Dearie, do you remember when your parents weren't even considering parthenogenesis? When phallic symbols were phallic symbols and not rocket ships? When fanzines had to be hand type set and printed because stencils, mimeos, hectos, etc., hadn't as yet been invented (or at least were not in common use)? Well, as the ditty goes, if you remember, then you're much older than I -- which is neither here nor, for that matter, there. What is here (and also there, depending on your view of time travel) is a remarkable tome which has come into my possession. Its title is THE RAMBLER and it is a collection of fanzines compiled by a faned named Howard Scott. Some of the zines are his; all are circa 1877 to 1879!
HA! you say. Stffandom wasn't around then. True. But ampubbing was. And after you read a few excerpts from THE RAMBLER in this article, I'd like you to tell me where the difference between ordinary ampubbing and the stfnal variety lies. I can't spot it. Aside from the actual writing style which tends towards purplish prose and an over-abundance of flowery adjectives, these zines might have been written by any (ugh!) stffan.
For example, as a starting factor, let's take the age of the average contributor and the problems in his being an ampubber:
From MONTHLY RECORD: "The ST. LOUIS RAMBLER is a paper issued monthly by a schoolboy sixteen years old, who does all the work of typesetting and press-work during his play hours. It is an amateur publication intended to interest and amuse boys and girls of his own age. While it is not printed for the purpose of making money, yet as it costs something to buy paper and pay postage, 25 cents a year will be the subscription price for one copy, or five copies will be sent for $1."
His general interests? There are several issues of a zine called the OOLOGIST in which the habits of birds are discussed technically. These articles are accompanied by detailed illustrations of birds, their nests and eggs. Ornithology appears to take first place in the general interests category, but running a close second, we have ...
From THE EASTERN STAR: December 1877; "Astronomy ... But with all our knowledge of the science of astronomy, how much alas remains unknown! How little in fact do we know of the great mystery that is presented to our gaze, and which we so much admire. The fixed stars, the distance to which is far beyond the conception or grasp of the human mind, what are they? Are they each the centre of a system like our own? Are the suns like our sun surrounded by innumerable worlds, or are they, as men in their ignorance in past ages have believed, placed there for the light and glory of our insignificant sphere? Is ours the only planet inhabited by man? Is animal and vegetable life confined to this world? Whence came all these beautiful worlds and whither are they tending? At what time were they launched into space, and what is the power that holds them in so nice adjustment? Will they ever continue on their courses, or will there be a time when they are but things of the past? With all our science, and knowledge, and wisdom, these and many more interesting questions remain unsolved, and great mysteries still go on around us."
From THE QUARTERLY ECHO: "Questions and Answers ... Q. Is there any good reason why a member of the christian religion ought not to study astronomy, and has the church ever objected to such study? A. The first part of your question would involve in its answer matter of opinion, therefore please excuse us expressing opinion thereon. The Western Church formerly looked on the study of astronomy as a heresy, but the opinion of that church on that matter has "veered around" since the time of the unfortunate Kopernik and Galileo, and now sanctions, under certain restrictions, astronomy to be taught and studied in its schools and colleges. Q. Which is the largest comet we know of? A. Our information on the subject of comets is very limited, but we are under the impression that Donat's comet, of 1858, was the largest of which we have any record. Its length was estimated to be 40,000,000 miles, but as we did not possess a foot rule at that time, we are not in a position to verify these figures."
Great care is taken to list every musical event of local interest.
From THE RAMBLER; August 1879: "The Knights of Pythias band gave another one of their entertaining and lively concerts at the Fair grounds on Sunday. The programme was as follows: Knights of Pythias march, Brun; L'Espoir de L'Alsace, Herman; Forget Me Not Polka, Niebig; Genevieve de Brabant, Offenbach; La Valletee Waltz, Beamish; Leviathan Polka, Levy; Olympic March, Schopp; Chimes of Normandy, Planquette; Village Bells Polka, Coote; Rage in Ireland, Beyer; H.M.S. Pinafore Lancers, Weigand; Just one more Galop ... E. R. Kroeger is now giving a series of piano recitals ... LaFayette Park was thronged with pleasure seekers and admirers of good music on Thursday afternoon."
From THE RAMBLER; July 1879: "The Chicago Tribune indulged in the following little bit of pleasantry recently: 'An enterprising Chicagoan went to St. Louis a few years ago, and, after visiting the ice cream saloons of the Future Great City, concluded that there was big money in the business, which was imperfectly understood by the local confectioners. His saloon soon became the centre of social attraction, and his ice-creams and the praises of them were in everybody's mouth. None of his envious rivals could begin to compete, either in quality or cheapness, and he made a fortune. Last week the secret of his success came out. A prominent building contractor, who has long been annoyed by mysterious thieves, placed a trusty detective on watch, and he captured the wealthy ex-Chicago man in the act of wheeling away a barrow full of his mortar, ready mixed for the mason's use. For years the villain has been selling diluted mortar, flavored with Perry Davis' pain-killer and arnica, to the simple folk of St. Louis as Neapolitan cream, and the like! No wonder that many a St. Louis beau, on offering his belle the freedom of his knee after a debauch on six saucers of cream has often been surprised at her weight, and said to himself, in rapture, "She's a right solid chunk of girl, and as honest as a cast-iron dog."
As to actual fan activity ...
From the RAMBLER: September 1879: "THE WAPA CONVENTION...Arrangements have been perfected with the proprietress of the Hotel Hunt whereby rooms can be obtained by amateurs who attend the Convention at the very low price of 75 cents a day, and they have also generously tendered the use of suitable rooms for meetings, banquets, etc. The spacious and elegant board-room of the Polytechnic Institute, which is only a little over a square from the hotel, has been secured for our deliberate meetings. The first day will be devoted to the business of the Convention and becoming thoroughly acquainted with each other, while the succeeding days will be devoted to the sight-seeing, visiting the Fair grounds, Water Works, Park of Fruits, Shaw's Arden, Tower Grove Park, Forrest Park, Chamber of Commerce, Anchor Line Steamboats, and other objects of interest. Should you find it convenient to honor the Convention with your attendance (and it is sincerely hoped that you will), please inform Frank L. Seaver, 2809 Pacific Street, St. Louis, concerning what train you will arrive on, and you will be met by members of the committee wearing pink badges, which will be supplied to arriving delegates at the Union Depot, which they are requested to wear during their stay in the city. A large number have signified their intention of being present, and it is confidently expected that the 'vention will be a 'big success.' No more postponements! The convention meets on the 24th!"
From THE EASTERN STAR; April 1876: "A Reply to Wm. E. Nichols, Jr ... In the June issue of the NUTMEG we find a reply to our editorial on the first convention of the N.E.A.J.A., which appeared in our last issue. It now appears that Mr. Nichols is becoming tired of the controversy that has for sometime been going on between the NUTMEG and the STAR. We are sorry to learn this is the case, for we had never once thought of abandoning the discussion, but the readers of the NUTMEG -- and how we pity them -- are also becoming tired of the discussion. Really this is a sad state of affairs, and now that our friend has tired the readers of the NUTMEG we would suggest that he hunt around and find some other paper whose editor will publish his feeble efforts. We fail to see why consuming 'three long columns' in reply to Mr. Nichols should show that we were very desirous of the Official Organship of the N.E.A.J.A., but then the great brain of our contemporary reasons it out to satisfy, himself. The fact that in our paper we put forth the BAY STATE ENTERPRISE, for Official Organ, and that in our correspondence with several new England amateurs we urged the selection of the same paper, these facts would show to any sensible amateur that we cared little for the office. For had we been eager to obtain the office, do you think we would have opposed ourselves? That is a most foolish idea!" (AUTHOR'S NOTE: This feud continues on for another two columns. Insults? I tell thee!) "Then let us profit by the experience of others, and be not over-ambitious in any work we may undertake. Let us practice moderation and avoid extremes."
From THE WESTERN BOYS; 1878: "Lewis W. Beaubien of the Amateur Mercury made a visit of three days in this city and called on ye editor in his sanctum. Lew is a pleasant, entertaining gentleman and one whose visits we shall always hail with pleasure."
From THE GOLDEN GATE; August 1878: "THE RAMBLER - The appearance of this most worthy journal, in regard to its typographical appearance, is far above the amateur standard, and the ability and the remarkable talent he has shown in his journalistic career, is truly wonderful for one of his age. Perseverance and regularity must be twin sisters of his, and they with neatness and good sense are the four great things an editor requires, and we must say that we think this youthful editor possesses them all."
From THE WESTERN BOYS; October 1878: "Exchange Items THE GLOBE, of San Francisco, strikes right and left at the members of the 'dom, but in many cases is entirely too unjust. THE MODEL GUIDE, for September, has come to hand. The typography of this journal is simply superb, while its contents are such that it is indispensable to the young aspirant for typographical honors. If ODDS AND ENDS displayed a little more editorial ability it would be one of the 'dom's best. The other features are excellent. THE EMPIRE CITY AMATEUR is a very creditable sheet. We take more genuine interest in perusing the IMP than any other paper we receive. Briggs has such a quaint way of expressing himself that it makes his journal deeply interesting from beginning to end. We were agreeably surprised on receiving the HAWKEYE BOY to note its great improvement. Shliep is abiding by his motto, 'Advance and Improvement'."
And, well, here ... read on for yourselves. I've commented only where I couldn't resist the temptation.
From THE AMATEUR WORLD; October, 1878: "Clippings ... A dandy is a chap who would be a lady if he could; but as he can't, he does all he can to show the world that he is not a man ... A fashionable lady dropped one of her false eyebrows in a church pew and badly frightened a young man who sat next to her, who thought it was his moustache."
From THE RAMBLER: October 1878: "Um ... the English language has been considerably abused withinthe recent times, not by youthful poets and occasional correspondents alone, but by scholars and men of letters. Among its many faults of omission and commission, this poor, unfortunate language is accused of having no personal pronoun of common gender. People are constantly making grammatical blunders in consequence. For example, 'Every passenger on entering this car must show their ticket.' Years ago it appears that some linguistic genius suggested that 'um' be used for common gender. A western literary club, in discussing the question presented the following examples: 'No member of the school can succeed without um, gives thought to the lessons. Every passenger on entering this car must show um's ticket. If you wish any one of the clerks you must ask for um at the office.' Perhaps 'um' is as good a word as any other. If any person is dissatisfied with the language as it now stands, we should recommend um to adopt it."
From MONTHLY RECORD: "It is rumored that not one of the St. Louis amateurs will be at the 'vention ... (in St. Louis)." (Vive la Gafia! IB).
From THE RAMBLER; October 1878: "A summer Resort Conversation ..
"I heard it!"
"Who told you!"
"Her friend." (?)
"You don't say!"
"Don't tell it, I pray."
"Who'd think it?"
"Well! Well! Well!"
"I've had my suspicions!"
"And I, too, see!"
"Lord help us!"
"Between you and I!"
"Do stay, love!"
"I'm so glad she's gone!"
From THE PITTSBURGH INDEPENDENT: "For many ages, this question puzzled astronomers: how far off are the stars? It was known that their distance was great, very great; it was known that they were immeasurably farther off than the sun, the moon, or any of the planets; but it is only in the present century that the question has been partially answered. The present century has also the honor of introducing Carboline, a deodorized extract of petroleum, an article that will restore hair on bald heads, and well calculated to impart new life and vigor to the diseased scalp; to give strength and fullness to the weak, straggling growth of hair; to bring back the natural color and gloss to the bleached and faded locks. It is without doubt the best restorer and beautifier the world has ever produced. Price, one dollar per bottle. Sold by all druggists."
From THE RAMBLER; July, 1879: "The interest in Mesmerism has long since died out. Not being able to stem the lists of practical investigation and skepticism which surged over the world at the time of its introduction, it fell behind and was wrecked on the reefs of oblivion. Now and then instances of its remarkable power loom up before us, taking away our breath the while, but as suddenly fade and vanish leaving us, if anything, more doubtful and perplexed than ever. In my opinion, it is the only palpable and tangible link connecting us with the supernatural. This is not saying much, however, for its tangibility is of the same consistence as yon fleecy cloud which softly breathes a mist over the moon and then disappears forever. Be this as it may, it is certain that there are some individuals who possess a fearful and mysterious influence over their fellow beings..."
From THE QUARTERLY ECHO; June, 1877: "Amateurdom in America .. We have lately had an opportunity of inspecting a batch of these little papers, the production, in many cases, of school-boys and school-girls. The contents of these papers, however, are not altogether of a juvenile character, but contain much to interest the adult mind; and almost are prolific in racy (OMIGHOD! -IB) remarks upon men and things, for which the American mind is so celebrated. We should much like, however, to give some of these young editors a few words of friendly advice, which would be as follows: Refrain from pen-fighting, and shun personal abuse as you would a plague."
From THE AMATEUR WORLD: "Phonetic Spelling ... In this age of reformation we believe that our method of spelling should be remedied. Our language is composed of words from all others and consequently our orthography is as hard as the latin grammar. In a great many words three or more letters represent one sound. When a child enters school a great part of his time is given to spelling which should be devoted to something else. Spelling by sound is the simplest and most natural way of spelling. It would require but little study to learn it. Many persons have a wrong impression that it is like phonography. In Phonetic Spelling each letter represents a certain sound, and silent letters are done away with. While the present method is very complex, the phonetic mode is simplicity itself. We received a Spelling Reform pamphlet a few days ago, and we read it as easily as though it was correct in orthography. We anxiously await the time when the new method of spelling by sound will be inaugurated into our language.
From THE AMATEUR WORLD: "H.S. Miss to city spoony: - "Charlie, your love is hopeless. Papa is obstinate, and I know mama would never consent. Therefore, after this your perfumed notes will be returned unopened, and you need not send me any more motto candies!"
From THE BOYS' GAZETTE; June-July, 1878: "Where is the Associations' money gone to? Why not call a meeting of the surviving members to determine on our future course?"
From THE COMPOSING STICK: "Amateur Gossip ... Only one amateur paper is published in California at the present time ... "Why does the Almighty tolerate the Devil" is a very able article replete with sound arguments from the versatile pen of Miss Blanche Hooper in the CENSOR."
From THE GOLDEN GATE; August, 1878: "The result of the conventions which took place at Chicago ... The first session convened at two o'clock p.m. at the Palmer House, with 30 of its members present. After the election of a number of new members the election of officers took place ... After the excitement had died down and order was once more restored, resolutions were passed to recognize hereafter, amateur papers as journals. They occupied the remainder of the afternoon in taking rides to Lincoln Park, and a boat ride on the lake."
From WESTERN BOYS; June, 1878: An excerpt from Romance and West Point (a story). "'Steady men! Steady!' The admonition was needed. 'Tis a rule of the service to keep eyes to the front, and the cadets were looking askance. But then the fame of her beauty had preceded her, and there was a whisper down the line that the half had not been told ..."
From THE EASTERN STAR; August, 1878: "In a recent issue of the PHOENIX its editor speaks of us as a miscreant and small boy. Whether we are a miscreant or not we leave for others to determine, but we do deny the charge that we are a 'small' boy. Now we never boasted that we could stand alongside Kendal, Clossey, Gee, and our other giants, but if a fellow of five feet and six inches is to be called a 'small boy' curiosity impells us to ask O'connell what he would call Wasserman or Blake." (Gorillas, of course. -IB)
From THE EASTERN STAR; April, 1876: "... What the future of our little journal will be, time only can tell. Certain we are that no trifling accident shall cause the suspension of our paper, for in it we have found a dear friend. We have become much attached to amateurdom during our short career as an amateur editor, and when the time comes for us to leave the 'dom, - for it must sometime come to every member of the fraternity, - we shall bless the institution that has afforded us so much pleasure and instruction."
Since I must end this somewhere, I'll do so on that last determined note. The endless source of material in the book has hardly been tapped by this article, I'm afraid; and after learning that Howard Scott died at the age of thirty-five, a victim of an unsolved murder, my only mental comment on the RAMBLER and its ill-fated editor was a line from a song entitled, "Go, Lovely Rose." It's a little corny and dated, but, like the RAMBLER, something special. It goes ...
"How small a part of time they share
Who are so wondrous sweet and fair."
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