It’s a Wrap: The Sunday Brown Wrapper Weekly History Vignettes

Do you remember the Sunday Brown Wrapper history pages published in the Palm Beach Post during the late 1970s and 1980s? These history pages, resembling a brown grocery sack and sponsored by First Federal Savings of the Palm Beaches (The Big First), were written by local authors and contained short history vignettes (much like today’s blog posts). The accounts weren’t foot-noted, but delivered interesting information on a variety of local news topics with the Sunday newspaper. The history section was wrapped around a thick bundle of advertisements and the popular “funnies.”

wreck of the coquimbo

Many of the Brown Wrappers are available online in their entirety via Google News, and more are being scanned by local historical societies and libraries for your reading pleasure. The Wreck of the Coquimbo, shown here, from the July 27, 1980 edition of the Palm Beach Post and the Palm Beach Daily News, was written by James H. Nichols.

The Wreck of the Coquimbowreck of the coquimbo2png

Jim Nichols graduated from FAU with a Master’s Degree in History and served as a historic researcher for the Boynton Beach City Library. Mr. Nichols was also a photographer and a member of the Boynton Beach Historical Society.

Ronald Tee Johnson created the Sunday Brown Wrapper format in 1975, initially as a monthly special advertising campaign produced by First Federal Savings ad agency. The weekly Sunday Brown Wrappers ran for seven consecutive years in The Palm Beach Post – Post Times and were also reprinted in the Sun-Sentinel Newspaper. The reverse side of each Brown Wrapper contained a full-page advertising First Federal’s services.

Judge James R. Knott

Judge James R. Knott


The most prolific writer for the Sunday Brown Wrapper series was Judge James R. Knott. Judge Knott, a Palm Beach County circuit judge from 1956 to 1977, served as the President of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County. His passion for history resulted in several books on the subject including Tales of Tallahassee Twice Told and Untold: A Reminisce.
tales of tally

Many of Judge Knott’s Sunday Brown Wrapper stories are available in book format, The Mansion Builders, Historical Vignettes of Palm Beach, Palm Beach Revisited: Historical Vignettes of Palm Beach County and Palm Beach Revisited II: Historical Vignettes of Palm Beach County. While now out of print, several local libraries have copies of these books. You can also occasionally purchase copies on used book sites such as Half and AbeBooks.

pb revisited 2

pb revisited

Some of the Sunday Brown Wrappers currently available online are about Boynton history.

Breakfast Poetry (about poet Edgar Guest wintering at the Boynton Oceanfront Hotel) by James Hartley Nichols, September 12, 1982.
Breakfast Poetry

Orange Grove House of Refuge

Orange Grove House of Refuge

The Story of a Pioneer Woman – About Little Pierce Voss and Charlie Pierce
Pioneer Woman
And others that are simply of general interest.

November 15, 1980 – Daddy’s Bicycle Carried Five People
Daddy’s Bicycle Carried Five People

January 4, 1981 – The Currie Map of West Palm Beach 1907.
The Currie Map of 1907

Since the brown grocery sack paper the history accounts were printed on was thick and durable, many of the original copies have survived and can be viewed at libraries and historical societies throughout Palm Beach County. The ongoing digitization efforts ensure preservation of this important facet of Palm Beach County history and will make research and reminiscing easier than ever.

Boynton’s Strange Connection with two of America’s most Popular Songs

Jonathan_Edwards_Spilman.tif

J.E. Spilman

The hamlet of Boynton, as it stood at the turn of the twentieth century, has direct connections with two of the most popular songs in American history. One of the most popular songs of the nineteenth century was Flow Gently, Sweet Afton, with music written by Jonathan E. Spilman, set to the poem by Robert Burns. Written in 1838, the sheet music was found in all the major song books of the time and remains a popular tune. A search of YouTube finds dozens of renditions; one of the most popular recent versions is by Nickel Creek: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNrSMLQ8P7c

The connection to Boynton? The composer, J.E. Spilman, was Byrd Spilman Dewey’s father! Spilman had written the song while a law student at Transylvania Law School. Spilman wrote other melodies which can be heard by clicking here.

If that were not enough, then there is America the Beautiful; many think that this song should be our national anthem. The song’s lyrics are the work of Katherine Lee Bates, who graduated from Wellesley in 1880; music by Samuel A. Ward. Cora Stickney Harper was one of Katherine’s best friends at Wellesley, and they remained lifelong friends.

Katherine Lee Bates

Katherine Lee Bates

Cora founded the Boynton Women’s Club in 1909. This rendition of the song is quite beautiful – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmP9LvHgcaA. The song with lyrics was first published in 1910, so Cora would have heard it while living in Boynton.

Maybe it is just that “six degrees of separation” thing, but the connections are noteworthy.