a private joke among newsmen

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Wed Oct 10 15:37:27 UTC 2012

As you all must know, I have been time-travelling for years, mostly going
to some year between 1750 up to about 1850, but always to New York City.
 But summer in the city can be pretty stifling, and so of late I have been
taking occasional country vacations, upstate.  This is why you may be
seeing from time to time notes taken from newspapers in the boondocks.

Recently I saw this note, with a wry comment:

             Thieves! Rogues!  [our office was robbed; $18 was stolen, but
$15 of it was bad money]  A foolish rogue indeed to break into a printing
office in search of money!

            Delaware Gazette (Delhi, N. Y.), October 25, 1826, p. 2, col.
3, from the Norridgewock Journal

I've heard this complaint before, thought I, and checked my notes.

            [the Commercial Advertiser's office was robbed of 50-100 lbs of
type]  The thieves must certainly have come in search of something to eat,
for no mortal would even think of entering a Printing Office for obtaining

            Commercial Advertiser, November 14, 1822, p. 2, col. 3

            Highway Robbery.  [two printers attacked in the woods near
Bridgeville, N. J.; they were carrying $2.75]  Robbers should never be such
fools as to attack printers in the hope of gain.

            Commercial Advertiser, January 23, 1826, p. 2, col. 4.

             An editor's boudoir robbed.  [in Louisiana; "in the hope,
founded upon what reasoning we are unable to imagine, of finding plunder"]

            Evening Star, April 3, 1835, p. 2, col. 2.

            No go.  [our office was broken into and our desk rummaged: "a
forlorn hope"]

            Evening Star, May 29, 1837, p. 2, col. 2

The Commercial and the Star were both NYC papers.  Stone of the Commercial
was somewhat of a joker -- he gets credit for the line "New York will be a
tarnation fine city, if they ever get it finished" -- and perhaps he
originated this line, too.  But the items above are only things I've
stumbled upon and noted -- it may have been going about the trade since
Gutenberg, who, I believe, died broke.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much since then.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list