A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from July 19, 2015
“Were you married by a Justice of the Peace or the Secretary of War?” (joke)

An old joke is about a bickering couple who were married by a Justice of the Peace, but should have been married by the Secretary of War. The position of “Justice of the Peace” is not the opposite of the “Secretary of War,” but it works for the joke.

The position of Secretary of War was replaced in 1947 by the Secretary of the Army, Secretary of the Air Force and Secretary of the Navy; since 1949, these have served under the Secretary of Defense. The joke was printed in many newspapers in 1921 and 1923, but has been rarely told after 1949.


Wikipedia: United States Secretary of War
The Secretary of War was a member of the United States President’s Cabinet, beginning with George Washington’s administration. A similar position, called either “Secretary at War” or “Secretary of War,” had been appointed to serve the Congress of the Confederation under the Articles of Confederation between 1781 and 1789. Benjamin Lincoln and later Henry Knox held the position. When Washington was inaugurated as the first president under the Constitution, he appointed Knox to continue serving.
(...)
In 1947, with the passing of the National Security Act of 1947, the Secretary of War was replaced by the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of the Air Force, which, along with the Secretary of the Navy, have since 1949 been non-Cabinet subordinates under the Secretary of Defense.

24 March 1921, The Evening Courier and Reporter (Waterloo, IA), pg. 18, col. 7:
NOTICE, TEX RICKARD!
Albany, N. Y., March 24.—Many odd queries reached the New York state income tax bureau, and one has finally stumped the experts, and is respectfully referred to Tex Rickard, the boxing promoter, for an answer:

“My wife and I were married by a justice of the peace. We have fought continuously since the day of our marriage. Should we have been married by the secretary of war?”

28 March 1921, Anaconda (MT) Standard, “Line o’ Sport,” pg. 8, col. 2:
Tex Rickard gets many odd letters in his mail. The other day the following query came in his mail: “My wife and I were married by a justice of the peace. We have fought continuously since the day of our marriage. Should we have been married by the secretary of war?”

22 April 1921, Kansas City (KS) Advocate, pg. 3, col. 4:
Many odd queries reach the income tax bureau of the treasury department. One came in the mail the other day which stumped all the officials in charge and was turned over to a Philadelphia lawyer. It was from a man in Ohio and read: “My wife and I were married by a justice of the peace. We have fought continuously since the day of our marriage. Should we have been married by the secretary of war.”

28 December 1921, Belleville (IL) News-Democrat, “The Ocinawile,” pg. 4, col. 2:
“I knew no good could come of it when we were married by the justice of the peace.”
“No—we should have been married by the secretary of war.”

23 January 1923, The Evening Star (Washington, DC), “Pithy Paragraphs,” pg. 30, col. 3:
“It’s no wonder you’re such a sissy,” declared the bad boy. “Your pa and ma were married by a justice of the peace.”

“Well,” retorted independent Mary, “from the noise I hear coming from your house, your pa and ma must have been married by the Secretary of War.”

Google Books
April 1923, High School Life, pg. 443, col. 1:
“It’s no wonder you’re such a sissy,” declared the bad boy. “Your pa and ma were married by a justice of the peace.”

“Well,” retorted independent Mary, “from the noise I hear coming from your house, your pa and ma must have been married by the Secretary of War.”
MRS. J. GILMORE
1539 Vermont avenue.

Google Books
Master Book of Humorous Illustrations
By Leewin Bell Williams
Nashville, TN:  Cokesbury Press
1938
“It’s no wonder you’re such a sissy,” declared the bad boy. “Your pa and ma were married by a justice of the peace.”

“Well,” retorted independent Mary, “from the noise I hear coming from your house, your pa and ma must have been married by the Secretary of War.”

Twitter
Paul’s Jokes
‏@MoreTwitty
Old #Joke (OJ):
“Were you married by a Justice of the Peace?”
“No. The Secretary of War.”
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Find most of my jokes at #cleanjoke
1:07 PM - 19 Jul 2015

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Sunday, July 19, 2015 • Permalink