGrippe [the flu] for a week. So attentive has he been to his guest that he has not been out of the house during his guest’s stay.

— The Misses Marguerite Brethorst, Susanna Avery, Tena Gedstad and Grace Lewison, of Lennox, were in Canton Monday, and took in “A Comedy of Errors” at the Kennedy opera house.

East Side of Main Street, Canton, SD circa 1912

East Side of Main Street, Canton, SD circa 1912

5th Street, looking east, Canton, S.D., 1907

5th Street, looking east, Canton, SD 1907

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Canton in the News

East Side of Main Street, Canton, SD around 1912

East Side of Main Street, Canton, SD around 1912

Canton, SD was a bustling town at the turn of the twentieth century (see last post), and its newspaper, the Sioux Valley News reported its activities in depth. Very little negative reporting went on; instead, the paper discussed the daily activities of its residents, cheered on business enterprises, and pushed an agenda to present Canton as a wonderful place for both working and living. A prominent grocery story created “Chraft & Hansen’s Canton Coffee,” which the proprietors said was a line of coffee “as good as any in the land.” They took out an ad in the March 4, 1904 edition to invite townspeople to partake of complimentary servings of Canton No. 25 in its line.

The coffee was probably needed, since a month later that same year, the paper raged that “after eighteen years of existence without open saloons Canton has opened her door and invited the saloon to enter.” The columnist was not ready to assert “that all who voted for license, did so because they were evil minded,” but it was clear that the paper’s position was solidly opposed to the move.

Arbuckles' Was a Famous Brand of Coffee

Arbuckles’ Was a Famous Brand of Coffee

Saloon, early 1900s

Saloon, early 1900s

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A Nice Place to Visit

Canton-Asylum-Main-Building-P6 600 dpiThe city of Canton, SD was proud of its asylum, and it was certainly a building that looked good. With electric lights, indoor plumbing, and coal heat, the building was probably a step up from what many residents enjoyed themselves. The town itself already had an impressive courthouse building, a railway depot, a college, hotels, a large Chautauqua auditorium for lectures and public programs, and an expansive fairgrounds.

The town was a popular tourist destination, and a relocated shipbuilder named M. M. Hanson built passenger boats that allowed pleasure-seekers to take excursions down the Sioux River. His first boat (The City of Canton) held 100 passengers, and his second (Sioux Queen) held 200. Hanson also owned 30 row boats he hired out.

Canton’s population of around 2,000 (in 1900) could not have supported all the activities and institutions it hosted, and the city relied on tourists to help bring in dollars. The Canton Asylum for Insane Indians was itself a tourist attraction, and visitors to the area were urged to stop and tour it while they were in town. Spoons, plates, postcards, and small cloth items were a few of the souvenirs tourists could pick up in town; they could also buy bead work and other craft items at the asylum from patients who earned money by creating and selling their handiwork.

It would have been an economic blow, indeed, for the town to lose the institution. This was especially true during the Depression (it closed in 1933), when many people depended heavily on the wages that the asylum generated.

Hiawatha Fence from Advertisement

Hiawatha Fence from Advertisement

Canton, S.D. Masonic Temple, 1912

Canton, S.D. Masonic Temple, 1912

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Misery on Display

The Public Outside Utica State Lunatic Asylum

The Public Outside Utica State Lunatic Asylum

Most patients, of course, did not want to be in an asylum, and moving into one very likely added to whatever problem that had brought them there. Doctors’ management of their conditions may or may not have alleviated their distress (see last post), since much of the available medication in the 1800s and early 1900s had undesirable or unpleasant side effects.

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Local Pride in Canton Asylum

Rudolph Hotel, 1912

Rudolph Hotel, 1912

Though insane asylums were not common institutions anywhere, citizens in most locales were delighted to have them situated nearby. Asylums meant jobs, payrolls that workers might spend in town, and an ongoing need for supplies that local merchants could try to meet. Continue reading

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The Insane as News Items

Doctor's Parlor, Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane

Doctor’s Parlor, Willard Asylum

Though early alienists did a great deal to de-stigmatize insanity and help families feel better about seeking help for their mentally ill members, insanity was still a delicate subject that most families preferred to keep private. Asylum superintendents understood this. Continue reading

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Public Interest in Insane Asylums

Asylum for the Insane in Nashville

Asylum for the Insane in Nashville

The construction of an insane asylum was usually a welcome event for most towns or cities, since the work meant jobs and a continued money flow into the local economy. Newspapers had little but praise for these projects, as the Knoxville Daily Journal  demonstrates: Continue reading

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Time Matters

Charles Eastman, 1897, courtesy Smithsonian Institution

Charles Eastman, 1897, courtesy Smithsonian Institution

The world was truly a different place when the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians first opened on the last day of 1902. Even something as simple as clothing was remarkably different from what we typically see and wear today. Men dressed far more formally and women were tied down (and sometimes literally weighted down) with voluminous dresses and hats. Continue reading

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And One Step Backward

Sioux Indian Women Receiving Rations, Pine Ridge Reservation, 1891, courtesy Library of Congress

Sioux Indian Women Receiving Rations, Pine Ridge Reservation, 1891, courtesy Library of Congress

By the early 1920s, some of the indifference to Native Americans’ cultural values had lessened.

However, even if  a government official occasionally saw positive traits in native peoples or respected their need for cultural wholeness, his viewpoint could be buried in a continued avalanche of popular sentimentality and/or naivete that perpetuated stereotypes and fed unrealistic daydreams about the status of Native Americans. Continue reading

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Why All the Concern?

Harvest Dance at Santo Domingo Pueblo

Harvest Dance at Santo Domingo Pueblo

The controversy over Native American dancing did not arise all at once, of course (see last post). European settlers were often surprised at the energy and freedom inherent in many ceremonial dances, but unfortunately attributed much of it to the “uncivilized” status of Native Americans. Continue reading

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