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Mixed bag

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

These are all from the same day, and I find each of them so very amusing in their own way...

This one reads: "Lady in green, Greenwood Cemetery - On Saturday afternoon. Please address F, box 163 Herald office."

My first thought here is - hitting on a woman in a cemetery! Classy!! (Well, actually my first thought is - hey, that's right near where I live! Cool!!) But it might not have been quite so simple - she may not have been there to visit a loved one's grave. Before large urban parks like Central Park in New York and the Emerald Necklace, in Boston (both designed by the estimable Frederick Law Olmsted and his partner Calvert Vaux), city people went and hung out at cemeteries, because many of them, like Green Wood, are quite beautiful and designed to look rural (they're actually called rural cemeteries). So she might have just been going there for a picnic (one of the reasons for urban parks is that a lot of people were so disturbed by the idea of others having picnics in cemeteries). The fact that she's wearing green upholds this theory. BUT, Prospect Park, also designed by Olmsted and Vaux, had been open for several years when this ad was placed, and it is very close to the cemetery - walking distance, in fact. So maybe she was there visiting the grave of a loved one. And even if not, it's still pretty weird to pick up someone at a cemetery. In which case I revert to my original reaction: Classy!

This one is also interesting, it reads: "Sixth avenue car, Sunday afternoon - Will the young lady who recognized young gent with light complexion and side whiskers, and squeezed his hand when leaving at Thirteenth street, please favor him with her acquaintance? Address WILLIE THORNE, Herald office."

Not much to say here except the very, very, very racy moment in which the man says his lady interest "squeezed his hand." My, my! If they really were unacquainted, and it really went down the way he said, that would have been quite risqué on the lady's part to squeeze a total stranger's hand. Touching someone you didn't know like that was just so taboo. My theory, however, is that the young lady was only holding his hand because he was handing her down when she got off the streetcar, and perhaps she squeezed his hand for balance, and being smitten and kind of dense, he thought it was meaningful.

And, while not really fitting the theme of my blog, I had to include this one: "The 'gentleman' who bought a $3 ticket for admittance to a charity affair given at a private home on Park avenue, Thursday last, and stole a new $15 English hat is welcome to it. CHARITY"

HA! I am a little confused about why anyone would pay to attend a charity event and then steal a hat, but that's besides the point. It's the tone of this ad which is so awesome. It's a great big bitter "F you" to the thief. I love it.

ETA: Thanks to Liz and Emily for helping me to correct some hard-to-read words!

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein


Anonymous July 21, 2009 at 9:50 AM  

Ok, my guess for the mystery word before whiskers is "side." Perhaps he had sideburns? BTW, I love your blog. I have to get my fix every morning!

Unknown July 21, 2009 at 9:59 AM  

Yep, agreeing with Emily that the missing word is 'side' whiskers, which was indeed the term then used for the sideburn style. I think it turns up frequently in Austen.

Is the S maybe a badly scanned $, giving the value of the hat that was purloined?

Pam July 21, 2009 at 10:14 AM  

I think you're both right! Thank you! Side whiskers would make perfect sense - I'm embarrassed I didn't think of that myself. And the $15 hat - that does seem a trifle expensive, but it would fit.

Emily - thanks! I'm so glad you're enjoying the blog.

DSK July 21, 2009 at 12:17 PM  

Well, you know, people *still* use public cemeteries as parks, although rather than picnics it's runners (not too bad, I guess) and dog walking (not very tasteful).

Pam July 21, 2009 at 1:34 PM  

DSK - good point. But I think the difference is that today - as you point out - they're used for people traveling through (or going to visit a grave). Back then, they really did go and sit and picnic the way we would today in a regular park. People were a lot more comfortable with death and proximity to it than now. (Green Wood actually has a prohibition against food anywhere on their grounds, although I suspect that's more as a preventative against litter than disrespect for the dead.)

DSK July 21, 2009 at 6:02 PM  

I suppose we shouldn't paint with too broad a brush. Several cultures in the U.S. have perspectives on death and graveyards which differ significantly from the ever-shrinking monolithic "mainstream." The Mexican and Salvadoran communities in Austin come to mind from personal experience. I think picnicing can even be seen, at least on El Dia de Los Muertos.

Pam July 21, 2009 at 6:47 PM  

True - I'm being myopic. I should have said (white) middle class.

Arwen July 24, 2009 at 9:43 AM  

I don't think it's disrespectful to the dead at all. Wouldn't you want a little company?

Pam July 24, 2009 at 10:07 AM  

I don't know - there's something that seems a bit weird about picking someone up at a cemetery. I guess it would depend on the circumstances?

Unknown July 26, 2009 at 11:59 PM  

This is only tengentially related, but the stolen hat ad reminded me of something I read about H.G. Wells. Apparently, he went to a party once and stole someone else's hat that he really liked. The former owner had placed a label on the inside with his name and address, so Wells sent him this letter:

"I stole your hat. I shall keep your hat. Whenever I look inside it I shall think of you. I take off your hat to you!"

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