February 27 - Homebound and Snowbound

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On February 27, 1900, Alice Moore Dunbar in Harmon, Colorado, wrote to her husband Paul Laurence Dunbar in Chicago.  The Dunbars were spending the winter in the Rocky Mountains as treatment for Paul's tuberculosis, but he went east for a speaking engagement in Dayton.  Alice asked Paul if he encountered bad weather on his trip.

Wonder what you are doing today?  You're in Chicago and it's four below zero, isn't it?  I wonder if you are keeping indoors and taking lots of good care of yourself.  We had a great blizzard last night but it isn't very cold today, just rain.

Alice Moore Dunbar to Paul Laurence Dunbar, February 27, 1900.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).

A few days later, Alice wrote again and expressed concern about a severe blizzard that crippled the city of Chicago and hindered railroad travel.

I wonder if you are in Dayton today.  We were very much disturbed to read of the awful snowstorm in Chicago, and wondered if you were able to get away from there.  Do hurry home, darling.  I am so worried and anxious over you.

Alice Moore Dunbar to Paul Laurence Dunbar, March 1, 1900.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).

Chicago has had no snowstorm like that of yesterday for two years, but it takes the matter philosophically and almost merrily.  With more than a foot of snow on the level and with drifts, as the sea novelists would say, running mountain high, there has been more or less delay of traffic.  There are hundreds of men and wagons at work clearing the streets in the business district.

"Effects of the Snowstorm."  The Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois).  March 1, 1900.  Page 6.

Although delayed by the winter storm, Paul's train arrived safely in Dayton.  He was ill and was treated by Dr. William "Bud" Burns, a Dayton physician who had been Paul's childhood friend.

I struck the awful blizzard in Chicago and though in a warm house took a severe cold.  Wednesday I couldn't speak above a whisper, and when I arrived here Thursday night with the train five hours late, I was a little better.  Had it not been for the heroic work of Bud Burns, I could not have spoken and the trip would have been a dead loss.  Today, my voice is beautiful.  That is Fate.

Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Moore Dunbar, March 3, 1900.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).

Paul traveled all the way from Colorado through a blizzard just to help some Dayton high school boys who were having a fundraiser.

Paul Laurence Dunbar has been engaged to recite his poems at the Junior entertainment, to be held Friday evening, March 2, in the Steele High School auditorium.  The Junior class secured him at a large expense to read his poems at the annual entertainment.

"High School Notes."  The Dayton Journal (Dayton, Ohio).  February 6, 1900.

Lovers of literature should certainly not miss the reading by Paul Laurence Dunbar, Dayton's favorite poet and author.  The fact that his original home was Dayton, that he is a graduate of the Dayton High School, and the well-known quality of his writings should assure him a large audience.  This is the first time Dunbar has given a public reading of his own poems in this city, and as he returns immediately to Colorado after the entertainment, it will probably be the last reading he will give here for a considerable length of time.  Dayton people should not be backward in receiving him.

"Paul Laurence Dunbar."  The Dayton Journal (Dayton, Ohio).  February 26, 1900.

During the event at the high school, some students played a prank involving an alarm clock and a sign hung from the ceiling of the auditorium.

Principal Ridiculed By a Large Placard.  An Alarm Clock Attached to the Placard Goes Off During the Progress of the Dunbar Entertainment.  An Outrage.

At the bottom of this placard was fastened an alarm clock, which rang out its "whr-r-r-r" just as the opening selection had been finished by the Steele Mandolin and Guitar club, causing all eyes of the vast assemblage to be turned on the placard.  The matter will be sifted to the bottom and will lead to the expulsion from the school of all who took a part in this piece of schoolboy smartness.  Principal Werthner feels the insult deeply.

"Expulsion Would Be Too Good for Steele High School Offenders."  The Dayton World (Dayton, Ohio).  March 4, 1900.  Page 1.

Despite the disturbance and Paul's poor health, the event was well attended and a successful fundraiser for the junior class.

Although my voice was the worse I ever spoke with, the people were very enthusiastic and the boys are delighted.  They surely had a full house, people standing in the gallery.  They have just been here with a bag of money.

Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Moore Dunbar, March 3, 1900.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).

The Class of 1901 of Steele High School scored a triumph last evening in the immense success of their entertainment.  The large auditorium of the school was filled with students and friends who had come together to welcome home again one of Dayton's famed sons, a former High School lad.  This welcome extended Paul Laurence Dunbar last night, was a sincere and appreciative one, and the Juniors are being both congratulated and thanked today for the happy thought which brought the poet here.

"Cordial Welcome Given Mr. Paul Laurence Dunbar."  Dayton Evening Herald (Dayton, Ohio).  March 3, 1900.

The high school auditorium was thronged with a large audience of students and friends last evening to give welcome to an old Daytonian, Paul Laurence Dunbar.  Hearty applause marked the conclusion of each number on the program, but owing to a throat trouble he was forced to ask to be excused from all but one encore.  The entertainment was a complete success for the Junior class.

"Home People Give Enthusiastic Welcome to Dunbar."  Dayton Daily Journal (Dayton, Ohio).  March 3, 1900.

Paul Laurence Dunbar's appearance last evening in the city of his birth was a success, greater even than was expected by the poet's friends.  The Steele High School auditorium was filled with an appreciative audience.  Mr. Dunbar's readings were all received with applause, those in the Negro dialect being especially pleasing.  The poet was suffering with a slight hoarseness, but this did not detract in the least from the success of his productions, although it prevented him from answering all but one of the encores.

"Dunbar Entertains a Large Audience at the High School."  The Dayton Evening Press (Dayton, Ohio).  March 3, 1900.