By RUTH MORGAN
For the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum
The history of tuberculosis and Christmas seals is very interesting and the ever-popular Christmas seal on cards and letters is still very popular.
By the end of the last century, the disease called tuberculosis was the most dreaded disease known to mankind. It was also known as “TB” or the “White Plague.” As the disease worsened, its victims became pale in skin color, hence the term. Tuberculosis is a disease that is caused by a bacteria. It is spread from person to person by the inhalation of the germs in the air in which an infected person has coughed or sneezed. At that time, there was no cure for this terrible disease that was known for claiming the lives of its victims.
Makeshift sanitariums were put up in those days so the tuberculosis patients could be isolated and cared for. One such place was located in Delaware. Doctor Joseph Wales treated patients there, and he knew that the sanitarium had run out of the funds it needed to keep it going. So, he contacted his cousin, an active woman by the name of Emily Bissell. Bissell was an experienced fund-raiser for the American Red Cross. However, at this time, her quest at raising funds for the hospital was not successful. Finally, she remembered reading about how money was raised in Denmark for children who were afflicted with tuberculosis and decided to try the same method.
The story goes, that in December of 1903, a postman by the name of Einar Holboell was sorting a huge pile of Christmas mail inside a post office near Copenhagen. Holboell took a break from his work and looked out of the window. He spotted a young girl and a young boy who were trudging slowly through the snowy weather. All they had to protect them were the rags they were dressed in. This sight inspired the postman so much, that he came up with the idea of selling special stamps that could be put on every piece of mail in addition to the required postage. The stamps would be inexpensive too. And, the revenue collected from the sales of the stamps could be donated to help poor children.
The next year, over four million stamps were sold. Some of the money was used to help build hospitals to treat children who suffered from tuberculosis.
Bissell created her own Christmas stamp. She worked for the Red Cross, so the picture was a red cross in the middle of a half of a wreath of holly. Below the wreath, she wrote the words, “Merry Christmas.” Bissell was successful in convincing the national headquarters of the American Red Cross to allow her to use its red symbol, and thus, the Christmas Seal was born in the United States.
In the year of 1907, the first Christmas Seals were sold at a fund-raising table which was located inside the Wilmington, Delaware post office. The sale made over three thousand dollars in revenue and the money was used to help in the fight against tuberculosis.
Since that time, the sales of Christmas Seals has become the official source of fundraising revenue for the battle against the tuberculosis disease. While it has not been completely eradicated, the disease is much less prevalent since the introduction of the BCG vaccine by the French scientists who developed it.
Starkville newspapers and other documents give an insight as to what was going on in our in our town years ago. The information below gives the events and activities in Starkville in the month of December from 1833 when our county was organized through the post-war year of 1946.
• 1833 - December 23, Oktibbeha County was organized
• 1837 - December prices were as follows: whiskey 25 cents a gallon, calico 40 cents a yard, a package of needles 12 cents, brogan shoes $1.50, lady shoes $1.62, coffee 20 cents a lb., raisins 38 cents a lb., sugar 20 cents a lb., gunpowder 50 cents and good farmland sold for $2 an acre.
• 1878 - On December 13, 1878, a committee went to Starkville to select lands to be used for Mississippi A&M College.
• 1897 - R. K. Wier established the first telephone system in the county. It was sold to Bell Telephone in 1905.
• 1901 - C. R. Stark became librarian at A&M College
• 1916 - Big Doings being planned for Starkville
There is a plan being formulated to have one real big day and night in Starkville sometime in January.
The plan is to have a big trades day and invite everybody to come in and bring what they have to sell or trade in the way of produce or livestock. The merchants will offer bargains in the various line of goods; a big free dinner will be served, a brass band will discourse sweet music, flags and bunting will decorate the town, a program of entertainment will be carried out at the courthouse and at night the biggest “Old Fiddlers Contest” ever pulled off in Mississippi will take place. Fiddlers will be here from all the neighboring counties and it is the hope and expectation of the committee who is to plan this occasion to have 5,000 visitors.
There was also a notice which read: “Don’t forget to have your mailbox up on Jan 1st and see that the number of your house is over the door. The city delivery of mails start on that date and your mail will be delivered after each mail train arrives at your home or your place of business.”
• 1925 – An old faded program found in the files at the museum shows a 2-act play being presented downtown at Christmas Open House. The program is presented below along with all the downtown sponsors and their statements which are very interesting.
“The Doll Shop” presented by Physical Education Pupils of Mrs. O. A. Mattox was assisted by Expression Pupils of Mrs. N. C. Moncrief and Messrs. J. K. Holloway and H. P. Lewis of A&M. Pianist was Miss Thelma Bell.
The Rex Theatre presented in Connection with The Doll Shop, Strongheart, The Dog with a Human Mind in “The Love Master.”
Shopkeeper: Jimmie Holloway
Lazy Clerk: H. P. Lewis
Customers: Celia South (mother) Eva Louise Katz and Pearl Katz (children)
Fairies: Annie Laurie Kennard, Annie Kemp, May Delle Hartness, and Mary Cork. Clowns: Emily Page, Mary Eva Carroll and Rebecca Williams
Elves and Shoemaker: Maxine Goodman, Daisy Hogan, Caroline Castles, Boswell Kennard, Metta Hightower, Mary Bardwell and Mervyn Smith.
Rastus and Lindy Lee: Virginia Reynolds and Carlotta Smith
After the shop is closed that night the dolls give a farewell party for Rastus and Lindy Lee
Highland Lassie: Melle Ward
Danish Seven Jumps: Margaret Thompson and Beverly Didlake
Chinese Maiden: Ellen Didlake
French dolls: Helen Mitchell, Virginia Styles, Frances Block, and Theony Mitchell
Indians: Stella Mae Beck, Sadie Mae Kennard, and Evelyn Rossoff.
Sailors Hornpipe: Zeno Yeates
American Dance: Virginia Reynolds and Carlotta Smith
Teddy Bear: Tom Bell
Spanish Flame: Thelma Bell.
Downtown Association Sponsors included:
• Wier’s Drug Store - the old Reliable, Phone 37
• The Mecca - Roy Yewell, Livest Place in Town
• Long & Bell’s - Do your shopping early. A full line of holiday goods
• City Market and Grocery - R. B. Neal, phone 132
• Mrs. Ed Yeates - permanent hair waving, for particulars, phone 98 or 4-W
• Reed & Lewis - Fancy Groceries
• J. S. Puller - Druggist, Everybody Meets Here
• Clarence Saunders - sole owner of my name, has everything good for Thanksgiving.
• Merchants and Farmers Bank - large enough to protect you, small enough to know you
• Starkville Furniture - all we ask is a visit to our store and we will do the rest
• Phillip Goodman’s - do your Christmas shopping here, more to choose from - less to pay
• Starkville Hardware - re-roof for the last time with Johns-Manville Asbestos Shingles
• Teasley & Reed - everything needed for the table, phone 96
• Turner & Pierce - save your coal pile by using coal heaters
• Rossoff’s- women’s and men’s ready to wear, Selby shoes for women, Bostonian for men
• A. B. Harrington - the man’s store, Hart, Schaffner & Marx clothes
• Peoples Café - a good place to eat
• Starkville Millinery Company - Christmas Novelties
• Reynolds & Smith - Chevrolet and Chrysler cars
• Blumenfeld & Fried - established 1876, dress goods in the latest fashions and fabrics
• Thos. Katz - dealer in dry goods, clothing, notions and shoes
• Wiley’s Barber Shop - around the corner from Peoples Savings Bank, ladies and children
• East Mississippi Motor Co.-Star and Studebaker cars, tires and tubes, and garage service
• Gill’s - the original and exclusive place for gifts, phonographs and all kinds of engraving
• Electric Shoe Shop - save your soles
• Maxwell’s Market- leaders in fresh and cured meats: poultry, fish, oysters and vegetables
• Starkville Battery Station - Willard Service, Call 421, Your Telephone is Our Self-starter
• Ike Katz - dry goods, ready-to-wear, millinery, shoes, hats and caps, where quality counts
• Bell Café - the place for ladies and gentlemen, meals served at all hours, oysters and fish a specialty
• Wier Jewelry Company -for gifts that last
• L. L. Leaves Shoe Shop - Soles that last
• Hartness & Redus - Starkville’s Christmas Store
• W. W. Scales & Co. - general merchandise, cotton buyers, established 1866
• Peoples Savings Bank - on the roll of honor
• Security State Bank - joins its patrons and friends in expressions of gratitude for the bountiful harvest of the present season
• Goodman Bros. Co. - just received a shipment of ladies dainty silk and crepe pajamas, gowns and combination sets, complete line of Oxfords, pumps and slippers
• 1946 - The spirit of the first post-war Christmas season blanketed Starkville this week as Main Street merchants unfurled their best window displays. The annual tuberculosis Christmas seals were delivered by the postman, letters to Santa found their way into mailboxes-many without stamps and the cherry good atmosphere of the yuletide season reached epidemic stages.
For the first time since pre-war years, the store windows are stocked with luxurious merchandise and the grocers have ample supplies of Christmas delicacies. Prices seem to mean little as shoppers check their gift lists and getting what they want for the first time.
The Home and Garden Club has announced the resumption of its annual Christmas decorating contest open to every resident of Starkville and State College. The club is offering prizes for both inside and outside decorations. A judging committee has been selected to tour the town and campus December 16 and select the best displays in the two classes.
Santa appointed the news to handle his local mail and the response has been great with the mail indicating that ole St. Nick has a tough job confronting him this year. Children like the older people realize that Santa’s toy factories are in full production and they are asking for gifts that were unavailable during the years of the war. Samples in stores indicate that Jimmy and Mary will not be disappointed.
It is the first big Christmas in many years and Starkville is joining America in counting the many blessings bestowed upon the Nation.
The Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Sources: essortment.com, Starkville News 1946, The Oktibbeha County Sesquicentennial Calendar