Archive for Tuesday, February 28, 2012

100 years ago: After snowstorm, residents arrested for failure to shovel

February 28, 2012


From the Lawrence Daily Journal-World for Feb. 28, 1912:

  • "Four residents of Lawrence, who had neglected to clean the snow from their sidewalks as is required by law, were arrested this afternoon and brought up before Judge Benson in the city police court. They pleaded guilty to the charge and each paid a fine and costs amounting to $10.50. The police department has been obliged to do this and the action of today may be taken as a warning to those whose walks are not cleaned in the future as the ordinance is to be more rigidly enforced in the future than in the past."
  • "If you think that the University buildings are used by the student body in the daytime only and that the students recognize these buildings merely as places for holding classes, then you are much mistaken. There is no hurrying away from the campus when the day's work is over not to return until next day, for the students, many of them, expect to come back up the hill at night.... You should stroll up on Oread some evening during the week and see the various manners by which the students use the buildings. Take Fraser Hall, for instance. In room 18 last night ,the Red Domino club was holding its first reading for its new play; in another room the Thespians were in business session after their recent play 'Billy;' in the chapel the college band was practicing for the concert this evening; in another room a committee of students was busy making arrangements for one of the collegiate social events. Over at Robinson Gymnasium the building was a blaze of light. The basketball teams were practicing and other rehearsals for sports were in progress; the college soldiers were holding regular drill. At the library of course the students were studying as long as the lights were on. In other buildings lights could be seen showing that the State University does not stop with sundown."
  • "Christopher Roberts of Vinland was found frozen to death in a snow bank near his home Monday night. An examination revealed that Roberts probably was taken ill and fell in a faint in the middle of a field near his house. It is thought that he must have gone for some water from a spring near his home and that he fell in the snow. Evidently he had been there for two days for the body was frozen rigid. Roberts was born in Virginia December 31, 1852. He was a noted settler in the Sibley neighborhood, having had a blacksmith shop there formerly. He is survived by four children."


Adrienne Sanders 5 years, 8 months ago

People should be happy you just get fined these days and not arrested!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

Walking was a significant means of transportation for most people back then, unlike today.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 8 months ago

It appears that in addition to being arrested, the fine was substantial! But apparently calculating exactly how much money or what that amount represents compared to an average salary is not an exact science.

This inflation calculator won't go back to 1912, it begins 1913, but it's probably rather close. $10.50 in 1913 is equal to $240.39 today. According to:

But that $240.39 is misleading. The average salary in in the decade 1910 - 1919 was $750/year. From So that means that the fine for failing to shovel the snow from your sidewalk was almost 4 month's income for the average salary worker!

The average wage in 2010 was $41,673.83. From: Using that measure for comparison, the fine for failing to shovel your snow was almost $10,000!

The median annual wage was $26,364 in 2010. From: So maybe it was only about a $6,000 fine.

AlexTJ 5 years, 8 months ago

You didn't adjust that $750 salary for inflation. If you did you would have realized that the average salary in 1913 was $17,170.83 in today's dollars.

The 10.50 is less than a week's salary either way.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 8 months ago

I see my error now, yes it is correct that I didn't adjust the salary for inflation, instead I used two different sources to determine what the average, or mean, is today. They varied wildly, from $26,366 to $41,673.83.

I had thought that figure would be more indicative of current salaries than simply adjusting a salary for inflation, due to the much higher productivity of American workers today.

It appears that I might have been correct in that both of those amounts are much larger than a simple adjustment for inflation, which by your calculations, resulted in $17,170.83.

Here's where my mistake is, I didn't compare those amounts to $240.39 in today's dollars with current salaries. So, compared with the above, it is not really significant.

I used the wrong figure for my division! And then, I only guessed it in my head!

Let's see now, what am I going to use for an excuse this time. Last time I made a mathematical error I had a good one, and it was true, my calculator had sticky keys. But then, I got a new one, but for this I never used it!

AlexTJ 5 years, 8 months ago

It was out of batteries, of course!

FlintlockRifle 5 years, 8 months ago

Goodness, I knew the shovel snow from your walk was on the books for a long time, but $10.50 a hundred years ago was really kinda pricey, may be they didn't have a good supply of lawyer in town back then.

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