Thursday, October 27, 2011

1897 York Opera House program, Part 1

Over the summer, I received an extremely cool gift from Jim Lewin, who, with his PLSB1 Pam, runs the marvelous York Emporium and also manages the York Book and Paper Fair, which is being held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday in York, Pennsylvania, and which I highly recommended for its deep and diverse collection of exhibitors.

We are blessed with a lot of great book events throughout the year in York County2, but this is one of those you should not miss.

Jim's generous gift was two pages from a York Opera House program, called "The Play," and dated June 19, 18973. It's listed as Season XVI (16) and No. 1894, and it was published and printed by C.G. Welsh of York. The four pages are so jam-packed with wonderful stuff, most of which is advertising, that I'm going to split this post over two days to get all of it in.

First, the program. The York Opera House was offering up the following entertainment on this summer Saturday 114 years ago:
  • "Powell, greatest of all magicians, in his Interesting Experiments." This could be Frederick Eugene Powell. In his book "The Last Greatest Magician in the World," which is primarily about Howard Thurston, author Jim Steinmeyer describes Powell as "a late-nineteenth-century magician ... [who] was one of the last -- and least effective -- of the old guard."
  • "The Wonderful Kinetoscope, in a series of New Views." The Kinetoscope was, according to Wikipedia, "an early motion picture exhibition device. Though not a movie projector — it was designed for films to be viewed individually through the window of a cabinet housing its component — the Kinetoscope introduced the basic approach that would become the standard for all cinematic projection before the advent of video: it creates the illusion of movement by conveying a strip of perforated film bearing sequential images over a light source with a high-speed shutter." By 1897, it's likely that these Kinetoscopes would have been projected on a screen for the entire audience at the York Opera House, and not viewed individually -- a format that obviously had no economic future beyond peep shows.
  • "Edison's Greatest Talking Machine, The Microphone." (To be clear, however, history tells us that it was Emile Berliner who invented the microphone, in 1877.)
Meanwhile, the program is filled with advertising and announcements that give us some fun insight on what life was like in York at the close of the 19th century.
  • Schenberger & Moul, 16 South Beaver Street, offered an aluminum bicycle bell for $1.50.5
  • The Exhibit, 118 West Market Street, was offering gas stoves for prices "from $1 up." Is it really possible that a bicycle bell could cost 50% more than the cheapest gas stove?
  • Swartz Cycle Store wanted everyone to know that it just received "The Largest Supply of Base Ball Goods Which ever came to town."
  • Lebach's was offering a wide variety of sailor hats.
  • J.F. Sterner, 8 North Beaver Street, was offering to fix your bicycle for a "right and reasonable" price.
  • "Seasonable goods" at Walker's, 24 North George Street, included a small lot The York Bicycles, '96 pattern, for $40.6 Walker's was also closing out its line of the North Star Refrigerator.
  • Dr. H.D. Barnes, 125 South George Street, was a specialist in catarrh, ear, nose, throat and lung diseases.
  • A.L. Ziegler's, 327 South George Street, sold soda water with ice cream for 5 cents a glass.
  • Sieker's Cigars, 241 West Market Street, was selling the leading brands, including Gem and Cuban Special.
  • E.H. Kottcamp, 225 South Penn Street, was selling ice cream -- wholesale, retail and for delivery to any part of the city.
  • Michaels, 16 South George Street, was offering a free pair of trousers to every customer who paid cash for a new suit.
  • J.R. Clinedinst, corner of George and Princess streets, made this pitch: "Talk it over with us if you are going to paint. Perhaps in five minutes we can show you how to save ten dollars and at the same time get a better job of painting. Our business is to sell Paints, Varnishes, Brushes, and all Painters' Supplies. Our experience is at your service."
  • The was going to be a Special Train to Columbia on Sunday, June 20, for the dedication of St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church. Round-trip cost was 70 cents for adults and 35 cents for children.
Finally, here's an interesting advertisement for bicycle races at the York Fair Grounds.

Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of my look at these York Opera House program pages.

1. PLSB = Poor, Long-Suffering Bride, as Jim often and compassionately refers to her.
2. The Book Buzz blog offers a great place for you to keep track of the York area's upcoming book sales.
3. June 19, 1897, was the day that Moe Howard was born. And, no, I'm not trying to be a wise guy by pointing that out.
4. According to this history of York County from 1865-1881 on the York Daily Record/Sunday News' website, the York Opera House opened in 1881:
"John Sleeper Clarke, brother-in-law of Edwin Booth, stars in the opening act of the York Opera House. Booth stars in "Toodles" and "The Widow Hunt." "The large and fashionable audience present was delighted with the performance," a newspaper reported. Before its opening, friends and opponents spar over the appropriateness of entertainment the opera house would bring to the community. Opponents also fight the decision to hold a York High School commencement in the new theater. As the years passed, opposition cooled."
5. This would be the equivalent of spending $38.78 on a bicycle bell today, according to The Inflation Calculator!
6. A $40 bicycle in 1897 is the equivalent of more than $1,000 today. These were serious purchases!

1 comment:

  1. Blake's new post, including a postcard of the Opera House, brought me to this entryt. I think this was posted before I started stalking your site.

    I'm a nut with The Inflation Calculator ... I'm forever using it when looking at old ads or watching programs that mention prices. Thank Goodness I watch Mad Men on my computer; I'm forevering flipping back and forth to adjust for inflation :)