‘Society columns’ were the Facebook of their day

From the 1880s through the early 1960s, local papers printed something called “society columns.” These articles featured short run-downs of the professional doings, social affairs, travel plans, health and pithy opinions of everyday Munsonians.

On Feb. 28, 1899, for instance, the Muncie Evening Press reported in their “Personal and Society” column that “Charles M. Kimbrough and JR Marsh are in Cincinnati on business for the Indiana Bridge Company.” My grandmother once made a trip to Fairmount in 1942 and the Muncie Morning Star mentioned it in an August society piece, “Mrs. Harry Flook of Muncie, the former Miss June Roth, spent the week-end in Fairmount as a guest of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. W.J. Roth.”

If such accounts seem banal to you, that’s because they were, incredibly so. But before you judge them immaterially vapid, take a second look at any social media feed for basically the same content. Photos and video are the only real difference, that and opinions on social media generally aren’t pithy but ponderous screeds. Nothing’s changed, we just tittle-tattle and open in ever more sophisticated ways.

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