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The heritage of American humor. We have many sources of worthwhile after all influence our outlook on life from the early days comes a unique heritage for the 20th century American. Heritage enhanced by being shared with. The University of North Dakota broadcasting service presents 15 dramatized essays on the American humor found in newspapers books and anthologies old and new from these the 20th century American can obtain a perspective on the intelligences attitudes styles and sensibilities of the American outlook as it concerns himself and his world neighbors. The heritage of American humor is produced by the University of North Dakota under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. The writer narrator is Professor Joseph F. Smeal of the University of North Dakota Department of English program
eight steel mayors for the old cell. When I began my studies many years ago I was caught by the notion that literature might mirror life. And then I was taught that there might be different sorts of mirrors. Mirrors for example that reflect life as it is. And so for mirrors that reflected as it ought to be or as one wishes it to be or as it was in the good old days. Or as it might be when the millennium comes. And I was talked to that steel mirrors had seen use among realists. And silver mirrors among us. And at that time I wondered that any man should use a silver mirror that reflected dreamed of. Remember ceremony or imagine states of life instead of the true present particular state of it.
It was steel mirrors for me all the way. But I had not learned yet that steel mirrors make outsiders of those who use them. One almost never sees one's own as they are. As they appear to cold objective outsiders as they are reflected in steel mirrors. No one sees one's own as an insider sees them in the silver mirrors that reflect dreams memories and hopes about one's own steel mirrors show of breadwinner as a credit bureau sees him show a sick boy in Georgia as a Boston specialist sees him show negroes the way white men see them workers the way employers see them drunks the way social workers see them from the outside. So I learned steel mirrors were for use outside to show strangers freaks the Literates stubborn lives caricature the familiar world of those who are inside.
Steel mirrors in the south as we shall see Carie get your the insider's standard insiders of the old south wish to make men cooperative. But steel mirrors show that some men were not. They wished men to be healthy and clean but apparently some were not. They wished men to be genteel but some men were not. They wished them to be lettered but some were unlettered. The steel reflections from outside caricature these wishes from within. And then next I was brought along in my study to where I could divide into two sorts. Some I saw were hurt but others were compassionate and were used to understand. And I saw that much depended upon the man who used to steal a frightened yard to ridicule cruelly outside. But a true with the inside
one to understand those outside the nitwits believe was the truth should hurt the true it's was the truth should complete heal and protect itself by recourse to the outside by understanding and communication. Finally a fine woman taught me that compassionate care are made with laughter that laughter keeps any wish to hurt from blinding understanding from taking the polish off the steel reflecting the world as it is. So you see how we come to have steel mirrors on a program devoted to American humor. And in the Old South steel mirrors and laughter were needed for their outside their yards genteel lettered wits could see really stubborn caricature orders difficult to understand caricature as of the life they wished. Outside where the negro slaves for one thing and for another the lubberly levelling illiterate whites and both were caricature
or stubborn in strange ways. Today we present to caricature of the illiterate whites as they were reflected from early and perhaps imperfect steel mirrors of the old style. The first is from the mirror of Augustus Longstreet a lawyer and college president and was recorded in his Georgia scenes in the 1830s. It sketches an incident in the life of a young Georgian Mr rancid snuffle. In Oglethorpe County Georgia Mr. Longstreet tells us there happened to reside a little fellow by the name of Raincy sniffle. His diet of red clay and blackberries had given to Ransey a complection that a corpse would have disdain and an abdominal rotundity that was quite unprepossessing spells of fever to seize youth had conspired with clay and like berries to throw Ransey quite outside the order of nature. His shoulders were fleshless and elevated his head large and flapped his neck thin and translucent and
his arms hands fingers and feet were lengthened out of all proportion to the rest of his frame its joints were large but his limbs were small. And as for a flash he could with propriety be said not to have any. His height was five feet nothing and his average weight in blackberry season ninety five. Now Mr. Longstreet continues there was nothing on earth which delighted this Ransey sniffle more than a fight. He never seemed fairly alive except when he was witnessing fomenting or talking about a fight. Why would we show Bess to Billy stallions and Bob Dylan was to fight rants that you know Bill I can flog any to his side the courthouse and Bob can do the same here sighed. But you ran still not set him off never do I know it. Each time we get together they like each other better. Billy is the starter and a heavy puncher one of his boys said just yesterday that Billy only wanted one like a Bob Durham done Archy's heart liver and lights out of him and if he got to where did we knock him into a cocked hat.
Wouldn't be a blaze though Billy can hit like you say Squire. The Bobs the quick and he can trip a man quicker than a blink. Like you say Ransley. And one of Bob's boys said to me that Billy wouldn't have time to close his fist for Bob and put his head where his feet ought to be and by the time he hit the ground the meat and fly obvious face so quick. People think it was shot off by the fall. But you'll not set him off Francine never do I know it did not tell Billy all they said. Bob sighed the courthouse again him and did not hear Billy say to Jim that he could with Bob doing any of the man his side and now say to Bob and say Doc I don't recall if I was a little bigger if I let any man put upon my side in such a way. Yet they still continue as friends. My wouldn't be a blaze though we could be a bully. Then Mr. Longstreet tells us that ransom began to lapse into a tantalizing and hopeless despair as he schemes to set off killing against Bob failed one after another and who knows what condition Ranchi sniffle would have come if an incident hadn't occurred under his nose that led to a settlement of the question which was the better man. It is known Mr. Longstreet says that
100 Gamecocks will live in perfect harmony if you do not put him in with them. And so it would have been with million Bob if there'd been no women in the world but there were. And from them you should chosen a wife and you good lady knew the prowess of her husband and each presumed a little upon it and now it came about that most everyone met one spring at the court house during sessions and billion Bob or both their and their wives with them and neither knew the others and the others lady know where the ladies known to each other and then toward the end of day it happened and Mrs. stallions and Mrs. Durham stepped at the same moment into Zephaniah store near the court house. You know. Yes I'm sure you know that's what I mean and why I'm in a great hurry. She is no thank you to help me and I who are you your betters madam. Go away I've been down I happen to believe if it hadn't been for this was presumably. You.
Why not then. Now look here woman if you've got a husband here because if you have I'll lick him till he learns to teach you better manners you savvy. And that last speech of Billy stallions and been all rants he needed to hear. He'd been right back at Billy when he opened the door to call these Nancy. And he listened in breathless delight and now we came across the courthouse green like hornets were stinging ranty rant to wade out. Oh let me go down to the bottom on the courthouse steps What's the matter can't talk but you better go along yonder and care for your wife to play in hell with her there is that want to star. Donald turned down how many men told me I was just a star you know was playing fairly. Well so I didn't what you've been saying is that your wife. Yes yes. No man I don't care.
Well it ain't worth while to go over it. I've said enough for a fight if you'll step out we'll settle it for a fair fight. I am. I've heard much of your manhood and I believe I'm a better man than you are if you go into a ring with me we can soon settle the question. Surely your friends make your ring and I'll be out with mine soon as you well. Mr. Longstreet says that you champion went off to his side of the court house and each saw there a crowd gathered round pool. Billy said he was ready and moving toward the green in his five seconds bringing up the rear. And then Bob toward the same point in the same order. And then Billy steps into the ring from the same day by jumping over that.
Screen exclaimed. Bob hesitated but. No sooner. Got back together. On looking Mr. Longstreet says it appears that Bob has. Lived. In
a large piece from his left cheek. Many pieces really present a hideous spectacle about a third of the snow at the lower extremity is so swelled and bruising difficulty anything of the human. But there is little time for both again precisely as before but this time Billy's relief. He wants for other purposes. Made arrangements for using it. They're up again the middle finger and between trips. OK but. Consider this. He deems impossible for any human being to take. See this kind of blows it appears. Are becoming smaller and weaker and is clearly believe me that is occupied by Bob's finger he needs it for breathing. He'll have to let go but shake his hand away leaving him a present of the
finger and believe. Me to do it. Billy goes down he goes down again and again recovers time and this time but Tony and Billy undermost an obvious gather and bring a handful of sand to grind it into. The boot. Mr Billy stallion's Mr Bob kept to their beds for a week and didn't meet again for two months. When they didn't really stepped up to Bob and said I mean you licked me fair fight but you wouldn't have done it if I hadn't been in the wrong. I hadn't treated your wife the way I did. And Bob answered Billy let's be friends I most said enough when you had my finger in your mouth and was peeling
away. But I knew the house would be too hot for me if I got whipped when fighting for that. When i always quit fighting for myself and then Mr. Longstreet says the voice of Mr. Ransford snuffle was heard explain when I see it's to asset in a blaze and but I wouldn't know so I wouldn't have done it if it hadn't been economists do. But darn it turn it down if I can ever stand by and see any woman put upon much less Mrs. doing it but I hadn't been there. I took it up myself and Mr. Longstreet concludes the first example of caricature on Steele by writing thanks to the Christian religion to schools colleges and benevolent associations. Such scenes of barbarism and cruelty as that which I have just been describing are now a rare occurrence though they may still be met with in some of the new counties. And that conclusion I think underlines the curious flavor of the humor reflected by the steel mirrors of the old south Longstreet thought the fight just described a disgraceful thing. Yet clearly and he's still mayor it was something calling for humorous treatment and he uses exaggeration
and commentary to bring out the humor. So we have something disgraceful that's humorous next. Despite the exaggerations that line up the caricature one feels that Longstreet did see reality saw life as it is in his mirror and he saw that life compassionately especially in the case of France he sniffle. So we have a disgraceful incident that is humorous and arouses sympathy and that is the curious flavor of the humor in the steel mirrors of the old. In the second example that we present today the humorous treatment is again apparent but sympathy is less apparent. This example is from a book called some adventures of Captain Simon Suddens by Johnson hooker Captain Suggs had found himself as poor at the conclusion of the war with the Creek Indians as at its commencement. The money he had contrived by various shifts to obtain had melted away and though he could stand it himself didn't care a dying for no ways he said.
But the old woman and the children that bothered him and being bothered Captain sagas drew on his famous old green blanket overcoat and ordered his horse and within five minutes he was on his way to a camp meeting then in full blast on Sandy Creek. When Captain Suggs arrived there he found the hollow square made by the people's wagons filled with those listening to the midday sermon. And it's doesn't the company exportation the preacher of the day he was in the pulpit a dozen or so exporters walk to or fro Biffy before the mourners bench. The excitement was intense men and women rolled on the ground or lay sobbing or shouting and more than all the negroes sang and screamed and prayed. One order was shouting brother fand youngster in the bluecoat. I see the Lord working up on him. Thanks you alone. Yes in sin and in another corner of the square another recorder amidst a bevy of
young women is almost singing keep the thing keep the thing. And near him another exhorter begin shouting and cry. I'm right. No no no no no no no cried I you when anybody left that night. No not at first. No not yet. And then again there we get it right. No no the. Meeting is a big deception.
And as such it was competition sort of opposing line running against his own. He looked on with professional jealousy and he began muttering comments to himself letting your cynicism show on his face while watching who is keeping takes. There has been this half hour a figure in a turn in amongst them gals and he's never said to anyone else who blames him I judge if I was a preacher I would say the prettiest girls self while the captain was conversing with himself. His face must've caught the attention of the old preacher and the puppet began a direct personal attack. I am very a few more American come fall when you know you and get down upon you with me and put up your private match
for you from the bottom of me but the captain hearing him talk to himself. If I only had you down in the creek swam for a minute I'd show you who would you assess the seat for a rascal. And he stood with a sneer on his face watching hoarders converge toward him for a long time. He stood silent answering the incessant stream of exhortation with a sneer but at length his countenance began to give tokens of inward emotion. His eyelids twitch his upper lip quiver. Next a transparent drop forms on one of his eyelashes and a similar one on the tip of his nose and then at last a sudden bursting of air from nose and mouth. B speaks a man overpowered and at the moment of expulsion he makes a feint as if to rush off but he is inexperienced hands that know that the battle is no more than half one. They cling to the captain mentally and half dragging him have lead him to the
mourners bench. And then the excitement begins for sure for the crowd starts to realize that this convicted old man is Captain Simon Suggs the chief of sinners through the whole region. And while they sing and shout the captain grovels in the dust. The usual time. And then at the proper moment he bounces up and with a face now radiant with joy he begins a series of vaults and tumbling jumps that lay in the shade all previous performances of the sort. When the effervescence subsided a bit Simon Suggs begin to relate his conversion brushing the tears from his eyes and ringing the end of his nose to the same in friends he said. It don't take long to curry a short horse according to the sayin and I'll give you the particulars of how I was brought to knowledge. In less no time. You see I came here from a romance and devilment and just to make a game of the persons and I was just thinking how I could play some trick to turn it all into ridicule
when they begin to come round and to talk to me long at first I didn't know mine but after a little lead brother there spoke a word that struck me clean to my heart and run all over me like fire in dry grass. And then I felt so miserable I had to come here and throw myself down. And as I lay it got was and was and peered like something was a mash down on my back and it kept getting heavier and heavier until it seemed like it might be an old steer or a pine log. And then it seemed like I fell into a trance like an icy dip biggest longest rip roaring blackest scaly Yes kind of an alligator. Well the alligator kept a common towards me with these great long jaws agape and open like 10 foot Taylor shears but I held my head out so I never like I was willing to trust him. And then when he was going to shut down a man in white seemed to pitch a big rock which talked him to death. And that minute I felt the weight slide off and I had the best of
feelings. Well with that account of how we came to knowledge Captain Suggs became the lion of the meeting. Nobody They all felt prayed so well or exported so movingly as captain. And along with the old preacher he was a special favorite. While afternoon they preached in praise preached and sang preached and prayed. The next morning when the preacher of the day first entered the pulpit he announced that brother Suggs mourn and deeply for his past sins and desires to do good work in the cause would take up a collection to found a church in his neighborhood as speedily as possible and which he hoped to make himself useful as soon as he could
prepare himself for the ministry which the preacher of the day didn't doubt it would be in a very few weeks. Since brother Suggs was a mind man of judgment and a man of great discourse the funds were to be collected by Brother Suggs and to be held in trust by the preacher of the previous day who is financial officer of the circuit. Yes brother said the captain rising to his feet. I want to start a little so see ation close to me and I want you all to help on my knee poor myself as poor as any of you. And just there observing several of the well-to-do in the act of leaving. The captain raised his voice a trifle. Don't leave brother in don't leave if you ain't able to afford anything just give us your blast and it will be the same. And the captain then starts out and pulling off his hat and holding it out before him. He very prudently attacks first the gentleman who had just shown a wish to escape and when the preacher of the previous day observed that his hero obtained all that was to be
had he signaled for the music to ease the pain of those who had contributed in turning to the captain he said Well brother Suggs you'd better count it and turn it over to me now as I'm going to leave presently. I know most of the camp and can't do it. Why what's the matter. Asked the preacher. It's got to be prayed over first says the captain. A heavenly smile illuminating his face. Well let's go one side and do it then. No says the captain. You see that creek swamp. I'm going down in the car and I'm going to lay this money down. And I was going to get on these here knees and I'm never going to quit the grit until I feel that is God a blessing and nobody ain't going to be but me. And the old preacher greatly admired such fervent piety and bidding the captain God speed he turned away and Captain Suggs struck for the swamp sure enough where his horse was hitched. If Them fellers ain't done their cracklin
cracklin then I'll never bet on two pair again. They're purred at the snap game themselves but they're badly this bitch. Well live and let live and givin spirit away his horse off he cantered back to the old woman and the kid gets to look at the brutality and primitive emotions at the greed and craftiness of lubberly poor whites who moved like Carrie get yours outside the little islands of gentility of the Old South. Men like Augustus Longstreet and Johnson Hooker had to use steel mirrors. They had to see scenes like the court house fight or the camp meeting in their brutal reality and they had to learn to laugh at them. Hence their steel mirrors. Our first reflection from the steel mirrors of the Old South. Was adapted from the fight that appeared in Augustus long streets of Georgia scenes of 1830
a second. Was adapted from a sketching Johnson hopers book called some adventures of Captain Simons. Both sketches had been reprinted often in the anthologies of American literature or of American humor. We hope that you have enjoyed. Today's voices Frank Liban. Or Lee Holt and. Barbara Lee DENNIS COOPER Nell Henley production by the Scott Bryce technical operation by John Buck wits. We invite you to listen next week to the heritage of American humor a series of 15 dramatized essays written and narrated by Professor Joseph F. Smeal of the University of North Dakota Department of English. He offers you a perspective on the relationship between the American humor found in newspapers books or
anthologies and the American outlook traced from Colonial to recent times. The heritage of American humor is produced and recorded by the University of North Dakota Broadcasting Service. Under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center. And is being distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the end of the Radio Network. The show.
Heritage of American humor
Steel mirrors for the old South
Producing Organization
University of North Dakota
KFJM (Radio Station : Grand Forks, N.D.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, "Steel Mirrors for the Old South," looks at Southern humor.
Series Description
Dramatic essays on the history and nature of American humor. Written by J.F.S. Smeall, assistant professor of English at the University of North Dakota and editor of the North Dakota Quarterly.
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Actor: Henley, Mel
Actor: Lee, Barbara
Actor: Cooper, Dennis
Narrator: Smeall, J.F.S.
Producing Organization: University of North Dakota
Producing Organization: KFJM (Radio Station : Grand Forks, N.D.)
Production Manager: Bryce, E. Scott
Writer: Smeall, J. F. S.
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-4-8 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:30
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Chicago: “Heritage of American humor; Steel mirrors for the old South,” 1961-01-31, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 20, 2024,
MLA: “Heritage of American humor; Steel mirrors for the old South.” 1961-01-31. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 20, 2024. <>.
APA: Heritage of American humor; Steel mirrors for the old South. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from