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December 28, 2020

A New Year’s Address

By David Heighway, Hamilton County Historian

An announcement was posted in the local newspaper, the Noblesville Plain Dealer, on December 26, 1850, which said:

“NEW YEAR’S ADDRESS – Our patrons will receive a New Year’s address.  The money received for the address will be appropriated to a charitable purpose, it will be given to an orphan boy of this office, Henry Goodspeed.  We hope to see every citizen willing to give a dime to the needy, and this will be tested when the address is presented by the boy whose benefit it is printed for.”

This was an example of a now long-forgotten tradition, sometimes called a “Newsboy’s Address” or a “Carriers’ Address”. A good description can be found at the Special Collections Department at the Brown University, which holds one of the largest collections of these addresses:

“Carriers’ addresses were published by newspapers, usually on January 1, and distributed in the United States for more than two centuries. The custom originated in England and was introduced here during colonial times. The newsboys delivered these greetings in verse each New Year’s Day and the customers understood that a tip was expected. The poems, often anonymous, describe the events of the past year, locally, regionally, and nationally, and end with a request for a gratuity for the faithful carrier. Often the poem referred to the carrier’s diligence and hardships during winter weather.”

These addresses were usually a single sheet of paper, ornately decorated. It was a chance for the printing office to show off their skills. Unfortunately, the issue of the Plain Dealer where this announcement appears is the only one that exists and there are no known copies of the actual address.

The recipient of the charity was William Henry Goodspeed, a twelve-year-old boy who was technically not an orphan. His family had come to Hamilton County just before he was born. His father was Ira Goodspeed, a carpenter/joiner. Ira died of “congestion” in April, 1850, at the age of 43. (Ironically, he missed a cholera epidemic by just a few months.)

In the 1850 census, the family consisted of: Mary Ann, the mother, age 38, (who would remarry in 1852 to Edward Vickroy); Paulina, age 19, (who would marry Henry Garboden in 1852); Louisa, age 17 (who would marry Isaac Mears in 1851); Sarah, age 15, (who would marry Michael C. Myers in 1854);

Henry, age 12; Emily, age 10, (who would marry Cyrus Ellingwood in 1865); and Silas, age 1, (who would die in 1879 and is buried in Riverside Cemetery). There were quite a few mouths to feed and charity would probably have been useful.

We don’t know what kind of effect this incident had on Henry. He had moved to Illinois by 1860. He served in the Union army during the Civil War and re-enlisted after his first term of service was up. He died in 1875 of malarial fever while living in St. Louis

The illustrations in this post are of other versions from other cities and give an idea of what this may have looked like. While they seemed to be popular in the early part of the 19th century in Indiana, I can find no other mentions of carrier address or New Year’s address in Hamilton County newspapers. It was an interesting little tradition, but apparently it never caught on here.