Turners Falls man uncovers an 1891 Berkshire Eagle


PITTSFIELD -- The regular meeting of the city's Common Council 123 years ago, was, according to the July 9, 1891, Berkshire County Eagle, "of short duration, and little business of import was transacted."

We know this because of Gordon Downing of Turners Falls.

Downing, 82, has a copy of the July 9, 1891, edition. The Eagle was a weekly paper then, eight pages in length.

Downing found the paper recently in a closet at his home. He recalled that, 40 years ago, he was helping a relative move from her apartment in Pittsfield to another location.

"The apartment was somewhere in the middle of town," said Downing. "I don't remember the street. I'm sorry."

Anyway, the 1891 Eagle was one of the items Downing found in his relative's apartment.

"I doubt if she even knew where it came from," he said.

But he tossed it in his truck with all the other things to be moved.

He had forgotten all about it until a few weeks ago, when he found the paper, wrapped in plastic, in a box in his Turners Falls home.

"It's in pretty good shape," said his son-in-law, Ken Smith. "It has all eight pages."

Downing wanted to know if the paper itself was worth anything. Although a reporter didn't know, a quick check of eBay revealed that old newspapers were worth, at best, a few dollars, unless they commemorate significant events.

For example, the iconic "Dewey Defeats Truman" edition of the Chicago Daily News sells on eBay for between $1,700 and $3,000. A 1931 edition of The Eagle observing its 150th anniversary, however, is being advertised on eBay for $7.99.

The paper does provide an interesting snapshot of Berkshire County in the 19th century. There are no sports stories or editorials, for example.

Advertisements run throughout the newspaper, including the front page, where the largest item on the page is a two-column ad about the dissolution sale at Heely Brothers at 76 North St. Wood Brothers, which is still in business in 2014, reported in an ad that they have sold more than 40,000 pianos in the several years.

R.A. Rockwell of 35 North St. announced that the Alaska Refrigerators were in. And there were a lot of medicines that cured everything from jittery nerves to catarrh (an inflammation of the nose). They had names like Dr. J. Mullen's Vegetable Extraction, Tutt's Pills and Kickapoo Indian Sagwa.

Newswise, this was the first paper after the 1891 Fourth of July holiday. The Eagle reported a "relatively quiet" Fourth: Only 19 drunks were arrested and only one of those ended up spending significant time in jail. Most spent a few hours in a cell and then signed a notarized document attesting to their sobriety.

The paper also had news from the rest of the Berkshires: Every town had a small section. In Great Barrington, for example, Miss Helen DeMott was in Albany, visiting her mother.

To reach Derek Gentile:
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile


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