Oh, how lonely 12:12 p.m. on Dec 12, 1912, must have been—for how did everyone sit at their own desks, in their own places of work, and inform each other that it was 12-12-12-12-12, as we’re all now doing on Twitter? The answer, of course: The newspapers took care of that in the morning. Remember them?"12-12-12-12-12 Can Never Occur Again in The History of the World," announced the curiously shortsighted Janesville (WI) Daily Gazette. Other papers were less excited. Some gave credit to whoever in town seemed to notice the impending date first—like in like Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, where it was credited to an "Office Boy." Good job, boy! And many noted the next repetitive date—a time far into the future, one they could barely imagine, when you and I read on screens while all these unnamed scribes lay underground. It must have seemed so impossibly far away, just as they are now.
(The papers of 1812, at least in my search, took no note of the date. "Newspapers in the US in 1812 were more interested in partisanship and commerce, and still developing their reporting and human-interest skills. In 1912, those skills were well developed," says Mitchell Stephens, author of A History of News. And in 2012 online, it seems, the skills of the two centuries are well mixed.)
Could the 1912 writers have expected their yellowing pages would survive this long, to be read in 100 years? In that spirit: If you, fine human, are somehow reading this on December 12, 2112—if these early days of the Internet (that’s what we called it) were for some reason worth archiving—please know that we had this one thing in common. We all like to state the obvious to each other, because at least it’s something we can agree on. The baton is passed.
[Image: Flickr user Nico lab]