Satire & Pen Names – Sam Played Editor When Orion was Away
Final Appearance in the Hannibal Journal
January 8 Thursday – “The Editor is absent,” announced the Hannibal Journal editorial. Orion was still away [Wecter 242].
January 15 Thursday – “The Editor is still absent” [Wecter 242].
January 22 Thursday – Orion announced his return in the paper [Wecter 242].
January 29 Thursday – The Journal was able to beat the other town papers to a story about a fire—this one in the Journal office. Orion collected insurance money and soon restarted the paper. The Journal, like most of Orion’s endeavors, never made a profit [Wecter 243]. On page 2 of the Hannibal Journal and Western Union a lot of Orion Clemens’ is advertised for sale to satisfy a tax assessment [Hannibal Courier-Post, Mar. 6, 1935 p13c].
February – Orion moved the Journal “to the room over Stover & Horr’s Clothing Store, on Main Street” [Wecter 243].
April 9 Friday – The Saluda, a side-wheel, wooden hull packet, 223 tons, christened in 1846, sank in 1850 but eventually was raised and restored. On Apr. 9, 1852, Good Friday, with Mormon emigrants aboard, the boat was headed for Council Bluffs, Iowa. Upon arriving at Lexington, the current was swift. Pilot Charles S. LaBarge pushed her too hard and her boilers blew. Pilot and Master Belt and about 75 others died. It was the worst disaster to that time on the Missouri River. At that time, Sam was still in Hannibal, working on Orion’s newspaper, the Journal and must have heard and even reported the news. Still when Samuel E. Belt wrote Sam on Feb. 12, 1905 asking for his recollection of the disaster, Isabel Lyon answered for Clemens:
“Mr. Clemens wishes me to say that if he ever knew anything about the Saluda disaster it long ago went out of his memory” [MTP].
March 25 Thursday – Sam wrote the descriptive piece, “Hannibal Missouri,” which he submitted to the Philadelphia American Courier, published on May 8, 1852 [ET&S 1: 68]. In this glowing description of his hometown, Sam included the Mississippi River, the St. Joseph Railroad, and the cave south of town. Dempsey points out he “completely omitted any reference to slaves or slavery” .
May – The Journal moved above T.R. Selme’s on Main Street opposite the Post Office [Dempsey 158].
May 1 Saturday – The Carpet Bag, a Boston journal that provided rustic humor, and was often sent to Western towns, carried a 425-word sketch of Sam’s titled “The Dandy Frightening the Squatter.” It was signed with Sam’s initials, “S.L.C.” The sketch related a steamboat passenger showing off to female passengers by acting brave, only to be one-upped by a Hannibal man [A. Hoffman 29]. No payment was made, but the glory was all Sam’s. This may be one of the two pieces that Sam mistakenly recalled having contributed to the Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post [ET&S 1: 63].
Note: Sam would have been familiar with The Carpet Bag, edited by Benjamin Shillaber (1814-1890), because wholesale agents in the West distributed it widely. Plus, Orion quoted articles from the humor publication more than a dozen times between Mar. 4 and June 3, 1852 [“Benjamin Shillaber and his ‘Carpet Bag’, by Cyril Clemens, The New England Quarterly Vol. 14, No. 3, Sept. 1941 p.527; See also My Own Story by J.T. Trowbridge (1903) p. 181-2].
In an interesting side note, eighteen-year-old Charles Farrar Browne (1834-1867), known after 1858 as Artemus Ward, had been working as a compositor for The Carpet Bag over the past year, and probably set the type for the May 1 issue . Shillaber’s most important literary work was The Life and Sayings of Mrs. Partington (1854), a popular work in Sam’s library years later [Gribben 641].
May 8 Saturday – The Philadelphia American Courier ran “Hannibal, Missouri,” a description of Hannibal by Sam (dated Mar. 25, 1852). This was heady stuff for a mere sixteen-year-old. Sam used these successes to brag to various females in the town and to throw them up to Orion. Easterners were curious about the Western frontier; many Eastern papers sought articles about the West [A. Hoffman 30]. Again, no payment was made for these articles.
Summer – Sam, now sixteen, swam the Mississippi River to the Illinois side, then turned back and swam back to Hannibal without landing. It was two miles round trip, and on the return leg Sam got a cramp and had to navigate home with only his arms [MTB 57].
July 1 Thursday – Sam became an uncle with the birth of Annie E. Moffett to Sam’s sister Pamela Ann and her husband, William Anderson Moffett. Annie would always be a favorite of Sam’s; she married Charles Luther Webster (1851-1891) in 1875, the man Sam would hire to run his publishing business [MTL 1: 382].
Orion had been forced to move the Journal into the living room of his mother’s house on Hill Street. Jim Wolfe moved in with the family and shared Sam’s bedroom. One night a cow wandered into the parlor, knocked over a type-case, and “ate a couple of composition rollers” [Wecter 244].
July 15 Thursday – Sam wrote a facetious piece of “the Dog Law” which from that day forth ordered all canines to be licensed at a dollar a head and wear collars. An early case of Sam pulling legs—readers’ legs, not dogs’ [Wecter 249].
The Hannibal Journal (formerly the Hannibal Western Union) printed an unsigned article, “Paragraph on a Military Company Formed by Town Boys,” attributed to Sam [Camfield, bibliog.].
July 24 Saturday – Sam reported that a calf had been bitten by a mad dog. A not-so-serious proposal, signed “A Dog-be-deviled Citizen,” called for all dogs to be exterminated. The dog pieces brought Ament’s Hannibal Courier to the defense of dogs, and the Hannibal Tri-Weekly Messenger also joined in. It’s likely that Orion humored Sam these small needles in print, or perhaps did not notice the humor in them. Such was Orion’s nature, humorless, oblivious [Wecter 249].
August, late – Ament’s Hannibal Courier and the Hannibal Tri-Weekly Messenger printed pieces defending the town dogs [Wecter 249].
September 9 Thursday – Orion left town for a week and turned the paper over to Sam, who printed gossip to liven things up. He printed an account titled “A Family Muss” about fighting among an Irish family on Holliday’s Hill. Sam used the pen name “W. Epaminondas Adrastus Perkins,” and showed the sort of fictionalizing of news he would later develop in Nevada and California [Wecter 249; ET&S 1: 69].
September 16 Thursday – Sam satirized Josiah T. Hinton, the new editor of the competing Hannibal Tri-Weekly Messenger, in an article, “Local Resolves to Commit Suicide.” See insert. It seems Hinton had been a jilted lover, so went to the river one night to drown himself, but could not follow through. Sam heard of this and wrote his article along with engravings he fashioned from wood blocks, picturing the editor testing the water’s depth. After the editor retaliated, Sam published two more ridiculing sketches. In a rage, the editor stormed the Journal’s office, only to find seventeen-year-old Sam sitting calmly in the editor’s chair [A. Hoffman 30]. Also during Orion’s absence, Sam’s first use of a pen name appeared: W. Epaminondas Adrastus Perkins (See Sept. 9 entry.) Perkins was soon changed to “Blab” [Powers, Dangerous 199].
Posing as an observer of local society and morals, Sam satirized a drunk and family on Holliday’s Hill. Such subjects were not usually mentioned in newspapers. Sam through Blab, reported with sarcasm on the wife beating by the drunk as “an extreme case of matrimony.” Sam also wrote other pieces with the W.E.A.B. or Blab nom de plume, “Historical Exhibition—A No.1 Ruse,” and “Blabbing Government Secrets!” [ET&S 1: 78]. “Editorial Agility” appeared unsigned and is attributed to Sam [Camfield, bibliog.].
September 23 Thursday – “Blab’s Tour”; “Letter to ‘Mr. Editor’” byline Blab; “Letter to ‘Mr. Editor’” byline A Dog-be-Deviled Citizen,” [Camfield, bibliog.] and “‘Pictur’ Department,” were printed with additional thrusts at the Messenger’s “Local.” Orion returned; Blab announced, “I have retired from public life to the shades of Glascock’s Island” [Wecter 253; ET&S 1: 72-4]. Blab announced his final appearance in the Journal [ET&S 1: 83].
November 4 Thursday – “Conubial Bliss,” another unsigned sketch of Sam’s about a rowdy Irishman on “Holliday’s Hill” appeared in the Hannibal Journal [ET&S 1: 85]:
A squalid family living on the side of Holliday’s Hill is under the ‘protection’ of a big fellow who once in a while, say about every afternoon, gets drunk and ‘cuts up’ considerably. Sometimes he gathers the baby and goes staggering and stumbling and pitching about over the hill, to the great dismay of his wife. Having amused himself in this manner till tired, he lays down the child, and ‘lams’ its mama; and if the unwashed, tow-headed boarder, who stands by with his hands in his pockets, offers to interfere he ‘lams’ him too. Within a few days past, his amusements of this sort have been charmingly varied:—such as taking sheets and dresses from the clothes line, and tearing them into ribbons; smashing up the cooking stove, throwing a brick at his wife’s head, and chasing her around the house with a ten foot pole. Quite a contrast, doubtless the poor woman thinks, when her mind wanders back to the courtship and the ‘honey-moon!’ Well, we are all subject to change—except printers; they never have any spare change [ET&S 1: 86].
November 25 Thursday – Orion’s newspaper, the Hannibal Journal, commented on Joseph Ament’s sale of the Hannibal Missouri Courier:
[Ament’s ability had] made him an efficient supporter of his party principles, while his courtesy and uniformly manly course, procured him many friends among his opponents. We heartily wish him success wherever he may bend his steps, and in whatever business he may undertake—except making proselytes to his party [Benson 6]. Note: the two papers had been political rivals.
November 30 Tuesday – Sam’s seventeenth birthday.