By mid-June of 1914 MPs were not worried about impending war according to the Market Harborough Advertiser, they were fretting about cutting short their Whitsuntide holidays. Charles T King, the Parliamentary Correspondent for the London Daily Express, sarcastically opens his House of Commons report in the Advertiser saying: ‘As many MPs as could be induced to do so returned to Westminster this week with tanned faces…’
The contentious Home Rule Bill to grant devolved parliament to the south and north of Ireland continues to provide the only hint of conflict on what appears to be a sunny summer horizon, not only in the Market Harborough area, but across the Empire.
Another eight-page paper gives only scant coverage to any political issues of the day – even stories about the Suffragettes appears to be on the wane. One story, however, does relate how some protestors tried to shout at the King who was attending the International Horse Show in Olympia. ‘A crowded audience, largely composed of society people, hissed and booed the women as they were carried out’ and the Advertiser concludes by commenting: ‘It was a deplorable, futile exhibition, received with marked disfavour by the crowd.’
Although there is a distinct bias towards the farming community and the male bastion of business, the Advertiser does all that it can to cater for its female readers. However, it clearly has a particular view of what they like and what they need.
On page 2 there is an entire column – twice as much as the Commons report – devoted to ‘women’s gossip’. This includes a report about the scarcity of girls going into domestic service and a dearth of females being enticed into becoming a tailor, milliner or dressmaker.
There is lighter gossip in the column with news that the French penchant for ‘dry bathing’ is to be ‘adopted in this country’. The report continues: ‘It is quite impossible to say that the brocades and metallic tissues, the silks, satins, sashes, toques and turbans that go to make up the fashionable bathing outfit can be intended to battle with salt sea waves.’
There is also plenty of enticement from advertisers: Dr Davis’s Famous Female Pills ‘have universally been admitted to be a BOON to WOMANKIND’ (newspaper’s emphasis); Shindler & Douglas has ‘smart, well cut river and tennis frocks in white cotton poplin with a trimmed, tucked front and finished with pearl buttons’ for just 6 shillings and 11d (around 35p in today’s money); and, of course, there’s Bird’s Custard – the nutritious custard – the ‘housewife’s greatest help’.
The June 16 issue also stands out for the golden wedding report of Dr J Q Costin and his wife Mrs Costin, which is exceptional for two reasons: it is typographically set across two columns – the only story in the entire paper to be given this treatment – and also the inclusion of head and shoulder photographs of the couple, the first pictures to be used in the paper in this style. Illustrations in the paper are few and far between but when they are included they are hand drawings.
The new technology is employed to great effect in editions later in the year with obituary reports of local men who have died in the fighting.
There is also a story that seems a little optimistic to a 21st century audience about a cure for cancer. The Advertiser quotes the Pall Mall Gazette describing a lecture by a well known doctor and cancer expert: ‘He is able in the most emphatic way to define cancer as a deficiency of potassium salts in the body, and to assert with proofs to support that if this deficiency is remedied, cancer, no matter how far advanced it may be, will retrograde…’
Check out this week’s Harborough Mail for current news from the Market Harborough area.