Thursday, June 28, 2012

28 June 1860: Hoop Skirts For the Ladies

On this day in 1860, the Grady, Nicholson, & Company general store advertised their new shipment of hoop skirts in the weekly Southern Banner:

The wide, bell-shaped hoop skirt, such as the ones featured in Gone with the Wind, was popularized in the mid-1850s by Empress Eugenie of France, the wife of Emperor Napolean III. The first ad for hoop skirts in the Athens newspapers appeared in 1857. 

The hoops were constructed with circles of cotton-covered steel wire held together with strips of tape that ran the length of the hoop, from waist to floor. The hoops were collapsible, but also broke easily. 

This method of creating a full, round skirt was lighter and cooler than the layers of petticoats previously required, though women of this period still wore multiple layers of clothing (chemise, stockings, corset, drawers, shirt, hoops, dress, gloves and bonnet) on a regular basis, regardless of the weather. 

After the Civil War, the large skirts went out of style quickly, much to the relief of historian and parliamentarian Justin McCarthy, who, in his book Portraits of the Sixties, wrote of hoop skirts that 
Its inconvenience was felt by the male population as well as by the ladies who sported the obnoxious construction. A woman getting out of a carriage, an omnibus, or a train, making her way through a crowded room, or entering into the stalls of a theatre, was a positive nuisance to all with whom she had to struggle for passage.

Others looked back just a generation later and remembered sidewalks "practically monopolized by moving monstrosities," noting that "then no lady was correctly attired according to the prevailing idea who did not present a spectacle curiously suggestive of a moving circus tent." 

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

21 June 1901: Paving Milledge Avenue

On this day in 1901, the Athens Banner reported that paving of Milledge Avenue would happen that summer, after delays of wet weather and a city full of alumni, friends, and family of graduates from the many schools in the Athens area.

The Work Will be Pushed Rapidly to an Early Completion.
     The city authorities were unable, after all, to begin the paving of Milledge avenue before the commencement season.     First, the continued rains some time before prevented the beginning of the work, and when it became dry enough to start work, it was decided that inasmuch as it was so close to the commencencements, that the work be postponed until the visitors had left Athens.     Work will be started on Milledge avenue by the city next Monday morning. There is not much time left to complete the work by next winter, but the paving will be rushed as much as possible. A large force of hands will go to work at that time.
--Athens Daily Banner, 21 June 1901, p. 3, col. 5.

The work was scheduled to begin on Monday, June 24th, during a heat wave of two days that the Banner reported "brought most forcibly to mind the tales that Rudyard Kipling relas of the heat in India." Both days reached into the 90s by noon, until a strong overnight thunderstorm calmed the heat. 

This was the initial paving of Milledge, and was not completed until November. Rather than the more industrial block paving used downtown, Milledge was macadamized,  which means layers of broken stone were spread across the leveled road surface, then sealed with a binder. It was much cheaper to pave with this system, and repairs were not as expensive, as well. 

The entire length of the street was not paved, but the paper still declared it "one of the prettiest streets in the South." It was repaved in 1906, with the Athens Electric & Railway Company paying for part of the work, as they laid rail to Lumpkin Street. The costs were split between the city, the railway company, and the property owners. 

By 1914, Milledge was paved from Hill Street to Henderson Avenue. Two years later, 75 property owners petitioned to have the street paved from Springdale to Lumpkin. It was only paved to Woodlawn Avenue, so the following year, after complaints from residents about a Milledge Avenue that was "ankle deep in mud for the past three or four weeks," the city finally paved the road two blocks past Lumpkin Street. The longer paving was likely due to the new residences that had started to develop in the Five Points area on University Drive.

By 1923, Athens had spent nearly $1 million to have 105 miles of paved streets, and spent approximately $100,000.00 per year in maintenance and improvements. More than 50 miles of these streets had sidewalks, such as the brick ones recently restored along Hancock Street.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

12 June 1901: Summertime in Athens Means Talking About Football

On this day in 1901, less than a decade since the introduction of football to Athens, the Banner ran the following story about prospects for the Georgia football team in the coming season, which would not begin for another four months:

Despite high hopes published throughout the summer and early fall, Georgia's final record in 1912  1901 (thanks for the correction!) would be 1-5-2. The game schedule would also be altered by the time the season rolled around in mid-October, including replacing the Tech game in Atlanta with a meeting versus South Carolina in Augusta that would be Georgia's only win (10-5) that season. 

Georgia traveled next to Tennessee, where "the red and black" played two games in three days, losing both 0-47, first to Vanderbilt on Saturday, then again to Sewanee on Monday. The Banner started its story about the road trip with "The Georgia boys got it in the neck again yesterday," before pointing out later in the story that "Three of Sewanee's touchdowns were made by pure luck."

The first game in Athens that season came against Clemson on the 26th, and spirits were high until Georgia lost, 5-29. The headline the next day simply stated that "Clemson Won Football Game." Though daily papers exist through the month of October, the Banner seems to have mostly exhausted its enthusiasm for reporting on football in 1901 at this time. Even in the weekly papers, there is little talk of football of any kind, not just Georgia, but even for teams in the region. The Atlanta Constitution, however, continued to follow the team.

In the days leading up to the November 2nd meeting with North Carolina in Atlanta, UGA alumni in Atlanta sent a letter to the University requesting Georgia cancel the game. This request was refused, with the "physical director of the University," Professor A. H. Patterson noting that the three losses had come to teams that were "heavier" than Georgia, and the newspaper said that "the Atlanta alumni may yet see some good playing that they evidently do not expect to see." The alumni did not; Georgia lost to North Carolina, 0-27.

Georgia's next two games received no notice in the Athens newspapers, even those weekly editions published the day of or the day after a game. November 9th, Georgia tied Alabama 0-0 in Montgomery, then fell again in a 6-16 loss in Athens to Davidson College. 

The last game of the season was against Auburn on Thanksgiving Day in Atlanta.  The days leading up to the meeting had students showing up to cheer the team at practice, and energy and spirits were high. According to John F. Stegeman, however, "Georgia fans gasped" upon seeing an Auburn team take the field that was so much taller and heavier than the Georgia players. Georgia played hard, but was unable to score, including having a touchdown called back near the end of the game because the player's foot stepped out upfield. 

The game ended in a 0-0 tie, and both the team and the fans felt victorious since Auburn never crossed midfield. Spectators celebrated in Atlanta, and in Athens, "The chapel bell has been kept ringing, and the entire campus is aglow from three bonfires."  The team was met at the railroad depot that night by "a huge crowd and escorted by torchlight up College Avenue , through the town, and to the campus arch." The party continued until dawn, and ringing the chapel bell became a Georgia tradition.

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

9 June 1898: Summer Art Lessons with Miss Jennie

On this day in 1898, at the bottom of a column on the front page of the Athens Daily Banner, was this advertisement:

Miss Jennie Smith had been the art teacher at the Lucy Cobb Institute since her own graduation from the school in 1880. She continued to study art, going to Baltimore, Maryland, and Paris, France, for instruction, after her graduation. In 1886, she had exhibited her own art and her pupils' creations in the Athens Cotton Fair. The local paper extolled that

Perhaps, in the whole city of Athens, there is no young lady who has so decided a talent for painting and etching as Miss Jennie Smith. There is hardly a home where decorative art is admired and appreciated that has not some specimen of this young lady's skill. Miss Smith loves her work with all enthusiasm of youth, and her handiwork is rendered all the more attractive as it is the result of a cultured and strikingly original mind. 

For some time past she has been engaged instructing a class of young ladies. That she has been a diligent and successful teacher is demonstrated by the beautiful and elaborate display of art at the fair grounds and that she is proud of her pupils is illustrated by the conspicuous positions their work occupy.  --Athens Banner Watchman, 16 November 1886, p. 3, col. 2.

Her summer classes were likely to help augment Miss Jennie's income. The salary of a school teacher was not high, and she had a passion not just for creating art, but also collecting. She collected china, brass, period furniture, and in 1891, bought Harriet Powers's Bible Quilt for $5 "and enough calico to make a new quilt." Her appreciation of art as a creator is likely why she welcomed Mrs. Powers to "visit" the quilt while it was in her possession. The quilt now hangs in the Smithsonian.

Miss Jennie's students loved her, "even though she was a hard taskmaster." She's remembered for always wearing black, "the shirtwaists and flaring skirts of the late nineteenth century, which she never gave up," short, plump, "like a little black teddy bear. Oh, she was so jolly and fun!" 

She lived in a small stone house "crammed with art stuff and memorabilia of her life" behind the Lucy Cobb Institute, even after the school closed. It was there she also had her "quaint studio," and when Lucy Cobb closed in 1930, the new owners of the property, the University of Georgia, allowed Miss Jennie to stay there until her death in 1946. Most of her collections were given to UGA in her will, and some of her acquisitions are in the President's House on Prince Avenue.

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Let the Athens Historical Society Know What You Think!

The Athens Historical Society is planning a major renovation of their website this year, and would like input from anyone who is interested in and cares about Athens history.  

Until June 18th, there will be an online survey available at this link:

The survey is just 10 questions, and should take less than 5 minutes. Please click here (or the link above) to voice your opinions and offer your suggestions. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

3 June 1923: Most University Boys Live on $1 per Day

On this day in 1923, the Athens Banner-Herald published the results of a questionnaire the University of Georgia Alumni Record sent to 1,200 UGA male students about their expenses and habits. 
Enrollment at the time was 1,585, and included women, but the report frequently refers to "the boys" as the responders to the survey. 

At the time, the average net income in the United States was $3,226.70 per year. The Alumni Record came to the conclusion that "A boy can go to Georgia a year for $350.00 or $375.00." At the time, the average net income in the United States was $3,226.70 per year. 

From the 592 replies, the following details of information were gleaned:

  • Not including the cost of school itself, most students lived on an average of $30.00 per month. Tuition at the time was $90.00 per year.
  • 86% of students spent between $16.50 and $25.00 per month on their boarding costs. The lower end price reflected the cost to use the campus Denmark Dining Hall, while the higher end reflected typical costs for those who ate at their fraternity houses.
  • 71% of students spent between $4.00 and $10.00 per month on their rent. Again, the lower end prices reflected the cost of campus dormitories.
  • 80% of students went to the movies no more than twice per week.
  • 42% of students play sports on teams associated with their dormitory, fraternity, or take regular exercise at the gym; 17% took no regular exercise, and another 30% got all their exercise from military drills on campus.
  • 52% of the students used tobacco.
  • 86% of the students attended religious services other than University chapel exercises.
  • 62% of the students "stated they know how to dance," but only 52% attended dances.

The relative value of the 1923 annual tuition in today's dollars is $2,380.00; students were paying a relative cost of $424.00 - $662.00 per month for boarding costs, and $106.00 - $265.00 for rent. At the time, a college education was not required for most employment.

Current tuition and fees for a nine-month academic year at the undergraduate level at the University of Georgia are $9,472.00 for in-state students, and $27,682.00 for students from outside the state. The "typical residence hall" costs $4,916.00 per academic year, and a seven-day meal plan is $3,792.00. 

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