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One redditor’s chance discovery opens up a vanished world that’s not so different from ours.
It’s easy to assume, here in 2014, that people knew a lot less about each other a century ago. Because they lacked tools like Facebook or Twitter, we’re tempted to imagine that personal privacy was at an all-time high. (How would an in-joke ever go viral?)
But as a 1913 high school yearbook discovered and scanned by redditor avergagedekutree proves, Web 2.0 has some distinctly analog forebears.
The memento, titled Better-Half, turned up in an old Milwaukee bookstore and turns out to be a delightful trove of self-supplied information, illustrations, and wit from the co-ed student body of Texarkana High School (now Arkansas High School). As with today’s digital profiles, nicknames and light banter abound. Who could have guessed that “Weezy” would later enjoy such cultural cachet? That another young woman was known as “Dago” is a little more discomfiting.
Pages devoted to various extracurriculars, including a Spanish society and glee club, nestle against ads for stoves and ranges, electric wiring, “an iceless fountain with marble counter,” and F.W. Offenhauser & Co., an insurance company that still exists today. There’s even a well-placed plug for the photographer who took all the portraits in the book. Especially curious is a section called “Wise Sayings From Future Great Americans,” a professor’s compilation of memorable classroom quotes—proto-memes, you might say.
Reddit pushed the social media angle even further, using information from the yearbook and outside Internet sources to trace the lives of the class of 2013 beyond graduation. Minnie Lee Friedell, or “Dex,” a basketball star in her youth, was found to have married three years later and given birth to several children. Other posters revealed that they were related to the students written up in the volume. “99% sure Pearl Smith is my great-grandmother!” wrote one user.
Either way, we hope she had a good summer.
Photo via imgur
Miles Klee is a novelist and web culture reporter. The former editor of the Daily Dot’s Unclick section, Klee’s essays, satire, and fiction have appeared in Lapham’s Quarterly, Vanity Fair, 3:AM, Salon, the Awl, the New York Observer, the Millions, and the Village Voice. He's the author of two odd books of fiction, 'Ivyland' and 'True False.'