I was thinking that we were living in unusually troubled times until I came across a copy of this newspaper that was printed 100 years ago yesterday.
The headline that caught my eye read "Dead Bodies Everywhere." The story recounted the "bloody" deeds of the Kelly family, who lived in a "one-story hut near a barn."
A "Mr. Gregg" had arrived in this city looking for the Kelly family, presumably to have a holiday meal, but instead found a trap door to the cellar where six bodies were buried. Apparently the Kelly family liked to invite people into their home for the holidays, then rob and kill them.
The dispatch concluded: "Nothing has been heard of the Kellys since. There is a feeling, however, that with their ill-gotten gains they have removed to Old Mexico."
That was, no doubt, good news for Mr. Gregg.
You think drug abuse is new? Then read this front-page headline: "The Cocaine Habit -- There Have Been Only A Few Victims, But These Are Incurable."
This was a national news report out of New York which quoted Bellevue Hospital authorities as saying that while cocaine use had not yet reached epidemic proportions, statistics showed that abuse was on the rise.
"The most notable instance of its dire effects known in this country is the case of Dr. Charles Bradley of Chicago, who was a fine specimen of manhood and one of the leading physicians of the Lake City when he commenced experimenting with the drug using himself, his wife and children as subjects.
"In a very short time he became a mental and physical wreck and is now a probably incurable invalid in the Christian Home of this city. He naturally lost all of his fine practice in Chicago and became a vagrant."
If you think that's bad, consider the case of the "distressing accident," a Page 1 feature, in which James Saloman, after quarreling with his wife, left his home in such anger that he failed to realize that he was walking on a railroad track. "Beheaded In Wife's Presence" read the headline.
Also along those lines, "Mrs. Ellen O'Neil, a widow lady, in company with two of her children, a boy and girl, were walking on the track of the Hudson River Railroad when . . . "
"With Christmas Eve Came Death," the headline said.
From Fort Worth came news of four men who froze to death after being stranded because "such a thing as a snowplow is unknown in Texas," the report said.
Sprinkled throughout the paper was news of policemen being shot at or assaulted. References to the assailant's race were printed if he was "a negro."
Striking spinners at the Stafford Mills in Falls River, Mass., voted unanimously to continue their walkout, while cigar makers of New York were on the "eve of a general strike of enormous proportions."
There was turmoil in Samoa. President Grover Cleveland was about to leave Washington for Albany to attend the funeral of Treasury Secretary Daniel Manning.
On the lighter side, which was very thin indeed, there was "News Gossip From London."
"This has been the quietest and in all respects the dullest Christmas that London has seen for many years," went the report.
"The weather has been cold, raw and disagreeable and the freezing temperature has had so great an effect in keeping people indoors that the streets are almost deserted. The only noticeable feature of the day has been the almost entire absence of drunkenness on the streets."
However, 100 years later, things were looking up -- somewhat. In London yesterday, skies were partly cloudy and the temperature reached a low of only 46 degrees, according to the weather map.
The best news of the day 100 years ago turned out to be simple proof that -- despite all of the ill will toward men that can accompany this special time of year -- there have always been, and always will be, do-gooders among us.
Consider the story of George Childs of Philadelphia, who awarded his annual Christmas bonuses with the announcement: "No one in my employ gets less than $10."
Hip, hip, hooray.