Archive for December 15th, 2011

Song of the Christmas Shopper

December 15, 2011

Image from Chuckman’s Collection

SONG OF THE CHRISTMAS SHOPPER.

I’ve finished my Christmas shopping,
I’ve squandered my last red sou;
My wallet’s flat,
But I don’t mind that,
For thank the Lord, I’m through.
I’ve bought all the things I’ve listed,
And a dozen or more beside;
Twas a shame and a sin,
How I blew in,
My coin this glad Yuletide.
My corn is about to kill me,
And my joints are still and sore;
My back feels lame,
And my weary frame,
Will ached for a week or more.
I’ve finished my Christmas shopping,
I’ve got all I’m going to get,
By I gravely doubt,
Had my roll held out,
If I would have been through yet.

Appleton Post Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin) Dec 22, 1923

Newark Advocate (Newark, Ohio) Dec 15, 1911

A New Deal – In Silhouette

December 15, 2011

A NEW DEAL — IN SILHOUETTE

Of course you must have seen them. Either in your own house or in that of your grandparents or in the window of an antique shop or in books about the American Revolution. For a century and a half ago, silhouettes were as common as snapshots are today. Everybody, high and low, rich and poor, had himself silhouetted, and such mighty personages as George Washington and Marie Antoinette and Frederick the Great and Benjamin Franklin were silhouetted until they must have been as sick and tired of the own shadow-pictures as George Gershwin must be of his “Symphony in Blue.

The process was exceedingly simple. Everybody could make silhouettes. All he needed was a willing subject, a white screen, a candle, a piece of black paper and a pair of sharp scissors. The rest depended upon his native or acquired ability to catch the shadow of his victim and reduce it to the right proportions. for all I know, the craze for these fascinating shadow pictures may return tomorrow. For the stage is all set for a return of M. de Silhouette. No, he was not some sort of prehistoric photographer, a vague ancestor of that famous M. de Daguerre, who gave us the daguerreotype and modern photography. M. de Silhouette was a financier of great repute and the New Dealer of the reign of King Louis XV of France.

*     *     *

This is the way that amiable nobleman turned himself into one of the immortals. For when all is said and done, what a greater fame can a man achieve than to make his name part of the current vernacular?

It was during the middle of the Eighteenth Century, France, having been most thoroughly ruined by the dynastic wars of the Great King Louis (whose royal mansions in Versailles were so recently repaired by the generosity of our own Mr. Rockefeller), was about as bankrupt as any nation can be without ceasing to function altogether.

Even in Versailles, where nobody ever learned or forgot anything, a few of the brighter spirits discovered that 1,000,000,000 times zero still makes zero. Evidently, it was time that something be done and be done right away.

Looking around for a bright young man to swing on the dangerous trapeze of finance, the choice fell upon a certain Etienne de Silhouette, a native of Limoges, a former secretary of the Duke of Orleans and member of the royal commission that had settled the Franco-British difficulties in Acadia in 1749.

Young Etienne had been an industrious student of British financial affairs and had translated a good many English books on finance into French. In short, a sort of brain-trust all by himself.

In March, 1759, he was put at the head of the finances of France with unlimited power to do whatever he pleased, provided he go His Majesty’s kingdom out of its desperate difficulties. This appointment was made at the suggestion of the king’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour. The dear lady was not famous for her morals. But she had a good brain. If she and de Silhouette had been given free rein, they might, between them, have saved France from the Revolution.

*     *     *

But of course the poor New Dealer could accomplish absolutely nothing unless first of all he tackled the problem of the privileged classes. He did his best. He tried to reduce all pensions of all the hangers-on of the court. He proposed to tax the lands of the nobles. He suggested that everybody spend just about half of what he had done thus far, and that there be an end to the wasteful luxury of a court which benefitted nobody but the Versailles pastry-cooks, the Paris jewelers and the light ladies of both cities.

The idea struck the court as something so unusually funny that all of fashionable society began to do things “a la Silhouette,” which was a polite way for doing them “on the cheap.” Thus far, everybody had had his portrait painted by a regular painter. But now of course they could no longer afford to do so, and they had their pictures cut out of a piece of black paper. They had it done “on the cheap” or “a la Silhouette.”

And when the joke had lasted long enough, they booted poor Etienne de Silhouette out of his high office, and the good old times came back right away, and the New Deal went into discard, and Etienne de Silhouette died as the forgotten man, and Marie Antoinette and her boy and girl friends had a perfectly swell time laughing their pretty heads off over this pedantic bore with his everlasting howls about he coming disasters and calamities.

And then they all went to jail and made lovely little silhouettes of each other’s pretty little necks.

And then they had their pretty little necks cut off by the guillotine.

And that is the story of the New Deal of the year 1749 and of Monsieur Etienne de Silhouette.

Rochester Evening Journal (Rochester, New York) Dec 19, 1934

Meet the Commentator
Hendrik Willem
VAN LOON

Van Loon wrote The Story of Mankind, a wonderful history book geared toward children:

Read online or download a free copy at this google link.

Sleighing Season

December 15, 2011

The Sleighing Season.

The enlivening tinkle of the tiny bells in the streets, keept us in mind that sleighing is an amusement only of the winter, and then it is confined to the uncertain snows, which occasionally enshroud the earth in this fickle climate.

Old and young, the “boys and girls,” — all are in merry glee over the animating scenes of the sleigh ride. Nearly all locomotion, except the walking party, has been on runners this week. We have the rustic sled, the “bob” and the “hickory jumper,” the “two in hand” and the solitary “clipper,” flying through the lively streets, on business or pleasure as the case may be.

But stop and consider!

All the race of that noble servant of man, the horse, are appealing for mercy to their master. Weary and panting and white with perspiration in the cutting frost, they call for our sympathies in contributing to our pleasure and happiness.

Allen County Democrat (Lima, Ohio) Jan 7, 1875

They Are Strangers Now.

A Middleton young lady never tires of relaing an amusing occurrence of the sleighing season last winter. She was enjoying a ride in company with two Hartford gentlemen, and she was driving. One of the gentlemen slily inserted a hand in her muff and lovingly pressed her disengaged hand. She blushed and withdrew it just as the gentleman on the other side slipped his hand into the muff. She knew by the actions of her adorers that the hand pressures were frequent and loving within the silken lining of the muff, for first one face and then the other bobbed forward to catch a look at the sweet face and eyes which prompted, as they supposed, the tender pressure of the hand.

The by-play lasted until the young lady quietly remarked:

“If you gentlemen are through with my muff, I will trouble you for it now, as my hands are getting cold.”

And the gentlemen, who had been comfortably warm up to this time, suddenly felt an arctic chill creeping up there spinal columns, and the mercury of their feelings dropped to 180 degrees below zero. The two gentlemen are strangers now.

Chester Times (Chester, Pennsylvania) Aug 8, 1882

A Solemn Joker.

An Indianapolis society man played a mean trick during the sleighing season, and the young lady hasn’t spoken to him since. They had been old friends for a long time, and it was natural that they should carelessly drive away from the madding crowd on Meridian street and explore the country roads. After they had gotten out about three miles away from anywhere, the gentleman startled his companion by suddenly looking her in the eye and remarking:

“Miss Nellie, we have been friends for a long time, and I know you have perfect confidence in me. But here we are, far away from everybody, where no one could hear you if you should cry out” —

The frightened young woman was  on the verge of springing from the sleigh, but she was even more astounded than frightened, and before she could gather her wits he continued:

“Now, Miss Nellie, I want to beg of you the privilege of one sweet — smoke! May I light a cigar?” And he never even smiled.

— Indianapolis Journal.

Indiana County Gazette (Indiana, Pennsylvania) Apr 13, 1892