The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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The “Bowery News,” 1947

March 28th, 2012 · 8 Comments

Cartoons about hoboes are familiar; less so are cartoons by and for hoboes.  The Bowery News began life as the Hobo News; it was aimed at hoboes, panhandlers, Bowery bums, dishwashers, and barflies, and called itself “The Voice of Society’s Basement.”  It ran poetry, stories, cartoons, photos, and news from the hobo community.  It was a treasure trove of slang; and counted H. L. Mencken among its subscribers.  Here are some excerpts from a 1947 issue (Vol. 1 No. 10, no date).  First, a couple of cartoons by the art editor, Henri La Mothe.

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And by staff artist C. L Burlew.

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A bit of one of the gossip columns.

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And, of course, a few beauty tips.

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I have a few issues here; I’ll post more later.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

Tags: Cartoons · Ephemera

8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lisa // Mar 29, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Very wise nutritional advice from Boxcar Betty – I’m impressed.

  • 2 Doug // Mar 29, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    Boxcar Betty knew her stuff.

    The original Boxcar Bertha, by the way, was a hobo and labor organizer in a 1937 novel by Ben Reitman. She apparently inspired others to assume her name.

  • 3 Derek Stukuls // Mar 29, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    Thanks so much! I really enjoyed the post.

  • 4 Doug // Mar 29, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Thanks, Derek! I’m intrigued by them, myself. There’s more to come, from other issues.

  • 5 mamie // Apr 4, 2012 at 12:04 am

    Very nice! Please – more beauty tips from BB.

  • 6 Doug // Apr 5, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    I haven’t found any more of her beauty tips. I think she said all there was to say.

  • 7 Briany Najar // Apr 11, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Great stuff. This is what The Big Issue should be more like.
    The cartoons are superb.

    “…they gave me 12 months for taking it without asking.”

    “You go do your wishing somewhere else, this is my district.”

    Nice one.

  • 8 Doug // Apr 11, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    Ah, glad to hear you like them. The paper was a fascinating one; someone should do an anthology.

    I had to look up “The Big Issue”; we don’t have it in the US. The difference seems to be that the “Hobo/Bowery News” was written by hobos, and often celebrated the life, rather than aiming for uplift…

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