1922 New Year’s Eve Report

This postcard shows the clubhouse of Quincy Country Club which opened in May 1921 at a cost of $60,000. The club held a New Year’s Eve dance for over 200 people in 1921. 

New Year’s arrived on Jan. 1, 1922, as it will again one hundred years later. And the controversies and pointed opinions illustrated in our Quincy papers reveal that society was deeply divided about what was happening in America then as now.

“Jazz Music’s Erotic Influence is Ruining Girls” cries one headline from the Jan. 2, 1922, Daily Herald. The article cites the Illinois Vigilance Association and its crusade to alert parents, churches, and schools to the danger to young womanhood. “Girls, in small towns, as well as the big cities, in poor homes and rich homes, are victims of the weird insidious, neurotic music that accompanies modern dancing,” it lamented.

Using language that sounds vaguely like song lyrics itself, the association claims, “Mid the distracting notes of the saxophone and the weird beat of the tom-tom was witnessed conduct not hitherto seen outside the old red-light district.”

The association insisted that it was not opposed to all dancing. The Rev. Yarrow, founder of the group, said, “It is the duty of the parents, churches and schools to know the manner in which the young people are dancing….[and]…enlist in a movement for wholesome normal music and clean dancing.”

There was a lot of dancing to watch, as Quincy had three large New Year’s Watch parties. The Quincy Country Club held a party in their new clubhouse for over 200 guests; the Hotel Newcomb hosted over 400 people with Glenn Brigg’s orchestra who performed on a specially built platform on the marble stairway. The hotel served a four-course meal in the Gold Room, after which the orchestra played until dawn.

The largest gathering was 700 folks at the Eagles’ Watch Party where they danced to the O’Farrell’s orchestra. In all cases, paper hats and horns were distributed as party favors, and in all three parties, the lights were turned out at midnight and an electric sign or display of colored lights was lit up to welcome the new year.

The city was mostly dry, but as one article said, the ghost of John Barleycorn (i.e., whiskey) walked the town, leaving empty bottles visible in window sills, and hip pocket flasks empty. The police reported a quieter than usual evening. Even Chicago was reported to be “mostly dry.”

But arrests for public drunkenness in 1921 were about equal to those of 1919. In fact, cases prosecuted in 1921 were only two less than when the saloons were open in 1919. The arrests in 1920, the first year of prohibition were lower by more than half, dropping from 220 to 78. That was attributed to the fact that alcohol was harder to find and more expensive as the Volstead act began to take effect. But by 1921, the number was back up to 218 arrests for public intoxication.

The weather in 1922 was the warmest on record, with the least snow fall, according to Meteorologist Clarence J. Root from the local weather bureau. Our mean temperature was 57 degrees, almost five degrees warmer than usual. And the snowfall measured in 1921 was only 7.2 inches, two inches less than the previous minimum. 1914 held the record for the largest snowfall at 47.7 inches.

For 30 cents, an adult could be entertained at the Princess Theater by a movie called “The Son of Wallingford.” Its publicity boasted it was a “million-dollar production” that required “17 miles of film to make” and had 8,000 players in its grandest scene. If you were a child, the entry was only a dime. The Empire featured “Jazz Babies; The Belasco hosted “A Wife’s Awakening;” the Star played “Rage of Paris, and the Orpheum had a double bill of “Morals” with May McAvoy and “The Playhouse” with Buster Keaton.”

The Daily Journal honored long-standing Quincy businesses on New Year’s Day. Among those listed are: J.H. Brown and Son who had operated a grocery in the 600 block of Maine Street in Quincy since August of 1868; in 1865 Jonas Meyer and Company began selling clothing and were still going strong; Quincy Coal company had been in business for over fifty years; and Weems Laundry, established in 1880 had been serving the area for over forty years. Also mentioned were the Ricker National Bank, established in 1858; the Knollenberg Milling company founded in 1876; and the State Street Bank.

Car prices at Geise Buick ranged from $895 for a two-passenger roadster, to a top of the line, seven-passenger sedan for $2375. All prices were FOB Flint, Michigan. Prices on Cadillac, Buick, Hudson, and Essex were reduced, and most all other manufacturers were following suit to recover from the economic recession of 1921. It was a good year to buy an automobile.

It was noted that the ring-necked gulls had returned to the Mississippi River performing their aerial acrobatics to the delight of the fishermen. These birds’ winter near our town before returning north in the spring. They were listed as a protected species after being almost wiped out for their feathers, once in demand for women’s hats.

1920 was a leap year, and traditionally women could ask a man to marry them during such a year. On New Year’s Day in 1920, the Daily Herald published a list of 250 eligible Quincy bachelors, available for matrimony. On Jan. 1, 1921, they reported that only ten of that number had married. Undaunted, the newspaper printed a new list of men who were unmarried and available for the next leap year cycle. Perhaps they thought that a three-year lead time would produce better results. One couple did marry on New Years Day, 1921. Two players in the cast at the Bijou theatre married on stage between the first and second shows by Justice of the Peace, E. J. Bonney. The Bijou then offered $50 to any local couple who would marry on stage. There were no takers.

Sources

“Bonney Marries Couple on Stage.” Quincy Daily Herald, 1 January 1921.

“Few Bachelors Leaped At in Glorious Year of 1920.” Quincy Daily Herald, 1 January 1921.

“Jazz Music’s Erotic Influence is Ruing Girls, Yarrow Says.” Quincy Daily Herald, 2 January 1922.

“John Barleycorn is Dead.” Quincy Daily Herald, 2 January 1922.

“Quincyans Give Royal Welcome to the Year 1922.” Quincy Daily Herald, 2 January 1922.

“Return of the Gulls.” Quincy Daily Herald, 1 January 1922.

“Several Auto Plants Slash Prices Again.” Quincy Daily Journal, 1 January 1922.

“Year Just Gone was Warmest in State’s History.” Quincy Daily Journal, 1 January 1922.

“Volstead Act not Very Dry.” Quincy Daily Herald, 2 January 1922.

Beth Lane is the author of Lies Told Under Oath, the story of the 1912 Pfanschmidt murders near Payson, Illinois and the former Executive Director of the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County.

The Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County is preserving the Governor John Wood Mansion, the History Museum on the Square, the 1835 Log Cabin, the Livery, the Lincoln Gallery displays, and a collection of artifacts and documents that tell the story of who we are. This award-winning column is written by members of the Society. For more information visit hsqac.org or email info@hsqac.org.

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