Esteemed thinker: P.T. Barnum

P.T. Barnum

There are very few things that everyone likes however if I had to make a guess, I would have to surmise that a bit of “civility and politeness” would be such a pair we all yearn for. For who does not enjoy receiving a simple “please and thank you,” which are delivered without monetary cost. And knowing that all persons like these bits of politeness added to a conversation one would think that they would be scattered about like ants at a picnic. Yet, to our dismay, civility is not the norm everywhere, but rather present in some places and vacant in others. Like climate, we find that some folks are generally pleasant, spreading their politeness about like a summer breeze, while in other regions we find the population lacking in their pleasantries like a late winter storm.

But let us look at civility not as a luxury but as something that can be freely expressed; and so if we give it away, let us hope that the recipient will forgo their miserly disposition and reciprocate with an equally pleasant bit of civility. It is curious to see that though it is free, it can reap benefits beyond its original façade.

PT Barmun portrait

Today’s post introduces the esteemed thinker: P.T. Barnum (1810-1891) a man whose life encompassed the entire nineteenth century, a man who employed and some say exploited the culture and technology of his era. Barnum was an author, showman, and visionary that often scandalized his contemporaries.

Born in Connecticut, Barnum was both a brilliant and shameless promoter often accused of fraud as well as believing there was no such thing as bad press. Barnum’s success will always be connected with the great American circus, although it is believed that his greatest success arrived when he presented European opera star Jenny Lind to the American public (1850). “The Swedish Nightingale” sang 95 concerts for Barnum.

1881, Barnum joined promotional forces with James A. Bailey and James L. Hutchinson creating “Barnum & London Circus.” In 1885, Barnum and Bailey went their separate ways, but revamped their business relationship again in 1888. That year, the “Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth” first toured America.

And so, I bring to you the advice from a successful but often scandalous showman; from his book, The Art of Money Getting or Golden Rules for Making Money here is a snippet from “Be Polite and Kind to your Customers,” Mr. Barnum! (For the curious… P.T. stands for Phineas Taylor)

And though we may not agree with his methods, we all must agree that he obtained success.

“Politeness and civility are the best capital ever invested in business. Large stores, gilt signs, flaming advertisements, will all prove unavailing if you or your employees treat your patrons abruptly. The truth is, the more kind and liberal a man is, the more generous will be the patronage bestowed upon him. “Like begets like.” The man who gives the greatest amount of goods of a corresponding quality for the least sum (still reserving for himself a profit) will generally succeed best in the long run. This brings us to the golden rule, “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them” and they will do better by you than if you always treated them as if you wanted to get the most you could out of them for the least return. Men who drive sharp bargains with their customers, acting as if they never expected to see them again, will not be mistaken. They will never see them again as customers. People don’t like to pay and get kicked also…”

Second image: Charles D. Fredricks & Co., photographer, between 1860 and 1864, 1 photographic print on carte de visite mount: albumen; 10.1 x 6.0

Esteemed thinker: Gelett Burgess

the goops Manners are the simple etiquettes between humans that can dictate whether an interaction will be a pleasing or unpleasing experience. Manners are not instinctive; for example we will not find a pair of dogs discussing which one will have the bone but rather they will grab and grapple until the victor is munching happily away at the marrow.

Instead, manners are learned activities that can be passed down from generation to generation like grandmother’s linen tablecloth. But unlike that tablecloth which only dons the table on special occasions; we can only hope that manners are always showing. Alas, this is not always the case and what was once considered ill mannered are now simply part of the norm.

Let me present a few examples of manner interpretations having changed through time. In the earlier part of the 20th century, speaking on the telephone in public was conducted in a private “telephone booth” so as not only to maintain some modicum of privacy but also as consideration to others around. Today, speaking on a cell phone is as conducted everywhere and those around, whether they like it or not, are subjected to its intrusion.

Food today has been packaged in a fashion whereby children hardly need to use any utensils but rather finger their way through a meal; yogurt is squeezed through tubes, chicken is pre-cut as finger- food, and fruit is rolled into plastic-like material to be peeled and eaten. Even waffles are now designed to be neatly fit in the hand and dunked in syrup without the assistance of a fork. Often table manners have been modified for convenience.

And then there was the removing of a man’s hat when indoors, which was once considered good manners but is now regarded as quite archaic.

However, as times have changed our interpretations of manners the one conduct that has not gone out-of-style is the custom of please and thank you whereupon I say, I am pleased that you have stopped by and thank you for taking time from your busy day to read this post! And oh yes … have a most pleasant day!!

Gelett Burgess Today’s post acquaints you with the esteemed thinker: Gelett Burgess (1866-1951) American poet, artist, and humorist. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, his career began after graduating from MIT with an engineer degree. Best known today as the creator of the Goops and the famous Purple Cow verse, he was also the author of many books and a brilliant, iconoclastic American humorist.

From his title, More Goops and How not to be Them, I bring you one of his poems, “At Table” which will indeed fit neatly into today’s post. Enjoy!

At Table

Why is it Goops must always wish
To touch each apple on the dish?
Why do they never neatly fold
Their napkins until they are told?
Why do they play with food, and bite
Such awful mouthfuls? Is it right?
Why do they tilt back in their chairs?
Because they’re Goops! So no one cares!

First image: 1900

Lewis Carroll and the letter

mail Manners are eagerly received but not always eagerly executed and for some it is merely the fact that our 21st century ideals often collide with those of the 20th century and the ages following behind. For one’s lack of perceived manners, or shall we dare say perceived rudeness, is often just an oversight, still a faux pas to some but not in the posture of present day decorum and modern thinking. For example; upon accepting a gift proper etiquette would require a hand-written note back to the giver letting he or she know that we are appreciative of their thoughtfulness. However, this practice has now been exchanged with an email, a call on the phone, or even a text. Thus many would attest to the assumption that good upbringing does seem to mandate a written response which has been transported and delivered by the mail carrier, while others still would disagree; finding the more informal thank you equally fitting.

In consequence to the formers’ position, the art of letter writing has since been dismissed like the home phone line that is offered a conciliatory smile and hence has been sentenced to the back of the closet; reinstated by a smarter cell that travels with us wherever we journey. It has become our side kick, riding shot-gun in our pocket or hand-bag, a trusted device that allows us to do away with pen and pencil, paper and pads; freeing us up from those mundane tasks such as…letter writing. However, there still is something very nice about receiving a letter, no matter how technologically sophisticated one has become. There is still something very lovely about pulling open the letter box, and as you sift through your bills and solicitations an envelope peers out with no other intention than to give you news, wanting nothing more than your attention. There is something quite special about knowing that someone picked out the stationary, sat down with their solitude to compose a personal thought; that they mulled over what to say, reread their sentences transcribed in their own words, and sailed their message along the paper freely as one would skip across a lake on a sunny afternoon. Or, just perhaps each word they wished to convey was produced from strained ponderings and like tapping syrup from a maple tree, the words came out slowly with long moments of rephrasing.

Yet, whatever method had evolved to get the message across, it was eventually folded into an envelope and the deliberate act of placing perhaps a very colorful stamp in the corner, the same spot that Benjamin Franklin would have blotted centuries ago, was acted upon; sealed and then slipped into a post box for transport, trusting its delivery to our ever-ready postal service…and considering it may have traveled by way of rugged terrain or choppy seas…it is still quite reasonable in price.

Yes, the letter! This blogger must confess that she still writes them and dearly enjoys the reciprocation of their receipt. The quiet stroll to the post box..up the driveway… mundane to some yet the probability that by chance there may be a letter in the box is certainly worth the trek up and back.

lewis carroll 2 In today’s post I present to you again the esteemed thinker: Lewis Carroll. His wit and facility at word play, logic, and fantasy are noted by most that enjoy his writing. He has left his mark in history through his rare and diversified literary gifts whereby he possessed a talent for writing prose as well as verse, and though he is often exclusively remembered for his “Alice in Wonderland” stories, his diaries and letters validate a multi-faceted author.

I now suggest a brief time-out from your hectic day to read a portion from his work titled, “Eight or Nine Words about Letter Writing” (1890). Here is the popular Lewis Carroll on “How to end a letter”.

“ If doubtful whether to end with ‘yours faithfully’, or ‘yours truly’, or ‘yours most truly’, &c. (there are at least a dozen varieties, before you reach ‘yours affectionately’), refer to your correspondent’s last letter, and make your winding-up at least as friendly as his; in fact, even if a shade more friendly, it will do no harm!

A Postscript is a very useful invention: but it is not meant (as so many ladies suppose) to contain the real gist of the letter: it serves rather to throw into the shade any little matter we do not wish to make a fuss about. For example, your friend had promised to execute a commission for you in town, but forgot it, thereby putting you to great inconvenience: and he now writes to apologize for his negligence. It would be cruel, and needlessly crushing, to make it the main subject of your reply. How much more gracefully it comes in thus! “P.S. Don’t distress yourself any more about having omitted that little matter in town. I won’t deny that it did put my plans out a little, at the time: but it’s all right now. I often forget things, myself: and ‘those who live in glass-houses, mustn’t throw stones’, you know!”

When you take your letters to the Post, carry them in your hand. If you put them in your pocket you will take a long country-walk (I speak from experience), passing the Post-Office twice, going and returning, and, when you get home, will find them still in your pocket.”