Hal Roth - January 2009
Sometimes a story begins and ends in one or a few paragraphs. Here is a collection of small, unrelated clippings, some of which may shock you, perplex you, advise you or make you smile. Most of all, you are certain to learn a few things about your ancestors. I hope you find something to enjoy, and I shall try to be on my best behavior and refrain from my usual smart-alecky comments.
The editor of a widely circulating paper, being asked how and why he was led to the habit of filling his sheet with short, racy articles, replied that his object was to secure readers, and that he had profited very essentially from the hint of a slave, who said he could, without fatigue, hoe an acre of corn a day, “if only planted in short rows.” The hint is applicable to newspaper contributors, and indeed to all writers and speakers. Take time to be short. –1845
Andrew Jackson Creighton, the young son of Capt. Samuel Creighton, of Hooper’s Island, has a great dislike for going to school. A few days ago he threatened to cut off his toe so he could not walk to the school house if he was compelled to attend, but his mother paid no attention to his threat and made him go to school as usual. On coming home the lad proceeded to carry his threat into execution, and procuring a hatchet, cut off three of his toes. Dr. John Mace, of Cambridge, was summoned to attend to his injuries. –1896
The southwestern part of Kent County, Del., is said to be excited over a social sensation, which came near ending in a tragedy. A few nights ago a young man of good family connections was called from a neighbor’s house where he was visiting a young lady, and on going to the door was confronted by five young men, who, with drawn revolvers, commanded him to go with them and do justice to a girl he had wronged. Four of these were brothers of the young woman. After some hesitation he deemed it safest to go, and while three of the party took him to the girl’s home, the other two started for a minister. It was late, and the minister did not turn up until the next morning, when the ceremony was soon performed. Since then the unwilling groom has disappeared, and his whereabouts are now unknown. –1883
College girls have a language of their own that is not contained in the ologies and isms of student life.
The use of “grand” at Vassar College spread like a contagious disease a few years ago. Everything from a new gown to the award of a fellowship received the magnificent appellation. That was a season of grandiloquence in other respects also, for no entertainment less than a “ball” was ever given at the college. If you went to the senior parlor in response to an invitation to a “ball,” you would probably find that someone was serving tea.
Both to Vassar and to Yale belong the word “stunt,” but it is used in quite different senses. At Vassar it means a peculiar trick that belongs to a certain individual. At Yale it stands for any idea or plan.
Where girls “dig,” Harvard and Yale men “grind” or “bone.” Where one “frivols” the other “sprees it.”
Bryn Mawr has a peculiar slang term of its own for the girls who do not enter with a regular class but come in at the middle of the year. They are known as “half breeds” to the end of their course. –1872
Mrs. Riggins, who lived a short distance from Cambridge, died a few days ago and was laid out for burial. In the evening, a short while before night, she was observed to move, and actually got up and talked with those around. It was not long, however, before she became unconscious a second time and died in earnest shortly after. –1883
Henry Ward Beecher took occasion in a recent sermon to allude to recreation and amusements in the home circle as being healthful and natural; and we append what he said about dancing.
Some persons, when they join a church, think that they must put all the glee and mirth and music out of their lives. Don’t do it! If a love song ripples up to the surface of your heart, sing it! Sing it! Sing it! Don’t let it die. My second mother – for I remember no other – was my idea of womanly gentleness, propriety and elegance. She was not, however, very demonstrative. She was, before marriage, quite a belle, and was often known to trip the light fantastic too. One evening, as my father played a tune on the violin, my mother arose, and in the most graceful manner possible to conceive, commenced to dance around the room. I didn’t know what to make of it. I was speechless with consternation and delight. My father looked on in surprise. Never in the whole course of my life had I seen such a thing attempted in my father’s house. It was delicious, and I got a lesson then which has lasted me ever since. I think to this day if my mother had danced oftener and said the catechism a little less, it would have been better for all of us. If you have a talent for music, cultivate it; for dancing, cultivate it; whatever gifts God has given you, make the most of them, whether of voice, feet or eye. –1872
Mr. Charles McDade, living some miles north of town [Denton], about six or eight days ago, on retiring to rest, forgot to remove his artificial teeth. During his sleep they became detached from the other teeth, to which they were fastened, and were drawn pretty far down the throat by respiration, where they lodged, producing, as might well be supposed, much alarm and suffering. Dr. McKee was immediately sent for, who, assisted by Dr. Scott, finally succeeded in removing them by means of a powerful emetic, after other efforts had failed, which enabled the patient to throw them out some distance from him. This should be a warning to all of us, who are obliged to use artificial teeth, to remove them before we go to sleep. –1869
The present fashions in female dress suit the girls with good figures. Every now and then nature has a chance. The slim and bony have had the last inning, and pads, bustles, reeds and furbelows covered many a scrawny frame and gave the wearer an equal chance with her more favored sisters. But now it is the plump girl’s turn, and the half-low neck and the clinging drapery show her off to the best advantage. –1889
Is an Atheist a competent witness? The question came up in the United States Circuit Court the other day, and the Judge said that the old common law doctrine, under which a man who didn’t believe in the existence of God was excluded from the witness stand, had become obsolete; or, if not, it was high time it had. In support of this view he pointed out that the ancient rule, if still in vigor, would exclude such men of science as Tyndall and Huxley, which he seemed to consider an absurdity. His remarks are pretty sure to give rise to discussion. –1879
In Cambridge Jail, serving out his sentence for selling whisky, William W. Davis passes his time. Davis is an avowed infidel and advises a condemned murderer not to listen to the preachers who come to offer religious consolation. Davis once lived in this county [Caroline] and is known in the vicinity of Preston. He once dared the Almighty to kill him in three minutes by a watch he held. He declared it as his firm belief that everything was governed by chance, and that after death man returned to the earth or to the waters under the earth in the form of a fish, tree, horse or mule, &c.
On one occasion he went to a gristmill, taking his grist with a mule hitched to a cart. When near the mill the mule became obstinate, and Davis began to beat him unmercifully. While engaged in beating the mule, an old Quaker, Jonah Kelly, known all over the county at that time, stepped up to Davis and said: “William, thee should desist. Thee may be beating thy father.” Davis was so startled and astonished by the Quaker’s simple but poignant rebuke that he stood aghast and speechless, unable to utter a single word of reply. –1884
A would-be philanthropist relates his experiences trying to play mother to a nest of little robins, which had by some accident been deprived of their rightful mother’s care. He diligently set to work digging angleworms, and supposed that he was fulfilling his whole duty, when one of the poor little songsters died. Upon examination of the body, which was reduced to skin and bone, the foster parent came to the conclusion that it must have died of starvation.
Deeply grieved at his shortcoming, he redoubled his efforts, determined to at least save the other two. It was not long, however, before a second one died, evidently of the same malady.
The good man then resolved that, whatever the third one died of, it should not be starvation, and took off his coat and went to work in earnest. He kept on with the angleworm diet until he found that his one little bird was consuming from 14 to 18 yards of angleworms a day. This was too much for his patience, and he proceeded to substitute the more easily managed diet of bread and milk and other delicacies, which were, however, not nearly so much to Miss Robin’s taste.
Wanting to discover whether he had been catering to a family of abnormal appetites, our friend took to watching the methods of a real mother bird and found that she fed her young every two minutes. He then consulted the learned books upon birds and discovered that 14 yards of worms a day, with meals every two minutes, is the average rate of feeding fledglings. He has therefore decided that he does not care to take up raising birds by hand as a business. –1899
The sad-faced man entered a dry goods house and said: “I want a waste basket.”
“What kind?” asked the clerk briskly.
“Why, I believe she said she wanted a straight-front one without those awful stays in it.”
“But I thought you said you wanted a waste basket?” said the impatient clerk.
“I do. What’s them things that’s straight front and got stays in ’em but waist baskets?”
Being an obscure person, the clerk had but a small funeral. –1903
A young man who was much enamoured of a girl, on Thursday last infused some mixture denominated love powder into a glass out of which the young lady was drinking, under an idea, common among the vulgar, that it would induce her to return his affection. The girl luckily refused to drink it, upon which it was swallowed by the lover, who was immediately taken ill, and died two hours later in the most excruciating tortures. –1828
We have an account of the “unequal yoking together” of George Hay, four feet one inch high and weighing 75 pounds to Miss Elizabeth Hartman, five feet three inches high and weighing 150 pounds. –1923
A woman in politics is like a monkey in a china shop; she can do no good and may do a great deal of harm. –1835
At this season of the year, when the birds are beginning to seek a warmer and more southern climate, the activity of the lighthouses along the bay as bird catchers is serving to furnish many of the keepers with a diet of fowl. The migratory bird, unlike the domestic one, does not sleep by night and travel by day, but travels by night as well as day. When a flock of birds gets into the light thrown out from the lantern of the lighthouse, they often become bewildered, and darting ahead in the strong light, dash up against the glass of the lantern, carom off and fall dead alongside the tower. But for the thickness of the glass, the damage would be to the lighthouse property, as well as to the bird. When a flock of birds bring up against the lighthouse lantern like the rattle of musketry, the keeper can make sure of a dish of game in the morning. Occasionally a heavy fowl like a duck or goose will strike the glass so hard as to shiver it, and is then often too much bruised and cut by the encounter to be edible. –1882
James H. Carroll, on Monday, purchased the “Providence” farm of Wm. C. Satterfield near Dover Bridge for $1,400 cash. Mr. Carroll does things in a business like way. After deciding that he would like to own the farm, he drove thirty miles with the silver in his overcoat pockets, made the purchase, had the deed recorded and returned home the same day. –1872
No one is more deserving of high reward than the farmer who works diligently and intelligently and leads an upright life. Health and happiness cannot fail to keep company with such a life, but the old saying of “early to bed and early to rise” is also indispensable. –1877
An odd case has just been tried. A lady broke her leg. A nice old doctor was called in and set it, but when it was well, it was also very much deformed. Action for malpractice being brought, it was shown that the lady was a spiritualist, and that her leg had been secretly treated according to the directions of a celebrated Hebrew surgeon, who died A. D. 14 – or thereabouts. All the services needed of the M. D. in the flesh was to dress the limb. The jury found for the earthly doctor, and the heavenly one is out of the jurisdiction of the court. –1873
A gentleman mistaking a very small lady, who was picking her way over a dirty channel, for a very young one, familiarly snatched her up in his arms and landed her in safety on the other side, when she indignantly turned up a face expressive of the anger of fifty winters, and demanded why he dared to take such a liberty. “Oh, I humbly beg your pardon,” said the gentleman. “I have only one amend to make,” and he again caught her up and placed her where he had first found her. –1823
“Killed by a visitation of Providence through the medium of a horse,” was the Coroner’s verdict in the case of a man who was kicked to death. –1874
If you have any old news to share, you can reach Hal Roth at email@example.com.