Sipping lemonade or soda through straws before this year was an uncertain practice—hollow stalks of rye were used, and they were often dirty and cracked. But on January 3 a patent was given to Marvin Chester Stone of Washington, D.C., for drinking straws made from paraffin-coated manila paper. On lofty verandas and humble porches around the country, the manner in which Americans consumed cool drinks on hot summer afternoons was changed forever.
Henry M. Flagler, the Standard Oil magnate, opened the grand Ponce de Leon Hotel on January 10 at St. Augustine, Florida. Having already taken over most of Florida’s railroad lines and combined them as the Florida East Coast Railway, Flagler ran a custom-built train from Jersey City, New Jersey, to Florida that month. It was called, suitably, the Florida Special, and carried seventy distinguished guests to the southeastern tip of the United States, a little-known land of deserted beach and pestilential swamp that Flagler was single-handedly developing. The Ponce de Leon was just one in a string of luxury hotels that lured city dwellers down to what would soon become—as Flagler had envisioned it—the nation’s playground for the rich.
The secret ballot was introduced into our electoral system on February 24, when the citizens of Louisville, Kentucky, put it to use in a municipal election. Called “kangaroo voting” because of its prevalence in Australia, the secret ballot was, with a few notable exceptions, readily adopted in most states.