Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. A list of corrections is found at the end of the text. Inconsistencies in spelling and hyphenation have been maintained. A list of inconsistently spelled and hyphenated words is found at the end of the text. Oe ligatures have been expanded.
HUMBUGS OF THE WORLD.
AN ACCOUNT OF HUMBUGS, DELUSIONS, IMPOSITIONS, QUACKERIES, DECEITS AND DECEIVERS GENERALLY, IN ALL AGES.
P. T. BARNUM.
"Omne ignotum pro mirifico."—"Wonderful, because mysterious."
NEW YORK: CARLETON. PUBLISHER. 413 BROADWAY. 1866.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1865, by
G. W. CARLETON,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York.
One of Mr. Barnum's secrets of success is his unique methods of advertising, and we can readily understand how he can bear to be denounced as a "Humbug," because this popular designation though undeserved in the popular acceptation of it, "brought grist to his mill." He has constantly kept himself before the public—nay, we may say that he has been kept before the public constantly, by the stereotyped word in question; and what right, or what desire, could he have to discard or complain of an epithet which was one of the prospering elements of his business as "a showman?" In a narrow sense of the word he is a "Humbug:" in the larger acceptation he is not.
He has in several chapters of this book elaborated the distinction, and we will only say in this place, what, indeed, no one who knows him will doubt, that, aside from his qualities as a caterer to popular entertainment, he is one of the most remarkable men of the age. As a business man, of far-reaching vision and singular executive force, he has for years been the life of Bridgeport, near which city he has long resided, and last winter he achieved high rank in the Legislature of Connecticut, as both an effective speaker and a patriot, having "no axe to grind," and seeking only the public welfare. We, indeed, agree with the editor of The New York Independent, who, in an article drawn out by the burning of the American Museum, says: "Mr. Barnum's rare talent as a speaker has always been exercised in behalf of good morals, and for patriotic objects. No man has done better service in the temperance cause by public lectures during the past ten years, both in America and Great Britain, and during the war he was most efficient in stimulating the spirit which resulted in the preservation of the Union, and the destruction of Slavery."
We cannot forbear quoting two or three additional paragraphs from that article, especially as they are so strongly expressive of the merits of the case:
"Mr. Barnum's whole career has been a very transparent one. He has never befooled the public to its injury, and, though his name has come to be looked upon as a synonym for humbuggery, there never was a public man who was less of one.
"The hearty good wishes of many good men, and the sympathies of the community in which he has lived, go with him, and the public he has so long amused, but never abused, will be ready to sustain him whenever he makes another appeal to them. Mr. Barnum is a very good sort of representative Yankee. When crowds of English traders and manufacturers in Liverpool, Manchester, and London, flocked to hear his lectures on the art of making money, they expected to hear from him some very smart recipes for knavery; but they were as much astonished as they were edified to learn that the only secret he had to tell them was to be honest, and not to expect something for nothing."
We could fill many pages with quotations of corresponding tenor from the leading and most influential men and journals in the land, but we will close this publisher's note with the following from the N. Y. Sun.
"One of the happiest impromptu oratorical efforts that we have heard for some time was that made by Barnum at the benefit performance given for his employes on Friday afternoon. If a stranger wanted to satisfy himself how the great showman had managed so to monopolize the ear and eye of the public during his long career he could not have had a better opportunity of doing so than by listening to this address. Every word, though delivered with apparent carelessness, struck a key-note in the hearts of his listeners. Simple, forcible, and touching, it showed how thoroughly this extraordinary man comprehends the character of his countrymen, and how easily he can play upon their feelings.
"Those who look upon Barnum as a mere charlatan, have really no knowledge of him. It would be easy to demonstrate that the qualities that have placed him in his present position of notoriety and affluence would, in another pursuit, have raised him to far greater eminence. In his breadth of views, his profound knowledge of mankind, his courage under reverses, his indomitable perseverance, his ready eloquence, and his admirable business tact, we recognise the elements that are conducive to success in most other pursuits. More than almost any other living man, Barnum may be said to be a representative type of the American mind."
In the "Autobiography of P. T. Barnum," published in 1855, I partly promised to write a book which should expose some of the chief humbugs of the world. The invitation of my friends Messrs. Cauldwell and Whitney of the "Weekly Mercury" caused me to furnish for that paper a series of articles in which I very naturally took up the subject in question. This book is a revision and re-arrangement of a portion of those articles. If I should find that I have met a popular demand, I shall in due time put forth a second volume. There is not the least danger of a dearth of materials.
I once travelled through the Southern States in company with a magician. The first day in each town, he astonished his auditors with his deceptions. He then announced that on the following day he would show how each trick was performed, and how every man might thus become his own magician. That expose spoiled the legerdemain market on that particular route, for several years. So, if we could have a full exposure of "the tricks of trade" of all sorts, of humbugs and deceivers of past times, religious, political, financial, scientific, quackish and so forth, we might perhaps look for a somewhat wiser generation to follow us. I shall be well satisfied if I can do something towards so good a purpose.
P. T. BARNUM.
I. PERSONAL REMINISCENCES.
CHAPTER I.—GENERAL VIEW OF THE SUBJECT.—HUMBUG UNIVERSAL.—IN RELIGION.—IN POLITICS.—IN BUSINESS.—IN SCIENCE.—IN MEDICINE.—HOW IT IS TO CEASE.—THE GREATEST HUMBUG OF ALL. 11
CHAPTER II.—DEFINITION OF THE WORD HUMBUG.—WARREN OF LONDON.—GENIN THE HATTER.—GOSLING'S BLACKING. 18
CHAPTER III.—MONSIEUR MANGIN, THE FRENCH HUMBUG. 29
CHAPTER IV.—OLD GRIZZLY ADAMS. 37
CHAPTER V.—THE GOLDEN PIGEONS.—GRIZZLY ADAMS.—GERMAN CHEMIST.—HAPPY FAMILY.—FRENCH NATURALIST. 46
CHAPTER VI.—THE WHALE, THE ANGEL FISH, AND THE GOLDEN PIGEON. 53
CHAPTER VII.—PEASE'S HOARHOUND CANDY.—THE DORR REBELLION.—THE PHILADELPHIA ALDERMAN. 57
CHAPTER VIII.—BRANDRETH'S PILLS.—MAGNIFICENT ADVERTISING.—POWER OF IMAGINATION. 65
II. THE SPIRITUALISTS.
CHAPTER IX.—THE DAVENPORT BROTHERS, THEIR RISE AND PROGRESS.— SPIRITUAL ROPE-TYING.—MUSIC PLAYING.—CABINET SECRETS.—"THEY CHOOSE DARKNESS RATHER THAN LIGHT," ETC.—THE SPIRITUAL HAND.—HOW THE THING IS DONE.—DR. W. F. VAN VLECK. 73
CHAPTER X.—THE SPIRIT-RAPPING AND MEDIUM HUMBUGS.—THEIR ORIGIN.—HOW THE THING IS DONE.—$500 REWARD. 82
CHAPTER XI.—THE "BALLOT TEST."—THE OLD GENTLEMAN AND HIS "DISEASED" RELATIVES.—A "HUNGRY SPIRIT."—"PALMING" A BALLOT.—REVELATIONS ON STRIPS OF PAPER. 88
CHAPTER XII.—SPIRITUAL "LETTERS ON THE ARM."—HOW TO MAKE THEM YOURSELF.—THE TAMBOURINE AND RING FEATS.—DEXTER'S DANCING HATS.—PHOSPHORESCENT OIL.—SOME SPIRITUAL SLANG. 96
CHAPTER XIII.—DEMONSTRATIONS BY "SAMPSON" UNDER A TABLE.—A MEDIUM WHO IS HAPPY WITH HER FEET.—EXPOSE OF ANOTHER OPERATOR IN DARK CIRCLES. 102
CHAPTER XIV.—SPIRITUAL PHOTOGRAPHING.—COLORADO JEWETT AND THE SPIRIT PHOTOGRAPHS OF GENERAL JACKSON, HENRY CLAY, DANIEL WEBSTER, STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS, NAPOLEON BONAPARTE, ETC.—A LADY OF DISTINCTION SEEKS AND FINDS A SPIRITUAL PHOTOGRAPH OF HER DECEASED INFANT, AND HER DEAD BROTHER WHO WAS YET ALIVE.—HOW IT WAS DONE. 109
CHAPTER XV.—BANNER OF LIGHT.—MESSAGES FROM THE DEAD.—SPIRITUAL CIVILITIES.—SPIRIT "HOLLERING."—HANS VON VLEET, THE FEMALE DUTCHMAN.—MRS. CONANT'S "CIRCLES."—PAINE'S TABLE-TIPPING HUMBUG EXPOSED. 119
CHAPTER XVI.—SPIRITUALIST HUMBUGS WAKING UP.—FOSTER HEARD FROM.—S. B. BRITTAIN HEARD FROM.—THE BOSTON ARTISTS AND THEIR SPIRITUAL PORTRAITS.—THE WASHINGTON MEDIUM AND HIS SPIRITUAL HANDS.—THE DAVENPORT BROTHERS AND THE SEA-CAPTAIN'S WHEAT-FLOUR.—THE DAVENPORT BROTHERS ROUGHLY SHOWN UP BY JOHN BULL.—HOW A SHINGLE "STUMPED" THE SPIRITS. 130
CHAPTER XVII.—THE DAVENPORT BROTHERS SHOWN UP ONCE MORE.—THE SPIRITUALIST BOGUS BABY.—A LADY BRINGS FORTH A MOTIVE FORCE.—"GUM" ARABIC.—SPIRITUALIST HEBREW.—THE ALLEN BOY.—DR. RANDALL.—PORTLAND EVENING COURIER.—THE FOOLS NOT ALL DEAD YET. 145
III. TRADE AND BUSINESS IMPOSITIONS.
CHAPTER XVIII.—ADULTERATIONS OF FOOD.—ADULTERATIONS OF LIQUOR.—THE COLONEL'S WHISKEY.—THE HUMBUGOMETER. 152
CHAPTER XIX.—ADULTERATIONS IN DRINKS.—RIDING HOME ON YOUR WINE-BARREL.—LIST OF THINGS TO MAKE RUM.—THINGS TO COLOR IT WITH.—CANAL-BOAT HASH.—ENGLISH ADULTERATION LAW.—EFFECT OF DRUGS USED.—HOW TO USE THEM.—BUYING LIQUORS UNDER THE CUSTOM-HOUSE LOCK.—HOMOEOPATHIC DOSE. 160
CHAPTER XX.—THE PETER FUNKS AND THEIR FUNCTIONS.—THE RURAL DIVINE AND THE WATCH.—RISE AND PROGRESS OF MOCK AUCTIONS.—THEIR DECLINE AND FALL. 167
CHAPTER XXI.—LOTTERY SHARKS.—BOULT AND HIS BROTHERS.—KENNETH, KIMBALL & COMPANY.—A MORE CENTRAL LOCATION WANTED FOR BUSINESS.—TWO SEVENTEENTHLIES.—STRANGE COINCIDENCE. 175
CHAPTER XXII.—ANOTHER LOTTERY HUMBUG.—TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY RECIPES.—VILE BOOKS.—"ADVANTAGE-CARDS."—A PACKAGE FOR YOU; PLEASE SEND THE MONEY.—PEDDLING IN WESTERN NEW YORK. 182
CHAPTER XXIII.—A CALIFORNIA COAL MINE.—A HARTFORD COAL MINE.—MYSTERIOUS SUBTERRANEAN CANAL ON THE ISTHMUS. 189
IV. MONEY MANIAS.
CHAPTER XXIV.—THE PETROLEUM HUMBUG.—THE NEW YORK AND RANGOON PETROLEUM COMPANY. 195
CHAPTER XXV.—THE TULIPOMANIA. 204
CHAPTER XXVI.—JOHN BULL'S GREAT MONEY HUMBUG.—THE SOUTH SEA BUBBLE IN 1720. 213
CHAPTER XXVII.—BUSINESS HUMBUGS.—JOHN LAW.—THE MISSISSIPPI SCHEME.—JOHNNY CRAPAUD AS GREEDY AS JOHNNY BULL. 221
V. MEDICINE AND QUACKS.
CHAPTER XXVIII.—DOCTORS AND IMAGINATION.—FIRING A JOKE OUT OF A CANNON.—THE PARIS EYE WATER.—MAJENDIE ON MEDICAL KNOWLEDGE.—OLD SANDS OF LIFE. 232
CHAPTER XXIX.—THE CONSUMPTIVE REMEDY.—E. ANDREWS, M. D.—BORN WITHOUT BIRTHRIGHTS.—HASHEESH CANDY.—ROBACK THE GREAT.—A CONJUROR OPPOSED TO LYING. 237
CHAPTER XXX.—MONSIGNORE CRISTOFORO RISCHIO; OR IL CRESO, THE NOSTRUM-VENDER OF FLORENCE.—A MODEL FOR OUR QUACK DOCTORS. 242
CHAPTER XXXI.—THE TWENTY-SEVENTH STREET GHOST.—SPIRITS ON THE RAMPAGE. 251
CHAPTER XXXII.—THE MOON HOAX. 259
CHAPTER XXXIII.—THE MISCEGENATION HOAX.—A GREAT LITERARY SELL.—POLITICAL HUMBUGGING.—TRICKS OF THE WIRE-PULLERS.—MACHINERY EMPLOYED TO RENDER THE PAMPHLET NOTORIOUS.—WHO WERE SOLD AND HOW IT WAS DONE. 273
VII. GHOSTS AND WITCHCRAFTS.
CHAPTER XXXIV.—HAUNTED HOUSES.—A NIGHT SPENT ALONE WITH A GHOST.—KIRBY THE ACTOR.—COLT'S PISTOLS VERSUS HOBGOBLINS.—THE MYSTERY EXPLAINED. 284
CHAPTER XXXV.—HAUNTED HOUSES.—GHOSTS.—GHOULS.—PHANTOMS.— VAMPIRES.—CONJURORS.—DIVINING—GOBLINS.—FORTUNE-TELLING.— MAGIC.—WITCHES.—SORCERY.—OBI.—DREAMS.—SIGNS.—SPIRITUAL MEDIUMS.—FALSE PROPHETS.—DEMONOLOGY.—DEVILTRY GENERALLY. 293
CHAPTER XXXVI.—MAGICAL HUMBUGS.—VIRGIL.—A PICKLED SORCERER.— CORNELIUS AGRIPPA, HIS STUDENTS AND HIS BLACK DOG.—DOCTOR FAUSTUS.—HUMBUGGING HORSE-JOCKEYS.—ZIITO AND HIS LARGE SWALLOW.—DEVIL TAKE THE HINDERMOST. 300
CHAPTER XXXVII.—WITCHCRAFT.—NEW YORK WITCHES.—THE WITCH MANIA.—HOW FAST THEY BURNED THEM.—THE MODE OF TRIAL.—WITCHES TO-DAY IN EUROPE. 308
CHAPTER XXXVIII.—CHARMS AND INCANTATIONS.—HOW CATO CURED SPRAINS.—THE SECRET NAME OF GOD.—SECRET NAMES OF CITIES.—ABRACADABRA CURES FOR CRAMP.—MR. WRIGHT'S SIGIL.—WHISKERIFUSTICUS.—WITCHES' HORSES.—THEIR CURSES.—HOW TO RAISE THE DEVIL. 314
CHAPTER XXXIX.—THE PRINCESS CARIBOO. 323
CHAPTER XL.—COUNT CAGLIOSTRO, ALIAS JOSEPH BALSAMO, KNOWN ALSO AS "CURSED JOE." 330
CHAPTER XLI.—THE DIAMOND NECKLACE. 338
CHAPTER XLII.—THE COUNT DE ST. GERMAIN, SAGE, PROPHET, AND MAGICIAN. 354
CHAPTER XLIII.—RIZA BEY, THE PERSIAN ENVOY TO LOUIS XIV. 361
IX. RELIGIOUS HUMBUGS.
CHAPTER XLIV.—DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND.—MATTHIAS THE IMPOSTOR.—NEW YORK FOLLIES THIRTY YEARS AGO. 370
CHAPTER XLV.—A RELIGIOUS HUMBUG ON JOHN BULL.—JOANNA SOUTHCOTT.—THE SECOND SHILOH. 380
CHAPTER XLVI.—THE FIRST HUMBUG IN THE WORLD.—ADVANTAGES OF STUDYING THE IMPOSITIONS OF FORMER AGES.—HEATHEN HUMBUGS.—THE ANCIENT MYSTERIES.—THE CABIRI.—ELEUSIS.—ISIS. 386
CHAPTER XLVII.—HEATHEN HUMBUGS NO. 2.—HEATHEN STATED SERVICES.—ORACLES.—SIBYLS.—AUGURIES. 392
CHAPTER XLVIII.—MODERN HEATHEN HUMBUGS. 401
CHAPTER XLIX.—ORDEALS. 408
CHAPTER L.—APOLLONIUS OF TYANA. 415
HUMBUGS OF THE WORLD.
I. PERSONAL REMINISCENCES.
GENERAL VIEW OF THE SUBJECT.—HUMBUG UNIVERSAL.—IN RELIGION.—IN POLITICS.—IN BUSINESS.—IN SCIENCE.—IN MEDICINE.—HOW IS IT TO CEASE.—THE GREATEST HUMBUG OF ALL.
A little reflection will show that humbug is an astonishingly wide-spread phenomenon—in fact almost universal. And this is true, although we exclude crimes and arrant swindles from the definition of it, according to the somewhat careful explanation which is given in the beginning of the chapter succeeding this one.
I apprehend that there is no sort of object which men seek to attain, whether secular, moral or religious, in which humbug is not very often an instrumentality. Religion is and has ever been a chief chapter of human life. False religions are the only ones known to two thirds of the human race, even now, after nineteen centuries of Christianity; and false religions are perhaps the most monstrous, complicated and thorough-going specimens of humbug that can be found. And even within the pale of Christianity, how unbroken has been the succession of impostors, hypocrites and pretenders, male and female, of every possible variety of age, sex, doctrine and discipline!
Politics and government are certainly among the most important of practical human interests. Now it was a diplomatist—that is, a practical manager of one kind of government matters—who invented that wonderful phrase—a whole world full of humbug in half-a-dozen words—that "Language was given to us to conceal our thoughts." It was another diplomatist, who said "An ambassador is a gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country." But need I explain to my own beloved countrymen that there is humbug in politics? Does anybody go into a political campaign without it? are no exaggerations of our candidate's merits to be allowed? no depreciations of the other candidate? Shall we no longer prove that the success of the party opposed to us will overwhelm the land in ruin? Let me see. Leaving out the two elections of General Washington, eighteen times that very fact has been proved by the party that was beaten, and immediately we have not been ruined, notwithstanding that the dreadful fatal fellows on the other side got their hands on the offices and their fingers into the treasury.
Business is the ordinary means of living for nearly all of us. And in what business is there not humbug? "There's cheating in all trades but ours," is the prompt reply from the boot-maker with his brown paper soles, the grocer with his floury sugar and chicoried coffee, the butcher with his mysterious sausages and queer veal, the dry goods man with his "damaged goods wet at the great fire" and his "selling at a ruinous loss," the stock-broker with his brazen assurance that your company is bankrupt and your stock not worth a cent (if he wants to buy it,) the horse jockey with his black arts and spavined brutes, the milkman with his tin aquaria, the land agent with his nice new maps and beautiful descriptions of distant scenery, the newspaper man with his "immense circulation," the publisher with his "Great American Novel," the city auctioneer with his "Pictures by the Old Masters"—all and every one protest each his own innocence, and warn you against the deceits of the rest. My inexperienced friend, take it for granted that they all tell the truth—about each other! and then transact your business to the best of your ability on your own judgment. Never fear but that you will get experience enough, and that you will pay well for it too; and towards the time when you shall no longer need earthly goods, you will begin to know how to buy.
Literature is one of the most interesting and significant expressions of humanity. Yet books are thickly peppered with humbug. "Travellers' stories" have been the scoff of ages, from the "True Story" of witty old Lucian the Syrian down to the gorillarities—if I may coin a word—of the Frenchman Du Chaillu. Ireland's counterfeited Shakspeare plays, Chatterton's forged manuscripts, George Psalmanazar's forged Formosan language, Jo Smith's Mormon Bible, (it should be noted that this and the Koran sounded two strings of humbug together—the literary and the religious,) the more recent counterfeits of the notorious Greek Simonides—such literary humbugs as these are equal in presumption and in ingenuity too, to any of a merely business kind, though usually destitute of that sort of impiety which makes the great religious humbugs horrible as well as impudent.
Science is another important field of human effort. Science is the pursuit of pure truth, and the systematizing of it. In such an employment as that, one might reasonably hope to find all things done in honesty and sincerity. Not at all, my ardent and inquiring friends, there is a scientific humbug just as large as any other. We have all heard of the Moon Hoax. Do none of you remember the Hydrarchos Sillimannii, that awful Alabama snake? It was only a little while ago that a grave account appeared in a newspaper of a whole new business of compressing ice. Perpetual motion has been the dream of scientific visionaries, and a pretended but cheating realization of it has been exhibited by scamp after scamp. I understand that one is at this moment being invented over in Jersey City. I have purchased more than one "perpetual motion" myself. Many persons will remember Mr. Paine—"The Great Shot-at" as he was called, from his story that people were constantly trying to kill him—and his water-gas. There have been other water gases too, which were each going to show us how to set the North River on fire, but something or other has always broken down just at the wrong moment. Nobody seems to reflect, when these water gases come up, that if water could really be made to burn, the right conditions would surely have happened at some one of the thousands of city fires, and that the very stuff with which our stout firemen were extinguishing the flames, would have itself caught and exterminated the whole brave wet crowd!
Medicine is the means by which we poor feeble creatures try to keep from dying or aching. In a world so full of pain it would seem as if people could not be so foolish, or practitioners so knavish, as to sport with men's and women's and children's lives by their professional humbugs. Yet there are many grave M. D.'s who, if there is nobody to hear, and if they speak their minds, will tell you plainly that the whole practice of medicine is in one sense a humbug. One of its features is certainly a humbug, though so innocent and even useful that it seems difficult to think of any objection to it. This is the practice of giving a placebo; that is, a bread pill or a dose of colored water, to keep the patient's mind easy while imagination helps nature to perfect a cure. As for the quacks, patent medicines and universal remedies, I need only mention their names. Prince Hohenlohe, Valentine Greatrakes, John St. John Long, Doctor Graham and his wonderful bed, Mesmer and his tub, Perkins' metallic tractors—these are half a dozen. Modern history knows of hundreds of such.
It would almost seem as if human delusions became more unreasoning and abject in proportion as their subject is of greater importance. A machine, a story, an animal skeleton, are not so very important. But the humbugs which have prevailed about that wondrous machine, the human body, its ailments and its cures, about the unspeakable mystery of human life, and still more about the far greater and more awful mysteries of the life beyond the grave, and the endless happiness and misery believed to exist there, the humbugs about these have been infinitely more absurd, more shocking, more unreasonable, more inhuman, more destructive.
I can only allude to whole sciences (falsely so called) which are unmingled humbugs from beginning to end. Such was Alchemy, such was Magic, such was and still is Astrology, and above all, Fortune-telling.
But there is a more thorough humbug than any of these enterprises or systems. The greatest humbug of all is the man who believes—or pretends to believe—that everything and everybody are humbugs. We sometimes meet a person who professes that there is no virtue; that every man has his price, and every woman hers; that any statement from anybody is just as likely to be false as true, and that the only way to decide which, is to consider whether truth or a lie was likely to have paid best in that particular case. Religion he thinks one of the smartest business dodges extant, a firstrate investment, and by all odds the most respectable disguise that a lying or swindling business man can wear. Honor he thinks is a sham. Honesty he considers a plausible word to flourish in the eyes of the greener portion of our race, as you would hold out a cabbage leaf to coax a donkey. What people want, he thinks, or says he thinks, is something good to eat, something good to drink, fine clothes, luxury, laziness, wealth. If you can imagine a hog's mind in a man's body—sensual, greedy, selfish, cruel, cunning, sly, coarse, yet stupid, short-sighted, unreasoning, unable to comprehend anything except what concerns the flesh, you have your man. He thinks himself philosophic and practical, a man of the world; he thinks to show knowledge and wisdom, penetration, deep acquaintance with men and things. Poor fellow! he has exposed his own nakedness. Instead of showing that others are rotten inside, he has proved that he is. He claims that it is not safe to believe others—it is perfectly safe to disbelieve him. He claims that every man will get the better of you if possible—let him alone! Selfishness, he says, is the universal rule—leave nothing to depend on his generosity or honor; trust him just as far as you can sling an elephant by the tail. A bad world, he sneers, full of deceit and nastiness—it is his own foul breath that he smells; only a thoroughly corrupt heart could suggest such vile thoughts. He sees only what suits him, as a turkey-buzzard spies only carrion, though amid the loveliest landscape. I pronounce him who thus virtually slanders his father and dishonors his mother and defiles the sanctities of home and the glory of patriotism and the merchant's honor and the martyr's grave and the saint's crown—who does not even know that every sham shows that there is a reality, and that hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue—I pronounce him—no, I do not pronounce him a humbug, the word does not apply to him. He is a fool.
Looked at on one side, the history of humbug is truly humiliating to intellectual pride, yet the long silly story is less absurd during the later ages of history, and grows less and less so in proportion to the spread of real Christianity. This religion promotes good sense, actual knowledge, contentment with what we cannot help, and the exclusive use of intelligent means for increasing human happiness and decreasing human sorrow. And whenever the time shall come when men are kind and just and honest; when they only want what is fair and right, judge only on real and true evidence, and take nothing for granted, then there will be no place left for any humbugs, either harmless or hurtful.
DEFINITION OF THE WORD HUMBUG.—WARREN OF LONDON.—GENIN, THE HATTER.—GOSLING'S BLACKING.
Upon a careful consideration of my undertaking to give an account of the "Humbugs of the World," I find myself somewhat puzzled in regard to the true definition of that word. To be sure, Webster says that humbug, as a noun, is an "imposition under fair pretences;" and as a verb, it is "to deceive; to impose on." With all due deference to Doctor Webster, I submit that, according to present usage, this is not the only, nor even the generally accepted definition of that term.
We will suppose, for instance, that a man with "fair pretences" applies to a wholesale merchant for credit on a large bill of goods. His "fair pretences" comprehend an assertion that he is a moral and religious man, a member of the church, a man of wealth, etc., etc. It turns out that he is not worth a dollar, but is a base, lying wretch, an impostor and a cheat. He is arrested and imprisoned "for obtaining property under false pretences" or, as Webster says, "fair pretences." He is punished for his villainy. The public do not call him a "humbug;" they very properly term him a swindler.
A man, bearing the appearance of a gentleman in dress and manners, purchases property from you, and with "fair pretences" obtains your confidence. You find, when he has left, that he paid you with counterfeit bank-notes, or a forged draft. This man is justly called a "forger," or "counterfeiter;" and if arrested, he is punished as such; but nobody thinks of calling him a "humbug."
A respectable-looking man sits by your side in an omnibus or rail-car. He converses fluently, and is evidently a man of intelligence and reading. He attracts your attention by his "fair pretences." Arriving at your journey's end, you miss your watch and your pocket-book. Your fellow passenger proves to be the thief. Everybody calls him a "pickpocket," and not withstanding his "fair pretences," not a person in the community calls him a "humbug."
Two actors appear as stars at two rival theatres. They are equally talented, equally pleasing. One advertises himself simply as a tragedian, under his proper name—the other boasts that he is a prince, and wears decorations presented by all the potentates of the world, including the "King of the Cannibal Islands." He is correctly set down as a "humbug," while this term is never applied to the other actor. But if the man who boasts of having received a foreign title is a miserable actor, and he gets up gift-enterprises and bogus entertainments, or pretends to devote the proceeds of his tragic efforts to some charitable object, without, in fact, doing so—he is then a humbug in Dr. Webster's sense of that word, for he is an "impostor under fair pretences."
Two physicians reside in one of our fashionable avenues. They were both educated in the best medical colleges; each has passed an examination, received his diploma, and been dubbed an M. D. They are equally skilled in the healing art. One rides quietly about the city in his gig or brougham, visiting his patients without noise or clamor—the other sallies out in his coach and four, preceded by a band of music, and his carriage and horses are covered with handbills and placards, announcing his "wonderful cures." This man is properly called a quack and a humbug. Why? Not because he cheats or imposes upon the public, for he does not, but because, as generally understood, "humbug" consists in putting on glittering appearances—outside show—novel expedients, by which to suddenly arrest public attention, and attract the public eye and ear.
Clergymen, lawyers, or physicians, who should resort to such methods of attracting the public, would not, for obvious reasons, be apt to succeed. Bankers, insurance-agents, and others, who aspire to become the custodians of the money of their fellow-men, would require a different species of advertising from this; but there are various trades and occupations which need only notoriety to insure success, always provided that when customers are once attracted, they never fail to get their money's worth. An honest man who thus arrests public attention will be called a "humbug," but he is not a swindler or an impostor. If, however, after attracting crowds of customers by his unique displays, a man foolishly fails to give them a full equivalent for their money, they never patronize him a second time, but they very properly denounce him as a swindler, a cheat, an impostor; they do not, however, call him a "humbug." He fails, not because he advertises his wares in an outre manner, but because, after attracting crowds of patrons, he stupidly and wickedly cheats them.
When the great blacking-maker of London dispatched his agent to Egypt to write on the pyramids of Ghiza, in huge letters, "Buy Warren's Blacking, 30 Strand, London," he was not "cheating" travelers upon the Nile. His blacking was really a superior article, and well worth the price charged for it, but he was "humbugging" the public by this queer way of arresting attention. It turned out just as he anticipated, that English travelers in that part of Egypt were indignant at this desecration, and they wrote back to the London Times (every Englishman writes or threatens to "write to the Times," if anything goes wrong,) denouncing the "Goth" who had thus disfigured these ancient pyramids by writing on them in monstrous letters: "Buy Warren's Blacking, 30 Strand, London." The Times published these letters, and backed them up by several of those awful, grand and dictatorial editorials peculiar to the great "Thunderer," in which the blacking-maker, "Warren, 30 Strand," was stigmatized as a man who had no respect for the ancient patriarchs, and it was hinted that he would probably not hesitate to sell his blacking on the sarcophagus of Pharaoh, "or any other"—mummy, if he could only make money by it. In fact, to cap the climax, Warren was denounced as a "humbug." These indignant articles were copied into all the Provincial journals, and very soon, in this manner, the columns of every newspaper in Great Britain were teeming with this advice: "Try Warren's Blacking, 30 Strand, London." The curiosity of the public was thus aroused, and they did "try" it, and finding it a superior article, they continued to purchase it and recommend it to their friends, and Warren made a fortune by it. He always attributed his success to his having "humbugged" the public by this unique method of advertising his blacking in Egypt! But Warren did not cheat his customers, nor practice "an imposition under fair pretences." He was a humbug, but he was an honest upright man, and no one called him an impostor or a cheat.
When the tickets for Jenny Lind's first concert in America were sold at auction, several business-men, aspiring to notoriety, "bid high" for the first ticket. It was finally knocked down to "Genin, the hatter," for $225. The journals in Portland (Maine) and Houston (Texas,) and all other journals throughout the United States, between these two cities, which were connected with the telegraph, announced the fact in their columns the next morning. Probably two millions of readers read the announcement, and asked, "Who is Genin, the hatter?" Genin became famous in a day. Every man involuntarily examined his hat, to see if it was made by Genin; and an Iowa editor declared that one of his neighbors discovered the name of Genin in his old hat and immediately announced the fact to his neighbors in front of the Post Office. It was suggested that the old hat should be sold at auction. It was done then and there, and the Genin hat sold for fourteen dollars! Gentlemen from city and country rushed to Genin's store to buy their hats, many of them willing to pay even an extra dollar, if necessary, provided they could get a glimpse of Genin himself. This singular freak put thousands of dollars into the pocket of "Genin, the hatter," and yet I never heard it charged that he made poor hats, or that he would be guilty of an "imposition under fair pretences." On the contrary, he is a gentleman of probity, and of the first respectability.
When the laying of the Atlantic Telegraph was nearly completed, I was in Liverpool. I offered the company one thousand pounds sterling ($5,000) for the privilege of sending the first twenty words over the cable to my Museum in New York—not that there was any intrinsic merit in the words, but that I fancied there was more than $5,000 worth of notoriety in the operation. But Queen Victoria and "Old Buck" were ahead of me. Their messages had the preference, and I was compelled to "take a back seat."
By thus illustrating what I believe the public will concede to be the sense in which the word "humbug" is generally used and understood at the present time, in this country as well as in England, I do not propose that my letters on this subject shall be narrowed down to that definition of the word. On the contrary, I expect to treat of various fallacies, delusions, and deceptions in ancient and modern times, which, according to Webster's definition, may be called "humbugs," inasmuch as they were "impositions under fair pretences."
In writing of modern humbugs, however, I shall sometimes have occasion to give the names of honest and respectable parties now living, and I felt it but just that the public should fully comprehend my doctrine, that a man may, by common usage, be termed a "humbug," without by any means impeaching his integrity.
Speaking of "blacking-makers," reminds me that one of the first sensationists in advertising whom I remember to have seen, was Mr. Leonard Gosling, known as "Monsieur Gosling, the great French blacking-maker." He appeared in New York in 1830. He flashed like a meteor across the horizon; and before he had been in the city three months, nearly everybody had heard of "Gosling's Blacking." I well remember his magnificent "four in hand." A splendid team of blood bays, with long black tails, was managed with such dexterity by Gosling himself, who was a great "whip," that they almost seemed to fly. The carriage was emblazoned with the words "Gosling's Blacking," in large gold letters, and the whole turnout was so elaborately ornamented and bedizened that everybody stopped and gazed with wondering admiration. A bugle-player or a band of music always accompanied the great Gosling, and, of course, helped to attract the public attention to his establishment. At the turning of every street-corner your eyes rested upon "Gosling's Blacking." From every show-window gilded placards discoursed eloquently of the merits of "Gosling's Blacking." The newspapers teemed with poems written in its praise, and showers of pictorial handbills, illustrated almanacs, and tinseled souvenirs, all lauding the virtues of "Gosling's Blacking," smothered you at every point.
The celebrated originator of delineations, "Jim Crow Rice," made his first appearance at Hamblin's Bowery Theatre at about this time. The crowds which thronged there were so great that hundreds from the audience were frequently admitted upon the stage. In one of his scenes, Rice introduced a negro boot-blacking establishment. Gosling was too "wide awake" to let such an opportunity pass unimproved, and Rice was paid for singing an original black Gosling ditty, while a score of placards bearing the inscription, "Use Gosling's Blacking," were suspended at different points in this negro boot polishing hall. Everybody tried "Gosling's Blacking;" and as it was a really good article, his sales in city and country soon became immense; Gosling made a fortune in seven years, and retired but, as with thousands before him, it was "easy come easy go." He engaged in a lead-mining speculation, and it was generally understood that his fortune was, in a great measure, lost as rapidly as it was made.
Here let me digress, in order to observe that one of the most difficult things in life is for men to bear discreetly sudden prosperity. Unless considerable time and labor are devoted to earning money, it is not appreciated by its possessor; and, having no practical knowledge of the value of money, he generally gets rid of it with the same ease that marked its accumulation. Mr. Astor gave the experience of thousands when he said that he found more difficulty in earning and saving his first thousand dollars than in accumulating all the subsequent millions which finally made up his fortune. The very economy, perseverance, and discipline which he was obliged to practice, as he gained his money dollar by dollar, gave him a just appreciation of its value, and thus led him into those habits of industry, prudence, temperance, and untiring diligence so conducive and necessary to his future success.
Mr. Gosling, however, was not a man to be put down by a single financial reverse. He opened a store in Canajoharie, N. Y., which was burned, and on which there was no insurance. He came again to New York in 1839, and established a restaurant, where, by devoting the services of himself and several members of his family assiduously to the business, he soon reveled in his former prosperity, and snapped his fingers in glee at what unreflecting persons term "the freaks of Dame Fortune." He is still living in New York, hale and hearty at the age of seventy. Although called a "French" blacking-maker, Mr. Gosling is in reality a Dutchman, having been born in the city of Amsterdam, Holland. He is the father of twenty-four children, twelve of whom are still living, to cheer him in his declining years, and to repay him in grateful attentions for the valuable lessons of prudence, integrity, and industry through the adoption of which they are honored as respectable and worthy members of society.
I cannot however permit this chapter to close without recording a protest in principle against that method of advertising of which Warren's on the Pyramid is an instance. Not that it is a crime or even an immorality in the usual sense of the words; but it is a violent offence against good taste, and a selfish and inexcusable destruction of other people's enjoyments. No man ought to advertise in the midst of landscapes or scenery, in such a way as to destroy or injure their beauty by introducing totally incongruous and relatively vulgar associations. Too many transactions of the sort have been perpetrated in our own country. The principle on which the thing is done is, to seek out the most attractive spot possible—the wildest, the most lovely, and there, in the most staring and brazen manner to paint up advertisements of quack medicines, rum, or as the case may be, in letters of monstrous size, in the most obtrusive colors, in such a prominent place, and in such a lasting way as to destroy the beauty of the scene both thoroughly and permanently.
Any man with a beautiful wife or daughter would probably feel disagreeably, if he should find branded indelibly across her smooth white forehead, or on her snowy shoulder in blue and red letters such a phrase as this: "Try the Jigamaree Bitters!" Very much like this is the sort of advertising I am speaking of. It is not likely that I shall be charged with squeamishness on this question. I can readily enough see the selfishness and vulgarity of this particular sort of advertising, however.
It is outrageously selfish to destroy the pleasure of thousands, for the sake of a chance of additional gain. And it is an atrocious piece of vulgarity to flaunt the names of quack nostrums, and of the coarse stimulants of sots, among the beautiful scenes of nature. The pleasure of such places depends upon their freedom from the associations of every day concerns and troubles and weaknesses. A lovely nook of forest scenery, or a grand rock, like a beautiful woman, depends for much of its attractiveness upon the attendant sense of freedom from whatever is low; upon a sense of purity and of romance. And it is about as nauseous to find "Bitters" or "Worm Syrup" daubed upon the landscape, as it would be upon the lady's brow.
Since writing this I observe that two legislatures—those of New Hampshire and New York—have passed laws to prevent this dirty misdemeanor. It is greatly to their credit, and it is in good season. For it is matter of wonder that some more colossal vulgarian has not stuck up a sign a mile long on the Palisades. But it is matter of thankfulness too. At the White Mountains, many grand and beautiful views have been spoiled by these nostrum and bedbug souled fellows.
It is worth noticing that the chief haunts of the city of New York, the Central Park, has thus far remained unviolated by the dirty hands of these vulgar advertisers. Without knowing anything about it, I have no doubt whatever that the commissioners have been approached often by parties desiring the privilege of advertising within its limits. Among the advertising fraternity it would be thought a gigantic opportunity to be able to flaunt the name of some bug-poison, fly-killer, bowel-rectifier, or disguised rum, along the walls of the Reservoir; upon the delicate stone-work of the Terrace, or the graceful lines of the Bow Bridge; to nail up a tin sign on every other tree, to stick one up right in front of every seat; to keep a gang of young wretches thrusting pamphlet or handbill into every person's palm that enters the gate, to paint a vulgar sign across every gray rock; to cut quack words in ditch-work in the smooth green turf of the mall or ball-ground. I have no doubt that it is the peremptory decision and clear good taste of the Commissioners alone, which have kept this last retreat of nature within our crowded city from being long ago plastered and daubed with placards, handbills, sign-boards and paint, from side to side and from end to end, over turf, tree, rock, wall, bridge, archway, building and all.
MONSIEUR MANGIN, THE FRENCH HUMBUG.
One of the most original, unique, and successful humbugs of the present day was the late Monsieur Mangin, the blacklead pencil maker of Paris. Few persons who have visited the French capital within the last ten or twelve years can have failed to have seen him, and once seen he was not to be forgotten. While passing through the public streets, there was nothing in his personal appearance to distinguish him from any ordinary gentlemen. He drove a pair of bay horses, attached to an open carriage with two seats, the back one always occupied by his valet. Sometimes he would take up his stand in the Champs Elysees; at other times, near the column in the Place Vendome; but usually he was seen in the afternoon in the Place de la Bastille, or the Place de la Madeleine. On Sundays, his favorite locality was the Place de la Bourse. Mangin was a well-formed, stately-looking individual, with a most self-satisfied countenance, which seemed to say: "I am master here; and all that my auditors have to do is, to listen and obey." Arriving at his destined stopping-place, his carriage halted. His servant handed him a case from which he took several large portraits of himself, which he hung prominently upon the sides of his carriage, and also placed in front of him a vase filled with medals bearing his likeness on one side and a description of his pencils on the other. He then leisurely commenced a change of costume. His round hat was displaced by a magnificent burnished helmet, mounted with rich plumes of various brilliant colors. His overcoat was laid aside, and he donned in its stead a costly velvet tunic with gold fringes. He then drew a pair of polished steel gauntlets upon his hands, covered his breast with a brilliant cuirass, and placed a richly-mounted sword at his side. His servant watched him closely, and upon receiving a sign from his master, he too put on his official costume, which consisted of a velvet robe and a helmet. The servant then struck up a tune on the richly-toned organ which always formed a part of Mangin's outfit. The grotesque appearance of these individuals, and the music, soon drew together an admiring crowd.
Then the great charlatan stood upon his feet. His manner was calm, dignified, imposing, indeed almost solemn, for his face was as serious as that of the chief mourner at a funeral. His sharp, intelligent eye scrutinized the throng which was pressing around his carriage, until it rested apparently upon some particular individual, when he gave a start; then, with a dark, angry expression, as if the sight was repulsive, he abruptly dropped the visor of his helmet and thus covered his face from the gaze of the anxious crowd. This bit of coquetry produced the desired effect in whetting the appetite of the multitude, who were impatiently waiting to hear him speak. When he had carried this kind of by-play as far as he thought the audience would bear it, he raised his hand, and his servant understanding the sign, stopped the organ. Mangin then rang a small bell, stepped forward to the front of the carriage, gave a slight cough indicative of a preparation to speak, opened his mouth, but instantly giving a more fearful start and assuming a more sudden frown than before, he took his seat as if quite overcome by some unpleasant object which his eyes had rested upon. Thus far he had not spoken a word. At last the prelude ended, and the comedy commenced. Stepping forward again to the front of his carriage where all the gaping crowd could catch every word, he exclaimed:
"Gentlemen, you look astonished! You seem to wonder and ask yourselves who is this modern Quixote. What mean this costume of by-gone centuries—this golden chariot—these richly caparisoned steeds? What is the name and purpose of this curious knight-errant? Gentlemen, I will condescend to answer your queries. I am Monsieur Mangin, the great charlatan of France! Yes, gentlemen, I am a charlatan—a mountebank; it is my profession, not from choice, but from necessity. You, gentlemen, created that necessity! You would not patronize true, unpretending, honest merit, but you are attracted by my glittering casque, my sweeping crest, my waving plumes. You are captivated by din and glitter, and therein lies my strength. Years ago, I hired a modest shop in the Rue Rivoli, but I could not sell pencils enough to pay my rent, whereas, by assuming this disguise—it is nothing else—I have succeeded in attracting general attention, and in selling literally millions of my pencils; and I assure you there is at this moment scarcely an artist in France or in Great Britain who don't know that I manufacture by far the best blacklead pencils ever seen."
And this assertion was indeed true. His pencils were everywhere acknowledged to be superior to any other.
While he was thus addressing his audience, he would take a blank card, and with one of his pencils would pretend to be drawing the portrait of some man standing near him; then showing his picture to the crowd, it proved to be the head of a donkey, which, of course, produced roars of laughter.
"There, do you see what wonderful pencils these are? Did you ever behold a more striking likeness?"
A hearty laugh would be sure to follow, and then he would exclaim: "Now who will have the first pencil—only five sous." One would buy, and then another; a third and a fourth would follow; and with the delivery of each pencil he would rattle off a string of witticisms which kept his patrons in capital good-humor; and frequently he would sell from two hundred to five hundred pencils in immediate succession. Then he would drop down in his carriage for a few minutes and wipe the perspiration from his face, while his servant played another overture on the organ. This gave his purchasers a chance to withdraw, and afforded a good opportunity for a fresh audience to congregate. Then would follow a repetition of his previous sales, and in this way he would continue for hours. To those disposed to have a souvenir of the great humbug he would sell six pencils, a medal and a photograph of himself for a franc (twenty cents.) After taking a rest he would commence a new speech.
"When I was modestly dressed, like any of my hearers, I was half starved. Punch and his bells would attract crowds, but my good pencils attracted nobody. I imitated Punch and his bells, and now I have two hundred depots in Paris. I dine at the best cafes, drink the best wine, live on the best of everything, while my defamers get poor and lank, as they deserve to be. Who are my defamers? Envious swindlers! Men who try to ape me, but are too stupid and too dishonest to succeed. They endeavor to attract notice as mountebanks, and then foist upon the public worthless trash, and hope thus to succeed. Ah! defamers of mine, you are fools as well as knaves. Fools, to think that any man can succeed by systematically and persistently cheating the public. Knaves, for desiring the public's money without giving them an equivalent. I am an honest man. I have no bad habits; and I now declare, if any trader, inventor, manufacturer, or philanthropist will show me better pencils than mine, I will give him 1,000f.—no, not to him, for I abhor betting—but to the poor of the Thirty-first Arrondissement, where I live."
Mangin's harangues were always accompanied by a peculiar play of feature and of voice, and with unique and original gestures, which seemed to excite and captivate his audience.
About seven years ago, I met him in one of the principal restaurants in the Palais Royale. A mutual friend introduced me.
"Ah!" said he, "Monsieur Barnum, I am delighted to see you. I have read your book with infinite satisfaction. It has been published here in numerous editions. I see you have the right idea of things. Your motto is a good one—'we study to please.' I have much wanted to visit America; but I cannot speak English, so I must remain in my dear belle France."
I remarked that I had often seen him in public, and bought his pencils.
"Aha! you never saw better pencils. You know I could never maintain my reputation if I sold poor pencils. But sacre bleu, my miserable would-be imitators do not know our grand secret. First, attract the public by din and tinsel, by brilliant sky-rockets and Bengola lights, then give them as much as possible for their money."
"You are very happy," I replied, "in your manner of attracting the public. Your costume is elegant, your chariot is superb, and your valet and music are sure to draw."
"Thank you for your compliment, Mr. B., but I have not forgotten your Buffalo-hunt, your Mermaid, nor your Woolly Horse. They were a good offset to my rich helmet and sword, my burnished gauntlets and gaudy cuirass. Both are intended as advertisements of something genuine, and both answer the purpose."
After comparing notes in this way for an hour, we parted, and his last words were:
"Mr. B., I have got a grand humbug in my head, which I shall put in practice within a year, and it shall double the sale of my pencils. Don't ask me what it is, but within one year you shall see it for yourself, and you shall acknowledge Monsieur Mangin knows something of human nature. My idea is magnifique, but it is one grand secret."
I confess my curiosity was somewhat excited, and I hoped that Monsieur Mangin would "add another wrinkle to my horns." But, poor fellow! within four months after I bade him adieu, the Paris newspapers announced his sudden death. They added that he had left two hundred thousand francs, which he had given in his will to charitable objects. The announcement was copied into nearly all the papers on the Continent and in Great Britain, for almost everybody had seen or heard of the eccentric pencil maker.
His death caused many an honest sigh, and his absence seemed to cast a gloom over several of his favorite halting-places. The Parisians really loved him, and were proud of his genius.
"Well," people in Paris would remark, "Mangin was a clever fellow. He was shrewd, and possessed a thorough knowledge of the world. He was a gentleman and a man of intelligence, extremely agreeable and witty. His habits were good; he was charitable. He never cheated anybody. He always sold a good article, and no person who purchased from him had cause to complain."
I confess I felt somewhat chagrined that the Monsieur had thus suddenly taken "French leave" without imparting to me the "grand secret" by which he was to double the sales of his pencils. But I had not long to mourn on that account; for after Monsieur Mangin had been for six months—as they say of John Brown—"mouldering in his grave" judge of the astonishment and delight of all Paris at his reappearance in his native city in precisely the same costume and carriage as formerly, and heralded by the same servant and organ that had always attended him. It now turned out that Monsieur Mangin had lived in the most rigid seclusion for half a year, and that the extensively-circulated announcements of his sudden death had been made by himself, merely as an "advertising dodge" to bring him still more into notice, and give the public something to talk about. I met Mangin in Paris soon after this event.
"Aha, Monsieur Barnum!" he exclaimed, "did I not tell you I had a new humbug that would double the sales of my pencils? I assure you my sales are more than quadrupled, and it is sometimes impossible to have them manufactured fast enough to supply the demand. You Yankees are very clever, but by gar, none of you have discovered you should live all the better if you would die for six months. It took Mangin to teach you that."
The patronizing air with which he made this speech, slapping me at the same time familiarly upon the back, showed him in his true character of egotist. Although good-natured and social to a degree, he was really one of the most self-conceited men I ever met.
Monsieur Mangin died the present year, and it is said that his heirs received more than half a million of francs as the fruit of his eccentric labors.
OLD GRIZZLY ADAMS.[37-*]
James C. Adams, or "Grizzly Adams," as he was generally termed, from the fact of his having captured so many grizzly bears, and encountered such fearful perils by his unexampled daring, was an extraordinary character. For many years a hunter and trapper in the Rocky and Sierra Nevada Mountains, he acquired a recklessness which, added to his natural invincible courage, rendered him truly one of the most striking men of the age. He was emphatically what the English call a man of "pluck." In 1860, he arrived in New York with his famous collection of California animals, captured by himself, consisting of twenty or thirty immense grizzly bears, at the head of which stood "Old Sampson"—now in the American Museum—wolves, half a dozen other species of bear, California lions, tigers, buffalo, elk, etc., and Old Neptune, the great sea-lion, from the Pacific.
Old Adams had trained all these monsters so that with him they were as docile as kittens, while many of the most ferocious among them would attack a stranger without hesitation, if he came within their grasp. In fact, the training of these animals was no fool's play, as Old Adams learned to his cost; for the terrific blows which he received from time to time, while teaching them "docility," finally cost him his life.
When Adams and his other wild beasts (for he was nearly as wild as any of them) arrived in New York, he called immediately at the Museum. He was dressed in his hunter's suit of buckskin, trimmed with the skins and bordered with the hanging tails of small Rocky Mountain animals; his cap consisting of the skin of a wolf's head and shoulders, from which depended several tails as natural as life, and under which appeared his stiff bushy gray hair and his long white grizzly beard. In fact, Old Adams was quite as much of a show as his bears. They had come around Cape Horn on the clipper-ship Golden Fleece, and a sea-voyage of three and a half months had probably not added much to the beauty or neat appearance of the old bear-hunter.
During our conversation, Grizzly Adams took off his cap, and showed me the top of his head. His skull was literally broken in. It had on various occasions been struck by the fearful paws of his grizzly students; and the last blow, from the bear called "General Fremont," had laid open his brain, so that its workings were plainly visible. I remarked that I thought that was a dangerous wound, and might possibly prove fatal.
"Yes," replied Adams, "that will fix me out. It had nearly healed; but old Fremont opened it for me, for the third or fourth time, before I left California, and he did his business so thoroughly, I'm a used-up man. However, I reckon I may live six months or a year yet."
This was spoken as coolly as if he had been talking about the life of a dog.
The immediate object of "Old Adams" in calling upon me was this. I had purchased one-half interest in his California menagerie from a man who had come by way of the Isthmus from California, and who claimed to own an equal interest with Adams in the show. Adams declared that the man had only advanced him some money, and did not possess the right to sell half of the concern. However, the man held a bill of sale for one-half of the "California Menagerie," and Old Adams finally consented to accept me as an equal partner in the speculation, saying that he guessed I could do the managing part, and he would show up the animals. I obtained a canvas tent, and erecting it on the present site of Wallack's Theatre, Adams there opened his novel California Menagerie. On the morning of opening, a band of music preceded a procession of animal-cages, down Broadway and up the Bowery; Old Adams dressed in his hunting costume, heading the line, with a platform-wagon on which were placed three immense grizzly bears, two of which he held by chains, while he was mounted on the back of the largest grizzly, which stood in the centre, and was not secured in any manner whatever. This was the bear known as "General Fremont;" and so docile had he become that Adams said he had used him as a packbear to carry his cooking and hunting apparatus through the mountains for six months, and had ridden him hundreds of miles. But apparently docile as were many of these animals, there was not one among them that would not occasionally give even Adams a sly blow or a sly bite when a good chance offered; hence Old Adams was but a wreck of his former self, and expressed pretty nearly the truth when he said:
"Mr. Barnum, I am not the man I was five years ago. Then I felt able to stand the hug of any grizzly living, and was always glad to encounter, single-handed, any sort of an animal that dared present himself. But I have been beaten to a jelly, torn almost limb from limb, and nearly chawed up and spit out by these treacherous grizzly bears. However, I am good for a few months yet, and by that time I hope we shall gain enough to make my old woman comfortable, for I have been absent from her some years."
His wife came from Massachusetts to New York, and nursed him. Dr. Johns dressed his wounds every day, and not only told Adams he could never recover, but assured his friends that probably a very few weeks would lay him in his grave.
But Adams was as firm as adamant and as resolute as a lion. Among the thousands who saw him dressed in his grotesque hunter's suit, and witnessed the apparent vigor with which he "performed" the savage monsters, beating and whipping them into apparently the most perfect docility, probably not one suspected that this rough, fierce-looking, powerful demi-savage, as he appeared to be, was suffering intense pain from his broken skull and fevered system, and that nothing kept him from stretching himself on his deathbed but that most indomitable and extraordinary will of his.
After the exhibition had been open six weeks, the Doctor insisted that Adams should sell out his share in the animals and settle up all his worldly affairs; for he assured him that he was growing weaker every day, and his earthly existence must soon terminate.
"I shall live a good deal longer than you doctors think for," replied Adams, doggedly; and then, seeming after all to realize the truth of the Doctor's assertion, he turned to me and said: "Well, Mr. B., you must buy me out." He named his price for his half of the "show," and I accepted his offer. We had arranged to exhibit the bears in Connecticut and Massachusetts during the summer, in connection with a circus, and Adams insisted that I should hire him to travel for the summer, and exhibit the bears in their curious performances. He offered to go for $60 per week and traveling expenses of himself and wife.
I replied that I would gladly engage him as long as he could stand it, but I advised him to give up business and go to his home in Massachusetts; "for," I remarked, "you are growing weaker every day, and at best cannot stand it more than a fortnight."
"What will you give me extra if I will travel and exhibit the bears every day for ten weeks?" asked old Adams, eagerly.
"Five hundred dollars," I replied, with a laugh.
"Done!" exclaimed Adams. "I will do it; so draw up an agreement to that effect at once. But mind you, draw it payable to my wife, for I may be too weak to attend to business after the ten weeks are up, and if I perform my part of the contract, I want her to get the $500 without any trouble."
I drew up a contract to pay him $60 per week for his services, and if he continued to exhibit the bears for ten consecutive weeks I was then to hand him, or his wife $500 extra.
"You have lost your $500!" exclaimed Adams on taking the contract; "for I am bound to live and earn it."
"I hope you may, with all my heart, and a hundred years more if you desire it," I replied.
"Call me a fool if I don't earn the $500!" exclaimed Adams, with a triumphant laugh.
The "show" started off in a few days, and at the end of a fortnight I met it at Hartford, Connecticut.
"Well," says I, "Adams, you seem to stand it pretty well. I hope you and your wife are comfortable?"
"Yes," he replied, with a laugh; "and you may as well try to be comfortable too, for your $500 is a goner."
"All right," I replied; "I hope you will grow better every day."
But I saw by his pale face, and other indications, that he was rapidly failing.
In three weeks more, I met him again at New Bedford, Mass. It seemed to me, then, that he could not live a week, for his eyes were glassy and his hands trembled, but his pluck was great as ever.
"This hot weather is pretty bad for me," he said, "but my ten weeks are half expired, and I am good for your $500, and, probably, a month or two longer."
This was said with as much bravado as if he was offering to bet upon a horse-race. I offered to pay him half of the $500 if he would give up and go home; but he peremptorily declined making any compromise whatever.
I met him the ninth week in Boston. He had failed considerably since I last saw him, but he still continued to exhibit the bears and chuckled over his almost certain triumph. I laughed in return, and sincerely congratulated him on his nerve and probable success. I remained with him until the tenth week was finished, and handed him his $500. He took it with a leer of satisfaction, and remarked, that he was sorry I was a teetotaller, for he would like to stand treat!
Just before the menagerie left New York, I had paid $150 for a new hunting-suit, made of beaver-skins similar to the one which Adams had worn. This I intended for Herr Driesbach, the animal-tamer, who was engaged by me to take the place of Adams whenever he should be compelled to give up.
Adams, on starting from New York, asked me to loan this new dress to him to perform in once in a while in a fair day when we had a large audience, for his own costume was considerably soiled. I did so, and now when I handed him his $500 he remarked:
"Mr. B., I suppose you are going to give me this new hunting-dress."
"Oh no," I replied. "I got that for your successor, who will exhibit the bears to-morrow; besides, you have no possible use for it."
"Now, don't be mean, but lend me the dress, if you won't give it to me, for I want to wear it home to my native village."
I could not refuse the poor old man anything, and I therefore replied:
"Well, Adams, I will lend you the dress; but you will send it back to me."
"Yes, when I have done with it," he replied, with an evident chuckle of triumph.
I thought to myself, he will soon be done with it, and replied:
"That's all right."
A new idea evidently seized him, for, with a brightening look of satisfaction, he said:
"Now, Barnum, you have made a good thing out of the California menagerie, and so have I; but you will make a heap more. So, if you won't give me this new hunter's dress, just draw a little writing, and sign it, saying that I may wear it until I have done with it."
Of course, I knew that in a few days at longest he would be "done" with this world altogether, and, to gratify him, I cheerfully drew and signed the paper.
"Come, old Yankee, I've got you this time—see if I hain't!" exclaimed Adams, with a broad grin, as he took the paper.
I smiled, and said:
"All right, my dear fellow; the longer you live, the better I shall like it."
We parted, and he went to Neponset, a small town near Boston, where his wife and daughter lived. He took at once to his bed, and never rose from it again. The excitement had passed away, and his vital energies could accomplish no more.
The fifth day after arriving home, the physician told him he could not live until the next morning. He received the announcement in perfect calmness, and with the most apparent indifference; then, turning to his wife, with a smile, he requested her to have him buried in the new hunting suit.
"For," said he, "Barnum agreed to let me have it until I have done with it, and I was determined to fix his flint this time. He shall never see that dress again."
His wife assured him that his request should be complied with. He then sent for the clergyman, and they spent several hours in communing together.
Adams told the clergyman he had told some pretty big stories about his bears, but he had always endeavored to do the straight thing between man and man. "I have attended preaching every day, Sundays and all," said he, "for the last six years. Sometimes an old grizzly gave me the sermon, sometimes it was a panther; often it was the thunder and lightning, the tempest, or the hurricane on the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, or in the gorges of the Rocky Mountains; but whatever preached to me, it always taught me the majesty of the Creator, and revealed to me the undying and unchanging love of our kind Father in heaven. Although I am a pretty rough customer," continued the dying man, "I fancy my heart is in about the right place, and look with confidence to the blessed Saviour for that rest which I so much need, and which I have never enjoyed upon earth." He then desired the clergyman to pray with him, after which he grasped him by the hand, thanked him for his kindness, and bade him farewell.
In another hour his spirit had taken its flight; and it was said by those present that his face lighted up into a smile as the last breath escaped him, and that smile he carried into his grave. Almost his last words were: "Won't Barnum open his eyes when he finds I have humbugged him by being buried in his new hunting-dress?" That dress was indeed the shroud in which he was entombed.
And that was the last on earth of "Old Grizzly Adams."
[37-*] Although the subject of the following sketch can hardly be classed under the head of "Humbugs," he was an original genius, and a knowledge of some of his prominent traits seems appropriate in connection with one or two other passages of this book.
THE GOLDEN PIGEONS.—GRIZZLY ADAMS.—GERMAN CHEMIST.—HAPPY FAMILY.—FRENCH NATURALIST.
"Old Grizzly Adams" was quite candid when, in his last hours, he confessed to the clergyman that he had "told some pretty large stories about his bears." In fact, these "large stories" were Adam's "besetting sin." To hear him talk, one would suppose that he had seen and handled everything ever read or heard of. In fact, according to his story, California contained specimens of all things, animate and inanimate, to be found in any part of the globe. He talked glibly about California lions, California tigers, California leopards, California hyenas, California camels, and California hippopotami. He furthermore declared he had, on one occasion, seen a California elephant, "at a great distance," but it was "very shy," and he would not permit himself to doubt that California giraffes existed somewhere in the neighborhood of the "tall trees."
I was anxious to get a chance of exposing to Adams his weak point, and of showing him the absurdity of telling such ridiculous stories. A fit occasion soon presented itself. One day, while engaged in my office at the Museum, a man with marked Teutonic features and accent approached the door and asked if I would like to buy a pair of living golden pigeons.
"Yes," I replied, "I would like a flock of 'golden pigeons,' if I could buy them for their weight in silver; for there are no 'golden' pigeons in existence, unless they are made from the pure metal."
"You shall see some golden pigeons alive," he replied, at the same time entering my office and closing the door after him. He then removed the lid from a small basket which he carried in his hand, and sure enough there were snugly ensconced a pair of beautiful living ruff-necked pigeons, as yellow as saffron and as bright as a double eagle fresh from the mint.
I confess I was somewhat staggered at this sight, and quickly asked the man where those birds came from.
A dull, lazy smile crawled over the sober face of my German visitor, as he replied in a slow, guttural tone of voice:
"What you think yourself?"
Catching his meaning, I quickly answered:
"I think it is a humbug?"
"Of course, I know you will say so; because you 'forstha' such things better as any man living, so I shall not try to humbug you. I have color them myself."
On further inquiry, I learned that this German was a chemist, and that he possessed the art of coloring birds any hue desired, and yet retain a natural gloss on the feathers, which gave every shade the appearance of reality.
"I can paint a green pigeon or a blue pigeon, a gray pigeon or a black pigeon, a brown pigeon or a pigeon half blue and half green," said the German; "and if you prefer it, I can paint them pink or purple, or give you a little of each color, and make you a rainbow pigeon."
The "rainbow pigeon" did not strike me as particularly desirable; but, thinking here was a good chance to catch "Grizzly Adams," I bought the pair of golden pigeons for ten dollars, and sent them up to the "Happy Family," marked "Golden Pigeons from California." Mr. Taylor the great pacificator, who has charge of the Happy Family, soon came down in a state of perspiration.
"Really, Mr. Barnum," said he, "I could not think of putting those elegant golden pigeons into the Happy Family—they are too valuable a bird—they might get injured—they are by far the most beautiful pigeons I ever saw; and as they are so rare, I would not jeopardize their lives for anything."
"Well," I replied, "you may put them in a separate cage, properly labeled."
Monsieur Guillaudeu, the naturalist and taxidermist of the Museum, has been attached to that establishment since the year it was founded, 1810. He is a Frenchman, and has read everything upon Natural History that was ever published in his own or in the English language. He is now seventy-five years old, but is lively as a cricket, and takes as much interest in Natural History as he ever did. When he saw the "golden pigeons from California," he was considerably astonished! He examined them with great delight for half an hour, expatiating upon their beautiful color, and the near resemblance which every feature bore to the American ruff-neck pigeon. He soon came to my office and said:
"Mr. B., these golden pigeons are superb, but they cannot be from California. Audubon mentions no such bird in his work upon American Ornithology."
I told him he had better take Audubon home with him that night, and perhaps by studying him attentively he would see occasion to change his mind.
The next day, the old naturalist called at my office and remarked:
"Mr. B., those pigeons are a more rare bird than you imagine. They are not mentioned by Linnaeus, Cuvier, Goldsmith, or any other writer on Natural History, so far as I have been able to discover. I expect they must have come from some unexplored portion of Australia."
"Never mind," I replied, "we may get more light on the subject, perhaps, before long. We will continue to label them 'California Pigeons' until we can fix their nativity elsewhere."
The next, morning, "Old Grizzly Adams," whose exhibition of bears was then open in Fourteenth street, happened to be passing through the Museum, when his eyes fell on the "Golden California Pigeons." He looked a moment and doubtless admired. He soon after came to my office.
"Mr. B," said he, "you must let me have those California pigeons."
"I can't spare them," I replied.
"But you must spare them. All the birds and animals from California ought to be together. You own half of my California menagerie, and you must lend me those pigeons."
"Mr. Adams, they are too rare and valuable a bird to be hawked about in that manner; besides, I expect they will attract considerable attention here."
"Oh, don't be a fool," replied Adams. "Rare bird, indeed! Why, they are just as common in California as any other pigeon! I could have brought a hundred of them from San Francisco, if I had thought of it."
"But why did you not think of it?" I asked, with a suppressed smile.
"Because they are so common there," said Adams. "I did not think they would be any curiosity here. I have eaten them in pigeon-pies hundreds of times, and shot them by the thousand!"
I was ready to burst with laughter to see how readily Adams swallowed the bait, but maintaining the most rigid gravity, I replied:
"Oh well, Mr. Adams, if they are really so common in California, you had probably better take them, and you may write over and have half a dozen pairs sent to me for the Museum."
"All right," said Adams; "I will send over to a friend in San Francisco, and you shall have them here in a couple of months."
I told Adams that, for certain reasons, I would prefer to change the label so as to have it read: "Golden Pigeons from Australia."
"Well, call them what you like," replied Adams; "I suppose they are probably about as plenty in Australia as they are in California."
I fancied I could discover a sly smile lurking in the eye of the old bear-hunter as he made this reply.
The pigeons were labeled as I suggested, and this is how it happened that the Bridgeport non-believing lady, mentioned in the next chapter, was so much attracted as to solicit some of their eggs in order to perpetuate the species in old Connecticut.
Six or eight weeks after this incident, I was in the California Menagerie, and noticed that the "Golden Pigeons" had assumed a frightfully mottled appearance. Their feathers had grown out, and they were half white. Adams had been so busy with his bears that he had not noticed the change. I called him up to the pigeon cage, and remarked:
"Mr. Adams, I fear you will lose your Golden Pigeons; they must be very sick; I observe they are turning quite pale!"
Adams looked at them a moment with astonishment; then turning to me, and seeing that I could not suppress a smile, he indignantly exclaimed:
"Blast the Golden Pigeons! You had better take them back to the Museum. You can't humbug me with your painted pigeons!"
This was too much, and "I laughed till I cried" to witness the mixed look of astonishment and vexation which marked the "grizzly" features of old Adams.
"These Golden Pigeons," I remarked, "are very common in California, I think I heard you say? When do you expect my half-dozen pairs will arrive?"
"You go to thunder, you old humbug!" replied Adams, as he marched off indignantly, and soon disappeared behind the cages of his grizzly bears.
From that time, Adams seemed to be more careful about telling his large stories. Perhaps he was not cured altogether of his habit, but he took particular pains when making marvelous statements to have them of such a nature that they could not be disproved so easily as was that regarding the "Golden California Pigeons."
THE WHALE, THE ANGEL FISH, AND THE GOLDEN PIGEON.
If the fact could be definitely determined, I think it would be discovered that in this "wide awake" country there are more persons humbugged by believing too little than too much. Many persons have such a horror of being taken in, or such an elevated opinion of their own acuteness, that they believe everything to be a sham, and in this way are continually humbugging themselves.
Several years since, I purchased a living white whale, captured near Labrador, and succeeded in placing it, "in good condition," in a large tank, fifty feet long, and supplied with salt water, in the basement of the American Museum. I was obliged to light the basement with gas, and that frightened the sea-monster to such an extent that he kept at the bottom of the tank, except when he was compelled to stick his nose above the surface in order to breathe or "blow," and then down he would go again as quick as possible. Visitors would sometimes stand for half an hour, watching in vain to get a look at the whale; for, although he could remain under water only about two minutes at a time, he would happen to appear in some unlooked for quarter of the huge tank, and before they could all get a chance to see him, he would be out of sight again. Some impatient and incredulous persons after waiting ten minutes, which seemed to them an hour, would sometimes exclaim:
"Oh, humbug! I don't believe there is a whale here at all!"
This incredulity often put me out of patience, and I would say:
"Ladies and gentlemen, there is a living whale in the tank. He is frightened by the gaslight and by visitors; but he is obliged to come to the surface every two minutes, and if you will watch sharply, you will see him. I am sorry we can't make him dance a hornpipe and do all sorts of wonderful things at the word of command; but if you will exercise your patience a few minutes longer, I assure you the whale will be seen at considerably less trouble than it would be to go to Labrador expressly for that purpose."
This would usually put my patrons in good humor; but I was myself often vexed at the persistent stubbornness of the whale in not calmly floating on the surface for the gratification of my visitors.
One day, a sharp Yankee lady and her daughter, from Connecticut, called at the Museum. I knew them well; and in answer to their inquiry for the locality of the whale, I directed them to the basement. Half an hour afterward, they called at my office, and the acute mother, in a half-confidential, serio-comic whisper, said:
"Mr. B., it's astonishing to what a number of purposes the ingenuity of us Yankees has applied india-rubber."
I asked her meaning, and was soon informed that she was perfectly convinced that it was an india-rubber whale, worked by steam and machinery, by means of which he was made to rise to the surface at short intervals, and puff with the regularity of a pair of bellows. From her earnest, confident manner, I saw it would be useless to attempt to disabuse her mind on the subject. I therefore very candidly acknowledged that she was quite too sharp for me, and I must plead guilty to the imposition; but I begged her not to expose me, for I assured her that she was the only person who had discovered the trick.
It was worth more than a dollar to see with what a smile of satisfaction she received the assurance that nobody else was as shrewd as herself; and the patronizing manner in which she bade me be perfectly tranquil, for the secret should be considered by her as "strictly confidential," was decidedly rich. She evidently received double her money's worth in the happy reflection that she could not be humbugged, and that I was terribly humiliated in being detected through her marvelous powers of discrimination! I occasionally meet the good lady, and always try to look a little sheepish, but she invariably assures me that she has never divulged my secret and never will!
On another occasion, a lady equally shrewd, who lives neighbor to me in Connecticut, after regarding for a few minutes the "Golden Angel Fish" swimming in one of the Aquaria, abruptly addressed me with:
"You can't humbug me, Mr. Barnum; that fish is painted!"
"Nonsense!" said I, with a laugh; "the thing is impossible!"
"I don't care, I know it is painted; it is as plain as can be."
"But, my dear Mrs. H., paint would not adhere to a fish while in the water; and if it would, it would kill him. Besides," I added, with an extra serious air, "we never allow humbugging here!"
"Oh, here is just the place to look for such things," she replied with a smile; "and I must say I more than half believe that Angel Fish is painted."
She was finally nearly convinced of her error, and left. In the afternoon of the same day, I met her in Old Adams' California Menagerie. She knew that I was part-proprietor of that establishment, and seeing me in conversation with "Grizzly Adams," she came up to me in some haste, and with her eyes glistening with excitement, she said:
"O, Mr. B., I never saw anything so beautiful as those elegant 'Golden Pigeons' from Australia. I want you to secure some of their eggs for me, and let my pigeons hatch them at home. I should prize them beyond all measure."
"Oh, you don't want 'Golden Australian Pigeons,'" I replied; "they are painted."
"No, they are not painted," said she, with a laugh, "but I half think the Angel Fish is."
I could not control myself at the curious coincidence, and I roared with laughter while I replied:
"Now, Mrs. H., I never let a good joke be spoiled, even if it serves to expose my own secrets. I assure you, upon honor, that the Golden Australian Pigeons, as they are labeled, are really painted; and that in their natural state they are nothing more nor less than the common ruff-necked white American pigeons!"
And it was a fact. How they happened to be exhibited under that auriferous disguise was owing to an amusing circumstance, explained in another chapter.
Suffice it at present to say, that Mrs. H. to this day "blushes to her eyebrows" whenever an allusion is made to "Angel Fish" or "Golden Pigeons."
PEASE'S HOARHOUND CANDY.—THE DORR REBELLION.—THE PHILADELPHIA ALDERMEN.
In the year 1842, a new style of advertising appeared in the newspapers and in handbills which arrested public attention at once on account of its novelty. The thing advertised was an article called "Pease's Hoarhound Candy;" a very good specific for coughs and colds. It was put up in twenty-five cent packages, and was eventually sold wholesale and retail in enormous quantities. Mr. Pease's system of advertising was one which, I believe, originated with him in this country, although many have practiced it since, but of course, with less success—for imitations seldom succeed. Mr. Pease's plan was to seize upon the most prominent topic of interest and general conversation, and discourse eloquently upon that topic in fifty to a hundred lines of a newspaper-column, then glide off gradually into a panegyric of "Pease's Hoarhound Candy." The consequence was, every reader was misled by the caption and commencement of his article, and thousands of persons had "Pease's Hoarhound Candy" in their mouths long before they had seen it! In fact, it was next to impossible to take up a newspaper and attempt to read the legitimate news of the day without stumbling upon a package of "Pease's Hoarhound Candy." The reader would often feel vexed to find that, after reading a quarter of a column of interesting news upon the subject uppermost in his mind, he was trapped into the perusal of one of Pease's hoarhound candy advertisements. Although inclined sometimes to throw down the newspaper in disgust, he would generally laugh at the talent displayed by Mr. Pease in thus captivating and capturing the reader. The result of all this would generally be, a trial of the candy on the first premonitory symptoms of a cough or influenza. The degree to which this system of advertising has since been carried has rendered it a bore and a nuisance. The usual result of almost any great and original achievement is, the production of a shoal of brainless imitators, who are "neither useful nor ornamental."
In the same year that Pease's hoarhound candy appeared upon the commercial and newspaper horizon, the "Governor Dorr Rebellion" occurred in Rhode Island. As many will remember, this rebellion caused a great excitement throughout the country. Citizens of Rhode Island took up arms against each other, and it was feared by some that a bloody civil war would ensue.
At about this time a municipal election was to come off in the city of Philadelphia. The two political parties were pretty equally divided there, and there were some special causes why this was regarded as an unusually important election. Its near approach caused more excitement in the "Quaker City" than had been witnessed there since the preceding Presidential election. The party-leaders began to lay their plans early, and the wire-pullers on both sides were unusually busy in their vocation. At the head of the rabble upon which one of the parties depended for many votes, was a drunken and profane fellow, whom we will call Tom Simmons. Tom was great at electioneering and stump-spouting in bar-rooms and rum-caucuses, and his party always looked to him, at each election, to stir up the subterraneans "with a long pole"—and a whiskey-jug at the end of it.
The exciting election which was now to come off for Mayor and Aldermen of the good city of Brotherly Love soon brought several of the "ring" to Tom.
"Now, Tom," said the head wire-puller, "this is going to be a close election, and we want you to spare neither talent nor liquor in arousing up and bringing to the polls every voter within your influence."
"Well, Squire," replied Tom carelessly, "I've concluded I won't bother myself with this 'lection—it don't pay!"
"Don't pay!" exclaimed the frightened politician. "Why, Tom, are you not a true friend to your party? Haven't you always been on hand at the primary meetings, knocked down interlopers, and squelched every man who talked about conscience, or who refused to support regular nominations, and vote the entire clean ticket straight through? And as for 'pay,' haven't you always been supplied with money enough to treat all doubtful voters, and in fact to float them up to the polls in an ocean of whiskey? I confess Tom, I am almost petrified with astonishment at witnessing your present indifference to the alarming crisis in which our country and our party are involved, and which nothing on earth can avert, except our success at the coming election."
"Oh, tell that to the marines," said Tom. "We never yet had an election that there wasn't a 'crisis,' and yet, whichever party gained, we somehow managed to live through it, crisis or no crisis. In fact, my curiosity has got a little excited, and I would like to see this 'crisis' that is such a bugaboo at every election; so trot out your crisis—let us see how it looks. Besides, talking of pay, I acknowledge the whiskey, and that is all. While I and my companions lifted you and your companions into fat offices that enabled you to roll in your carriages, and live on the fat of the land, we got nothing—or, at least, next to nothing—all we got was—well—we got drunk! Now, Squire, I will go for the other party this 'lection if you don't give me an office."
"Give you an office!" exclaimed the "Squire," raising his hands and rolling his eyes in utter amazement; "why, Tom, what office do you want?"
"I want to be Alderman!" replied Tom, "and I can control votes enough to turn the 'lection either way; and if our party don't gratefully remember my past services and give me my reward, t'other party will be glad to run me on their ticket, and over I go."
The gentleman of the "ring" saw by Tom's firmness and clenched teeth that he was immovable; that his principles, like those of too many others, consisted of "loaves and fishes;" they therefore consented to put Tom's name on the municipal ticket; and the worst part of the story is, he was elected.
In a very short time, Tom was duly installed into the Aldermanic chair, and, opening his office on a prominent corner, he was soon doing a thriving business. He was generally occupied throughout the day in sitting as a judge in cases of book debt and promissory notes which were brought before him, for various small sums ranging from two to five, six, eight, and ten dollars. He would frequently dispose of thirty or forty of these cases in a day, and as imprisonment for debt was permitted at that time, the poor defendants would "shin" around and make any sacrifice almost, rather than go to jail. The enormous "costs" went into the capacious pocket of the Alderman; and this dignitary, as a natural sequence, "waxed fat" and saucy, exemplifying the truth of the adage "Put a beggar on horseback," etc.