A Lively Experiment

Notes on collections at the RIHS

Nineteenth-Century Twitter

Cultural critics have gone back and forth about the effect that technologies like text messaging or Twitter are having on the future of communication, asking, for instance, whether Twitter’s 140-character limit presages the death of the English language*. But, as is often the case, the new is already quite old; the 21st century didn’t invent brevity:

socialSalad_detailThis is a detail from the “Social Salad” column, which ran on the front page of the Sunday Morning Transcript in Providence during 1883 and 1884. (To view a full-page image, click here.) This example is from the edition of 3 February 1884, and it includes brief, straightforward notices of society gossip (“Mrs. Wm. H. Gill, of West Hartfield is visiting friends in town.”) as well as aphoristic observations along the lines of those typically found in an almanac (“A warm kitchen is a safer abiding place on Sunday than a cold church.”).

The Rhode Island Historical Society is the repository for the Rhode Island Newspaper Project, and holds the largest collection of Rhode Island Newspapers in existence. For more information, visit the Library website.

* See, for instance, Lily Huang, “The Death of English (LOL).” Newsweek, August 11, 2008.


One comment on “Nineteenth-Century Twitter

  1. Pingback: Arbitrary History Blog » Blog Archive » Social networking, 19th century-style

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This entry was posted on 21 May 2009 by in Collection Notes and tagged , , .

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