• Once and future mail
    September 11,2012

    Once and future mail

    That was a bold and useful thing you did Aug. 31, reprinting the entire front page of the Aug. 31, 1912, edition of your ancestral newspaper, The Barre Times. I realize that you did that to feature the great event of that day a century ago, when a crowd of 8,000, roughly equal to the entire population of Barre today, came to hear former President Theodore Roosevelt speak to the public from a high, bunting-draped platform in the city park triangle. All well and good and gala.

    But the historian’s eye detects on that front page of 1912 a couple of things that make a person reflect on how far away we’ve come from that time, an even century ago.

    First is the mass of print contained on the front page — solid, from top to bottom and side to side, relieved only by a 2-inch-by-4-inch photo of Roosevelt. Small print, and dense: for people, you have to suppose, who had a far greater habit of reading than folks do nowadays.

    A second thing of note on that front page was an announcement that, by act of Congress, first- and second-class post offices like the one in Barre would cease delivering mail on Sundays, starting June 30, 1913. Saturdays were still safe; Sundays were the issue. And now, as we know, we, the richest and most powerful country in the world, are faced with losing the amenity of Saturday mail deliveries as well.

    A last historical note: I’ve read that in the London of the early 1900s, mail was delivered as often as five times a day.

    Times change, and email is a handy thing, as are the brief news bites that sprinkle the electronic day, even if they delude us into thinking that we’re getting all the solid information we need. But it will be a loss on the long and sometimes lonely weekend not to get a favorite magazine you’ve been expecting, or a special Saturday letter from a friend.

    Jules Rabin


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