Just for fun

‘There was great rejoicing in hell this morning.’

Bennett H. Young mugFew men did more to advance the Lost Cause mythology of the South than Bennett H. Young, the old soldier who was the featured speaker at the 1914 dedication of the Confederate memorial in St. Louis.

Five hundred people gathered at the Jefferson Memorial to hear Young — described as “one of the most eloquent living Confederates” — eulogize the “bravery” and “bitter determination to win” of 600,000 Southern men who fought for a “cause they believed to be right.”

Then 71, Young was midway through his term as commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans Association, where he worked with allied groups like the United Daughters of the Confederacy to pepper the nation with monuments to the CSA.

That same year, Young had published “Confederate Wizards of the Saddle,” a 630-page paean to the Confederate horsemen like slave-dealer Nathan Bedford Forrest.  Young’s own colorful story — he rode with Gen. John Hunt Morgan and later led the raid on St. Albans, Vermont — has been told and retold. Young’s crowning achievement as a Confederate apologist — though he didn’t live to see it completed — was the 351-foot obelisk at the birthplace of Jefferson Davis in Fairview, Kentucky. Young helped acquire a portion of the farm where Davis was born, then led the fundraising effort to build a monument like the one honoring George Washington.*

But one of Young’s more honorable roles — one seemingly out of character for an unrepentant, unreconstructed rebel — seems to have been largely forgotten. Young wasn’t the central or most decisive character in this story, but his involvement illustrates the history of race in the South isn’t easily reducible to caricatures. Read more of this post

On removing Confederate monuments @MayorLandrieu


‘Never be satisfied with the surface of the news.’

Bovard gravestone“In this space I cannot hope to describe his singular abilities or indicate the range of his sinewy, searching mind. Through one rule which he laid down for reporters he may be glimpsed. This was the rule: ‘Never be satisfied with the surface of the news.’ If he considered the pupil worthwhile he would explain: ‘There is a formal and superficial aspect of every story. It may be a police report, a lawyer’s brief, an application for a trolley franchise, or a President’s message to Congress. As such it may have a proper place in your story. But to print that alone may result in misleading the reader partially or completely. A vital part of your function is to supply the additional facts which give the reader the true picture. Between the reporter and the reader a direct and independent relationship exists. Your responsibility to the reader cannot be shifted. If through his reliance on you the reader is misinformed or inadequately informed, you have failed in your professional duty.’

“What journalistic crime would be prevented by the observance of that rule! When unoffending men and women are murdered in cold blood by professional thugs imported by corporations to break strikes, the public would not be told that they died in ‘labor riots.’ When a functionary of the State Department tries to turn the heat on Mexico in behalf of his friends, the oil companies, the public would not be blandly informed that ‘friendly relations between the two countries are being endangered by complications arising from … ‘ There would be fewer papers like the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, and journalism would bear a less humiliating resemblance to a certain profession.” – Excerpt from “The Greatest Managing Editor,” former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Paul Y. Anderson’s tribute to former Post-Dispatch managing editor Oliver K. Bovard, published in The Nation on Aug. 13, 1938.

Better readers, better newspapers

newspaper reader (2)“Many of the desirable improvements in the newspaper cannot be successfully achieved until the average level of education and intelligence of readers is raised.

“Nor can the newspaper accomplish its function of supplying the basis of sound public opinion unless citizens are willing to devote enough time and thought to newspaper reading to inform themselves thoroughly.

“Hence every movement to develop more intelligent, better-informed citizens deserves the newspaper work’s heartiest support.”


Willard Grosvenor Bleyer, “Newspaper Writing and Editing” (1913)

Deep throat

‘What’s the use of living if you can’t help somebody else?’

03-11-1917 madge keith portraitOccasionally, a gem shows up in the archives of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This item, published on March 11, 1917, shows how a worker found the courage to demand a better shake from her employer. This is taken from the much-longer story, which is included at the end of this summary.

Getting arrested has become a “regular thing” for Madge Keith, 24. In 14 weeks of picket duty at Robinson’s, a restaurant in downtown St. Louis, she’s been picked up by police 25 times. “And I might be arrested 25 more — but it’s all in a day’s work with me now,” she told a Post-Dispatch reporter.

She’s on strike for a wage increase. “We don’t want so very much, either. The restaurant pays $1 a day and 8 hours’ work. We want $1.10 a day 8 hours’ work. We couldn’t get it. So we struck.”

Read more of this post

‘The house where Eugene Field was not born’

eugene-field_edited-1A plaque on the Eugene Field House says “the children’s poet” — famous for “Little Boy Blue,” “Wynken, Blynken and Nod,” and other works — was born there. The Field House Museum, on its website, says “Eugene Field was born in St. Louis at 634 South Broadway, on September 2, 1850.” And some contemporary news stories also say Field was born there.

But he wasn’t.

A former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter named Robertus Love took the blame for the confusion — a century ago. In letter to the newspaper, published on Feb. 12, 1917, Love wrote: “About 15 years ago I suggested a story on Eugene Field.… My suggestion was approved and I was assigned to get the story. I interviewed several persons who had known Field more or less intimately when he lived here as a young newspaper man. Also I interviewed his guardian, an elderly gentleman now dead…. In reply to a specific query as to where Eugene Field was born, his guardian told me it was the house on South Broadway.” Read more of this post

Jerry the smoking St. Louis orangutan

jerry-postcardSt. Louis still celebrates some of the long-ago residents of its famous zoo. Phil the gorilla. Mr. Moke the chimp. Moby Dick the sea elephant. Siegfried the walrus.

But not Jerry.

This much-photographed orangutan showed up in newspapers across the nation in the 1940s — and even scored appearances in Life magazine and in at least one newsreel.

Today, though, Jerry seems to have been forgotten.

I became curious about Jerry when I spotted an old postcard that showed him in uniform, smoking a cigarette. I made a few inquiries and checked archives.

Here is what I learned. Read more of this post

First uses

The range of verbs is further cut down by means of the -ize and de- formations, and the banal statements are given an appearance of profundity by means of the not un- formation. — George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language

Apparent first use of certain words employing the “-ize formation” in English-language newspapers, based on a review of online archives. (Does not include variant spellings.) Updated Jan. 8, 2017. 

“… some liberal minded judge permits a continuance and turns the criminal loose on the street to revictimize the victims.” Interview with Maj. Henry J. Wolff of the Indianapolis Police Department. [The National Road Traveler (Cambridge City, Ind.), May 3, 1972]

“Dr. (Emily) Alman startled some 200 homemakers when she suggested that the family of the 70’s may have a completely different structure. “I suggest that the group coming up has started to delegitimize the existing structure. They will not follow our patterns,” said Dr. Alman. [The Courier-News (Bridgewater, N.J.), April 29, 1970]

honeywell-ad-small“And the problem we face now is how to operationalize the concept of Black Power.”
Interview with activist H. Rap Brown. [Delaware County Daily Times, Aug. 8, 1967]

“The U.S. Department of Labor has available a new study entitled ‘Manpower Challenge of the 1960’s.’ It definitely is on the list of required reading for employers and educators. Its perusal might incentivize junior sufficiently to bring home better grades.” [The Burlington Free Press (Burlington, Vermont) May 23, 1960] 

“The Honeywell Model 7000 Digital Data Recorder-Transcriber digitizes data at the fantastic rate of 10,000 samples per second directly from transducer or other data input sources.” [Honeywell recruitment ad, Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 8, 1959] “It accepts signals from thermocouples, flow, pressure and other transducers. It measures these signals, digitizes them and prints their values. A thermocouple reference oven can be supplied to permit it Read more of this post