Wit & Wisdom of Missouri's Country Editors

Wit & Wisdom of Missouri's Country Editors

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Compiled by William H. Taft. Illustrations by Peggy Guest. 

More than 600 pithy sayings from pioneer Missouri papers. Many of these quotes and quips date to the 19th century yet remain timely for today's readers. Richly illustrated and fully indexed to help you find that perfect quote.

This volume is a compilation of wise and witty sayings from pioneer Missouri newspapers, whose editors practiced the art of "paragraphing"—reporting events and thoughts with short, easy reading paragraphs. This book highlights hundreds of Missouri country newspaper editors from the past century and a half.

This quips and quotes are from many now defunct Missouri newspapers, with names as spry as their editors, such as the Sedalia Bazoo, Buffalo Reflex, Hannibal True American, Hartsburg Truth, Illmo Jumplicute, McFall Mirror, Memphis Reveille and more. Enjoy reading these excerpts from the past, and the "pictures" such readings create, from a time when editors were forceful in their opinions, not affected by today’s politically correct philosophy.

Reviews of Wit & Wisdom of Missouri's Country Editors:

Wit & Wisdom Of Missouri's Country Editors is interesting and entertaining reading. It is a must for those who need quotes for research or speaking. This book won't make you yawn... Russell Hively, The Ozarks Mountaineer, April/May 1998

Peering into newspapers from a century ago, Dr. Taft finds a wealth of information about Missourians from crusty editors who didn’t hold back in their criticisms, comments and observations of the day…Among the hundreds of offerings from years ago, don’t be surprised to find some applicable today... Doug Crews, Executive Director, Missouri Press Association

Over the years, Dr. Taft has immersed himself in the history, legend and lore of Missouri newspapers and their editors. Anyone who knows him and his witty, raucous and at times acerbic sense of humor will find those same qualities in many of the selections he has compiled here. There is something for everybody—some sage advice and more than a chuckle or two... James W. Goodrich, Executive Director, State Historical Society of Missouri

William Taft knows more about Missouri newspapers and their editors than any other person. Here he reports the thoughts and literary gems of Missouri’s outstanding newspaper editors back in the days when their readers read every line in the paper, and they had the courage to express their thoughts. It is historical, entertaining and worthy of the reader’s time... James C. Kirkpatrick, newspaper editor/publisher, Missouri Secretary of State, 1965-1985.

Wit & Wisdom of Missouri's Country Editors Table of Contents

Chapter 1: It All Began in the Garden
Chapter 2: On the Road to Matrimony
Chapter 3: Matrimony: A Dangerous Journey?
Chapter 4: Children Have Their Place
Chapter 5: Family Life a Frequent Topic
Chapter 6: Slippery Legal and Political Issues
Chapter 7: Money, Taxes and All That
Chapter 8: Preachers Share the Limelight
Chapter 9: Doctors Have Their Problems
Chapter 10: Animals Always Attention Getters
Chapter 11: Education a Major Concern
Chapter 12: Feature Stories Attract Readers
Chapter 13: Editors Often Focus on Themselves
Chapter 14: Other Wit and Wisdom Too Good to Pass Up

Wit & Wisdom Excerpts

Lancaster Excelsior, 3-29-1866
"An English farmer recently remarked that 'he fed his land when it was hungry, rested it when it was weary, and weeded it when it was foul.' Seldom, if ever, was so much agricultural wisdom condensed in a single sentence."

Kansas City Times, 7-2-1881
"James Russell, a one-legged soldier, who recently stopped a runaway horse by pushing his wooden leg through the carriage wheel, stopped another dangerous runaway in New Hampshire last week. He saved four lives and has been given a medal by the Humane Society."

Clinton Advocate, 7-3-1885
"A husband at home is worth two in a saloon."

Ashland Bugle, 2-14-1922

"The dictionary spells 'good' with two o's, the Bible with one."

Memphis Conservative, 1-24-1878

"'When I die,' said a married man, 'I want to go where there is no snow to shovel.' His wife said she presumed he would."

"When a woman has had nine children, she begins to have suspicions about some of the beautiful passages in love stories."

From the Back Cover

No other living thing is so slow as a boy on an errand...

Unless the child goes beyond the parent there is no progress...

If an untruth is a day old it is called a lie; if it is a century old it is called a legend... 

Some children are spoiled in their raising because it's the easiest way to raise them...

To die at the proper time and leave a good impression on history is a lost art...

Willie lit some powder sticks, Willie's funeral July six...

William H. Taft, Author of Wit & Wisdom

of Missouri's Country Editors

Dr. William H. Taft taught journalism for 35 years, 25 at the University of Missouri-Columbia. His special research concerned Missouri newspapers, with three books on this topic. Now the Professor Emeritus spends most of his time going through the collection of 35 million pages of Missouri newspapers on microfilm at the State Historical Society.

Wit & Wisdom is a collection of over 600 sayings gleaned from this research. The book is grouped into 14 different section of these witticisms.

In this latest volume, Dr. Taft reveals the lighter side of the editors' duties, showing how knowledgeable they were on diverse subjects, together with their willingness to write as they felt, regardless of the outcome.

In his introduction, the author states: "This book's goal is to provide amusement and education for those who enjoy reading past items that remind them of situations today. In compiling this book, I've stuck to the editors' creed: 'Make them laugh, make them cry, make them mad, just don't make them yawn."

Dr. Taft, born in Mexico, Mo., graduated from Westminster College, University of Missouri and the Western Reserve University. Retired in 1981 as Professor Emeritus from the University of Missouri(Columbia Journalism School, he continues as historian of the Missouri Press Association and remains involved in other research projects.

Previous books by Taft include Missouri Newspapers (University of Missouri Press, 1964); Missouri Newspapers: When and Where, 1808-1963, a listing of more than 6,000 newspapers that have appeared in the state (State Historical Society of Missouri, 1964); Newspapers as Tools for Historians (Lucas Brothers, 1967); American Magazines for the 1980s (Hastings House, New York, 1982); Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Journalists (Garland, New York, 1986); Missouri Newspapers and the Missouri Press Association: 125 Years of Service, 1867-1992 (Heritage House, 1992). He has also published numerous encyclopedia articles, Journalism Quarterly articles and others.

He began his newspaper career as a teenager on the Mexico Ledger, writing "locals" and a high school column. At Westminster he handled public relations. He has taught at Youngston, Hiram and Defiance Colleges in Ohio, and founded the journalism program at Memphis State University prior to returning to Columbia in 1956. He has been married for more than 55 years to his wife, Myrtle, and they have three children.

Excerpted from Wit and Wisdom

of Missouri's Country Editors by William Taft.

Copyright © 2008. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved

From Chapter 9: Doctors Have Their Problems

Doctors Have Their Problem

With a limited supply of doctors in the smaller communities as well as fewer medical facilities in these early years, it was only natural that many individuals turned to their weekly newspapers for advice on how to cure their ailments.

In addition, frequently so-called backwoods prescriptions were mentioned by the editors, who weren't adverse to poking fun at some doctors and their activities.

All too often, these problems continued to exist, as one editor wrote: "Some people suffer more from imaginary troubles than real ones." Today, the television world continues to "create" such "imaginary" illnesses.

Articles pointed out the danger from smoking and from drinking whiskey, although, unfortunately, many of those editors writing such material might have been smoking and/or drinking at the same time they were advising their readers on a better life.

Aside from advice from editors, cures were prominently displayed throughout the paper, as well. There were advertisements promising to remedy every ailment. For example, cures for baldness were plentiful. And they were probably as effective then as they are today.

Medical World Described

Pain is the price of all deep pleasure. -Lathrop Monitor-Herald, 12-6-1906

Never-heard-of-germs fill the air, But people keep on living everywhere.

-Ashland Bugle, 5-18-1939

A Russian scientist has traced all of a man's diseases to the fact that he wears clothes. -Platte City Landmark, 1-26-1894

The doctors have discovered that high-heeled shoes cause blindness. It has been noticed that a high instep and neatly turned ankle are also very straining on the eyes on windy days. -Princeton Peoples Press, 6-13-1894

Women are the chief patrons of the doctors, and they live longer than men. Does this seem one in favor of the M.D.'s or does it prove it's the people who are always ill that never die? -Lamar Democrat, 6-10-1909

Bargain Day (?) at the Doctor's

A doctor uptown gave the following prescription for a very sick lady a few days since: "A new bonnet, a new cashmere shawl, and a pair of gaiter boots!" The lady recovered immediately. -Oregon Holt County News, 8-21-1857

The trouble with the man who goes to see a doctor is that he wishes to be cured in a day of ills it has taken him years to acquire. -Doniphan Prospect-News, 1-25-1912

A young physician asked permission of a lady to kiss her. She replied: "No, sir, I never like to have a doctor's bill thrust in my face." -Paris Mercury, 6-10-1848

Texas invalids are appraised of their approaching decease by seeing the doctor trying on their coats and boots. -Platte City Landmark, 8-4-1871

No Refund Either

"I don't believe it is any use to vaccinate for small-pox," said a backwoods Kentuckian, "for I had a child vaccinated, and he fell out of a window and was killed in less than a week afterwards." -Liberty Tribune, 1-13-1882

Take That Nose Outside, Please

"How dreadful that cigar smells!" exclaimed Dobbs to a companion. "Why it's an awful smelling thing!"

"No, it's not the cigar that smells," was the reply. "What is it, then?" inquired Dobbs. "Why it is your nose that smells, of course, that's what noses are made for." -St. Louis Sentinel, 6-16-1855

Doctors Blame and Blamed

China is a remarkable country. The mother of the emperor was recently taken sick and was attended by 423 doctors, yet she recovered. -Fulton Sun, 12-29-1893

An exchange gives an illustration as follows: A doctor bet a man a dollar he could not get a billiard ball into his mouth. The man won the bet, but the doctor got fifteen dollars to get it out. Another form of advertising with the results about the same as usual, the advertiser spent one dollar and gets fifteen in return. -Lilbourn Herald, 1-30-1914

A medical student asked a famous surgeon: "What did you operate on that man for?" "Two hundred dollars," replied the surgeon. "Yes, I know that," said the student. "I mean what did the man have?" "Two hundred dollars," replied the surgeon. -Auxvasse Review, 1-13-1910

Some Such Folks Still Around

Some people suffer more from imaginary troubles than real ones. They always worry about the future and conjure up difficulties that do not exist. Because of this their life is robbed of more than half its joy and blessings. -Martinsburg Audrain County Oracle, 1-6-1910

Probably Guaranteed Too

An observing individual in a very healthy village, seeing the sexton at work in a hole in the ground, inquired what he was about. "Digging a grave, sir." "Digging a grave? Why I thought people didn't die often here-do they?" "O, no, sir, they never die but once." -Albany Ledger, 12-31-1868

Just Can't Win

When I was young I was poor; when old I became rich, but in each condition I found disappointment. When the faculties of enjoying were bright, I had not the means; when the means came, the faculties were gone. -Columbia Missouri Sentinel, 4-8-1852

First the Vote, Then . . .

Women are living longer then they did twenty-five years ago, but the doctors aren't agreed on the reason. Though all admit it isn't due to the spread of the suffrage movement, they are widely divided in their opinions. Statistics compiled in England show that the expectation of life of a woman of fifty is a year greater than it was in 1875 while that of a man is only a few months greater. One school of doctors, who believe that death is due entirely to a wearing out of brain tissues, says the longevity of women is due to the fact that they don't use their brains as much as men. On the other side of the scientific fence is a group of doctors who insist that woman lives longer now because she is more sheltered . . . doesn't have to face the wearing competition of business . . . and spends most of her time at home which is more airy and healthful than the offices where men work. -Clinton Daily Republican, 3-31-1913

But Still That Taste!

An old physician of the last generation was noted for his brusque manners and old-fashioned methods. One time a lady called on him to treat her baby who was lightly ailing. The doctor prescribed castor oil. "But doctor," protested the young mother, "castor oil is such an old-fashioned remedy." "Madam," replied the doctor, "babies are old-fashioned things." -Linn Unterrified Democrat, 1-16-1908

Unless They Watch TV?

Men seldom die or get mad during the first two hours after dinner. -Richmond Missourian, 9-5-1901

It is said that worry kills more people than work-probably because more people worry than work. - Richland Mirror, 1-11-1923

Baldness, an Ancient Cure

A loafer says that the best remedy for baldness is to rub whiskey on your head until the hairs grow out, "then take inwardly to clinch the roots." -Lexington Missouri Register, 5-28-1865

Old-Timers Remember

While a kid nearly a hundred years ago, mothers would put five drops of turpentine on a lump of sugar to give to each of the children. This was a practice in all well-regulated families and was given for worms. We hesitate to recommend this dose to some flappers we have seen who wiggle a great deal, but it might prove a blessing and be a permanent cure. -Sikeston Standard, 1-17-1930

Colds Always a Challenge

Of all other means of curing colds, fasting is the most effectual. Let whoever has a cold eat nothing whatever for two days, and his cold will be gone, provided he is not confined to his bed, because by taking that surplus which caused his disease to breath, he soon carries off the disease by removing the cause. This will be found more effectual if he adds copious water drinking to protracted fasting. By the time a person has fasted one day and night he will experience a freedom from pain and a clearance of mind in delightful contrast to that mental stupor and physical pain caused by colds. And how infinitely better is this breaking of colds than medicines! -Columbia Missouri Sentinel, 1-25-1852

A hot lemonade is one of the best remedies for a cold. It acts promptly and efficiently, and has no unpleasant after affects. One lemon should be properly squeezed, cut in slices, put with sugar, and covered with half a pint of boiling water. Drink just before going to bed, and do not expose yourself the following day. This remedy will ward off any attack of chills and fever if used promptly. We give it on the recommendation of one of the judges of our courts who is a just man and never takes bribes. -Neosho Times, 12-26-1872

Smoking Techniques, Dangers

Do not smoke either while fasting or for a short time before meals. -Union Franklin County Tribune, 11-22-1901

Did you ever see good molars in the mouth of a man who chews tobacco to "preserve his teeth"? -Hartsburg Truth, 8-14-1903

There's always hope for the man who is ashamed that he chews tobacco. -Platte City Argus, 11-28-1901