Will Rogers' Weekly Articles
WA117 March 8, 1925
PEOPLE ENTIRELY TO BLAME FOR
TAME INAUGURAL SHOW
Well, all of the papers have been full of the inauguration, commenting on the simplicity of it, some of them for and others against. Now the old reliable Illiterate Digest which is always conservative, never partisan, will try and relieve itself editorially on this reseting of Kareful Kal.1
first place, I don’t think you can stir up a whole lot of excitement and get
110,000,000 people het up over a man getting up out of his seat, and sitting
down in the same seat again. If it was a new man it would have been different. Knowing he had never set in that chair before everybody would be anxious to know how he felt in it, for he would be a novelty in that position.
But here is a guy who just raises up and bows and sits down, and the city of Washington feels hurt that the entire mortgage bearing people of the United States were not there to see it. It just wasn’t in the cards.
Now if it had been somebody else, say for instance, those two half portion delegates from Arizona who showed intelligence far above their fellow inmates of Madison Square Garden last summer, and put into nomination that sterling statesman, and fearless leader, yours truly!
As I say, just suppose we had more delegates of their intelligence,and my nomination had reached a successful conclusion, followed in November by a campaign between Mr. Coolidge and common sense, versus William Penn Adair Rogers and no sense at all, (which is even more prevalent in this country than common sense). And suppose the majority, which of course would be my party, with no sense at all, had won out. Now can you imagine the excitement in Washington over the inauguration?
I would have showed you some life. Instead of having a delegation of those side-hill farmers from Vermont (with one leg longer than the other, from following a plow around those steep hills) here is an illustration of just a few of the delegations that I would have had there.
In the first place, I would have had every Cherokee Indian of my tribe there. (You know the Cherokees are the most highly civilized tribe of Indians in the World) but they could have stood it a few days in Washington even among those low brow surrounding. Then I would have had a bunch of my cowboy friends there. (That has not been done since Roosevelt was inaugurated.)2
I would have used them to rope the lobbyists in Washington and had a cowboy rope and drag them up Pennsylvania Avenue in a big parade. If you could just get these lobbyists out of Washington it would be as good as almost any city. In this last week’s inauguration they did nothing to suppress them at all. They let lobbyists and dogs and everything watch the parade, or what parade there was.
Now Coolidge had a few soldiers marching in this small time parade. I would have had millions because I wrote articles for the bonus, while he vetoed. Of course, I would have been hissed by the rich men who were not in favor of it, but what do we care; I am not catering to the big majority.
Now think of the moving picture delegation that I would have there (by permission of Will H. Hays, Director of Morals).3
As an opening ceremony I would have Doug Fairbanks jump off the Washington monument.4
I would like to see Mr. Coolidge get something to tie that. He would light, and carry Mary Pickford out of the crowd on his shoulders.5
Doug and Mary would lead the movie brigade.
Now in Mr. Coolidge’s parade he had what they called a tank corpse. I would have a real tank corpse. I would have a bunch of capitol door tenders. That would represent my tank corpse.
In my movie contingent I would have Cecil DeMille (of Ten Commandments fame) part the Potomac and let the people west of the river come over.6
If he divided the Dead sea, it ought to be a cinch to handle the Potomac (it’s more a name than a river anyway.)
Charlie Chaplin I would have do some funny stuff on the capitol steps while I was delivering my inaugural address.7
You know there is a real idea. There never has been a President that had the foresight to think of having something done, so the people can look at it while the inaugural address is being delivered. Charlie could have a policeman kick him down stairs on those long steps or any other little thing that might come in his mind. And while they were swearing in the Vice President, Harold Lloyd could be climbing up the outside of the Lincoln Memorial.8
That would get people’s mind off the Vice President. In this last week’s inaugural they had a detachment of the third cavalry escort the Vice President. They used this cavalry on account of them being used to profanity. If I was going to have an escort for Dawes I would have a bunch of army mule drivers.9
They would appreciate his language.
I see where the airplane section was represented in their parade, but not by Mitchell.10
They have not only canned him from investigations, but
from the air entirely. Now they had a lot of Governors of different states who marched according to when they entered the union. In place of them I would have had Ziegfeld Follies.11
Can you imagine anyone looking at a Governor when he could look at a Follies girl? They would make a sucker out of those Governors.
We would have put them on a real show down there. Of course after we got into the White House we may have flopped, but boy, getting in there would have caused some excitement. They say they haven’t had a man that rode a horse to the White House since Jefferson. Say, I would have been straddle of an old buzzard-head and he wouldn’t have been mechanical, either. Instead of the Marine Band or the Government Band, Boy, I would have had Paul Whiteman’s Band.12
They would have just ruined that District of Columbia air around there with White House Blues.
As my personal escort instead of a lot of plain clothes police I would have had Ben Turpin.13
Nobody could throw a thing at me. He could be watching every way at once. Instead of Major General Hines and his staff, I would have had Ann Pennington, Gloria Swanson, Pola Negri, Peggy Joyce, and Baby Peggy.14
And I would be pulling right behind my horse with a rope, a baby buggy, and in it wouldn’t be nobody but Paulina Roosevelt Longworth.15
Just the best known individual in Washington today! As an attraction she would make a tramp out of any President that ever formed a cabinet. Alice would have loaned her to me, and of course Nick—I wouldn’t even ask him!16
They know I would take good care of her, and to help guard her, I would have had the Texas Rangers (there is a real body of men, even if they did try to make ’em look little by having them enforce prohibition).
Now all this is only an inkling of what you would have gotten if, as I say, we had had more men like those two Arizona delegates. So if Washington wants to wail about what a tame affair their inauguration was, why don’t blame me. I would have showed them an inauguration staged by Ziegfeld and D. W. Griffith that would have made them forget Vermont belonged to the union.17
1John Calvin Coolidge, Republican president of the United States who took office in 1923 upon the death of Warren G. Harding. Elected to a full term in 1924, Coolidge was inaugurated on March 4, 1925.
2Theodore Roosevelt, Republican president of the United States from 1901 to 1909.
3William Harrison “Will” Hays, American attorney and politician who as president of Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America from 1922 to 1945 became known as the “czar” of the motion picture industry.
4Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., American actor and hero of numerous silent spectaculars; husband of film actress Mary Pickford.
5Mary Pickford, silent film actress who won wide acclaim as “America’s Sweetheart.”
6Cecil Blount De Mille, American motion picture producer and director; renowned for his biblical spectaculars, including The Ten Commandments (1923).
7Charles Spencer Chaplin, famous English comedian of silent films, known widely for his “Little Tramp” character.
8Harold Lloyd, American motion picture actor, noted for his comic portrayals of wistful innocents who blunder into and out of “hair-raising” situations.
9Charles Gates Dawes, Republican vice president of the United States from 1925 to 1929; noted for his salty language.
10William “Billy” Mitchell, American army officer who served as commander of the Army Air Service from 1917 to 1918. Colonel Mitchell was court-martialed in 1925 because he had criticized the Departments of War and Navy for mismanagement of the Aviation Service. Convicted, Mitchell resigned from the Army in 1926.
11Florenz “Flo” Ziegfeld, Jr., American theatrical producer, best known for the Ziegfeld Follies. First produced in 1907, these elaborately staged musical revues featured a bevy of beautiful chorus girls and many of the leading stage performers of the day. Rogers appeared with the Follies from 1916 to 1925.
12Paul Whiteman, American jazz orchestra conductor who frequently toured the United States and Europe during the 1920s and 1930s.
13Ben Turpin, American vaudeville and film comedian, best known for his crossedeyes and large toothbrush mustache.
14John Leonard Hines, American army officer who attained the rank of major general in 1921 and who served as Army chief of staff in 1924. Ann Pennington, American performer who often appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies
and who won fame as a dancer with “the dimpled knees.” Gloria Swanson, glamorous American film and stage actress who began her career in 1913. She appeared in more than forty-five motion pictures. Pola Negri, Polish actress who came to the United States in 1923 and starred in such movies as Gypsy Blood, Passion, and The Cheat. Peggy Hopkins Joyce, Ziegfeld Follies showgirl whose six marriages brought her much publicity. Peggy Jean “Baby Peggy” Montgomery, American motion picture child star who began her career in 1920 at age two.
15Paulina Longworth, infant daughter of Nicholas and Alice Roosevelt Longworth.
16Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, wife of Congressman Nicholas Longworth, and famous Washington hostess. Nicholas Longworth, Republican United States representative from Ohio from 1903 to 1913 and 1915 until his death in 1931; majority floor leader from 1923 to 1925; speaker of the House from 1925 to 1931.
17David Lewelyn Wark Griffith, pioneer American motion picture producer, noted for his technical innovations in Birth of a Nation (1915).
WA118 March 15, 1925
THE COMEDIAN KNOWS WHEN A BETTER
MAN APPEARS, AND “HELL AN’ MARIA”
Well, I guess I won’t be here in the old Follies much longer. I will just be the editor of the Illiterate Digest every week, with no side line at all. I have had my job for a good many years, off and on, but the minute Mr. Charley Dawes, our amiable and genial Vice President made his debut into the public life of this country I knew that my days as a public entertainer were limited.1
I know when I am licked. I know when somebody is better
than I am.
If they had just left him with his bank out there in Chicago I would have felt secure in my job. But No! out in Cleveland at the Convention they put the names of all the men in the United States who had ever at any time during their lives voted the Republican Ticket (even if they had reformed and repented afterwards) and they took all those names and started drawing them out of a hat to see who would be Vice President. They first drew out Lowden and when he heard about it he was sore as a goat.2
He telegraphed them “Who put my name in there? Withdraw it at once and if it is mentioned again in connection with the Vice Presidency I will take any legal means necessary to protect it.” Now it comes out that in the drawing the name of this fellow Sanders, (who is President Coolidge’s Private Secretary) was pulled out also.3
But Senator Watson, being the first to see it, tore it up right quick, and said it was a misprint and there was no name on the slip at all.4
Then somebody drew out the name of Hell and Maria Dawes. Then the question arose as to who was to notify him, and tell him of this calamity that had befallen him. They were all scared to death to tell Dawes, because they knew what any self respecting man would do if offered the Booby Prize at a drawing. But they finally notified him and to the surprise of everybody he took it and instead of being sore, he quit cussing and really thought the job was serious.
Well, that let the Republican Party out of a terrible home. as they had been worrying all year as to whether they could inveigle someone to take this dog-robbing job. But him accepting made up the required number of entries, so they went ahead with the race. During the campaign he just laid back and didn’t paw the ground at all. Just once in a speech he kinder busted a curb chain and broke out but Calvin just looked at him as much as to say, “You scratch out a clean place and lay down there; I will tell you when to get up.”
Well, through Calvin keeping Charlie hid under the bed during the campaign they win so far that their opponents were disqualified for not starting. After election things kinder went from bad to worse.
Take for instance, wheat, prices went up but it didn’t do the farmer any good. He had to sell his wheat early because he had to get something to eat. So the high price of wheat was just like someone telling you the big price they got for your house after you had been foreclosed out of it on a mortgage. Stocks went to the sky. Farmers’ families went to the poor house; and the farmer himself went to the insane asylum. Steak on the plate went up. Steak on the hoof went down. Prosperity remained with them that had.
Between election and inauguration Dawes seemed instead of being kinder ashamed of the offfice, to be kinder proud of it. That attracted attention. People at his home town somewhere in Illinois give him a big blow-out when they were sure he was going to leave them and go to Washington.
Then come the inauguration, Mr. Coolidge had given the newspaper his speech in advance, as is the general custom, so they could have it out as soon as it was delivered. But this Mr. Dawes said: “No, you get no speech from me; take it when it is delivered.” You see he hadn’t thought up exactly just what he was going to call ’em. Well, he was to be sworn in first. That’s the only time the Vice President is ahead of the President, and after being sworn he was supposed to get up and thank the Senate for the high position, and privilege to be allowed to rule over such an august body. But, boy, he cut loose and told those old bobbed-haired longhorns that it was bad enough to be Vice President, but to have to sit all day and listen to them yap was absolutely the limit. He didn’t write or tell it to them over the ’phone; he just cut loose right out in church and told the Senate what a bunch of static they were. He did just what I had been doing for years but he did it so much better than I can do it. The minute I read it I saw the handwriting on the wall. I know that Florenz Ziegfeld tries to get the best in any line, and I know in my own heart that here is a guy better than me.5
And there is no use being jealous, or envious. When you are beat at your own game, why, be a man and admit it, and when Charley Dawes will come out with the facts right to their faces, I knew that I was licked. So Ziegfeld has him all booked up the minute this small-time Senate adjourns. You see they don’t meet again till away next fall, so Mr. Dawes replaces me in the Follies for the summer season; then returns to Coolidge’s Follies in the Fall. This at first might appear to you as being quite an innovation for a prominent politician appearing on the stage. Why, it’s done all the time. Everyone of them, the minute Congress and the Senate adjourn, rushes home, renews his notes at the bank and starts in on the lecture or chautauqua platform. So Mr. Dawes going into the Follies is really a step higher than any Politician has ever been able to take. They pay five-fifty to see him in here, where in these chautauquas they can see two or three politicians on the same program for a pitchfork full of hay, or a peck of potatoes.
So Dawes will have another laugh on the Senate. He certainly was a life saver for that inauguration. If it hadn’t been for him the thing would have died standing up. I think he will be just as good in the Follies. At inauguration he swore in eight new senators and then adjourned with 24 more to be sworn in. Now, he was criticized for that. Why, I think it was wonderful. If he had stopped for good and not let those other 24 in at all, he would have been the biggest hero America ever had. He had already seen the class they were by this first eight.
The funny part of it all, he is right. In his speech he lost the friendship of the Senate and gained the respect of the other 109 million. The truth hurt ’em. That’s what made ’em cringe. When he was in charge of the budget (or what little budget we had), why one time he called Congress a bunch of pinheads, and it has always been a doubt in people’s mind as to whether he was not flattering them or not.
Now, Mr. Coolidge in his speech complimented Congress and the Senate, and they, like a lot of easy marks believed him. We all know in our minds what he really thinks of them. But here comes a guy and really tells the truth, and gets in all wrong, with everybody but the voters.
So here is good luck to a man who has the courage to stand up and tell those old tom cats they are wrong. I think Ziegfeld makes a big find when he digs him out of political obscurity and brings him to Broadway, where he not only can bawl out the Senate but anybody he wants to. In the meantime, I will not by any means trade jobs with him. While he is in the Follies I am going to Washington and be groom for Mr. Coolidge’s mechanical horse.
1For Charles F. Dawes see WA 117:N 9.
2Frank Orren Lowden, Illinois attorney and former governor who was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1920. He declined consideration for the vice presidential nomination in 1924.
3Everett Sanders, Republican United States representative from Indiana from 1917 to 1925; secretary to President Coolisdge from 1925 to 1929.
4James Eli Watson, Republican United States representative from Indiana from 1916 to 1933. Watson and Sanders led separate factions within the Republican party in Indiana.
5For Flo Ziegfeld see WA 117: N 11.
WA119 March 22, 1925
PAY THE SOLONS ACCORDING TO
ABILITY AND SAVE MONEY
The Illiterate Digest has been asked to comment editorially on the Bill which raised Senators’ and Congressmen’s salaries from $7,500 to $10,000 per diem year. Everybody kinder thought that Mr. Coolidge would veto the bill. But he did not; he signed it. Personally, I think he signed it to try and encourage them in honesty. You know, it’s not what you pay a man but what he costs you that counts.
Then another thing, I see where Congress was just asked for $50,000 to put a new roof on and redecorate the White House. So you see it was kind of a trade. He was tired moving his bed every time it rained and he figured if, I do right by these boys, they will do right by me. Then again there is liable to be a Presidential raise come up again at any time and those are the Boys who have to O. K. it. Now, as to whether they should have it or not, that is kinder hard to say. I believe they should, and the Illiterate Digest in saying that, is kinder going out of its policy. Because we generally can’t see any good in the whole shebang. But I figure if we pay ’em good it might encourage them to do better. They do like flattery, and if we raise their pay and sorter kid ’em along they may amount to something yet.
Of course, what looks bad about the whole thing is that a bunch of men can raise their own pay without the people who are paying it having anything to do with it. It would be like me, while Mr. Ziegfeld my boss, is in Florida, holding a caucus with myself and deciding that I should have more money.1
Now I would get fat trying to get away with that, wouldn’t I? But these birds decide on a raise for themselves and there is nothing can stop ’em but Calvin and he didn’t.
Now, I will say for Senator Borah that he was against it.2
caught him pulling a Dawes, (he went home and went to sleep early one night) and when he woke up he found his salary had been raised $2,500.3
You see they sneaked it through one night when even the night watchman wasn’t there. Borah tried to get ’em to go on record as to who voted for it and who voted against, and they wouldn’t do it. Now that looked bad. You see they were afraid to let the folks back home know about it. That was kinder sneaking. If I had the nerve to raise the salary on the man I was working for I certainly would have the nerve to come out and tell him so.
Another queer thing about this extra gyp, the President has always wanted to know when he signed a bill for an appropriation, just where the extra money was to come from to pay it. He wouldn’t pass the Postal raise until they showed him where the money for the raise was to come from. But he didn’t ask where this was to come from. I propose that to raise this, they put a light tax on all Liquor sold on the Capitol grounds to Senators and Congressmen. In that way the tax would fall on the Bootleggers who are getting rich out of these same men. There is no reason why they shouldn’t bear the brunt of the tax. Increased salary means increased sales for them. I am sorry the President didn’t demand something of this kind.
Of course, the bad part about the whole structure of our paying Public officals is that we name a sum and give them all the same, regardless of ability. No other business in the World has a fixed sum to pay all their employees that same salary.
Take, for instance, Borah! If our Government was run as a Business and not as a Charity Organization, how much would you have to pay him? How many Congressmen and Senators is he worth to us? Yet he has no chance to get any more money than some Bird who, when sent there, it takes him two years to find the Capitol with a Guide Book. Even his kin folks back home have to think twice before they can remember where he is. If some efficiency expert would work out a scheme where each one would be paid according to his ability, I think we would save a lot of money. I don’t know why Mr. Coolidge, as one of his economy measures, has not
thought of that. But I guess a fellow in a high position like that can’t think
But take it all in all, I believe they ought to have their raise. We are a rich nation (ON PAPER) and our officials should be the best paid in the World. The principal bad feature is that it will make more men want to hold office, and once a man wants to hold a Public Office he is absolutely no good for honest work.
There should be a tax on every man that wanted to get a government appointment or be elected to office. In two years that tax alone would pay our National debt. Half the people in the United States would rather collect one dollar from the Government than get $10 from an Individual.
Speaking of Congress, the name of Ye Editor of Ye Weekly Illiterate Digest was dragged into a discussion that happened on the floor recently. We have had the misfortune to have parts of at least five separate Articles read into the Yearly Joke Book (The Congressional Record) beginnning with a Bonus Article I wrote a year or so ago, and lately some on Airships and Battleships, and lack of preparedness. So, when a gentleman quoted me on the floor the other day, another member took exception and said he objected to the remarks of a Professional Joke Maker going into the Cogressional Record.
Now you can beat that for Jealousy among people in the same line? Calling me a Professional Joke Maker! He is right about every thing but the Professional. They are the Professional Joke Makers. Read some of the Bills that they have passed. If you think they ain’t Joke Makers. I could study all my life and not think up half the amount of funny things they can think of in one Session of Congress. Besides, my jokes don’t do anybody any harm. You don’t have to pay any attention to them. But everyone of the jokes those Birds make is a LAW and hurts somebody (generally everybody).
“Joke Maker!” He couldn’t have coined a better term for Congress if he had been inspired. But I object to being called a Professional. I am an Amateur beside them. If I had that Guy’s unconscious humor, Ziegfeld couldn’t afford to pay me I would be so funny.
Of course I can understand what he was objecting to was any common sense creeping into the Record. It was such a Novelty, I guess it did sound funny.
And, by the way, I have engaged counsel and if they ever put any more of my material in that “Record of Inefficiency,” I will start suit for deformation of Character. I don’t want my stuff buried away where Nobody ever reads it.
I am willing to give them a raise in Salary. But I am not going to lower myself enough to associate with them in a Literary way.
1Flo Ziegfeld see WA 117: N 11.
2William Edgar Borah, Republican United States senator from Idaho from 1907 to 1940.
3For Charles G. Dawes see WA 117: N 9.
WA120 March 29, 1925
SENATE WILL BE SELECTING
COOLIDGE’S NECK-TIES NEXT
Every editorial writer has been expressing his views on our new Attorney General, little Johnny Sargent.1
Now Ye Editor of Ye Old Reliable
Illiterate Digest likes to sorter deliberate before passing judgement. Because we can’t afford to be wrong. All our Newspapers can say what they want; it don’t matter whether they are right or not as long as they can keep the Advertising Columns filled and their Cross Word Puzzles up to date, and their Photographers bring in enough Pictures. Why, no one will notice what they might be saying about our Public men. But with the Illiterate Digest we have to know what we are talking about and have it right every time. We don’t resort to advertising, Puzzles, Beauty contests, Murders, Robberies and race track results. We have to get by on our sheer merits. When we take Mr. Sargent apart we will show you what makes him stand up.
Sargent was born in Ludlow, Vermont. That seems to be the only State in the World where men have to live where they are born until the Government comes along and moves them out. Statistics prove that no Vermonter ever left the State unless transportation was furnished in advance. She is what you would call a “Hard Boiled State.” The principal ingredients are Granite, Rock Salt and Republicans. The last being the hardest of the three.
It seems rather an odd coincidence that Vermont, producing more Maple Sugar than any State, should have her leading Citizen fighting so valiantly for a Cabinet position for the Lawyer of the Beet Sugar Industry. It looked like going again home industry. Maybe Mr. Coolidge figured that if he had Mr. Warren away from trying to get more money for Beet Sugar, thereby helping out the Maple Sugar Industry.2
Anyhow, the Senate couldn’t see hiring a man who had got more money than they had. Mr. Coolidge offered to endorse Warren’s check but the Senate turned down the Signature. They are going to pick the President’s hired help. They will be selecting his Neckties next. So then Mr. Coolidge did a thing which showed he had a pretty keen sense of humor. They had objected to Warren because they knew him. So the President sent in the name of John Sargent with a laugh and said, “Now tell me something wrong about him.”
Well, he had ’em stuck. They couldn’t tell him anything wrong and they couldn’t tell him anything good. It was the only thing that ever come up in the United States Senate where somebody in there didn’t think they knew all about it. They couldn’t debate it, so they passed it unanimously. After Sargent passing the President laughed over his little joke on them all night and the next day he told them where Sargent was from. Well, some of the Senators got kinder sore and said they didn’t believe there was any such fellow. So Mr. Coolidge sent for him and he come down and when the Senate saw the size of him they cooled off. He stands 6 feet 6 inches going into the Cabinet. No one knows what his height will be coming out. That Attorney General’s office has lowered the stature of so many of its occupants that some of them have come out of there hid under a Rubber Heel.
It seems like he was pretty well known up in Ludlow. But nobody knew where Ludlow was. He don’t seem to be the least bit effeminate. He pitches Horse Shoes for Exercise, drinks hard cider and eats Pie for breakfast. So he should be right at home because he is entering the greatest Pie Counter in the World.
An incident showing his broad mindedness: When the President vetoed the Soldier’s Bonus Bill, and it went back to the Senate for a two thirds majority vote, why Senator Dale of Vermont voted for the Bonus over the President’s Veto.3
So Mr. Sargent tried to have Mr. Dale thrown out of the Republican Party because he couldn’t see a thing the same way Mr. Coolidge did. If parties are supposed to have to vote together on everything, let each party only send one man from the entire United States. Why pay these other to just be a lot of Sheep? So you can see what a liberal thinker he is when it comes to Politics. Party Politics is the most narrow minded occupation in the World. A Guy raised in a straight Jacket is a Corkscrew compared to a thick headed Party Politician.
All you would have to do to make some men Atheists is just to tell them the Lord belonged to the opposition Political Party. After that they could never see any good in him.
But I believe he will make a good man in there. He will work his head off to make good so it will be an incentive for Mr. Coolidge to give those other two Residents of Vermont Government positions.
There was a Moral Crusade on in New York City, but it only lasted two days. They appointed a jury to investigate all the Soiled Plays. They did, and then they reported that the Plays were just wonderful. So, if they cleared the ones they have on this year, next year we ought to have something pretty interesting. William A. Brady took one play off himself until he can think of something bad enough to put into it, so it can compete with the others.4
Our Show, the Follies, is so tame it is listed in the Amusement
column with the Churches.
A new prohibition enforcement Officer started in sober here last week, said he was going to close three thousand Clubs between 42nd and 72nd Streets. That will mean that you will have to walk a Block to get it, or go around to the Back, as he is going to put Padlocks on the front. If they Padlock every place here, Houdini would be the most popular man to go out on a party with.5
They closed Mouqin’s, a famous Restaurant here. But they didn’t close them right away; they give ’em 7 days to sell out what they had on hand. Then they closed them for 30 days while they could get in some more. Then they can open up again. It’s not the Anti-Saloon League that is behind this Crusade. It’s the Yale Lock people.
They padlocked a little Brewery here yesterday for making one per cent beer. While they were locking it up, 18 trucks passed by them coming from the Canadian Border with Scotch. They went to Mount Vernon to Padlock a Road House. That’s like going to the Mediterranian to get Salt Water.
Dawes will be here next week to deliver his famous Inaugural “Senate Commandments.”6
He can’t make the same speech again in Washington. He has to get out of Town with it. I am supposed to go to the Hotel and keep him awake so he won’t miss delivering it. He wants to get the Rules of the Senate changed. He could get more support from 90 per cent of the people if he’d advocate abolishing the Senate entirely. That would be my Platform if I ever run for anything.
1John Garibaldi Sargent, United States attorney general from 1925 to 1929. A native of Vermont, Sargent was nominated attorney general after the Senate rejected President Coolidge’s first choice, Charles Beecher Warren.
2Charles Beecher Warren, American attorney, diplomat, and Republican politician. Coolidge nominated Warren to be attorney general, but it was alleged that as president of the Michigan Sugar Company Warren had violated anti-trust laws. The Senate refused to confirm his appointment.
3Porter Hinman Dale, Republican United States senator from Vermont from 1923 until his death in 1933.
4William Aloysius Brady, American theatrical producer and manager and early-day film executive.
5Harry Houdini, American magician, known for his ability to free himself from handcuffs and locked and sealed containers of all kinds.
6For Charles G. Dawes see WA 117: N 9.
WA121 April 5, 1925
AL SMITH KNOWS HIS BOYS IN
LEGISLATURE LIKE BOOK
A couple of weeks ago the Friars’ Club, the biggest of our Theatrical Clubs in New York, gave a wonderful Public Testimonial Dinner to the governor of the great State of New York, Mr. Al Smith.1
Governor Silzer of New Jersey was one of the Speakers, and by the way, he is a very fine fellow.2
I sat next to him all evening and we got pretty well acquainted. He
was telling me how to bring up my Boys. He has already brought his up. It was good advice, but he don’t know my boys. I will have to ask my Boys and see if it’s all right with them first.
Augustus Thomas, the Dean of American Playwrights, was another speaker.3
He spoke on “Genius” and on “Smith and the Constitution.” I got
enough of the words to know that it was a great speech but some of the words I couldn’t even read if I had a Dictionary. He quoted from a lot of different Writers that are dead and couldn’t deny it now. I could never understand why smart men, when they speak, like to keep quoting what someone else has said years ago. If people want to know what Old Timers said, why, let them go to the Library. There they can find out what all of them said. But Thomas mixed in some of his own good stuff so it was not all second hand.
Governor Silzer told a Story of a Skunk. It was very funny and appropriate. It’s awful hard to get a Skunk, or even a story of one, that will fit in a $10 a plate. It takes pretty near the genius of a Governor to do it. But he got away with his Skunk with no disastrous results. William A. Brady, the Theatrical Manager, spoke on the subject, “What it means to be a Theatrical Manager in New York this year when your Play is not Bad enough to Compete with the Others.”4
Mr. David Belasco, the Producer was also at the Speaker’s Table but he wasn’t good enough Producer to produce a smile during Brady’s talk.5
A Preacher was asked to the Dinner to say Grace. But after everybody got there and they looked each other over, why they decided they would let him tell some funny Stories instead of asking the blessing as they realized a blessing would be futile. He told about a colored Boy they named Morphy, (short for Morphine) because someone told his Mother, Morphine came from the Wild Poppy. She said: “Well, we will call this Boy Morphy because his Poppy certainly was wild.”
State Senator Jimmy Walker the Democratic Leader of the Senate and the most popular member in the Senate and the best Orator in New York made a dandy speech.6
Then there was Raymond Hitchcock, America’s most unique Comedian.7
The fellow who never took a drink in his life, yet everybody comes out saying: “Hitchy was funny tonight but he was soused to the ears.” He was great that night.
Georgie Cohan, the greatest man a Theatre has produced in this Country, is Abbott of the Frairs’ Club and made the opening address.8
I hope that they can get him to come back on the stage. With some of the terrible things they have in the Theatres now, what a relief those clean wholesome shows that only George knows how to do so well, would be now. He has given more amusement to America than any single person except Ringling—and there were seven of them.9
Willie Collier was Toastmaster; that means the last word.10
He is the
originator of Nifties or Wise Cracks and he gets better all the time.
In the Friars’ Dinners the one who is supposed to introduce the Guest of the Dinner is known as his Advance or Press Agent. That job fell to me, to be the one to introduce Al Smith, the most popular Governor in the history of New York State. It was a pretty big job for an old Country Boy. In fact, I think it was too big. You see, Augustus Thomas had treated the Governor from the viewpoint of his wonderful mind. The wise Jimmy Walker had touched on the Soul of our guest and his marvelous qualities from the humanitarian standpoint. Governor Silzer of New Jersey had paid a beautiful tribute, in addition to the Skunk, to Mr. Smith’s heart—how big it was, and how it had leaked out. So when it come to me it didn’t leave me anything much to work on. They had covered every part of his Anatomy and all I had left was his feet. Now you can’t do much with a Man’s feet, especially at a Dinner. But it’s all I had left so I took his feet and followed them from early childhood. You know a Man can fool you with his mind, and his Soul and his Heart, but if you follow his feet you will pretty near find
out where he is going. So feet ain’t such a bad subject at a Banquet after all.
I followed Al Smith on the Lower East Side in the early days in and out of various places. Some of them I followed him into I couldn’t wait long enough for him to come out.
Well, I got through with all my little Jokes, one of which was how he was in his younger days an Amateur Actor. In fact they couldn’t have a play on the East Side in New York without Al being in the cast. I said that, “To be a Ham Actor was bad enough, but to be a Ham for nothing was terrible.” Well that got a big laugh. But when Al got up to speak he referred to me calling him an Amateur who acted for nothing, and said, “Well, Amateur acting has its compensations. (And he looked at me.) While you may not get any monetary consideration, at least your conscience is clear.” He certainly knocked ’em off their Flasks with that remark. In fact he hung one on me that would do credit to a Cohan or a Collier.
It only showed us that this Old Boy Al is thinking every minute. He has licked an entire Republican Legislature up in Albany singlehanded so what chance did I have with him! If Coolidge could handle his own party in Washington like Al Smith can handle the opposition in Albany, why he would be considered a magician.
What my speech lacked in humor it made up in discussion. I said, after all my little bum jokes on Smith, that “he owed nothing to Tammany Hall. That Tammany Hall and even New York State owed more to Smith than he did to them. That is as far as National Politics was concerned Tammany and even New York State was a drawback to Al Smith. That, whether deserved or not, the rest of the country didn’t look with any too much favor on Tammany Hall, and that they resented being ruled even by New York State.”
As all the Tammany leaders were there that night, these remarks have naturally been argued and discussed all over the City since then, also outside, because this was Radioed all over the Country.
Now there is only one question to settle: Was I right in that statement? I claim I was, and if I had the same thing to do I wouldn’t change a word. I was paying a compliment to Smith and when you can say truthfully that any man is bigger than his Organization of the People he is supposed to work for, I claim that is the biggest compliment you can pay to him. Mind you, I said Nationally. I didn’t say locally. So I will leave it to every newspaper who uses this Article and they are Republican and Democratic and Independent, 100 or more of them all over the United States, as to whether I spoke the truth or not. Or I will leave it to 48 representative newspapers, all Democratic, one in each State, and I bet you that 40 or more, will say I am right. So Truth shouldn’t hurt, even at a Banquet.
People outside New York do not understand Tammany Hall. Tammany is living down its old reputation. Judge Olivany, the present leader is a very high-class fine type of man.11
They do wonderful good in a Charity way among the destitute which the rest of the Country don’t even realize. And as an Organization they did a lot for Al Smith. But he had to make good or he wouldn’t be where he is today. They have elected hundreds of other men that didn’t do it. So I think it is a wonderful tribute to Tammany Hall to have produced Al Smith. You let them produce a few more Al Smiths and the Country at large will begin to realize that this must be a pretty good Gang after all.
You know the rest of the Country has got to trust Al Smith. He has worked for New York for 23 years and is a poor man yet. So they know he must be on the level. You see some forget that this Dinner was given to Smith, not to Tammany Hall. I was there to compliment Smith and make him a great Guy. Now, sometime if they even give a Dinner to Tammany, and I am called on to speak I will tell all the good things they have done and maybe make Smith run second.
You see, I don’t play any favorites. They are all Great or they are all Tramps, just as the occasion might arise. Being a Comedian, I am naturally supposed to have no sense. And no one is supposed to take what I say seriously. I haven’t got it in for anybody or anything. They are all great sometimes and they are all terrible sometimes. None of you are perfect, and so I just lay for you till some of your little imperfections crop up and remind you of them. If I tell a joke on the Jews or the Irish, it’s not because I have anything against them because they are all my friends and my best audiences. But it is because I am in New York City and have to tell jokes on somebody.
1Alfred Emanuel “Al” Smith, Democratic governor of New York from 1919 to 1921 and 1923 to 1929. Smith, an Irish Catholic and antiprohibitionist, was an unsuccessful candidate for president in 1928.
2George Sebastian Silzer, Democratic governor of New Jersey from 1921 to 1926.
3Augustus Thomas, American playwright who achieved his first success with Alabama in 1891. Among his later works were The Harvest Moon and The Copperhead.
4For William A. Brady see WA 120: N 4.
5David Belasco, American playwright, producer, and theater owner, widely recognized for his success in developing stage talent.
6James John “Jimmy” Walker, New York state senator from 1914 to 1925. A colorful politician, Walker served as mayor of New York City from 1925 until his resignation in 1932.
7Raymond “Hitchy” Hitchcock, a leading musical and revue comedian who starred on the American stage for almost forty years until his death in 1929.
8George Michael Cohan, American actor, playwright, producer, and songwriter who dominated New York City theater during the first two decades of the twentieth century.
9The seven Ringling brothers—Albrecht D., August, Otto, Alfred Theodore, Karl Edward, John Nicholas, and Henry—comprised one of the most famous circus families in the country; founders of the Ringling Bros. Classic and Comic Concert Co. in the early 1880s.
10William “Willie” Collier, American playwright and comedian, recognized as one of the wittiest men in the entertainment business.
11George W. Olvaney, American jurist and Democratic politician who was elected to lead Tammany Hall in 1924.
WA122 April 12, 1925
SLOGANS ALL RIGHT FOR ALL
PERSONS WHO LIKE THE BUNK
Everything nowadays is a Saying, or Slogan. You can’t to to bed, you can’t get up, you can’t brush your Teeth without doing it to some Advertising Slogan. We are even born nowadays by a Slogan: “Better Parents have Better Babies.” Our Children are raised by a Slogan: “Feed your Baby Cowlicks Malted Milk and he will be another Dempsey.” Everything is a Slogan and of all the Bunk things in America the Slogan is the Champ. There never was one that lived up to its name. They can’t manufacture a new Article until they have a Slogan to go with it. You can’t form a new Club unless it has a catchy Slogan. The merits of the thing has nothing to do with it. It is, just how good is the Slogan?
Even the government is in on it. The Navy has a Slogan: “Join the Navy and see the World.” You join, and all you see for the first 4 years is a Bucket of Soap Suds and a Mop, and some Brass polish. You spend the first 5 years in Newport News. On the sixth year you are allowed to go on a cruise to Old Point Comfort. So there is a Slogan gone wrong.
Congress even has Slogans:
“Why sleep at home when you can sleep in Congress?
“Be a Politician—no training necessary.”
“It is easier to fool ’em in Washington than it is at home, So why not be a Senator.”
“Come to Washington and vote to raise your own pay.”
“Get in the Cabinet; you won’t have to stay long.”
“Work for Uncle Sam, it’s just like a Pension.”
“Be a Republican and sooner or later you will be a Postmaster.”
“Join the Senate and investigate something.”
“If you are a Lawyer and have never worked for a Trust we can get you into the Cabinet.”
All such Slogans are held up to the youth of this Country. You can’t sit down in a Street Car after a hard day’s work without having a Slogan staring you in the face: “Let the Bohunk Twins do your work.” “Chew Wiggley’s Gum: The Flavor Lasts.” Now they know that it don’t last when they tell you that. In two minutes after you start anybody’s Gum you might just as well have an old Rubber Boot to chew on as far as any flavor is concerned. I know because that’s all I have done for 20 years is to throw Old Gum where somebody will step on it. I have to talk a great deal to the Public, and I use Gum just to keep my jaws in good shape. If it wasn’t for Gum my jaws couldn’t go through a rigorous season of truth telling. So Gum has its place, but the Slogans are all wet.
Even if you want to get married a sign will stare you in the face: “You get the girl, we will furnish the Ring.” That has led more Saps astray than any misinformation ever published, outside the Prize one of all, which is: “Two can live as cheap as one.” That, next to law enforcement, is the biggest Bunk Slogan ever invented. Yes, two can live as cheap as one if you don’t want to eat or wear anything during its lifetime. Two can’t even live as cheap as two, much less one.
Then the Preachers say: “Let no man put asunder.” And two-thirds of the married World is asunder in less than three months. Then comes the Furniture Slogan: “A dollar down and a Dollar a week.” It’s few wives that last with the same husband until the Cook Stove is paid for.
“It’s cheaper to buy than pay rent.” That’s the next Bunk Slogan that attracts the love sick Boobs. Half the people in the United States are living on interest paid by people who will never get the last mortgage paid out.
Even Political Campaigns are run and won on Slogans. Years ago some fellow run on “The Full Dinner Pail” and after he was elected and they opened it there was nothing in it. Another Slogan went wrong. Then William J. Bryan run on a Slogan “16 to 1.”1
He was defeated, of course, because he didn’t explain what the 16 meant. It meant 16 defeats to 1 victory.
We even got into the War on a Slogan that was supposed to keep us out. After we got in we were going to “Make the world safe for Democracy.” and maybe we did—you can’t tell, because there is no Nation ever tried Democracy since. Our Boys went over singing: “Over There” and come back singing: “I am always chasing Rainbows.”
The next President was elected on the Slogan: “Back to Normalcy.” Back to Normalcy consisted of the most Cuckoo years of spending and carousing and graft we ever had. Another Slogan knocked crosswise. Last election, out come the Slogan makers again. Some Fool that didn’t know American Politics had J. W. Davis run on “Honesty.”2
Well, that had no more place in Politics than I have in the Harvard Faculty. It was one of the poorest selections of a Slogan that was ever invented, and I bet you as long as there are Political Parties in this Country you will never see another one ever make the mistake of picking such an absurd one.
Coolidge ran on “Economy” which is always good for the Boobs. It’s like getting up at a Dinner and saying “I am proud to be here.” “It’s an old Gag but it always goes.” Economy beat Honesty by 8 million, and as soon as he got in he raised Congress’ and the Senate’s Salary and redecorated the White House. So away goes another Slogan!
P. T. Barnum come nearer having a true Slogan than anybody: “There is a Sucker born every minute.”3
And Henry Ford is right there to take care
of him the minute he becomes of age.4
General Pershing said: “Lafeyette, we are here,” and France sent him a bill for the use of the Grounds.5
Kaiser Wilhelm’s Slogan was: “Germany Uber Alles.”6
I don’t know
what that Uber means, but whatever it means he was wrong, and it’s too late to look it up now.
You see a fool Slogan can get you into anything. But you never heard of a Slogan getting you out of anything. It takes either Bullets, Hard Work or Money to get you out of anything. Nobody has ever invented a Slogan to use instead of paying your Taxes.
But they Will fall for ’em. You shake a Slogan at an American and it’s just like showing a hungry Dog a Bone. We even die by Slogans. I saw an Undertaker’s sign the other day which read: “There is a satisfaction in dying if you know the Woodlawn Brothers are to bury you.”
1William Jennings Bryan, famous Democratic politician known as “the Great Commoner.” Bryan, an unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate in 1896, 1900, and 1908, campaigned in 1896 for the free coinage of silver at a ratio of sixteen to one.
2John William Davis, American attorney, politician, and diplomat; unsuccessful Democratic candidate for president in 1924.
3Phineas Taylor Barnum, American showman who opened the “Greatest Show on Earth” in 1871 and who was a co-founder in 1881 of the famed Barnum and Bailey Circus.
4Henry Ford, American automotive pioneer who founded Ford Motor Company in 1903.
5John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing, American army officer who commanded the American Expeditionary Force in Europe during World War I; chief of staff of the United States Army from 1921 to 1924.
6Wilhelm II, emperor of Germany and king of Prussia from 1888 to 1918. Kaiser Wilhelm fled to Holland at the end of World War I and remained in exile until his death in 1941.
WA123 April 19, 1925
UPKEEP IS WORST PART ABOUT THIS
TITLED HUSBAND BUSINESS
We have had quite an array of Movie Stars in to see us the last week or so, Gloria Swanson come in one night all diked out in a New Husband, French Model, the latest thing from Paris.1
You know if you wear a Nation’s Dresses long enough you will naturally start in patronizing some of their other Industries. They both looked very (What do you call it?) CHIC. They sat very modestly back on a couple of Orchestra Seats.
The very next night in comes Pola Negri, the Polish Proletariat.2
(I think that’s what they call the big Bugs in Poland.) Pola had to sit in a Box. Her Ermine Tent wouldn’t go into an Orchestra seat. She looked great and certainly was a poor advertisement for a Charity drive, “To assist starving Poland.” I introduced her to the $5.50 Customers, the Ladies of which viewing her raiment including Jewels, Wraps, Gown, Shoes, Socks and other minor necessary equipment (among which was a kind of a Halter arrangment on the Head) they ASSAYED her at the lowest estimate, at about $150,000. Just as she stood!
She of course is very jealous of Gloria and having heard what Gloria had accumulated in the way of Royalty, as a Helpmate through at least a portion of her struggles for existence through this dreary life, Pola was sailing the next day to look the foreign market over to see if she couldn’t return with a higher priced Model than Gloria’s.
Europe is a kind of an Automobile sales room. You can pass around through the various Nations or Booths and select a husband according to what you think you are able to afford. One must always keep in mind that the initial cost is the lowest thing in connecting with one. It’s the upkeep that will keep you made up and before the Camera at 9 o’clock every morning.
Of course the war has had a lot to do with prices in purchasing a Titled Husband. It used to take a Gould or a Vanderbilt or a Tin Plate King’s daughter.3
But now they have them within the reach of all. It used to be very discouraging to the moderately rich, to feel that they were denied the companionship of prestige of a Title. But the War has so lowered the Morals and FINANCES of the titled classes that now they would loan their name to even a Bull Durham Ad, if three STEADY meals a day was offered in recompense. They have placed themselves even in reach of the Working Girl.
Of course there are different Models. My old friend the Prince of Wales, is the Rolls Royce of the outfit.4
Nobody but a Daughter of Henry Ford could afford him, and as Uncle Henry has no daughter that lets the Prince out as far as America is concerned.5
So then we will have to go down among the Packards, Buicks, and even Fords. Still when you get down among those small Titles they are really not worth paying the fare to bring them over here. Women are just beginning to realize we have ’em in this country just as good as those cheaper grades.
To pay first class fare on a Count, or a Sir, (or any of those Minor League Titles) to bring over here, would be just like entering an Automobile Parade in a Chevrolet. I know some of them over here waiting in Restaurants that are only two Revolutions removed from the Crown. I am sending Little Anne Pennington, (she who is so kneesy to look at) over to Eurpoe to journey into the Marts of stranded Titles, and return with a couple of them, (bring two back; one don’t last long.)6
She can pick out a couple of little ones.
Then who should pop into our Opera House after these two Notables from Hollywood but my old friend Tom Mix.7
He is on his way to Europe taking Tony the horse, over to show him the Country. Tom said he had read “somewhere in history that some fellow over there had offered, A Kingdom, A Kingdom, for a Horse, and he was going over to try and make a deal with him.”
It seemed sort of a co-incident that just exactly 20 years ago this week Tom Mix and I arrived in New York with Col. Zack Mulhall’s Wild West Outfit to show in Madison Square Garden as a part of the Horse Show.8
It was not a regular Wild West Show; it was a bunch of Boys he had gathered together out on his ranch in Oklahoma, with his daughter Lucille Mulhall, who was the greatest Roper of any Girl before or since.9
That was Tom Mix’s first start on his Wild West career. We didn’t get much money; in fact our salary was supposed to be $20 a week. I told Tom in the Theater the other night, that was the only time we were ever paid just about what we were worth. That was one time we were not overpaid Actors, because we didn’t even get the twenty.
But he was a great old fellow, Mulhall, a typical old time westerner. We would touch him so much at odd times we never had anything coming. He was a very liberal fellow and in those days of Bar Rooms would always order drinks for everybody in the place and hand the Bar Tender a Bill or perhaps $20 to pay for what was $5 or 6 Dollars check and my great habit was to edge in next to him when the man put the change back in front of him, and I would grab it and duck with it.
Well he thought that was a great joke, and so did I. In fact I think it was one of the best jokes I ever pulled. He would laugh and that would make a good fellow out of him with the crowd, and incidentally keep from making a Tramp out of me. I was perfectly willing that they could have the drinks as long as I got the change.
Our best Rider and principal Cowboy at that time was Jack Joyce who happened to be playing in New York last week.10
(He has been in Europe for 18 years and returned over here to Vaudeville with the greatest trained Horse act you ever saw.) So we all had a reunion. Tom arrived with a Wife and Child and 10 trunks. So I told him the first time we come to New York we didn’t have a Suit case between us. Tom married his leading lady, Victoria Ford, several years ago. Lots of Movie Stars marry their Leading Lady but the trouble is they marry every one they make a Picture with. Tom had enough money to get back on after our Show that time but I had to stay in New York and get a job on the stage. So I have been annoying these Eastern people ever since, off and on.
Well, I didn’t think any one could come into our Opera House who would surpass these Movie people but sure enough last night I looked down in the second row and who should be there but the best beloved Actor of our time, David Warfield.12 I introduced him and roped him and dragged him up on the stage. He got a real Ovation. So, I feel very proud, everybody has been trying to get Warfield to return to the stage and can’t do it. But he come up last night under my management. I told the audience that the reason Warfield was not on the stage was that Mr. Belasco wanted him to play in “The Harem,” and that naturally Mr. Warfield would not play in that type Play (and the audience all applauded that). He wanted to play in “Ladies of the Evening,” or nothing. He couldn’t get a job in one of our modern Dramas. He can’t cuss good enough. I don’t know what we will have for excitement this coming week. Maybe Mr. Coolidge will be in to look us over. I see he has a new suit.
1Gloria Swanson (see WA 117: N 14) married a French nobleman, Marquis de la Falasie de la Coudray, in 1925. They were divorced in 1930.
2For Pola Negri see WA 117: N 14.
3Jay Jason Gould, American financier who controlled much of the United States railroad industry in the late nineteenth century. Cornelius Vanderbilt, American industrialist and transportation tycoon who founded a financial empire in the nineteenth century.
4Edward Albert, the Prince of Wales and heir apparent to the British throne. One of the most sought after bachelors in the world, he was crowned king of England in 1936, but his impending marriage to an American divorcée forced his abdication within less than a year.
5For this and all further references to Henry Ford see WA 122: N 4.
6For Ann Pennington see WA 117: N 14.
7Thomas Edwin “Tom” Mix, famous American cowboy star of the silent screen, one of the greatest box office attractions in motion picture history. His well-groomed horse, Tony, was one of the first animal stars in films.
8Zachary “Zack” Mulhall, Oklahoma rancher and pioneer rodeo and wild west showman.
9Lucille Mulhall, Zack Mulhall’s daughter who earned a reputation as the best and most daring horsewoman in the world.
10Jack Joyce, American wild west and vaudeville performer who, in addition to his top horse act, was a leading piano accompanist on the vaudeville circuit.
11Victoria Forde, one of Tom Mix’s several wives and often his western film leading lady. She also was the beauty in such comedies as When the Mummy Cried for Help (1915).
12David Warfield, American actor who was associated at the height of his career with David Belasco (see WA 121: N 5). He retired from the stage in 1924.
WA124 April 26, 1925
CLUB OWNERS TAKE TEAMS SOUTH
Between the time I write this and the day you read it, I will have been down to Washington D. C. (Department of Complaints) and spoken at the Gridiron Dinner. It is the Big Dinner of America. The President, His Cabinet (whoever happens to be in that Night) and all the Foreign Ambassadors, and Dignitaries are there. The only way a Congressaman can get in is to be a Waiter, and as for Senators,-------they have to eat at the second table.
TO CRIPPLE MEN
Now I have never tangled with Mr. Coolidge and if you don’t hear from me any more, you will know that I have either been shot or banished to Canada, A La Karolyi.1 I may have to Broadcast my views from Toronto
from now on.
I am anxious to get down to Washington as I got a date with Paulina Longworth, and I am glad to go to the Capitol at a time when Congress is not in session so I will have nothing to annoy me.2 I will have a good visit with the two most famous Nicks, Altrock and Longworth.3 I will go up and hear them Indict my friend Senator Wheeler (they generally do every day.)4 I hope Couzens and Mellon don’t make up before I get down there.5 You can hear a rich man and a poor man argue any time but when you get two rich fighting there is some element of Novelty to it. If Senator Couzens has to pay that back income tax of 10 million he is going to be a mighty hard man to get along with this coming session.
I hope that new Attorney General from Vermont lasts in the Cabinet till I get down there.6 I want to see him but if he is as big as they say he is,
I certainly ain’t going to have any jokes about him. He is one Bird that is
going to be complimented.
Now, guess who was in to see us in the Follies the other night. Mr. John W. Davis.7 I introduced him to the audience and it was really remarkable how they remembered him. They gave him a tremendous reception. And also there came in, but not with Mr. Davis, Barney Baruch, who underwrites the Democratic Campaigns.8 I introduced him and what do you know, when he stood up he had on his overcoat. I told him that was the most disgraceful thing ever happened in our place for a man to keep his overcoat on during the show. It was very uncomplimentary. But you can’t blame Barney; he has had so much taken away from him, I don’t blame him for not laying his coat down any place. He may have been suspicious of Davis; I don’t know. That’s why the Democrats never get anywhere. They haven’t got any two in the party that trust each other.
Well, it certainly was a big night for us to have two Democrats in the same Audinece. The crowd demanded that Mr. Davis say something and wouldn’t stop until he did. Well, to show you his sense of humor, he thanked them “for their excellent memory” and said: “You notice, Will, I have my coat off. I am still young enough to enjoy the show.” Well, the paying customers all enjoyed that.
I told Mr. Davis I felt I was lucky when he beat me for the nomination last summer, because I did not believe that even I could have beat Mr. Coolidge last fall. I then told the folks about an exchange of telegrams which I had with Mr. Davis after he had defeated me for the nomination. It showed the sense of humor this guy Davis has. I wired him: “Congratulations on your nomination. Understand you are to be associated with one of the Bryan boys.9 For the Lord’s sake pick the right one.” Now I thought that was a pretty good, and it was for me. But he came back with one that for humor and wit made a Piker out of mine. He said: “Thanks for your wire, Will. I will not only pick the right one, but will watch the other one.”
He is a great fellow this man Davis. I doubt if there has been a more dignified, scholarly, learned and capable man ever defeated for the Presidency. But Lord, he is such a fine Lawyer that a President’s salary wouldn’t have paid his income tax.
Well, from Politics to Baseball is quite a jump upwards. Not only financially, but morally. The season opened here a couple of weeks ago with all the Stars on the various teams crippled.
Baseball Teams go south every spring to cripple their players. In the old days they only stayed a couple of weeks and they couldn’t get many of them hurt in that time, but they go South as soon as the season is over to start training for the following season. Most all the men are in good shape when they go down there. But they stay till they get ’em hurt even if it takes all spring. Some teams make more money out of exhibition games in the spring than they do during the season.
But they should be honest and not call them training seasons. Poor Babe Ruth eats too much.10 He is always well all winter. But the minute he starts South and the Yankees start paying for his meals, he gets sick. They ought to figure out some way of feeding Babe out of a Nose Bag and just put so much in it.
What ball players were not crippled by accident, or food down south were crippled by Florida Real Estate. If the Ocean rises six inches this summer and floods all of Florida, you can go to the Ball Grounds, not to see a Ball game but to see how many players you can count committing suicide.
I talked to my good friend John McGraw the other night and asked him if he thought he would win the Pennant this year.11 He said: “If Florida Real Estate holds up, there is nothing can stop us. If the people get wise and Florida flops, even Connie Mack can beat us!”12
My oldest hopeful young off-spring, Will, Jr., age 13, is back from a three months’ trip to Europe and the Mediterranian.13 He was accompanied by his cousin Bruce Quisenberry, age 19.14 Father couldn’t go so I sent Son to procure some data that would give the old Reliable Illiterate Digest
a kind of a European flavor. I sent him out so he could come back and tell his ignorant old pappy just what the World was like outside of 42nd Street and Broadway.
I haven’t had a chance to look over his report thoroughly yet. He informed me of one serious mistake I was making. I have a joke about “Turkey being the only Prohibition Country in the World.” He said the men on the trip told him Turkey was no more Prohibition than we are. He liked Egypt, especially King Tut’s Tomb.15 He didn’t think much more of Jerusalem than their Nationality over here do. He bootlegged in a bottle of River Jordan water, also one from the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea one is just like our Wooden Alcohol over here. Nothing can live in the Dead Sea water and nothing can live outside Wooden Alcohol.
He visited the Battlefield, and if everybody that goes there picks up and brings back as much as he did, France won’t have to remove a thing from the Battlefields. He picked up and brought back Helmets and Bayonets of Nations that I didn’t even know was in the war. He said the Cooties have transferred from the Soldiers to the Tourists and they have a delousing station on the edge of Paris for Tourists returning from the front.
1Mihaly Karolyi, former prime minister and president of Hungary; overthrown by Communists in 1919 and forced to take refuge in Canada.
2For Paulina Longworth see WA 117: N 15.
3Nicholas “Nick” Altrock, professional baseball pitcher who played for the Chicago White Sox. Later he starred as a clown-coach for the Washington Senators and became most famous for his clown routines at each World Series from 1921 to 1933. For Nicholas Longworth see WA 117: N 16.
4Burton Kendall Wheeler, Democratic United States senator from Montana from 1923 to 1947.
5James Couzens, American industrialist and financier; Republican United States senator from Michigan from 1922 until his death in 1936. Andrew William Mellon, Pittsburgh financier with interest in coal production, aluminum manufacturing, and banking; United States secretary of the treasury from 1921 to 1932.
6For John G. Sargent see WA 120: N 1.
7For John W. Davis see WA 122: N 2.
8Bernard Mannes Baruch, multimillionaire American businessman who contributed to the campaigns of and advised several presidents.
9Charles Wayland Bryan, younger brother of William Jennings Bryan (see WA 122: N 1); governor of Nebraska from 1923 to 1925 and 1931 to 1935. He was John W. Davis’ vice presidential running mate in 1924.
10George Herman “Babe” Ruth, popular professional baseball player and home run slugger who played for the New York Yankees from 1920 to 1935; inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.
11John Joseph “Little Napoleon” McGraw, professional baseball player with the Baltimore Orioles from 1891 to 1899 and manager of the New York Giants from 1902 to 1932; named to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937.
12Connie Mack (Cornelius McGillicuddy), professional baseball player; manager of the Philadelphia Athletics from 1901 to 1950; inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937.
13William Vann “Bill” Rogers, oldest of Will Rogers’ three children.
14Bruce Quisenberry, a nephew of Will’s wife, Betty Blake Rogers; “manager” of Rogers’ lecture tours.
15Tutankhamen, one of the last kings of the eighteenth dynasty of Egypt, circa 1360 B.C. His tomb was discovered in 1922 in the Valley of the Kings along the Nile River.
WA125 May 3, 1925
COOLIDGE UP AND OUTSMARTS
Well, I went down to Washington met Calvin and was defeated. I had never met him. That is I never had unless it was when he was Vice-President, and one seldom ever remembers meeting a Vice-President. I have often been asked if I had met him and I was looking forward to the encounter. The President of the Gridiron Club had told him that I was to be “on the Bill” with him at the Gridiron Club Dinner in Washington last week, and he said he would like to meet me.
WILL ROGERS AT WHITE HOUSE
Well, I was mighty glad to hear that, and felt a whole lot flattered that I was going to be allowed to speak at the same table with a President of the United States. And I felt relieved to know that I stood better with him than the Senate, because he won’t even converse with them.
Well, when I arrived there on the day of the Dinner I went up to the White House accompanied by my old friend Nick Longworth.1
There was so many people waiting to see the president that it looked like the Casting Office of a Hollywood Movie Studio when they had advertised for “One Thousand Extra in a Battle Scene.” But Nick never stopped. He just went right on into Mr. Coolidge’s Private Secretary’s room (Mr. Sanders, who just escaped being nominated Vice President by the skin of his teeth and he certainly has been grateful ever since.)2 He is a very fine friendly fellow. He lives in Indiana near Will Hays and he can’t seem to be able to live it down.3 I suggest that he move.
Well, this Mr. Sanders is the man that took Mr. Bascomb Slemp’s place, who used to be the President’s Secretary.4 But one day Mr. Coolidge come in and Secretary Slemp said: “Good Morning, Mr. President,” and Mr. Coolidge, naturally, out of courtesy, had to say something so he said “Howdy” economizing down to one word, and then he told Mr. Slemp, “You better get out of here because you make me talk too much.” So that is why Slemp left. I met Mr. Slemp at Mrs. Longworth’s luncheon that same day, and he is a very friendly and genial fellow.5 He has just been made a Lawyer. You almost have to be a Lawyer in Washington to hold your own. It’s kinder like Bootlegging in Washington. You have to be down there to keep someone else from selling it to you and also in that way you get wholesale prices from another in the same profession.
But I am getting away from my Scenario. So we must get back. I can sympathize with a President’s Secretary after what I saw. Statistics give the population at around 115 million. Well they are wrong. There was more than that there to meet the President this day alone. The lawn was full, the house was full; the more select was in Private Secretary’s office. In other words—the Joint was packed. But Nick, since he has become Speaker of the House of Representatives and Father of a typical female Roosevelt, certainly stands Ace High. I don’t know which it was, the Baby or the Speakership, but I am going to tell the Tax-ridden United States that Nick and I certainly got service there that day.
There was more people there to see the President than wants to see Gloria Swanson’s marquis.6 Well, Nick just walked over all of them like a
Country Boy over plowed ground. You see Mr. Coolidge kinder likes Congress and holds them up as an example of what the Senate ought to be. Well, the way Mr. Sanders rushed us in to the President’s private office you would have thought we were going to swing Alabama and Mississippi to the Republican column. Of course I don’t lay all the credit to Nick for a prompt entrance, because the President knew I was not looking for an appointment to a Post Office, nor did I want a friend transferred in the Army, nor a wife pardoned out of Jail. So not wanting anything would naturally get you in. But at any rate we were ushered right in.
Now here is where the joke comes in. I had heard so much of Calvin’s not saying anything, that I already had my mind made up some of the jokes I was going to tell after meeting him, about what a clam he was, and of how I had to button up my coat to keep from catching cold while in his presence. I really wanted this to happen as it would make good joke material for me, and perhaps pay for my trip.
Now you can’t tell me that Calvin hasn’t got a kinder quiet sense of humor that he can use when it will do him the most good. I will always believe that he had figured out just about what I wanted him to do, and he was smart enough to double-cross me and do the opposite. When Nick and I come in he got up, (I won’t say he “Jumped” but he “got” up) and come over and shook hands with us, and offered us chairs, and said to me that he was very glad to meet me. (He didn’t say this to Nick. I guess he had met him before.) And he shook my hand—instead of just taking it and letting it drop as I had heard he had done with other people’s hands. Some have told me he dropped their hands so quick they fell on the floor before they had time to recover them.
Well, Sir, you would have thought that Mr. Stearns of Boston had returned from Europe the welcome he gave me.7 He said he wanted to hear me speak that night, and of course I had to return the compliment and tell him I would stay and listen to him also. I said I was looking forward to this Dinner as I had heard of them for years and I thought that they were the most celebrated Dinners in the World. He said, yes it was but it was kinder “hard on the President.” I thought of course he meant the jokes and Sketches they put on about him, but he said no, it is the time it “keeps me there till after 12.”
Now there was a Joke right there. You see the subtle thing about a joke is to make it look like it was not a joke. I told him I was very anxious to see one of these Dinners as I had heard they put on great stuff. He said, “Yes, the singing is good.” Now there is another kind of a Subtle one.
Vice Pres. Dawes had been called away suddenly that day and wouldn’t be able to be there, so we spoke of that.8 I told him that would be a big disappointment as Dawes was to the Gridiron Club what Ford cars were to comedians. Well, he got a laugh out of that, really a better laugh than it deserved, because it was not especially funny. It was more in the nature of what they call just Table talk.
Then he told us that Ex-Vice President Tom Marshall who was to have been to the Dinner and speak, would not be able to come.9 He paid Mr. Marshall some very beautiful compliments, said he had invited him to be his guest at the White House. I told him I was very disappointed at not seeing Mr. Marshall as I had always been a great admirer of him but had never met him. That last year at the Democratic Convention I wanted to nominate Tom Marshall for the Presidency, but that I was afraid he might not consider it a compliment. He laughed at that little Squib not outrageously, but a nice pleasant little alleged grin. We talked of Sargent the new Attorney General, of Charlie Schwab, and various people and really had a very pleasant little chat.10 He was as agreeable as an Insurance Agent.
Now what am I to do? I can’t go out and knock a man and say he won’t talk when he was as pleasant as he was. So that is why I just figured he crossed me. He outsmarted me. He says to himself, “Here is a smart Aleck Guy coming in here to get a lot of Jokes on me and speechlessness, so I will just fool him. I will talk for 15 Minutes IF IT KILLS ME.” Nick said going out to me that he had never heard him so gabby in his life.
Why, I kept thinking every minute he would ask me to ride behind him for a Gallop on the Iron Horse. I am glad he didn’t ask me for breakfast because I don’t get up that early.
Well, at the Dinner that night he laughed at all my stuff on him, which I will tell you about some time. So I will always believe he purposely double crossed me.
The D.A.R. Reunion was there that week and there was hundreds waiting to form in line to go by and shake hands with the President. Nick Longworth’s Female Secretary said the D.A.R. stood for “Darned Annual Rumpus.” Spanish-American War is as far as we can trace back and I can’t find any of us in it. But it gives these Women something to do to get away from Husbands perhaps who are terrible to live with!
Had my Picture taken with little Paulina Longworth, in the 50 cent Market Basket.11 She is the cutest thing you ever saw, looks like Alice.
Alice and Nick are the proudest Parents you ever saw. Alice is more happy and brilliant than ever, and that is saying a whole lot when she already was the brightest Woman in Washington.
I got lots more to tell you about Washington but the Children’s and my Horses have just arrived from California. So me and the Kids got to go do some riding and roping.
1For Nicholas Longworth see WA 117: N 16.
2For Everett Sanders see WA 118: N 3.
3For Will H. Hays see WA 117: N 3.
4Campbell Bascom Slemp, former Republican congressman from Virginia who served as Coolidge’s secretary from 1923 to 1925.
5For Alice Roosevelt Longworth see WA 117: N 16.
6For Gloria Swanson see WA 117: N 14.
7Frank Waterman Stearns, wealthy Boston merchant who helped to promote Coolidge’s gubernatorial, vice presidential, and presidential campaigns. He was the president’s closest associate and confidant.
8For Charles G. Dawes see WA 117: N 9.
9Thomas Riley Marshall, Democratic vice president of the United States from 1913 to 1921.
10For John G. Sargent see WA 120: N 1. Charles Michael Schwab, American steel magnate; founder of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in 1904.
11For Paulina Longworth see WA 117: N 15.
WA126 May 10, 1925
HINDY’S ELECTION PROVES
All I know is what I don’t read in the papers. For the last couple of weeks it seemed like Wartime with Von Hindenburg’s picture on the front page again.1 When the War ended I thought the only way he would ever make the front page again would be to die. But he fooled us. Here he pops up as President of Germany, whatever that title may imply.
GERMANY REMEMBERS WAR
A great many papers editorially have viewed with alarm this election of the Von, but Ye Olde Reliable Illiterate Digest is able to point to it with pride, seeing, as we always do, the bright side of everything. In the first place, there should be no reason for surprise at the Von running a good race for as good a candidate as Pershing and his American constituents were never able to overtake the Von in a race.2 A great many seem to think that his election really means the election of the Kaiser, but I don’t think so.3 When the Allies broke the Hindenburg Line, and Von and Wilhelm started, on their memorable detour across Germany, Wilhelm was going so fast he
was in Holland before he could check himself, but when the Von pulled up he was still on German soil, so that is why he was elected instead of Wilhelm. They wanted to pay honor to one of their countrymen for not going to Holland.
After all, elections are a good deal like marriages, there’s no accounting for anyone’s taste. Every time we see a bridegroom we wonder why she ever picked him, and it’s the same with Public Officials. So Germany is the bride—She picked him. Let her live with him. He may make her a good man. If any man had a chance to profit from his experiences in the War the Von is the one that should. I don’t think he will string with the Kaiser again. That one escapade of theirs ought to be enough to cure him.
His election proves one thing. German is the only Nation that remembers the War. For losing the War, seven years later he is made President; while Pershing, for winning the War, seven years later is let out of the Army and half his salary taken away from him. He would have been better off financially if we had never had a War. For winning it he was reduced to half pay and half rations. He was retired on account of old age at 66, yet Hindenburg is elected President at 77. According to that, Pershing is too young to be of any real service to his Country.
But the people certainly haven’t forgotten him. Two weeks ago tonight at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, at the Lambs Club Gambol, a very distinguished audience was gathered. At the finish of my little turn when I come off the Stage General Pershing was standing in the wings, having just returned from some other affair given in his honor. He had dropped in to see the rest of the Show. I immediately seized onto him and dragged him out on the stage, where the entire audience arose and not only applauded but cheered him. He is a very modest, bashful fellow (when he is not talking to a soldier) but I held him there and made him make a short speech. He thanked the audience for their reception and then told them he had come into the Theater at the finish of my act purposely as he had heard my jokes at the Gridiron Dinner in Washington a few nights ago, and that he certainly didn’t want to have to listen to them again, which showed that his mind was working pretty keen even if he had been retired for old age.
I interrupted him and made him stand at attention, (I suppose I am the only civilian that ever did that) while I told the audience how they received him at this dinner in Washington. Out of all the prominent men there his was the biggest reception. My compliment kind of frustrated him. He wasn’t expecting a return of good for evil.
Speaking of this dinner in Washington and the reception in Washington and the reception given to General Pershing, Mr. Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury, and General Mitchell of the Ex-Air Service received tremendous applause.4 We could have had a good joke on the Army and Navy that night by having General Mitchell tell how many airships they have that would be able to go to War. After the dinner I met him for the first time, and he asked me if I wouldn’t like him to go and see Washington with him the next morning and that he would call at the Hotel for me. So I foolishly told him yes.
Well, the next morning he came and got me and we drove across the river to an aviation field. I thought naturally that he was going to show me the field, but instead of pointing out any places of interest, an assistant handed me a straight jacket, a kind of a one piece suicide suit and a kind of a Derby hat with a brim turned down over your ears. It slowly began to dawn on me that at last there was going to be some flying down in the Army, and that I was supposed to be one of the participants.
There is an old legend that says, “Nine-tenths of the brave things done are performed through fear.” I don’t know whether Lincoln said it as they lay all the smart sayings onto him, and all the other kind onto Dawes, but whoever concocted this aforementioned legend certainly had this air voyage of mine in mind.5 I did not want to see Washington by air. In fact I never had any desire to see anything from the air. Besides, Congress was not in session and I didn’t know whether there was enough air to keep us up or not.
Well, there was so many standing around that there was no way to back out. Right at that moment I thought the fellows who were trying to get this Mitchell out of the air service were right, and I wished they had got him out sooner. He says, “Do you use cotton in your ears?” He seemed to think that I was an old experienced aviator. I says: “No I only use cotton in my ears when I visit the Senate Gallery.” I couldn’t imagine what the cotton was for unless it was to keep the dirt out of your ears in case of a fall.
Photographers were there to get our picture. I could just see the picture with this label under it: “Last Photograph Taken of Deceased.” But Mr. Mitchell stopped them and asked them if they would mind waiting until we come back. Well, that didn’t make me feel any too good. It looked like there might be a doubt in his mind as to whether we would come back. There was a superstition connected with it some way that didn’t make me feel any better. Still, it didn’t make me feel any worse, because I was as worse as I could feel. But I never let on. I remembered how nice the papers always speak of a man who goes to the gallows with a smile on his face, and how they laud his nerve.
A man buckles you in so that you won’t change your mind after you leave the ground. Mitchell says, “I will point out the places of interest to you.” I didn’t see him point nor I didn’t see what he pointed at. I have always heard when you are up on anything high, don’t look down; look up. So all I saw was the sky. The trip from a sightseeing point of view was a total loss to me, outside of seeing the sky at short range.
Washington’s home at Mount Vernon might have been Bryan’s in Miami for all I know.6 We flew around Washington Monument and if the thing had had handles on it he would have lost a passenger.
Here I was a thousand of feet up in the air when you can’t even get me to ride a tall horse. I had always figured that if the Lord had intended a man to do any flying he would have sprouted something out of his back besides just shoulder blades. He aked me if I saw the Mayflower, the President’s private tug. How was I going to see it unless it was flying over us? I didn’t come any nearer seeing it than I’ll ever come to riding on it. When we landed and got out and walked away I was tickled to death. I thought the drama was all over. But it wasn’t.
The most impressive part of the whole thing was in his next few words. He says: “You have been with me on the last flight I will ever make as Brigadier General. Tonight at 12 o’clock I am to be demoted to a Colonel and sent to a far away Post where, instead of having the entire Air Force at my command, there will be seven Planes.” Well, I got a real thrill out of that. To think that I had accompanied such a man on such a memorable flight.
I had a long talk with Mitchell. He never squealed and he never whined. He knows that some day America will have to have a tremendous Air Force, but he can’t understand why we are not training it now. But it does seem a strange way to repay a man who has fought for us through a war, and who has fought harder for us in peace to be reprimanded for telling the truth. And wasn’t it a coincidence that we had just flown over Washington’s home, the father of our Country, whose first claim to fame was telling the truth about a Cherry Tree! But George wasn’t in the Army then, and the Cherry Tree had nothing to do with our National Defense.
1Paul Ludwig von Hindenburg, German army officer who was made field marshal in 1914. After retiring from the army in 1919, he entered public service, serving as president of Germany from 1925 until his death in 1934.
2For John J. “Black Jack” Pershing see WA 122: N 5.
3For Wilhelm II see WA 122: N 6.
4For Andrew W. Mellon see WA 124: N 5; for Billy Mitchell see WA 117: N 10.
5For Charles G. Dawes see WA 117: N 9.
6For William Jennings Bryan see WA 122: N 1.
WA127 May 17, 1925
DISCOVERY NOT ROGERS’ FORTE
You are going to read a lot in the papers from now on about these fellows going to the north pole. There is a kind of an epidemic of “Northpoletis” in the spring air. It seems like everybody that has never been to the north pole is desirous of commuting up and back. All of them by the way, are trying to arrange for return tickets. I haven’t heard of anybody that was going up to sojourn. In fact they are trying to make a one-night stand out of the north pole.
Peary found it, and I can’t see any particular reason why there is such a demand to run second.1 But Roald Amundsen who one time started to the
north pole, was misdirected by the information bureau (as is usually the custom) and landed at the South Pole.2 This will go on record as being the most colossal blunder ever recorded in the annals of traffic. If you can go any farther wrong than this you will have to jump off the earth and not
Now another one, Gettir Algarson, who is a British-Columbian of Scandinavian descent, also craves himself a pole.3 Then we have Mr. McMillan who has been up north with almost all of them and who was with the Peary expedition when Peary really found the pole.4 In fact he has accompanied everybody that has ever been north of Montreal. He has been in the frozen north so long that he speaks with an Esquimeaux dialect.
These things you all know because you read them in the papers every day, but here is something you don’t know, because it is really one for the book. I was sitting quietly in my dressing room one night looking through the papers to see what late fool thing some of our hired help in Washington had pulled off. I wasn’t bothering a soul in the world, when a man was announced to see me on business. He came in and said he had been requested to ask me if I wouldn’t like to accompany McMillan to the north pole.
I have had a great many queer requests, the prize one of which up to this time being when Madame Jeritza, Metropolitan Opera star asked me for an autographed photograph.5 But here was one that knocked me cuckoo.
Did I want to go to the north pole? Me, a man who had froze both ears in a steam heated hotel in Minneapolis. Why I won’t even play Duluth, Minn., between November and May.
He explained to me that the expedition was taking a broadcasting radio outfit, and that they wanted me to enlighten the world every night on just what we found that day. I explained to him that my contract and the itinerary of the company heretofore had never reached farther north than Chicago, and that I would take the proposition under advisement. He said he would send around Mr. E. F. McDonald, Jr., who would explain it to me more fully and that if I seriously considered it Mr. McMillan himself would like to have a talk with me.6
So in a couple of days in comes Mr. McDonald and explained it to me so pretty that you would have thought that we were going to Atlantic City for the week-end. We were only to be gone for a couple of months. We would go by boat while the waters were open (with the exception of ice bergs). Then we would unpack a couple of airplanes which we carried in our knapsacks, and then we would fly over the pole some four or five hundred miles distant.
But the pole was not this particular expedition’s objective. He said that their object was to discover new lands, perhaps a whole continent in the name of America. In fact he kinder wanted to make a second hand Columbus out of me. He said that every night I could talk to the world on this radio. I explained to him that I was not desirous of going this far north to take the world into my confidence for if the world wanted to hear me it could do so at five-fifty per seat at the theater with heat, and where the acoustics are better than at any pole he could drag me off to. Imagine me every evening straddle of a chunk of ice broadcasting to the world the weather report from the north pole as follows:
“Hello, radio fans! This is the north pole speaking. It has been unusually warm day here. The thermometer stood until it froze, at 106 degrees below zero. Wish you were here. The natives are removing their winter underwear with butcher knives. On account of the ice and snow we can’t tell whether there is land or water under where we now are. It has been a very quiet day. We haven’t flew by a single other expedition. The tourist season is about ended. I will sign off now until eleven o’clock when seals will juggle hats and balls for you. This program will be put on by the Muskrat Near-Seal company of Twenty-two Hester Street, New York City.”
He said he would carry a very strong receiving set where we would be in touch with America at all times. I remarked to him, “Brother, that is the poorest inducement you have offered me yet. I can stand the cold; I can ride a reindeer; I can chew on the penquin; and I can flirt with the female Esquimeaux (if I am smart enough to tell which is man and which is woman); but I am certainly not going to the north pole to listen to ads over the radio. If I arrived in the frozen north and should be greeted by the following:
“This is station WHY, announcer Rum Dum speaking. The NeverBleed Safety Razor Blade company will put on the following program: The first number will be the Never-Bleed jazz orchestra in one of their own selections.”
Now if that greeeted me the McMillan expedition would lose a transient guest.
In addition to the broadcasting and receiving set, he said: “Will, if we find the land we hope to, the trip will be historical. Everyone connected with the expedition will go down in history.”
Then I happened to casually think of everybody I had ever read about in history, and where they are today! His proposition was intriguing but not convincing. It was possible that I could go, but not probable.
Of course I could close my eyes and see children reading over the list of great and famous explorers: Columbus, Balboa, De Soto, Rogers, and Bryan, the discoverer of Florida.7 You see I didn’t want to let him know that I was exactly scared, for even a coward can be diplomatic about it. I said:
“Is there any particular demand for additional land? What is the matter with using some that we have got here now. New England hasn’t raised anything but a president in twenty years. And what about Wisconsin? Since Implorer La Follette discovered it it has been of no practical use to America.8 Is Bryan’s Florida to be an asset or an ad?
I told him the only chance he ever had of making a success out of the north pole was to announce that he had struck oil there. That made us even recognize Mexico. He said we would return with a new map of the north. What is the use of new maps of anywhere? People don’t study the old ones.
Of course the trip did offer possibilities. I could see us sighting a new land where I would step ashore from an airplane onto an iceberg and make peace with the natives, being met by a committee of them in high fur hats, and I announce to them in my best Esquimeau tongue that I seized the land or water, whichever it might be, on which we were now standing in the name of Coolidge and Dawes, and that in case of a change of administration before any of us could get back again, that I would like to have them hold it for McAdoo and Smith.9
Then I would do a little trading with them, perhaps some gumdrops and some spare Ford parts for a couple of huskies and some Esquimeau pie. Then I would sail back to America and report to the king (Senator Borah) that we had discovered a land free from investigations, and where a congressman had never set foot.10 That it really was the Promised Land.
1Robert Edwin Peary, American naval officer and arctic explorer. After several unsuccessful attempts, Peary finally reached the North Pole in April of 1909, the first man to do so.
2Roald Amundsen, Norwegian explorer who navigated the Northwest Passage and fixed the position of the North Magnetic Pole on an expedition from 1903 to 1906. He discovered the South Pole in 1911.
3Grettier Algarsson, Canadian explorer who undertook an aerial expedition to the North Pole in 1925.
4Donald Baxter MacMillan, American arctic explorer who accompanied Peary on the polar expedition of 1908-1909. MacMillan organized and led a National Geographic expedition to the arctic in 1925 that took three United States naval airplanes within eleven degrees of the North Pole.
5Maria Jeritza, Austrian-born soprano who performed with the Imperial and Royal operas in Vienna and with the Metropolitan Opera of New York City.
6Eugene Francis McDonald, Jr., a lieutenant commander in the United States Naval Reserve who was second in command of the MacMillan-National Geographic Expedition of 1925.
7For William Jennings Bryan see WA 122: N 1.
8Robert Marion La Follette, Sr., United States senator from Wisconsin from 1906 until his death in 1925. A former governor of Wisconsin, La Follette ran for president in 1924 on the Progressive party ticket.
9William Gibbs McAdoo, former United States secretary of the treasury and director-general of the railroads; prominent candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1920 and 1924. For Al Smith see WA 121: N 1.
10For William E. Borah see WA 119: N 2.
WA128 May 24, 1925
IT’S WHAT THE HOME FOLKS THINK
A few days ago I was asked by one of the big Ministers of New York City to come to a Luncheon and speak to over 300 Ministers and prominent Laymen. He sat in my dressing room for over an hour. I tried to explain to him that I was only a teller of jokes and that I would be all out of tune with the audience he would have. He is the Methodist Minister here who is building that wonderful big Church which will be the tallest building in New York.1 A Club, a home, a meeting place, a recreation place for everybody that is interested in trying to live a nice clean wholesome life, and wants to be thrown with people interested in the same thing.
OF YOU THAT REALLY COUNTS
Well, I had worked at affairs for every denomination in the World here in New York, because one is just as worthy as the other. Old New York, the so called heartless city, houses some great people in every denomination in the world, and I can’t see any difference in them. I haven’t been able to see where one has the monopoly on the right course to Heaven.
I told him I didn’t know what to talk about. Saying the erection of this wonderful Church, and Worth While Center, was of course understood as everyone knew that it was a wonderful undertaking. But, anyway, I went and never in my life did I face an audience with as little preparation. Well, I floundered around from one subject to another. The Minister in introducing me had said that I had been raised a Methodist and I had. So when I got off on that I just couldn’t help but speak of a thing which I didn’t want to speak of. I knew what would happen if I did.
Out of a large family of which I am the youngest, I have two Sisters living. And I couldn’t speak of any Church without bringing in the work that those two Sisters have done, in the little town in which they both live.2 It’s Chelsea, Oklahoma, which means nothing in your life, but it has meant a lot to people who have lived in association with them.
They started in this little Western Town some 35 years ago. They helped build the Methodist Church, the first church there. They have helped every Church, they have helped every movement that they knew was for the best upbuilding of their community. They have each raised a large family of Boys and Girls who are today a credit to their community. They have carried on the same as thousands of Women have carried on in every small and Big Town in the World. They don’t think they are doing anything out of the ordinary. They don’t want credit. They do good simply because they don’t know any other thing to do.
The reason I spoke of this personal thing is because I couldn’t help it. My Wife was waiting at the train right then for me to see her off to the sickbed of one of these sisters. I didn’t tell this to the Ministers because they are my sisters but because none of them who has given his entire life and time to God could have given any more than they have. They have given their all.
Now when I had finished my little talk to rush to the train to see my wife off, I had something happen that had never happened before and I have spoken at a great many affairs. The entire 300 stood up and offered a silent Prayer for my poor afflicted Sister. That was days ago.
Today, as I write this, I am not in the Follies, the carefree Comedian who jokes about everything. I am out in Oklahoma, among my People, my Cherokee people, who don’t expect a laugh for everything I say.
That Silent Prayer that those 300 Ministers uttered didn’t save my sister. She has passed away. But she had lived such a life that it was a privilege to pass away. Death didn’t scare her. It was only an episode in her life. If you live right, death is a Joke to you as far as fear is concerned.
And on the day that I am supposed to write a so called Humorous Article I am Back home. Back home, at the funeral of my Sister. I can’t be funny. I don’t want to be funny. Even Ziegfeld don’t want me to be funny.3 I told him I wanted to go. He said: “I would hate you if you didn’t.” I told W. C. Fields, the principal comedian of the show.4 He said: “Go on, I will
do something to fill in.” Brandon Tynan, my friend of years said: “Go home where you want to be and where you ought to be.”5
After all, there is nothing in the world like home. You can roam all over the World, but after all, it’s what the people at home think of you that really counts. I have just today witnessed a Funeral that for real sorrow and real affection I don’t think will ever be surpassed anywhere. They came in every mode of conveyance, on foot, in Buggies, Horseback, Wagons, Cars, and Trains, and there wasn’t a Soul that come that she hadn’t helped or favored at one time or another.
Now, we are in the South, of the South, and according to Northern standards we don’t rate the Negro any too high. Well, I wish you could have seen the Negroes at her home on the day of the Funeral. Before her death, she said: “They are my folks, they have helped me for years, they are all my friends. When I am gone I don’t want you Children at my Funeral to show any preference.” That’s the real South’s real feelings for its real friends. Death knows no Denomination. Death draws no color line. Some uninformed Newspapers printed: “Mrs. C. L. Lane sister of the famous Comedian, Will Rogers.” They were greatly misinformed. It’s the other way around. I am the brother of Mrs. C. L. Lane, “The friend of Humanity.” And I want to tell you that as I saw all these people who were there to pay tribute to her memory, it was the proudest moment of my life that I was her brother. And all the honors that I could ever in my wildest dreams hope to
reach, would never equal the honor paid on a little western Prairie hilltop,
among her people, to Maud Lane. If they will love me like that at the finish, my life will not have been in vain.
1Christian Fichthorne Reisner, American Methodist minister; founder of the Broadway Temple in New York City, known as the “Skyscraper Church.”
2Rogers’ sister, Maud Rogers Lane, died at Chelsea, Rogers County, Oklahoma, on May 15, 1925. She was the wife of Captain Lane. An older sister, Sallie Clementine McSpadden, was also a resident of Chelsea and survived Rogers by eight years.
3For Flo Ziegfeld see WA 117: N 11.
4William Claude “W. C.” Fields, famous American comic actor who performed in vaudeville and the Ziegfeld Follies. He also appeared in a host of films, where he usually played swaggering, drunken, down-at-the-heels rascals.
5Brandon Tynan, Irish-born American actor and dramatic author. A Follies regular, he also wrote such plays as The Passion Flower and The Melody of Youth.
WA129 May 31, 1925
WELL, ALL I KNOW IS WHAT I READ
All I know is what I read in the papers. We had quite a Panic here the other day in New York, in the Subway, several people were trampled on and crushed. The cause of the trouble was that someone hollered out: “Here’s a vacant seat.” Yesterday another New York catastrophe happened in one of the hourly shooting affrays which are held on the Public Streets. An innocent bystander was shot. You just stand around in New York long enough and be innocent and someone will shoot you. That really was quite an event to shoot an innocent person in New York City. It takes better shooting than you think. You know policemen in New York are never taught to aim; they are instructed just to shoot up the street any way. No matter who they hit it will be someone that should have been hit before. They very seldom hit the one originally intended, but they most always get a worse one.
IN THE PAPERS
We just had the Police Chiefs from all over the World here last week. Most of them were robbed while here. So they really got to see crime at first hand. Police Chiefs had to organize to protect themselves against the keen competition of the Crooks. They worked out a way of sending fingerprints by Wireless and Radio. They seemed to think that was quite an achievement. They made no progress however in working out ways and means of capturing the person to be finger printed. But they have these up to date methods in case they ever do catch a crook. We used to have Policemen in every Town to protect us from Robbers and Crooks. But now all a Policeman has to do is to face North when Traffic goes East and West and face West when Traffic goes North and South. Policemen used to carry a Billy that they used to crack over Crooks’ Heads. Now they have discarded that and have a Whistle. That’s why there is so much crime. Whistling at a Crook is not near as effective as to Crack him On the Bean with a Hickory Stick. A Policeman used to have a Beat to Walk and he was watching out
all the time for some crooked business. But nowadays his beat is a little Box or Pedestal in the middle of the Street, and he has to watch out to keep from getting run over. If he saw a Robbery being committed he couldn’t get out of the Traffic to get to it. The chances are he himself would be run over before he reached the sidewalk. He can’t take anybody to the Station House; there is nobody to leave to watch traffic. So all they do nowadays is give you a Ticket.
Policemen are not Policemen any more they are just process servers. You shoot a man nowadays and they hand you a Ticket telling you to please appear in Court Monday at 10 o’clock. If you can’t come send your Chauffeur. There are more of those Tickets that never come back than there are I.O.U.’s that are never taken up. There are a thousand Policemen to see that you don’t Park your Car, where there is not one to see that your Baby is not Kidnapped, or your Home broken into. Every man on the Street can have a Automatic Pistol in every Pocket, and there is nobody to see that he don’t, but you let his Tail light be out and he will be thrown in Jail for life. You haven’t seen a Policeman walking on the Sidewalk since Henry Ford perfected his first Carburator. 14 thousand People in the United States were fined last year for parking 2 inches too far from the Curb, 5 were convicted for selling Liquor containing more than 1/2 of 1% of Alcohol, 4 of these got a re-trial. Now that is what they call changing with the times, or Modern Progress. Everything must change. If a thing used to be good, now it must be bad. They tell you we are living in a fast age. We are—IF we can live.
Well, let’s see what else we have this week in the papers. Oh, yes, I see where the Referee in the famous Jay Gould Will case has turned in a decision.1 You know Jay Gould in his will said: “If any of my Children marry
against the will of two thirds of the others they shall be cut off with only
half.” Well the Judge said: “He meant only the first marriage, he didn’t refer to any that happened after that.”
You see in Jay’s time one Wife would last you quite a while. But wives are so undependable nowadays that a Wife that suits you for Breakfast may be a total failure for you by Lunch time, and by Dinner even the second may not be exactly the type. So it really does no good for a smart man to leave what he thinks is a good Will.
Modern History has proven that there has never yet been a will left that was carried out exactly as the maker of the money intended. So if you are thinking of dying and have any money I would advise you to leave the following will: “Count up the Lawyers in the State and divide it among them. If there should by any miracle be any left let my Relatives, all of them, God Bless ’em, fight over it.”
Everybody says for you to leave a will. By all means leave a will. Yes, leave a will so the Lawyers can misinterpret what you meant when you knew enough to know what you wanted to do with your money. To show you Justice there was 48 Lawyers on one side in this Gould case. If it wasn’t for Wills, lawyers would have to go to work at an essential employment. There is only one way you can beat a Lawyer in a death case. That is to die with nothing. Then you can’t get a Lawyer within 10 miles of your house. It’s great Life if you don’t die. Sometimes it’s a greater one IF you DO.
Well, at any rate, I can’t be worrying my life away over the troubles of the Goulds; none of them ever give my business a thought, so we must get to something else.
There has been a terrible pack of Americans over in Europe the past few weeks telling them that we don’t want or need the money they owe us, not to take us too seriously and that we are only kidding. Now I am sorry to hear this, because it happens to be two good friends of mine. Mr. Otto Kahn and Mr. Jimmie Gerard (Ex-Ambassador to Germany.)2 They are my friends, but the boys are wrong. They are letting Society and Social prestige run away with them. You know it’s always popular when in a foreign Country to boost it to the detriment of your own Country. But you want to be very sure that what you say is not going to reach back home, because, after all it’s home that Counts.
That old Vintage of French Wine just went to these Boys’ heads. They are both good Americans; they didn’t mean any harm, but we WANT THAT DOUGH. Don’t let anybody kid you about that. And Calvin wants it too. Don’t let anybody kid you about that either. I don’t care what your Politics are. You can be the most rabid Democrat. But when it comes to hording in them Shekels you leave it to Cal, and go right on back to sleep. That boy ain’t going to let any French Wine go to his head and cancel any Debts. In fact one of the most characteristic things I ever heard about Mr. Coolidge was how a party of men had talked to him for an hour to get his opinion on these Foreign Debts and finally he said just six words: “They Hired the Money, Didn’t They!” That’s all he said: “They hired the money, didn’t they.” Now where but Vermont would you ever hear the word “hired”? If you have ever dealt with a Vermonter you know they are not giving away any 11 Billion Dollars. Even for 11 Dollars they would go to war with you. So it looks like somebody has got to come through with some loose change.
There is an awful lot of other news. That’s why we are not using it it is AWFUL.
Good Night Everybody; and you too, Politicians.
1For Jay Gould see WA 123: N 3.
2Otto Hermann Kahn, German-born American banker and patron of the arts; partner in the financial firm of Kuhn, Loeb & Company from 1897 until his death in 1934. James Watson Gerard, American attorney and diplomat; ambassador to Germany from 1913 to 1917.
WA130 June 7, 1925
SAVE AMUNDSEN, BUT FIRST
Well, all I know is what I read in the Papers. Every paper and everybody is interested right now in the fate of those poor fellows who went to the North Pole.1 The Papers state that it was the first time anybody had ever
gone to the North Pole by air. They are wrong: that’s the way Cook went.2
RESCUE THE DEMOCRATS
As I write this (and I hope before you read it we will have had some good news, even if it will make this story seem old) everybody is wondering if they are going to send a Relief Party. I see where Mr. Coolidge says there ain’t no use sending one yet, as we don’t know for sure they are lost. As soon as they notify us definitely that they are lost, and where, why we will start organizing and make some effort to recover the bodies. You see it’s not Economy to relieve or even to save anything, unless you are sure it needs saving. We are liable to go away off up there, meet those fellows coming back and have our whole trip for nothing.
Talk about helping find stranded Explorers, if the President wanted to go into the humanitarian business and rescue lost people, he don’t have to get out of this Country. I hate to accuse our President of being in any way heartless, but if he was in the least sympathetic to human hardships and privations, he would save the Democrats.
These Explorers only left their base of supplies a few weeks ago. The Democrats left their base of supplies six years ago, and not a drop of sustainance have they received from outside sources since. If alive, they are subsisting entirely off each other.
It was thought they were found in the year 1925. In the early part of that year there was every effort made to locate and alleviate their suffering. The Treasury and the Office holding department thought they were in communication with them. Then came June of that year, and whatever chances these wandering people had of getting in touch with the Treasury was lost, some say, by breaking their own Communication. By November of that same year all you could get from them was Static. They couldn’t seem to ever regain their lost connection.
BUT if some one does find the Democrats and there has not been too many of their number perished in the meantime and he can find a Leader or Moses among ’em without holding a convention, why, they are liable to come back Heroes. Of course it will be no good just to discover the Democrats, but if you can find their Leader then they are liable to get back to their Base of Supplies.
As for relieving the North Pole Expedition I don’t see why they don’t send the Shenandoah or the Los Angeles, our Giant Dirigibles. That’s the only place they haven’t sent them. Of course it would interfere with their week-ending in Bermuda. I don’t see though how these men up there could possibly be living. I read where they took a few Thermos Bottles full of Chocolate. If they have lived all this time on that little mess of Chocolate, whatever Chocolate Co. made that particular brand have the greatest ad in the World for their product. We better quit trying to raise anything else and just live on chocolate.
They certainly were a Game lot to crawl into those old Airships when they didn’t know whether they could land. And just think, it was only a few weeks ago that the McMillan Outfit asked me to go away up there.3 I guess I didn’t show good judgment for once in my life!
Can you picture me mustering up enough courage to crawl into an Airship with no place to land only on a sharp Iceberg, or the back of a wild Polo Bear? I find it hard enough to land right side up in the morning out of an Upper Pullman Berth, much less out of an Airship.
Now, on the other hand, everything may be fine with them. You know what I kinder believe might have happened? They got there and landed O. K. and found a Moving Picture Outfit from Hollywood there on “location” shooting scenes for North of ’98. And of course some California Real Estate men who traded them some choice IGLOO Bungalow lots on a corner guaranteed to be “under the shade of the Pole,” and took their Aeroplanes for first payment.
Of course, this man Amundsen is a queer kind of a character. You know before he started out to find the North Pole once before when he got out in the Ocean he changed his mind and went and found the South Pole. So you can never figure just for what Pole this fellow is headed. He is liable to be safe and sound at the West Pole.
Then he may have figured: Well with McMillan and some other guy from England all going to the North Pole this season we will just head for the South Pole, where we can have it all to ourselves. I hate crowds; besides I have been there and know where it is.
But the whole world loves a brave man and I believe they will pull through, for they have got many a million well-wishers pulling for them.
Now that is all the people that I am in favor of relieving at this one particular Issue. Something may need relieving later on. But if you want Mr. Coolidge to relieve you and it costs any money you have picked a bad year to be saved.
There is only one motto this seson and that is: “Save the Republicans First.”
From now on Ye Olde Reliable Illiterate Digest is not interested in relieving. It is interested in condemning and hanging. A few days ago there was a man hung somewhere and there was thousands of people to see it. In Sing Sing a few weeks ago there was three young fellows Electrocuted and there was over two thousand applications to the Warden to see them go to their Death. Imagine if you can people who want to see somebody else killed! Sometime they ought to turn around and turn the Electricity on every one of the Specators that didn’t actually have to be there by law.
Anybody whose pleasure is watching somebody else die, is about as little use to humanity as the Person being electrocuted. There is some excuse for the man being electrocuted. He may be innocent, he may have killed in a wild rage of passion; or not in his right mind, or self defense. But the people who asked to come there just for the outing—there is no excuse in the World for them. I believe I could stand to be the Victim rather than to see one. I bet if the Warden did turn the Juice on these Spectators, any Jury in the World would set him free.
Now just last week here in New York another fine type of Crook was originated. They were taking some Radium over to a Hospital to try and cure Cancer on some poor patients that were wards of the city, and two big burlies knocked the carrier of this magic metal on the head and dashed off to their Auto where a third man was waiting and they got away.
Shades of the horse thief they used to hang when horses were worth $10 a piece! Why compared to these three, a horse thief was a Saint.
But this is enough of the sad things of life. Let’s hie ourselves away to the merry Bootleggers who were thought to have been driven out of New York but had only joined the enforcement brigade until the Prohibition scare blew over, while them Rum running ships came in, leased themselves to the Government and started back out to chase themselves.
1Roald Amundsen (see WA 127: N 2) and Lincoln Ellsworth failed to complete a flight across the North Pole in 1925. They were lost temporarily.
2Frederick Albert Cook, American physician and arctic explorer. On his return in 1909 from a two-year arctic expedition, Cook announced that he had reached the North Pole on April 21, 1908. The claim was denounced and rejected on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
3For Donald B. MacMillan see WA 127: N 4.
WA131 June 14, 1925
WHAT THIS COUNTRY NEEDS IS
Once upon a time there was a big Political Party going to hold their Convention in the biggest town in the land. They wanted to nominate a man for the highest office in the gift of the American people, and naturally they wanted to put forward their best man. Well, they come and they stayed, and they stayed, and due to factional differences they agree on a man.1 Various ones were put forward thinking it might be well to compromise on someone else. In fact they offered for nomination everybody but the janitor. It was funny, but it was serious.
MORE MEN LIKE TOM MARSHALL,
SAYS WILL ROGERS
These people had not come to New York to sit in a building and listen to a roll call the balance of their lives. I had heard all the various names put up for nomination, but there was one man belonging to their party I had never heard mentioned. I went to several man high up in the party and told them of this man that I had in mind. Every one of them said, “Why he is a fine man, Will. He would make a great President.” I told them I wanted to nominate him. I even went to Chairman Walsh (and he will bear me out in this) and I told Mr. Walsh the man I thought would make the best President of any man they had in their party, and that I wanted to nominate him, not in a comedy speech, but seriously.2
I had never made a serious speech but I felt that with this man to talk about, who had done so many worth while things that I wouldn’t have to resort to laughs at his expense. Now all this happened right at the end of the Convention, and I have no doubt that if it had dragged along a few more days that we would have been able to have done it. Because not a soul I spoke to but what liked him and all thought perhaps he might be the one to break the deadlock. Mind you, this man didn’t want it. But I would like to have had him hear the applause that would have greeted the mention of his name in that Convention. There would not have been a name you could have mentioned of a living member of their party that would have been received with as much real true admiration. Why: Because he didn’t have an enemy, not only in his party, but in any party.
Well, I didn’t get to nominate him. But Joe Tumulty and a lot of others there know that I wanted to, only I started my campaign too late.3 They
got together about that time on Mr. Davis, a splendid man, no doubt the most learned and capable man in any party.4 I would have liked to have seen someone else do it. I just wanted to see a man’s name go before the Convention that BELONGED there.
Well, it’s too late now. We muffed our chance and will never get it again. It’s too late; he has gone. The Lord must have thought pretty well of him. He nominated him, and you bet your life he will be elected, too. If he was good enough for Him to take, he ought to have been good enough for the Democrats.
The very virtues that his Admirers point out in Calvin Coolidge, honesty, simplicity, soundness, economy from the country and of the soil there is not a one you can name possessed by President Coolidge that was not possessed by Tom Marshall of Indiana.5 In fact there are a great many similar things in both of their careers. Both were Lawyers, Governors, Vice Presidents. I have been told by a lot of different Senators that Tom Marshall was the best man that ever presided over the United States Senate. Eight years he listened to them and come out SANE. There is a record that should have been rewarded. Why, didn’t the same bunch of Senators drive Dawes CUCKOO in one sitting?6 Marshall wasn’t for abolishing them, or changing their Rules. He was smart enough to know that America started with a Senate the same as a Dog started life with Fleas. A Flea has had the same rules for years, and so has the Senate. Neither Dawes nor the Dog is ever going to change ’em.
Now if he did all these things better than anybody else, why wouldn’t he have made a good President? A few weeks ago while in Washington as I told you before, I had quite a talk with Mr. Coolidge.
I was accompanied there by Nick Longworth, and every day somebody asks me what we talked about. They can’t imagine Mr. Coolidge and myself having anything in common. Well, now I will tell you what we talked about. (And ask Nick Longworth; he will tell you.)7 We talked almost all the time about Tom Marshall. He was to have been at the Gridiron Dinner as a Speaker that night. But they had just got word he was ill and couldn’t come. I told Mr. Coolidge what a disappointment it would be for me as I wanted to hear and meet Mr. Marshall. Then I told him about wanting to nominate him in New York (can you imagine telling one man about wanting to nominate another to beat the man you are talking to?) That’s about the extent of my diplomacy anyway. Then Mr. Coolidge told me about him; he had invited them to be their Guests at the White House if the Marshalls had been able to come. But he had a Telegram saying they couldn’t.
You can tell when anybody is talking about someone else whether they really admire them or not. Well, the President certainly showed he had a real admiration for Mr. Marshall. He said he didn’t believe any man was any more competent, and sound and down to earth on any big question than Tom Marshall that he was a wonderfully competent man and I wouldn’t have gone wrong by nominating him.
We spoke of his wonderful sense of Humor. I told Mr. Coolidge I thought that was always a handicap to Mr. Marshall, that politicians could never associate Humor and Sense together. Calvin got a Giggle out of that.
Everyone said to me: “Why what’s the idea, Will? Are you a delegate for Marshall? He must be a friend of yours.” I said, “No that’s the funny part of it. I never saw the man in my life. I don’t know him, I just like him that’s all.”
I have more genuine admiration for him than any man I know of in public life. Maybe it’s on account of his God given sense of Humor. That’s why I was disappointed in not seeing him at the Dinner. We have certain things in America that we can always get a laugh on, such as Bryan, lack of Airships, Prohibition, Ford Cars and “What is the name of our Vice President?” (Or something pertaining to the office of Vice President).8 Well, Marshall told one on himself that was the best Vice President Joke ever told.
He was talking with a bunch of Senators and Congressmen in Washington and he told them he thought it would be a good idea to just elect him as Vice President for Life, as he knew the work and where the Dinners were and there was no use changing Vice Presidents; they all agreed that he was the ideal Vice President and they thought that would be a great idea. Finally, as Mr. Marshall told it, one old Senator remarked: “Yes, Tom, but what would happen to the Country if the President died?”
Show me another Politician that would tell that joke on himself. But that’s what made him Tom Marshall that we all loved. Of course, his remark “What this Country needs most is a good Nickel Cigar” has perhaps been the most quoted. It was made when the Senate had been arguing for 3 days over the different needs of the Country and he made the remark to good naturedly remind them that all they had been saying didn’t mean anything.
Still that is all that some people seem to remember of him. They thought he was light, and not serious enough because he could see things without announcing that “if they were not remedied that the Country would be headed for the Riffs.” Why, some thought he did not know or care. Tom Marshall was an AMERICAN if there ever was one, and he knew, and he cared. Show me another man that would have refused the Presidency when the Senate wanted him to take it when President Wilson was so very ill! But NO, he was loyal and he was modest. There are thousands of wonderful things that could be placed as an Inscription on his tomb and none of them could do him justice. But I would like to see the following one, “WHAT THIS COUNTRY NEEDS IS MORE TOM MARSHALLS.”
1The Democratic National Convention of 1924, which was held in New York City, lasted a record seventeen days.
2Thomas James Walsh, Democratic United States senator from Montana from 1913 until his death in 1933.
3Joseph Patrick Tumulty, American attorney and Democratic politician; private secretary to Woodrow Wilson from 1910 to 1921.
4For John W. Davis see WA 122: N 9.
5Marshall (see WA 125: N 9) died on June 1, 1925.
6For Charles G. Dawes see WA 117: N 9.
7For Nicholas Longworth see WA 117: N 16.
8For William Jennings Bryan see WA 122:N 1.
WA132 June 21, 1925
WE KNOW WHY THE NORSEMEN
All I know is what I read in the papers, and I have been reading a terrible lot this last week about President Coolidge’s trip to Minn.1 Of course,
some of the papers with a Democratic leaning think the whole thing was made with 1928 in mind. They seem to figure that they wouldn’t have brought these Noresemen over here if they hadn’t wanted to use them in 1928. Now Ye Olde Illiterate Digest (which is always conservative) don’t accuse the President of any such thing. We believe the Norsemen come here, not subsidized by the Republican Party, and that they really held this Celebration on the level, with no thought of what would happen in 1928.
COME TO AMERCA, BUT NEITHER
HISTORY OR MR. COOLIDGE CAN TELL
US WHY THEY WENT TO MINNEAPOLIS
I am not very familiar with just what the Celebration was, or just who it was to celebrate. I didn’t get any of the folders. But Norway seemed to predominate in the speeches. Maybe that’s all that you call Norsemen, and it may have been their Party, and if it was that’s all right. But if the thing was supposed to kinder include Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, why Calvin lost more votes than he gained. For while we can’t tell the difference between a Swede, a Norwegian or a Dane, they can themselves. So if Calvin went off up there and told all the wonderful things that Norway had done and left out the Swedes and Danes, his name won’t look so good on the next ballot up that way. Of course, as I say, it may be my ignorance for maybe it was a Norwegian affair. It’s harder to tell a Swede from a Norwegian than it is to tell a Progressive Democrat from a Conservative Republican—unless they are Sailors and are tattooed.
Some of the more Catty papers say he went up there to show that he was still on speaking terms with Lenroot.2 You see, Senator Lenroot has a race matched next year for the Senate against Governor Blaine, and all during the trip Lenroot stood right by the President, and he went everywhere with him.3 The papers say he did that to show that he knew Lenroot personally, and that it was a kind of political endorsement of him. But that
may not have been the case at all. Lenroot might have had no other place to stand. Maybe the people down there wouldn’t let him stand with them. Lots of times you will see men on speakers’ stands that wouldn’t be allowed down in the audience. Besides, he and Lenroot could be as thick as Mr. Coolidge and Stearns, and by next year it wouldn’t mean anything to those Farmer Votes.4 If wheat is a good price next year in November, the Norsemen will give their vote to the Republicans and if it is low why even W. J. Bryan could get it.5 Wheat is their Politics.
The old Illiterate Digest solution of the whole thing is this: back in 1921 Mr. Coolidge went there as Vice-President, and wheat was low, and they were even so discourteous as to Boo his speech and to walk out on him before he finished. When wheat is low they won’t listen to anybody, especially a Vice-President. That, I imagine, always kinder stuck in Mr. Coolidge’s craw for he is just like any one else; he is human like all the rest of us. If we go somewhere and they don’t think much of us, we are always anxious to come back and show ’em how we have improved, and what a mistake they had made by not recognizing ability in the first place.
Now I don’t lay all the blame on the people the first time. The chances are, on account of him being Vice-President, they didn’t know who he was. So it certainly must have been a great source of satisfaction to him to come back and prove to them what a bum lot of Critics they had been.
Dawes will run up against the same thing in a lot of places this year.6 Of course if he ever makes good he can go back and show ’em what a lot of Suckers they were in the first place.
Well, Mr. Coolidge got there and went to Kellogg’s house and stayed.7 Now we know why he appointed Kellogg Secretary of State—so he would have some place to stay while in Minneapolis. He was pretty far sighted, Mr. Coolidge. He has a Cabinet Member or an Ex-Cabinet member in almost every Town. A Hotel will starve to death waiting for his patronage.
Well, he made a dandy good speech on Norsemen. He READ it. The Norsemen thought it was wonderful that he knew so much of their early history and they were surprised. And HE was too.
You know when a President or some big man wants to make a speech on some Subject, or race of People he just touches a Button and says to some research Secretary, “Get me a Speech on Norsemen.” “On what, Mr. President?” “On Norsemen.” “Any particular brand of Norsemen, Mr. Presdent?” “No, just the usual variety.” “Well, is there anything you would like to add to what I might find out about them?” “Yes, they are Blondes and they live in Minnesota, and their names are Nelsons or Olsens, or Johnsons.” “About how long a Speech, Mr. President?” “Oh, as long as their History will stand; put in something about them being a Hardy race and they will be ashamed to leave before it’s over. And also put in about the Norsemen being the backbone on which our Country was founded.” “I know, Mr. President, you used that when you spoke to these Irish that come to see you in Washington. You told them they were the backbone.” “Well, make these some other important part of the Anatomy. And be careful about
calling them Common People. Nobody wants to be called Common People, especially common people.” “Do you want to say anything about La Follette?”8 “No, this is a pleasure trip.”
Well, this fellow made a very good speech out of it, between McGuffy’s Fourth Reader and the World Almanac. He picked them up in Norway, didn’t tell what they had done to make ’em want to leave, and made no allusion to criminal records. He found trace of a ship called the RESTAURATIONEN, which in 1825 brought the first organized party of Norwegian Immigrants. She was 35 Tons. She was a second Mayflower, which was 180 Tons. She had a desperately heavy Cargo, of Iron and 52 people. (He didn’t state how many the Mayflower brought. That ship either brought a Million or the few thousand they did bring were very prolific.)
The RESTAURATIONEN landed at New York. They were going to profit by the mistake of the Mayflower. The Authorities were going to deny her the Port as she carried too many people and too much Cargo for the size of her. Can you imagine wanting to land among people with ideas like that? They thought these Norwegians had such a big load they ought to take it back home before they sank. There was Liberty at first sight. If I had been on the Boat I would have suggested trying some other Country where the load limit was higher. I have heard of people forbidding a boat to start because it was loaded too heavy but I never heard of one where they wouldn’t let it land. I guess they wanted them to stay out till some of them washed overboard. These authorities, incidentally, were the Mayflower gang — Malice toward ALL. The Norsemen first went to Orleans County, New York. But that was too close to the New Englanders for them to prosper. The New Englanders would have traded them some Hard Cider for their iron. They had to go west, so they picked up their Iron and went west. History, nor Mr. Coolidge don’t tell why they ever went to Minneapolis. Unless it was to harass the life out of St. Paul. It’s a good thing for the Northwest that they didn’t go through Claremore, Oklahoma. If they had, there would never have been any Northwest. Mr. Coolidge says:
“Thus we note that the little Sloop, Restaurationen, brought a cargo of Iron, and Norwegians. Today Minnesota has more Norwegians and more Iron than any other State in the Union.”
Now that shows that a lot of Farmers that have been for years trying to raise Wheat and Grain of some kind should have planted Iron. The President insinuated that from this 52 Norwegians and these few Tons of Iron, look what they raised! So, when in doubt, raise either Iron or Norwegians.
Mr. Coolidge says: “The Norsemen were a Sea faring Nation until they came over here and part of them took to the land and part to the Sea.” I suppose the part that couldn’t get on with the Land or the Sea, why, they went with La Follette.
1Coolidge attended the Norwegian Centennial Celebration at Minneapolis-Saint Paul in early June.
2Irvine Luther Lenroot, Republican United States senator from Wisconsin from 1918 to 1927.
3John James Blaine, Republican governor of Wisconsin from 1921 to 1927. A popular progressive, Blain defeated Lenroot for the Republican senatorial nomination in 1926. He won the general election and served in the Senate from 1927 to 1933.
4For Frank W. Stearns see WA 125: N 7.
5For William Jennings Bryan see WA 122: N 1.
6For Charles G. Dawes see WA 117: N 9.
7Frank Billings Kellogg, United States ambassador to Great Britain from 1924 to 1925. Kellogg was appointed secretary of state in March of 1925; he served in that post until 1929. He was a co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1929.
8For Robert M. La Follette, Sr., see WA 127: N 8.
WA133 June 28, 1925
MEDDLING IN MEXICO, A SUMMER SPORT
All I know is what I read in the papers. And I have been reading a lot in the papers the last few weeks about the note that Secretary Kellogg sent to Mexico, and the one he received in reply.1 Now Mr. Kellogg has just been appointed Secretary of State; he was, before that, Ambassador to England. Well, he had been sitting around Washington, and there wasn’t much to do, so one hot day when Walter Johnston was out on the road playing some place, why he says to one of the Underlings, or Secretaries:2
“Have we sent any Notes since I have been in?” “No, Mr. Secretary our only correspondence so far in Washington has been relative to Gas, Water, Lights and Rent.” “Well, most of the Secretaries of State I ever heard of gained fame by sending Notes to some other Nation. Who can we send one to?” “Well, we could write to almost any of them but I doubt very much if they would answer. To attract any Notice, it’s not the Note you send but the Answer. France, and Italy and Belgium and a bunch of other Countries have not paid us, or even acted like they were going to. We might send them a Note, or just a Bill as a suggestion.” “No, we can’t do that,” says Mr. Kellogg, “that would interfere with Diplomatic relations. We have to be very careful with them as each of them has a Navy and Army, and their feelings are very sensitive. By the way, what about Mexico? I have always heard that when the U. S. couldn’t find anybody else to pick on that they picked out Mexico.” “I know, Mr. Secretary, but Mexico has not done anything; in fact they have been behaving themselves almost beyond recognition. They are so peaceful you would hardly think they were a Republic.”
“Well, we will send ’em a Note anyway. I will show Washington I can write just as good as any of these other Secretaries of State. Get out a Tablet and take down the following. By the way, do they owe us anything?” “Yes, Mr. Secretary. They do not as a Nation, but we have claims against them for damages for individuals. But they don’t owe us near as much as these other Nations.” “Well, you send them the following: ‘America is getting very tired of your Nation down there not paying us what you owe us for land we claim was taken by the Revolutionists from some of our respectful Citizens. It’s funny to me you can’t control these Revolutions. Now, we want Americans protected. Remember, MEXICO IS ON TRIAL BEFORE THE EYES OF THE WORLD. Remember this is a friendly Note.’
“Put a Special Delivery stamp on that, boy, and send it down at once. Where is my Golf Clubs?”
“I know, but Mr. Secretary Kellogg why don’t you send a note demanding the protection of our American Tourists in France, they have been skinned alive there for years?”
“Yes, I know they have but France has an Air force and a Navy. You have to be Diplomatic in these things, that’s why I am able to be Secretary of State. Don’t ask any more questions please.”
Now all the above is just what took place, and we were very much excited when Mexico replied and told us that as they were paying the Taxes in Mexico that naturally they felt they should have some saying as to how their Country should be run, and that as for the EYES OF THE WORLD being on them, the World was Cock-Eyed nowadays anyway.
Now what Ye Olde Reliable Illiterate Digest wants to know is what the Devil business is it of ours how some other Country runs their business? How does Kellogg and Coolidge know what the EYES OF THE WORLD are on? As a matter of fact, the Eyes of the World are on a $1 bill and especially if somebody else has it. Outside of the Oil Interests and Americans who want to make money out of Mexico, the rest of the World’s Eyes don’t even know Mexico exists. (And incidentally Mexico is not worrying about them.)
America has a great habit of always talking about protecting American interests in some foreign Country. PROTECT ’EM HERE AT HOME! There is more American Interests right here than anywhere. If an American goes to Mexico and his Horse dies, we send them a Note wanting American Interests preserved and the horse paid for.
We don’t guarantee investments here at home. Why should we make Mexico guarantee them? Our Papers are always harping on US developing Mexico. Suppose Mexico don’t want developing. Maybe they want it kept as it was years ago. How much do Americans spend in the Summer to get to some place where there is no development—No Street cars, Elevators, Fords, Telephones, Radios, and a million and one other things that you just like to get away from once in awhile! Will, suppose they don’t want ’em at all down there. Why don’t you let every Nation do and act as they please? What business is it of ours how Mexico acts or lives? Every Village and community in Mexico has a Church, (and they go to it, too) where up here if we have a Filling Station we think we are up to date. They don’t build a Church till shame drives ’em to it. Every American Criminal that ever did anything from stealing a Ford Car to blowing up an Insane Asylum has gone to Mexico for refuge. He stays there, gets in some business, then
“Hollers” for America to protect him. Mexico should say:
“Alright, we will pay every American that has a claim against us. BUT we will pay them at their home Towns in the U.S. where they come from. They are to call for the money personally.” Say, Mexico wouldn’t have to pay out over $10 in all. I claim whenever you leave your own Country and go into another you do it for gain and nothing else. You take your chances.
If America is not good enough for you to live in and make money in why then you are privileged to go to some other Country. But don’t ask protection from a Country that was not good enough for you. If you want to make money out of a Country, why, take out their citizenship Papers and join them. Don’t use one Country for Money and another for convenience. The difference in our exchange of people with Mexico is: they send workmen here to work, while we send Americans there to work Mexico.
I left home as a Kid and traveled and worked my way all through Argentine, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand and was three years getting enough money to get home on. But I never found it necessary to have my AMERICAN rights protected. Nobody invited me into those Countries and I always acted as their Guest, not as their Adviser.
America and England, especially, are regular old Busybodies when it comes to telling somebody else what to do. But you notice they, (England and America) never tell each other what to do. You bet your life they don’t! If Mexico or the Boers, or the Philippines, or India was as strong as either one of them was you bet you Kellogg would consult somebody besides Mr. Coolidge and Borah, before he commented on where the eyes of the World was located.3
For instance, if an American is killed in Mexico we send them a Note saying: “The Murderer must be punished within 24 hours and $100,000 dollars must be paid at once to his relatives.” Now maybe this guy wasn’t worth alive over 10 cents, and couldn’t return to America without being hung, but WE MUST PROTECT AMERICAN RIGHTS. Now suppose, on the other hand, a Californian is killed in New York City. Why they will never in 100 years find out even who killed him, much less punishing him. Does his people get any Bounty on him? No Sir, not a cent. They even have to bury him. But, if he was killed in Mexico, oh how his value would rise! Getting killed in Mexico is cheaper than having an Insurance. We discover one murderer in a Hundred yet we ask them to catch him and punish him
in 24 hours, whether they know who did it or not.
Big Nations are always talking about Honor. Yet England promised to protect France against Germany, IF FRANCE WOULD PAY THEM WHAT THEY OWED THEM. They act as a Police Force for pay.
What is the consequence? As soon as Germany gets strong enough so she thinks she can lick both of them there will be another War. Somebody is always telling us in the papers how to prevent war. There is only one way in the World to prevent war, and that is, FOR EVERY NATION TO TEND TO ITS OWN BUSINESS.Trace any war that ever was and you will find some Nation was trying to tell some other Nation how to run their Business.
There is a War in China now. They don’t want the Foreigners in there. There is a war in Morocco. They don’t want the French and Spanish in there. All these Nations are interfering with some other Nation’s personal affairs, BUT with an eye to business. Why the mischief don’t we let the rest of the World act like it wants to?
Look at Switzerland! There is an example of a Country minding it own business. No Wars, No Notes. Just tending to its own business.
1For Frank Billings Kellogg see WA 132: N 7.
2Walter Perry Johnson, professional baseball player for the Washington Senators. His career as a pitcher and manager lasted from 1907 to 1935. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.
3For William E. Borah see WA 119: N 2.