Sometimes the things we find in our Local History Room are pretty sad. In one issue from 1809, there are a few paragraphs devoted to reporting significant deaths from around the world. In this particular issue, The Massachusetts Spy/Worcester Gazette reports the death of Haydn, the famous Austrian composer noted for his symphonies and developments of classical music. Then there’s a more interesting report: the death of Ann Sylvester, a woman from Jamaica who was allegedly 133 years old when she died. According to the article, Ann could remember an earthquake which occurred in 1692 and was able to do needle-work without glasses. If this report is true, Ann Sylvester would be the oldest person to have ever lived.
Believe this story or not, the report of Ann Sylvester’s death reminds us how these minor “human interest” stories have existed in newspapers for centuries. Instead of a significant news article regarding the state of the world, Ann’s story is a quick little aside intended to amuse readers. Perhaps the day after this newspaper was printed, people around town were talking about the 133 year old woman from Jamaica who hadn’t lost any of her teeth.