Old Wives' Tales
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Claim: An 1877 list of "tips for stagecoach travelers" is genuine.
Origins: I first encountered this piece in a museum adjacent to Sutter's Mill in Northern California, and it seems to be a popular item wherever stagecoaches are on display. Since every other item of this ilk — lists of rules or tips that reinforce historical stereotypes and highlight the similarities (or differences) of daily life in earlier eras — we've come across so far has been either provably apocryphal or not demonstrably genuine, I'm naturally skeptical of this one's validity as well. The list is frequently attributed to something which appeared in 1877 in the "Omaha Herald" (now the Omaha
So, we're left with a document that combines typical Old West stereotypes (hard-drinking, gun-toting, tobacco-spitting men to whom arduous travel, runaway horses, and even murder are unremarkable) with complaints identical to those of modern day airline travelers (cramped seating, bad food, and rude, bothersome passengers). Is it the real thing, or a latter day fabrication? We can't say for sure, but the last two entries give us pause, because in the 1870s there were exactly three ways to travel overland — walking, riding beasts of burden, and traveling via railroad — and all of them were (to varying degrees) dirty, uncomfortable and annoying modes of travel involving their fair share of hardships. To whom would this have been news in 1872?
Last updated: 11 July 2007
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