News from the 90s, Bangkok 1890 -1899

Among the most popular items in Steve Van Beek’s Bangkok Then and Now were the news items from the Bangkok Times newspaper of 1900 and 1901. Steve returned to the National Library’s Times archives and combed through every issue from 1890 to 1899. He has assembled them into a new book, News from the 90s, Bangkok 1890-1899.

The 1890’s were a tumultuous decade for Thailand and the world. The city’s English-language newspaper, the Times, had a ringside seat, reporting events with an eye for oddities and unique writing style that varied between dead serious and irreverent. The book conveys what it would have been like to live in the city during that decade, dealing with problems not unlike those with which we cope today.

If you were living in Bangkok back then, these are the stories you would have read each afternoon.

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The following are excerpts from News from the 90s, Bangkok 1890-1899:

A MAN was badly upset yesterday in jumping from the Bangrak express. A piece of durian held under his nose brought him round, however, and though much affected he is still alive. June 16, 1899

A Nevada hunter spent three months looking for a grizzly bear, and the man’s relatives have spent three months looking for him. They found the bear. May 7, 1892

On Tuesday morning a servant of Chao Chai Dan, locally famous for his snake-charming powers, was fatally bitten by one of his pets. It was a black snake about a yard long, known as ngu ban moh—probably a viper—which had been brought down from Ayuthia and given to him to train. He extracted its poison-fangs, as he thought, and proceeded to coil it round his neck and arm. On laying it down it suddenly struck at his foot, biting the toe, and he died in a few hours. The snake was afterwards tried for murder by another moh ngu, snake-doctor, and, being found guilty without extenuating circumstances, was chopped to pieces. August 6, 1892

Eleven Children apiece, says a German savant, is the whole duty of woman—two before 20 years old, five between 20 and 30, three between 30 and 40, and one thereafter. August 31, 1896

The Mongkhoan Theatre billed a special programme for Thursday and a crowded house was the result. If very long—the villain was not unmasked nor virtue rewarded until 8 o’clock the following morning—the play was a very good one. September 25, 1897


On Tuesday afternoon His Majesty was out inspecting the improvements that are being made in the City, and it is whispered that he was not slow to suggest plenty others that might be made with advantage. The King got over a good deal of ground, both driving and walking before he returned to the Palace at six o’clock. April 28, 1898

The sedulous manner in which divers of our readers, for month after month, ignore trivial obligation connected with thi$ paper is worthy of a more exalted cause. The forgetfulness should not be carried to too great a length, however, becau$e, besides being inconsiderate, it puts us to great inconvenience. We do not like to be continually referring to so delicate a matter but it is essentially necessary for the success of our business. April 17, 1894

Connie Gilchrist, the burlesque actress was married to the Earl of Orkney on the 19th ultimo. It is stated that no fewer than four real, thoroughbred British noblemen are engaged to marry ladies on the Variety stage. One can scarcely fancy that the usually somewhat chequered career of a music-hall artiste is an altogether adequate training for the drawing room but things are changing rapidly now-a-days, and from what we humbler folks occasionally hear concerning our aristocracy, the introduction of an average serio-comic lady into the upper circles may even have a refining and elevating tendency. August 27, 1892

Old Gentleman (dictating an indignant letter)—Sir—My stenographer, being a lady, cannot take down what I think of you; I, being a gentleman, cannot think it; but you, being neither, can easily guess my thoughts. May 30, 1899

When a man asserts that he is just as good as another man he always believes he’s better. June 27, 1899

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