York County, Pa., journalism goes back to the future

An old York County newspaper story tells about brewer Hannes’ bout with an aged hermit.
It seems that Hannes produced a beer that stopped headaches, created a good appetite and abolished constipation.
After drinking two quarts, a surveyor was able to run a line without chain, merely seating himself and adjusting his “carriers.”
Now the old hermit, Hannes’ neighbor, had seven pairs of old leather breeches, some of which had not been washed for “10, 12 or 15 years.”
The hermit, thinking Hannes’ brewing vat was there for laundering purposes, took advantage of this fortuitous situation.
But he didn’t want to be too uncouth. He put just one pair in the first brew, another pair the next time until all seven were cleansed.
“But heavens above!” The Gazette reported. “(T)he story came out, and Hannes lost the title of Doctor, and his famous small-beer acquired the name of breeches-water.”
To which, the newspaper’s publisher Solomon Meyer concluded in a note: “Even if our correspondent has made this story up, we can still derive from it this unmistakable lesson, that from all the salves of quacks that hover up and down this country, more harmful stuff is often given to the ignorant as ‘medicine.’ ” …


This story appears on the front page of Meyer’s Die York Gazette on May 20, 1796, the earliest existing copy of the German-language newspaper, forerunner of the York Daily Record/Sunday News.
For most of the 19th century in York County, weekly newspapers reigned as community news sources.
Daily newspapers emerged after 1870 and dominated the print media to this day.
This week, the York Daily Record/Sunday News launches the first two of what will become four zoned county weeklies.
Specifically, newspaper customers will receive a reinvigorated, resized Weekly Record in southern York County and a new intensely local zoned weekly in the Dallastown-Red Lion area.
But heavens above!
Everyone is saying that newspapering is dying.
With a bit of Solomon Meyer’s pioneering spirit, we’re thinking it’s time for weeklies to make a comeback in 21st-century York County, supplementing the content of their younger big brother, the York Daily Record/Sunday News.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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