THE U.S., where the lower classes had access to some education,
joke sharing spread like wildfire. Here is an excerpt from the letter
of a Union infantryman in the Civil War:
boys is Generly well & well satisfied Soldiers I believe tho
Some of the boys is taken bad with Small Pox & dipteria but
I hope most of us will be Spared. I Exspect that we will have
a Fight at Fredricsberg If we Do we will Do the verry best that
we can.Well Sarah please write Soon & send me more of
those jokes for I was near to die of Laughing at that last one
you Sent called If Gen'l Lee was a Muleskinner & the boys
all hollered too when they Seen it.
Letter from the
private collection of the Moreby family.
THE REST OF
THE HISTORY of forwarded jokes is well-known to almost everyone:
the last years of the frontier ("Top Ten Reasons to Buy Alaska"),
Gertrude Stein's contributions ("A Blonde is a Blonde is
a Blonde") and so on. Then came the technological breakthroughs
of our modern era: the invention of the silkscreened T-shirt,
the fax machine and lastly, the one thing that made the joke transmission
that we enjoy today possibleSuzanne in Accounts Payable.
And e-mail, of course.
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