New Year's Eve in 1913 in Columbus, Ohio, was an event well worth remembering. A local paper described the scene.
"New Year 1914 was ushered in Wednesday midnight in Columbus amid the ringing of bells and blowing of whistles which started at 11:15 and lasted until after midnight.
"Thousands remained up to see the old year out and the new year in. There was a general exodus from the cafes, clubs, dancing halls and private parties shortly after midnight. Proprietors of cafes that had made special preparation for celebrating the event reported the biggest business they have ever had in Columbus. It is estimated that $10,000 was spent during the evening in the hotels, grills and clubs." (In a time when an average worker earned about $1 a day, this was a lot of money.)
"Many of the churches held watch parties on New Year's Eve, sang hymns, gave thanks for the blessings of the past year and welcomed the new year.
"Both the YMCA and the YWCA will keep open house for members and friends on Thursday afternoon. The Athletic Club, the Elks Club and several lodges also have open house New Year's Day."
All in all, 1913 had been a pretty good year for business despite a diversion like the worst flood in the city's history in March 1913. A local paper reported, "There were 64 business failures during 1912 and the same number in 1913 according to the records kept by the Dun agency. ... There was only one bank failure -- the West Side Dime Savings -- and the depositors lost nothing. The Teutonic Building and Loan was also one of the year's failures. The depositors will be paid practically in full it is said."
"When a West Side shop that was under water during the March floods can report 'the best year in its history' and pay its employees extra money for Christmas gifts" it was a sign that the economy was doing fairly well in 1913.
Socially the city was not doing all that bad as well. A local newspaper reported that, "Statistics for the year just closing as compared with 1912 show more marriages and fewer divorces, more petty crime but fewer murders and suicides, more arrests for drunkenness and fewer for saloon violations."
The city was growing physically as well. "Building valuations increased $833,067 over the 1912 mark. In 1913, $5,508,370 worth of building was done. The previous year saw buildings valued at $4,675,303 erected. Building permits to the number of 3,887 were issued in 1913. In 1912, there were 2,656. The city engineering department reports there were 12.37 miles of street paved in 1913 at a total cost of $420,542.78. There was twice as much brick paving as asphalt." Some of those brick streets are still around today.
It was a year of transitions.
On Dec. 30, 1913, the Rev. Washington Gladden announced he was retiring from active service in the First Congregational Church of Columbus. A local paper noted that "Rev. Dr. Gladden, who has been known the nation over as 'the first citizen of Columbus' has been one of the foremost factors in the activities of the city."
Born in 1836, Gladden had come to Columbus in 1882 and had served as pastor of his church for 31 years. His congregation was rather conservative but Gladden preached to them a doctrine of faith and social action that came to be known as the Social Gospel. In the course of his long career, he became one of the best known theologians in America.
In his letter announcing his decision to step down, Gladden looked back at his work in Columbus.
"The work of the pastorate has been the joy of my life; the work itself has been my daily bread; it has nourished and refreshed me; it has kept me well and strong. ... I have been as happy here as any man has a right to be." The Rev. Dr. Washington Gladden continued to live in Columbus until his death a few years later.
While some transitions carried great social significance, others were less so.
As a point in passing, consider the Tango Garter. In the early part of the Twentieth Century, the tango became the dance to do among the young and daring in American society. Today the dance does not seem all that racy. But to people living in a society where a woman's ankles were not to be seen, the dance was seen as obscene. What to do? The answer for the dancer wishing to acceptably tango was the Tango Garter.
"From each garter band which fits just above the knee, falls a ruffle of lace and ribbon which completely conceals the wearer's leg. The woman who wears a pair will find that in addition to being dainty and graceful, the tango garter affords the freedom of movement so necessary to the season's favorite dance."
Then as now, there just is not any accounting for taste.
Happy New Year.
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As it were column for ThisWeek News.