Pages from the Past

Reader Contribution by Sam Moore
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I was leafing through the January, 1917 copy of Gas Review, a monthly magazine published in Madison, Wisconsin during the early decades of the 20th Century. The magazine was “For the Gas and Oil Engine User,” and discussed all sorts of mechanical stuff. The editor occasionally tried to inject a little humor into the pages and one of these efforts is quoted here. This was during World War I and anti-German sentiment was high and the piece, which was titled: “Jake Installs a Vacuum Cleaner” has “Jake Schmidt” telling of his experience with a salesman (agent) in heavily German accented English. I won’t use the weird spelling but will keep some of the accent.

What a nuisance is agents. They is always coming and spoiling the peace and quiet of a man’s home. 

Over six weeks ago comes a man what say he has invention that my wife got to have or she kill herself with housekeeping. And I tell that feller right away that he don’t know anything about my wife cause she ain’t never killed herself yet with housekeeping. 

And he say he has got a machine that will clean anything. It sweeps the floors and cleans the window curtains. It polishes the stove and cleans the rugs. It cleans the mattresses and quilts and you don’t even have to get out of bed while the mattress is being cleaned. It will clean down the cobwebs and the pictures on the wall. Ach! I don’t know what it won’t do. He tells me about seven hundred things that it clean. 

And he say that a child can work it and that it is so easy it’s foolproof. And I tell him he don’t need to think my wife and I are old fools. He say he don’t mean no offence but would like to show us what we can do with that machine. 

So we go in the house and he turns a crank and pushes a long hose all over the floor. And I can’t see what he is doing but pretty soon he opens the bag and it is full of dirt. He say there is a vacuum in the hose and that goes out and picks up all the dust and that in the way. Just then our old cat is running out the door and that vacuum reached out and grabbed that cat and you ought to see the fur fly. That poor animal is looking like a elephant now and all the fur is in the bag. 

And the more I holler at my wife, the more careless she is and switches that hose around everywhere. The next thing she knows the piano scarf is running down that hose and that made her so mad she laid down the hose on the sofa and come to me to tell me what an old fool I am to spoil her piano scarf, but right away that vacuum does some more mischief. It pulled all the feathers out of the feather duster that was on the sofa and then it grabbed the curtains off the window and pulled those into the bag. 

By golly, I think that there is a cyclone and my wife is so mad as wet hen. And she picked up that hose and is going to push me out of the room and the vacuum it just reached out and grabbed my whiskers and I think sure that I lose ‘em. But right away I stop turning that crank to get my whiskers out and when I stop turning, the vacuum it let go. 

That vacuum is all right, but when something happens you better stop turning the crank, by golly!  

Cartoon that accompanied the story in the original, although I changed what Jake said as the original didn’t make sense.  

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