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Illustrative And Humorous Anecdotes - Part 1

( Originally Published 1901 )

With a number of the following anecdotes a few suggestions are given as to the manner in which they may be used. The habit of thinking how a good story may be brought into an address should be formed, after which these hints will be superfluous. At the outset they may help to form the habit.


[A good illustration of complete independence. It can be used as a humorous description of a monopoly or as a compliment to a man who has complete control of his own affairs.]

An inquisitive passenger on a railroad recently had the following dialogue:

" Do you use the block system on this road ?" inquired the passenger.

" No, sir," replied the conductor; " we have no use for it."

" Do you use the electric or pneumatic signals ?" " No, sir."

" Have you a double track ?"

" No."

" Well, of course, you have a train dispatcher, and run all trains by telegraph?"

" No."

" I see you have no brakeman. How do you flag the rear of your train if you are stopped from any cause between stations ?"

" We don't flag."

" Indeed ! What a way to run a railroad ! A man takes his life in his hand when he rides on it. This is criminally reckless !"

" See here, mister ! If you don't like this railroad you can get off and walk. I am president of this road and its sole owner. I am also board of di-rectors, treasurer, secretary, general manager, super- - intendent, paymaster, trackmaster, general passenger agent, general freight agent, master mechanic, ticket agent, conductor, brakeman, and boss. This is the Great Western Railroad of Kentucky, six miles long, with termini at Harrodsburg and Harrodsburg Junction. This is the only train on the road of any kind, and ahead of us is the only engine. We never have collisions. The engineer does his own firing, and runs the repair shop and round-house all by himself. He and I run this railway. It keeps us pretty busy, but we've always got time to stop and eject a sassy passenger. So you want to behave yourself and go through with us, or you will have your baggage set off here by the haystack !"


[To ridicule extravagant explanations that do not explain—or unreasonable pretensions to antiquity.]

An old Scotch lady, who had no relish for mod-ern church music, was expressing her dislike to the singing of an anthem in her own church one day, when a neighbor said: " Why, that is a very old anthem ! David sang that anthem to Saul." To this the old lady replied: " Weel, weel ! I noo for the first time understan' why Saul threw his javelin at David when the lad sang for him."


[To illustrate hobby-riding—very appropriate where many toasts and speeches run in one line.]

A boy in Buffalo, N. Y., who was asked to write out what he considered an ideal holiday dinner menu, evolved the following:

Furst Corse.

Mince pie.

Second Corse.

Pumpkin pie and turkey.

Third Corse.

Lemon pie, turkey, and cranberries.

Fourth Corse.

Custard pie, apple pie, chocolate cake and plum





[Suitable caricature for any one who tries to make merit of doing what he cannot help.]

" If my employer does not retract what he said to me this morning I shall leave his store." " Why, what did he say ?" " He told me to look for another place."


[A silent guest might tell this to show that he had found a way to be of greatest service at a banquet.]

Mrs. Penfield—" My husband has found a way by which he says I am of the greatest help to him in his literary work."

Mrs. Hillaire—" How nice that must be for you, my dear ! But how are you able to do it ?"

Mrs. Penfield—" As soon as I see him at his desk I go into another room and keep perfectly quiet until he has finished."


[Would be a good answer to one who gave a compliment, and tried in that way to shove off a speech or other duty upon the one complimented.]

McSwatters—" It's very funny."

Mrs. McSwatters—" What is ?"

McSwatters—" Why, when the doctor treats me I always have to pay for it."


[Would come in well after several had declined to speak, the goose being the one who finally consents and tells the story.]

A lady had been looking for a friend for a long time without success. Finally, she came upon her in an unexpected way. " Well," she exclaimed, "I've been on a perfect wild-goose chase all day long, but, thank goodness, I've found you at last."


[To show that the chairman may safely confide in his own power to manage such poor material as the person who tells the story assumes himself to be.]

"And now what is it?" asked the sage, as the young man timidly approached. " Pray, tell me," asked the youth, " does a woman marry a man be-cause of her confidence in the man, or because of her confidence in her ability to manage him ?" For once the sage had to take the question under advisement.


[The following illustrates the advantages of a happy retort, the importance of a felicitous phrase, or of quick thought and ready speech. It might be said that the preceding speaker was as ready as:]

When Napoleon (then a student at Brienne) was asked how he would supply himself with provisions in a closely-invested town, he answered, without a moment's hesitation, " From the enemy," which so pleased the examiners that they passed him without further questions.

10. [The Russian General Suvaroff is said to have promoted one of his sergeants for giving substantially the same answer.]

The Emperor Paul, of Russia, was so provoked by the awkwardness of an officer on review that he ordered him to resign at once and retire to his estate. " But he has no estate," the commander ventured. " Then give him one !" thundered the despot, whose word was law, and the man gained more by his blunders than he could have done by years of the most skillful service.

11. [The anger of an actor took the same turn as that of the Czar.]

Colley Cibber once missed his " cue," and the con-fusion that followed spoiled the best passage of Betterton, who was manager as well as actor. He rushed behind the scenes in a towering passion, and ex-claimed, " Forfeit, Master Colley; you shall be fined for such stupidity I" " It can't be done," said a fellow-actor, " for he gets no salary." " Put him down for ten shillings a week and fine him five !" cried the furious manager.


[The need of accuracy, or how insignificant things sometimes change the meaning, is shown by the following.]

A merchant of London wrote his East India factor to send him 2 or 3 apes; but he forgot to write the "r " in " or," and the factor wrote that he had sent 80, and would send the remainder of the 203 as soon as they could be gathered in.


13. A very well-known writer had a similar experience. He was selling copies of his first literary venture, and telegraphed to the publisher to send him " three hundred books at once." He answered: " Shall I send them on an emigrant train, or must they go first-class? Had to scour the city over to get them. You must be going into the hotel business on a great scale to need so many Cooks." I was bewildered; but all was explained when a copy of the dispatch showed that the telegraph clerk had mistaken the small " b " for a capital " C."


[A guest pleading to be excused from a speech or a song might say that he wanted to be accounted as " Johnny Peep " in the following story which Allan Cunningham tells of Robert Burns.]

Strolling one day in Cumberland the poet lost his friends, and thinking to find them at a certain tavern he popped his head in at the door. Seeing no one there but three strangers, he apologized, and was about to retire, when one of the strangers called out, " Come in, Johnny Peep." This invitation the convivial poet readily accepted, and spent a very pleas-ant time with his newly-found companions. As the conversation began to flag, it was proposed that each should write a verse, and place it, together with twoand-six pence, under the candlestick, the best poet to take the half crowns, while the unsuccessful rhymers were to settle the bill among them. Ac-cording to Cunningham, Burns obtained the stakes by writing:

" Here am I, Johnny Peep;

I saw three sheep,

And these three sheep saw me. Half-a-crown apiece

Will pay for their fleece,

And so Johnny Peep goes free."

[Probably this boy would have seen the necessity of avoiding such rich banquets as this.]

" Say, ma, do they play base-ball in heaven ?" "Why, no, my dear; of course not. Why do you ask ?"

" Huh ! Well, you don't catch me being good and dying young then; that's all."

[" Brevity is the soul of wit;" and calculation and economy are very commendable; but they may be carried to extremes. This may be used when the last speaker has closed a little abruptly.]

This is the message the telegraph messenger handed a young man from his betrothed " Come down as soon as you can; I am dying. Kate."

Eight hours later he arrived at the summer hotel, to be met on the piazza by Kate herself.

" Why, what did you mean by sending me such a message?" he asked.

" Oh!" she gurgled, " I wanted to say that I was dying to see you, but my ten words ran out, and I had to stop."

Breslau, a celebrated juggler, being at Canterbury with his troupe, met with such bad success that they were almost starved. He repaired to the church wardens, and promised to give a night's takings to the poor if the parish would pay for hiring a room, etc. The charitable bait took, the benefit proved a bumper, and the next morning the church wardens waited upon the wizard to touch the receipts. "I have already disposed of dem," said Breslau; " de profits were for de poor. I have kept my promise, and given de money to my own people, who are de poorest in dis parish !"

" Sir!" exclaimed the church wardens, " this is a trick."

" I know it," replied the conjurer; " I live by my tricks."


[It is well to feel charitably and kindly at all times, but especially at a dinner party.]

A friend said to a Scotchman who was celebrated for possessing these amiable qualities, " I believe you would actually find something to admire in Satan himself." The canny Scot replied, " Ah ! weel, weel, we must a' admit that auld Nick has great energy and perseverance."

[If the chairman has been very persistent in calling out reluctant speakers, the foregoing would be a good story to turn the laugh upon him.]


[The Scotchman referred to in the last anecdote was as ingenious in finding a reason as the boy mentioned in the following:]

" Can you suggest any reason why I should print your poem ?" said the overbearing editor.

The dismal youth looked thoughtful, and then re-plied:

" You know I always inclose a stamp for the re-turn of rejected manuscript?"

" Yes."

" Well, if you print it you can keep the stamp." 8

[The equivocal use of words in our language.]

Recently a west-bound train on the Fitchburg (Mass.) Railroad had just left the town of Athol when the conductor noticed among the new passengers a young man of intelligent appearance. He asked for the young man's fare, and the latter handed him a ticket to Miller's Falls and with it a cent. For a moment the conductor suspected a joke, but a look at the passenger's face convinced him to the contrary.

" What is this cent for?" the conductor asked.

" Why, I see," answered the young fellow, "that the ticket isn't good unless it is stamped, and as I don't happen to have a stamp with me I give you the cent instead. You can put it on, can't you?"

The good-natured conductor handed back the coin with a smile, remarking that it was a small matter, and he would see that it was all right.


[Persons who pretend to regret something without making a real effort to better it are hit off by this anecdote.]

A father called his son rather late in the morning, and finding him still abed, indignantly demanded

"Are you not ashamed to be caught asleep this time of day ?"

" Yes, gather," returned the ingenious youth, " but I'd ruther be ashamed than git up."


[The great advantage of being fully adapted to one's situation and contented with it.]

There are people who cannot hold their heads under the influence of sudden riches. They immediately begin to degenerate. They have become so used to humble circumstances that wealth is a curse. Here is a case:

A tramp, for some mysterious reason, had accepted an offer to work about the place, for which he was to receive his meals, sundry old clothes, and 25 cents a day in cash. For the first two or three days he did very well, and he was paid 50 cents on account. He did not spend the money, but he began to grow listless and sad, and at the end of the week he interviewed his employer.

"You've been very kind to me, sir," he said, "and I want to thank you for what you have done."

" That's all right," was the reply. " I'm glad to be able to help you."

" I know that, sir, and I appreciate it, but I shall have to give it all up, sir."

" What's that for? Don't I pay you enough ?"

" Oh! yes, sir; that isn't it. I have 75 cents left, sir, but I find that money doesn't bring happiness, sir, and I guess I'll resign and go back to the old ways, sir. Wealth is a curse to some people, sir, and I fancy I belong to that class. Good-bye, sir." And he shambled off down the path and struck the high-way.


[Splendid for a speaker called up rather late in the evening—even if he should make a short speech afterward.]

Being nobody in particular, a Mr. Bailey was placed last on the list of the speakers. The chair-man introduced several speakers whose names were not on the list, and the audience were tired out when he said, " Mr. Bailey will now give you his address."

" My address," said Mr. Bailey, rising, " is No. 45 Loughboro Park, Brixton Road, and I wish you all good night."


[This is very common, as in the case of the heroine of this story.]

The director of a Chicago bank tells how his wife overdrew her account at the bank one day last month. " I spoke to her about it one evening," said he, " and told her she ought to adjust it at once. A day or two afterward I asked her if she had done what I suggested. ` Oh ! yes,' she answered. ` I attended to that matter the very next morning after you spoke about it. I sent the bank my check for the amount I had overdrawn.' "

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