Remembering The Stink-weed

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Remembering The Stink-weed

The Onion was not the first publication I edited and published. In my senior year at Cadwalader Preparatory Academy, I was in charge of the school humorous magazine, The Stink-weed. It was so named to remind the reader of the noxious odor of this vegetation and to lend an over-all air of non-refinement. But I assure you, it was all for the sake of harm-less jocularity.

I always made sure that The Stink-weed was filled with the finest comic doggerel, epigrams, and song of a light-hearted nature. Much of The Stink-weed's success was based on the fact that its humor was so time-less. This was quite deliberate. Even at the tender age of 17, I found my-self bored and irritated by the ephemeral subject-matter of the great humor journals of the day, Punch and Puck. Many years from now, I precociously reasoned, who would give a fig about the tin-pot politicians and public figures who were lampooned in those publications' pages? I believed it was far better to ridicule general foibles of human nature, which stay with us always. I think you will agree with my approach after you read this ever-green classic, an essay I wrote in the May 1887 issue of The Stink-weed:

"An Observation Regarding The Ways In Which The Gentle-Men Wear Their Waist-Coats. The way in which a gentle-man wears his waist-coat bespeaks much about his character. For example, if a gentle-man secures all the buttons of his waist-coat, it indicates that he is a sober Christian gentle-man who purchases his grain directly from the whole-saler. A gentle-man with one or two of his buttons undone is a gentle-man of leisure who is equally at home at brothel and beer-hall alike. The gentle-man with all the buttons undone is doubt-less an immigrant, Negro or one of similar low stature. And the gentle-man wearing no waist-coat? Why, to even describe him as a 'gentle-man' would be of the utmost folly!"

It boggles the mind to think that such age-less yet wonderfully witty insight could have flowed from the pen of a mere adolescent! The difficulty of keeping spats clean, the lighter side of child-bed fever, the Polish race: no subject was safe from my jocose pen!

Unfortunately, I quit under a cloud. My cohorts wanted to turn The Stink-weed into a parody of the local town news-paper. This I would not do. Humorous or not, I wanted no part of any-thing that would mock the gallant news-paper trade!