Monday, March 13, 2017

Politics, an Evil Editor and Poetic Pranksterism

Evan Lewis, then acting editor of The Chariton Patriot, must have been gratified during early March of 1887 when a handwritten poem entitled "The Blue Goes Down; The Grey Goes Up" appeared in his mailbox.

The poet identified herself as Nannie Curtis, of Norwood --- there certainly were Curtises at Norwood, although Evan didn't know a Nannie personally. And the poem appeared to be relatively light-hearted commentary on the recent city election, during which George W. Alexander, a Democrat, had defeated C.H. Davis, a Republican, in the race for mayor by a margin of 342 votes to 115.

George was a native of Tennessee, a skillful attorney, a very likeable man --- and a notable drunk, but that hadn't begun to affect his life severely yet. He also was a veteran of Confederate service during the Civil War, which never had been an issue in Chariton in large part because of his congenial nature. In fact, when he died after falling down his office stairs some 30 years later, Chariton's Grand Army of the Republic boys wrapped his coffin in an American flag, escorted his remains to the cemetery and saw to it that his grave was decorated every year thereafter.

George also was a Democrat in an overwhelmingly Republican city --- so that was notable, too, although politics really hadn't been a factor in the mayoral race. 

But both his Confederate service and his party affiliation seemed to be motives behind Nannie's poem. And it would have seemed logical to submit it to The Patriot, staunchly Republican in its editorial stance as opposed to The Democrat and the middle-of-the-road Herald.

So Evan duly set the poem into type and published it on the local news page of his Wednesday, March 9, 1887, edition. Here's how it reads:

Another battle lost and won!
Victors once, we're vanquished now;
Each true and loyal patriot son
Recoils before the Rebel blow.

Youth and age may justly feel
Southern Grey is now ahead:
Treason trends with cruel heel
Upon the living and the dead.

Purest mem'ries they would bury
In the shadows of the past:
Dev'lish treason now is merry
As the Blue goes down at last.

Soldiers see! the Chief's command
Sends back the bill you sorely need,
Emblazoned with his ruthless hand
Veto! Veto! I forbid!

Are our homes not dearly bought
Now that copperheads command?
In the future, as we fought
So let us vote, to save our land.

Next day --- publication date for both the rivals Democrat and Herald --- there was great hilarity (at Evan's expense) in both. 

As it turned out, there was no such person as Nannie Curtis and the poem accredited to her had included a wicked acrostic that had gone unnoticed by Evan.

If you read down and note the first letters of each line you'll see that the result is, "A very stupid ass Evan is."

The editors of both The Democrat and The Herald declared themselves shocked that unknown parties had taken advantage of their fellow editor --- but couldn't control their giggles. Both republished the poem, pointing out in the most delicate way possible the acrostic text.

"It was a mean piece of business for Nannie Curtis to perpetrate such an outrage as this is on our innocent and unsuspecting young friend," editorialized S.S. King, editor of The Democrat. 

No one ever admitted to impersonating Nannie Curtis and thereby taking advantage of Evan Lewis's naivete --- but the general consensus seems to have been that it was Mr. King himself who had set his fellow editor up. King could be extraordinarily evil in an editorial sense when he put his mind to it.

You may read more about George W. Alexander here, in a post entitled "Never say 'only': Lt. G.W. Alexander," and here, in a post entitled "Chariton City Council and the dipsomaniacal mayor."

1 comment:

Keith Dachenbach said...

Frank, thank you for your kind comments about Famie . She was the last of the four greatgmas that my children had when they were born. They all were special in their own ways. Famie was very special. cousin keith