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Bill Nye's Sparks


Edgar Wilson Nye

(Bill Nye)

Cop3rright, 189X, by E. W. Nye.
Copyright, 1896, by F. Tennyson Neely.
Copyright, zgoz, by Hurst & Company.

New York

Hurst & Company

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JULY 10. 1940

Digitized by





Blogn^by of Bdgar Wilson Nye fit

Beqneedng a Bemittance. ••••• i

An Oratorical Organette li

Veritas 9t

The Drag Bosiness in Kansas.... M

The Perils of Identiflcation • a

A Father's Letter 4»

The Aztec at Home 48

Inthe Sonth 62

Inthe Park 67

liberty Enlightening the World. 66

Kye Sees the Capitol 70


More about Washington 66

A Great Benefactor 66

Coupon Letter of Introdnotkm 96

^^ How to Teach Journalism , lOi

CO Nye'sGarden 114

^ Written to the Boy 118

uj Answers to Correspondents 198

Uu The Farmer and* the Tariff 128

Cl> A Conventional Speech 188

^ A Flea for One hi Adversity. 148

'^ HhubarbPie 147

^Country Fire USI

BIgSteve , 167

Speech of Bed Shirt Ml

X<o, the Poor Shlnnecock. „ 167

WcMerandHis Great Book. m



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fldg«r Wilson Nye was whole-souled, H^
hearted mnd geniaL Those who knew hhn lost
sight of the humorist in the wholesome Mend.

He was born August 25, 1850^ in Shirley, Pisoir
laquis County, Maine. Poyerty of resources drove
the family to St Croix YaUey, Wisconsin, where
they hoped to be able to liye under conditions leis
SBYere. After receiving a meager schooling, he
entered a lawyer's office where most of his wock
consisted in sweeping the office and running er-
rands. In his idle moments the lawyer's libraiy
was at his service. Of this crude and desultoiy
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 itdid at the first. On the following day
I could read it again and it would seem as new and
mysterious as itdid on the preceding day."

At the age of twenty-five, he was teaching a dia-
trictschoolin P61k County, Wisconsin, at thb^

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dollars a month. In 1877 he was Justice of tk«
peace in Laramie. Of that experience he wiota:

^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 dung 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
Bolelydependent 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 haye the necessary

He wrote some letters to the Cheyenne Sun and
soon made such a reputation for himself that he
was able to obtain a position on the Laramie SeftUi-
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
newsor not By and by I had won eyery heart by
my patient poverty and my delightful parsimony
with regards to facts. With a hectic imagination
and an order on a restaurant which adyertised im
the pi^r I scarcely cared through the liyelong
day whether school kept or nof

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Of the proprietor of the Sentinel, he wrote:

^ I don^ 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 gaye me twelve
dollars a week to edii. 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 Tou can't mix politics and measles. I saw
hat I would have to draw the line at measles. 8c
ne day I drew my princely salary and quit, hav-
Mg 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 nationid attention.

He said that, in his opinion, his being seleotod

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for the office was a triumph of eternal right oyer
«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 dont know
when I haye 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
oyer a liyery stable and Nye put up a sign in-
structing caJlers to <* twist the tail of the gray
mule and take the eleyator."

He at once became famous and was soon brought
to New York, at a salary that seemed fabulous to
him. His place among the humorists of the world
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 eyeiy
memory of him. He was unselfish wholly, and I
am broken-hearted, recalling the always patient

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itrength and genUeneaa of this tnie man, the un*
foiling hope and cheer and faith of his child-hearty
his noble and heroic life, and pure deyotion to his
home his deep aflectionSy constant dreams, plans
and realizations. I cannot doubt but that somehow,
somewhere, he continues cheerily on in the on-
broken exercise of these same capadties."

Mr. Riley recently wrote the following sonnets

O WUUam, in thy blithe companionship
What liberty is mine— what sweet release
From clamourous strife, and yet, what boisterous peatsi

Ho! ho! It is thy fancy's finger tip

That dints the dimple now, and kinks the lip
That scarce may sing in all this glad increase
Of merrimenM So, pray thee, do not cease

To cheer me thus, for underneath the quip

Of thy droll sorcery the wrangling fret
Of aU distress is stilL No syllable

Of sorrow vexeth me, no tear drops wet
My teeming lids, save those that leap to tett

Thee thou'st a guest that oyerweepeth yel
Only because thou jokest oyerwelL

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Washington, D. C. }
Along toward morning, 1B87. V
CashibbWobld Office, New York.—

mY DEAB SIB: Yon will doubtless be
surprised to hear from me so soon, as I
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 Bepresentatives are haying a good
deal of fun with me, and hope you are enjoy' >
the same great blessing. You will wonder
Srst why I send in my expense account before
send in anything for the paper, but I will explaiir
that to you when I get back. At first I thought
I would not bother with the expense account till
I got to your offir^, but I can now see that it il

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going to worry me to get there 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

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lold they wfll got their mileage. On erery haai
ell is hurry ead excitement. Bills are being
Introduced, acquaiDtances renewed, and pnnek
iEM)wls aie beginning te wear a preoocni^ed

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

Yesterday afternoon my money gave out at
8:20, 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 tinges heard prominent
foreignera say, in their own language— thinki

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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 as
150,000 to him, whether he stood pat or drew to
an bstensible flush while really holding four

So 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 have
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 will
be unusually long, lasting perhaps clear into
July, and I find that the stenographers as a
gieneral thing get a pretty accurate and spicey
account of the proceedings, much more so than
I can, and as you will see by inclosed statement

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10 xilLL, NYE'S SFARK6,

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

My idea was that board and lodgings would
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-
ing 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 net the principal item of
expense, though of course I do not wish to put
up at a place ^v^^ere 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 w»>shing and ironing
aver an oil stove.

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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 his
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
kiiow 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.

Bill Ntb.

The following bill looks large in the aggregate,
tut 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
now 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 Worlds no matter what
(he expense is.

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

I fear you will regard the item for embalming
fts exorbitaiit. and it is so, but I was compelled

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to pay that price, as the man had to be shipped
a long distance, and I did not want to shock ills
friends too much when he met them at the

To rent of dress suit for the purpose of seeing' Ute

In Washington in the interest of the paper §4 60

To charges for dispersing turtle soup from lap of

same lOt

1o getting fur collar put on overcoat, in interest of

paper lOt

To amount loaned a gentlemaa who had lived in
Washington a long time and oould make me a
social pet (I will return same to you in case he

pays it before I come back) 6 0G

Po lodgings two nights at 26 cents 60

iiz meals at 15 cents 90

Pen and ink SO

Postage on this letter 9

Bronchial troches, in interest of paper SO

Oarfare 00

lAundry work done in interest of paper 80

Oarriage hire in getting from humble home of a

senator to my own yoluptuous lodgings .,, 00

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

policy of the paper 180 Od

^flne paid for assault and battery in and upon a
gentleman who said he wanted my influence, but
really was already under other influence, and who
stepped on my stomach twice without offleiiniT to

apologize '. 1900

Nd janitor of Jail next morning .....^ ••• 100

ffMdforbreakingthe window of myooU..*.. ...••... 00

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Paid damage for writiDg bumoroufl poetry on wall
of oeU BO that it could not l)e erased 8 19

Total 183618

I Will probably remain here until I hear from
yon favorably. I have met several 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 been in-
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. b. ir.

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fi pat^i)t Oratorioal Steaoi Or^apQett^
for F^ailvuay StampipQ.

I AM DOW 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 ex
pression for this unique little contrivance, SLf
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

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wrong oonnty or swelling np with pardonable
pride over large soap works in a rival town fift7
miles away from the one where they really are.
All these things weaken the political possibHitiea
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
thatneighborhood 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

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towns prepared in this way and, if it would not
take up too much of your space, I would like to
give 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 chosen as an illustration a speech that
I have had prepared for Asheville, N. €., but all
the others are equally applicable and apropos.

<|9~ See that aU bearinirs are well oiled before yoa starts
eepedallj political bearintrs* See that the crank is Just
^ht enough, without being too tight, and also that the
foumals do not get hot.)

Fellow-Citizens of Asiieville and Buncombe Couw
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 upon Buncombe County and de-
spair ever afterwards. (Four minutes for ap-
plause to die away.) Asheville is 2,339 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

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jiealing in their wings. (Hold valve open tw«
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 yoiur 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 Swananoa
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 homed 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 fromhere^
and Tahkeeastee Farm is only a mile away,
with its name extending on beyond as far as the
eye can reach. The French Broad Elver 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

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andan annoal rain-fall of 58.8 inches, la l>iit
twenty miles distant, while Lower Hominy is
near, and Hell's Half Acre, Sandy Mnsh and
Blue Buin are within your grasp.

The sun never lit up a cuter little town than
Asheville. Katiure 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 you have 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 Glingman,
who first originated the idea of using tobacco ex«
temally for bums, scalds, ringworm, spavin,
pneumonia, Bright's disease, poll evil, pip, gar-
get, heartburn, earache and financial stringency

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