Wednesday, 6 November 2013

A Description of Tennessee

"The beauty of Tennessee is a grand panorama, 100 miles in width, and 450 miles in length, with rugged mountains, beautiful valleys and broad, extended plains; majestic rivers, murmuring brooks and sparkling foundations; somber forests, green pastures and golden fields; beautiful flowers, luscious fruits, vineclad hills with purple clusters---Grandeur, beauty and loveliness harmoniously blending with lights and shadows, enrobing vat deposits of iron, coal, marble, copper, zinc and slate, all of which for ages have slumbered in nature’s repose, awaiting the magic touch of capital and labor". 

-- First lines of a speech by Chauncey M. Depew at the Lookout Mountain banquet given to Southern Express employees, reported in the Herald and Tribune in Johnson City, 22 Jun 1893 (it was a dollar a year for the subscription in those days).

I enjoy reading old newspapers.  Guys sat around....without the aid of computers and typewriters, and spent hours writing speeches, which would be turned around and used for script in the local newspapers.

This piece?  It's a six-line one-sentence episode.  My English grammar instructor with Louisiana Tech would have had a fit.

It'd be interesting to know how many speeches a year that Mr Depew gave.  He was a life-long Republican....having given speeches in support of John Freemont (1856) and Lincoln (1860).  He was a part of the Vanderbilt railway system for a number of years.  He probably gave well over a thousand speeches....maybe even two thousand his life.  He lived onto be 93 years old and passed away in 1928.

Time magazine felt he deserved a front December of 1924.

The thing is.....guys would get this copy of the Herald and Tribune, and spend an entire hour or two pouring over it.  It was the one-single connection that you had to the rest of the world.

When someone wrote up a big speech and it got onto the front can imagine a group of folks on the front porch of some house on a Sunday afternoon.  They spoke the whole speech in a slow manner, in absolute dictation of proper English, and were grinning over the wondrous description of their state.

The words made them humble, but feel awful proud of being in the greatest state on the face of the Earth.  So you can imagine these six lines....spoken over and over....running terribly long for just one sentence, but being discussed for hours.

This was the real world for these people.  Feeling proud, and successful.

Sadly, things have fallen a fair bit since 1893.  Six-liners wouldn't work today.  Most of the news on the front page is garbage.  You tend to end a thirty-minute reading and feel more depressed, than happy.  Something in American life has changed for the worse.

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