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December 28, 2015

New Year’s Eve 90 and 100 Years Ago

NYENew Year’s Eve 90 and 100 Years Ago

By: David Heighway, Hamilton County Historian

This cartoon appeared in a Noblesville newspaper on December 31, 1925 and although the paper got it from a national syndicate, it gives a good idea of what the local celebration was like.  For many years, the best description for New Year’s Eve in Noblesville was “quiet”.

A big factor in the sedateness was that Noblesville was strongly anti-alcohol, even before the Prohibition era.  Just before Christmas in 1915, a major news item was the conviction of a local man for the unlicensed sale of liquor.  Despite the jury requesting a lenient sentence and despite local people having already paid for the liquor, the judge handed down a maximum penalty and the Sheriff announced that he was going to dump all of the booze into Stoney Creek.  The newspaper made the comment that the fish were going to have quite a party.

Instead of greeting 1916 with drinking, Noblesville people held “watch parties”, at which they played card games and blew horns at midnight.  On New Year’s Day, they held open houses where young people provided musical entertainment.  They also went to movies, which were a new thing then.  In 1916, most people went to see the film considered to be the first blockbuster.  Regrettably, it was “Birth of A Nation”, the infamous pro-Ku Klux Klan film.

Ten years later, Prohibition was in effect and the newspaper proudly claimed that “[t]here was no liquor flowing anywhere about the city so far as the police were able to ascertain”.  Whether or not this was true is probably open to debate, but no arrests were made.

People took their cue for midnight from the bell in the courthouse clock.  As it started to chime, some church bells joined in (probably the Methodist, Christian, and Presbyterian churches since they were close to downtown).  Factories such as the Model Mill and the Strawboard Company also blew their steam whistles.  Interestingly, the Strawboard works were actually running at the time to get caught up on their orders.

A feature of 1925/1926 was the “radio party” where people would listen to national broadcasts of New Year’s events, much like watching them on television today.  However, rather than “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve”, the most popular broadcasts were the old fiddlers contest in Jefferson City, Missouri, and a celebration at Independence Hall in Philadelphia where the Liberty Bell was rung for the first time since 1835.

However you celebrate the event, have a safe and happy New Year!