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April 24, 2001

What kind of news and advertising did readers find in the Daily Oklahoman back there in 1929, when the impact of the Great Depression was just being recognized? The content was a little like what we find in today's metropolitan papers, but the display and format were quite different. As an old-time newspaperman holding part of a 1929 edition of the Oklahoman in my hands recently, I found that interesting, and perhaps you will, too. I didn't join the newspaper business until 1941, but I do remember how newspapers looked in 1929.

The other day I wrote about a letter to the editor of the Oklahoman that was submitted in 1929 by Frank F. Ritthaler who at the time was the Noble county assessor. His letter attempted to set the record straight about property valuations in this county after a brief news story in the paper contained flawed information. The edition with Mr. Ritthaler's letter was dated September 12, 1929. Someone provided me with a portion of that paper and I have enjoyed looking through it.

Judging by that day's copy of the "The State Newspaper," it offered a mixture of hard news from the local, state, national and international fronts, plus current gossip about emerging Hollywood goddesses and their 'handsome swains, and other trivia. The ads were loaded with products and brand names that have since disappeared from view. All of that in just a bit more than 70 years. My copy of that day's Daily Oklahoman was brought to me by a thoughtful, but anonymous, friend. If you're still interested, read on.

I don't have a complete copy of that edition, just a four page section, but that's enough to warrant at least a brief look. For one thing, it contains Mr. Ritthaler's letter to the editor. That was covered in a previous column. On the same page with the letter is a one-column photo of the movie star Janet Gaynor with her new husband, attorney Lydell Peck. Among other things, Miss Gaynor starred in the original (1937) version of "A Star Is Born," with Fredric March. She was a diminutive all-American girl type, but as I remember this was not her first or last wedding. The dress designer Adrian was one of her hubbies.

Some of the major advertisers in that edition of the Oklahoman were Johnston-Randle Furniture Co., 214 W. First St. (living room suites, $98.50); Sparton radios from Chesnut Bros., 404 W. Main; men's lightweight felt hats ($10) at Rothschild's B&M, Main at Harvey; women's reptile leather shoes ($10) at Hockaday's, 305 W. Main; and women's new fall felt hats ($1.95) in Harry Katz' basement (no address given). How many of us remember when all of those stores and many others made downtown Oklahoma City a bustling marketplace?

Six-point typeface was used by the Oklahoman (and many other newspapers of that era) for news stories, and it was mighty hard to read without a magnifying glass. (Today, 12-point type is widely used.) Still, it's an interesting trip down memory lane when you find a legible copy of a newspaper from seven decades ago. I for one enjoyed that brief stroll.