The Orange Leader
By 1903, Orange had been an established town for about 45 years. There was a definite downtown business district with stores that sold nearly anything a person needed or wanted. There were also two newspapers for the store owners to advertise their goods. The Orange Daily Tribune and the Orange Leader were published by the Rein Lithographing Company. Charles M. Rein was the owner of the lithography company and the publisher of the papers.
Then as now, newspapers and businesses went hand in hand. The newspapers needed advertising for the income to publish the papers and the businesses needed to advertise their goods to stay in business.
In 1903, there were no photographs in newspapers. Photography and publishing newspapers were not advanced enough for the two arts to merge. There were a very few engravings published in the papers, but for the most part advertising was dependent on a writer being able to give a description of a product or service that would entice a buyer to spend their money.
The December 24, 1903 issue of the Orange Daily Tribune was filled with ads and small notices of things available for Christmas that ranged from fruit cakes to diamonds. None of the businesses are still in existence and only a few of the buildings remain. Reading the Tribune gives an insight into the Christmas season of 1903, and how the citizens of Orange spent their money at Christmas.
In 1903, there were four railroads that serviced Orange. The Southern Pacific connected New Orleans and the Pacific Coast. The Sunset Limited and the Pacific Coast Express made daily stops in Orange. The Kansas City Southern Railway ran a north-south route daily. The Santa Fe and the Houston & Texas Central Railroad offered “Holiday Specials.” For $2 above the regular fare rate the traveler could convert to a roundtrip ticket that would allow them to choose among trips to about 15 different destinations in eight states. Rail travel was huge in Orange; there were six trains in and out of Orange every day.
For those who stayed in Orange and spent time with their families, there was a myriad of presents available locally. The ads are works of art with different styles and sizes of fonts and artistic layouts designed to catch the reader’s eye in the days of no photos.
Sokolski’s advertised as “The Cut Rate Store—Remember the Place—The Home of the Low Price.” The ad read; “A suitable Christmas Present is something hard to decide on. What could be better for your wife or daughter than a nice dress? What would suit your husband or son better than a nice suit? We have an endless variety of both, and a swell line of ladies and gentlemen’s Furnishing Goods.”
“A Nice Line of Ladies and Children’s shoes. “
“Sole agents in this county for Walkover Shoes and Hamilton-Carrhardt Overalls.”
The Sabine Supply Company’s ad stated that it was important to have a good carving set and very important to have a good mount for it. “A look at our Christmas Attractions will convince you that here is the best place to buy presents.”
“Getting out of the woods about your Christmas purchases is easy and simple at our store…..” stated the ad for The Palace Jewelry Store. The store had “Low Priced Presents, Medium Priced Presents, and Costly Presents.” They advertised Watches, Clocks, Silverware, Bric-A-Brac, Cut Glass, Sterling Novelties, Jewelry, and Diamonds. This season they were offering 1/3 off the cost of their line of Vernis Martin Furniture. They also sold “Musical Instruments of all kinds.”
Bland’s Bakery was selling fruit cakes for 25 cents per pound and advertised that they came in several sizes and were “first class and better and cheaper than you could bake at home.” They delivered to “all points in the city.”
“The Christmas dinner can be supplied in every detail from my Grocery Store and Market which are now in connection. Turkeys, Chickens, and Fine Roasts of all kinds, Beef, Pork, Mutton, and Veal will be found in the Market while my Grocery Store is complete with Staple and Fancy Groceries. Candy, Fruits, Nuts, and a big line of Fireworks to please the little folks. I can supply all your wants in the way of Groceries and Feed all the time. Phone orders receive prompt attention. Goods from store or market delivered free.” This was the ad for C. J. Patillo. Patillo had two phone lines; the store’s number was 171 and the market 44.
C.A. MacLeod and Company, located in the Link Building at Fifth and Main advertised Millnery and Racket Goods. They stated that you should “See Our Show Windows.” MacLeod sold “Useful, Beautiful, and Desirable Toys, (toy)Automobiles, and Self-Propelling Toys”. The store also stocked “Games. Dolls, and Gocarts,” in addition to the other toys.
McFarland’s Jewelry Store was selling diamonds from “$100 to $500 per carat.” McFarland offered a fine line of solid gold watch chains. The store also sold Cut Glass, Hand Painted China, and “Other Novelties.”
The most unusual Christmas ad urged people to get married. L. Millet, “The Home Store” ran the following: “Why Not Get Married? We believe that ‘it is not good for man to live alone’ and in order to encourage out young friends in getting married, we make the following offer: Any Orange couple getting married before January 1,1904…..will be given FREE their marriage license and we will sell them at ACTUAL COST all the furniture to begin housekeeping on.”
At the time the Holland Hotel was one of the most modern and elegant in the South. The hotel was decorated for Christmas the Tribune reported: “The Holland Hotel promotes a gala day appearance, being profusely yet tastefully decorated with holly, mistletoe, and evergreens for Christmas. At night, especially, does the rotunda present a fine appearance and complementary remarks are heard from all sides.
Manager Ellison is exerting great effort to make this Christmas one that will be long remembered by those who are so fortunate as to be guests at the hotel this year.
The Bill of Fare tomorrow will be the best that the market and the hostelry’s retinue of skilled servitors can furnish.”
Christmas 109 years ago was different. Today it is hard to imagine that there was a time when a major hotel would be decorated with no lighting, only evergreen plants, holly and mistletoe. Stores with large display windows are no longer in evidence. (“See Our Show Windows”) “Window Dressing” is a lost art. Windup, self-propelled toys are only seen in antique stores. What an event it would be if you found a bakery to deliver a fresh fruit cake, “better and cheaper than you could make at home.”
Christmas presents today come from the “Big Box Stores”, and are mostly electronics, and computers. A one carat diamond in today’s dollars would cost about $3500. (The $100 cost in 1903 equals $2464 in today’s dollars.) Most things purchased for gifts are imported from all over the world. In 1903 most importing into Orange meant that the store owners had shopped in New Orleans, Chicago, or New York.
If a person could have flown over Orange at night in 1903 during the Christmas season, it would have looked like any other night, dark with only a very few streetlights. An airplane flying over Orange in 2012 would undoubtedly see thousands, if not millions of lights in all colors of the rainbow. It would be a bright sight!
The things that have not changed are the time spent with friends and family, the food on the table and, “stockings hung with care, in hopes that Santa will soon be there.”