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Best classic funny stories of 1900s

ABSENTMINDEDNESS

The man of the house finally took all the disabled umbrellas to the repairer’s. Next morning on his way to his office, when he got up to leave the street car, he absentmindedly laid hold of the umbrella belonging to a woman beside him, for he was in the habit of carrying one. The woman cried “Stop thief!” rescued her umbrella and covered the man with shame and confusion.

That same day, he stopped at the repairer’s, and received all eight of his umbrellas duly restored. As he entered a street car, with the unwrapped umbrellas tucked under his arm, he was horrified to behold glaring at him the lady of his morning adventure. Her voice came to him charged with a withering scorn:

“Huh! Had a good day, didn’t you!”

* * *

The absentminded inventor perfected a parachute device. He was taken up in a balloon to make a test of the apparatus. Arrived at a height of a thousand feet, he climbed over the edge of the basket, and dropped out. He had fallen two hundred yards when he remarked to himself, in a tone of deep regret:

“Dear me! I’ve gone and forgotten my umbrella.”

* * *

The professor, who was famous for the wool-gathering of his wits, returned home, and had his ring at the door[Pg 30] answered by a new maid. The girl looked at him inquiringly:

“Um-ah-is Professor Johnson at home?” he asked, naming himself.

“No, sir,” the maid replied, “but he is expected any moment now.”

The professor turned away, the girl closed the door. Then the poor man sat down on the steps to wait for himself.

* * *

The clergyman, absorbed in thinking out a sermon, rounded a turn in the path and bumped into a cow. He swept off his hat with a flourish, exclaiming:

“I beg your pardon, madam.”

Then he observed his error, and was greatly chagrined. Soon, however, again engaged with thoughts of the sermon, he collided with a lady at another bend of the path.

“Get out of the way, you brute!” he said.

* * *

The most absent-minded of clergymen was a Methodist minister who served several churches each Sunday, riding from one to another on horseback. One Sunday morning he went to the stable while still meditating on his sermon and attempted to saddle the horse. After a long period of toil, he aroused to the fact that he had put the saddle on himself, and had spent a full half hour in vain efforts to climb on his own back.

[Pg 31]

ACQUAINTANCE

The Scotchman who ran a livery was asked by a tourist as to how many the carryall would hold.

“Fower generally,” was the answer. “Likely sax, if they’re weel aquaint.”

ACTORS

The tragedian had just signed a contract to tour South Africa. He told a friend of it at the club. The friend shook his head dismally.

“The ostrich,” he explained in a pitying tone, “lays an egg weighing anywhere from two to four pounds.”

ADVERTISING

The editor of the local paper was unable to secure advertising from one of the business men of the town, who asserted stoutly that he himself never read ads., and didn’t believe anyone else did.

“Will you advertise if I can convince you that folks read the ads.?” the editor asked.

“If you can show me!” was the sarcastic answer. “But you can’t.”

In the next issue of the paper, the editor ran a line of small type in an obscure corner. It read:

“What is Jenkins going to do about it?”

The business man, Jenkins, hastened to seek out the editor next day. He admitted that he was being pestered out of his wits by the curious. He agreed to stand by the editor’s explanation in the forthcoming issue, and this was:

[Pg 32]

“Jenkins is going to advertise, of course.”

Having once advertised, Jenkins advertises still.

AFFECTION

There are as many aspects of grief as there are persons to mourn. A quality of pathetic and rather grisly humor is to be found in the incident of an English laborer, whose little son died. The vicar on calling to condole with the parents found the father pacing to and fro in the living-room with the tiny body in his arms. As the clergyman spoke phrases of sympathy, the father, with tears streaming down his cheeks, interrupted loudly:

“Oh, sir, you don’t know how I loved that li’ll faller. Yus, sir, if it worn’t agin the law, I’d keep him, an’ have him stuffed, that I would!”

AGE

The woman confessed to her crony:

“I’m growing old, and I know it. Nowadays, the policeman never takes me by the arm when he escorts me through the traffic.”

ALIBI

The mother called in vain for her young son. Then she searched the ground floor, the first story, the second, and the attic-all in vain. Finally, she climbed to the trap door in the roof, pushed it open, and cried:

“John Henry, are you out there?”

An answer came clearly:

“No, mother. Have you looked in the cellar?”

[Pg 33]

AMNESTY

The nurse at the front regarded the wounded soldier with a puzzled frown.

“Your face is perfectly familiar to me,” she said, musingly. “But I can’t quite place you somehow.”

“Let bygones be bygones, mum,” the soldier said weakly. “Yes, mum, I was a policeman.”

ANATOMY

The little boy, sent to the butcher shop, delivered himself of his message in these words:

“Ma says to send her another ox-tail, please, an’ ma says the last one was very nice, an’ ma says she wants another off the same ox!”

APPEARANCE

Little Willie came home in a sad state. He had a black eye and numerous scratches and contusions, and his clothes were a sight. His mother was horrified at the spectacle presented by her darling. There were tears in her eyes as she addressed him rebukingly:

“Oh, Willie, Willie! How often have I told you not to play with that naughty Peck boy!”

Little Willie regarded his mother with an expression of deepest disgust.

“Say, ma,” he objected, “do I look as if I had been playing with anybody?”

[Pg 34]

* * *

The cross-eyed man at the ball bowed with courtly grace, and said:

“May I have the pleasure of this dance?”

Two wallflowers answered as with one voice:

“With pleasure.”

APPETITE

The young man applied to the manager of the entertainment museum for employment as a freak, and the following dialogue occurred:

“Who are you?”

“I am Enoch, the egg king.”

“What is your specialty?”

“I eat three dozen hen’s eggs, two dozen duck eggs, and one dozen goose eggs, at a single setting.”

“Do you know our program?”

“What is it?”

“We give four shows every day.”

“Oh, yes, I understand that.”

“And do you think you can do it?”

“I know I can.”

“On Saturdays we give six shows.”

“All right.”

“On holidays we usually give a performance every hour.”

And now, at last, the young man showed signs of doubt.

[Pg 35]

“In that case, I must have one thing understood before I’d be willing to sign a contract.”

“What?”

“No matter what the rush of business is in the show, you’ve got to give me time to go to the hotel to eat my regular meals.”

* * *

Daniel Webster was the guest at dinner of a solicitous hostess who insisted rather annoyingly that he was eating nothing at all, that he had no appetite, that he was not making out a meal. Finally, Webster wearied of her hospitable chatter, and addressed her in his most ponderous senatorial manner:

“Madam, permit me to assure you that I sometimes eat more than at other times, but never less.”

* * *

It was shortly after Thanksgiving Day that someone asked the little boy to define the word appetite. His reply was prompt and enthusiastic:

“When you’re eating you’re ‘appy; and when you get through you’re tight-that’s appetite!”

APPRECIATION

The distinguished actor had a large photograph of Wordsworth prominently displayed in his dressing-room. A friend regarded the picture with some surprise, and remarked:

“I see you are an admirer of Wordsworth.”

“Who’s Wordsworth?” demanded the actor.

[Pg 36]

“Why, that’s his picture,” was the answer, as the friend pointed. “That’s Wordsworth, the poet.”

The actor regarded the photograph with a new interest.

“Is that old file a poet?” he exclaimed in astonishment. “I got him for a study in wrinkles.”

ARGUMENT

“Yes, ma’am,” the old salt confided to the inquisitive lady, “I fell over the side of the ship, and a shark he come along and grabbed me by the leg.”

“Merciful providence!” his hearer gasped. “And what did you do?”

“Let ‘im ‘ave the leg, o’ course, ma’am. I never argues with sharks.”

ART

An American tourist and his wife, after their return from abroad, were telling of the wonders seen by them at the Louvre in Paris. The husband mentioned with enthusiasm a picture which represented Adam and Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden, in connection with the eating of the forbidden fruit. The wife also waxed enthusiastic, and interjected a remark:

“Yes, we found the picture most interesting, most interesting indeed, because, you see, we know the anecdote.”

* * *

The Yankee tourist described glowingly the statue of a beautiful woman which he had seen in an art museum abroad.

[Pg 37]

“And the way she stood, so up and coming, was grand. But,” he added, with a tone of disgust, “those foreigners don’t know how to spell. The name of the statue was Posish’-and it was some posish, believe me! and the dumb fools spelt it-’Psyche!’”

* * *

“Tell me, does your husband snore?”

“Oh, yes, indeed-so delightfully.”

“What?”

“Yes, really-he’s so musical you know, his voice is baritone, he only snores operatic bits, mostly Aida.”

* * *

The packer from Chicago admired a picture by Rosa Bonheur.

“How much is that?” he demanded. The dealer quoted the price as $5,000.

“Holy pig’s feet!” the magnate spluttered. “For that money, I can buy live hogs and–”

His wife nudged him in the ribs, and whispered:

“Don’t talk shop.”

ATHLETICS

The sister spoke admiringly to the collegian who was calling on her after field day, at which she had been present.

“And how they did applaud when you broke that record!”

Her little brother, who overheard, sniffed indignantly.

“Pa didn’t applaud me for the one I broke,” he complained. “He licked me.”

[Pg 38]

AUTHORS

A woman lion-hunter entertained a dinner party of distinguished authors. These discoursed largely during the meal, and bored one another and more especially their host, who was not literary. To wake himself up, he excused himself from the table with a vague murmur about opening a window, and went out into the hall. He found the footman sound asleep in a chair. He shook the fellow, and exclaimed angrily:

“Wake up! You’ve been listening at the keyhole.”

BABIES

The visiting Englishman, with an eyeglass screwed to his eye, stared in fascinated horror at the ugliest infant he had ever seen, which was in its mother’s arms opposite him in the street car. At last, his fixed gaze attracted the mother’s attention, then excited her indignation.

“Rubber!” she piped wrathfully.

“Thank God!” exclaimed the Englishman. “I fancied it might be real.”

* * *

The teacher had explained to the class that the Indian women are called squaws. Then she asked what name was given to the children?

“Porpoises,” came one eager answer.

But a little girl whose father bred pigeons, called excitedly:

“Please, teacher, they’re squabs!”

[Pg 39]

BALDNESS

A patient complained to the doctor that his hair was coming out.

“Won’t you give me something to keep it in?” he begged.

“Take this,” the doctor said kindly, and he handed the patient a pill box.

[Pg 40]

BASEBALL

The teacher directed the class to write a brief account of a baseball game. All the pupils were busy during the allotted time, except one little boy, who sat motionless, and wrote never a word. The teacher gave him an additional five minutes, calling them off one by one. The fifth minute had almost elapsed when the youngster awoke to life, and scrawled a sentence. It ran thus:

“Rain-no game.”

BATTLE

Teacher: “In which of his battles was King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden slain?”

Pupil: “I’m pretty sure it was the last one.”

[Pg 42]

BEARS

The old trapper was chased by a grizzly. When he had thrown away everything he carried, and found, nevertheless, that the bear was gaining rapidly, he determined to make a stand. As he came into a small clearing, he faced about with his back to a stump, and got out and opened his clasp-knife. The bear halted a rod away, and sat on its haunches, surveying its victim gloatingly. The trapper, though not usually given to praying, now improved the interval to offer a petition.

“O God,” he said aloud, with his eyes on the bear, “if you’re on my side, let my knife git ‘im quick in ‘is vitals, an’ if you’re on ‘is side, let ‘im finish me fust off. But, O God, if you’re nootral, you jist sit thar on that stump, an’ you’ll see the darndest bear fight you ever hearn tell on!”

* * *

The guide introduced a tourist in the Rocky Mountains to an old hunter who was reputed to have slain some hundreds of bears.

“This feller,” the guide explained to the hunter, “would like to hear about some of the narrer escapes you’ve had from bears.”

The old mountaineer regarded the tourist with a disapproving stare.

“Young man,” he said, “if there’s been any narrer escapes, the bears had ‘em.”

[Pg 43]

BEER

The father of a school boy in New York City wrote to the boy’s teacher a letter of complaint. Possibly he welcomed the advent of prohibition-possibly not! Anyhow, the letter was as follows:

“Sir: Will you please for the future give my boy some eesier somes to do at nites. This is what he brought home to me three nites ago. If fore gallins of bere will fill thirty to pint bottles, how many pint and half bottles will nine gallins fill? Well, we tried and could make nothing of it all, and my boy cried and said he wouldn’t go back to school without doing it. So, I had to go and buy a nine gallin’ keg of bere, which I could ill afford to do, and then we went and borrowed a lot of wine and brandy bottles, beside a few we had by us. Well we emptied the keg into the bottles, and there was nineteen, and my boy put that down for an answer. I don’t know whether it is rite or not, as we spilt some in doing it.

P.S.-Please let the next one be water as I am not able to buy any more bere.”

* * *

The new soda clerk was a mystery, until he himself revealed his shameful past quite unconsciously by the question he put to the girl who had just asked for an egg-shake.

“Light or dark?” he asked mechanically.

[Pg 44]

BEGGARS

The cultured maid servant announced to her mistress, wife of the profiteer:

“If you please, ma’am, there’s a mendicant at the door.”

The mistress sniffed contemptuously:

“Tell ‘im there’s nothin’ to mend.”

BEGINNERS

A woman visitor to the city entered a taxicab. No sooner was the door closed than the car leaped forward violently, and afterward went racing wildly along the street, narrowly missing collision with innumerable things. The passenger, naturally enough, was terrified. She thrust her head through the open window of the door, and shouted at the chauffeur:

“Please, be careful, sir! I’m nervous. This is the first time I ever rode in a taxi.”

The driver yelled in reply, without turning his head:

“That’s all right, ma’am. It’s the first time I ever drove one!”

BETROTHAL

The cook, Nora, had announced her engagement to a frequenter at the kitchen, named Mike. But a year passed and nothing was heard of the nuptials. So, one day, the mistress inquired:

[Pg 45]

“When are you to be married, Nora?”

“Indade, an’ it’s niver at all, I’ll be thinkin’, mum,” the cook answered sadly.

“Really? Why, what is the trouble?”

The reply was explicit:

“‘Tis this, mum. I won’t marry Mike when he’s drunk, an’ he won’t marry me when he’s sober.”

* * *

The delinquent laggard swain had been telling of his ability as a presiding officer. The girl questioned him:

“What is the parliamentary phrase when you wish to call for a vote?”

The answer was given with proud certainty:

“Are you ready for the question?”

“Yes, dearest,” the girl confessed shyly. “Go ahead.”

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