The Historical Spectator.

Celebration at Baldinsville in Honor of the Atlantic Cable

Artemus Ward (Charles Farrar Browne) was probably the greatest American humorist before Mark Twain. The character of Artemus Ward was a traveling showman who kept wax figures and a menagerie, among other curiosities, for the enlightenment of the paying public. His trademark poor spelling was necessary to convey the exact sound of the now-extinct rural American dialect; once your eyes have adapted to the spelling, you can hear Artemus Ward’s voice clearly across a century and a half. Here we have an account of the celebration at Ward’s native Baldinsville in honor of the telegraph cable that linked England with the United States, and for the first time allowed news to cross the Atlantic instantaneously. Of course the scenes are satirically exaggerated, but the humor would not have worked if this had not been at the bottom a very good description of the way small towns across America celebrated this momentous event. For added historical interest, we may note the hints of looming catastrophe: this was written only about two and a half years before the outbreak of the Civil War, and even in tiny Baldinsville the signs were easy to read.

Baldinsville, Injianny, Sep the onct, 18&58. — I was summund home from Cinsinnaty quite suddin by a lettur from the Supervizers of Baldinsville, sayin as how grate things was on the Tappis in that air town in refferunse to sellebratin the compleshun of the Sub-Mershine Tellergraph & axkin me to be Pressunt. Lockin up my Kangeroo and wax wurks in a sekure stile I took my departer for Baldinsville—“my own, my nativ lan,” which I gut intwo at early kandle litin on the follerin night & just as the sellerbrashun and illumernashun ware commensin.

Baldinsville was trooly in a blaze of glory. Near can I forgit the surblime speckticul which met my gase as I alited from the Staige with my umbreller and verlise. The Tarvern was lit up with taller kandles all over & a grate bon fire was burnin in frunt thareof. A Transpirancy was tied onto the sine post with the follerin wurds—“Giv us Liberty or Deth.” Old Tompkinsis grosery was illumernated with 5 tin lantuns and the follerin Transpirancy was in the winder—“The Sub-Mershine Tellergraph & the Baldinsville and Stonefield Plank Road—the 2 grate eventz of the 19th centerry—may intestines strife never mar their grandjure.” Simpkinsis shoe shop was all ablase with kandles and lantuns. A American Eagle was painted onto a flag in a winder—also these wurds, viz—“The Constitooshun must be Presarved.” The Skool house was lited up in grate stile and the winders was filld with mottoes amung which I notised the follerin—“Trooth smashed to erth shall rize agin—you can’t stop her.” “The Boy stood on the Burnin Deck whense awl but him had Fled.” “Prokrastinashun is the theaf of Time.” “Be virtoous & you will be Happy.” “Intemperunse has cawsed a heap of trubble—shun the Bole,” an the follerin sentimunt written by the skool master, who graduated at Hudson Kollige. “Baldinsville sends greetin to Her Magisty the Queen, & hopes all hard feelins which has heretofore previs bin felt between the Supervizers of Baldinsville and the British Parlimunt, if such there has been, may now be forever wiped frum our Escutchuns. Baldinsville this night rejoises over the gerlorious event which sementz 2 grate nashuns onto one anuther by means of a elecktric wire under the roarin billers of the Nasty Deep. Quosque tantrum, a butter, Caterliny, patent nostrum!” Squire Smith’s house was lited up regardlis of expense. His little sun William Henry stood upon the roof firin orf crackers. The old ’Squire hisself was dressed up in soljer clothes and stood on his door-step, pintin his sword sollumly to a American flag which was suspendid on top of a pole in frunt of his house. Frequiently he wood take orf his cocked hat & wave it round in a impressive stile. His oldest darter Mis Isabeller Smith, who has just cum home from the Perkinsville Female Instertoot, appeared at the frunt winder in the West room as the goddis of liberty, & sung “I see them on their windin way.” Booteus 1, sed I to myself, you air a angil & nothin shorter. N. Boneparte Smith, the ’Squire’s oldest sun, drest hisself up as Venus the God of Wars and red the Decleration of Inderpendunse from the left chambir winder. The ’Squire’s wife didn’t jine in the festiverties. She sed it was the tarnulest nonsense she ever seed. Sez she to the ’Squire, “Cum into the house and go to bed you old fool, you. Tomorrer you’ll be goin round half-ded with the rumertism & won’t gin us a minit’s peace till you get well.” Sez the ’Squire, “Betsy, you little appresiate the importance of the event which I this night commemerate.” Sez she, “Commemerate a cat’s tail—cum into the house this instant, you pesky old critter.” “Betsy,” sez the ’Squire, wavin his sword, “retire.” This made her just as mad as she could stick. She retired, but cum out agin putty quick with a panfull of Bilin hot water which she throwed all over the ’Squire, & Surs, you wood have split your sides larfin to see the old man jump up and holler & run into the house. Except this unpropishus circumstance all went as merry as a carriage bell, as Lord Byrun sez. Doctor Hutchinsis offiss was likewise lited up and a Transpirancy on which was painted the Queen in the act of drinkin sum of “Hutchinsis invigorater,” was stuck into one of the winders. The Baldinsville Bugle of Liberty noospaper offiss was also illumernated, & the follerin mottoes stuck out—“The Press is the Arkermejian leaver which moves the world.” “Vote Early.” “Buckle on your Armer.” “Now is the time to Subscribe.” “Franklin, Morse & Field.” “Terms $1,50 a year—liberal reducshuns to clubs.” In short the villige of Baldinsville was in a perfect fewroar. I never seed so many peple thar befour in my born days. Ile not attemp to describe the seens of that grate night. Wurds wood fale me ef I shood try to do it. I shall stop here a few periods and enjoy my “Oatem cum dig the tates,” as our skool master obsarves, in the buzzum of my famerly, & shall then resume the show bisnis, which Ive bin into twenty-two (22) yeres and six (6) months.

From Artemus Ward, His Book. New-York: Carleton, 1862.
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