Tag Archives: Richmond Dispatch
April is a special time of year: the first full month of Spring; the beginning of baseball season (Hallelujah!) and the month designated as Poetry Month. So in honor of these two important points on the country’s cultural calendar, and combining the two art forms – poetry and baseball – Team Newspaper Project thought it would be of interest for readers to visit one of the great short yet epic poems of the late 19th century: “Casey at the Bat.”
Newspapers around the country published the poem by Ernest L. Thayer many times over the years. It is interesting to note that the poem, while steeped in the details and lore of baseball, was written in 1888, a time that might be described as the game’s childhood. While the Harvard educated Thayer might have been satisfied with his paean to the American pastime, it is hard to say if he was happy with the fact that he never wrote anything that made close to the same impact on the American psyche as the story of the great slugger for the Mudville Nine.
Newspapers had a habit of playing fast and loose with a poem’s content, especially if it was considered boilerplate or something that was not specifically local but possibly of interest to readers. Proof of that revealed itself in my first search of “Casey at the Bat:”
The version that appears in the Courier notes that the poem was recited by the actor/ comedian, DeWolf Hopper. Like Thayer, Hopper’s greatest claim to fame may lie in his estimated 10,000 plus recitations of “Casey at the Bat” during his career – though that distinction could be nudged out by his nine-year marriage to Hedda Hopper, legendary Los Angeles … read more »
By Claire Johnson, Newspaper Project Intern
For young women at the turn of the century, Halloween presented an opportunity to glimpse into the future and see the face of their husband-to-be by completing one of several complex rituals. The Richmond Dispatch on October 31, 1897 described one such ritual, performed at or near midnight on Halloween. Wearing her hair loose down her back and barefoot, the curious young woman must light a candle, and descend down her basement stairs backwards. As she walks, she repeats a stanza from Robert Burns’ 1743 poem, “Green Grow the Rashes:” “Auld Nature swears the lovely dears, Her noblest work she classes, O: Her ‘prentice han’ she tried on man, And then she made the lasses, O!”At the bottom of the steps, after turning around twice and taking ten steps, she looks over her shoulder into a mirror. If she is going to be married, she will see the reflection of her husband in the mirror.
The same article explained the soothsaying powers of “ducking for apples.” The instructions begin in a familiar way for those of us who bobbed for apples at harvest festivals or Halloween parties as children: fill a vessel with water and add apples, then close your eyes, lean in, and try to get one. Here, 19th century ducking for apples diverges from the modern incarnation of the game. According to the superstition, those who successfully picked up an apple with their teeth three times in five minutes would dream of their future spouse that night.