Tag Archives: 1880-1899

Sad Trombone Music

I get to the end of this article from the front page of the August 17, 1893 edition of The Chatham Record, and I imagine the protagonist turning toward the camera with his shoulders shrugged and lip pooched out.


“You Don’t Get the Clock.” 

An old custom once prevailed in a remote place of giving a clock to anyone who would truthfully swear he had minded his own business alone for a year and a day, and had not meddled with his neighbors. Many came, but few, if any, gained the prize, which was more difficult to win than the Dunmow flitch of bacon. Though they swore on the four Gospels, and held out their hands in certain hope, some hitch was sure to be found somewhere; and for all their asseverations the clock remained stationary on its shelf, no one being able to prove his absolute immunity from uncalled-for interference in things not in any way concerning himself. At last a young man came with a perfectly clean record, and the clock seemed as if it was at last about to change owners. Then said the custodian, “Oh! A young man was here yesterday, and made mighty sure he was going to have the clock, but he didn’t.” Said the young man seeking the prize, “And why didn’t he get it?” “What’s that to you?” snapped out the custodian; “that’s not your business, and you don’t get the clock.” – New York Dispatch


Fingers and Toes Are Really Quite Useful

As we approach this year’s Independence Day, let us count our blessings and digits.

This poem, published on the front page of the July 2, 1903 edition of The Chatham Record takes a fatalistic approach:



Willie has five fingers
On each boyish hand;
Willie likewise has ten toes
Upon which to stand.
But a doubt comes o’er us,
Tear drops dew our eye.
Will he have so many
On the 5th of next July?

Willie has two eyebrows
Each in proper place;
Has his ears and cheeks and chin
Safe upon his face.
And we foldle Willie
As we softly sigh,
“Will he still possess them
On the 5th of next July?”

It’s pronounced “shahd-n-froi-duh”

Everyone has at least one “funny man” in their life. This reprint from the Chicago Sun appeared on the front page of the June 4, 1896 Chatham Record.

He Caught the Funny Man.

He was one of the “smart” kind. He belonged to a class of funny men who do things in public places calculated to turn the laugh on the other fellow. He was one of those who tell the barber to give him chloroform; who request the waiter to furnish an ax with the sirloin;  who inquire of the grocer if the sand in the sugar is pure like grit; who say: “Is it warm enough for you?” and who “sass back” at the telephone girl. When the conductor held out his hand for the street-car fare this funny man bestowed a general wink, and said, loud enough for every one in the car to hear: “Can you change a $100 bill?”

“That depends on whether you have the bill,” replied the conductor, promptly.

Then the funny man hugged himself gleefully, drew a crisp “century” from his pocket and gave it to the nickel collector.

The conductor gravely examined the bill, and folding it nicely, placed it carefully in his trip book. Unbuttoning his overcoat he loosened his coat, opened his vest, and from the inside pocket he drew forth a bulky pocketbook. From it he took a roll of bills, and in matter of fact I-do-this-every-hour way, counted out $95. This he handed to the funny man, and then he shoveled out $5 in dimes and nickels and poured them into the funny man’s hand. Next he rang up the fare and said: “Transfers for Fullerton avenue.” And the funny man spent the rest of the time counting his ones and twos and fingering his nickels and dimes.

“I’ve been laying for just such a lamb for a month,” said the conductor to the man on the rear platform.—Chicago Record.


Our Dear Deer

This reprint from Young Folks appeared on the front page of the May 8, 1884 edition of The Chatham Record. There is no mention of how Deer’s life ended, but he certainly seems well-regarded.


A Strange Race.

A little time ago a young man died in Philadelphia who was popularly known, from his swiftness in running, as “Deer.” His story was a singular one.

A few years since he was a ragged, shrewd lad peddling newspapers about the railroad depot. One day he happened to be on the line of the Pennsylvania Railroad when he saw an engine rushing down the track without any driver or tender. By some chance it had been separated from the cars, and was driving on alone.

The boy knew that it would meet an express train this side of the next station. He had about four minutes’ start, and darted down the track after it. The engine was, of course, not at full speed, yet nobody but Deer could have won in such a race.

He did win; was cool enough to remember the signal to the station-0keeper necessary to have the switch placed so that the engine would be turned on to another track. It was done just two seconds before the express train went thundering by.

Deer, for this service, was granted by the Pennsylvania Railroad corporation monopoly of the newspaper and book trade on its trunk route, and from this he derived a handsome income. It was to the boy’s coolness, as well as to his fleetness, that hundreds of human beings owed their lives. – Young Folks.


From the August 9, 1886 issue of The Chatham Record (reprinted from Albany Argus). I get the feeling the author never actually asked about the price of rum, but he and anyone else within earshot got a full report anyway.

Patriotism and Rum.

A gentleman who has been looking up the early history of Albany assures me that patriotism and rum were about the same those days as at the present time. At the time of Washington’s prospective visit to Albany, he was to be entertained at a hotel standing on the corner of Beaver and Green Streets. Great preparations were made for the occasion, and a gentleman was delegated to deliver the welcome address. How long he labored in writing out his remarks, history does not state. It intimates, however, that the orator “enthused” to a considerable extent, and when the distinguished guest arrived was in a condition that unfitted him to perform his delegated office. In modern parlance he was “knocked out,” and his essay, burning with eloquence and patriotism, was read by a substitute and Washington never knew the difference. “Those were great days,” continued our historic friend. “Why, the price of a beer at the present time would buy enough rum to keep a man drunk for a week.” – Albany Argus

Cut Your Losses

From the front page of the February 23, 1882 issue of The Chatham Record.

Feel your pockets after even saying hello to a shrewd pedler [sic]. If you feel any coins at all, count them.

a-shrewd-peddlerA Shrewd Pedler [sic].

Sharp dealing is confined to neither place nor people. In a small German town an inn-keeper, to get rid of a book-peddler’s importunities, bought an almanac from him and, putting it in his pocket, left the inn, his wife just then coming in to take his place, The woman was then persuaded to buy an almanac, not knowing that her husband had one already. The husband shortly returning and discovering the trick, sent his porter to the railway station after the peddler, with a message that he wished to see the latter on important business.”Oh, yes,” said the peddler, “I know, he wants one of my almanacs, but I really can’t miss my train for that. You can give me a quarter and take the almanac to him.” The porter paid the money and carried the third almanac to the inn-keeper. Imagine the sensations of the victim!




Don’t Eat Your Greens



This public service announcement is from the February 14, 1884 edition of The Chatham Record. Apparently in the late nineteenth century even your wallpaper could kill you.

Poisonous Wall Paper

The following emanating from a firm of practical manufacturers, of Edingburg, may be a useful contribution to the discussion on the subject of poisonous colors in wall papers: “In a long and practical experience as color manufacturers, we have never known arsenic used in the manufacture of any color suitable for wall paper except emerald green. This bright and beautiful color has never been equaled by any no-arsenical green; bit it is expensive, and of very poor covering properties. For greens, blacks, blues, browns, reds, yellows, etc., either dry or in oil, the color maker has no need to use arsenic, and we cannot conceive what object would be served by his doing go, and certainly he would not do so in reducing a color to a tint with white. Years ago, a yellow was used called ‘king’s,’ or ‘canary’ yellow, containing arsenic; but it is long out of date, and was only used by coach painters. The whole matter rests upon the medium by which the tint or color is fixed to the paper or wall, and the volatility of any component part. Even emerald green is perfectly harmless if properly secured by oil or varnish; but when in used in cheap and showy papers where there is little or no fixed material, we can understand there is danger if exposed to undue heat. In better class papers it is seldom used. In regard to abstaining from the use of poisonous metallic substances in the manufacture of wall papers, we can only say, that, unless scraped off and eaten, they are perfectly harmless.”


Or as Strunk and White would put it: Happy Valentine’s Day, and don’t eat your wallpaper!


Maybe It Was the Punch

This item from the January 30, 1902 edition of The Chatham Record attributes a man’s erratic behavior directly to his exposure to a “Santificationist evangelist”.


It doesn’t sound the like Dr. Caveness explicitly links Mr. Cox’s outbursts to his exposure to the evangelist. We may have a journalistic game of telephone going here.

Christmas Superstitions

The December 24, 1896 edition of The Chatham Record lists what it considers to be quaint superstitions regarding Christmas in Europe:

superstitions-of-christmasSuperstitions of Christmas.

The superstitions of Christmas are more numerous even than the observances which owe their origin to heathenish rites. Among certain European peasants the belief still prevails that on Christmas morning the oxen always spend a portion of the time on their knees. This they do, according to the peasants, in imitation of the ox and the ass which, a legend states, were present at the manger and knelt when Christ was born.

In certain counties of England the idea prevails that sheep walk in procession on Christmas Eve, in commemoration of the glad tiding first announced to shepherds. Bees are also said to sing in their hives on the night before Christmas, and bread baked at that time never becomes mouldy – at least so once though many English housewives.

christmas-1896Elsewhere on the  page, the paper depicts a child perched atop a ladder holding a hoop.  Santa breaks through the hoop, apparently about to land on a flying reindeer (who looks none too happy about the situation).

I’ve seen the hoop/ladder/reindeer thing plenty of times. Where do I go to hear the singing bees?


Happy Thanksgiving!

The November 24, 1898 edition of The Chatham Record reprints a poem by Clinton Scollard, originally published in Harper’s Weekly:



Thanksgiving for the men who braved
The yet scarce furrowed sea,
Rather than cringe, with soul enslaved,
To Kingly tyranny;
Who sought upon this virgin sod
“Freedom to worship God!”

Thanksgiving for the men who met
The stormy brunt of war.
Who yielded life without regret
Lest wrong be conqueror:
For those who fought and lived to see
Triumphant liberty!

Thanksgiving that the olden scars
By time are hid and healed;
That now our flag’s close-clustering stars
Shine on no gory field,
But year by year a rich increase
Springs from the arts of peace!

Thanksgiving for a past that gleams With light so fair to see;
Thanksgiving for the glorious dreams Of triumphs yet to be;
Thanksgiving, all, with one accord,
Unto our father’s Lord!
Clinton Scollard, in Harper’s Weekly

I’d like to add: Thanksgiving I’ve never seen a turkey big enough to donate that wishbone.