Today in Texas History – Last Known American Town Crier Dies

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towncrierHear Ye . . . Hear Ye . . .

What do you think of when you hear the term Town Crier? I tend to picture Paul Revere shouting warnings about the British or those medeival guardsmen pacing about and announcing “9 o’clock and all’s well” every hour. Before the advent of newspapers, town criers were responsible for shouting out the relevant news items to the townsfolk. However, as times progressed and news traveled by way of newspapers, telegraph, and even telephone, the town crier’s job description transitioned into an advertising role. Companies would pay them to advertise their goods and services. The town government would pay them to announce times and locations of sporting events and parades.

Technology, the radio in particular, eventually erradicated the need for town criers. Yet there were a few who held on to the treasured tradition longer than most. The one to hang on the longest was Julius Myers, the last known American crier. And on this day in Texas history, September 18, 1929, Julius Myers died in San Antonio at the age of 62.

Julius Myers was born in New York in 1868 and moved to Luling, Texas at around age 20. He opened a small grocery business and soon after began advertising with posters and hand bills. Before long, other companies noted his success, and paid him to advertise for them as well. At the time, newspapers only came out once a week, so this form of additional advertising proved quite effective. His business thrived.

In 1912, Julius moved to San Antonio and became the official town crier. He and hist trusty steed, Tootsie, could be seen roaming up and down Houston and Commerce streets on a daily basis. He carried a megaphone and would call out details pertaining to store sales, theater performances, and sporting events. He would dress in costume to match what he was advertising. A farmer for a farm and ranch show, a clown for a dog show, even a frontiersman with buckskin and six shooter. He also donated his time and voice to charitable causes like the Red Cross and the Elks Lodge when they sponsored events to raise money for needy children.

San Antonio 1920s

Downtown San Antonio, 1920s

Eventually, as more and more automobiles clogged the downtown streets, people began to complain that Julius and his horse were holding up traffic. In 1927, the mayor officially asked Julius to resign his position as town crier. So many people missed him, though, that pettetions were signed and demands were made to reinstate him, calling him a San Antonio institution and a unique tourist attraction. A few months later, Julius was given special permission to resume his role on a limited basis as long as he didn’t use his horse and impede traffic. Julius continued on as town crier until his death two years later.

 

 

Have you ever seen an historical reenactment with a town crier?

What is your preferred method of receiving local news today? TV, online, newspaper, Facebook?

Karen Witemeyer
For those who love to smile as they read, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. Karen is a firm believer in the power of happy endings. . . and ice cream. She is an avid cross-stitcher, and makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at: www.karenwitemeyer.com.
Updated: September 9, 2013 — 10:33 am

27 Comments

  1. Karen, Your post is so very interesting. I would have loved getting my news from the town crier. In Colonial Williamsburg, you might hear, “Hear Ye, Hear Ye!” I love it! Today, I enjoy my local newspaper and news from the television. We have sure come a long way from the Town Crier, haven’t we?

  2. What a wonderful tradition! Glad they kept him on those last few years…

  3. Hi, Melanie.
    You never know what little tidbits of history you’ll uncover when you start digging. I thought this was a great story. I never imagined town criers were still in existence well into the 20th century. I found myself intrigued by Julius’s story. He would make a fun, colorful character in a book. 🙂

  4. Sherri- I found myself cheering him on, too. Progress is necessary and valuable, but I think we lose something meaningful if we throw away tradition and history as unimportant. We can’t truly move forward without first being firmly grounded in what came before.

  5. I think the town crier was probably a big improvement over the 24/7 news cycle that forces so much madness down our throats. I doubt we’d have heard of half of the lunacy in the world with cable news and we’d be the better for it.

    In the news today, “Woman stabs roommate because he wouldn’t stop listening to The Eagles.”

    Really, this qualifies as news?

  6. I could t agree more, Mary. No wonder so many people suffer from anxiety these days. Our media constantly tells us all the reasons we should be afraid.

    The Eagles? Really? I like the Eagles. Even own their CDs. I guess I better start looking over my shoulder. Although, since my “roommate” sings along when I listen to them, I’m probably safe. Maybe I should stay away from Hotel California, though. Those lyrics about how you can check in any time you like, but you can never leave are taking on a whole new level of creepiness.

  7. I love the news but I’m not addicted! I watch it once a day and I’m good! I like to watch it on TV although when I’m on the computer, I find myself checking for any updates. My husband isn’t one for news so when we eat dinner at night, I catch him up on the news of the day! I grew up in a house where my dad watched the news and had at least 2 newspapers that he read cover to cover every day, then we discussed them as a family at the dinner table! SO, you can see, I can’t break that habit!

  8. Hi, Valri.
    I rarely watch the news, but sometimes that comes back to hurt me when I’m left looking like the dunce that is woefully uninformed during certain conversations. I’m glad you keep your hubby up to date on the essentials. I need someone to do that for me. My hubby keeps up with sports news but that’s about it.

  9. We saw one in England.. but it’s been 25 years and I don’t remember the town. But it was fun!

  10. Very cool, Cate! Did he have a bell he would ring? I love seeing those glimpses into the past.

  11. What a wonderful story! A great character for a book, perhaps. I love learning more about our Texas history and thank you so much for sharing!

  12. Thanks, Britney. I had fun learning about him, too. So many fascinating characters in Texas history. Julius was a fun one.

  13. Hi Karen, what an interesting post! Remember the town crier on TV announcing the birth of Prince George? I loved the way the British mixed the old with the new.

    I agree with Mary about the 24/7 news cycle. I long for the good old days when news was limited to 30 minutes a night, period.

  14. Thanks for the great post, Karen. I suddenly pictured a fun character for a contemporary. A heroine’s crazy old great uncle becoming the self-proclaimed town crier in their small town…who needs Facebook when you have Uncle Archie???

  15. Great point about the crier for Prince George, Margaret. I love how tradition is still valued there.

  16. Renee- What a hoot that would be. Crazy old Uncle Archie. Love it!

  17. Karen, the town crier who made the announcement of William’s and Kate’s new baby came to mind. I guess there’s still a call for one in England. I mainly get my news from T.V. and the computer. I used to take the newspaper and that was my favorite way of getting the news. But when I moved to Amarillo I stopped getting the paper. Now, I don’t really see a need for it.

    Thanks for the interesting blog! I enjoyed it.

  18. Hi Karen,
    Never heard a town crier before in a reenactment. I get my news online and from cable news. I don’t get a newspaper anymore and I rarely watch local news. I can just picture getting news from dear old Julius and Tootsie!! What fun!

  19. Just recently when they announced the birth of George! I was an avid newspaper reader but I must admit that I now get more news online or the TV.

  20. Thanks for your comments, ladies! More and more people are getting their news online these days. It may not be long before newspapers go the way of the town criers.

  21. We have town crier characters at several events we have attended. Our Celtic group hired a town crier couple to announce events and programs at our Highland Games a few years ago. At large events like that, it is easier and more effective to use a crier than to hand out programs. They work well as long as you have posted schedules around the venue.

    For local news, we rely mostly on TV and the newspaper. Thanks for an interesting post.

  22. I usually watch the news. Yes, they have lots of bad news but without some we might be in trouble. like when a Hurricane is coming, or a killer seen in your area. Never saw a Town Crier, but have heard of them in the past.
    Maxie Anderson

  23. Such an interesting post, Karen!

    Have never seen a town crier, or an reenactment, & never knew they were used for advertisements. Kind of feel sorry for Julius – because of the criticism.

    My favorite method of receiving the news is TV – if I want local, or in-depth, news – & Yahoo news, to scan for the most important news.

  24. Patricia – I have to learn more about your Highland Games! How fun. Don’t tell the cowboys, but I also love me a good Highlander hero. 🙂 I love that you used town criers for your events. They sound so fun!

  25. Hi, Maxie. You are right about some news being necessary. It’s all in finding the right balance.

    Bonnie – Julius seems like the kind of upbeat fellow who would just laugh along with people who thought him an oddity. Sometimes I wish I could be more like that.

  26. Julius is my two times great grandfather- Im a little curious to how some of this information came about- whether it was coming from my grandmother Julia Murray or another relative on the family –

    1. Wow – how wonderful to meet a relative of Julius. Hi, Natalie. Thank you so much for stopping by to leave a comment. I found most of the information I used for this post on the Texas State Historical Association calendar pages – This day in Texas history. http://www.tshaonline.org/day-by-day/30917

      Your great-great-grandfather was much beloved. 🙂

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