Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Still More 19th Century Knock Knock Jokes

Still More 19th Century Knock Knock Jokes

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 07, 2008

Another installment of high class comedy from those cut-ups at the original Keepapitchinin office:

Sum men iz foolz
For want ov sense,
And sum iz foolz
For want ov pence;

But the gratest fool –
Beyond recall –
Iz he hoo thinks
He noze it all.


Correspondent: Will the other numbers of your paper be exactly like the first?

Keepapitchinin: Not exactly; we shall change the jokes now and then.


Our local says there is a great deal of ‘Backsliding’ among our subscribers this frosty weather.



Versificated for the Salt Lake Theater.

It was on little Cottonwood
A deadly hatred grew,
Between old Caleb Capulet
And Moses Montague.
Now Moses had an only son –
A bully sort of beau –
The pet of all the pretty girls,
His name young Romeo.

And Caleb owned a female girl
Just home from boarding school.
Miss Juliet was her given name,
For short they called her Jule.
To bring the lady out, he gave
A Bawl at his Plantation,
And thither went young Romeo
Without an invitation.

One Tybalt, kinsman of the host
Began to growl and pout,
And watched an opportunity
To put the fellow out.
But Caleb saw the game & said,
“Now cousin, don’t be cross –
Behave yourself or leave the room –
Are I or you the Boss?”

When Juliet saw young Romeo
His beauty did enchant her;
And Romeo he fell in love
With Juliet instanter.
Now lest their dads should spoil the fun –
But little time was tarried,
They went to Squire What’s-his-name
And secretly were married.

Oh! Cruel fate! That day the groom
Met Tybalt in the square –
And Tybalt, being very drunk,
At Romeo did swear.
Then Romeo his weapon drew –
(A knife of seven blades,)
And made a gap in Tibby’s ribs
That sent him to the shades.

Outspake the worthy magistrate
(And savagely did frown,)
“Young man, you have to lose your head,
Or else vamoose the town.”
He chose the last and left his bride
In solitude to pine,
“Ah, me,” said he, “our honey-moon
Is nothing but moonshine.”

And then to make the matter worse,
Her father did embarrass,
By saying she must give her hand
To a country jake from Paris [Rich Co., that is]
“This suitor is a goodly youth –
To-day he comes to woo –
If you refuse the gentleman
I’ll soundly whallop you.”

She went to Squire What’s-his-name,
To know what must be done.
The Squire bade her go to bed,
And take some lau-da-num,
“’Twill make you sleep and seem as dead –
Thus canst thou dodge this blow.
A humbugged man your pa will be –
A blest one Romeo.”

She drank, she slept –
Grew wan and cold.
They buried her next day.
That she’d piped out
Her lord got word
Far off in Hel-e-na.
Quote he, “Of life I’ve had enough –
I’ll hire Van Tassel’s dray;
Lay in a pint of Howard’s rum,
And lie with Ju-li-a.”

Then rode he to the sepulchre,
’mong dead folks, bats and creepers;
And swallowed down the burning dose,
When Juliet op’d her peepers.
“Are you alive, or is’t your ghost?
Speak quick before I go!”
“Alive!” she cried,
“And kicking too;
Art thou my Romeo?”

“It is indeed, your Romeo
My faded little blossom.
Oh! Juliet, is it possible
That you were acting possum?”
“You bet your life! Now let’s go home;
Pa’s spite will have abated.
What ails you love –
You stagger so –
Are you intoxicated?”

“No, no, my duck.
I took some stuff
That caused a little fit – ”
He struggled hard to tell her all,
But couldn’t, so he quit.
In shorter time than takes a lamb
To wag his little tail,
Poor Romeo was stiff, and cold
As any walnut rail.

Then Juliet sezied that awful knife,
And in her bosom stuck it –
Let out a most terrific yell –
Fell down, and kicked the bucket.

The [latter] End.



  1. “Our local says there is a great deal of ‘Backsliding’ among our subscribers this frosty weather.”

    Given the time and place, that is hilarious.

    Comment by Ray — June 7, 2008 @ 1:03 pm

  2. Ray, the boys in the old Keepapitchinin office seem to get around to joking about slippin’ and slidin’ and strapping pillows aft rather often. I wonder when banana peel jokes came into vogue?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 7, 2008 @ 1:27 pm

  3. I’ve been wondering what the old Keepapitchinin crew was using for source material. [Did Bernhisel include any collections of slapstick humor in his 1851 library? :-)] Was it a combination of original jokes and local humor and jokes and humor taken from other sources?

    The Romeo and Juliet poem somehow rang a bell. Looking up “Caleb Capulet” and “Moses Montague”, it appears exactly three times in a google search. Once here. Once in another joke collection in the September 1860 Daily Gazette & Comet newspaper (Baton Rouge, LA) and once in a book [google books] called “Monologues, Epigrams, Epitaphs and Parodies” (compiled by John F. Hartman, New York, 1910). It does not appear in the New York Times archive.

    The other two sources didn’t localize the poem like the SLC crew did. They had “It was in ancient Italy a deadly hatred grew…” The author is listed as “Anon” in the NY book and “Bouricicaulted By Joe Backstock” in the Louisiana newspaper. (“Bouricicaulted”?!? Is that a French pun?)

    I don’t know why I would think that the poem sounded familiar. Perhaps it’s just the rhythm and style. Like the good old classics, “Casey at the Bat” and “The Cremation of Sam McGee.”

    Sorry for this extensive comment; I probably need to find something to do besides analyze this 19th century humor rag on a Saturday of all things. But I have been enjoying your selections from the original Keepapitchinin. I love the last stanza of the Romeo and Juliet poem.

    And by the way, I saw the following in the 1910 book (very excerpted):

    The Banana Peel

    Like the bar of the beaten gold
    I gleam in the summer sun;
    I am little, I know, but I think I can throw
    A man that will weigh a ton…

    I’m a canary-colored Republican born,
    And a Nihilist fearless I be;
    Though the head wear a crown, I would bring its pride down,
    If it set its proud heel upon me.

    Comment by Researcher — June 7, 2008 @ 2:17 pm

  4. “‘Bouricicaulted’?!? Is that a French pun?”

    I bet it’s a reference to Dion Boucicault/Boursiquot a playwright/actor famous for, among other things, adapting novels or stories for the stage. His 1859 stage adaptation, “The Octoroon,” which dealt with inter-racial romance on a Louisiana plantation, was, no doubt, a topic of discussion in Baton Rouge in 1860.

    (For similar verb formation, see Thomas Bowdler/bowdlerize.) See also the found of all wisdom…

    Comment by Edje — June 7, 2008 @ 5:17 pm

  5. /banana threadjack [Ardis, I hope you don’t mind my going on a bit at length about banana peels…]

    If I understand correctly, bananas were not imported commercially to the United States until 1870. A quick search for “banana peel” in the New York Times (which, like most newspapers, frequently printed jokes) from 1857 to 1910 shows 76 hits. The first two are reports in 1872 and 1877 of people slipping and injuring themselves (one while attempting to escape capture by the police).

    The third is an 1880 report on the meeting of the board of alderman; they debated “an ordinance prohibiting any person from throwing banana-peels, orange-peels, or other like substances on the sidewalks, from which accidents occasionally occur.” One alderman objected “because children might be arrested for committing the offense.” Another suggested that “no arrests for violating its provisions should be made after 2 o’clock in the afternoon. His object was that if chldren were taken into custody they would not be compelled to remain all night in the station-house. The last speaker “said that a person ought to be satisfied if he never fell on anything heavier than a banana-peel,” which prompted laughter. The ordinance was tabled. (NYT, 1880 Mar 10, p 8).

    The first out-and-out peel joke printed in a collection of humorous quips is June 1880: “The Chicago Inter-Ocean having come to the conclusion that ‘a full-grown man who throws banana peels upon the sidewalk is no Christian,’ the Cincinnati Commercial anxiously inquires: ‘Well, what do you think of the banana peel that throws a full-grown man upon the sidewalk?'”

    Skipping ahead to the 11th hit: “Once upon a time, inspired with wisdom from some unknown source, the Alderman forbade the gratuitous and indiscriminate distribution of fruit skins over the pavements. They, moreover, ordered that placards, bearing in good legible type the text of the ordinance, be displayed on the stands of the fruit vendors. The placards are there. He that runs may read them; and he that walks may step upon the banana skin lying in wait for him. The banana skin’s presence is felt in the community, frequently, sadly, and emphatically. It goeth forth like a roaring lion, seeking whom it may destroy. It is a stumbling-block to the feet of them that walk. And nowhere is it more obviously, persistently, and dangerously present than in the immediate vicinity of the fruit stands. It is some one’s business to see that the ordinance displayed on the fruit stands is obeyed; but, as usual, some one does not attend to his business. Now is the time when the fruit stand has a good run of trade, and the various species of rinds are becoming numerous. It would be unto edification if the particular some one whose business it is to enforce the ordinance aroused himself to a sense of the condition of things.” (NYT, 1884 Jun 9, p 4).

    The 16th hit is another joke: “A banana skin rightly located forms as much of an obstruction to the highway as would a mule.” (1886 May 21, p 4).

    …and that’s the last one I read. So, with the expertise gained from reading a mere sixteen newspaper notes, I observe that there (1) banana peels were serious business; one report expected the victim to die as a result of his injuries. (2) Most of the pieces acknowledged a form of humor/entertainment in seeing someone slip on a peel. (3) There were ethnic/class edges on the subject. Some of the pieces (some jesting, some not) associated peels with juvenile delinquents, ethnic neighborhoods, anarchists, communists, and the poor.

    /end massively long tangent.

    Comment by Edje — June 7, 2008 @ 6:18 pm

  6. Researcher, you justify your nom de plume, and Edje, I don’t even know where to start with you! This is all wonderful stuff. In fact, it’s so good that I wish the discoveries of both of you were guest posts rather than comments — next time you’re drawn to do research like this and come up with material this good, write to me directly and let’s talk about posting it that way.

    As for a response, about all I can say is “hurray! and thanks.” It had never occurred to me to wonder whether this bowdlerized (I knew Bowdler, but not Boucicault) “Romeo and Juliet” was an original Keepapitchinin “pome” or one adapted from someone else, and although jokes about sliding reminded me of banana peel jokes, it didn’t occur to me to research that, either. What we have going on here is a serious look at humor as folklore, and I enjoy the conversation. Thank you both for this whole thing.

    More! More!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 7, 2008 @ 6:59 pm

  7. Thanks for the response, Ardis. It’s always a pleasure.

    And now… I surrender to my initial urge and say that a conversation about bananas and humor is a-peel-ing.

    Comment by Edje — June 7, 2008 @ 8:46 pm

  8. That low rumble you hear all around you is the sound of the Bloggernacle’s collective groan …

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 7, 2008 @ 8:58 pm

  9. and I thought it was indigestion

    Comment by Ray — June 7, 2008 @ 9:22 pm

  10. Has anybody else ever heard this bit of lowbrow doggerel?

    ‘Twas at the Halfway House they met
    Romeo and Juliet,
    And when they left they were in debt,
    For Rome-owed what Juli-et.

    The author is listed as anonymous, and who can blame him? I mean, would you want your name associated with that poem?

    Actually, I would, and it strikes me as something the original Keepapitchin crew would have been proud to publish.

    I’m really enjoying these, Ardis.

    Comment by Mark IV — June 7, 2008 @ 9:45 pm

  11. har-har-har, Mark! I’ve heard the last line but couldn’t have quoted the set-up. Even if you’re not the author, your name is immortalized in connection with the poem by sponsoring it here on this, ahem, most prestigious of historical Mormon humor sites.

    And I’m glad you’re liking the jokes and the conversation that comes with them, since you’re the one who inspired this series. Next up will be some illustrated Keepapitchinin comics which almost have to have been original to that paper because they’re so topical to Mormon concerns and the events of circa 1870. You’ll recognize the post because it will have the utterly original title of “Yet Still More 19th Century Knock Knock Jokes.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 7, 2008 @ 10:11 pm

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