Bill Nye.

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Bill Nye's Sparks.




Copyright, i&ji, hy
E. W. NYE.

Copyright, 1896, by

Copyright, TJOI, by



Blographyof Edgar "Wilson Nye Til

Eequestlng a Remittance 6

An Oratorical Organette 14

Veritas 20

The Drug Business in Kansas 36

The Perils of Identification 81

AFather's Letter 40

The Aztec at Home 46

In the South 62

In the Park 67

Liberty Enlightening the World 66

Nye Sees the Capitol 70

He Sees the Navy 77

More about Washington 90

A Great Benefactor 95

Coupon Letter of Introduction 89

How to Teach Journalism 104

Nye's Garden 114

Written to the Boy 118

Answers to Correspondents 128

The Farmer and the Tariff 128

A Conventional Speech 136

A Plea for One In Adversity 143

EhubarbPle 147

A Country Fire 161

Big Steve 167

Speech of Eed Shirt 161

Lo, the Poor Shinnecock 167

Webster and His Great Book. 17*



Edgar Wilson Nye was whole-souled, big-
hearted and genial. Those who knew him lot
sight of the humorist in the wholesome friend.

He was born August 25, 1850, in Shirley, Pisca-
taquis County, Maine. Poverty of resources drove
the family to St. Croix Valley, Wisconsin, where
they hoped to be able to live under conditions lets
severe. After receiving a meager schooling, he
entered a lawyer's office where most of his work
consisted in sweeping the office and running er
rands. In his idle moments the lawyer's library
was at his service. Of this crude and desultory
reading he afterward wrote:

" I could read the same passage today that I did
yesterday and it would seem as fresh at the second
reading as it did at the first. On the following day
I could read it again and it would seem as new and
mysterious as it did on the preceding day."

At the age of twenty-five, he was teaching a dis
trict school in Polk County, Wisconsin, at thirty


dollars a month. In 1877 he was justice of the
peace in Laramie. Of that experience he wrote:

"It was really pathetic to see the poor little
miserable booth where I sat and waited with numb
fingers for business. But I did not see the pathos
which clung to every cobweb and darkened the
rattling casement. Possibly I did not know enough.
I forgot to say the office was not a salaried one, but
iolely dependent upon fees. So while I was called
Judge Nye and frequently mentioned in the
papers with consideration, I was out of coal half
the time, and once could not mail my letters for
three weeks because I did not have the necessary

He wrote some letters to the Cheyenne Sun and
aoon made such a reputation for himself that he
was able to obtain a position on the Laramie Senti
nel. Of this experience he wrote:

"The salary was small, but the latitude was
great, and I was permitted to write anything that
I thought would please the people, whether it was
news or not. By and by I had won every heart by
my patient poverty and my delightful parsimony
with regards to facts. With a hectic imagination
and an order on a restaurant which advertised in
the paper I scarcely cared through the livelong
day whether school kpt or not."


Of the proprietor of the Sentinel he wrote:

" I don't know whether he got into the peniten
tiary or the Greenback party. At any rate he was
the wickedest man in Wyoming. Still, he was
warm-hearted and generous to a fault. He was
more generous to a fault than to anything else
more especially his own faults. He gave me twelve
dollars a week to edit the paper local, telegraph,
selections, religious, sporting, political, fashions,
and obituary. He said twelve dollars was too
much, but if I would jerk the press occasionally
and take care of his children he would try to stand
it. You can't mix politics and measles. I saw
that I would have to draw the line at measles. So
one day I drew my princely salary and quit, hav
ing acquired a style of fearless and independent
journalism which I still retain. I can write up
things that never occurred with a masterly and
graphic hand. Then, if they occur, I am grateful;
if not, I bow to the inevitable and smother my

In the midst of a wrangle in politics he was
appointed postmaster of his town and his letter of
acceptance, addressed to the Postmaster-General
at Washington, was the first of his writings to at
tract national attention.

He said that, in his opinion, his being selected


for the office was a triumph of eternal right over
rror and wrong. " It is one of the epochs, I may
ay, in the nation's onward march toward political
purity and perfection," he wrote. " I don't know
when I have noticed any stride in the affairs of
state which has so thoroughly impressed me with
its wisdom."

Shortly after he became postmaster he started
the Boomerang. The first office of the paper was
over a livery stable and Nye put up a sign in-l
Btructing callers to " twist the tail of the gray|
mule and take the elevator."

He at once became famous and was soon brought I
to New York, at a salary that seemed fabulous to \
him. His place among the humorists of the world j
was thenceforth assured.

He died February 22, 1896, at his home in North
Carolina, surrounded by his family.

James Whitcomb Riley, the Hoosier poet, was
for many years a close personal friend of the dead
humorist. When informed of Nye's death, he said:
" Especially favored, as for years I have been,
with close personal acquaintance and association
with Mr. Nye, his going away fills me with selfish
ness of grief that finds a mute rebuke in my every
memory of him. He was unselfish wholly, and I
am broken-hearted, recalling the always patient


strength and gentleness of this true man, the un- \
failing hope and cheer and faith of his child-heart,
his noble and heroic life, and pure devotion to his '
home his deep affections, constant dreams, plans
and realizations. I cannot doubt but that somehow,
somewhere, he continues cheerily on in the un
broken exercise of these same capacities."

Mr. Riley recently wrote the following sonnet:

O William, In thy blithe companionship

What liberty is mine what sweet release

From clamourous strife, and yet, what boisterous peaoe!
Hoi ho! It is thy fancy's finger tip
That dints the dimple now, and kinks the Up

That scarce may sing in all this glad increase

Of merriment ! So, pray thee, do not cease
To cheer me thus, for underneath the quip
Of thy droll sorcery the wrangling fret

Of all distress is still. No syllable
Of sorrow vexeth me, no tear drops wet

My teeming lids, save those that leap to tll
Thee thou'st a guest that overweepeth yet

Only because thou jokest overwell.



Along toward morning, 1887. \

mY DEAR SIE : You will doubtless be
surprised to hear from me so soon, as 1
did not promise when I left New York
that I would write you at all while here. But
now I take pen in hand to say that the Senate
and House of Representatives are having a good
deal of fun with me, and hope you are enjoying
the same great blessing. You will wonder at
first why I send in my expense account before I
send in anything for the paper, but I will explain
that to you when I get back. At first I thought
I would not bother with the expense account till
I got to your offiw, but I can now see that it is

going to worry me to get tb ere unless I hear from
you favorably by return mail.

When I came here I fell into the mad whirl of
society, and attracted a good deal of attention
by my cultivated ways and Jeffersonian method
of sleeping with a different member of Congress
every night.

I have not written anything for publication
yet, but I am getting material together that will
make people throughout our broad land open
their eyes in astonishment. I shall deal fairly
and openly with these great national questions,
and frankly hew to the line, let the chips fall
where they may, as I heard a man say to-day on
the floor of the house the Willard House, I
mean. But I believe in handling great political
matters without gloves, as you will remember,
if you have watched my course as justice of the
peace and litterateur. Candor is my leading
characteristic, and if you will pardon me for
saying so in the first letter you ever received
from me I believe there is nothing about my
whole character which seems to challenge my
admiration for myself any more than that.

Congressmen and their wives are daily land
ing at the great national Castle Garden and look
ing wildly around for the place where they are


told they will get their mileage. OB every hand

all is hurry and excitement. Bills are being
introduced, acquaintances renewed, and punch
bowl* are beginning to wear a preoccupied

I have been mingling with society ever since
I came here, and that is one reason I have writ
ten very little for publication, and did not send
what I did write.

Yesterday afternoon my money gave out at
3:20, and since that my mind has been clearer
and society has made fewer demands on me. At
first I thought I would obtain employment at the
Treasury Department as exchange editor in the
greenback room. Then I remembered that I
would get very faint before I could go through
a competitive examination, and, in the mean
time, I might lose social caste by wearing my
person on the outside of my clothes. So I have
resolved to write you a chatty'letter about Wash
ington, assuring you that I am well, and asking
you kindly to consider the enclosed tabulated
bill of expenses, as I need the money to buy
Christmas presents and get home with.

Poker is one of the curses of national legisla
tion. I have several times heard prominent
foreigners say, in their own language thtnfe


ing, no doubt, that I could not understand them
that the members of the American Congress
did not betray any emotion on their counte
nances. One foreigner from Liverpool, who
thought I could not understand his language,
said that our congressmen had a way of looking
as though they did not know very much. When
he afterwards played poker with those same men
he saw that the look was acquired. One man
told me that his vacant look had been as good M
$50,000 to him, whether he stood pat or drew to
an ostensible flush while realty holding four

80 far I have not been over to the Capitol,
preferring to have Congress kind of percolate
into my room, two or three at a time ; but unless
you can honor the inclosed way-bill I shall be
forced to go over to the House to-morrow and
write something for the paper. Since I hare
been writing this I have been led to Inquire
whether it would be advisable for me to remain
here through the entire session or not. It wffl
be unusually long, lasting perhaps clear into
July, and I find that the stenographers M a
genera! thing get a pretty accurate and spioey
aeecrant of the proceedings, much more so than
I can, and as you will see by inclosed statement


it is going to cost more to teep me here than I
figured on.

My idea was that board and lodgings woald
be the main items of expense, but I struck a
low-priced place, -where, by clubbing together
with some plain gentlemen from a distance who
have been waiting here three years for political
recognition, and who do not feel like surround-
big themselves with a hotel, we get a plain
room with six beds in it. The room overlooks
the District of Columbia, and the first man in
has the choice of beds, with the privilege of
inviting friends to a limited number. We lunch
plainly in the lower part of the building in a
standing position without restraint or finger-
bowls. So board is not the principal item of
expense, though of course I do not wish to put
up at a place where I will be a disgrace to the

I wish that you would, when you send my
check, write me frankly whether you think I
had better remain here during the entire season
or not. I like the place first rate, but my duties
keep me up nights to a late hour, and I cannot
sleep during the day, because my roommates
annoy me by doing their washing and ironing
over an oil stove.


I know by what several friends have said to
me that Congress would like to have me stay
here all winter, but I want to do what is best
for the paper.

I saw Mr. Cleveland briefly last evening at hig
home, but he was surrounded by a crowd of
fawning sycophants, so I did not get a chance to
speak to him as I would like to, and don't
know as he would have advanced the amount to
me anyway. He is very firm and stubborn, I
judged, and would yield very little indeed,
especially to Yours truly,


The following bill looks large In the aggregate,
but when you come to examine each Item by
itself there is really nothing startling about it,
and when you remember that I have been here
pow four days and that this is the first bill I
have sent in to the office during that time, I
know you will not consider it out of the way,
especially as you are interested In seeing me
make a good paper of the World, no matter what
the expense is.

We are having good open winter weather and
stock is looking well so far.

I fear you will regard the item for embalming
as exorbitant, and i\ is so, but I was compelled


to pay that price, as the man had to be shipped

a long distance, and I did not want to shock his

friends too much when he met them at the


T<> rent of dress suit for the purpose of seeing lite

la Washington in the interest of the paper ti 50

- v 'o charges for dispersing turtle soup from lap of

tame 160

To gettiajf for collar put on orercoat, in Interest of

paper. 000

to amount loaned a gentleman who hod lived la
Washing-ton a long: time and could make me a
octal pet (I will return same to you In case he

pays it before I come back) , , 6 80

fo lodgings two nights at 25 cents M

31 r meals at 15 cents 90

Pen and ink M

Postage on this letter 9

Brouohial troches, in interest of paper 20

Carfare 80

Laundry work done in interest of paper 80

(ferriage hire In fretting' from humble home at a

senator to my own voluptuous lodgings S 00

To expenses of embalming a man who came to ne
and wanted me to use my influence in changing

pottoy of the paper 160 00

To floe paid for assault and battery In and upon a
gwitinnan who said he wanted my Influence, but
really was already under other influence, and who
stopped on my stomach twice without offering to

apologize B 00

Paid Jeoitor of Jail next morning 1 00

Paid tor bve&ktog the window of my mil M


Patfl damage for writing humorous poetry on -watt
of cell so that it could not be erased 2 09

Total $388 13

I will probably remain here until I hear from
you favorably. I hare met sereral members of
Congress for whom I have voted at various
times off and on, but they were cold and haughty
In their intercourse with me. I have be&n ic
vited to sit on the floor of the House until I get
some other place to stay, but I hate to ride a
free horse to death. *> V.

Oratorical $team Or$ar;r;ett$
for I^ailu/ay

I AM now preparing for general use and de
sire to call the attention of numerous readers
to what I have nominated the Campaigner's
Companion, for use during or preceding a hot
political campaign. Eureka is a very tame ey
pression for this unique little contrivance, ap
it is good for any speaker and on behalf of any
party, I care not of what political belief the
orator may be. It is intended for immediate
use, like a box of dry plates on an amateur pho
tographic tour, only that it is more on the prin
ciple of the Organette, with from 500 to 5,000
tunes packed with it ready for use.

It is intended to be worked easily on the rear
platform of a special car, and absolutely prevents
repetition or the wrong application of local gags.
Every political speaker of any importance has
suffered more or less from what may be called
the misplaced gag, such as localizing the grave
of a well-known member of Congress in the


wrong cottnty or swelling up -with pardonable
pride over large soap works in a rival town fifty
miles away from the one where they really are,
All these things weaken the political possibilities
of great men and bring contumely upon the
party they represent.

My idea is to arrange a sort of Organette on
the rear platform of the car, to be operated by
Steam conducted from the engine by means of
pipes, the contrivance to be entirely out of sight,
under a neat little spread made of the American
flag. Behind this an eminent man may stand
with his hand socked into the breast of his frock
coat nearly up to the elbow, and while his bosom
swells with pardonable pride the engineer turns
on steam. Previously the private secretary has
inserted a speech prepared on punched paper,
furnished by me and bearing on that special
town and showing a degree of familiarity with
that neighborhood which would win the entire
adult population.

Behind this machine the eminent speaker
weaves to and fro, simply making the gestures
and shutting off the steam with his foot when
ever there is a manifest desire on the part of the
audience to applaud.

I am having over five hundred good one-night


towns prepared in this way and, if it would not
take up too much of your space, I would like to
fire here one speech, illustrating my idea and
showing the plan in brief, though with each
machine I furnish a little book called "Every
Man his Own Demosthenes." This book tells
exactly how to work the Campaigner's Compan
ion and makes it almost a pleasure to aspire to

I have choen as an illustration a speech that
I have had prepared f or Asheville, N. C., but all
the others are equally applicable and apropos.

<$ST See that all bearings are well oiled before you start,
especially political bearings. See that the crank Is just
'jffht enough, without being: too tight, and ateo that the
'ounials do not get hot. )

Fellow-Citizens of Asheville and Buncombe Cownt
ty and Brother Tarheels from Away Back :

If I were a faithful Mohammedan and be
lieved that I could never enter heaven but once,
I would look npon Buncombe County and de-
spair ever afterwards. (Four minutes for ap
plause to die away.) Asheville is 2,389 feet
above tide-water. She is the hotbed of the in
valid and the home of the physical wreck who
cannot live elsewhere, but who comes here and
lives till he gets plum sick of it. Your mountain
and your fried chicken bear strength and


AeaMng in their wings. (Hold valve open twe
minutes and a half to give laughter full scope.)
Your altitude and your butter are both high,
and the man who cannot get all the fresh air he
wants on your mountains will do well to rent one
of your cottages and allow the wind to meander
through his whiskers. Asheville is a beautiful
spot, where a peri could put in a highly enjoy
able summer, picknicking along the Swananea
through the day and conversing with Plum
Levy at his blood-curdling barber shop in the
gloaming. Nothing can possibly be thrillinger
than to hear Plum tell of the hair-breadth es
capes his customers have had in his cozy little

The annual rainfall here is 40.2 inches, while
smoking tobacco and horned cattle both do well.
Ten miles away stretches Alexander's. You
are only thirty-five miles from Buck Forest.
Pisgah Mountain is only twenty miles from here
and Tahkeeastee Farm is only a mile away,
with its name extending on beyond as far as the
eye can reach. The French Broad Kiver bathes
your feet on the right and the sun-kissed Swan-
anoa, with its beautiful borders of rhododen
drons, sloshes up against you on the other side.
Mount Mitchell, with an altitude of 6,711 feet


and an annual rain-fall of 58.8 inches, is but
twenty miles distant, while Lower Hominy is
near, and Hell's Half Acre, Sandy Mush and
Blue Kuin are within your grasp.

The sun never lit up a cuter little town than
Asheville. Nature just seemed to wear herself
out on Buncombe County and then she took what
she had left over to make the rest of the country.
Your air is full of vigor. Your farms get up
and hump themselves in the middle or on one
side, so that youhave to wear a pair of telegraph-
pole climbers when you dig your potatoes. Here
you will see the japonica, the jonquil and the
jaundice growing side by side in the spring, and
at the cheese-foundry you can hear the skipper
calling to his mate.

Here is the home of General Tom Clingman,
who first originated the idea of using tobacco ex
ternally for burns, scalds, ringworm, spavin,
pneumonia, Bright's disease, poll evil, pip, gar
get, heartburn, earache and financial stringency
Here Eandolph & Hunt can do your job printing
for you, and the Citizen and the Adva/nce will
give you the news.

You are on a good line of railroad and I like
your air very much, aside from the air just
played by your home band. Certainly you have


here the makings of a great city. You hare
pure air enough here for a city four times jt>ttf
present size, and although I have seen most nil
the Switzerlands of America, I think that tbis
is in every way preferable. People who are in
search of a Switzerland of America that can be
relied upon will do well to try your town.

And now, having touched upon everything of
national importance that I can think of, I will
close by telling you a little anecdote which will,
perhaps, illustrate my position better than I
could do it in any other way. (Here I insert a
humorous anecdote which has no special bearing
on the political situation and during the en
suing laughter the train pulls out.)

mY NAME is Yeritas. I write for the
papers. I am quite an old man and have
written my kindly words of advice to the
press for many years. I am the friend of the
public and the guiding star of the American
newspaper. I point out the proper course for a
newly-elected member of Congress and show the
thoughtless editor the wants of the people. I
write on the subject of political economy ; also
on both sides of the paper. Sometimes I write
on both sides of the question. When I do so I
write over the name of Tax-Payer, but my real
name is Veritas.

I am the man who first suggested the culvert
at the Jim street crossing, so that the water
would run off toward the pound after a rain.
With my ready pen ready, and trenchant also,
as I may say I have, in my poor, weak way,
suggested a great many things which might
otherwise have remained for many years unsug-


I am tne man who annually calls for a cele
bration of the Fourth of July in our little towm,
and asks for some young elocutionist to be se
lected by the committee, whose duty it shall be
to read the Declaration of Independence in a
shrill voice to those who yearn to be thrillel
through and through with patriotism.

Did I not speak through the columns of th
press in clarion tones for a proper observance of
our nation's great natal day in large gothio ex
tended caps, the nation's starry banner would
remain furled and the greased pig would con
tinue to crouch in his lair. With the aid of my
genial co-workers Tax-Payer, Old Settler, Old
Subscriber, Constant Reader, TJ. L. See, Fair
Play, and Mr. Pro Bono Publico, I have made
the world a far more desirable place in which to
live than it would otherwise have been.

My co-laborer, Mr. Tax-Payer, is an old con
tributor to the paper, but he is not really a tax
payer. He uses this signature in order to con
ceal his identity, just as I use the name Yerlta*.
We have a great deal of fun over this at oar
regular annual reunions, where we talk about
all our affairs.

Old Settler is a young tenderfoot who came
here last spring and tried to obtain a livelihood


by sailing an indestructible lamp-ehkaaey. He
did well for several weeks by going to the differ
ent residences and throwing one of his glass
chimneys on the floor with considerable force to
show that it would not break. He did a good
business till one day he made a mistake. In-
ttead of getting hold of his exhibition chimney,

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Online LibraryBill NyeBill Nye's sparks → online text (page 1 of 9)