Month: August 2017

A LETTER FROM FLORENCE: An 1882 Message in a Bottle

Flaschenpost.jpg

In the 1979, the rock band The Police released their song “Message in a Bottle,” and in it, the lead singer, Sting, croons the lyrics:

I’ll send an SOS to the world
I’ll send an SOS to the world
I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle

Walked out this morning
Don’t believe what I saw
A hundred billion bottles
Washed up on the shore
Seems I’m not alone at being alone
A hundred billion castaways
Looking for a home

 

The Police’s song was ultimately about loneliness, isolation, and the universally common need for human connection. The theme feels timeless. Not only did the lyrics ring true in 1979, similar sentiments have likely been true for as long as messages have been sent in bottles which means they were certainly true in August of 1882 when a message in bottle was found on the shores of the Tennessee at Paducah. The message read thusly:

July 26, 1882.

To the young gentleman who finds this: Please except [sic] my compliments. I am 5 feet 2 inches; weight, 121; light hair, blue eyes. Answer soon as found.

Florence Miles/Paducah, Ky.  

 

So, given only her words, what is your first impression of Miss Miles letter? Do you find them desperate? Forlorn? Or maybe you see them as playful, flirtatious, and hopeful? Perhaps her efforts can be viewed as bold since she threw caution to the currents. Or maybe they’re more apt to be passive as she left her love life up to fate.

 

The Paducah Daily News, the paper that reported the message, had their own take. Firstly, they doubted the truthfulness of the writer, stating, “Her size is captivating, but then the name; it is too suggestive of a tramp.” The word “tramp” in this sense is akin to hobo.

 

But if from a true source, the Daily News went on to further ridicule the sender for both her misuse of the word ‘except’ and for her forwardness. The paper said, “Secure yourself a ‘blue back’ speller and a book on discretion, Florence, and study both intently. It will do you good.”

 

It sounds as if the Daily News was not convinced there was a real Florence Miles, and in checking the 1881-1882 City Directory on our Local and Family History shelves, no one with the last name of Miles fits the description of the person in the message. But this doesn’t necessarily mean she didn’t exist. Perhaps she was staying with a relative who had a different last name. Or she was a student. Or she lived just outside the city limits so she wasn’t listed in the directory.

 

We may not ever know if Florence Miles was real or not. But does it really matter? The message was real, and that’s  good enough for me.

 

–Matt Jaeger

 

*The accompanying photo is from Wikimedia Commons. It is not the actual message in a bottle from 1882.

10 THINGS THAT WERE ILLEGAL IN 1904

 

 

You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

 book

This book from our Local and Family History stacks, A Revision of the Ordinances and Municipal Laws of the City of Paducah, Kentucky (1904), may have a boring-looking cover and a boring-sounding title, but inside you’ll find a fascinating glimpse into how our city was run more than a century ago. And among all the rules and regulations, you’ll find a few curious laws…some outdated, some funny, and some just bizarre.

Ten of these laws are listed below, copied word for word from the original text, along with the fine for infractions.

 

 

  1. KITE FLYING

The flying of kites in the streets of Paducah is hereby prohibited and any person guilty thereof shall be fined 50 cents.

 

  1. SELLING TAMALES WITHOUT A LICENSE

For persons selling hot tamalas (sic) five dollars ($5.00) per annum. Fine for no license: $10-$50 per day.

 

  1. CLEANING FISH IN THE MARKET HOUSE

It shall be unlawful for any person to clean, gut or skin fish on any market bench or elsewhere in said market. Fine $10-$25.

 

  1. BUTTER BY THE OUNCE

All butter sold at the market house shall be sold by the pound, and in no other manner. Fine: $5 for each offense.

 

  1. WOMEN IN PUBS  

That it shall be unlawful for any female to enter or in any manner to frequent any saloon within limits of the City of Paducah. Fine: $5-$20.

 

  1. WANDERING GOATS

It shall be unlawful, for the owner of any goat to suffer the same to go or run at large upon any of the streets, alleys or unclosed lots or ground in the City of Paducah. Fine: $5-$20.

 

  1. RIVERSIDE NUDITY

That it shall be unlawful for any person in the daytime to take off his clothes and expose his person and go in the river bathing or swimming in front of the city of Paducah. Fine: $5 for each offense.

 

  1. PAIRS OF PROSTITUTES

It shall be unlawful for any two or more common prostitutes to walk or be in company together on any street, sidewalk, alley or other public thoroughfare in the city of Paducah, during the night-time. Fine: $5-$50 for each offense.

 

  1. DIRTY UDDERS

Every person keeping cows for the production of milk for sale shall cause them to be kept clean and wholesome at all times and shall cause the teats, and, if necessary, the udder, to be carefully cleaned by brushing, washing or wiping before milking. Fine: $20-$100.

 

10. TOSSING POWDERS

It shall be unlawful for any person to throw or scatter what is commonly called Talcum Powder, flour, or similar product. Fine: $5-$10.