1868, Xmas season: A Good One

A humorous experience at the newspaper offices, caused by someone’s insufficient knowledge of Chinuk Wawa!


The best match Google Images could provide (image credit: extremepumpkins.com)

I suspect, but haven’t confirmed, that the following piece was felt to be all the funnier because it was to the detriment of the Republican Party of General, and president-elect, Ulysses Simpson Grant. The Washington Standard had bad things to say about that party and that man.

If the Standard was an overtly Democrat publication, it was presumably in favor of racist policies, which could mean that its reference to a Native man “with a limited knowledge of Chinook” Jargon was intended to say that he was stupid even in comparison with racialized stereotypes of Indigenous people.

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A GOOD ONE. — Although we shall mention no names, the incidents of the following story are deemed too good to be lost. It is well known to most of our citizens that the supper of the Grant ball [US Grant? or a Grand Ball?], given at the Olympic, a few weeks ago, was contributed by the ladies of this vicinity. It is likewise well known that there are several printing offices situated within a mile of the aforesaid Olympic, although it may not be so well known that printers are exceedingly fond of pies, cakes, etc. — the good things of life. Well, it will not appear strange that a basket of these delicacies should be left at a certain printing-office, (which shall be nameless,) when we state that an Indian, with a limited knowledge of Chinook, was the bearer of the aforesaid basket, and the printing-offices are all embraced within the range of a mile of the Olympic Hall. Imagine, if you please, the delight of the astonished typos; imagine with what glee huge “sections” of pumpkin pie disappeared when besieged by the [printer’s] devil and his numerous imps. Alas! the bottom of the basket was soon reached, and the devils still clamored for more — “copy.” The editor seized his quill to indite a paragraph of thanks to the fair unknown donor, when lo and behold! the Indian re-appeared to carry the pies and “fixin’s” to their proper destination. But alas; no pumpkin pies graced that festal board. The typos swore each other to eternal secrecy, but somehow the facts leaked out, and the “favor” still remains unacknowledged in the columns of our cotemporary.

— from the Olympia (WA) Washington Standard of December 26, 1868, page 2, column 1

Bonus fact:

This 1868 issue of the newspaper was firmly in the “frontier” period of Washington Territory. Take a look at the following list of important settlements around Puget Sound (from the same printed column), and reflect on how many of them had ceased to exist by 1900:

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carter miker turnturn?