Monday, May 3, 2010

1910 "Tickling Brush" Puts City's Panties in a Bunch

Emily's note about the Statesman's "the best adult-related businesses" reminded us of a hilarious oddball story we found.

You just can't make up this stuff!


Innocent Plaything Is Converted Into Iniquitous Instrument of Torture and Breeder of Undue Familiarity Between Classes and Direct Medium for the Spreading of Contagious Diseases - City Authorities Take Action - Offenders to Be Arrested

Direct measures are to be taken by Mayor Rodgers and Chief of Police Gibson and staff officers to put a stop to, or at least to curtail the use of the vulgar instrument known as used as the "tickling brush" during the remaining days of the old Cherry Fair. This article, if used rightly and within the bounds of decency and respectability, is the promoter of much innocent and wholesome fun and sport but when it is wielded and brandished indiscriminately in the faces of all, it immediately becomes the innocent medium of disgust, promoter of fights and disorder, and spreader of contagious diseases among the masses. It becomes the promoter of too much vulgar familiarity toward respectable young girls and ladies on the part of the rough, rowdy and hoodlum element and is likely to cause serious trouble if its use is not prohibited entirely or regulated within the bounds of decency and respect. Inasmuch as the sale of these brushes is under control of the Arnold carnival concessions and was not prohibited by the cherry authorities in the making of the contract, it is doubtful if the sale of them can be stopped unless they be declared a public nuisance, as in the case of confetti, and this Mayor Rodgers intends to do if their use continues to be abused, and Chief of Police Gibson and his officers will arrest every offender caught in the act of abusing the privilege and those against whom complaints are made and a heavy fine will be imposed upon conviction.
The google hasn't turned up vintage candidates for said brush, unfortunately. Do any fair readers know? We can't decide if this is coded rhetoric for what we'd now call a vintage sex toy with multiple uses (some of which might plausibly have occurred in public), a real child's toy, or something else entirely.

The Cherry Fair started in 1903, according the the City's online history, and "Salem became known as the 'Cherry City' as a result of the outstanding exhibits at the Cherry Fair held July, 1907."

1910 was the year the City finally secured a conviction for Madam McGinnis and her brothel. There's a clear transition towards respectability and temperance as Salem goes from something of a wild west provincial town to having airs of being a more proper capital city.

The fuss and fears over urban chickens shows some of the same anxiety about respectability. What other things and issues will read so ludicrously in 100 years? Salem in 2010 maybe's not so different from Salem in 1910?

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