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Category Archives: Moronism

Chicago Tribune, January 1, 1908. I assume these are national statistics, not municipal. I must do some research into the matter of electric swings and scenic railroads. It was tough luck for that lone victim of the discus.

hang em allChicago Tribune, January 9, 1919. Ah, the helping professions. This guy could have carved out a career of some distinction in Germany just 20 years later. Read More »

Chicago Tribune, September 8, 1936. Here’s our lowbrow cartoon pal again. I’ll admit to being the “eskimo” type condemned in panel number 5. I’m also opening windows that others want closed.

hylan moronsNew York Tribune, October 11, 1921. Couched in the eloquent language of eugenics, this is a swipe at the political record of New York mayor John Francis Hylan. “Father Knickerbocker,” down in the left-hand corner, represents good government on the run.

jokes oct 26 1890Chicago Tribune, October 26, 1890. The leering jackanapes on the right is a standard-issue rendering of an all-purpose mental-deficient much beloved of old-timey cartoonists. I kind of love him too.

Unwritten moronAaI’ve completely lost track of when and where this was published. It irks me to no end to post an item without proper citation, but this being both an ax murder and “the strongest indorsement of the ‘unwritten law’ ever uttered from the bench,” I’m pretty much obliged.

moronsbulletAThe Chicago Defender, August 10, 1914. An armed child molester with a fake badge: doesn’t get much worse than that.
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clewaChicago Tribune, April 23, 1925. I find a lot of people tend to assume that horrors like this are signally modern, but take my word for it: the further back you look, the more such mayhem you’ll find. Don’t even get me started on the 19th century. Anyway, persons of delicate sensibilities should stop reading here, because the details get a whole lot hairier after the jump. Read More »

Detroit News, March 4, 1931. Terrible resolution here, I know. Here’s a transcription:
“YORK, S.C. Armed with a stick of dynamite and followed by his faithful dog, James Smith, a farmer, went fishing.
He tossed the sizzling explosive into the stream and stepped back to watch the fish blown to the surface. But the dog, taught to retrieve thrown objects, swam out, seized the dynamite and headed back to shore.
When Smith fell from exhaustion after a futile effort to outrun the dog, he found the fuse had been drenched in the scramble.”

This could well be bullshit: similar stories are cited and debunked at the indispensable urban legend-busting website On the other hand, there’s a person and a place name associated with this story (which is not always the case with urban-legend reportage) , and it seems like something that coulda-shoulda happened at some point in the course of human events. Of course, there’s no other articulate witness here than the ecologically insensitive James Smith. I can see why he would want to unburden himself of the story if it were true. Would he tell it on himself if it weren’t?

Chicago Daily Tribune, December 7, 1923. Further mutations of the para-legal principle that “the libertine must die.” Turns out that by 1923 unwritten law could also be extended to the vengeful slaying of reckless drivers, mentally retarded sex offenders, and, implicitly, anyone else implicated in a “violation of home.”

It’s hard not to snicker at the phrase “his moron brother-in-law” in an old newspaper. Considered in context, though, this is a godawful story. Supposing the term “moron” was being applied with any rigor, it would have meant that Frank Bilotta had an IQ somewhere between 51 and 70. That would have put him above the level of “imbecile” (IQ 26 to 50) and two pegs above “idiot” (0 to 25).* But I doubt the reporter was deploying the term with any precision: “moron” was simply standard journalese for “retarded.”

I’m digging the whatsa-matta-for-you dialect attributed to Donota Gallella. Betcha he spoke English like a native but was dishing out some strategic vaudeville for the jury.

*This nomenclature was the brainchild of influential psychologist and eugenicist Henry H. Goddard, who advocated that retarded people should be sterilized and sent to live in concentration ca–um, special segregated communities for the genetic good of the race.