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Caffeine and Fur Coats


In October 1913, the following ad was in the local papers: Wanted! Perfectly healthy men and women who will voluntarily submit to an experiment which may lead to temporary or permanent impairment of health, or possible death. This experiment to be conducted with the coffee drug, “caffeine.” Following that, in bold letters, it read: Would You Apply for the Job?

The ad took up almost a half page in the Fargo Forum; it was advertising the health benefits of drinking the popular beverage, Postum, as opposed to coffee. Of Postum, the ad said, This pure food-beverage, made of prime wheat and the juice of southern sugar-cane, make(s) a rich, seal-brown blend turning to golden brown when cream is added, which tastes much like real Oriental Java but is absolutely free from the coffee drug, “caffeine.”

The ad went on to say: Thousands are trying the experiment every day in spite of the fact that physicians and government experts have proven: That the average cup of coffee contains about 2_ grs. of caffeine; That caffeine is attributed to be one of the principal causes of headache, biliousness, heart disease, indigestion and kidney, liver and bowel trouble. That caffeine in doses as small as that contained in two average cups of coffee has killed rabbits, guinea pigs and other animals at the laboratories of the Gov’t in Washington and elsewhere...

If you know coffee has no bad effect in your particular case and you like it, why, bless your heart, stick to it, but if coffee drinking leaves its tell-tale mark by some symptoms of physical discomfort or peace of mind, it’s a good idea to stop and use POSTUM.

In other news on this date, a story came out in 1924 about Joseph Jarvino, a young man with a criminal record that started with frequent visits to the Northern Pacific station in Moorhead. Jarvino was a bell boy at a Fargo hotel, at that time, and during his noon hours, he would drop by the Moorhead Depot and lift small amounts of money from the till. After awhile, a watch was posted over the Depot, and one day, he got caught in the act.

Jarvino spent the next two years in a St. Cloud reform school, but evidently he didn’t get too reformed. He ended up serving time two more times – in the “Mandan training school.”

He went back to Fargo, where on May 5th, 1924, he broke into the home of J.A. Peterson and walked away with a $700 beaver coat; it was a present for his girlfriend. Before long, the young woman jilted him, moved to Valley City and took up with another man.

Jarvino followed her to Valley City and asked her to give back the coat. She refused, so Jarvino broke into her place and stole it for the second time. The young woman went to the police, and pretty soon the young thief was arrested and charged with larceny. There was one problem... nobody could find the coat, and Jarvino certainly wasn’t telling.

Back in Fargo, G.D. McDowell, a special agent for Northern Pacific, had been keeping an eye on Jarvino’s movements ever since the days when he looted the depot till. When he heard Jarvino had been arrested because of a fur coat, he connected the dots back to the Peterson burglary in May. McDowell contacted the Valley City Sheriff, and when officials accused Jarvino of the Fargo burglary, he broke down and confessed. The coat was returned to Mrs. Peterson, but it turns out there was another part to the story. After he stole the coat from his girlfriend, he tried to sell it to her new sweetheart for $150.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm