FIT TO PRINT
by B. J. Grant
I think Mum kept a long “To Do
List” for stormy winter Saturdays just to keep us occupied. Today was
no exception. As the wind howled and the snow blew, we followed her up the
stairs to the storage area over the outside kitchen. She pulled the string
on the ceiling light and asked Cliff to hand her a huge cardboard box marked
Whenever she had spotted some story of interest in the daily paper, the
Kings County Record or the Family Herald, she had ripped out the page. The
day of reckoning had come! Our job was to neatly cut the stories from the
pages so she could paste them in her scrap book. From the size of the box,
I think this pile had been growing for at least the last ten years.
In 1987, B. J. Grant compiled the book, “Fit to Print”, using items
that he clipped from 150 years of New Brunswick newspapers.
The first part of the book contains almost exclusively items from newspapers
and the second part has material from books and other sources.
The author states, “Though not a history in any conventional sense, ‘Fit
to Print’ is meant to remind and to inform us of our past - sometimes to tickle
or to shock us with it - through a selection of yesterday’s news, the stuff
of today’s history.”
This history with a difference is history written by people who were actually
there, who learned at first hand of the scandals and barbaric cruelties and
incidents of mirth and misery.
Some of the interesting items, I noticed:
“At the annual meeting of the New Brunswick Historical Society in 1910,
an interesting discussion took place and the proposition to admit the fair
sex was approved.”
“In 1878, a double gang of gypsies pitched their tents in St. Stephen and
for only a quarter, one could be told the wonderful things which will never
“Mrs. D. McFarlan of St. Andrews completed a hit and miss pattern quilt
in 1880. It consisted of 1419 pieces of printed calico.”
“The Royal Gazette reported in 1831 of the arrival at Saint John of a cargo
of nearly 50 chaldrons of coal from Grand Lake.”
“John Smith of Kennebekacies (sic) issued a word of caution in 1786 that
whereas Abigail Smith has eloped from his bed and board, that he will not
pay debts of her contracting.”
In the Royal Gazette of March 3, 1787 is told the very tragic story of a
shipwreck at the eastern entrance of Musquash-cove in a violent snow storm.
Mr. William Chandler perished in his attempt to reach the shore. Those who
reached land climbed up a precipice of uncommon height and waded through 4
feet deep snow until they reached a wooded area which sheltered them. The
next morning the group set out to seek a house. During this attempt Col. Joshua
Chandler, Miss Elizabeth Chandler and Mrs. Grant, (widow of Major Grant late
of New York volunteers) perished. After wading 10 miles the survivors
reached Mr. Egbert’s.
On July 15, 1880 - “The convicts in the St. John and Halifax penitentiaries,
are this day to be removed to the Dominion Penitentiary lately erected at
There are the odd and eccentric items. No other history tells us that in
1812 Elizabeth (Beard) Hopkins has six sons in the famous 104th Regiment or
that in 1848 it was illegal to beat a carpet or a mat in Fredericton, except
a doormat, and only before 8:00 a.m.
Many entries warn us against believing in ‘the good old days’ of the past
where racism, sexism and religious bigotry flourished. There were black slaves
in New Brunswick. Many women lived harsh and vulnerable lives. Battles between
Catholics and Protestants brought death and maiming. The Ku Klux Klan was
active in the province. Justice was often rough and punishments savage, with
very young children being sent to prison.
Throughout the 250 pages of the 1987 publication, “Fit to Print”
by B. J. Grant, the reader is given an opportunity to look behind the curtain
of past events to get a glimpse of the real lives of real people of New Brunswick.
You will find this book in several research institutions throughout New
No Queries published this week.