Punchinello answers correspondents (1870)

found in Cornell University’s archives of their contribution to the Making of America project.

Punchinello was the American version of Punch Magazine, the British journal of humor and snide inside jokes, comparable to a 19th century version of The New Yorker mixed with The Onion. While most of the jokes are far too esoteric for my amateur understanding of 19th century American history and culture, the way the editors dealt with crank letters rings as true today as it did when originally published in 1870:

(from the correspondent)
G.F. Train. Down with the Uhlans! Up with the black flag! Killed four Uhlans before breakfast this morning. Uhlans wear baggy sky-blue breeches. Give ’em sky-blue fits! Bourbaki dined with me yesterday. American fare. Gopher soup; rattlesnake hash; squirrel saute’; fricasseed oppossum; pumpkin pie. That’s your sort! Blue coat and brass buttons. White Marsailles waistcoat. France saved by Marsailles waistcoat. Organize earthquakes to swallow London. John Bull trembles. Tours trembles. Italy trembles. Leaning Tower of Pisa changes base and slopes the other way. Tired of France. Change base and slope other way. Punchinello for the throne of Spain! Down with Aosta! Down with effette monarchies! Down with rents! Down with G. F. Train!

Answer. Certainly.

hoo boy, I am now fascinated with George Francis Train! I don’t know if this letter was really written by Train or if they were mocking this well-known eccentric at this point, but man, they don’t make eccentrics like they used to! Train rubbed elbows with some of the more interesting people of mid-19th century America, rocked the nation with the Credit Mobilier scandal (remember that from Freshman US History?) and was a charismatic crank of the highest order. Much more to come about him here, I’m sure!


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