What’s in a Name?

November 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Freedom of Speech manifests itself in a healthy alternative media. While Austin revels in calling itself “The Live Music Capital of the World,” (“Garage Band Capital”  would be closer to the truth), Austin could just as easily (and probably more justifiably) call itself “The Alternative Media Capital of the World.”

As my dear departed friend, Bill Narum used to say, Austin has the very rare distinction of having been born with dueling presses.

On October 30, 1839, Sam Whiting and Joel Miner printed the first edition of Austin’s first newspaper, the Austin City Gazette, several days before President Mirabeau B. Lamar arrived and Congress convened in its new, temporary wood-frame capitol.

The City Gazette was a four-page weekly that came out on Wednesdays and cost $5 a year. The City Gazette devoted about half its editorial space to the proceedings of Congress, laws, presidential decrees and other governmental matters. The rest of the paper was given over to local, national and international news, letters to the editor, editorials, fiction, poetry and essays (mostly reprints from other publications) and advertising (which took up a page or a page and a half).

Not surprisingly, the paper at first supported the new president, Mirabeau Lamar, but not exactly wholeheartedly, as revealed in issue number three, November 13, 1839: “the Gazette will support the Executive in any instance where the course adopted by him is not likely to prove injurious to the country.”

Elsewhere in the same issue, Whiting wrote: “The proprietor of this paper again presents himself before Congress as candidate for public printer. Having been elected by the last Congress, he felt obliged to have a press in readiness for the coming session. He trusts that the members of Congress will not be influenced by the representatives of his enemies who do not like him because they envy his success in life.”

Congress’ vote on the government printing contract took place in early December, but the City Gazette could not report the results until December 25; the paper had to skip two weeks. As Whiting explained, “We have five wagons at present, loaded with paper, materials, and another press on their way; a part of which have been already twenty-seven days out of Houston.” In another story, the Gazette reported that the Congress had voted 26 to 20 in favor of Whiting over George Bonnell and Jacob Cruger for public printer.

But what Whiting neglected to mention was that the government had subsequently changed its mind. Thus on December 6, 1839, George Bonnell and Jacob Cruger were selected as government printers. Perhaps Whiting should have been more slavish in his praise for Lamar. Whiting would retain the title “Printer to Congress” on his banner, but he would soon become the “opposition” press: Austin’s first “underground” paper and a model for all of the Siftings and Rolling Stones and Blunderbusses and Texas Observers and Iconoclasts and Rags and Austin Suns and Chronicles to come.

After a series of plain vanilla-looking issues, in January 1840, the Gazette announced it had gotten some new print and illustration material, which begins to show up in future issues. A good thing, because the Gazette now had competition, from the Texas Sentinel, published by George Bonnell and Jacob Cruger.

In the Sentinel’s first issue, in January 1840, Bonnell declared that it was an impartial paper. It was published every Wednesday and Saturday, four pages, three columns wide. Like the City Gazette, the Sentinel used very simple type faces, and almost no art, just an engraving of a sailing ship above the shipping news. The content was mostly government news. The ads were for mostly out of town businesses, in Galveston and such.

Being a man of many business interests, Sam Whiting was often out of town and so on February 12, 1840, George Teulon took over as editor of the Gazette and the gloves came off in the war between the Sentinel and the Gazette.

The Texas Sentinel, which soon after its birth revealed itself to be bitterly anti-Sam Houston, began publishing slanderous articles on Houston’s personal conduct. But as Lamar’s support withered, so did the Sentinel, which would disappear from the scene late in 1841, several months after Houston had been re-elected as president.

By March 11, 1840, the Sentinel was accusing Whiting of selling fraudulent land scrip in the US. The Lyceum’s debate topic was, “Should Texas wage war to utterly exterminate the Indians?” Bonnell, in a text notice, warns woodcutters not to cut wood on his land.

The Sentinel also included a brief, uncomplimentary “biography” of Teulon, who, it was said, came recently from Canada. It also featured a little remedy against Indian arrows, given by H. Mollhausen, Capt. of Artillery and Austin’s first architect: Take 16 to 24 sheets of blotting paper, interspersed with layers of silk or cotton, wrap it around your torso like a jacket, and you will be invulnerable to arrows and bullets.

Unlike most other boom towns, Austin had a newspaper, reading room, geology museum, and debating society before it had a proper bawdyhouse, gambling den, or saloon. Austin’s boom was based solely on its natural beauty; there was no oil, gold, silver, coal, iron ore, railroad, navigable river or power-producing waterfalls. San Francisco, for instance, did not get its first printing press and newspaper (the Californian) until January 1847. Austin did not get its first whorehouse until after the Civil War.

And at some point that summer of 1840, Austinites might have read the city’s first political satire publication, the Austin Spy, published by Dr. Richard Brenham. If published, no copies exist today, and it could have been just been some hokum printed in the Gazette. But we do know that Brenham was one of young Austin’s wittiest men before his untimely demise.

The December 23, 1840, City Gazette was the last issue with “Printer to Congress” on front page. The paper noted that Cruger had just been elected publisher. Last year, it said, promises of a new, state-of-the-art Adams Power Press had led to a revote in favor of Cruger. This year it was Cruger’s promise of 250 reams of paper in stock. The Gazette was hoping for another revote this year, in its favor. Just as Cruger’s Power Press had failed to materialize, the Gazette was equally skeptical of the arrival of 250 reams of paper.

But Lamar’s term as president would soon be up, and the Gazette busied itself promoting Sam Houston for president, in hopes of regaining the government printing contract.

While the Gazette and Sentinel exchanged political potshots, in April 1841 G.W. Morris offered Austin readers an alternative in the Rambler, published every Saturday for those who are “fond of Fun. Here you’ll find no lengthy speech of the politician, or love sick tale of the novelist; for the Lord knows the times are gloomy enough, without making us still more so by reading such nonsense. We need something to drive away the ‘blue devils’ — something to set our sides ashaking with laughter. We’ll let you know of all the doings ‘about town’, whether in the night or in the day-time.”

The Sentinel had died sometime in 1841 or 1842, after Sam Houston’s victory over the Sentinel’s candidate for president, David G. Burnet.

The last issue of the Gazette appeared in November 1842. Joel Miner moved to Houston in 1842 and later resided for a time at Washington, Texas.

With Texas statehood, people began returning to Austin, and the newspaper wars continued, with new names and owners that would change over the years to come.

The 1880s and 1890s were golden years for Austin alternative publications. Texans are world-famous for spinning yarns and other tall tales, and Alexander Sweet was the first Texas humorist (after Davy Crockett) to gain international fame. Born in St. John, New Brunswick, in 1841, Sweet moved to San Antonio with his family in 1849. He fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War, but became a lawyer and staunch Republican during Reconstruction. Sweet began writing for the San Antonio Express in 1869, and then moved to the Galveston News, where his column “Galveston Siftings” gained him national fame.

Sweet moved to Austin in May 1881 and started a weekly humor magazine he called Texas Siftings. It offered “reliable information about Texas, brevities, news, chaff humorous editorials, humorous and descriptive sketches (illustrated).” After a couple of issues, he hired W. H. Caskie as cartoonist, whose fanciful depictions of Texans presaged such later freak icons as Gilbert Shelton’s Oat Willie and Jim Franklin’s Flying Burrito and armadillo smoking a joint.

Siftings was Austin’s first illustrated political satire publication featuring political cartoon covers. The paper soon had a national circulation and international recognition, and in 1884 Sweet moved it to New York. His 1884 book, Through Texas on a Mexican Mustang, was a bestseller here and in England and Germany. Cartoonist Thomas Worth was hired away from Currier and Ives to meet the demand for cartoons. In 1887 a London edition was started. At its peak, Siftings had a circulation of 125,000, half-again larger than Punch, the famous English humor magazine. At least one promotional poster for Texas Siftings has survived. The success of Texas Siftings was an obvious inspiration for Will Porter’s short-lived humorous weekly, The Rolling Stone. After a quarrel with his partner, the Siftings ceased publication in 1895 and Sweet returned to Austin. He launched a new humor magazine that quickly failed and he soon returned to New York, where he became an editor with the Tammany Times. He died in New York in 1901.

About the time Sweet moved to New York in 1884, William Sidney Porter came to live in Austin. Porter, alias O. Henry, is arguably the most famous human being to ever come out of Austin. Porter was not born in Austin, but he began his professional writing career here, as editor and ace reporter for The Rolling Stone, a short-lived weekly humorous paper. As talented an artist and cartoonist as he was a word wrangler, Porter aimed to emulate the success of Alexander Sweet and Texas Siftings before him.

Inspired by the international success of Alex Sweet’s Texas Siftings, an eight-page humorous weekly begun in Austin in 1881, Porter launched his own humor magazine. In March 1894, he acquired a printing press, a partner, and a moniker: The Rolling Stone: Out for the Moss, which was what they hoped they’d soon be rolling in. After doing his day time at the bank, Porter set to filling The Rolling Stone’s eight weekly pages with a burlesque of satire, sketches, political cartoons, squibs, and stories regarding local persons and events.

The Rolling Stone met with unusual success at the start, and had in its files letters from men like Bill Nye and John Kendrick Bangs praising the sheet. They were doing nicely, getting the paper out every Saturday–approximately–and blowing the gross receipts every night. Then the paper began to strike snags. One feature was a series of cuts with humorous underlines of verse. One of the cuts was the rear view of a fat German professor, leading an orchestra, beating the air wildly with his baton. Underneath the cut Porter had written the following verse:

With his baton the professor beats the bars,

‘Tis also said he beats them when he treats.

But it made that German gentleman see stars

When the bouncer got the cue to bar the beats.

That issue alienated every German in Austin from The Rolling Stone, and cost the paper more than Porter and his partner were able to figure out in subscriptions and advertisements.

In the face of The Rolling Stone’s mounting bills, Porter’s fingers evidently began to stick to some of the bills he handled at the bank. He altered the books as he went along, with the idea of readjusting them later when he repaid the money. A December audit revealed the shortages in his books. His father-in-law and others agreed to make up most of the shortage ($5000) and the bank was content to let the matter slide, but not the federal bank examiner. Embezzlement charges against him would be examined by the grand jury in July 1895.

Without a job, the Porters lived off of the Roaches’ generosity and whatever other crumbs of income that Will’s occasionally published squibs brought. He tried to keep The Rolling Stone alive by a variety of subterfuges, but it faded from view at the end of April 1895.

During Porter’s triumphs, tribulations, and trials in the 1890s, the man who sold his press to Porter in 1894 blazed his own fiery trail across national skies. On August 1, 1891, William Cowper Brann published the first issue of the Austin Iconoclast, not long after Texas Siftings moved to New York in search of a larger audience. Whereas Siftings had come out of the corner joking, the Iconoclast came out slugging, with opening stories like “The American Press-Its Hypocrisy and Cowardice,” “Playing the Pimp-The ‘Personal’ Column in Newspapers,” and “Female Chastity-What Is It?”

It wasn’t long before articles from the Iconoclast were being reprinted in dailies across the country, and was being read in Canada, Europe and beyond. Even the Iconoclast’s detractors had to admit that he had “succeeded in securing more free advertising for the Lone Star State than any journal ever published within her borders.”

But a high profile attracted little money and the Iconoclast immediately went into financial peril. He took outside jobs to keep it going but his troubles mounted. In March 1894 he sold the name and the rest of the paper’s assets to Will Porter for $250. Porter published two issues of the Iconoclast before Brann rethought the sale and asked to buy the name back. Porter acquiesced and changed his name to the Rolling Stone.

Brann would take his cynic’s crusade into the very belly of the Bible Belt in Texas: Waco. Brann’s Iconoclast debuted on February 1, 1895 with the same caustic skepticism shown in the Austin Iconoclast. The hypocrisy he found at Baylor University made fun reading and many enemies among the Baptist faithful, who called Brann the Apostle of the Devil. In one 1895 scandal, a 15-year-old Brazilian girl attending Baylor was impregnated by Steen Morris, a printer related to the editor of the Baptist Guardian and the president of Baylor University.  In October 1897, a group of Baylor students kidnapped Brann from his office and tried to lynch him. Less than a year after that, on April Fools Day 1898, he was shot to death by Tom Davis, father of a Baylor co-ed. Brann returned the mortal favor and the two men were buried two days later. Both funerals drew large crowds.

UT’s first humor magazine, the Coyote, appeared in 1909 that lasted through World War I. It was scarcely controversial.

In 1913, at the University of Texas, the a group called the Barbarians gathered at the gates not long after Christmas break ended, demanding an end to the Greek letter societies on the UT campus and elsewhere. The anti-fraternity men, who called themselves the Barbarians, vowed to take their abolitionist demands to the state legislature if necessary. Their fight led to the founding later that year of the Blunderbuss, a campus tabloid that lobbed volleys of scorn and ridicule on the Greek community for several decades thereafter. Richard Tudor Fleming attended the University of Texas, where he lettered as a pole vaulter for the track team, was editor of the yearbook, Cactus, and was one of three originators of the infamous Blunderbuss, an underground newspaper first published on April Fools Day, 1913, and then published for 16 years. By its own declaration it was “put out anonymously and administers justice and invective toward all the more prominent students on the campus with a generous hand.” It was printed on pink newspaper stock and was anonymously distributed under cover of night to locations around campus.

In May 1924, there briefly appeared a UT scandal sheet called the Tattler, put out because there were elements on campus who felt that the annual Blunderbuss in April had failed to dish out the traditional dirt it was famous for. It described several wild co-ed drinking parties and named a “Hall American Team” of 12 University students, explaining why each was picked for the team. The positions on the team that were thus filled were front end, rear end, wiener grabber, publicity grabber, mudguard, center, drawback, bump back, front back and back back. Almost all copies were seized before the y could be distributed, but those that did get into circulation were much in demand, some being rented for 50 cents an hour.

A few later years later, the Blunderbuss would be effectively put out of business through a series of lawsuits, though it would raise gain briefly in the 1930s.

In September 1919, the Scalper, a new comic monthly paper, debuted. Since the death of the Coyote, there had been no comic on campus, and the aim was to make it like the Harvard Lampoon, Cornell Widow, etc. Jerry Belcher was the debut editor; Jack Hyman was to have been editor, but had been kicked out of school. The first issue was so controversial the UT dads killed it.

Monthly college humor magazines were a national fad during the 1920s and the UT administration let its conservative guard down for once and gave students a chance to cavort around the edges of good taste. In 1923, the Ranger first appeared on the UT campus. Sexy student cartoons, racy jokes and campus satire were the monthly fare.

The modern era of great Austin cartoonists began in 1919 when Roy Crane arrived on the UT campus. Roy Crane would achieve national fame as a cartoonist and would serve as role model for a future generation of Austin poster artists and cartoonists, including Gilbert Shelton, creator of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, and Frank Stack, creator of one of the earliest underground commix, The Adventures of Jesus.

Born in Abilene in 1901, Crane attended UT-Austin from 1919 to 1922. His wife, the former Evelyn Hatcher, was also a student at UT Austin. Crane was art editor of the Cactus yearbook and the Longhorn, a student literary magazine that later merged with the Ranger, and he drew cartoons for The Daily Texan.

In an article about “Original, Freakish, Clever and Prosaic Means of Earning Way Through University,” the Daily Texan noted that Crane was plying his brush at three different places in the fall of 1921: He was on the Texan staff as artist and cartoonist, drew “those curly-whirly layouts for the society pictures and the automobile section’s heading on the Austin American and is artist for the Capitol Engraving company.”

Crane (1901-1977) is regarded as the father of the adventure-story cartoon strip. His first creation, Wash Tubbs, appeared in 1924. It soon was followed by Buzz Sawyer, syndicated by King Features, which became world famous. Crane would achieve the pinnacle of his success with the introduction of a rugged and savvy soldier of fortune, Captain Easy, who would inspire a generation of cartoonists.

It is almost impossible to overestimate the impact of this character on those who wrote and drew adventure stories in comic strips and comic books in the thirties. Gil Kane saw Easy in early comics. Kane, who began his comic book career in the early 1940s, once chanted a litany of credit to Crane before an audience at the San Diego Comic Convention: “Superman was Captain Easy,” he said; “Batman was Easy.”

And he listed several more characters before he stopped.

In 1937, future liberal US Congressman Bob Eckhardt was Ranger editor. Walking in the footsteps of O. Henry, he was also the magazine’s most prolific cartoonist that school year and he authored a number of stories as well, Austin’s latest, double-trouble, smartassed writer and clever cartoonist. A history buff, he knew Austin’s past well, including its party-hearty side. He celebrated the annual UT Round-Up homecoming by lampooning some of the greatest tricks pulled off by several of that year’s honored classes, including the Class of 1902, which brought Carrie Nation, the bar-smashing hatchet queen of Prohibition, on to campus. His illustrations at times mimicked those of O. Henry before him and inspired those of Guy Juke after him. Pressler’s Garden may have closed before Eckhardt was born, but he knew all about it, and Jacoby’s, and Scholz Garden too, from reading his history. History was another interest he shared with O. Henry and John Lomax and Raymond Everett before him, and Gilbert Shelton, Jack Jackson and Danny Garrett after him.

Jaxon would be a major contributor to the counter culture movement in Austin and San Francisco. Older than some of his Austin peers, he came to Austin in 1962 with a degree in accounting, because he had heard there was the beginning of a new scene there. He worked a straight, day job and partied with the tail end of the beatnik crowd at night, which is how he met Shelton, Janis Joplin and Chet Helms. They all attended the same folk music sings.

Jack Jackson adopted his trademark signature, Jaxon, to avoid detection by his boss, Robert Calvert, Texas’ comptroller of public accounts. Though his first love was history, Jackson had majored in accounting at Texas A&I University before moving to Austin and taking a grunt job in the Capitol basement. “I wanted to be like Spinoza –grind lenses by day so I could do fun stuff at night,” he told Gary Cartwright. At first, fun stuff was drawing subversive cartoons for the Ranger. Then, in 1964, Jaxon authored, with help from ex-Ranger editor Lieuen Adkins, what many regard as the first underground comic, “God Nose.” Jaxon printed God Nose late one night with the help of his friends in the Capitol printing office. So, the first significant underground comic was printed at government expense.

“God Nose” attacked the icons of Christian faith by presenting a hapless and bespectacled Deity frequently baffled by His creations. “God Nose” was a takeoff on the Austin Iconoclastic’s comic strip, “The Adventures of J(esus)” by Foolbert Sturgeon, AKA Frank Stack.

This 1960s incarnation of the Austin Iconoclast was the brainchild of Gilbert Shelton, who drew inspiration from the notoriety of both William Brann’s Iconoclast and O. Henry’s Rolling Stone of the 1890s. “Bill Killeen was publishing Wonder Warthog in Charlatan magazine, which he had re-started in Gainesville, Florida. That incarnation of Charlatan lasted until Killeen was sued for libel by some official of the University of Florida whose name had found its way into the joke column of the magazine. But I wasn’t making any income from the Wart-Hog. I lived off my friends for a while. I published six or eight numbers of the Austin Iconoclastic, all but the last two of which were pamphlet format. I also published a small edition of Adventures of Jesus, at least I took credit for being the publisher. It was xeroxed clandestinely at the University of Texas law school by a law student named Brooks Alexander, and I stapled it together,” Shelton said. A few years later, Shelton would suggest the name “Iconoclast” to controversial Dallas underground publisher Stony Burns for his new publication.

In the context of everything just said comes the launch of Richard Zelade: the Blunderbuss. Everything has to have a name, including this blog site. I chose to relaunch my blog as Richard Zelade: the Blunderbuss to honor, in part, Austin’s first underground publication (And with only a thimbleful of readers per week, I am about as underground as a blogger can get). The founders of the Blunderbuss chose that name because the blunderbuss cast a wide field of shot that was very effective at close range. My intent with Richard Zelade: the Blunderbuss is to similarly cover the broad spectrum of life and death and everything in between, within buckshot range of our pretty little city.

Funny, that a farming term, “broad casting” — “scattering seed across a wide area” — would be chosen to describe the transmission of radio programs to listeners all over the world during the original Blunderbuss’s glory years. But it proved the best word for the job.

But since this is the internet age, at the same time, I am broadcasting the seeds of the Austin area’s hubris and huggermugger to the world, or at least anyone who stumbles upon this spot.


When the Armadillo Came to Austin

November 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

One of the great mysteries of recent times in Texas is the decline of roadkill armadillos. Why is anyone’s guess.

As recently as 20 years ago, they could be seen by the dozen, in varying stages of smushyness, on any drive of length through Central Texas and the Hill Country. Photos of roadkill armadillos, their beady little eyes pointed skyward, hugging Lone Star beer cans with their little claws, were second only in popularity to snapshots of cute babies awash in bluebonnets.

The nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) is a relatively recent addition to the Texas fauna, and the only species of armadillo that occurs in North America.

Before the mid-1850s, according to the Handbook of Texas, the armadillo was known only along the lower Rio Grande valley. By 1880 it had extended its range across South Texas, and it reached the Hill Country and Austin before the turn of the century. Continuing its movement northward and eastward, the armadillo spread throughout most of Texas and into Louisiana and Oklahoma during the 1920s and 1930s. In 1981, it was declared the official state mascot, by executive decree.

All of which is preparatory to noting that today, November 1, is the 136th anniversary of the armadillo’s “coming out” in Austin, as duly noted in the pages of the Austin Daily Statesman.

An armadillo may be seen by the curious in natural history at Bennett’s candy manufactory on the Avenue in this city. It feeds on sugar or beef steaks, rolls itself in a knot when furious or frightened, is very gentle and placable, however, and its scales cover it when it gets wrathy, head, neck and heels. The armadillo is also called the peba and the latter, as described in the dictionaries, is the animal at Bennett’s, it having a longer tail and body than the armadillo. But the two species have the same peculiarities of covering and look very like an old soldier of the crusades or Don Quixote on all four. These pebas and peccaries abound in western Texas wherever prickly pear trees grow to great height; but Webster’s unabridged tells us that the peba is peculiar to South America, and Webster must correct himself.”

Trash Talkin’

November 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

Let’s talk trash.

These days Austin is almost as proud of its beauty as it is of its weirdness, kindness to animals, and surfeit of garage bands (Holy Mr. Creosote, Monty Python!).

But once upon a time, Austin was a stinking, filthy place, like most other American cities; a place all of us of sound mind, vision and smell would recoil from calling home. Take a whiff on these clips from the past and the next time (if ever) you find yourself pining for the “good old days,” remember what you are about to read and disabuse yourself of all such bogus nostalgia.

August 31, 1871

Egypt was tolerably civilized, but Egypt didn’t have a garbage cart. Does Austin? And why not? Why not every morning come around and gather up the dirt, and have the streets kept neat and clean. This occurred to us as we walked down the avenue and beheld the papers, melon rinds, scattered in rich profusion. Something of the kind is needed. Cleanliness is healthfulness. An ounce of preventive is worth a pound of cure.

September 17, 1876

Daily may be seen on the streets a lot of half-starved, ragged, little colored children, who go about picking up filthy watermelon rinds, rotten apples, potatoes, etc., which they eat with all the relish a pig would display. Fruit dealers say that many of them to be half starved. The police should accompany them home, and ascertain who their parents are, and then the city should apply some punishment to those who would thus starve their own children.

July 22, 1880

Gutters on the Avenue and Pecan street, especially the latter, are in a terrible condition and the reporter hears complaints about them almost daily. It is said that the stench that goes up early in the morning from the gutter on the north sign of Pecan street from the Avenue to Waller Creek is almost unbearable. Stale vegetables, watermelon rinds and other decomposing vegetable matter emit odors disagreeable and dangerous in the health of the city. General George Washington and his little cart are the only appliances the city can control just at this time to do scavenger duty, and it is utterly impossible for George and his cart to perform the duty. He should have the assistance, and it is imperative that he has it at once. When we remember that the city offal has to be carted over a mile below town before being dumped, it is absurd to think for a moment that one small cart, even though it be presided over by George Washington, can keep the streets and gutters of this city in good sanitary condition. The heated term is upon us, yellow fever has broken out at many places, and it is eminently proper that the city be kept as clean and as possible. Let George Washington have assistance.

May 10, 1881

The average citizen in other parts will envy the good fortune of the bibulous inclined of this city, who have inaugurated a brilliant scheme whereby that disturbing “throwing-of-dice-for-drinks” law is completely floored and hid out of sight. The boys take two lumps of sugar, and placing them on the counter frighten the flies away. They then step back, and the man on whose lump a fly first alights has to pay for the drinks. Thus it is, these sorely tried victims of the Seventeenth Legislature get around its laws and revel to no end of fun and soothing beverages. The legislature when it meets again will have to set it giant intellect to work and spend a couple or three months trying to fix a law that will scoop in this fly business.

August 6, 1881

The dog killer continues to ply his vocation with a vim, and the gray of the morning shimmers down upon defunct canines scattered about on the streets and in the alleys. Many of them are left for hours in the hot sun, and send up odors that are nauseous in the extreme. Yesterday morning there was a very large dog lying in the alley near Bremond’s bank, and the sight, to say nothing of the smell, was anything but refreshing.

July 15, 1881

There is an old motherly looking cow that passes down the west side of the Avenue regularly every morning picking up scraps of melons and bits of potato and hay. She goes down to about Pecan street and crosses over to the east side of the Avenue and starts back towards the capitol and goes around the yard fence and disappears until the next morning. The reporter has seen this cow in a condition bordering, as he believes, on absolute intoxication, from the effects of eating pieces of lemons set out in front of the saloons. One morning last week while she was on a mild kind of spree the reporter met her staggering down the street sweetly oblivious of all surroundings and displaying an indifference for the police and poundmaster refreshing to behold.

April 16, 1882
At Simon and Billeisen Restaurant, we exclude all flies from the kitchen as well as the dining room and give you a square meal for your money.

July 29, 1882

A Bad Habit

Some people in Austin do not understand what the public streets are made for. They fail to utilize their natural advantages. No doubt there are many other villages in the United States in which the people are not fully aware of the uses to which the public street may be applied, and these remarks will apply as well to them as to the capital of Texas.

In the first place, if you catch any rats, or a dog or a cat dies on your premises, do not go to the trouble of having the remains removed to the suburbs, although they are very useful there in making the air pleasant to parties enjoying an evening ride. We say, therefore, do not waste your dead rats, cats, etc., upon the desert air, and do not throw such relics over into your neighbor’s back yard, for then nobody but your neighbor and his family will be gratified thereby. The correct thing to do is to throw the used up rats, cats, etc., out into the public streets, where the whole public will have occasion to appreciate your self-sacrificing public spirit. Nothing is so well calculated to favorably impress strangers with the intelligence and refinement of the natives as a liberal supply of defunct rodents in the public streets.

There is more or less broken glass and crockery around and about every house. Do not selfishly hoard up these articles of bric-a-brac, for which you have no further use, in a corner of your yard. Throw them into the street. There is nothing that makes such an excellent roadway for horses as broken glass, and old tin cans. You can also macadamize streets by putting an old stove along with the broken glass. But horses are not the only creatures that will have occasion to be grateful to you. There are a great many poor children passing along the public street, whose parents are unable to buy them shoes. No doubt most of these children have never enjoyed a genuine case of lockjaw. If you keep throwing bric-a-bric into the street, you may have the satisfaction of knowing that, without costing you a cent, you may have been the cause of their finding out what fun lockjaw, or a dismembered toe or so, really is. But seriously, there are a number of persons who, from thoughtlessness, more than anything else, allow broken glass to be thrown into the streets. It is a bad idea, and is often the cause of needless pain and suffering.  Don’t do it again.


During the past week or so, the dust in Austin has assumed formidable proportions. Nearly everybody has affixed a broad grin on his face, or a frown that might terrify Mars, the god of war, if he were in town, but he is not. The broad grin does not in the least indicate the state of mind of the wearer of it. Obviously, one might suggest that the man who could get up a grin of such dimensions had twins at his house, both boys, but such is not the case at all. The man himself may be as gloomy as a Greenback candidate, but he grins all the same. It is the fine limestone dust that is wafted by the shovelful and the wind up his nose and into his eyes and made him feel worse than Job when he had the boils. The grin is purely muscular and altogether independent of the emotions. Others find it more convenient to frown – at the city authorities for not sprinkling the streets. Those who frown, wear a perpendicular wrinkle between their eyes, which at a distance looks like a ten-penny nail, but it is not. It is not even an expression of gloom, but merely a mechanical effort to keep an acre of dust from drifting into the eyes of the sufferer.

We are all made of dust, and most all, even those of us who own city property and wear good clothes, return to the dust from which we came, because it does not seem fair that we should be worried to death with dust before our time. there is any quantity of it, and it is the finest dust in the world, but still we do not care for any more of it. Austin has only about ten thousand population, but we have dust enough to accommodate at least fifty thousand people, each of them with forty eyes to be blinded by the infernal stuff. It has become as great a sideshow as the star route trials. It is a poor wind that does not blow good to somebody, and the wind that blows the Austin dust blows some good to the Northern manufacturer by raining tens of thousands of dollars of “fine ladies’ grade,” as Mose Schaumburg, the Austin Avenue merchant would say. Money is the root of all evil, hence, of course, the more money our citizens lose by dust, the better off they are, although some of them make out that they can not see it in that light. Perhaps they have got dust in their eyes.

May 4, 1883

We have a few roaches around in our office that strayed over from a boarding house. They are old and industrious, only sleeping a half hour at noon. They are so well trained that every time we ring up the telephone they rush in, thinking it is the dinner bells. Samples furnished free, by sending two three-cent stamps. They make fine mince pies; are frequently used in the hotels and boarding houses for flavoring hash; and, being about the color of preserves and dried apples, they make an excellent mixture for these delicacies. Used in this manner, they make such sweet meats go further with boarders and are used now by hotels and boarding houses everywhere.

September 1, 1883

Now is the time to make connections with the sewer being put in on the alley east of Congress Avenue. Every house ought to connect and thereby save a great deal of filth, so troublesome now.

October 27, 1885

Look here, how about this gas matter? Walkabout don’t like to complain, but this coffee-colored gas matter is getting to be a serious matter — too monotonous. He swallowed three flies in his tea last evening by reason of the dimness of the light, and how many more he is to swallow depends on the contract made with the city.

September 22, 1886

There is an old gentleman in this city, who, about 10 or 11 o’clock at night, sups from a garbage barrel in front of the Union market. An offer to take him back in the market to Bowman’s restaurant and give him a superb supper was indignantly refused, the other night, and the old man went off in a huff.

I could go on, ad nauseum, but won’t. Ah, the glories of the libertarian mindset; go with the reek. It’s your right to do so, after all, right? Dead cats and broken crockery for all!

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