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.
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?