Old news

When my friends Brandon and Amanda moved into their new apartment, they came upon an April 4, 1950, issue of The Commercial Appeal, and they were kind enough to let me get my grubby paws on it. The thing is quite yellowed and brittle, and has a tendency to shed bits of itself as you flip carefully from page to page. It’s fascinating stuff; the pages are absolutely chock full of tiny briefs and stories mixed with ads and cartoons and testimonials and photos of beauty queens.

Check out this masthead (fun fact: “masthead” means the staff credits/info box and NOT the nameplate/flag on the front page and I will remove your kneecaps with my teeth if you argue with me about that):


Look at those cheap mail subscription rates! A month for a dollar! Crazy!

Look at those phone numbers! So devoid of digits! Crazy!

Look at all those bureau offices! So numerous! Crazy!

Look at this crazy cigarette ad!


Does your throat feel smooth as a baby’s ass? That’s because you’ve been sucking on a Camel!

Check out this crazy mix of news! A snuff factory! Chilly nights that require topcoats! Topcoats, can you believe it!?? (Also, was “cloudly” a word in 1950 or did I just copy edit this paper FROM THE FUTURE?!)

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Do you think Miss Sanidas was scandalized at being placed so near an ad for a cream that relieves pimple itching?


It’s all a pretty odd mix, and certainly puts into perspective the idea of some golden bygone era of quality, untouchable, objective journalism.

I mean, try this little story on for size:


First of all, mad props for a badass and ballsy headline.

But on to the meat of the story: Yes, folks, those poor white motorists who had every right to arrive at their destination unmolested were undone — UNDONE, I SAY! — by those pesky negroes. It is such a foreign thing to see that sort of language used, and so cavalierly because it was just how things were said and done. It just was. What a world. What an awful fucking world. This, more or less, is why I don’t believe in The Good Old Days. Next time some old timer tries to lament the past and how America has gotten away from its true and noble values, remind that old timer that The Good Old Days were shit for a lot of people.

I’m glad I have a little tangible piece as proof.

(More photos of the paper are here. I will probably add more down the line before the thing disintegrates.)

15 thoughts on “Old news

  1. Those of us who (sometimes) wear suits to work still wear topcoats with them in the winter. A suit-jacket is not going to keep anyone warm.

  2. I need to scan my copy of a 1950 Tennessee newspaper’s stylebook for you.

    Holy cow.

    I still love those itty hairline separators between the deck heds. It’s like a pause before “OH, AND ANOTHER THING.”


  3. @David
    Right? I am going to try to sneak a headline or two like that into next week’s papers. Let’s see how that goes over.

    That? Is awesome. I sure would have loved to have been a fly on that smoky newsroom wall when that issue was being produced. Can you even imagine?

    Adam, you live in a magical world. You really do. I was so charmed by the word “topcoat” and its quaintness that I was absolutely sure it had no modern relevance. I wear flip-flops to work. :(

    YES WOMAN YOU DO. Hahaha, YES. Those rules are basically “oh and another thing, oh and, oh and?” Which is just adorable, in a way.

    Ugh, yes! That web has to be, what, 54 inches?! Considering we are now at a 12-inch web, my mind is boggled. (I am exaggerating. Slightly.)

    @TV Fritz
    Hey, sunshine, thanks for the reminder! :-P I’m kidding. You know I love you.

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