In the early 20th century, the highly-partisan Press Democrat loathed Republican President Theodore Roosevelt with the same intensity of today’s Obama haters over at Fox News. Had it occurred to editor Ernest Finley and other “Old South” conservatives to dispute Teddy’s citizenship, you can bet they’d have demanded his original birth certificate to prove that he wasn’t a covert Shintoist born in Japan.

The PD editorial page routinely criticized everything Roosevelt, and Finley’s anti-Teddy bile even seeped down to gossip columnist Dorothy Anne, who sarcastically attacked the 1906 campaign to simplify spelling. Funded by Andrew Carnegie, a Board proposed that 300 common words would benefit from somewhat more phonetic spelling and the dropping of archaic silent letters. Some of these changes are in use today (“color” instead of “colour”) but others are now forgotten (“mist” instead of “missed”). Pity that Carnegie didn’t instead propose better grammar; try to read aloud Dorothy Anne’s criticism of “the ‘President’s English'” which includes a sentence with a lung-busting 84 words.

But, hey, even if President Teddy was a villainous progressive, those stuffed “teddy” bears were durned cute, what? Another Dorothy Anne column from a few months later fawns over the adorable toy given to Juilliard McDonald, grandson of mover and shaker Col. Mark L. McDonald. (Master Juilliard and his parents, by the way, were then living at the old Oates house on Tenth street.)

Yesterday afternoon Master Juilliard McDonald was the entertaining host at an informal afternoon gathering given for a few of his little neighbors. Games were greatly enjoyed by these little visitors, as was the treat of getting to play with a “Teddy” bear. This latter toy, by the way, was sent to Master Julliard from New York, and is a marvel. Imagine a genuine full grown bear, clad in football regalia, to play with all the time! Refreshments appropriate to the occasion were served. Master Juilliard will entertain a few more of his friends earlier in the coming week.

– Press Democrat, December 30, 1906

This week I was the recipient of the following note:

Dear Dorothy Ann: Is it true that Society is going to return to the old fashioned games and Spelling Bees for entertainment this winter? Signed, A Subscriber.

At first I was highly amused at the little epistle for several reasons. I am not, dear Subscriber, criterior [sic] for what Society will do, what they actually do is my dominion.

After deliberation over the suggestion, though I feel that my unknown friend must mean, in particular, the Spelling Bees–and who could make a better suggestion? Has not our President endorsed phonetic spelling? Does that not mean that we all have to learn to spell again? And, if we have to learn to spell how could there be a pleasanter way than by oldfashioned [sic] Spelling Bees, handled on a new fashioned plan?

And why manage them on a new plan? If we turn our thoughts back to the time when our grandmothers were belles, would we not find the Spelling Bees a well managed, jovial, happy gathering, where the best speller received a great deal more applause and appreciation than the winner of a card party prize gets today? We would have to search hard to find in our City of Roses, the old fashioned school house, the sleighs hurrying with jingling bells, the snow four feet deep, the awkward boys, the rural audiences that gather to attend the Spelling Bees, that books describe so graphically. But would we have to seek to find our champion spellers? I think not, just a little application and our society folk would soon have phonetic spelling among their list of accomplishments, and so kind Subscriber, I might answer your question thus: It is possible, though hardly probable, that society will take up Spelling Bees to learn phonetic spelling, but I can assure you that no one will be quicker to adopt the “President’s English” in preference to “the King’s English” and use it in their daily writing than our good society folks.

– Press Democrat, September 2, 1906

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