Jinx Rag

Spring Pests_edited-2 (2)

Jean Knott (1883-1937) worked at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where he drew the popular “Penny Ante” strip and other cartoons. In 1916, he joined the Hearst syndicate.

During the height of his local popularity, a ragtime composition titled “Jinx Rag” was published, and dedicated to the famous cartoonist.

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

03-11-1917 madge keith portrait

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.”

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Filling in the blanks

anti-coon clubSeveral years ago, as I looked for coverage of a long-ago dairy show (I was helping a friend research a book), I spotted a brief article on page 4 of the Oct. 14, 1909 edition of The Missourian. It was a short report about a new campus organization.

Here’s the lede:

The ‘Anti-Coon Club’ is the latest at the University of Missouri. It was organized to keep negroes off the campus of the University of Missouri unless they have business there. The club was formed by thirty-two students who met in the smoking room of the law building yesterday morning. They object chiefly to the practice of negroes of carrying bundles of laundry, pushing wheel-barrows and riding bicycles through the campus.

The article listed the organization’s officers. Their plans: to post warning placards on campus and produce buttons for members to wear. “These buttons are to contain a picture of a negro standing on his head and above his feet the inscription, ‘I Belong to the Anti-Coon Club.’”

I was unable to find subsequent coverage. So I don’t know if the organization gained followers or lasted beyond the announcement of its formation. But it wasn’t difficult to track most of the individuals associated with the group’s leadership. Continue reading “Filling in the blanks”

The armadillo in all of us

Weigh inIt may be small-brained and shortsighted, but the armadillo has managed to take over most of the Americas.

Only one armadillo showed up for this year’s “World Famous Armadillo Festival” in Hamburg, Ark., and it couldn’t have cared less.

After a ceremonial weigh-in and photo shoot with the reigning Teen Miss Armadillo (a local high school beauty), the creature was released in the designated “racetrack” — a makeshift chicken wire enclosure — where it immediately began to nose around for bugs and grubs. Continue reading “The armadillo in all of us”


From review of “Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs” (2023) “I’ve installed a dishwasher. Replaced a faucet. Fixed a deck. Not one of these tasks was accomplished quickly, efficiently or, as my wife has hinted, competently. In other words, I’m about as qualified to write a book on home repair as Josh Hawley is to write one on manhood.”

From review of “Left in the Midwest: St. Louis Progressive Activism in the 1960s and 1970s” (2023): “For most of Missouri, especially the GOP leadership in the Legislature, St. Louis is a hotbed of progressive tomfoolery. At the same time, some progressives who live here think the place is culturally conservative and politically stagnant — and they despair. As one longtime activist quoted in the book says, ‘It’s a great place to organize, but a tough place to make a difference.’”

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The homicide record: ‘A truly terrible state of lawlessness’

The Spectator

In December 1915, The Spectator, a weekly that covered the nation’s insurance industry, looked at the large increase in mortality caused by homicide in the previous decade. It focused on 30 leading cities. Many of its findings are familiar, including a condemnation of “the unrestrained sale of firearms.”

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‘Pockets of volume’ ‘Locally heavy’ ‘Hearts go out’ ‘Great’


Weather words: Cone of concern. People are bracing. Blanketing. Dampening. Spotty mix. Icy patch. Wintry mix. Barreling. Lashing. Churning. Taking aim. Little blustery. Frozen stuff. Ridge of high pressure. Packs a wallop. Packing winds of. Packing a punch. Gusty winds. Heavy rain. A line of showers. Intermittent. Periods of rain. Severe. Isolated. Spot. Strong. Sun is starting to peek back in. Pop-up shower. Stray and scattered and residual showers. Hit-and-miss. Notches. Hooks. Locally heavy. Couple sprinkles. Rumbles of thunder. Breathing a collective sigh of relief. Weather-related disasters: Shredded lumber. Twisted metal. Reduced to rubble. Comb through the rubble. Wide swath of destruction. Raked. One of the lucky ones. Mother Nature’s fury. One small snapshot. Worst he’s/she’s ever seen. Gone in an instant. Deadly storms barreled through. Ripped. Captured on camera.

Social unrest words: Reckoning. A watershed moment. Tipping point. Turning point. Game-changer. Real change. Not just treat the symptoms. Substantive change. Time for healing. Remove the cancer. Rush to get back to normalcy. Systemic changes. Highest ideals. Speak your truth. Boots on the ground. Seats at the table. In the room. Power to inspire and heal. Having a conversation. Root causes.

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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. 2, 2022. 

“‘I think that one want to demonize and other-ize because it makes the world more manageable,’ Kushner says. ‘The whole struggle in American culture now – multiculturalism, difference and inclusion –is really about breaking down those barriers between people, but in a smart sophisticated way.…” [Profile of playwright Tony Kushner, The Los Angeles Times, Oct. 25, 1992]

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Alice Martin for blog

Some St. Louis names -> Archer Alexander, Anonda Allen, James J. Allman, Roger Nash Baldwin, Henrietta Bamberger, The Rev. William C. Barlow, Gordon Lee Baum, Charles W. Beehler, Napoleon Bland (Napoleon A. Rahim), Donal Blossom, Oliver K. Bovard, Helen Britton, Garrett Brown, Della Butler, Harry J. Cantwell, Giuseppi Carotti, Charles Chapin, Winston Churchill, Jack Clark, Charles W. Conrad, Col. John T. Crisp, Thomas Anthony Dooley, Elmer Sylvester “Dutch” Dowling, Amerigo Dumini, Cyrile Echele, Rev. Grant Edwards Sr., The Rev. William Faerber, Chauncey I. Filley, Lovett Fort-Whiteman, Julia Fortmeyer, John L. French, Flint Garrison, Emme and Mayme Gerhard, Jeff Gluck, Frank J. Guetle, Benani Guiseppe, Nancy Coonsman Hahn, Edward Michael Harrington Jr., A. Lincoln Hartley,

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Hammer heads for hacks

garbage canWriting a snappy, provocative headline — one that accurately reflects the gist and tone of a story — isn’t easy. Not if it requires being original. In a pinch, time-pressed editors and designers turn to puns, movie titles and song lyrics. Those can work if there’s a broad-enough cultural reference, even if they’re derivative and lazy.  Then there’s the old reliable method: recycle. That explains why these headlines, among others, get used so often.

Grape expectations (regarding anything to do with wine) Example: “Grape Expectations: Until recently, few would have predicted that a winery would have the potential to bring tourists and their spending money to historically dry Edmonson County, let alone attempted to bring about that vision.” (Bowling Green, Ky., Daily News, June 29, 2011)

Dead dogs walking (regarding anything to do with stray animals, pet rescue) Examples: “Dead dog walking: Michigan Rottweiler survives botched euthanasia attempt.” (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 14, 2010) Others:  Orlando Weekly 1999; Riverfront Times (St. Louis) 1999; Illinois Times (Springfield) 2014  Continue reading “Hammer heads for hacks”

‘Still a going piece of journalistic debauchery’

“Old man Pulitzer set the goal in dirty journalistic ‘ethics’ in the USA. His Post Dispatch in St. Louis and the New York World were examples in blackmail and dirty publicity that gave old man Hearst his guidepost. Bill went old Joe one better and became the all time low in blackmail and character assignation [sic] journalist approach. People seemed to like it.

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New York World artist George Luks is republished here in The World’s sister newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, on Nov. 28, 1897. The Little Nippers — Alex and George — are playing a tuba and a banjo. Luks belonged to the “Ashcan School” of American realists.

A whale of a fail

Sometime in the 1990s, a colleague at The Commercial Appeal proposed creating an anonymous messaging board in the Atex system, allowing staffers to post questions and concerns about the newspaper. It was a way, she said, to prompt useful discussion about change in a newsroom where some saw management as unapproachable and inflexible.

The idea had a promising start, then quickly descended into personal criticism and recriminations. The editor pulled the plug.

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