‘Will Rogers Says’

We came across a copy of American HIstory magazine, not among the periodicals I have heretofore perused. Among the stories the editors tease on the cover: “First Twitter: Will Rogers tweeted 85 years ago.” (Really? I was thinking Samuel Pepys [Peeps] was the first Twitterer, but then I remembered he was really the first blogger.)

Anyway, the article is not yet online. It recounts how he began sending telegrams with brief observations to The New York Times in 1920 and how that turned into a daily feature in hundreds of American papers. The article has a couple of dozen of his brief messages, that were published under the headline “Will Rogers Says.” He’s fond of taking on the wealthy, the pompous, and the Republicans of his day (the closest voice I’ve heard in our day, though one much more self-consciously political, is Jim Hightower, the Texas guy). For instance, this came a couple months after the 1929 market crash:

Beverly Hills, Calif., Dec. 25, 1929–Passed the Potter’s Field yesterday and they was burying two staunch of Republicans, both of whom died of starvation, and the man in charge told me their last words were, “I still think America is fundamentally sound.”

And another, the day after FDR took office in 1933:

Santa Monica, Calif., March 5, 1933–America hasn’t been as happy in three years as they are today. No money, no banks, no work, no nothing, but they know they got a man in there who is wise to Congress, wise to our big bankers and wise to our so-called big men. The whole country is with him. Even if what he does is wrong they are with him. Just so as he does something. If he burned down the Capitol, we would cheer and say, “Well, we at least got a fire started anyhow.”

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