Sunday, February 18, 2018

Derailment of The Duquesne Limited Passenger Train - Connellsville, PA

SEVENTY PERSONS KILLED IN DUQUESNE LIMITED WRECK
PASSENGERS SCALDED TO DEATH IN A CROWDED SMOKING CAR.

Big Atlantic Type Engine Struck Pile of Lumber and Terrible Disaster Followed at Laurel Run.

The Dead and Injured.

DEAD.
                                                                            Charles Langford, Wilmerding, Pa.
The list of dead, as identified at the             J. Edgerly, Butler, Pa.
  morgues of J. E. Sims, J. S. Stader             Richard D. Ducett, Baltimore, Md.
  and Morris & Co. at 2 o’clock this             Charles M. Grey, Baltimore, Md.
  afternoon are as follows:                             J. Twilly, Brooklyn, N. Y.
C. A. Wilson, Connellsville, Pa.,                     Herbert Homes, Emelton, Pa.
  identified this morning.                             C. L. Heater, Assistant Division
Leo Wubbeler, Beaver Falls, Pa.                     Engineer, Hazelwood, Pa.
Prospera Francesko, Allegheny                    A. G. Protzman, residence unknown.
James W. Coakley, Rochester, Pa.                   Gesso, an Italian.
M. Myerowitch, Johnstown, Pa.                   Unknown Chinaman
T. J. Farman, Philadelphia, Pa.                   Jesse Hines, Tarbora, N. C.
Walter Stewart, Camden, N. J.                   F. B. Nolker, Eldridge, Md.
Geo. F. Rhein, Baltimore, Md.                  Chas. M. Wagner, Berkeley Springs,
John K. Powers, Cumberland, Md.            W. Va.
M. K. Smith, E. S. Goldsmith and                  John H. Willis, Pittsburg, Pa.
 C. A. Feinnello, Connellsville.                  Charles K. Stendorf, residence
W. A. Gaed, Agent C. V. R. R.,                 unknown.
  Martinsburg, W. Va.                                 Charles M. Zepler, Philadelphia, Pa.
Harold B. Morrison, 131 Flowers                 W. A. Kalp, Mt. Pleasant, Pa.
  street, Pittsburg.                                         S. S. Roush, B & O employee
J. Wade Shupe, Mt. Pleasant, Pa.                Alfred C. Bannard, Pittsburg, Pa.
G. J. Winkler, a member of the fire        J. W. Martin, Hancock, Md.
  department, Westmont, Pa.                John Adams, Addison, N. J.
William Sheedy, Patterson Creek,                John Simon, Hungarian, New York.
  W. Va. Unknown Slav.
Carmine M. Mitchell, Rochester, Pa.        J. W. Keczner, Cumberland, Md.
Joseph Grey, Brooklyn, N. Y.                        James Fox, residence unknown.
E. Reynolds, York, Pa.                                Joseph ------, residence unknown
S. E. Good, McKeesport, Pa.                       Fifteen dead still unidentified
Joseph Shelhaus, Rochester, Pa.
J. W. Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.                   INJURED.
G. W. Biser, Berkeley Springs,               Edward Keffer, Somerset, Pa.;
  W. Va.                                                fatally.
B. Murray, Pittsburg, aged 12 years.       Harry Devlin, Connellsville and
Joseph Cook, fireman, Glenwood, Pa.           Cumberland; serious.
Louis Helgroth, conductor,                        John Brownlee, North Braddock;
 Cumberland, Md.                                slight; left for New York last night.
William Thornley, engineer,                        Thomas Dom, baggagemaster; head
  Glenwood, Pa.                                         cut; went to home in Pittsburg.


The most appalling disaster in the history of the Pittsburg Division of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad occurred at Laurel run, two miles west of Dawson, last evening. Sixty-eight passengers and three trainmen were killed in a mad plunge of the Duquesne Limited on a sharp reverse curve, caused by some heavy timbers falling from a west-bound freight train to the east-bound track, along which the Limited was speeding at the rate of 50 miles an hour. Forty-three passengers met instant death or were cooked by hissing steam escaping from engine No. 1465. Five passengers died on the relief train between the scene of the wreck and the Connellsville station. Eight passengers and Conductor Helgroth died at the hospital.

Harrowing Scenes.
The scenes at the wreck were harrowing. Half a hundred passengers, most of them English speaking, were literally cooked alive in the smoking car. A second disaster was averted by the presence of mind of Conductor Helgroth, fatally burned at the time, Conductor Edward Baker, who was dead-heading over to Cumberland on the Duquesne, and Baggagemaster Thomas Dom. They rushed up the track the instant the wrecked train had come to a standstill and with matches flagged train No. 49, which was stopped by Engineer Mose Johnston only within half a car length of the wreck. Helgroth fell fainting alongside the track after No. 49 was stopped and died at the hospital at 3 o’clock this morning. Dom was bleeding from a wound eight or ten inches long on the head and suffering from internal injuries when he realized the danger of a second disaster after his car had toppled over almost into the Yough river and ran up the track with Helgroth and Baker. The latte was riding in the rear of the train and was not injured.

Engineer William Thornley, a veteran at the throttle, had the big Atlantic No. 1465 doing 50 miles an hour or better on one of the best stretches of running ground on the Pittsburg Division when the accident happened. Fireman Joseph Cook, just a week off the Wheeling Division, was on the other side of the cab.

Running Fifty Miles an Hour.
The train was made up of eight cars, two Pullmans, a dining car, in charge of Conductor F. R. Nichols, three day coaches, a regulation baggage and a sealed express car. Some distance below Laurel run the Duquesne passed the west-bound freight. Thornley hadn’t started to slow down for Dawson; in fact he had his throttle wide open approaching the reverse curve just at the Laurel run bridge. While the curve is a sharp one, the track and roadbed are good at that point and passenger engineers bent on making their schedule do not shut off when taking the curve. There was not an instant’s warning that death was at hand for half a hundred passengers. Before Thornley had time to push back his throttle a notch the mighty Atlantic plunged from the track after striking several 60-foot timbers which had fallen over from the west-bound track. The engine passed over the obstruction, but the ends tilted and caught the tender, throwing it high into the air aver the top of the engine and nearly 100 yards up the track, where it landed sideways, blocking both tracks. The ponderous engine plunged in between the two tracks for a short distance and then caromed over on its side to the right. The sealed express car went clear down to the river, ploughing to the right. The baggage car telescoped the engine and landed down over the bank clear of the tracks. The first day coach followed the baggage, but the momentum of the train by this time was losing force and instead of telescoping the engine the coach veered off the right.

Fireman Cook had the hand of the steam gauge around to the 200 mark. As the smoker, crowded to the full capacity of every seat, ripped along the side of the big passenger engine the steam dome caught it just at the window height. Wrecked and battered open as it was, every ounce of steam from the engine poured forth its hissing messenger of death. From end to end the scalding cloud shot across the interior of the car. Not a single passenger escaped the deadly summons to another world. One inhalation was fatal. Every one of the dead passengers is burned. Some of them are scalded from head to foot.

Dead Awfully Distorted

The skin came off with their clothes at the morgues in town last night and this morning as the undertakers and their assistants prepared the bodies for burial. The features of the dead were terribly and horribly distorted in many instances. Death came quickly, but its agony evidently was intense. Not a soul escaped from the smoking car. Those who were not killed outright were rescued within a few minutes by passengers from the Pullman cars and the other day coaches which followed the smoker. All of the cars were derailed, but they did not leave the road bed. The tracks were torn up for over a train length and the big timbers responsible for all the damage were splintered into hundreds of pieces and imbedded and tangled in the under mechanism of the cars. In the front portion of the coach immediately following the ill-fated smoker several passengers were killed. One of these was not taken out of the wreck until after daylight this morning. He was Chas. Zepler, who was pinned in by the wreckage close to the roof of the car. He had left his wife and son but a few minutes before the accident, going forward from the day coach to take a smoke. He hardly had time to get to the forward end of the smoking car until the crash came. Mrs. Zepler and her little son came to Connellsville last night, the former hoping against hope that her husband would turn up safe. The recovery of his body was broken to her as gently as possible and today she will accompany the remains to their home in Philadelphia. Another passenger, who stood close to the door of the second coach and the smoker was caught between the bumpers as the two cars crashed together. For 30 minutes he sat with feet dangling down between the bumpers, but held in the death grip about the waist until death relieved his sufferings. To Arthur May, an express messenger on No. 49, this passenger begged piteously either to be released or killed outright. No one could give relief, and strong hearts turned away and wept as the unfortunate man’s life passed away in violent convulsions, irantically pleading with God for mercy and the chance to see his family once more.

No Survivors.

There is not a survivor of the smoking car able to tell the experiences of the few seconds during which the car was filled with steam. Two of the survivors, Edward Devlin and John Brownlee, at the Cottage hospital, may recover. All the balance will die, Dr. T. H. White said to a Courier reporter today.

Edison Goldsmith was sitting about the middle of the smoking car. Shortly after leaving Pittsburg he was invited back into the dining car by Andrew Hans of Connellsville to have dinner on the way up. He declined the invitation, remarking that his upper would be waiting at home and he didn’t want to disappoint his mother.

M. K. Smith, Division Operator of the Connellsville Division of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad, was riding well up in the smoking car or the front end of the coach next the smoker, his exact place on the train being unknown. It was not until 5 o’clock this morning that Smith was identified. He had been in Pittsburg Wednesday on railroad business and Mrs. Smith expected him home by 8 o’clock. She was assured by friends that he was not on the train and that he was detained at work by the wreck. None of Mr. Smith’s friends were aware that he was among the dead until his body was taken in charge at Morris & Company’s morgue. There papers on his person gave the startling information that he was among the victims. Friends then made a closer examination and readily identified him. At 8 o’clock, Mrs. Smith was waiting for her husband to drop in for breakfast when the news of his death was broken to her.

J. Wade Shupe, a prominent citizen of Mt. Pleasant, was not identified until about 8 o’clock this morning. Friends came for the remains this afternoon. Mr. Shupe was married and was a son of O. P. Shupe, the well-known flour mill man and capitalist.

Passengers to the Rescue.

The passengers on the Pullman cars were not shaken up much. The dining car was well filled at the time the engine jumped the track. Conductor Nichol was hurled headlong down the aisle and dishes were scattered in all directions. A. D. Soisson and wife and W. H. Marietta and Andrew Haas were in the dining car. They were not injured. Mr. Haas and Marietta were among the first to rescue the dead and injured from the smoking car. Once or twice the wrecked cars were threatened with fire, but the flames were quickly checked. The wreck crew worked clearing up the tracks all night and had them open this morning.

As fast as the bodies were recovered from the smoking car they were laid side by side on a high bank above the railroad. Some of them were covered with handkerchiefs, etc., while other stared in awful hideousness under the glare of many torch lights. Steam blistered the tongues and lips of the victims to an awful size and they protruded in a sickening manner. Fireman Cook was found clear of his engine. Engineer Thornley was under the wheels of the smoking car. The top of his head was crushed in. Otherwise he was not much marked or burned.

The Dead Trainmen.

William Thornley, the engineer who lost his life in the wreck of the Duquesne Limited last night, was one of the best known men in the railroad service about Pittsburg. Mr. Thornley was first engaged in the B & O service as engineer of September 15, 1882, when he began running as freight engineman from Pittsburg on the local division to Connellsville. He knew every inch of the road, and was regarded form his first week of service as one of the most careful men in the service. He followed his freight work several years and then was assigned to passenger runs on local trains, then to through runs. When the Duquesne Limited was instituted by the B & O between four and five years ago, just after the reorganization was begun, one of the enginemen selected for the responsibility of seeing that the train was run on schedule time was Thornley. He had served continuously since in this service.

Mr. Thornley’s home is at 4905 Lytle street, Hazelwood. He was 52 years old and leaves a wife, one son and three daughters. For a number of hears he lived in Connellsville.

Fireman Cook was recently married and has been connected with the B & O since 1900, when he came from Baldwin, Tenn. He was also regarded as a first-class man in the service, this accounting for his promotion form a minor passenger run to the place with Thornley on the limited engines about a week ago. He was a member of Iron City Lodge No. 18, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen.

Conductor Helgroth was a popular passenger man. He ran extra on the through runs and had a wide acquaintance among the patrons of the B & O. He is married and leaves a wife and family at Cumberland.

Baggagemaster Thomas Dom for a number of years made his home in Connellsville, having runs out of here. He is not dangerously hurt. He is at the Cottage hospital. Dom lives in Pittsburg and has a wife and several children.

Arrival of the Dead

After the arrival of the relief train and the disposition of the dead and injured the crowd at the depot waited for the arrival of the morgue train. Forty-three bodies were unloaded from the train and taken to City Hall, which Burgess C. W. Patterson had thrown open. Prisoners were released from the cells to make room for the corpses. From City Hall, Undertakers Morris & Co., J. E. Sims and J. L. Stader took charge of all the bodies they could handle. Thirty-seven bodies are at Sims’ morgue, 15 at Morris & Co.’s and 16 at Straders’. All the nearby undertakers were telephoned for and came to lend their assistance in the work of cleaning up the bodies. It was a hard, long task, but under the circumstances it was very well handled.

Today the town is in a state of intense excitement. The morgues are crowded with visitors, viewing the unidentified dead. Rumors of identifications are rampant on the streets, each new name added to the list bringing with it a new aftermath of heart-rending sorrow. Early this morning, people from all over the country flocked into town, uncertain regarding the safety of their friends known to be in Pittsburg yesterday. In spite of a drizzling rain great crowds are about the morgues, some morbidly inclined, others searching for news of missing friends. S. E. Good of McKeesport, one of the dead, was on his way to New York where he was to be married tomorrow. His brothers identified his remains this morning.

Article continues with the history of the Duquesne Limited.


The Courier, Connellsville, PA, Thursday Evening, December 24, 1903, page 1, columns 1-4

Pittsburgh’s Chinatown and How It Disappeared

Pittsburgh’s Chinatown was a small but a lively downtown feature and Boulevard of the Allies was the burgeoning force that slowly squeezed the life out of it.

Chinatown in Pittsburgh began to coalesce in the late 1800s, a stop in the trail of those scrambling to California to take part in the Gold Rush, according to the Post-Gazette. By the early 1900s small grocery stores, gift-shops and restaurants had popped up. They supplied the community with Chinese goods. A quaint park sat between Ross and Grant Streets, a meeting space for Chinese immigrants to catch up on the latest news and play mah-jongg. Racism of that era made it difficult for Chinese to assimilate in Pittsburgh and they found community in Chinatown, which the Post-Gazette in 1979 labeled a “ghetto-like area.”

The heart of Chinatown was on Second and Third Avenues between Ross and Grant streets, bussed by two rival Chinese fraternities: the On Leong Labor and Merchants Association and the Hip Sing Association.

They were the unofficial rulers of this small Chinatown, with occasional gang confrontations in the 1920s and 30s to assert power.

With the construction and expansion of Boulevard of the Allies the presence of small Chinese population downtown Pittsburgh was short lived. When the construction was first dedicated in 1921, it extended from Grant Street and Second Ave to Oakland. The Boulevard and other infrastructure projects grew more expansive with time, and the Chinese community was slowly squeezed out.

Parking lots replaced Chinese goods shops. The Yee Haim store at 519 Second Ave. was one of the few stores left, according to a Post Gazette article from 1942.

By 1959, only three Chinese families remained.

Today, the only physical trace left of this community is the Chinatown Inn restaurant. The Inn is located in the former On Leong Labor and Merchants Association building and the ornate red pagodas trimmed with pale green carvings are the only remnants of its former function.

Still, it only tells a small part of the tale of Pittsburgh’s Chinatown, a history now faded into a distant memory.


– Grace Kelly (The Pitt News)
    March 4, 2015




11 Fascinating Facts about the Victorians


Health professionals in the Victorian era were constantly innovating and suggesting new and interesting ways to fight illnesses. In 1875 one recommendation was to cover oneself in sheets of newspaper, providing a warm and comfortable night’s sleep while reducing the onset of pneumonia.







1)  Read All About It 

The Victorian period was a time of discovery, rebellion and exploration for those who lived through it. It was also a prosperous time for Sudeley, which saw many improvements under the watchful eye of owner, Emma Dent. As we prepare to host our annual Victorian May Day celebrations, read on find out 11 interesting things you probably didn’t know about the era.




2) An Everyday Poison 

Toxic arsenic was widely consumed by Victorians. Women believed it had qualities which made skin appear younger, and so it was a major ingredient in many cosmetics – whereas men would consume arsenic pills as a way of stimulating their libido. Unsurprisingly, these products caused extreme sickness and lead to many fatalities before people understood the true power of the substance.




3)  Curious Collections 

Many Victorians would specialise in collecting objects, from zoological and botanical to geological and archaeological. People devoted cabinets and spaces for their prized collections, which would often take up entire rooms in their home. During the era many towns and villages had a curiosity shop which sold an array of weird and wonderful objects to avid collectors.



4) Widow of Windsor

It’s well documented that when Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, died in 1861, she went into mourning and wore black until her death 40 years later. During this time she secluded herself from the rest of the world and was rarely seen in public, earning herself the name of the ‘Widow of Windsor’. But did you know, Victoria disliked black funerals and at her own funeral in 1901, ensured the streets of London were decorated in purple and white.


5)  Walk Like an Egyptian 

In the Victorian era, people were fascinated by ancient Egypt. Many historians believe this was down to the parallels that could be drawn from their relationships with death. In fact, Egyptian influences can be found in women’s mourning jewellery from the era. This obsession led to an unusual phenomenon whereby experts would unwrap mummies for an auditorium of curious men and women.


6)  The Penny Black 

The Victorian era has often been described by historians as the ‘Golden Years’ as it was a hugely important time for innovation. One of these innovations was the concept of the postage stamp, which first became available for purchase on 1 May 1840. The first stamps, The Penny Black and the Two Pence Blue, included the image of a young Queen Victoria, and to this day, the UK is the only country which uses the reigning monarch’s head for national identification rather than the country’s name.




7) Sprechen sie Deutsch? 

The British royal family is German in origin – in fact Queen Victoria’s mother, Victoria of Saxe-Coburg, was a German princess. The Queen was brought up by her German governess, Baroness Louise Lehzen, from Hanover, and as such, Victoria spoke only German until she was three years old. Even as an adult, German was spoken in Buckingham Palace and at all private occasions, with many of Victoria’s courtiers, including her husband, Prince Albert, being German.


8)  50 Shades Of Black

As well as mourning loved ones, there was another, more practical reason, why so many Victorians wore a lot of black – it was all down to pollution. Industry was booming in the Victorian era, and as such pollution was rife – particularly in the cities – meaning that women who wore light colours would find their dresses turn shades of grey, and so opted for darker clothing.



9)  Look Into My Eyes 

Victorians were big advocates of spiritualism and believed in the afterlife. Public events involving hypnosis, séances and fortune telling were popular occasions during the era, and it was big money for the people performing these acts. However, unsurprisingly many of these professionals were simply good actors maximising on peoples gullibility.




10)  Hostess With The Mostess 

If a lady was at home in the day she was expected to be properly dressed and prepared for visitors between the hours of 3pm and 5pm. The time visitors could arrive was dependent on how familiar an acquaintance they were, with closer friends and family permitted to visit later in the day. It would have been seen as poor taste for anyone to arrive earlier than 3pm.



11) Say My Name

Queen Victoria wasn’t actually called Victoria – she was in fact named Alexandrina after her godfather, Tsar Alexander I of Russia. Victoria was a middle name which she shared with her mother. However, until her coronation in 1838 she was known as Drina and many of the public at the time were never certain of her official name.





Article by Holly Jones ~ Castle & Gardens
April 26, 2017

Friday, August 4, 2017

A Bit of Olde English Slang

British writer Andrew Foster penned the book, "Passing English of the Victorian era, a dictionary of heterodox English, slang and phrase," under his pseudonym James Redding Ware.  This is just a taste of the colorful and fanciful phrases that have fallen out of use.

1. AFTERNOONIFIED
A society word meaning "smart.” Forrester demonstrates the usage: "The goods are not 'afternoonified' enough for me.”

2. ARFARFAN'ARF
A figure of speech used to describe drunken men. "He's very arf'arf'an'arf," Forrester writes, "meaning he has had many ‘arfs,'” or half-pints of booze.

3. BACK SLANG IT
Thieves used this term to indicate that they wanted "to go out the back way.”

4. BAGS O' MYSTERY
An 1850 term for sausages, "because no man but the maker knows what is in them. ... The 'bag' refers to the gut which contained the chopped meat.”

5. BANG UP TO THE ELEPHANT
This phrase originated in London in 1882, and means "perfect, complete, unapproachable.”

6. BATTY-FANG
Low London phrase meaning "to thrash thoroughly,” possibly from the French battre a fin.

7. BENJO
Nineteenth century sailor slang for "A riotous holiday, a noisy day in the streets.”

8. BOW WOW MUTTON
A naval term referring to meat so bad "it might be dog flesh.”

9. BRICKY
Brave or fearless. "Adroit after the manner of a brick," Forrester writes, "said even of the other sex, 'What a bricky girl she is.'”

10. BUBBLE AROUND
A verbal attack, generally made via the press. Forrester cites The Golden Butterfly: "I will back a first-class British subject for bubbling around against all humanity."

11. BUTTER UPON BACON
Extravagance. Too much extravagance. "Are you going to put lace over the feather, isn't that rather butter upon bacon?”

12. CAT-LAP
A London society term for tea and coffee "used scornfully by drinkers of beer and strong waters ... in club-life is one of the more ignominious names given to champagne by men who prefer stronger liquors.”

13. CHURCH-BELL
A talkative woman.

14. CHUCKABOO
A nickname given to a close friend.

15. COLLIE SHANGLES
Quarrels. A term from Queen Victoria's journal, More Leaves, published in 1884: "At five minutes to eleven rode off with Beatrice, good Sharp going with us, and having occasional collie shangles (a Scottish word for quarrels or rows, but taken from fights between dogs) with collies when we came near cottages."

16. COP A MOUSE
To get a black eye. "Cop in this sense is to catch or suffer," Forrester writers, "while the colour of the obligation at its worst suggests the colour and size of the innocent animal named.”

17. DADDLES
A delightful way to refer to your rather boring hands.

18. DAMFINO
This creative cuss is a contraction of "damned if I know.”

19. DIZZY AGE
A phrase meaning "elderly," because it "makes the spectator giddy to think of the victim's years." The term is usually refers to "a maiden or other woman canvassed by other maiden ladies or others.”

20. DOING THE BEAR
"Courting that involves hugging."

21. DON'T SELL ME A DOG
Popular until 1870, this phrase meant "Don't lie to me!” Apparently, people who sold dogs back in the day were prone to trying to pass off mutts as purebreds.

22. DOOR-KNOCKER
A type of beard "formed by the cheeks and chin being shaved leaving a chain of hair under the chin,
and upon each side of mouth forming with moustache something like a door-knocker."

23. ENTHUZIMUZZY
"Satirical reference to enthusiasm." Created by Braham the terror, whoever that is.

24. FIFTEEN PUZZLE
Not the game you might be familiar with, but a term meaning complete and absolute confusion.

25. FLY RINK
An 1875 term for a polished bald head.

26. GAL-SNEAKER
An 1870 term for "a man devoted to seduction.”

27. GAS-PIPES
A term for especially tight pants.

28. GIGGLEMUG
"An habitually smiling face.”

29. GOT THE MORBS
Use of this 1880 phrase indicated temporary melancholy.

30. HALF-RATS
Partially intoxicated.

31. JAMMIEST BITS OF JAM
"Absolutely perfect young females,” circa 1883.

32. KRUGER-SPOOF
Lying, from 1896.

33. MAD AS HOPS
Excitable.

34. MAFFICKING
An excellent word that means getting rowdy in the streets.

35. MAKE A STUFFED BIRD LAUGH
"Absolutely preposterous.”

36. MEATER
A street term meaning coward.

37. MIND THE GREASE
When walking or otherwise getting around, you could ask people to let you pass, please. Or you could ask them to mind the grease, which meant the same thing to Victorians.

38. MUTTON SHUNTER
This 1883 term for a policeman is so much better than "pig."

39. NANTY NARKING
A tavern term, popular from 1800 to 1840, that meant great fun.

40. NOSE BAGGER
Someone who takes a day trip to the beach. He brings his own provisions and doesn't contribute at all to the resort he's visiting.

41. NOT UP TO DICK
Not well.

42. ORF CHUMP
No appetite.

43. PARISH PICK-AXE
A prominent nose.

44. PODSNAPPERY
This term, Forrester writers, describes a person with a "wilful determination to ignore the objectionable or inconvenient, at the same time assuming airs of superior virtue and noble resignation.”

45. POKED UP
Embarrassed.

46. POWDERING HAIR
An 18th century tavern term that means "getting drunk.”

47. RAIN NAPPER
An umbrella.

48. SAUCE-BOX
The mouth.

49. SHAKE A FLANNIN
Why say you're going to fight when you could say you're going to shake a flannin instead?

50. SHOOT INTO THE BROWN
To fail. According to Forrester, "The phrase takes its rise from rifle practice, where the queer shot misses the black and white target altogether, and shoots into the brown i.e., the earth butt."

51. SKILAMALINK
Secret, shady, doubtful.

52. SMOTHERING A PARROT
Drinking a glass of absinthe neat; named for the green color of the booze.

53. SUGGESTIONIZE
A legal term from 1889 meaning "to prompt.”

54. TAKE THE EGG
To win.

55. UMBLE-CUM-STUMBLE
According to Forrester, this low class phrase means "thoroughly understood."

56. WHOOPERUPS
A term meaning "inferior, noisy singers" that could be used liberally today during karaoke sessions.

Source:  Passing English of the Victorian era, a dictionary of heterodox English, slang and phrase, by J. Redding Ware; 1909; Routledge, London.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

What is the Hobo Code?

The Language Late-19th Century Migrant Workers Created In Order To Survive
By Krissy Howard - May 3, 2017

Around the mid to late 1800s, poor, migrant workers roamed the country from coast to coast in search of work. Usually hopping onto train cars for a free, albeit illegal, ride to their next destination, the life of the transient worker was quite often a dangerous one, and in order to stay out of harm’s way, these men developed what is known as the “hobo code” to communicate with their fellow traveler.


Hobo culture after Civil War veterans, many of them now homeless, roamed the country in search of work.

The term “hobo,” now a somewhat offensive jab at those who make up homeless or vagrant populations, originated during this time and was used to describe impoverished migrant workers traversing the coasts in search of work and a place to call home, even if only for a few days.

Just how did one go about crossing the country with no money around the turn of the 20th century?

Train hopping, specifically freight cars which carried the train hoppers from state to state. A lucky worker may have even found himself employed by a railroad company on a part-time basis, making the tracks a common place for migrant workers to meet their needs.

Of course, hitching a free ride on a train traveling the countryside wasn’t exactly a leisurely endeavor, as train hopping was illegal even back then, forcing these workers to hide in cramped spaces for fear of being caught and kicked off, or hauled to jail.

Depending on what part of the country a hobo may have found themselves in, the weather conditions could be harsh and even life threatening — especially in the winter months up north, where many froze to death in search of their next day’s work.

In between rides and jobs, migrants were usually limited to squatting in abandoned buildings or other unusual places, an already difficult pursuit made even harder by law enforcement and area residents who considered them to be bad news.

This prompted the development of a language known as the “hobo code,” a series of characters and symbols hobos would use to communicate with one another, and most importantly to aid in their survival.

Although typically loners by circumstance, this group of vagabonds understood the importance of solidarity and helping their peers. They used the esoteric hobo code for everything from warning someone about vicious dogs, unfriendly owners, judges, cops, and anything else that would serve them well to avoid.

In addition to cautionary signs, the hobo code would allow migrants to share the wealth of valuable information they had picked up along the way, cluing others in on a home that may have a gracious host, a hayloft one could sleep in for the night, a place to seek care if others happened to be sick, and good, safe drinking water, among others.

The glyphs of the hobo code also helped hobos learn which systems were easiest to exploit, indicating churches that would provide them a free meal in exchange for a “religious talk,” easily manipulated by the sound of a “pitiful story,” or even, to put it simply, an “easy mark, sucker.”

While hobo culture, in its traditional sense, more or less disappeared sometime during the 20th century, the hobo code remains in use to this day, its symbols sometimes seen in areas which typically employ migrant workers or day laborers, such as docks and ferry crossing, as depicted in the photo above, which was seen at the Canal Street ferry in New Orleans, Louisiana.