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“Population of Buffalo Now Over 455,000…”

“Buffalo’s population is between 455,000 and 460,000 according to J.H. Madden, county supervisor of the state census enumeration . . . So far there is an increase of about eight per cent [sic] in the population of Buffalo over the federal census taken five years ago.

Buffalo Evening News-June, 21, 1915

Buffalo in the year 2020 is a much smaller, intimate community than it was 105 years ago. In 2019, the estimate for the upcoming 2020 census is 255,284. If we include the surrounding communities in Western New York, it will take us over the one million mark. Are we that different from Buffalonians of the past? What shaped our community (the City of Good Neighbors) then versus now? In 2020 we are a city known for its blue collar work ethic, its love of its sports teams, its snow, its Buffalo wings, and its Beef-on-Weck.  The Sabres and Bills fill our hearts and minds and the names of Jack Eichel and Josh Allen roll off tongues here daily. In 1915, it was the likes of “Prince” Hal Chase of the Buffalo Blues and Joe McCarthy of the Buffalo Bisons that were debated in the streets. Were you a Blues Backer and following the new Federal League or a die-hard follower of the International League Bisons?

Picking up the June 21st, 1915 Buffalo Evening News (for just a penny!) you could have read the recap inning by inning of the Buffalo Blue’s game with the Kansas City Packers from that afternoon—but, alas, only through the 8th inning for press time called. Or perhaps you were interested in the recap of the Bisons versus Red Wings game told in great detail until the 5thinning. However those final scores? Why that news was a day away which was a 2-1 Bisons victory ninety miles away in Rochester and a 9-5 Blues loss at their home grounds of Federal Field. If you were a fan of Hal Chase the next day’s paper would offer you the following tidbit. Star of Yesterday’s Game:  “Hal Chase won a place in the NEWS Star column by his clever work in yesterday’s game. In five times at bat he hit safely three times, one of his wallops going for three bases. He tallied a run and accepted 11 chances without a miss.” Buffalo Evening News-June 22, 1915

We are used to the modern day news being at our fingertips with the internet, with television news, and even when reading the current Buffalo News, the stories are a microcosm of our times. In the year of 2020 the headlines shout about COVID-19, racial inequality, and the upcoming presidential election. Recent headlines included: “What Happens if Someone Tests positive for COVID-19 in School?” Or everyone’s favorite topic in August, lake effect snow: “Warm Water More Snow? Lake Effect is More Complex.” Or a flip to the Sports page reveals Buffalo Bills coverage “Diggs, Bills Veterans Report for Duty”.

In contrast, what would a Buffalonian find in the June 21st edition of the Buffalo Evening News 105 years ago besides articles about population growth and the scores of the baseball games both in Buffalo and across the nation? In reading through images of these old pages, it appears some things never change—just the prices within. Some readers may remember the department store Wm. Hengerer Co. and our female readers may have the aptly named “little black dress” for the perfect evening on the town. In June of 1915, “the ‘Little Silk Dress’ that’s ‘always ready’ retailed for a mere $16.50. The advertisement trumpets: “A woman’s best wardrobe friend is the little silk dress that never loses its dainty freshness-that is ‘never in the laundry’ just when most needed-that is ever ready for a shopping, week end or motoring trip.”

In Western New York today and in the past we have always enjoyed our cold refreshments in Genesee, Iroquois, Becks, Labatt’s or myriad local microbreweries. On page 5, the voters in New York in 1915 made their wishes known as before summer recess the Legislature would vote on Prohibition in New York. Was it with resignation or triumph that the citizens of Buffalo read “In New York all measures designed to have a state-wide effect on the liquor traffic were killed.” Little did anyone know that in a few short years the Volstead Act would go into effect in 1920, making the entire country dry.

World War I was a pressing item in the psyches of the American consciousness. In 1915 German-Americans voices were struggling to be heard. “German-Americans to Draft Resolution: Special Meeting Called for Expression of Buffalo Sentiment” read one headline.

A Special meeting of 150 German-Americans has been called by Dr. Gustave A. Hitzel… to draft resolutions expressing the sentiment of Buffalo German-Americans to be read at Madison Square Garden in New York City… ’As German-American’s were are interested in averting war between the United States and Germany… The meeting may be well styled a peace meeting. The resolution we will send will be an expression of sympathy with the nationwide movement of German-Americans.

What is fascinating in our little newspaper time capsule look into the year 1915, is the large issues that would grip our nation find their way to Buffalo as evidenced by the sentiment of German-American’s as detailed above. Looking forward, one can wonder what became of Dr. Gustave A. Hitzel and the Germans of that night as we would indeed enter in a great and terrible war with Germany. Was he persecuted or worse? History is like an onion, the more layers we peel back the more we find and want answers to the myriad of questions we find. Some will remain unanswered and others we can find our answer or in this case a common kinship in many facets of being a citizen of Buffalo in the year 1915 and 2020.

Lead image – In 1916 this Photo of Washington and Lafayette Streets shows the advertisements for Wm. Hengerer Co and the iconic Beck’s Beer. The Building on the right is the Lyric Theater complete with marquee advertising the 1916 film A Woman’s Honor-starring Jose Collins

Credit – Collection of The Buffalo History Museum General photograph collection, Streets- Washington

Written by Paul Langendorfer

Paul Langendorfer

Paul Langendorfer is an avid sports fan with a deep passion for the National Pastime, especially when it comes to the New York Yankees. Born and raised in Buffalo, New York, Paul holds a B.A. from Canisius College, a M.A. from the University of Colorado at Denver. He is the author of the book Baseball in Buffalo. His current project is a contributor to the Seasons of Buffalo Baseball 1857-2020 book, which is being published by Billoni Associates Publishing and is due to be released in October. Paul currently resides in Buffalo with his wife and two children.

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