Monday, February 08, 2010

Life Without a Newspaper

We've been locked up in a library of late, pawing through nineteenth century newspapers for what is called around the home "The Endless Project." Every now and then, we accidentally run across an item that in some way or another seems to have a contemporary echo. For instance:

Illinois State Sentinel, October 11, 1850

Life Without a Newspaper
The second night after I left your city, I put up at the brick tavern, known as the ____ Hilgreen. The proprietor, in response to some interrogatories, informed me that he owned over 400 acres of land, had raised the present season 900 bushels of wheat, 650 bushels of oats, and expected to harvest 1500 bushels of corn; that he owed no man a dollar; and never took a newspaper in his life.

I had a curiosity to learn how a family kept up with the current events of the day, when deprived of the only means of obtaining it. Soon after I entered the family circle, which consisted of the parents, and six children, the eldest, a daughter, on the shady side of twenty five; -- the Mother commenced with --

"Mister, do you know whether that great Mr. Webster is hanged?"

"Yes, Madam."

"Well," said the daughter, "I allow as how he'd not make any more of them thar spelling books."

"I suppose not."

"I've lived so long in the world," said the mother, with a deep sigh, "and I never seed any body hanged yet. I always thought I'd like to see one hanged but it never happened to come right, and I'm getting so old now, I don't expect I ever will. I've seed the sarcus and the caravan, and such kind of shows, but I'd rather seed one fellow hanged than fifty of them shows."

"Stranger," said the daughter, "there's going to be an animal show tomorrow down here 'bout six miles, maybe you'd like to lay over and go down. Brother Jaemes says, they've got two snakes there, the same kind as what can swaller an elephant, but I don't believe there ever was such snakes, do you?"

"No Miss."

"Wall, then, the jography lies," replied Jaemes, a youth of some twenty two years.

"I allow it does," said the mother. "Why shouldn't the jography folks lie just like other folks?"

"Mother," said Jaemes, "You don't know nothing what you're talking about. Don't the United States make all the jographies? What's the use of their putting lies into 'em? They make 'em every ten years; they're going to make another in a few days -- They send out men all over the country to find out every thing; -- that's what that chap was here for 'tother day, asking so many farnal questions about. -- Stranger, supper's ready."
If you don't quite get the Webster reference, read this (Noah Webster, 1758-1843)... then this (John White Webster (1793–1850) ... and then this. There's a also a PBS documentary and several books, including this one.

But if you're a teabagger clinging to your own misconceptions as if they were facts, we can't really help you. We're heading back to the library.

minor edit 2-08 pm


BLehman said...

I don't think all the libraries in the world could educate the Tea Baggers. Many of them can't read and none of them can think.

Anonymous said...

Nor can the spell! The signs are hilarious, not so much for their silly rhetoric, but definitely for the atrocious spelling.