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 August 18, 2017
“If you do pass the McKinley bill, we shall have to come over to your country and thrash you”

On “National Tell a Joke Day” (August 16, 2017), the Library of Congress Blog told the story of what could be the first audio recording of a joke. The joke concerned the Tariff Act of 1890 ("McKinley Tariff").

The joke was published in the Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle on January 4, 1860, and in Harper’s Weekly on January 18, 1862. The joke was adopted to reflect the tariff act in The Critic on July 26, 1890.


Wikipedia: McKinley Tariff
The Tariff Act of 1890, commonly called the McKinley Tariff, was an act of the United States Congress framed by Representative William McKinley that became law on October 1, 1890. The tariff raised the average duty on imports to almost fifty percent, an act designed to protect domestic industries from foreign competition. Protectionism, a tactic supported by Republicans, was fiercely debated by politicians and condemned by Democrats. The McKinley Tariff was replaced with the Wilson–Gorman Tariff Act in 1894, which promptly lowered tariff rates.

4 January 1860, Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, “Mercantile Library Lectures,” pg. 2, col. 3:
The lecture at the Atheneum last evening was delivered by Arthur Gilman, Esq., of Boston. His subject was “Characteristics of New England Humor.”
(...)
A Yankee captain was dining at Liverpool in company with some English confreres. As usual international politics began to be discussed and one of the Englishmen told him that the Americans were getting too saucy with their fillibustering and that if they didn’t care, the English would come over and given them a sound thrashing. “What, again!” said the Yankee holding up his knife and fork as if astonished.

Son of the South
Google Books
Harper’s Weekly
Volume 6
18 January 1862
Pg. 35, col. 1:
AGAIN?
A DAY or two before Mr. Seward’s letter appeared, an English gentleman, rubbing his hand briskly, remarked to an American friend, “War! war! of course war. You have insulted us, and we shall just turn to and lay you down, and give you a good thrashing.”

“What!” replied the American, quietly, scrawling carelessly upon the newspaper he was reading the figures 1775 and 1812, “What, again?”

Google Books
26 July 1890, The Critic, pg. 46, col. 1:
A LITERARY JOURNAL is not the place to discuss political and commercial problems, such as the tariff question; but even at the risk of treading upon dangerous turf, I must repeat an anecdote that made its way to my office not many days ago. An American and an Englishman were ‘talking tariff ‘ — good-humoredly enough, but from opposite points of view. Finally the Britisher explained: ‘I see plainly enough that the only way for us to open your markets to English goods, is to come over here and give you a good thrashing.’ ‘What, again?’ rejoined the American!

Library of Congress—Folklife Today
The First Sound Recording of a Joke?
July 17, 2017 by Nicole Saylor
This is a guest post by American Folklife Center archivist Kelly Revak.

I’ve recently joined the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress as an archivist. One of my first tasks was to catalog Jesse Walter Fewkes’s Passamaquoddy recordings as a part of the Ancestral Voices project team. Made in 1890, these recordings are notable as they are largely credited as the first use of recording technology in ethnographic work. These recordings, as well as Fewkes’s Hopi and Zuni recordings, are fairly well known, and were cataloged and preserved as a part of the Federal Cylinder Project in the 1970s.

Library of Congress Blog
National Tell-a-Joke Day: Listen to the Earliest Recording of One!
August 16, 2017 by Wendi Maloney
This is a guest post by American Folklife Center archivist Kelly Revak. An expanded version appeared in “Folklife Today,” the center’s blog.
(...)
An Englishman and an American were once discussing the McKinley Bill, and the Englishman said, ‘If you do pass that bill, we shall have to come over to your country and give you a thrashing!’ And the American said, “What, AGAIN?!”

If you are like me, and not deeply steeped in economic policy debates of the late 1800s, then this joke might not be immediately funny.

The late 1800s saw a fierce and protracted debate over tariff law that has never really been totally resolved. Republican protectionists favored heavy tariffs on imported goods to protect newly forming domestic industries, while Democrats were pushing to remove trade restrictions altogether. Drawing on heightened Anglophobia of the time, protectionists made anti-British themes a central part of their campaign. In 1890, Republican Rep. William McKinley of Ohio sponsored a tariff bill, dubbed the “McKinley Bill,” which explains the reference in the joke. It passed in October of that year, raising the average duty on imports to almost 50 percent.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Friday, August 18, 2017 • Permalink