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Monthly Archives: May 2009

stringaWashington Post, March 31, 1904. Per an earlier post, this kind of detailed, how-to suicide reportage is discouraged nowadays.

march-1-1904aWashington Post, March 31, 1904. It’s like a Louvin Brothers song.

reprimandaDetroit News, May 26, 1931. Poor bastard.

grape-juiceDetroit News, May 22, 1931.
Vat a way to go.

meteoraDetroit News, March 26, 1931. Most people don’t realize that the Men In Black were first established under the Hoover administration. So stop blaming the New Deal.

jazz-3-28aDetroit News, March 28, 1931. This is a perennial news item throughout the Twenties and Thirties: Some credentialed highbrow wishfully announces for the millionth time the imminent death of jazz. Today, of course, jazz qualifies as cultural spinach of the highest nutritive value, and nobody listens to it but credentialed highbrows. Oh, the irony of it all.

P.S. I did not know that about cottonseed meal and trout.

contestsaDetroit News. April 22, 1931. Beauty contests in the Twenties and Thirties were forthrightly about female nubility and pulchritude and thus had all the respectability of today’s wet t-shirt contests. They subsequently acquired a toehold in the mainstream during WWII, when beauty queens were recruited to sell war bonds and entertain the troops. By the 1950s, pageants had become as wholesome as apple pie and as hypocritical as Elmer Gantry. The conflicted, sanitizing urge to dilute, deny and obscure the fundamental and irreducible boy-I’d-like-to-fuck-her agenda of beauty pageants is what gives rise to agonized weirdness like

widowaDetroit News, April 23, 1931. You just don’t hear of socialites jumping out of windows over Park Avenue anymore.

showgirlaDetroit News, April 22, 1931. I guess she couldn’t wait until Tuesday.

toastedaDetroit News, May 16, 1931. Most nations capable of establishing national broadcasting systems in the Twenties and Thirties followed the British model of development, creating listener-supported, noncommercial systems owned and operated by the state. The U.S., where broadcasting was born, opted for privately-owned stations financed through commercial advertising. (I wrote a spellbinding book about how and why this happened.) There are very few recordings of broadcasts from this period, so satirical commentaries like this editorial cartoon are actually among the best available sources for information on what early broadcast advertising was like. At first I thought the guy in the second frame was intended as a caricature of Alexander Woollcott, but Woollcott didn’t start his broadcasting career as CBS’s “Town Crier” until 1933. Still looks a lot like him though.