My Grandfather, a Roma who spoke four or five languages when he snuck into this country, once dove out the bathroom window to escape immigration officers who’d come to his door. He drove what he would later call an “embarrassing” amount of food up to General MaCarthur’s place when he was stationed in the Phillipines and kept a pile of magazines with him throughout his life. They went by the name of Puck.
Puck magazine was a satirical magazine that moved to New York City in 1876 and switched from German to English in 1877. They even had their own building on Lafayette.
The NYPD was twenty-two years old. The Brooklyn Bridge hadn’t been finished. New York wasn’t even known as a city of five boroughs, as that would only happen come 1898. William Randolph Hearst would eventually buy and shutter the magazine in 1918, but that left a gap to fill — a slice, a sliver, and a window’s worth to peer on through, such as the one-liner announcing that —
The increasing number of persons killed by exploding motor boats shows that that sport is growing in popularity. (1907)
— or brief dialogue like —
SHE — I always think of motoring at poetry in motion.
HE — Yes, until the machine breaks down. Then it becomes blank verse. (1907)
— or non-political, topical humor like —
An English scientist announces that the North Pole is shifting. Isn’t that provoking! When Perry does get there the Pole will be somewhere else. (1904)
— or very political, borderline propagandistic humor like —
One of the latest acts of German officialdom is a potato census. Potatoes must state clearly in which branch of the service they prefer to enlist: Baked, Plain boiled, Mashed or German friend. Potatoes with unusually developed eyes are trained to act as spies. (1917)
(Images: Courtesy of the Author)