Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Small-town life in 1887

Front page of the April 1887 issue of the DeLand Collegiate student newspaper
The student newspaper was published monthly.
Image credit: Stetson University duPont-Ball Library
Picnics, boating excursions, and fishing parties. Such were the summer activities of Florida college students in 1887. At least the students who wrote about the summer ahead in the April 1887 issue of their student newspaper, the DeLand Collegiate. The writers advised their peers to travel and find "startling experiences" so they'd have enough material for "the appalling amount of essays which we will have to write next year." Some things don't change.

But some things do. In the newspaper's Gleanings section, there's a mention that 14 was the average age of students entering college 100 years earlier. Meaning, the year 1787. Another difference is the 1887 school year's starting date: October, unlike the current August start dates.

The paper was issued monthly during the academic year by the Palmetto Literary Society of DeLand Academy and College, one of the early names of Stetson University. An annual subscriptions cost 50 cents.

One of my favorite sections is Around Town on Page 8. That's because I write romance novels set in an 1800s Florida town, and tidbits of period social history interest me and provide foundation for ideas. The news in 1887 DeLand included:

  • Fireflghters were to be fitted for uniforms;
  • John B. Stetson planned extensive improvements to an orange grove he purchased;
  • Performers under the name of Hamlin's Wizard Oil Troupe presented several "very good" open-air concerts in the streets;
  • A resident was trying to organize a military company in the city, and an armory would be built if he succeeded in securing a $300 appropriation from the County Commission. 
You can read the entire issue online via Stetson University duPont-Ball Library's excellent digital archives. Yes, I do work at Stetson and have a degree from there, but aside from that I'm a huge fan of libraries, and support both duPont-Ball and the DeLand Regional Library. I just found the DeLand Library's slideshow on Flickr. Visit and support your local libraries, in person or online. They're worth it. 

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