Sunday, June 7, 2009

An 1874 Craigslist Created by Ypsilanti Undertaker David Coon

Pioneer-era Ypsilantian David Coon was the city's leading undertaker and cabinet-maker in the mid-1800s. In 1874, he apparently decided to chuck it all and create an Intelligence Office (click for larger image).

Want to buy a horse? How about find a boarding-house? Have money to lend? Perhaps you want to sell boots or shoes. David Coon wanted to be the go-to guy, the intel expert, a one-man Craigslist. Except, unlike Craigslist, he charged a fee but reassured the public "Terms Moderate."

Coon launched his new venture when he was almost 70 years old. One wonders what Eliza, three years older and apparently his wife, thought of this ambitious scheme--especially since the 1870 census shows that Coon's cabinet shop was likely profitable. Coon's real estate holdings in 1870 were worth a respectable $5,000.

Coon had arrived in Ypsilanti in the early 1800s, and was one of the early-era residents who collectively decided in 1850 what the brand new Normal School [EMU], authorized by the state just last year, would charge for tuition (minimum of $2 per quarter) and pay for the principal's salary ($700 a year). He lived in Ypsi for over 40 years. Perhaps he felt his longevity and contributions would help his dream of creating an info-hub.

It was not to be. Shortly after this advertisement in the May 30, 1874 Ypsilanti Commercial, Coon left town. He died in Virginia in 1877. Coon had the gumption and imagination to try in 1874 what San Franciscan Craig Newmark would duplicate one hundred and eighteen years later online.

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