Newspapers typically run their most urgent, relevant, and newsworthy items on the first page, in order to grab their readers’ attention. The articles located directly beneath the paper’s banner are the pick of the lot – editors know that these may be the only articles the reader sees. In a masterful display of editorial acumen, this May 1886 issue of the Chatham Record shows modern-day editors how it’s done:
This paper has something for everyone! But in the interest of space, let’s go right to the lede: LEECHES. Aspiring journalists, take note: if you’re wondering how to compose an informative yet arresting first sentence, this is how it’s done. . .
A Cincinnati Barber who Imports and Sells the Leeches
“Screaming Isaac! What is that?” shrieked a reporter of the Cincinnati Sun, jumping from a barber’s chair on West Sixth Street, as the proprietor, Peter Meschler, unscrewed the lid of a heavy airtight and mysterious box, and disclosed 2,000 greasy, wiggling, villainous worms, pulling themselves out about four inches and bowing to the half-dozen customers on the opposite chairs.
Now that the author has your attention firmly in hand, he provides the rest of the story:
“Oh, come back,” said the barber, reassuringly. “Nothing but leeches I have just imported from Sweden. Perfectly harmless, sir. I have been importing leeches for many years, and am the only importer this side of New York. The use of leeches in Europe is very common – much more so than in this country. People over there only die happy when they have a leech on their bodies.”
After a discussion of the practical ins and outs of the leech importation business, our informant continues helpfully:
“The eye doctors use leeches for weak and inflamed eyes. You see, the worm sucks the surplus blood around the eye and removes the cause of inflammation. Persons afflicted with neuralgia find a leech a good remedy. Every day I make sales to families whose names are not disclosed. You would be astonished to see a printed list of the people who keep leeches in their families. . . A leech, you see, is a little like a toothbrush – everybody wants one of his own.
If you need to know the rest of the story – and it continues on for many more paragraphs – we invite you to come view this article (and many more like it) in our historical newspaper collection!