I ran across this humorous critique of Joseph E. Baker’s poem, “Teddy in the Lowlands, Low,” by a rival newspaper editor, while searching for articles about grasshoppers. Fortunately, I was also able to find the poem being referenced. After noticing Mr. Baker’s use of the “n” word, I did a little more searching to see what other colorful things he may have written while working for the Oakland Tribune.
Baker as Near-Poet
Our great and esteemed friend Joseph E. Baker of the Oakland Tribune, swayed undoubtedly by the applause that has greeted George Sterling and other residents of the Athens of the Pacific who have from time to time emulated Mr. Silas Wegg and have dropped into poetry, has fetched a swat at verse himself and in the Tribune of Tuesday we find him doing stunts with the English language, rhyme, rhythm and other things in an article denominated “Teddy, in the Lowlands, Low.”
At first blush we were inclined to exclaim: “Ah, that mine enemy should write a book.” But on second thoughts, it appears that it would be better to say: “Oh, that Joe Baker hadn’t done it.”
Joseph, you’re rhyming ear is all agley. For instance, “gale” doesn’t rhyme with “sails” even in the classic shades of Berkeley, nor can it be truly said that “fermenti” and “spermaceti” are allowable. Doubtless, those grave and reverend hymn-writers who made “grasshopper” and “caterpillar” rhyme in their poetic version of the Psalms were excusable, but Joseph, you never wrote those hymns, old in Sin as you are.
And again, why did you do it? Why cease in your earnest efforts to remove the brand from the prey of Rudolph Spreckels to wade through those dark lagoons, magnolia- scented.
“Where the crusty alligator
“Snoozes lazily in the sun,
“In the Louisiana lowlands, low,”
as you express it? Wouldn’t it have been better to sit lazily back in the Tribune editorial chair and gibe and jeer at the gentry across the bay?
You’ll regret it, too. There will be days when you will wish that you had been buried deep beneath the ooze of the Louisiana lowlands, four times as low as now you dream of, for WE SHALL PASTE THAT POEM IN OUR SCRAP-BOOK and draw on its contents from time to time.
Oh, what did you do it for?
Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada) Oct 10, 1907
WHEN TEDDY ROOSEVELT WENT BEAR HUNTING IN LOUISIANA By Robert L. Moncrief, provides a detailed account of the bear hunt. Definitely worth reading. ROOTSWEB LINK
To read more, check out the article, The Great (Teddy) Bear Hunt .
The blog, East Carroll Parish, Louisiana Genealogy provides pictures and information about the other men on the bear hunt.
Back to Joseph E. Baker, the “poet” and editorial writer. He seems to have been a real mover and shaker in the Oakland area. As a young man, he served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. You can read more about him HERE, in this Alameda County Biography.
Below is Mr. Baker’s editorial on the “Indian/Hindu” problem. It is in several pieces because it took up the whole upper half of a newspaper page!
Wow, “human locust,” “slaves of slaves,” “expect to be treated like dogs.” Mr. Baker certainly had a way with words!
Upon Joseph E. Baker’s death, the Oakland Tribune ran several days worth of articles about him, quoting the fond remembrances of friends and associates. The newspaper also stated he was an ardent DEMOCRAT.