Readers of the print edition of The Bulletin will notice an extra section today. It’s a reprint of the Jan. 2, 1918, edition of The Bend Bulletin, which at the time was a four-page publication. It is accompanied and supported by contemporary advertising and labeled section “H,” as in “history.”
(For online readers, an image of the original front page is accompanied below this column with recreations of the three inside pages.)
Why did we do this? Mostly because some of us at The Bulletin enjoy looking through old editions, and we figured readers would as well. But as interesting as scrolling through microfilm can be, it’s not a very pleasant experience. It’s solitary, image quality varies dramatically, and it causes motion sickness.
We began to wonder months ago whether it would be feasible to reprint century-old editions of the paper. We regularly offer content of the “today in history” variety. Such material is interesting and, we believe, popular, but it focuses by necessity on historical highlights. So much of what makes up the daily newspaper is ephemeral, yet the entire package offers a compelling snapshot of life in a community. A list of highlights can’t do that.
Our aim in reprinting the entire paper, then, is to provide a snapshot of life in Bend 100 years ago, at least as it was reflected in The Bend Bulletin. What were Bend residents talking about and doing in 1918? What were they buying and selling, and how did they amuse themselves? What did coverage of World War I look like, and how did the war affect the community and the paper’s coverage of it? What was different about Bend back then, and what is familiar?
We aspire to print one historic section on the third Sunday of every month. The reprinted paper will be chosen from the month in which it appears, only 100 years previously. Thus, the July edition will be chosen from among those published in July 1918. We’ve chosen that one already, and its highlights include a big bootlegging bust by Sheriff S.E. Roberts and the drowning deaths of two prominent Bend residents while fishing in Crescent Lake.
Our inaugural historic edition deviates from this schedule in that it appeared in January, not June. The date is Jan. 2, 1918, to be exact. We landed there because we wanted to see if we could find the first story mentioning the arrival of the Sisters of St. Joseph, who took over the management of the Bend hospital (now St. Charles) a century ago. It’s at the bottom of the front page. Because we found that edition interesting for a number of reasons, we decided to throw consistency out the window and use it today.
The war dominates the front page, naturally, and Bend residents contributed to its successful resolution in various ways. Among them: Residents contributed money to The Bend Bulletin, which arranged to buy tobacco kits for American soldiers in Europe.
The Jan. 2 issue also features an interview from Forbes magazine with U.S. Sen. Charles McNary, a progressive Oregon Republican in whose honor both a Columbia River dam and Salem-area high school are named. There’s a long collection of local news items, including a report that pioneering Bend doctor U.C. Coe “is in Portland attending a meeting of the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners, of which he is president.”
And then there’s a list of people registered at local hotels. Really.
The classified and display advertising provide an equally compelling peek into Bend life a century ago. Electric irons were a big deal back then, and perhaps even a luxury. People bought milk separators, danced at the Hippodrome and drank something called Bevo. They lost their guns and offered, through classified ads, rewards for their return. And you could buy a building lot in Bend for roughly four times the price of a used Underwood typewriter.
I mentioned above that we aspire to produce one historic section per month, emphasis on aspire. This is an experiment and, I’ll admit, it may not work. The production of today’s section was a labor-intensive process involving Bulletin employees in both the advertising and news departments. Century-old display ads had to be rebuilt, fonts identified, pages designed and content retyped: all for the purpose of retelling news that was old more than a decade before the disappearance of aviator Amelia Earhart, who at one time was married to Bulletin publisher George Palmer Putnam.
We find this stuff fascinating and hope you will as well. The effort, however, can continue only as long as the advertising needed to support it exists. If you enjoy today’s historic section, please thank the modern-day businesses whose ads surround it.
— Erik Lukens is editor of The Bulletin.