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The heritage of American humor. We have many sources of worthwhile laughter all influence our outlook on life from the early days comes a unique heritage for the 20th century American. Heritage enhanced by being shared. 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 three constructions and Boyd. Today we have in view a pleasant program. Of reading some from American philosophers and some. From American humor. Let us start with a notion from an American philosopher Lawrence Percy as Hitchcock for so he was named in the time of our great grandparents Hitchcock who was on the faculty at Auburn Theological Seminary expressed the notion that pure space and time would always be utterly void of all construction or product unless they were invaded by some constructing agency that could produce real bounded forms within that void. Perhaps we should hear that again. Would you repeat it for us
please. Pure space and time would always be utterly void of all construction or product unless they were invaded by some constructing agency that could produce real bounded forms within that boy. Good that repeat gives us our central idea. At first America was just such a Hitchcock void. The continent was on surveyed unfenced unbuilt our great great grandparents knew of course that the continent was there but they only guessed at its real pattern of forest and grassland of rock n river of Salt Lake in clay bank in coal bed. A pattern where in reptiles and birds and beasts and fish presumably lived and over which white clouds floated but where the continent was concerned they had no real sense of place. Their consciousness had not yet actually invaded the void. America was as yet and unnamed unmeasured unnumbered.
Unseen and smelled on heard in human voice. And into the Continental void plunge the American humorist was the American void without pattern. He would supply it with one. Where American settlers lacking in a real sense of place he would create such a sense for them. He would humanize the inhuman Hickox boy. Even as the ancient Greek entering his Mediterranean void created gods and goddesses for each of their shaded Grovers on a river or sea or strange beasts or storm or distant small island. So the American humorist entering his American void created stories for the wonders to be found there. Samuel Peters for example a clergyman trained by Yale University plunged into the inhuman Hitchcock avoided was America with a motto from
Cicero on his lips. Science he said means more to me than vulgar error. But on his return the Rev. Peters gave this account of a river he found in that area of the void now called Connecticut. The Middle River is named Connecticut after the great city jam this vast river is 500 miles long and four miles wide at its mouth on the sound. Two hundred miles from the sound is a narrows of Frya the ards only formed by two shelving mountains of solid rock whose tops reach the clouds through this narrows are compelled to pass all the waters which in the time of the floods bury the northern country then the river spreads several miles away and for five or six weeks ships of war may sail over lands in Massachusetts. Then afterwards produce the greatest crops of hay and grain in all America. People
who can bear the sight the groans the tremblings and surly motion of the water trees and ice through this awful chasm view with astonishment. One of the greatest benumbed in nature. For here the water is consolidated without frost by pressure and swiftness between the pinching sturdy rocks to such a degree of in duration that an iron curl bar smoothly down the current. Here iron lead and Cork have on one common weight. Here steady as time and harder than marble. The stream passes the passages about four hundred yards in length and of a zigzag form with obtuse corners. The early Americans image making powers were vehement as are collectors of tall tales have recognized but as sometimes does not recognize those
powers were also direct working upon what the early Americans saw and heard and touched at first hand and not upon words and ideas known only through reading at second hand and indirectly like the wise I had early Greek exploring his Mediterranean void. The wise I had early American explored his Continental void and both the early Greek and the early American imaginations were vehement in their attack on what might be done with reality. They might move far from reality but they returned and started always from what was under the eye before the nose. A media to their touch unlike the romantic imagination with its interests in the fanciful these classical imaginations were anchored in the immediate here and now and the American image maker plunging into the American void literally buried images of what he might do in that void in the real soil of the continent. Before the vehemence of hard work that cuts trees
clears stumps dams streams and big foundations. There was the vehemence of planning and imagining what might be brought into existence and the American humorists felt this vehemence. Notice in the next reading how the protagonists rehearsal of a possible action becomes a real action. Leaving the print of its vehemence on the very soil itself. My memory is failing me. The 10th of June 18 0 9 found me at about 11 o'clock in the porno on something a long gentle slope and what was called the dock on a Lincoln County judge or whatever may be said of that country's moral condition at that time. It's natural the condition was anything but it's mild in all the times of spring wrapped with the enchantment of the Seas and I was slowly mounting the slope. When I was startled by a loud boisterous voices which seemed to come from a thick growth of underbrush about two hundred and advance of me in about fifty yards to the right of
my road. So you can't you can't and I mean to do it. Wait thanks. I want your job. Rivers started out but I don't make my time to. Write my talk. I don't got a phone number for you to take with me. Right right. I don't know what band of this morning this was such anger and deep drawn him which meant I hurried toward him. When I saw the combatants come to the ground after a short struggle then I saw the uppermost one make a heavy plunge with both. Come get your shine it up you know.
When I got to the corner of your eye wall I used to get if you know you were there you were often come back here and help me with the man you ruined for life. All right you needn't kick for your splurges there ain't nobody here now he's been neither. I was just seeing how I could have fought and would you believe it. What he said was true. All that I had heard and seen was nothing more or less than a rehearsal in which the youth would just left me and played all the pots of all the characters in a court house fight. I went to the ground from which he had arisen and there were the prints of his two thumbs plunged into the mellow earth about the distance of a man's eyes apart and the ground was broken as if two stags had been engaged upon it. That sketch by Augustus Longstreet has been for years my symbol of the American imagination and imagination so vehement and so direct that its
fictions left their thumbprints in the haycock void. But let us proceed to another American philosopher Thomas Jefferson. It had come about in the learned world the two attitudes toward the unexplored continent of America might be taken one attitude considered America bad so that everything found there could be expected to be small weak and you generate the other attitude considered America good so that everything found there could be expected to be larger stronger and more vigorous than elsewhere. The French philosopher took the first attitude toward America. Thomas Jefferson took the other attitude and he collected information about American animals and birds and flowers and men to prove that they were bigger stronger and better than those of Europe. And the vehement direct American imagination took hold on both sides of the argument. Trappers and Indians and explorers return from the void with data about what was to be found there. Mr. Jefferson collected their
reports and gives them to us in his Notes on Virginia where he wrote. All quadrupeds have been mostly described by linear and most suitable home. Of these the MEMA or Big Buffalo is called by the Indians must certainly have been the largest. Their tradition is that he was carnivorous and still exists in the northern part of America. A delegation of warriors from the Delaware tribe having visited the governor of Virginia during the revolution on matters of business. After these had been settled in council the governor asked them what they knew or heard of the animal whose bones were found at the salt lakes on the Ohio. Their chief speaker immediately put himself into the attitude of oratory and with a pump suited to what he conceived the elevation of his subject. He informed the governor that it was a tradition handed down from their forefathers that in ancient times heard of the tremendous animals came to the big bone licks and began a universal destruction of the bare deer looks Buffalo and other animals which had been
created for the use of the Indians that the great man above looking down and and seeing this was so enraged that he seized his lightning descended on earth seated himself on a neighboring mountain on a rock where the print of his seat and his feet are still to be seen and heard his boats among them. To the hole were slaughtered except the big book. Presenting his forehead to the shafts shook them off as they fill but missing one at link that rooted him in the side where on springing ground he bounded over the Ohio over the Wabash the Illinois and finally over the Great Lakes where he was living. To this day. And it is well known that on the Ohio tusks grinders and skeletons of unparalleled magnitude are found in greater numbers and to whatever end a movie ascribed these remains. It is certain that such a one has existed in America and that it has been the largest of all terrestrial beings. It was a preist to have rescued the continent it did have
it and the atmosphere it breathed from the imputation of impotence in the conception and nourishment of animal life on a large scale. Another approach to the vehement direct American imagination into the great continental void in another fashion. John Codman hood in his book called The Theory of our national existence tells how utopias were fashionable when America was being settled. He says that these utopias were avowedly fiction inventions of the imagination. And he relates these utopian fictions to the fictions of the Greek imagination saying Socrates and his friends were imagined as discussing things as they wished they might be. But these writers speak of their fictitious republics as actually existing. It is then the vehemence of the American imagination putting its thumb prints on the void that caught her attention. But at first all the world was not sure that Americans could
create a utopia in the American void. Tory is like the Reverend Samuel Peters for example. We're sure it was no utopia that the upstart colonists were creating. Peter's reporting his expedition into the Continental void implies the big animals do not mean big men but that they may on the contrary mean small timid and degenerate men. In Connecticut he says. In Connecticut. Strangers are very much terrified of the hideous noise made on summer evenings by the vast number of frogs in the brooks in PA. There are about 30 voices among them some of which resemble a bull bellowing and then to the outlaws and whisper wheels and to the concert which may be heard for several miles Nadya's settlers accustomed to such serenades are not disturbed by them when they hear them in their accustomed places. But one night in July 1758 the frogs of a pond
about three miles square and miles south southeast of a certain settlement finding themselves facing a shortage of water left in their accustomed pond in a body and marched or rather hot towards the winter Mantik river. They were under necessity of taking the road and hence of passing through the settlement which they entered About midnight the bullfrogs with the leaders and the pipers followed without number. They filled the road forty yards wide for four miles and worse for several hours while passing through the settlement unusually clamorous for the savages were in the dark. You are sure it was very quiet refrigerator the German orderly curatorial very early. Young male and female
with many professions finding no enemies in pursuit of them and made it through some current returned to their wife and children. I think I'm going to write this last they thought might treat you right. They volunteer to surrender to the Indians and French volunteers approached the enemy and begged to speak to Gen.. But no answer being given and he seemed very dark. They were left between hope and fear. At length however they discovered that the dreaded enemy was an army of wrong going to the river
under the leadership. And even today the people of that settlement are not ridiculed for that timid in the darkness of the void. Thus around the Reverend Peters account and its story of mighty frogs in timid men surely has little of that utopianism about it that dreamed of constructing in the haycock void such an America as men might wish to have. But it was not so many years before American humorist exploring the continental void began to sense vaguely and insecurely and with some irritation of British nears the utopia that might be constructed there. One anonymous news correspondent for example collected several items of American intelligence which were reported in a New York as yet.
1765 amid thirst for novelty so prevalent in England and especially the greediness there after American intelligence I'm surprised to find the English news writers so incompetently informed concerning this part of the world. I do not remember to have seen an English article of news. But what was trifling in comparison with those an industrious collector might supply them. I have therefore purposely collected the following articles to satisfy the laudable curiosity about us that range in the Mother Country. Philadelphia April 1st we are credibly informed that North American ladies need not stint themselves in articles of silk. Our columnist having discovered that the silk worm can be made to spin and propagate at the same time if instead of Mo Berry leaves it is fed for a season on a diet of Indian corn and cranberries. New Brunswick New Jersey April 1st to convince the world that Americans can supply themselves even with the luxuries of life. Three enterprising brothers in the Colony of New Jersey have given
special means of their ingenuity and observation one makes an excellent Barbados rum from the juice of a certain cucumber that he has found and perfected the second presses the choices to clarity wine from a species of the long turn it and the third obtains a jelly equal to the finest calves foot jelly by plunging the Flintstones in which is county about into cold salted water. NEW YORK April 1st it is thought by our ablest politicians that America may bear a tax of one million pounds sterling per annum from a just calculation of its riches it being undoubtedly a fact that in the city of New York alone there are at least 7000 coaches and most of them shot with gold and set with diamonds and other precious stones in which the county abounds. But by the year that Thomas Jefferson came to the president's office and uncertainty about Utopia was gone. We cannot indeed know whether the dream of a utopia in the void was so vehement and direct that it was
making the dream real. But in 18 one this advertisement could be read in the newspapers through the streets of Baltimore Maryland. Eighteen hundred and one the first year of the new century will be the end must be productive of wonderful events of great national blessings but the greatest wonder of all is the wonderful ox 17 feet four inches long six feet seven and one half inches high and weighs thirty five hundred. Here indeed it is cut and come again. What family could eat so much beef in a year. How many families would it make comfortable his skin. Cut up or sold either would serve a regiment his tallow would eliminate a city. Yes even when celebrating the election of Mr. Jefferson.
Who then will neglect to see the great ox. Not even the great senators from Pennsylvania though he was raised in the Democratic county to wit the county of Morris in New Jersey. But he's no politician for all that Federalist Democrat aristocrat. Well the new Tory are like acceptable to this sapient animal. Admiral Nelson or Bonaparte would cross the Atlantic with the fleet and army for the purpose of seeing so wonderful a production and the negro general to sign would deliver up the island of San Domingo for one of his quarters. Is this city of Baltimore blessed with the greatest wonder in existence. Expected that Mr. Jefferson will come from Washington on purpose to view this amazing animal and that Mr. Adams in his retreat will hold it no small consolation that during his term this astonishing creature was added to the curiosities of his country. Come then you sons of come of
the time Mr. Peck's tavern and behold what your country can produce at mittens only a quarter of a dollar bet at risk. Long live the Republic. I have one further passage from the American philosophers to make us comfortable before we close this program. In his book called The New Year or the coming kingdom Joe Strong wrote. Surely this majestic continent with its own equal resources is working to be the home of a majestic Grace. Is there no signification in the fact that while the greatest races of antiquity occupied in significant homes now for the first time in recorded history the greatest race occupies the greatest home. What a conjunction big with universal blessings the greatest race the greatest civilization the greatest numbers the greatest wealth the greatest physical basis for Empire.
But the men to that American humorous constructed in the great majestic Haycock void where done to the same vehement utopian scale as the rivers supporting crowbars the silkworms dining on Indian corn and cranberries the bull buffalo withstanding the boats of Zeus the men too were majestic in fact cosmic. Something had to be done for human nature what done for. It was then so and Lluvia and premature cold that my upper and lower teeth and tongue were all collapse to give that as tight as a free choice. But I took a fresh twenty pound bar out on my back that I picked up on my road and I beat the animal against the ice until the hot iron began to walk out on him at all sides. I then took and held him over the ice axes and I squeezed him to that Saddam loose poured about a ton of it.
The sun's rays and gave the cogwheel one backward. I got the sense and I will push on. Keep moving on and in about 15 seconds the earth gave a grunt and it began moving. The son walked up beautiful. So let me was such a wind of gratitude that it made Mission ease a little. But the bullies of his topknot shouldered my bar and walked home introducing people to the fresh daylight without peas or sunrise. Today we are not so sure perhaps as our great grandparents were that the American has a piece of sunshine in his pocket to show the folks of the world. So we close the program here. We have seen examples of construction in the haycock void of an
America where no constructing fours had as yet shaped any form. Some of the constructions were by philosophers concerned with the meaning of America. Others were by humorous concerned with the feelings of America. It is one of the small Illuminations that come from an exploration in the rich variety of American humor that we have found the constructions of the philosophers and the constructions of the humorists so close together in spirit. It is my belief that this makes American humor a very basic thing in the American way of life and anything well worth study and consideration. The philosophers have been represented Lauren's purses Hickox by a passage from his rational psychology. Thomas Jefferson buy one from his notes on Virginia John Codman heard by one from his theory of national existence and a strong buy one from his New Year or coming kingdom the humerus have been represented
August Longstreet by an adaptation of his Georgia theatricals Samuel Peters by passages from his history of Connecticut and anonymity hides the authors of the news items. The advertisement for the great ox and the almanac I don't buy Davy Crocket which closed our show. We hope that you have enjoyed both philosophers and humorists in their plunge into the haycock avoid. Today's voices belong to Myron Carey. Henry Lee Frankl a ban and Charbonneau production by Scott price technical operations by Bob Boysen. We invite you to listen next week to the heritage of American humor. My series of 15 dramatized essays written and narrated by Professor Joseph AP's meal 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 circle. Under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center. And is being distributed by the National Association of educational broadcast. This is the N.A. Radio Network. Yeah. Especially.
Heritage of American humor
Constructions in a Hickok void
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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 discusses the mix of humor and philosophy in American writings.
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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: Lee, Henry
Actor: Charbonneau, Ann
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: 61-4-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Duration: 00:29:13
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Chicago: “Heritage of American humor ; Constructions in a Hickok void,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 23, 2024,
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APA: Heritage of American humor ; Constructions in a Hickok void. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from