The Net Advance of Physics RETRO:
Judge Magazine Jokes Nervously About Flight, 1911

2015 June 22

Modern young people, to the consternation of their elders, are said to gain much of their knowledge of current events from satirists rather than from straightforward conventional journalists. This is not really anything new: for much of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, such magazines as Punch provided a tongue-in-cheek but also serious commentary on the affairs of the day. In the United States, one of the major "satirical media outlets" was the magazine Judge, founded in 1881. It remained in publication until the 1940s -- the future "Dr. Seuss" drew for it in the '20s -- and its influence could be felt in Twentieth Century magazines as diverse as The New Yorker and Mad.

Every year the Leslie-Judge publishing house would issue an annual containing what were deemed the best items to appear in Judge and its sister publications; the extracts below come from the 1911 edition. Reading such a yearbook can make one feel that 1911 was yesterday -- some of the same jokes circulate on the internet today. It can also make one feel that 1911 was a very long time ago indeed. The political items are especially confusing; Judge was staunchly Republican, but the Republican Party of 1911, no longer recognisably that of Lincoln, was not yet recognisably that of Nixon, much less of Reagan or Bush. Opinions which now seem at odds were advocated without sense of contradiction. Idealistic calls for universal human rights and warnings against the dangers of capitalism shared space with apalling "darkie" stories depicting Blacks as repulsive comic beings slightly lower than monkeys on the evolutionary scale; jokes about dizzy blondes and shrill mothers-in-law and photos of Broadway actresses in (by 1911 standards) revealing costumes appeared beside calls for female suffrage and recognition of women as men's equals.

If people laugh when they feel insecure, it is clear from the pages of Judge that in 1911, people were extremely insecure about technological change. Let's look at one rapidly evolving technology in particular ...


From CARICATURE (Eighth Edition)
by the Leslie-Judge Company, 225 Fifth Avenue, New York [1911]