Top jokes from 1900s


It was nine o’clock in the morning, but this particular passenger on the platform of the trolley car still wore a much crumpled evening suit.

As the car swung swiftly around a curve this riotous liver was jolted off, and fell heavily on the cobble stones.[Pg 81] The car stopped, and the conductor, running back, helped the unfortunate man to scramble to his feet. The bibulous passenger was severely shaken, but very dignified.

“Collision?” he demanded.

“No,” the conductor answered.

“Off the track?” was the second inquiry.

“No,” said the conductor again.

“Well!” was the indignant rejoinder. “If I’d known that, I wouldn’t have got off.”

* * *

The very convivial gentleman left his club happy, but somewhat dazed. On his homeward journey, made tackingly, he ran against the vertical iron rods that formed a circle of protection for the trunk of a tree growing by the curb. He made a tour around the barrier four times, carefully holding to one rod until he had a firm grasp on the next. Then, at last, he halted and leaned despairingly against the rock to which he held, and called aloud for succor:

“Hellup! hellup! Somebody let me out!”

* * *

The highly inebriated individual halted before a solitary tree, and regarded it as intently as he could, with the result that he saw two trees. His attempt to pass between these resulted in a near-concussion of the brain. He reeled back, but presently sighted carefully, and tried again, with the like result. When this had happened a half-dozen times, the unhappy man lifted up his voice and wept.

[Pg 82]

“Lost-Lost!” he sobbed. “Hopelessly lost in an impenetrable forest!”

* * *

The proprietor of the general store at the cross-roads had his place overrun by rats, and the damage was such that he offered a hundred dollars reward to anyone who would rid him of the pests. A disreputable-appearing person turned up one morning, and announced that he was a professional rat-killer.

“Get to work,” the store-keeper urged.

“I must have a pound of cheese,” the killer declared.

When this had been provided:

“Now give me a quart of whiskey.”

Equipped with the whiskey, the professional spoke briskly:

“Now show me the cellar.”

An hour elapsed, and then the rat-catcher galloped up the cellar stairs and leaped into the store. His face was red, the eyes glaring, and he shook his fists in defiance of the world at large, as he jumped high in air and shouted:

“Whoopee! I’m ready! bring on your rats!”

* * *

Two Southern gentlemen, who were of very convivial habits, chanced to meet on the street at nine o’clock in the morning after an evening’s revel together. The major addressed the colonel with decorous solemnity:

“Colonel, how do you feel, suh?”

The colonel left nothing doubtful in the nature of his reply:

[Pg 83]

“Major,” he declared tartly, “I feel like thunder, suh, as any Southern gentleman should, suh, at this hour of the morning!”

* * *

The old toper was asked if he had ever met a certain gentleman, also notorious for his bibulous habits.

“Know him!” was the reply. “I should say I do! Why, I got him so drunk one night it took three hotel porters to put me to bed.”

* * *

A farmer, who indulged in sprees, was observed in his Sunday clothes throwing five bushels of corn on the ear into the pen where he kept half a dozen hogs, and he was heard to mutter:

“Thar, blast ye! if ye’re prudent, that orter last ye.”

* * *

A mouse chanced on a pool of whiskey that was the result of a raid by prohibition-enforcement agents. The mouse had had no previous acquaintance with liquor, but now, being thirsty, it took a sip of the strange fluid, and then retired into its hole to think. After some thought, it returned to the pool, and took a second sip of the whiskey. It then withdrew again to its hole, and thought. Presently, it issued and drew near the pool for the third time. Now, it took a big drink. Nor did it retreat to its hole. Instead, it climbed on a soap box, stood on its hind legs, bristled its whiskers, and squeaked:

“Now, bring on your cat!”

[Pg 84]

* * *

The owner of a hunting lodge in Scotland presented his gamekeeper with a fur cap, of the sort having ear flaps. When at the lodge the following year, the gentleman asked the gamekeeper how he liked the cap. The old man shook his head dolefully.

“I’ve nae worn it since the accident.”

“What accident was that?” his employer demanded. “I’ve heard of none.”

“A mon offered me a dram, and I heard naething of it.”

* * *

The old farmer was driving home from town, after having imbibed rather freely. In descending a hill, the horse stumbled and fell, and either could not, or would not, get to its feet again. At last, the farmer spoke savagely:

“Dang yer hide, git up thar-or I’ll drive smack over ye!”

* * *

Mrs. Smith addressed her neighbor, whose husband was notoriously brutal, and she spoke with a purr that was catty:

“You know, my dear, my husband is so indulgent!”

And the other woman retorted, quite as purringly:

“Oh, everybody knows that. What a pity he sometimes indulges too much!”

* * *

In the days before prohibition, a bibulous person issued from a saloon in a state of melancholy intoxication, and outside the door he encountered a teetotaler friend.

[Pg 85]

The friend exclaimed mournfully:

“Oh, John, I am so sorry to see you come out of such a place as that!”

The bibulous one wept sympathetically.

“Then,” he declared huskily, “I’ll go right back!” And he did.

* * *

When the Kentucky colonel was in the North, some one asked him if the Kentuckians were in fact very bibulous.

“No, suh,” the colonel declared. “I don’t reckon they’re mo’ than a dozen Bibles in the whole state.”

* * *

The Irish gentleman encountered the lady who had been ill, and made gallant inquiries.

“I almost died,” she explained. “I had ptomaine-poisoning.”

“And is it so?” the Irishman gushed. And he added in a burst of confidence: “What with that, ma’am, and delirium tremens, a body these days don’t know what he dare eat or drink.”


The police physician was called to examine an unconscious prisoner, who had been arrested and brought to the station-house for drunkenness. After a short examination, the physician addressed the policeman who had made the arrest.

“This fellow is not suffering from the effects of alcohol. He has been drugged.”

[Pg 86]

The policeman was greatly disturbed, and spoke falteringly:

“I’m thinkin’, ye’re right, sor. I drugged him all the way to the station.”


The traveler was indignant at the slow speed of the train. He appealed to the conductor:

“Can’t you go any faster than this?”

“Yes,” was the serene reply, “but I have to stay aboard.”


One Japanese bragged to another that he made a fan last twenty years by opening only a fourth section, and using this for five years, then the next section, and so on.

[Pg 87]

The other Japanese registered scorn.

“Wasteful!” he ejaculated. “I was better taught. I make a fan last a lifetime. I open it wide, and hold it under my nose quite motionless. Then I wave my head.”

* * *

Wife:-“Women are not extravagant. A woman can dress smartly on a sum that would keep a man looking shabby.”

Husband:-“That’s right. What you dress on keeps me looking shabby.”


In these days of difficulty in securing domestic servants, mistresses will accept almost any sort of help, but there are limits. A woman interrogated a husky girl in an employment office, who was a recent importation from Lapland. The dialogue was as follows:

“Can you do fancy cooking?”


“Can you do plain cooking?”


“Can you sew?”


“Can you do general housework?”


“Make the beds, wash the dishes?”


“Well,” cried the woman in puzzled exasperation, “what can you do?”

“I milk reindeer.”

[Pg 88]

* * *

The undertaker regarded the deceased in the coffin with severe disapproval, for the wig persisted in slipping back and revealing a perfectly bald pate. He addressed the widow in that cheerfully melancholy tone which is characteristic of undertakers during their professional public performance.

“Have you any glue?”

The widow wiped her eyes perfunctorily, and said that she had.

“Shall I heat it?” she asked. The undertaker nodded gloomily, and the relic departed on her errand. Presently, she returned with the glue-pot.

But the undertaker shook his head, and regarded her with the gently sad smile to which undertakers are addicted, as he whispered solemnly:

“I found a tack.”

* * *

An engineer, who was engaged on railroad construction in Central America, explained to one of the natives living alongside the right of way the advantages that would come from realization of the projected line. To illustrate his point, he put the question:

“How long does it take you to carry your produce to market by muleback?”

“Three days, señor,” was the answer.

“Then,” said the engineer, “you can understand the benefit the road will be to you. You will be able to take your produce to market, and to return home on the same day.”

“Very good, señor,” the native agreed courteously.

“But, señor, what shall we do with the other two days?”

[Pg 89]


The farmer decided to give special attention to the development of his poultry yard, and he undertook the work carefully and systematically. His hired man, who had been with him for a number of years, was instructed, among other things, to write on each egg the date laid and the breed of the hen. After a month, the hired man resigned.

“I can’t understand,” the farmer declared, surprised and pained, “why you should want to leave.”

“I’m through,” the hired man asserted. “I’ve done the nastiest jobs, an’ never kicked. But I draw the line on bein’ secretary to a bunch o’ hens.”


The pessimist spoke mournfully to his friend:

“It is only to me that such misfortunes happen.”

“What’s the matter now?”

The pessimist answered dolefully:

“Don’t you see that it is raining?”


A circus man was scouring the countryside in search of an elephant that had escaped from the menagerie and wandered off. He inquired of an Irishman working in a field to learn if the fellow had seen any strange animal thereabouts.

[Pg 90]

“Begorra, Oi hev thot!” was the vigorous answer. “There was an inju-rubber bull around here, pullin’ carrots with its tail.”


Some months after the elopement, an old friend met the bridegroom, and asked eagerly for details.

“What about her father? Did he catch you?”

“Just that!” quoth the bridegroom grimly. “Incidentally, I may add that the old boy is living with us still.”


In an Irish cemetery stands a handsome monument with an inscription which runs thus:

“This monument is erected to the memory of James[Pg 91] O’Flinn, who was accidentally shot by his brother as a mark of affection.”

* * *

The smug satisfaction of the rustic in his clear perception and shrewd reasoning is illustrated by the dialogue between two farmers meeting on the road.

“Did you hear that old man Jones’s house burned down last night?”

“I ain’t a mite surprised. I was goin’ past there in the evenin’, an’ when I saw the smoke a-comin’ out all round under the eaves, I sez to myself, sez I, ‘Where there’s smoke there must be fire.’ An’ so it was!”

* * *

“Shall I leave the hall light burning, ma’am?” the servant asked.

“No,” her mistress replied. “I think my husband won’t get home until daylight. He kissed me goodbye before he went, and gave me twenty dollars for a new hat.”

[Pg 92]


An Irishman on a scaffolding four stories high heard the noon whistle. But when he would have descended, he found that the ladder had been removed. One of his fellow workmen on the pavement below, to whom he called, explained that the foreman had carried off the ladder for another job.

“But how’ll I get down?” Pat demanded.

Mike, on the pavement, suggested jumping as the[Pg 93] only means. Pat’s lunch was below, he was hungry, and he accepted the suggestion seriously.

“Will yez kitch me?” he demanded.

“Sure, an’ I’ll do that,” Mike agreed.

Pat clapped his arms in imitation of a rooster, and crowed, to bolster up his courage, and leaped. He regained consciousness after a short interval, and feebly sat up on the pavement. He regarded Mike reproachfully.

“For why did yez not kitch me?” he asked, and the pain in bones sounded in his voice.

“Begorry,” Mike replied sympathetically, “I was waiting for yez to bounce!”


The woman wrote a reference for her discharged cook as follows:

“Maggie Flynn has been employed by me for a month. She is an excellent cook, but I could not afford to make use of her services longer.”

The husband, who was present, afterward expressed his surprise at the final clause.

“But it’s true,” the wife answered. “The dishes she smashed cost double her wages.”


The baby pulled brother’s hair until he yelled from the pain of it. The mother soothed the weeping boy:

[Pg 94]

“Of course, she doesn’t know how badly it hurts.” Then she left the room.

She hurried back presently on hearing frantic squalling from baby.

“What in the world is the matter with her?” she questioned anxiously.

“Nothin’ ‘tall,” brother replied contentedly. “Only now she knows.”


On her return home after an absence of a few hours, the mother was displeased to find that little Emma, who[Pg 95] was ailing, had not taken her pill at the appointed time, although she had been carefully directed to do so.

“You were very naughty, Emma,” the mother chided. “I told you to be sure and take that pill.”

“But, mamma,” the child pleaded in extenuation, “you didn’t tell me where to take it to.”


A rich and listless lady patron examined the handbags in a leading jeweler’s shop in New York City. The clerk exhibited one bag five inches square, made of platinum and with one side almost covered with a setting of diamonds. This was offered at a price of $9,000.

But the lady surveyed the expensive bauble without enthusiasm. She turned it from side to side and over and over, regarding it with a critical eye and frowning disapprovingly. At last she voiced her comment:

“Rather pretty, but I don’t like this side without diamonds. Honestly, the thing looks skimpy-decidedly skimpy!”

For $7,000 additional, the objectional skimpiness was corrected.


The burly man spoke lucidly to his gangling adversary:

“You’re a nincompoop, a liar and hoss-thief.”

The other man protested, with a whine in his voice:

“Sech talk ain’t nice-and, anyhow, ’tain’t fair twittin’ on facts.”

[Pg 96]


After years of endeavor in poverty, the inventor made a success, and came running home with pockets bulging real money. He joyously strewed thousand-dollar bills in his wife’s lap, crying:

“Now, at last, my dear, you will be able to buy you some decent clothes.”

“I’ll do nothing of the kind,” was the sharp retort. “I’ll get the same kind the other women are wearing.”

* * *

“The naked hills lie wanton to the breeze,

“The fields are nude, the groves unfrocked,

“Bare are the shivering limbs of shameless trees,

“What wonder is it that the corn is shocked?”

But not the modern woman!


At the village store, the young farmer complained bitterly.

“Old Si Durfee wants me to be one of the pall-bearers once more at his wife’s funeral. An’ it’s like this. Si had me fer pall-bearer when his first wife was buried. An’ then agin fer his second. An’ when Eliza died, she as was his third, he up an’ axed me agin. An’ now, I snum, it’s the fourth time. An’ ye know, a feller can’t be the hull time a-takin’ favors, an’ not payin’ ’em back.”

[Pg 97]


The boy hurried home to his father with an announcement:

“Me and Joe Peck had a fight to-day.”

The father nodded gravely.

“Mr. Peck has already called to see me about it.”

The little boy’s face brightened.

“Gee, pop! I hope you made out ‘s well ‘s I did!”


A very black little girl made her way into the presence of the lady of the house, and with much embarrassment, but very clearly, explained who she was, and what her mission:

“Please, mum, I’se Ophelia. I’se de washerwoman’s little girl, an’ mama, she sent me to say, would you please to len’ her a dime. She got to pay some bills.”

* * *

The successful financier snorted contemptuously.

“Money! pooh! there are a million ways of making money.”

“But only one honest way,” a listener declared.

“What way is that?” the financier demanded.

“Naturally, you wouldn’t know,” was the answer.

* * *

The eminent financier was discoursing.

“The true secret of success,” he said, “is to find out what the people want.”

[Pg 98]

“And the next thing,” someone suggested, “is to give it to them.”

The financier shook his head contemptuously.

“No-to corner it.”

* * *

The eminent banker explained just how he started in business:

“I had nothing to do, and I rented an empty store, and put up a sign, Bank. As soon as I opened for business, a man dropped in, and made a deposit of two hundred dollars. The next day another man dropped in and deposited three hundred dollars. And so, sir, the third day, my confidence in the enterprise reached such a point that I put in fifty dollars of my own money.”

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