Old-school social media


Facebook may be the way to learn exactly what your co-worker had for dinner, which of your friends has the cutest baby or how your relatives are spending every single minute of their vacation.

But how did people spread the word about their every waking moment before Facebook, Twitter or Instagram existed, say, back in the 1930s?

Some turned to Page 2 of the National Jewish Ledger, Washington Jewish Week’s original name. Decades before today’s social media informed users of the comings and doings of anyone and everyone they were online friends with, this weekly newspaper worked to keep everyone informed about the local Jewish community, world events and the social scene in Washington.

But unlike today’s social media, the newspapers Social and Personal column carried no photos and very few specifics. The column consisted of dozens of individual briefs, each usually four lines or fewer. The drab, gray write-ups were short on details, even names.


Unlike today when users’ err on the side of TMI, or too much information, typical listings in the Jewish weekly weren’t specific about where a vacation was being spent, what food was eaten at the luncheon or who someone was visiting.

Instead, readers learned, for instance, that “Mr. and Mrs. George Strauss of Philadelphia were guests of friends here over the past weekend” and that “Mrs. Bertha Hechinger and Mrs. Daisy Lesser are spending the summer in Atlantic City.”

The listings were formal. People didn’t stop in at their parents or grab a meal somewhere. Rather, “Mrs. William I. Ogus entertained eight persons at luncheon at the Carlton Hotel, Friday last” and “Mrs. Nat Wildman of New York City is a guest of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Sam Goldenberg.”

Today, when Washington Jewish Week prints birth or b’nai mitzvah announcements, the proud parents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and grandparents are included, along with their home towns. Readers can learn for whom the baby was named and about the b’nai mitzvah students’ hobbies, school activities and projects.

But in the 1930s, the dissemination of social information was limited. Someone may have “returned to her home,” begun to “occupy their new apartment” or have been the beneficiary of “a kitchen shower.”

Without Instagram, it was harder to showcase pictures of food porn. Forget actual menus or recipes. Instead, the paper meagerly noted that “refreshments were served.”

Who could imagine telling the world about one’s family party, and stating, “The table was attractive with autumn blossoms”?

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